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Tales of Fantasy, Mystery and Adventure Under the Influence of Christian Homeschooling

S. A. J. Lyttek, a multiple award-winning writer, always loved writing, but didn’t arrive at the profession in the typical manner. After college and graduate school, she plunged into government consulting. In this environment, she discovered a knack for writing tests, interviews and other measurements. That soon became the focus of her career—reigniting her love for the written word. Thus captivated, she spent evenings freelancing “fun” writing including short stories, poems, articles and cards. When her eldest was a toddler, she quit full-time work to stay home and write. Eager to spend more time with her children, homeschooling intrigued her. From preschool through high school, she homeschooled both sons while continuing to freelance. An integral part of the homeschooling community, she has developed and taught writing classes to a generation of homeschoolers. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Gary, Mrs. Lyttek loves to share her commitment to homeschoolers and her fascination with the written word.

Nightmares... and Overcoming Them

8/5/2020 2:06:00 PM BY Susan Lyttek

I have had nightmares for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, the most popular bad dreams involved sinking in quicksand (thanks a lot, Lassie, for that visual!) and being chased by cars that were sentient. Now, my childhood was pre-Transformers and Stephen King, so I can only blame that dream on my overactive imagination as far as I know.

I had a nightmare last night. In it, the world was in grave danger and I knew how to prevent it. However, no one would believe me, so I watched people dying in gruesome and bloody ways that were totally avoidable.

I woke up frustrated.

Welcome to my average night.

Sometimes my nightmares are so vivid and terrifying that I wake up with the adrenaline pulsing. Other times, I see them unfolding, but tell myself that it’s only a dream and do my best to stay asleep. Still other dreams feel like spiritual attacks. With those, I wake and pray fervently until the peace of God fills me.

I do not watch horror movies with reason. My dreams are often horrific enough. I do not need to add in other visuals or ideas. Why add fuel to the fire?

That said, the nightmares aren’t all bad. The title says ‘and overcoming them’ but it’s more like ‘and making use of them’.

First, I mentioned prayer. Obviously, if I’m being attacked, I pray. That’s self-preservation. But if someone I haven’t thought of in a long time is a character in one of my vivid dreams, I will wake up and pray for them. I see these dreams as indicators that a friend or relative is under attack. I have found out later, for instance, that a friend was going through a hard labor with a baby when her face showed up in a dream, inspiring me to I wake and pray. Another time, a different friend was depressed when she starred in one of my dreams. In these instances, I think God allows the dreams to be frightening so that I heed the call to pray.

Second, I have an overactive imagination. Sometimes, I hear about writers who feel they’ve used up their ideas. I can’t imagine that. I have more ideas than I have time. And the nightmares only add to that. Several of my nightmares have been turned into stories. One of them, that begins “I saw my dead face beneath the water…” just showed up in print as “Standard Rescue” in Faith Like a Mustard Seed: A Storming the Short Story Anthology, published July 28, 2020. The nightmares do change in order to become a story, but they often have enough conflict and imagery to propel the writing forward faster than normal.

Third, as any amateur psychologist knows, dreams help you work out the emotions and situations you find yourself in during the day. During one of these horrific series of images, I’ll often experience sudden clarity as to what I should do about a real-life problem. So what initially terrified might switch to joy when I see a path forward.

And finally fourth, these dreams help me recognize the human condition. Even asleep, sin in general and the sins of humanity in particular haunt me. I can’t escape the fallen nature of the world around me. And in keeping that knowledge at the forefront of both my consciousness and unconsciousness reminds me constantly of my need for God.

And as I think back on my childhood and teenage years, reminding me that I had limits and vulnerabilities seems a good reason to shake in fear nightly. Without the terror of life without God, would I have chosen life with him?

So, I will likely have nightmares until I no longer sleep. But, like many things that help us grow, I will try not to focus on the pain they cause, but rather on the ways they stretch me and help me care for others.