Last February, my husband and I escaped to Punta Cana for some much needed R&R. We left all four children (including the nursing baby) with my sister-in-law for the week.
The morning before we were to leave, our 2-year old daughter, Lydia, got the flu. We had been anticipating the trip for months and knowing that she would be in good hands, we boarded our plane.
I’ve heard it said that, "traveling to the ocean with children is a trip; traveling to the ocean with your spouse is a vacation."
And it was!
We slept in, held hands, laid on the beach, swam in the ocean, fine-dined, had meaningful conversation, and kissed (a lot).
When it was time to leave, we returned rested and healthy.
We did not return to healthy children, unfortunately. Poor Lydia was sick with the flu the entire time we were gone and ending up sharing it with her older brother. The baby had been suffering teething-related drainage and had a miserable head-cold all week; and within one day of being home, our oldest son began vomiting as well.
Part of me wanted to get on the next flight back to Punta Cana where I could savor my cappuccinos and fresh croissants and undivided time with my husband once again.
The other part of me was thankful that I was rested and healthy in order to assume the role of “Momma Nurse.” (Many of you know it well.)
I rolled up my sleeves, put on my big-girl pants, and spent the next few days doing load after load of laundry, sanitizing surfaces and doorknobs, bleaching toilets, and disinfecting sippy cups.
As if tending to sick children weren’t enough to manage, Lydia woke up screaming that first night home. This wasn’t the kind of cry that translates, “I’m thirsty” or “I have to go to the bathroom,” but the kind that raises the hair on the back of your neck and troubles your very soul.
Initially, I brushed it off as her being disoriented from all of the traveling.
It happened three times that night.
And three nights later, it was still happening.
Multiple times a night, she would wake up screaming. The crying would wake up the baby who shared a room with her. I would console her enough to lay her back in her bed, nurse the baby and return him to his crib, and then retreat to my bed for an hour or two before the cycle would continue.
Ironically, our church was in an Ephesians series and had made it to chapter 6 where it says that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (vs. 12)
I recognized that my struggle was not with Lydia, but with the enemy who was attacking her with fear.
That fear was robbing the majority of our household of sleep and we all ended up becoming sleep-deprived, run down, and sick.
Ephesians 6:11 charges us to, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.” Once we have put our armor on, we are to “Stand firm then.” (vs. 14)
I was trying my best, but it was sure getting hard!
I remember praying over Lydia’s room one night and asking God to protect her thoughts so that she (and everyone else in the house) could sleep.
Instead of an answered prayer, her fear intensified.
I tried using a brighter night light…
I tried applying calming oils on her little feet…
I even tried playing a little imagination game that we made up to help reign in her thoughts before bedtime…
Nothing alleviated the pain.
One week turned into two. Two weeks turned into three. And three weeks turned into four.
In desperation, I reached out to a handful of my praying friends to believe with me for a breakthrough. (And you can blame my intense sleep-deprivation for why it took me so long to do so.)
Unfortunately, the night terrors continued.
My unanswered prayer was the perfect place for disappointment and discouragement to set up camp.
When we face particularly difficult seasons, our perception can become obscured - even inaccurate. When we listen to the lies over the truth, we start to believe them as if they were true.
We become deceived and tend to use absolutes - the words “never” and “always.”
I started to believe that:
Lydia will never sleep through the night again.
I will always be sleep-deprived and sick.
In those moments where we find ourselves vulnerably weak, Satan pounces. He isn’t a gentlemen that will stand at the door and knock. No! When we let him in by giving him a foothold, he barges right in - busting the hinges and breaking down the door!
I was in the trenches of one of the hardest, most painful seasons of my mothering and was begging for it to let up. I could relate to the Apostle Paul who said in 2 Corinthians 12:8, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” But in my case, instead of three times, it was thirty-two times!
Thirty-two nights later, I had reached my breaking point. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I had begun to resent bedtime and decided that sleep - in general - was overrated.
I was frustrated with my situation. Frustrated with Lydia. Frustrated with God.
He wasn’t frustrated with me, however. Just faithful - like He always is. And He had a “never” and “always” absolute to rebuttal my own:
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
“…. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
On March 13th, 2017 I sat at my kitchen table late one night to write. My entry entitled, “I Will Be Her Constant” became my altar. God broke me and revealed how selfish I was being - selfish because I was upset that Lydia’s fear was interrupting my sleep. He helped me realize that I was the only one she screamed for. Out of all the billions of people in the world, my daughter wanted me! I tried on Lydia’s perspective for a moment and realized how big her fear really was. I also realized how big my presence meant. I committed to be her constant – and to model the example of what God does for us - never leaving, always with.
I wept and asked for forgiveness.
Instead of asking God to take it away from me, I asked that He would just be with me.
And if anyone knew what it looked like to ask God to stay in the pain…it was Job.
I opened my Bible and dug into his story. Leading up to Job 19:25, I found that:
Job’s children were dead. His house was destroyed. His livestock and livelihood had been stolen. His friends were accusing him of wrongdoing. And his wife was telling him to “curse God and die!”
That night I could just picture Job sitting slumped and cross-legged in the dust and ashes - with boils from head to toe - scraping his scabs with a piece of a broken pot.
Sitting there in all of his pain, confusion, and loss, he quietly - yet bravely - said,
And if Job could say that about his current situation, then I certainly could say it about mine.