Night Terrors


11 o’clock is about the time of night Daniel and I head to bed. When it’s finally time for us to lock up the house, turn out the lights and rest our heads on our pillows, I start to get nervous, because I know what’s coming. For Daniel, sleep is easy; his biggest issue is what I’m going to randomly do in the middle of the night that will stir him from sleep.

Sometimes we pray before we call it a night and sometimes we are so tired that both of us are asleep before we can do anything else.

A strange shift happens in between 12:30 and 1 a.m. each night. Something in my mind goes from reality to a different world, that looks similar to what the real world is… except for the things that weren’t there when I fell asleep.

I’ll open my eyes and see things I can’t describe to you most of the time, because they are indescribable and unmistakably evil. Sometimes I’m petrified still, and other times I jump up out of bed in an attempt to escape the room from the freak show that’s after me. After what feels like forever, but what is probably only forty five seconds time, I come to, either by realizing that the images aren’t actually there or by being shaken by Daniel. My reaction once I’m coherent differs depending on the severity, but it often ends in me crying.

I suffer from night terrors.

I know there’s a lot of curiosity and intrigue surrounding night terrors, and I know that they happen to people all over the world. The difference between a nightmare and a night terror is that generally, a nightmare is a bad dream that happens while you are sleeping and your eyes are closed. But night terrors happen when your eyes are open; it’s similar to hallucination. It wasn’t something I became familiar with until about 3 years ago, after I started sexual abuse counseling. When I was a child, I experienced pretty extreme sleep walking, and as a teen/young adult I encountered many demons in my dreams. I thought those dreams were the worst night time issues one could experience, until I started having night terrors. I never thought I’d say this, but I’d take the physical battles I had with evil spirits in my dreams any day over the horror that overtakes my vision in the middle of the night now. At least in the dreams, I was asleep and could wake up to reality.

The previous bout of them before this current season lasted about a year…? Or maybe it was longer; I don’t remember. Back then, the terrors had one thing in common: Daniel wasn’t my actual husband, and he was giving me over to the darkness. That overall theme manifested itself in many different terrifying images. It wasn’t until I was at my wits end one night that Daniel asked me what all of them had in common that I was able to figure it out- and boy was it a hard night. The truth kinda just spilled out of my mouth.

The only other important man in my life wasn’t who he said he was. He was a liar and a monster. If my dad wasn’t who he said he was, then how can I believe you are who you say you are?

I cried so hard into Daniel’s shoulder that night. So, so hard. But it was worth it, because I didn’t have another night terror for I think a year and a half.

And then last October came. Daniel was doing a favor for his previous employer and working sound for a festival. It was a late night and he wasn’t going to get in until the wee hours of the morning. I’m not able to sleep when he isn’t home, so it was well after 1 in the morning before I started to doze off. Between 2 and 2:30 a.m., I was abruptly shaken out of sleep by a loud knock on the door. I naturally assumed it was Daniel needing me to let him in because he forgot his key. When I stepped out into the living room, I saw blue and red lights shining through the dining room window, and my stomach sank into my knees and my heart started to pound wildly. The walk from the living room to the front door is about 12 feet, but I felt myself walk forever. When I opened the door, two police officers were looking at me, and I swear it felt like an eternity before they spoke. In that eternity, my eyes welled up with tears as I braced myself to hear that my husband had been in an accident on his way home. I even got light headed. The male police officer finally spoke, and asked me if I drove the silver volvo that was parked in our driveway. Confused, I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me it was broken into.

I don’t know if there has ever been a more audible sigh of relief than the one that came out of me. I had to hold onto the door frame while I gathered my faculties and told them how happy I was to hear that my car was broken into. Naturally, they looked at me like I was a crazy person, and I told them that my husband was on his way home from work and I thought they were here to tell me he had died.

We filed a police report and I went back to bed. Daniel got home around 3:30, and everyone was asleep and safe in our house. The End.

I wish.

The last 8 months I have spent many hours praying and crying, trying to figure out what it was about that night that started something in me, because shortly after that was when the night terrors started again. At first I figured I needed to grieve those few moments I thought I had lost my husband forever. I described it and sobbed and thanked God that what I thought was happening didn’t turn out to be reality for me. That should have been it, right?

The terrors kept coming, and I kept searching for the reason why.

Last Saturday was a wonderful. Daniel and I went to the beach with some of our friends, and we called it #nokidbeachday. Ya’ll, I love my children…. but it was a long and hellishly hot summer, and this mom needed some recess. I got my relaxation, and had that awesome beach fatigue when it was time for bed. I didn’t even have my usual nervousness before bed because I was so exhausted. Right as I felt like I was dozing, something didn’t feel right. I asked Daniel to pray, and he did, but I kept falling asleep. A few minutes later, a voice snapped me awake. It wasn’t my voice and it definitely wasn’t Daniels, so I knew something was starting. I don’t like to admit this, but I was just so tired from the day and from the last 8 months of this nonsense, that I mentally said “whatever” and gave in to sleep without prayerfully attempting to fight what was about to happen. I gave up.

What followed was one of the worst night terrors I’ve ever had. Daniel wasn’t my husband, but a people-seller, and when I opened my eyes, I saw babies in cages and dark creatures controlling and buying them. IN MY ROOM. This was one of the most vivid and memorable ones I’ve had; usually they are so abstract that I can’t describe them afterwards, or days later. But this- it was just so awful what I was seeing that I remember my mouth dropping open. But something happened a little differently this time. I didn’t snap out of it and it was gone like usual. I realized what was happening wasn’t real, but the images didn’t go away, so I started to pray out loud in my room. Very firmly, I told whatever was doing this to me was going to leave in the name of Jesus, and I repeated it over and over. The room cleared and it was just Daniel and myself, but I was not okay. The feeling of something very dark was lingering, and I woke Daniel up and asked him to pray.

He started to pray for me and our house, and as he commanded things to leave, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. He kept praying, and the feeling that overwhelmed me was one I’ve not felt in so long and one I hope to never feel again.

I felt abandoned by God. Like, He was just gone. No where to be found. It was like my soul was trembling and radiating out to the tips of my fingers, and fear completely overtook me. I was panicking and wordless and honestly terrified I wouldn’t make it through the night, and then something quiet happened: I started to pray like David did in the Psalms.

I’ve read through the Psalms many times, but I’ve never memorized any of it. So it came as a shock when all of a sudden I was saying words that sounded strikingly similar to what David moaned to God when he felt despairing and abandoned. I even thought to myself as I was praying, “how am I praying this right now?”

And then I remembered what the Holy Spirit does. He intercedes for us when we have no words. He knows the aches and groans that are so deep and painful that our minds can’t interpret them into words ourselves. He stepped in at the right time and reminded me that He hasn’t left. He’s there, but I’ve just squashed his voice with the loudest lies ever believed.

Lies always seem to be much louder than the truth. Or maybe my ears aren’t fine tuned enough yet to hear the truth over the lies.

I was able to finally calm down enough to talk soberly with Daniel. I was at a desperate point to figure this out- I’ve been there the entire month of August. Desperate to stop being a lost boy, desperate to stop hating my body (we’ll save that for the next blog post), desperate to… to not have these damned night terrors anymore. But what was the lie?

Sin is birthed from a lie. A temptation to buy into anything else besides trusting the Creator of the Universe.

I started to beg Daniel to tell me what was wrong with me. Just help me see because I can’t do this myself, clearly. He plainly stated that the theme of these terrors seem to be an altered state that God isn’t a part of. You live in this reality all day long, but at night, reality turns into a world where God is absent. And then he said the thing- HE SAID THE THING I’D BEEN WAITING TO HEAR- and it crushed me and gave me the sweet relief I’d been anticipating for 8 months:

You don’t believe God is who He says He is. You can’t just accept that He’s delivered you from a life of chaos. Your guard was down for a while, and then that night in October happened and you put it back up.

So much relief mixed with a heaping spoonful of conviction took over as I spilled out words of confession, realizing things as they were coming out of my mouth. It’s so crazy when that happens, isn’t it? When things fall out so easily that it’s shocking that you didn’t see any of it before.

But that’s the thing about the lies we believe. They harpoon themselves into our hearts, and after a while, they become so much a part of who you are that you don’t know you’re living your life through the filter of those lies, and identifying them feels nearly impossible because they’ve meshed themselves into your existence.

Here’s the crazy thing, the wild thing about the God that loves me: He would allow me to endure 8 months of terror-filled nights to get me to a place where I can freaking dig down to that lie and rip it bloody out. I know this sounds insane, but THAT is a God worth trusting. I was believing that God didn’t really love me, that He would eventually abandon my family to destruction and not protect me from myself, and I would ultimately be separated from Him. I WAS BELIEVING THAT, even though during the day I thank Him for loving me and helping me and saving me. At night the lies manifested itself by showing me what life is without God- and it’s hell. It’s HELL.

I’ve been two nights terror-free. I’d like to tell you it’s been great, and it has, but I think my body has experienced such a sleep deficit that now that I’m able to sleep, my body never wants to get up. It just wants to hibernate for a week or maybe a month and catch up on all of the lost rest.

But I gotta tell ya- all of this lie purging… it’s really worth it. Two weeks ago I talked about my security blanket and let that go, and last week I uncovered an 18-year-old lie about my body. August 2016 is definitely going down in the books as some kind of spiritual circus, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want September to be cool down time.

We’ve been going through peacemaking at Church on the Way, and I think there’s a correlation between that and all of this soul work. The more God works on me, the more grace, understanding and forgiveness I have towards others. Beyond that, I’m starting to, dare I say it, fall in love with people. I’ve always “loved” people in theory, and I can be very passionate about bringing people together, but to actually LOVE you, like… be a die hard advocate for you? That’s difficult. We bump into each other and sometimes it hurts and I don’t like that. But discovering who I REALLY AM is showing me exactly what God has saved me from, and I can’t help but feel that pull to wave my white flag at love. Just fall right into it, even if you’re prickly and may poke me. I’m prickly too. It’s funny- we are all distinctly unique in our creation, yet we are all so much the same in our hearts.

It seems like the more honest I am, the harder it is to come up with some put-together conclusion. I just wanna share the stuff I’m experiencing in hopes that you’ll step a little closer to the God that loves us. He really is good; you’ll never be able to talk me out of it :)

Even On Days Like These

Even on days like these

Some days I don’t want to be a mom.

Today is one of those days.

Every moment of motherhood feels like a strike against my selfishness, a blow to my pride, or just utter failure. Mixed in with all of that of course is great piling heaps of joy and abundant laughter. I could not have imagined how much better my life would be before I had them, and I’m very grateful for these two silly boys. But choosing to get up every day and be Abram and Emery’s mom is to choose to die to my flesh, and some days, I’m so sick of it and I just want to do what I want to do.

I want the day to go my way. I want to take off just for fun, and I’d really like to not be responsible for someone else’s well being.

But even more, the hardest part on days like these, is feeling so small and insignificant. Day in and day out, with the diapers and the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the spoiled laundry and the apologies for freaking out over jumping on the couch and the NEVER ENDING teething; it starts to feel like I contribute nothing to the world.

It’s a lie, I know. But in a culture that marvels at dream chasers and hustlers, I get to feeling worthless.

And on these days where my flesh burns hot and wants nothing more than to take over while I’m sobbing next to the crib because the baby won’t nap, and I’m still in my pajamas and I wish I could lose 30 pounds, I’m so glad I have a God to weep to.

There are meltdowns that only my Creator can comfort. I’m always surprised by days like this, and find myself angry for not being better, like HOW COULD I POSSIBLY BE FEELING THIS WAY FOR THE THOUSANDTH TIME… but He’s never surprised and I don’t think He’s angry at me either.

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24

This is what happens when I go to him instead of stew in my own muck. It usually looks like a disaster at first, a few words here and there through the sobs and snot. But once I get it all out enough to approach repentance and ask for help, I start to feel like I’m being given strength. My flesh starts to let up on the clench it’s had on my heart all day, and peace trickles into my mind.

Confessing to others is big, too. Sometimes it takes any shred of humility I can muster up to message my friends and tell them how I’m feeling and ask for prayer. But I always feel a little more sober-minded afterwards, which is one of the beauties of living in communion with other believers.

I know most of us wish putting off our old selves could be easier and look a lot more dignified, like some kind of formal ceremony. It’d be much better if someone could just knight me with a Bible and then I’m magically new. But that’s not what it looks like at all. It’s approaching Him, day in and day out, asking for the same help, over and over. It’s confessing to my people. It’s quiet, it’s repetative, and the reward isn’t instant perfection but the hope that maybe I won’t be such a selfish person all day long. 

God ALWAYS wants to be my father.

Even on days like these.

Pride and My Eyes

Be Thou My Vision

Last Wednesday, I woke up feeling rough. My last days of pregnancy have never been characterized as fun and refreshing. I’d say “trying and exhausting” would be a more accurate depiction, and maybe some other colorful descriptives I probably shouldn’t share here.

I don’t sleep well at all in my “terminal stages of pregnancy”, as Michael Scott would refer to it. I’m actually leaps and bounds more okay with this reality than I was 4 1/2 years ago, during my last trimester with Abe. I used to worship sleep well above pretty much everything else, and not being able to get enough of it seriously and literally would ruin my life. It’s still embarrassing to admit that. And what I find so absurd about that time, looking back, is that I didn’t have a young child to care for while I was pregnant. And by the end of my third trimester, I was on partial bed rest and had absolutely no responsibilities but to simply lay around and do nothing. What did I have to be so bent out of shape about? Nothing. However, I digress.

As my eyes barely opened that morning, I became immediately aware of the soreness imparted by the breath taking contractions from the evening before paired with a restless night in bed. I looked at my phone for a few moments to adjust my eyes to being open, and slowly forced myself to sit up. Our bed doesn’t currently have a frame, so it sits on the floor. This is fine, for a normal-bodied human. But for me, physically getting up out bed makes me feel as though my eye balls are for-realsies going to pop out of my face as I push myself in an upward motion. It’s making me giggle thinking about it, but it’s never funny when the ordeal is taking place.

I walked into the living room to get a glance at my tiny man, exchanged morning greetings, and then waddled my way into the kitchen for my usual glass of lemon water. I turned around and Daniel came up to hug me, and I told him I needed Abe to go to daycare for the day because I was just not going to be able to care for him. It frazzled him a bit, as getting Abe ready would put him a few minutes behind for work. Abe wasn’t happy about the sudden change in his routine, as he doesn’t go to daycare anymore, except for maybe once a month when I really need him to (our daycare is wonderful and always has a spot open for him). We managed to get him dressed through the groans and the objections, and off they went out the door, leaving me sitting on the couch wondering what to do.

Normally, I’d start making myself breakfast, but I’ve not been very hungry the past few days. Just nauseated, really. When I do get hungry, I just want to eat extremely sharp cheddar cheese and drink soda. I don’t know why, but that’s just what my body is craving during these final days. I would imagine the desire for soda has to do with my unsettled stomach, and the cheese for the fats and proteins. I don’t know.

I wasn’t going to drink coca cola at 8:50 in the morning, so I just sauntered back into my room and plopped down on the bed. As I huddled under the sheets and grabbed every pillow in arms reach to cushion myself, I could feel my body and my heart urging me to do the thing that always brings me rest: fall apart and spill into the hands of God.

The truth is, I really, REALLY hate giving in to “weakness”. Ha. As if being pregnant is a weak condition. What I mean is, I don’t like having to tell Abe that he’s got to go hang with some other people for a while so I can rest. I want to be able to watch him and rest, I want to do both. I want to be super woman. The night before, I was crying and venting over feeling so awful about laying in bed while Abe watched tv that day, as I just did not have the energy to get up and play with him.  Daniel had a put-down-his-foot moment and said he was going to take Abe to daycare in the morning, because I needed a break. I got more upset and came up with all kinds of excuses why he didn’t need to go, but I knew in my heart Daniel was right.

Sometimes, I need help. I thought I’d cleared that prideful wall, but I haven’t. There’s still so much left of it for me to climb.

I knew it when I woke up that morning, which is why I gave in. Wrapped up in my nest of sheets and pillows, I began to thank God for the day. I didn’t have much fluff to say, and got right into what I really needed to tell Him:

“Help me rest in your hands. I’m experiencing fear, anxiety and the feelings of failure. I want to hand those over to you so that I can find peace in You being in control. I’m afraid that the end of this pregnancy will be like the last one, and I’ll go in and out of labor for what seems like an eternity and be so incredibly miserable. If my body is meant to do that again, help me to see it with different eyes. Help me to see what You see.”

After I prayed that, the words “Be Thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart” flooded my mind. Just that first line and nothing else. I thought about it for a moment and was astounded by the lyric.

Replace my eyes with your eyes so that I can see everything the way you see everything.

As I let that simmer, I cried and released all of that tension. And then I felt the rest that I’d been needing. I found a piano/violin version of Be Thou My Vision on youtube and just listened to that for a few minutes as I closed my eyes and allowed my body to unwind.

There’s still a lot of pride left in these bones. God removes things from me in layers, and I suspect He won’t be done with the layers of pride anytime soon. If you’re reading this, and I’ve refused your helping hand, I’m sorry. I’m still learning that receiving is just as important as giving. Giving can become a foul thing, as it is easy to allow the act to be about one’s self and how good one can be. Receiving requires the terrifying choice to be vulnerable. Jesus received over and over in the new testament with gladness and joy; I don’t know why we ever try to believe we’re somehow different.

Be Thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart…