Sometimes I still have nightmares.

I was running. Fear coursed through my body, adrenaline pushed me forward. Terror. Maybe that’s a better word. I paused, making a split-second decision.

Seized from behind, arms from nowhere pinned my own to my sides. A hand clapped over my mouth. Kicking, fighting, biting, I tasted blood. My attacker cursed, reactively examining his hand. I heard myself scream.

Still fighting him, words registered.

“Lovee, Lovee it’s ok. I’m here. You’re ok”

Arms still held me. They were strong, but tender. And the voice familiar. Feet stopped kicking, arms stopped flailing. Desperately I turned toward him, burying my face in his chest. Shaking with great heaving shudders, heart pounding, and on the verge of hyperventilation, the fear was still just as real.

“Honey it’s ok. It was a nightmare. It wasn’t real. I’m here and you’re safe.” My husband stroked my hair, not letting me go. 

It took several minutes for calm to return. He prayed peace and comfort over me. He dried my tears and kissed my forehead. Finally I turned back over. And he kept me close, his arms still around me from behind.

Until I got married I never realized how prone to nightmares I am. Perhaps it’s because I don’t always remember them in the morning. Indeed when I’m awake, fear is not usually a prominent adjective. Sure, I don’t like scary things, but I don’t live dominated by fear. Yet my husband told me it wasn’t unusual for him to be awakened by my kicking and thrashing.

I do, however, remember the first nightmare after he died. Waking to the sound of my own voice screaming his name, touching his side of the bed and realizing he wasn’t there—just weeks from his death, it was too much to bear.

Sometimes I still have nightmares.

Just the other night I awoke with tears streaming down my face. I’d been crying in the dream. I was crying in real life. These days nightmares about Jon are infrequent, but they still rattle me. I don’t know why I still have them two and half years later.

I guess it’s because I still love him. I guess it’s because I still miss him.

Time has vastly lessened grief’s intensity. Truly, “grieving” isn’t often a way I’d describe myself anymore. Days are abundant and joy-filled. I’d use words like vibrant, content, growing, and excited. Even most nights are peaceful. So, these days a nightmare is a stark juxtaposition.

I recall a few things.

nightmares

Nightmares aren’t real. But the God who keeps me safe is. He is present in moments of fear whether danger is real or perceived. He is safety. He is peace. He is refuge. I can say with the Psalmist,

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD and He answered me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” Psalm 3:5-6

Ultimately, the psalmist’s declaration was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus, the true Shield. Deliverance comes from the “holy hill” of sacrifice, the same hill upon which Christ laid down his life.

To be safe is to know that nothing can harm my soul. Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. (Romans 8) He is the Shield that absorbed the fireball of the Father’s wrath. He is the Shield that blocks the enemy’s fiery darts.

He the Better Protector. Amen.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

Seems like a good time for a nap.

Advertisements

Trade loneliness for peace.

not alonwWide open skies, green fields, glimpses of rich dark soil between the rows: I soak up the landscape, marveling at the God who made it.

No music plays. No phone calls are made. Instead I relish the silence. And I realize I’m content to be alone with my thoughts, content to pray, content to slow down and listen.

This is a gift of grace.

Though I love music in the car, I’ve learned to be comfortable with silence. When my heart is quiet, I can meet with God.

Thank you, Lord, for wind and rain. Thank you for suffering. Thank you for seasons of refreshment. Thank you, Lord, for life.

My heart floods with peace and grace quantifiable. I’m happy. It’s a moment in time void of struggle. Words like security, stability, protection, and joy spring to mind. These are the mercies of God, flowing from His heart to mine. He protects. He secures.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

A heart guarded, a running conversation between God and me, we pick up where we left off.

Solitude is word that speaks peace to some, dread to others. In my life, it extends beyond a quiet country drive. God has taught me how to be alone. He has transformed solitude to prayer.

In past days solitude would have been a different word, however.

Lonely.

“I’m so lonely I could scream!”

When half of me was ripped away, I knew a loneliness that permeated every interaction, every worship service, every evening by myself. “Alone” felt like a curse word. Loneliness was a profound ache at the core of my heart that sometimes made me feel crazy.

Over time, I poured loneliness into pages and pages of prayer. Talking to God began to be like breathing– constant and necessary. Prayer was no longer a short chunk of time, but blossomed into flowing streams of conversation with the One who made me. Yet again a gift of grace.

He met me with patient, gentle refrain. ”You are not alone.”

And therein lies the catalyst, Jesus satisfies. If I have Jesus, I have all I truly ever need. Peace emanates from Christ.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV

He offers perfect peace.

Like everyone else, sometimes worry and anxiety barricade peace, but today belief affects actions. Because Jesus satisfies, loneliness gives way to solitude. And solitude is fertile ground for time with God.

Conversation with Him reflects a mind “stayed on” Him. And He guards my heart. Anxiety and fear have no choice but to flee.

People and things temporarily fill the space called “lonely,” but at the end of day, I’m left with a vessel that leaks.

But “lonely” filled with Christ is a cup that never leaks, overflowing and inundated.

Jesus, you satisfy. By grace I know it to be profoundly true. Draw me ever closer to you. Fill me with you, for you obliterate loneliness. Teach me to embrace solitude as a catalyst to prayer.  When my heart is afraid, anxious, or worried, lead me back to peace that surpasses understanding. Guard my mind with you.


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

guarded

When I long to be held by human arms

The room was cold.

“Oh well, better cold than hot for sleeping.”

I crawled into bed bringing the covers snuggly to my nose, leaving only eyes exposed to the elements. My feet quickly cocooned themselves in the down comforter. I lay on my side, knees bent, arms clutching a pillow. Everything was customary. But something was wrong. It took me a minute, but then I remembered; I was on my left side.

“Quick Lovee, huddle for warmth!” 

His strong arms circled me, his knees tucked behind mine. He held me close, heat radiating against my back from his very solid, very physical presence. He prayed aloud. There was security. We lay that way for awhile, content.

“Ok switch.” 

He rolled over, and I turned also, both of us now on our right sides, my knees tucked behind his knees. I held him close. And he was asleep within seconds, his chest rising and falling in a slow, gentle rhythm. I nestled behind him, warm and secure. Night after night we followed this pattern. He held me for awhile. Then I held him. Then he fell asleep. And I lay there soaking in his warmth, taking in every detail. Finally I slept.

But I have not started the night on my left side for almost two years. Perhaps it hurts too much to imagine him there behind me, knowing the reality that he’s not. Who am I kidding? It hurts regardless which side I face. I guess last night, however, realization hit me square in the eyes; what used to be such an integral part of my life no longer feels customary.

As I lay there on my left side, I welcomed the sorrow. Sometimes that’s an ok thing. Sometimes it’s a necessary thing. Nobody tells you that grief even affects the side upon which you sleep.

“Lord, how long must I be alone? Please be near me. Help me to know the security of your presence when I long to be held by human arms.”

As I continued to pray, peace flooded in, remarkable and true. I was warm and secure. I knew the very real presence of the Lord; God was near. Sleep was not an unwilling guest that lingered in the shadows. Rather, it came sweetly, and I drifted off without turning over.

I have learned much about dwelling in the presence of God. Let me say it this way, I have learned to be aware. Tragedy and grief taught me to run to Christ, to slow down, to listen, to hear His voice echo from the pages of His word, to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to know that my heart and mind can be guarded with incomparable peace. (Philippians 4:6)

Likewise, prayer has become a continuous, flowing conversation. I’m learning to talk to God through the mundane: showering, driving, folding laundry. And I’m learning to talk to Him when my heart is filled with sorrow. Or anger. Or fear. It’s totally safe because I have a great High Priest who intercedes for me.

Through Jesus, I have unlimited access to the Father, and I can run to Him with any emotion. He is big enough.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16

Though I once was a stranger, by the blood of Christ I have been brought near. (Ephesians 2:13) Therefore, I may come boldly. I can expect grace. I can expect mercy. To be near Him, is to be in His very presence.

Through Jesus’ finished work, the Holy Spirit comforts. He draws near. He hears my pleas, and perfects my weak, inept, and often selfish prayers.

And so I say with confidence “Before the throne God above, I have a strong and perfect plea. A great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is written on His hand. My name is graven on His heart. I know that while in heaven, He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

Yet it is not every night that I welcome peace so easily. Sometimes, I must wrestle. Sometimes I must cry out. Sometimes the longing for human touch seems much more real than the presence of God.

I don’t pray perfectly. But I have Someone who does. When I long to be held by human arms, He reminds me that His arms are stronger, His security infinite. He holds me close. The safety He offers is far beyond what my husband had the ability to give.

He is near.


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

Before the Throne ©1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)