Bear with me a minute; the story’s worth telling. There’s a perfectly logical reason for me being in the basement at 3:32 a.m. (yes, I checked), rummaging through boxes and humming “Be Not Afraid” while my husband, John, snored blissfully in the bedroom above me.
You see, I’ve been having some trouble sleeping lately, what with our youngest’s impending marriage a couple of months away, my newly-earned retirement and subsequent feelings of a lack of productivity, lots of undone projects, worries, what-ifs and don’t-forgets.
Just when I’ve fallen asleep, I tend to find myself wide awake again, my brain restlessly moving from one subject to another, refusing to wait until the morning when everything seems a little easier to manage.
I was telling our older daughter, Katie, about it when we were talking the other day, and she suggested sending me our six- and nine-year-old grandboys for a few days. “Aidan and Conor will have you falling asleep before your head even hits the pillow,” she sighed.
“But it’s not the falling asleep that’s the problem; it’s the staying asleep,” I told her. “The oh-no, what-if, don’t-forget monsters that hide under the bed at night.”
“Sounds like you could use a nightlight,” she laughed, as she ended the call and prepared to take both boys to their respective baseball practices.
That little suggestion kept wiggling around in my brain, and it was ultimately what I was doing in the basement at 3:30 a.m. Searching for not just any nightlight, but the one that always worked when Katie had monsters under her bed. The one she left behind when she, her husband Tim, and their two boys traveled to Omaha for their new jobs, new home and new life five years ago.
We’d packed up as much of her childhood as we could to send along with her: scrapbooks and report cards, baby shoes and her wedding dress. But she’d chosen to leave the nightlight, because it is the ceramic depiction of the hand of God gently cradling a tiny sleeping girl and there are no little girls in their family to benefit from the peaceful glow that it offers.
I was as surprised by my sudden need for that comfort as you are, dear reader, and even chuckled a little as I made my way down the basement steps humming the song that had been in my head when I’d awakened. “Be not afraid; I go before you always . . .”
I realized I needed that 38-year-old nightlight my mother had given us for Baby Katie, the one I’d had beside me when I rocked her back to sleep after middle of the night feedings, the one that had helped her fall asleep as a toddler and comforted her when monsters and shadows threatened her peaceful childhood sleep. Somehow, I knew with the tender hand of God glowing beside me on the dresser, the oh-nos and don’t- forgets and what-ifs wouldn’t stand a chance.
I finally found the nightlight at the very bottom of a nondescript box, carried it upstairs and only then realized that I couldn’t move the heavy dresser by myself. So, I plugged it into the power strip in the bedroom across the hall, sat unceremoniously on the floor beside it for a few minutes just calmly accepting the glowing peace it provided, then crept back to bed with the nightlight still lit in the darkness. And I slept. The what-if and companion monsters slept, too, interestingly enough. Poor John found the nightlight in the morning, shook his head confusedly, and simply asked, “Better?” And I smiled at him, because I truly was better.
I’ve decided that when we make our next road trip to Omaha, the nightlight will go with me as a gift to the daughter who thought she had outgrown it. Because I’ve realized you’re never too old to be that sweet little girl-child, sleeping peacefully in the hand of God. Only with Him do we truly ever find rest.
Be not afraid.