Sleep, baby. Sleep.

Yesterday, I found a much anticipated delivery in my mailbox. I received two over-priced bed pillows. (Disclaimer: It should be noted that I have bought most of our pillows for $9.99 from Walmart so my idea of over-priced may be different from others.) I don’t know what surprised me more—that I paid so much for pillows or that I bought something from an infomercial or that these pillows actually fit in my mailbox.

I ran inside with my purchase and opened the package. Inside were two large hot dog shaped bundles. I tore apart the plastic, releasing the vacuum-sealed pillows from their captivity. They expanded into what I am hoping turn out to be two incredibly helpful, non-pharmaceutical sleep aids.

A good night’s sleep is one of those things we can’t fully appreciate until we don’t get one. I remember the first year of my older son’s life as a constant series of eye twitches. He was the most pleasant baby during the day but a horrible sleeper at night. For about 12 months, I yearned for sleep like a thirsty woman wandering the desert searching for water…with a persistent eye twitch.

When we first got married, my husband was in medical school. His stress level was high, which became evident when he was asleep. He would experience a variety of stressful dreams that compelled him to move around and talk while still asleep. Once, he got up in the middle of the night, stood at the foot of our bed, pulled the covers off of me, and yelled “Spiders!” It wasn’t the most romantic way to wake up your newlywed wife.

Psalm 121, one of my all-time favorite Scriptures, reveals that—unlike the rest of us—the Lord has no need for sleep.

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.

The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

When my twin daughters were newborns, a friend and I met weekly to encourage each other to memorize several key Scriptures. Psalm 121 is one of the chapters that remains in my memory and etched in my heart. I think of God staying awake, watching us as we sleep soundly or rock our cranky babies or scare the bejeebies out of our spouses or feel stressed or feel calm or feel anything in between. He sees every second we spend on earth. The Maker of All makes time to just watch us.

Knowing and believing that should help me sleep even better than these fancy pillows.

Mind Reader

When my sisters and I would come from school in the afternoons, we liked to do what a lot of kids in the 1980’s did: we watched reruns on TV. We mostly watched classic shows from the 1950’s and 1960’s like The Brady Bunch, Leave It to Beaver, and I Love Lucy.

One of my favorites was Gilligan’s Island. Even though it’s been a couple of decades since I watched an episode, I can still conjure up scenes of the Skipper hitting Gilligan with his captain’s hat as easily as if I just saw it yesterday. My sisters and I were lured in by the suspense of the story. We always wondered if the 7 castaways would ever get off the island where they had been shipwrecked after what was supposed to be “a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.” (I know you’re singing the theme song right now.)

We enjoyed the show so much that we used to pretend to watch episodes of Gilligan’s Island on the back of our parents’ seats in the station wagon during long car trips. We’d ask, “How many more Gilligan’s Islands until we’re there?”

One particular episode has been popping up in my mind a lot lately. In the episode called “Seer Gilligan” our man in the red rugby shirt finds a bush growing special seeds. Gilligan eats some of these seeds and he’s able to read the thoughts of everyone around him. He eventually shares the seeds with the other castaways. At first everything is fine and dandy as long as the thoughts they are thinking are kind. Then it gets ugly. They eat the seeds and read each other’s minds and think hurtful things. By the end of the show, Gilligan burns the seeds and the bush to restore peace to the island (at least until the next head hunter invasion or cosmonaut landing).

I find it interesting that the castaways are so surprised by what each other are thinking. How was Ginger so surprised that MaryAnn thought she was lazy? Was Skipper really shocked to learn that they all blamed him for the shipwreck? But sometimes, we can’t explain the thoughts and actions of another person. Having the ability to read another’s thoughts only gives us insight into that moment. We lack context.

Context is what I see lacking lately. My Facebook newsfeed is full of people fuming about something—candidates and elections, marches and interviews, speeches and nominations. People post angry rants and are answered by a string of widely varying comments. Then they seem surprised that there are so many differing opinions.

Sometimes I read these posts and comments and I’m amazed, too. Who are these people who think this way? How could he/she feel like this when he/she has had this advantage/disadvantage or life experience? And why would he/she post that in such a public place?

Context.

Regardless of how you voted in November, speak to others from a place of kindness.

Regardless of how you feel about free speech or gun rights or prayer in schools, pause before you resort to calling names.

Regardless of your nationality, gender, race, or religion, practice Jesus’ admonition to His Apostles. He said, “When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.” (The Message)

Jesus didn’t tell them to go to the temple steps and publicly ridicule those who live there. This is a face-to-face interaction. If you aren’t brave enough or skilled enough to lovingly disagree in person, then maybe the comment section of Facebook isn’t the place either. Check your motivation. Do you want to be right for your sake only or for the revelation of God’s glory?

Unless you can not only read the minds of others but also see all the places they’ve been hurt and mistreated in their lives, don’t respond from the lofty heights of righteous indignation. Instead, obey Micah 6: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I’m grateful Gilligan destroyed those seeds because I don’t really want to read anyone’s mind. That’s the easy way out. Let’s do the hard work of restoration and peace-making.

Movement

When I was a little girl, my family would make the trip from our home in Nashville to our grandparents’ house in Danville, Illinois, several times a year. My grandmother was older when she had my mom (nearly 40…so old!) so by the time she became our grandmother she was practically ancient. It was a mercy she didn’t use “thee” and “thou” in her regular, everyday speaking. There were times when we just didn’t understand each other.

For instance, every time I left the bathroom, my grandmother would be waiting for me just outside the bathroom door to ask me the same question: “Did your bowels move, honey?” This was not a phrase we used in our house. I had no idea what my bowels were and why they might be moving, but seeing as I was a middle child with a pathological need to please people, I interpreted from her tone that bowel movement was a good thing so I always said yes. I can’t imagine what she thought about my obviously overworking digestive system.

If we had found a word we both understood for the process in question, I could’ve given her the real answer and her data (I can only assume she was creating a Granddaughter B.M. chart) would’ve been more accurate.

In most situations where there is conflict, the majority of the issues could be resolved if only those in conflict could find common ground and understanding from the perspective of others. There are few things in the world that can impart peace to a troubled heart better than someone who can empathize with your sorrow.

Recently we were blessed by the presence of three families in our home. These families had one very important thing in common with us. Each of us had waited years to bring home an adopted son from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We connected mostly through Facebook and found that we all lived within 1.5 hours of each other.

The boys and their siblings played at our house that evening while the parents compared notes. “How often did your son wake up during the night when he first came home? What foods does your son like the best? What non-English words does your son still use on a daily basis?” and on and on. We laughed and hugged. My husband said a prayer of thanksgiving for what had at times seemed impossible. The level of loving, non-judgmental understanding was remarkable.

These families just happen to be made up of people who most anyone could get along with. These aren’t difficult people who cultivate conflict, so our evening would’ve been fine even if we had been introduced in another way—through church or school. We could’ve become friends even if we didn’t have Congolese sons.

But there are times when it’s challenging to find harmony with those around us. We vote differently, worship differently, parent differently, literally speak different languages. Despite these differences, and with hard work and a little imagination, I believe we can find a place where we can work towards peace and understanding with most people. We can find a common interest, passion, or experience. Because sometimes that’s where everything can change.

If you can meet someone—toe to toe—where they are, and you can see the world from where they stand, you can begin to say, “Now I see why you feel this way!” You don’t have to agree with them, but it’s harder to hate someone close up and personal, and if there was ever a time to stop hating people, it’s now. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

Alarmed

At nearly 2:00 am—just an hour or so after the 4th of July yahoos had finished firing off their last bottle rocket—my daughter came in our room in distress. At that moment, I was dreaming I was at the grocery store and every item I picked off the store shelf to put in my cart was falling through unseen holes in my cart and onto the floor, so not a bad dream to interrupt.

“There’s a noise in my room!” she cried. I followed her to her room and saw that the smoke alarm just inside her door was going off in bursts of violent sound every few minutes.

“I think it’s just telling us that the battery is about to go out,” I told her, groggily. I climbed on a chair trying to remember when we’re supposed to change the batteries in the smoke alarm: Labor Day? Memorial Day? Well, this one was getting changed on the 4th (or rather the 5th) of July.

I saw that the battery required to operate this smoke alarm was the obnoxious 9-volt. I looked in the plastic shoebox where we keep batteries and saw enough AA and AAA batteries to choke several horses but no 9-volts.

I climbed back up on the chair to see if I could just remove the weak battery and go back to sleep and save this home improvement project for another day. But that wasn’t an option. I took out the battery but the phantom chirping continued. I started to pull the smoke alarm from the ceiling but this only revealed a tangle of red and white wires attaching the smoke alarm to the house. I felt like I was in an episode of MacGyver, attempting to choose which wire to cut to diffuse a bomb.

I must have been thinking those exact thoughts when my daughter brought me back to reality. “Mom, what am I going to do? I can’t sleep in here.” I took her to her brothers’ room where we settled her on a mattress on the floor. The chirping was still persistent but distant enough for her to sleep.

Once back in my room, I remembered a smoke alarm chirping situation from years ago. We had been in our current house for a few months when the smoke alarm chirping began. We checked all the smoke alarms—all of them nearly brand new—and they were fine, but the chirping continued. It seemed to echo in different parts of the house. Was it coming from the upstairs linen closet? Or maybe the hallway? Now you could hear it on the stairs!

After almost a week of searching, we finally found the culprit. We had renovated the basement, adding a drop ceiling to what was once an unfinished space. The workers had built the new ceiling right on top of an old smoke alarm attached to a wooden beam from the existing ceiling. The discovery and removal of the smoke alarm was a huge victory for our entire household. Our home had been exorcised!

Smoke alarms can be very effective. The sound is not meant to soothe. It’s meant to create alarm and a sense of urgency. Even when there is no reason for alarm, they can make you feel panic and a desire to flee. It’s not a peaceful feeling.

While effective, it’s not what I normally want to experience in my home. What I really want is peace. But where does that peace come from? If it only comes from everyone always getting along and everything turning out perfectly—every meal, report card, family game night—then peace will always allude me.

Finding peace is a choice. It’s not something the world can give you. Instead, it’s something you must find by letting go of fear and worry and giving those things that alarm you to Someone big enough to carry them for you.

 John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”