Her eyes are wide, brimming and fearful of that moment I walk downstairs and leave her alone in the baby-monitored bedroom next to her sleeping sister. The toddler sister, she has explained, who is no comfort because she is smaller and couldn't protect her, especially when she's sleeping.
I ask it gently in the lamp-lit, closet-lit, door wide-open light that softly flashes like shooting stars in the drops streaming quickly to her pillow... what are you afraid of?
Ever since she became sick, and during the three weeks of feverish ear-infection discomfort, her fears at nighttime amplified ten-fold.
Her face contorts as she sobs "I'm afraid of the dark. Of being alone. Of everything. Of... of... I don't know!"
The lights don't help in the dark, anymore. She still can't forget that it's nighttime. She wants me there with her, so I promise to check on her more frequently, tell her to do the things I've taught her to fight her fears. I've come upstairs to her brokenly singing lines of "Jesus loves me this I know", my checking in on her only painfully accentuating my eventually not remaining with her. She cries that she's tried the verses and songs and thinking only things that are pure, lovely, true.
"I just can't make my mind keep thinking about those things, mom!"
I pray-listen as she bawls on "Really mom, thinking about the Bible doesn't help... I just don't know what to do! Maybe when I'm bigger I won't be scared anymore, but right now, I'm still a little girl, and I'm still scared!..."
I lay my head on the pillow close, her ocean eyes only inches from mine. I wrap up her little hand in my gangly one.
She doesn't know the countless childhood years I shook my parents awake for prayers, for company, for comfort. She doesn't know the teenage nights I used to lay awake, more lights on than what was used during the day. She doesn't know my single-mom fears that left me crawling into bed next to my mom at 19 and 20 years old. She doesn't know all the prayers I could barely choke out against all the dark from without and within, or how many times I listened to Michael Card's Sleep Sound in Jesus lullaby CD on repeat to train my thoughts on Truth.
I pray peace will wash over her with my tone and Truth, I keep my hand sweeping gently down her mess of silk-brown curls. "I know, babe, I know. I know the dark is scary. I know being alone is scary. Do you know what? Just being bigger doesn't mean you wouldn't be scared anymore..."
I think of how much more I know about now... things to be afraid of. Of the fact that as I've grown bigger, older, I'm even more aware of my smallness, my vulnerability...
"... adults have to deal with fear too. We all do. And you know why I think it makes you feel better for me to be here with you?"
She shakes a definite no, her breathing slowly steadying.
I look straight into that beautiful questioning but trusting soul, marked all over by her Passionate, Thoughtful Creator. "It's because you are more focused on my presence, than what you are afraid of. The reason why I encourage you to say your verses and sing songs about God and to pray to Him is because all those things can help you focus on Him. And when you're focused on Him, on Him being with you and how much He loves you and how powerful He is, and that you are not alone... then you aren't afraid anymore."
She is completely calm now. I can see her thinking those thoughts so big I can't understand how they fit in her five year old brain.
I ask her if she wants to pray, to ask God to help her. I remind her we can't do anything on our own, and I ask it as I have before, reminding of that verse she has long had memorized, that she often turns to in the darkening hours "Selah, have you asked God to come into your heart? To give you His Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, and to take away your spirit of fear?"
She traces her fingers up and down mine, says it in a decided voice, "could we pray that prayer tonight?"
She asks all the things in tumbling tears, a waterfall of words, deep calling out to deep. "God, please come into my heart and give me your Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind and take away my spirit of fear. Please help me with my fears. Please teach me how to follow you, and how to hear your voice, and how to read Your love letter to me. Please forgive me for my sins against you and against other people. Please help me to remember that life is about You, and not about me. Thank you for loving me. I love You. In Jesus' name, amen."
I tell her angels are throwing a party in heaven, doing all kinds of rejoicing. They might be doing things like singing, dancing, shouting, maybe even throwing clouds at each other.
She grins so bright I can see the dark lifting. Says she'll go to sleep thinking about that tonight.
My heart sings and I think it over and over:
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
The dominion of darkness is a real, scary place in life that we all need rescue from. I have been rescued for years, and yet I can still allow my fears to choke out the Light that is all around me. Other than memorizing verses, singing songs of praise, and praying to God, something else that helps me to focus on His presence, to remember how loved I am is this: I enter His courts with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.
So grateful to be able to share my thanks here again... joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has brought me into His kingdom of light...
Because I haven't been able to write for a while, the list is long and covers a wide range of life situations...
a much needed, long lost shoe found
little girls playing for hours in the "cabin", the currently tankless tank stand that the husband built
Rachel home for the summer
clattering of little feet on the way to children's church
a husband who looks long at me, compliments so generously, sincerely
always more than enough
husband's tender surprise of washing my feet, then Selah's, just because he wanted to express his love for us
feeling, and really knowing, I am safe and secure enough in my marriage to be really vulnerable
sister support in exhausted moments
baby taking a drink of her water and then making a "sour" face to make me laugh. Saying "mommy-WATCH!" and continuing to do this long after I've lost the ability to sincerely laugh
Selah doing chores with a great attitude
big sister drawn castle as a gift for Alexa
freshly washed bedding
soft tissues for raw noses
home cooked meals I didn't cook
loved ones who come closer, help more, when we are sick, contagious, inconvenient
Alexa singing " 'winkle, 'winkle liddle star, how I wonder what you are..."
Alexa asking "why?" anytime I tell her no about something, using that as her follow up question for several answers then saying "ooooh"... like it is all clear to her now
reminders that little children are large sponges. Alexa told me she didn't want me to do something, I asked her why, and she answered "B'cause... I told you so."
Jesus talks with little sister, not at all little anymore
being considered a friend by a sister
feeling the baby move
keys riding safely, somehow, on the top of the truck all the way through stops and turns and freeways and side roads. A definite answer to prayer, and a new story, soon to come, for my Jesus Story Box.
good children's books that influence in God-honoring ways
knowing a good-bye is not eternal
praying with church-family
that God allows me in His presence... that He longs for me
learning the same lesson over and over, to know it better, because I need to