When the Dreams Shatter the Night

nightmareI’m jolted awake and realize tears are flowing down my cheeks. I feel sick to my stomach, and my heart is beating hard and fast. I blink three times trying to establish reality and hug my pillow tight.

It happened again. My worst fear came to visit me in the night. I know in my mind that it was just a dream, but I can’t turn off the feeling that it was real. I roll over and snuggle up behind my husband. I find his hand and hold it tight. I just need to feel him. I need to know he’s there. I need to know this is reality… me with my husband.

These dreams don’t visit every night. In fact, they only visit when something in reality triggers them. A person, a situation, a certain car… a glimpse of anything connected with disturbing memories. It’s these triggers that jump start the fear. I can manage to keep the fear stuffed in the deep recesses of the filing cabinets of my brain during the day. But once I lay my head on the pillow and lose consciousness, I’m at fear’s mercy, and fear is not nice.

It mocks me. It makes me feel like a fool… like a psychological idiot. It envelopes me and threatens to take over. It plants more fear. More distrust. It threatens to steal the relationships dearest to me. And I hate it… with every once of my being.

But what do you do? What can you do to keep the fear from manifesting into dreams in the night?

I don’t know if I have an answer to that. But I have some things flittering around in my mind…. Things like:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (I John 4:18).

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1:7).

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31, 32).

But what’s the practical of all that?

If perfect love casts out fear, is this God’s love to me or my love to others? If it’s my love to others, how do I perfect my love?

If this spirit of fear is not from God, then I’m going to take a big stab in the dark here and say it’s from the devil. So how do I resist him and his attacks of fear?

How do I continue in His Word? Is there a truth I don’t know yet? One that will set me free from this fear that slips in at night to terrorize me?

I just want answers. I want to know how to turn it off.

God, help me throw off this spirit of fear and to claim the spirit of power, love, and self-control.

 

*photo credit

Snatch Up the Nuggets

goldnuggetMoving on… As if we simply turn our back on it and walk away. And yet that’s impossible.

The hurts, the mistakes, the wrongs, the struggles… We strive to move on and get past them in an effort to keep them from defining who we are.

But what if we’re going about it all wrong? What if, instead of trying to forget it and erase it’s effects, we embrace it… the pain and the mistakes… the tragedies we face in life?

It’s in the midst of hardship that we find the sweetness of life. It’s then that we dig the deepest, search the hardest, and rejoice the loudest over the tiniest glimmer of hope. These are precious, precious things. It’s this digging, searching, and finding that chisels away the “un-us” to reveal more of our true selves.

This reminds me of something I heard once. I don’t remember who said it. Probably someone from my ATI days that I’d rather not quote, but it’s true, none the less.

“Good and bad run on parallel tracks, and they often arrive at the same time.”

I’m not talking about a Pollyanna theology here, where if you just find the silver lining, the sadness will just go away. I’m talking about letting the hurt sink in. Letting the struggle take its course. And finding the good in the midst of it.

I read an excellent article this week over at Grace for Moms that speaks of this very thing. Donald Miller shares a very practical way of digging for the good in the midst of tragedy. I highly recommend reading what he has to say about finding a redemptive perspective.

So, don’t try to run away. Don’t waste your time with the giant eraser. It doesn’t work anyway. Embrace the tragedy. Find the gold nugget buried inside and let it bring out the best of who you really are.

 

*photo credit

Blockston, Pt. 5

window

Be sure to read part one, two, three, and four.

 

Mia felt as if she were spinning round and round, faster and faster, the walls seemingly closing in on her. Her breathing came shallow, and she was sure she would suffocate in the black ocean of these awful memories.

All this time… All the strange psychological issues she’s faced in life… All her anger… All the fear, her mistrust… Why she wanted to cry and run at the sight of a baby… It all made sense now.

It wasn’t that she was given to insanity. It wasn’t that she was afraid of commitment, as her boyfriend accused. It wasn’t that she hated kids.

It was that she had been scarred, traumatized. That, in an effort to protect herself, her mind had shut out these memories. But even without the memories, her subconscious still felt them, preventing her from trusting and loving… preventing her from living free from the memories’ chains.

A lone tear trickled down Mia’s cheek and hit her knee with a tiny splash.  She took a deep breath, trying to stop more from coming, but it didn’t work. Like a broken dam, the deluge poured forth.

No longer possessing strength to remain upright, she let herself slide down onto her side. She hugged her knees tighter and sobbed so hard it felt as if her heart would burst. Why? How could anyone be so awful to innocent children? Why am I so damaged by something that happened so long ago?

“I just want it to not be part of me anymore,” she pleaded through her sobs. “Just make it go away, God! Please!”

Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Mia?”

She opened her eyes. “Mrs. Stapleton? How did…? I didn’t hear you….”

Gayle took Mia’s hand and pulled her up into her arms, holding her as she would a five year old child. She stroked her hair and planted a kiss on her top of her head.

“He… he…” Mia tried to speak between her sobs. “He hurt… me…. He would come… into my room… and do things.”

Tears silently streaked down Gayle’s face and onto Mia’s head.

“He yelled…. He hit us…. He shook her… hard… too hard… He killed her, Mrs. Stapleton… He killed my baby sister.” There were no tears left now. Only dry sobs and anger.

“I’m so sorry, Mia.” Gayle pushed Mia upright and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry, Mia, that I did not do more sooner. I wanted to help your mother. And I wanted to keep you and your brother safe.”

Mia leaned her back against the wall and stared out the dingy window. “What happened that night?” she whispered.

Gayle scooted over next to Mia. “Once your mother realized the baby was dead, she left the hospital before anyone could ask questions. She came back to my house. She was scared and didn’t know what to do. We called your grandma to come and get you two kids. Another neighbor stayed with you while you waited for your grandma to come. I went back to the hospital with your mother. We told them everything.”

Mia frowned. “I think I remember that we stayed all summer on my grandma’s farm.”

Gayle nodded. “Yes. You did. That was a very long summer for your mother. She pressed charges against your father and filed for divorce. Your father went to prison. She looked hard for a job and a place to call home, so she could be with you two. She stayed in contact with me for a few years, and then we lost touch.”

Gayle grabbed Mia’s hand. “Honey, what you went through with your father was terrible. I don’t know what you’ve gone through since then. But I want you to know that those terrible things do not have to define you or control you. Now that you know what happened, you have to power to let it go. To let it make you stronger. You have the power to live beyond these memories.”

Mia looked down at her hand in Gayle’s.

Gayle smiled. “Come on. Let’s go to my house and get something to drink.”

____________________________

“Well, what did you find?” Mia’s boss asked when she came in to work the next Monday.

Mia thought about the week she spent with Gayle. “I learned that until you face the memories, you can never live beyond them.”

 

Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 2

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 4

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.

 

*photo credit

Blockston, Pt. 4

babyBe sure to read part one, two, three, and five.

 

Mia slowly closed the big, paint peeled door behind her and let her eyes adjust to the dark. Large wooden stairs rose in the dark shadows to her left, beckoning her upward to the sunlight pouring in from a dusty window. She placed her hand on the curved end of the banister and immediately flashed back.

______________________________

Three year old Mia slowly and carefully climbed onto the rail at the top of the stairs. Her brother stood on the step next o her. “There ya go, Mia. Now put your foot up.”

“I ‘fraid, Mack.” Mia whimpered.

“It’s ok!” he assured. “It’s fun!”

Mia managed to get her leg over the rail and now lay across the rail like a napping cougar in the jungle trees. She held the rail tightly and began to whimper again. “I fraaaaaid!”

Mack put his hand on top of hers and began to pry her fingers loose.

“Noooooooo! I ‘fraid!” Mia screamed.

Mack smiled and reassured her. “It’s fun. Let go and slide.”

Mia slowly loosened her grip and began to slide. It was kinda fun. She loosened her grip even more. Faster. Faster. “Weeeeeeeeeeee!”

But Mack had not told her what to do when she got to the end. She found herself flying off the end of the banister railing. Down she fell, hitting her head with a loud thud on the wall behind her. Everything went black.

As the blackness began to clear, she heard Mack crying and loud footsteps coming. The hall door flew open and their father stomped in. “What are you kids doing?!” he yelled. He grabbed her arm tightly. “Get up,” he yelled even louder, as he yanked her up off the floor. “Get down here, Mack!”

Mia could not stand. She felt dizzy and weak. Her father jerked her up again. “Stand up, Mia!” The yelling pierced her ears like sharp knives.

Mack made his way down the stairs and stood in front of their father. “What were you doing?!!”

“Mia slid down the banister,” Mack barely whispered.

Mia felt her father fiercely spank her over and over again with his hand. Her head spun, the voices echoed, and all went black again.

______________________________

Mia shivered and quickly moved up the stairs. “He always did get away with anything while I took the punishment,” she mumbled.

She walked down the hall and entered the first room on the right. This had been Mack’s room. She could visualize it as it had been 20 years ago. An old, rickety bed had stood in the corner, the sheet and blanket all rolled up into a ball. Stuffed animals, dirty laundry, and broken crayons had been strewn all over the floor.

There was no sign of these things now. Only a thick layer of dust on the hard wood floor and fuzzy dust bunnies in the corner.

She stepped across the hall and into another room. This one was larger with a gabled addition to the side of the room. This had been her room. Her bed had been in the little gabled nook, and her baby dolls, doll cradle, and little kitchen set had been in the larger part of the room. It would have been any little girl’s retreat, except for one thing. Something about the room made her stomach churn and she felt another memory coming on.

______________________________

Five year old Mia lay in her bed, holding her teddy bear close to her chest. Something had woken her. Her heart thumped loudly as she stared into the darkness and listened hard. Stairs creaking. Footsteps down the hall. Doorknob turning. She knew what was coming, and she wanted to hide. She pulled the covers over her head.

“Mia,” her father whispered as he gingerly pulled the sheets off her head. He silently stroked her hair and caressed her cheek.

Mia remained stiff. Maybe if she pretended to be asleep he would leave. But it didn’t work. His hands moved down to her chest, stomach, and legs. A lone tear ran down her cheek. She hated these nights.

______________________________

Mia’s heart pounded in her ears and her breathing came fast. She felt cold and clammy and sick to her stomach. She turned quickly and ran out of the room.

There was only one room left. Mia slowly pushed the door open. It squeaked on its hinges. What had this room been? She let her eyes slowly move around the room as if she were looking for a clue… something to spark a memory.

Her eyes reached the last corner, and she heard a cry… a baby’s cry. A crib came into focus.

______________________________

Young Mia lay in her bed listening to her baby sister’s cries. She wished she could help her. She sounded so sad and so mad. She heard her mother’s steps coming up the stairs.

“Shhhh,” she heard her whisper. “It’s ok, sweet baby girl. Mommy’s here.”

Mia listened to her mother’s humming. It was beautiful and calming, and she dozed off to sleep again.

She soon woke up with a start. Her baby sister was crying again. Her mother tried to calm her, but she would not quiet. Mia heard her father’s footsteps coming up the stairs and down the hallway.

“Can’t you make her shut up?!” he hissed.

“I’m trying,” her mother answered.

Mia tiptoed to her door and peered around the corner.

“Give her to me!” he hissed again. Her baby sister cried louder as her father snatched her from her mother. He shook the baby and yelled in her face, “SHUT UP!”

“Stop!” her mother insisted. “Stop right now!”

Her father tossed her baby sister into the crib. She let out a wild scream and then lay still and silent.

“Get out of here! Leave! RIGHT NOW!” her mother yelled, as she ran to the side of the crib.

Her father turned to leave the room, and Mia quickly pulled her head in and hid behind the door. She stayed there until she heard her father slam the front door. He was leaving.

Mia tiptoed to the baby’s room. “Mommy?”

Tears streamed down her mother’s cheeks as she held her baby close. “You’re gonna be alright, Sweet Dear,” she whispered. “You’re gonna be alright.”

“Get your brother, Mia,” her mother demanded sternly. “You’re going to stay with Mrs. Stapleton tonight.”

______________________________

It all came back. The trek across the alley to Mrs. Stapleton’s in the darkness of the night. Her mother leaving in a hurry to the hospital. Being put to bed on a blanket in Mrs. Stapleton’s living room. Lying awake all night. Her mother coming back in the morning without her baby sister.

“He killed her,” she whispered in realization, as she slid down the wall and pulled her knees up to her chin. “He killed her!”

 

Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 2

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 5

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.

 

*photo credit

Blockston, Pt, 3

house

Be sure to catch part one and part two of Blockston.

 

Mia sat in her car outside of the tiny diner, staring at the napkin in her hand. Gayle had scribbled out a simple map to the now empty house where she had lived with her parents and brother 20 years ago. Drive down to the blinking caution light, turn left. Drive two blocks to Partridge Street and take a right. The two story white house would be the second house on the right.

Why is my stomach in knots? She wondered. It’s just an old house. She sighed, tossed the napkin onto the passenger’s seat, and shoved her keys into the ignition.

The blinking light. A left turn. Two blocks. A right. And there it was in all its old and decaying glory. She pulled slowly into the long drive and stopped just to the right of the front porch. From this corner, the house appeared to be a large white cube with a green cap on top. The paint was peeling, the foundation was moldy, and a few of the windows were cracked.

She stepped out of the car and continued down the drive on foot, stopping to peer in the side windows. Through the first window, she saw only an empty, dusty room with a hard wood floor. The next window was too tall for her to reach. Probably the bathroom, she thought. The last window on the side of the house was also too high, but if she stood back a ways, she could see kitchen cupboards.

She rounded the corner of the house to find a closed in back porch with windows all the way around it. Inside was an old rusty washing machine and dryer. For a split second, Mia could smell laundry soap and hear water running into the washing machine. She heard her mother’s voice. “Dump it in, Mia, so the clothes can take a bath.” She saw a bruise on her mother’s outstrenched arm.

Mia stepped away from the window and continued around the closed in porch to the other side of the house. This side was not the straight up cube the other side had been. A utility closet occupied the corner where the closed in porch ended. The house then jutted out about eight feet past the utility closet.

This jutted chunk of house was the living room and included another jutted out section about 3×5 feet. Tall windows surrounded this section on the lower story. The upper story was a cute gable with a lone window.

Past the living room’s jutted section was another jut out with weirdly spaced high windows. Must be where the stairs are, she mused.

She rounded the corner and walked around the front porch. The porch had been majestic in its day. Victorian spindles lined the edge of the old, moldy porch roof, some of them broken. Paint was peeling from the white posts and the once gray steps and floor.

She carefully climbed the creaky steps and placed her hand on the door handle of the wooden screen door. Immediately, her mind went back and once again she was watching her younger self.

Young Mia stood trembling, peering out the screen door. Her daddy stood in the front yard in front of two police officers. His fists were clenched and his shoulders heaved with every quick, deep breath.

“Sir. Is everything ok?” One officer asked. “Your wife called. She was concerned for the safety of herself and your children.”

“Everything is perfectly fine,” her dad practically yelled.

“Sir. I’m going to need you to calm down,” the other officer commanded.

“I don’t need to calm down!” By this time Mia’s father was shaking with anger.

One of the officers laid his hand on his shoulder and implored, “Sir. If you don’t calm down, you will need to come with us.”

Mia’s father completely lost it at that point. He lifted his tight fist and punched the officer right in the nose. The other officer immediately shoved Mia’s father to the ground and handcuffed him.

Young Mia felt her mother’s shakey hand on her arm. “Come on, Mia. Come away from the door.”

The memory disappeared just as fast as it had come, as if it were sucked away in a vacuum. Mia pulled the screen door open and tried the door knob of the old wooden door. It turned.

Mia hesitated. Dare she enter? What if the memories hiding in the dark inner corners of this house were even worse than the ones she’d already encountered? What if they swallowed her up and she disappeared into that creepy vacuum right along with all the horrific memories?

 

Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 2

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 4

Blockston, Pt. 5

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.

 

*photo credit

The Art of Forgiveness

tears

If forgiveness is so freeing… if it is so vital to being completely ourselves… then what is it and how do we forgive? How do we get past the hurt and embrace the freedom?

What forgiveness is not:

  • Forgiveness does not free the offender from the consequences of his actions.
  • Forgiveness is not accepting abuse as a necessary element of life.
  • Forgiveness is not forgetting what’s been done to us.
  • Forgiveness is not a mumbled response to an apology.

What forgiveness is:

  • Forgiveness finds fulfillment in moving on rather than in revenge.
  • Forgiveness reports abuse and seeks to end it.
  • Forgiveness finds a way to rise above the offense, without bottling it up.
  • Forgiveness is a choice to plant a seed of love, inspiration, and motivation in the heart.

Forgiveness is more of an internal choice than an outward action. It’s deciding that you will not let anger and vengeance manipulate your thoughts and actions. This decision may take hours, days, months, maybe even years to make, but the sooner you make it, the better off you are. You may need to make the decision to forgive over and over again as you encounter things that trigger the old feelings of pain and betrayal, but you will find that each time you do, it’s a little easier than the last.

Forgiveness is only possible if you allow the hurt and the pain to surface. You cannot forgive something that you refuse to acknowledge. It’s this face to face with our deepest hurts that makes forgiveness one of the hardest thing to do.

Tears may flow. More tears than you ever dreamed possible. You may feel the heat of anger welling up in your chest. “I forgive them” may be the last words you want to utter. But until you do, you will never be free.