Do you remember dot-to-dots? For those of you who are younger, a dot-to-dot is a hidden picture which is exposed when one uses a pencil to connect numbered dots, in order. I always loved dot to dots. They were part puzzle, part mystery, and part art. On the more complicated ones, it could be difficult to find the next number which caused more detailed searching. I loved it when I couldn’t tell what the picture was going to be until near the end. It’s like it revealed itself, which for a kid is like magic.
Sometimes I feel like my life is a dot to dot. There are points, times I mark as memorials, which are significant. In isolation, these points seem random and can even be confusing, but as a unit they remind me of the lessons of life. When strung together, a picture starts to appear. It is hard to tell what it is, but the mystery of it keeps me searching and trying to connect the dots.
July is the month with the most dots in it. So much so, that I kind of hold my breath in July, waiting for it to pass. My cancer was discovered in July. My knee replacement happened in July. And our house burned in July, two years post-cancer.
Actually, today is the anniversary of the lightning strike that hit a tree, and then jumped into our air conditioning unit to set the house on fire. July pop-up thunderstorms can be violent in Georgia. Fortunately, we were home. The thunder and lightning hit at the exact same moment, meaning the storm was on top of us. I jumped a mile and the pictures on the walls shook. Within a few minutes I smelled smoke, and we went to investigate in the basement. The smoke was so thick it was impossible to breathe, which was our first thought that there might be fire. Up until I got a lung full of smoke, we thought it was just a power surge.
We called 911, gathered the dogs and went out into the storm to wait for the fire trucks to arrive. I watched the ax go into the house and then the chain saw. The fire was inside the walls in the ductwork, so the walls had to be cut out. There were three fire departments represented, and the three hoses were all going full blast. Our neighbors took us in so we wouldn’t have to watch our house be destroyed. They battled the fire from about 5:00 pm when it started, till 3:00 am. The entire basement was flooded and saturated with both water and smoke. It was a toxic mess…which we survived. Six months in a vacation rental on Mt. Yonah was the result.
For several years in quick succession July was a month I wanted to skip all together. But now, looking back and can see the dots connecting. That part of the picture is the learning to trust part. Learning that life isn’t guaranteed, reminds me to live one day at a time. Learning to appreciate the ability to move, shows me I should never take health for granted. Learning that stuff is only stuff, teaches me the difference between the big things and the things that don’t matter. Holding everything loosely requires knowing that God has it all in his hands, so I don’t have to clamp mine into fists. It is trusting all things work for good, even when you can’t see it. Just like the picture in a dot to dot.
There are other dots of course. Not all of them have trauma involved! The births of my children, an especially beautiful fall day, time with friends, being with family…all of these add up to a bigger picture. I am especially grateful for a home, my ability to walk, and the fact that I breathe air into my lungs daily. The July part of the picture is significant as a foundation to all the other parts. I am a life-sized dot to dot.