bad dreams

A few nights ago, I woke in the middle of the night to help my son. Like so many other nights in his little life, he was up in the middle of the night because of a bad dream. When my son was a toddler, I would wake in the middle of the night to loud and distraught crying coming from his room. I would shoot out of bed, go into his room, rub his back, talk to him, sing to him, and cuddle with him until he calmed down and went back to sleep.

Now that my son is a few years older, the bad-dream-recovery-routine has changed. Instead of me going to his room, he comes to mine. Often, he does not even cry. He walks over to my bed, and in a frail voice says, “Mommy, I had a bad dream.” I welcome him next to me and wrap my arms around him. “Do you want to tell me about your dream?” Silence, or a quiet “No.” Then, after just a few moments, “Are you ready to go back to bed?” “Yes.” I walk him back to the door of his room and give him a kiss. I watch him walk into his room and tuck himself back into bed.

When he has a bad dream, my son doesn’t need me to fix it. He doesn’t even look for me to fix it. All he looks for is a moment in my presence.

One reason my son’s bad-dream-recovery-routine has changed is because of he has gained maturity. When he is upset, he is much better at regulating his own emotions. Another reason his bad-dream-recovery-routine has changed is because we have a deeper shared history. When he is in my presence, there are memories brought to him. Without saying a word, my presence reminds him of dangers we have faced before, and the way that I have loved him through it. I don’t promise he won’t have bad dreams again. We both know he will have more nightmares, maybe even in the same night. But once he comes into my room, he knows I am there, and that makes all the difference.

My presence makes my son feel secure, so that he can once again find rest.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

-       Psalm 23:4

This verse is from one of my favorite psalms. Psalm 23 does not say I will not face evil or dark times; it says I will not fear evil or dark times. God’s presence can give me the security to find peace even in the midst of the darkest trials.

To be honest, I am not walking through the dark valley right now. Many other people are. Some may be mourning because of the anniversary of a terrible day in history. Others may be facing anniversaries of more personal tragedies. Still others may be in the midst of something right now that seems impossible to face. I pray that those facing these dark days would feel the presence of God in a deep and tangible way. I pray that the love of our Good Shepherd would comfort and restore their souls.

My life today is a reflection of the green pastures and quiet waters referred to in Psalm 23:2. But my life now is still connected to the life I will have when I come to a dark valley. Because today will become a part of my history with God. Today will be one of the days I remember when I wake up with a bad dream, and seek God’s presence for comfort. In that dark night, I will be reminded of how God cared for me and loved me in during these bright days.

Whether you are in the green pastures or the dark valley, I pray that you will feel God’s presence, and that it will restore your soul.

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remember

I bring my camera with me every place I go. I know that these days of my kids being young will go quickly. I want to be able to look back on the things we did. I want to capture the looks on their faces. I want to catalog how they grow.

I want to remember. I know that memories are precious. I also know that memories are fragile.

There will come a time when I have a vague recollection of their childhood, but have difficulty remembering the details. I want pictures to help fill in the gaps. I want concrete reminders that will fill me with gratitude for how our lives have moved and changed.

But what about other things I should remember? Am I as conscious about remembering moments with God as I am about remembering moments with my kids?

God knows how easily we forget. After the people of Israel cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Joshua tells them

 “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” – Joshua 4:5-7

There is power in having visual reminders of what God has done for us. Things that will remind us of God’s faithfulness in times when our faith is weak. Things that will spark conversation with others about what our faith means to us. Things that will help us pass our faith onto our children.

I have a few of these reminders around my house: a painting from our trip to Honduras, a frame with Cameron’s preemie footprints, a photo from our trip to Peru. But, many of these are from big trips or big events. I want to start asking myself a new question:

What do I want to remember about how God is working in my life right now?

I hope to do conscious things to catalog “God memories.” Maybe it will mean picking up journaling again. Maybe it will mean holding onto something from a walk that sparked a conversation with my kids. Maybe it will mean framing a Bible verse.  I’m not sure.

All I know is this: I want to remember.

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full

Why are you crying? My husband asked me this recently. It was a good question, because it was an odd place to shed tears. I was at the entrance of the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis. Even more odd, perhaps, was the reason I was crying. I was crying because I saw Bumble Bee. The transformer. The huge robot transformer from the movies.

Yes. I cried when I saw a transformer. Why?

Because my son LOVES transformers. At our house, anything that serves more than one purpose, or can change from one thing to another, or has a part of any sort that moves, is lumped into the transformer category. Tape measures, old cameras, USB drives, anything. He even has a huge envelope filled with “paper transformers” (otherwise known as paper airplanes).

Cameron with Bumble Bee

So, when we walked into the museum and saw Bumble Bee, I immediately looked at my son. I observed the look on his face. It was priceless. It was one of those looks that perfectly captures the joy that can be found in a single moment; a moment when you become so enraptured by what is around you that everything else ceases to exist.

We were both having one of those moments. Cameron was enraptured by Bumble Bee. I was enraptured by Cameron.

The tears were because my joy became so full that it had to spill out. I love that the words that best describe these moments have the word “full” in them. Cameron was joyful. It was delightful. We were both full.

Many moments in life do not feel full. Usually that is because we are not fully present.

We spend so much of our time half-present. We are working on the computer while kids play in the next room. Or checking text messages while at the dinner table. Or daydreaming about the next thing we need to do while we still working on something else.

We think it’s doing lots of things that will make us feel full. But really, all it takes is a moment. We cheat ourselves out of those moments when we are distracted. We miss out on opportunities to be enraptured by the simple joys of life.

I believe delightful moments of joyfulness are a glimpse at the divine. I think this is especially true when we become filled with joy by witnessing the joy of another. It reflects the character of a God who rejoices over his children.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.  – Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - James 1:17

I hope for many more full moments in my days. Even if they lead to tears in odd places. It's worth it.

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