I don’t know about you, but I wish that when I was an impressionable wee lass that adults would have been a little more considerate of my nighttime fears. The thought of laying in my big bed alone (not counting my 39 stuffed animals)…in the dark (not counting my 4 night lights and the hall light and the bathroom light)… I could still hear the floor boards creaking and the wind moaning and tree limbs scratching on the window…and the sound of the TV too low to hear but loud enough to tell me that my mom and dad were at the other end of the house. What’s in the closet behind the clothes? Did I just see the closet door open a little? Wasn’t it closed just a minute ago? What’s under the bed? Is it going to grab my ankle and pull me under and eat all of my flesh and only leave my bones and the cartilage on my ear tops and my nose tip?
What if I have to get up to wet my whistle because I forgot my cup of water? Or what if I have to, as Grandmomma would say, “tee-tee”? Is the boogeyman going to get me if I step out in the hall? Is he waiting around the corner? What if I have to walk down the steps to the basement in the dark? That would be THE WORST! What if I yell and nothing comes out? What if I manage a squeak but no body can hear me?
There was only one thing I could do! I must find the “right channel” in my brain. If I turn my head 45 degrees to the right… no, maybe 30 degrees to the left…no… Half inch by half-inch I would turn my head on my pillow. Maybe just maybe, if I was REALLY lucky, I could successfully “tune the antennae”. My already active brain became an over-active imagination at night. Exhaustion and child fears produced a complete lapse of rationality…but I found ways to cope. Inside my brain I would twist and turn knobs like on an old tv or radio to find a station that would prevent my imagination from playing a “scary movie” (aka a nightmare). Maybe if I lay face down on my pillow with one nostril and a corner of my mouth available to suck in some air? and pull the covers over my head so no parts of me are visible? Then maybe the ghosts that swoop down from the ceiling won’t be able to grab me. They won’t be able to blow my hair, snag it in their tight ghostly grip, and pull me out of bed. Maybe if I’m lucky their efforts to whisk me through the window into the cold, dark night air will be thwarted at least for one more night. I thought as a child that if the ghosts and goblins and boogeymen and monsters were ever successful in getting a hold of me, that I would not be able to do anything to stop them… I would be unable to do anything but open my mouth in a silent scream. Now I know I have power over them all. I am not afraid of the boogeyman. I believe with my whole heart that even if it doesn’t happen on this earthly plane, that Good always ultimately defeats evil.
Why was I so irrationally afraid of bed-time as a child? Each night I would pray the prayer I had been taught…to give me comfort in my slumber, right? “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die…” That part is what always caught me up.I hated that part. That is not the way that I wanted my prayer to go! But that was the only nighttime prayer that I knew! It is what I learned as a child. And then of course there was the bedtime lullabies. Lullabies are supposed to quieten a child and lull them to sleep…but would “Babes in the Woods” take you to a peaceful Land of Nod? If you haven’t heard the song, it goes like this “oh, don’t you remember a long time ago, there were three little babes whose names I don’t know, they were carried away on a bright summers day, and lost in the woods I’ve heard people say…” And it goes on to end, “And when it was night, so sad was their plight. The moon went down, and the stars gave no light. They sobbed and they sang, and they bitterly cried. Poor babes in the woods, they laid there and died.” Good grief! And I guess the end was supposed to make me feel like it ends on a happy note? “And when they were dead, the robins so red, carried strawberry leaves and over them spread. And all night long, they sang their sweet song, poor babes int the woods.Poor babes in the woods.” Is it any wonder that nighttime was a terrifying event for me? Dark Unknown monsters who want to “get me”, or the prayer if I should die before I wake, or the song about babes dying, aren’t scary to me now…at least not in theory. Now I understand that death is just a ceasing of my physical self. But when I was five, all I knew was my physical self!
“…If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Well, of course I pray that when I die that God will take my soul… but I’m not ready quite yet. When I was 5 I was REALLY not ready. I think a good prayer, any time of the day is a good idea: a word of thanks when I rise in appreciation that I have been given another day to try to get something good done… to ask a blessing before meals for the food that will nourish my physical body and give me strength to do those things that need to be done… to pray when I know that there is someone in need; for those that I feel have wronged me; for forgiveness when I have caused someone pain or done something that would displease God… But my nighttime prayers now are not based on fear about the unknown. Prayer, talking with my Creator…with my Father gives this child comfort and a sense of anticipation. I have excitement for what is to come. I do not know but God is more generous than we can imagine and He wants to give us the desires of our heart and even more! We just have to be willing to receive all that he has in store for us.
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. LET ANGELS WATCH ME THROUGH THE NIGHT, and wake me with the morning light.” I have nothing to fear. Angels are with me. God is in control. There will be a bright new day. A Promise. I don’t know exactly what will happen… who will come my way…but I know it will be good. Better than I can imagine.
I have several water-color prints hanging in the hall outside of my bedroom door. The creative force behind these odd but whimsical pictures and sayings is an artist named Brian Andreas. His pictures are called “Story People”. ..and while they would not appeal to everyone, I personally feel what Mr. Andreas says with visceral clarity. One picture dated 1998 titled “No Regret” speaks to my love for my children.
~ I sometimes wake in the early morning & listen to the soft breathing of my children & I think to myself, This is one thing I’ll never regret & I carry that quiet with me all day long~
Another from 1997 reminds me of my best friends that I have been blessed with over the years. Not a single one of my friends is anything like another… but I love them… and I have learned from them all for their different gifts and strengths. It is titled “Kindred Spirits”.
~ You’re the strangest person I ever met, she said & I said you too & we decided we’d know each other a long time~
But my very favorite “Story People” titled “Waiting for Signs” from 1996, is how I feel about my life.
~I used to wait for a sign, she said, before I did anything. Then one night I had a dream & an angel in black tights came to me & said, you can start any time now & then I said, is this a sign? & the angel started laughing & I woke up. Now, I think the whole world is filled with signs, but if there’s no laughter, I know they’re not for me~
Signs come to me literally in a message or a verse on someone’s wall. But it can also be sun rays coming through a cloud, or leaves caught up in the wind …falling or spinning in a whirling dervish… or snow. Falling leaves and snow are a sign that my Daddy John is watching over me, and I KNOW if Daddy John “has my back” that everything is going to be alright. A sign can be a “coincidence” – something pleasantly unexpected and serendipitous – that is not really a coincidence at all, but a gift! In my world laughter is a MUST…and big smiles… and music and dancing. I cannot help other people’s cynicism or skepticism or negativity. If people choose to live with hate and doubt…if they have so many walls and defenses that they have fortified all feeling and only manage to see through a peep-hole perspective and everything they view is ugly, then I feel sad for them, but it is beyond my personal power to change them. I will listen, and I strongly believe in the power of prayer, but true peace can only happen when a person is willing to let go of their anger and fear. They must learn to trust… trust themselves, trust their fellow-man, trust God to take care – relinquish their grasp. People must understand that we will never be given all of the gifts and blessings that God has for us until we release all of the things that we are holding so tightly to. To find joy and peace, unhappy people must shift their focus to something bigger and greater than themselves and their hurt. Stop looking with fear through the peep hole. Open the door. Open the windows. Better yet, step outside and take it all in. Feel it.
I am not a slave to anything… not art, fashion, food, pop culture. Nothing. I know who I am and what I like. Often I love something simply because it “sparks” me…it ignites some primal feeling within me…even if no one else gets it. And that is ok. I wouldn’t expect you to spend all of your time trying to convince or explain or justify to me why you like what you like and why you do what you do. C. G. Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” True, true. I seek to avoid negative reactions when at all possible. I’ve had enough of that for this life time already.
“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.” Robert Louis Stevenson. True, again. My soul is shouting praises of thanks because I trusted myself and my soul instead of taking counsel of people who do not and can not ever know me like I do.
My mother-in-law, Nola, e-mailed me an unbelievable story a while back. The end of the story made me say to myself, “Of course!”. Nola’s story is about a girl who found herself walking home alone one night. She prayed fervently for God’s protection. As she entered a dark alley to cross to her street she continued to pray. She felt safe and secure even when she passed a man hidden in the dark shadows. She made it home safely, but the next day was horrified to find out that another girl had been brutally attacked in the same alley only minutes after she had passed safely through. The unharmed girl went down to the police station in hopes that she could help. A suspect had been arrested and she was able to identify the man in a line-up. Once he knew that he had been identified, the attacker broke down and confessed the entire story. The girl had told the police that the man had let her go through. They were perplexed why she had been spared, so they asked the man why he had not attacked the girl who had gone by minutes before. The man said, “Because she had two big men protecting her…one on either side.” The girl knew who had protected her. Angels. The angels “Goodness” and “Mercy”. For Goodness and Mercy shall follow you all the days of your life. I believe in angels watching over me. All Night. All Day.
The Angels Goodness and Mercy are indeed watching over me. They will be with me in the darkness… and will wake me with the morning light…to a bright new day tomorrow and the next day and the next, God willing. Everyday they will be near. I see a lot of love and happiness in my future. God sends His angels again and again to people in the Bible… all kinds of people. And the Angel of the Lord always comes with a message. “Do Not Be Afraid.” I will fear no evil for you are with me. We can not always be protected from all things bad…but we can have confidence that God will be with us. All we must do is ask. He will see us through…we don’t know how long it might take, but in His Time all things will be made perfect.
And WE will dwell in the house of the Lord. Forever. And all of God’s people said, “Amen”. So be it.