held

I slipped through the crowd in the auditorium lobby, swung open the gallery’s glass door, and stepped inside. The bustle evaporated in a holy hush as the space swallowed all the chattering voices. White walls soothed my overstimulated brain. Paintings and photographs peppered throughout did not clamor for attention. Instead, they waited patiently to be noticed.

I wandered past the entryway into the cavernous main hall, where the ceiling stretched taller and gained another story. The polished butterscotch floor reflected the overhead light. Settling myself down on a simple wooden stool, I slid off my bulky coat and laid it down atop the pile made by my purse and bag.

I’d read the description for this meditation session offered to those attending the Festival of Faith and Writing: a brief retreat from the flurry of panels, interviews, classes, and speeches to practice centering prayer. When it fit into my schedule, I showed up, hungry for quiet. I looked around as I waited for it to begin.

A three-dimensional exhibit hung before me in the center of the large room. Photographs of sky and naked tree branches hung like floating puzzle pieces above my head. A rainbow of three-dimensional leaves floated beneath each one in various stages of descent. Lights shone down on the display and framed it on all sides. Silver wires supporting the foliage shimmered when hit by the light, but from other angles, tricked the eye and disappeared. Shadows painted the surrounding bare walls with the shape of each unique leaf, providing the illusion of a deeper forest.

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Soon the facilitator greeted those of us who had assembled. She asked us to close our eyes and relax, to breathe deeply and open our hands. The words she used were few but her voice ushered us into the presence of God. As I sat and stilled in the silence, the word I heard blow through my mind as we began our centering prayer was at once both foreign and familiar:

held

I focused on my breath, allowed my lungs to expand to their limit, then deflated them slowly and deliberately. Peace washed over me as I realized: I am being held.

I flashed back to the week I’d had before arriving at this conference. My sleep was interrupted, my mind was scattered, my days were frantic and checklist-driven. Finally, mid-week, it dawned on me: I was caught in the constricting grip of fear. A legion of lies had pinned me down and drained my energy. This mob loomed large and mysterious in the dark corners of my mind. When I had finally had enough, I confronted each one, brought them out of the background and into the light. I made them stand where I could see them and state their names. Exposed, one by one, they looked weak and silly. In the light, they lost their power. Once I could name the fears I held and see they were holding me back, I chose to let them go. But I was still weary from the fight.

It’s a lesson I have to relearn time and again: fear loses its grip when I choose faith.

At first, letting go of what’s familiar feels like chaos: a free fall that begins when I give up the safety of a sturdy branch far above the cold, hard ground. Trying something new, showing up as my real self, by myself, carries the risk of exposure, rejection, and loneliness. But if I never jump, I’ll wither and waste my one wild and precious life.

The artist captured the falling leaves in mid-flight. They weren’t struggling or clinging to anything; they were free: gliding, while guided and supported by an invisible presence. No longer clustered in a clump with others, their intricate designs revealed themselves in the empty air.

They were wrapped in the wind, held by the heavens, for the whole length of their journey. (Just like me.)

The result was breathtaking, even magical: frailty that trusts learns to fly.

Held. The word was a gift to me. A whispered promise.

I emerged from the sacred space a little calmer, a little braver, and much less alone.

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*This exhibit at Calvin College’s Center Art Gallery was entitled “Remembrances” by Jennifer L. Hand. The centering prayer exercise was led by J. Dana Trent. My sincere thanks to both of you for using your gifts so others like me could be inspired and encouraged.

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roadkill relics

Construction trash left by workmen littered the grass behind the newly bricked entrance sign. They’d be back to finish and clean up, or so their two-month-old promise claimed. But they hadn’t, and now it spread onto the road. The rubbish had morphed from an eyesore to a potential hazard. If not removed, my neighbors and I might drive over the junk for weeks. Broken glass threatened to puncture a tire. I pulled over to the curb and got out of my minivan, leaving my confused kids in the backseat. Plastic grocery sack in hand, I walked over to the edge of the intersection and bent down to clean it up.

With no tools, I had to improvise. My bare fingers served as bristles, sweeping shards of broken mirror and chunky frosted glass into the flimsy bag I held in my other hand. What is this? I wondered, sifting through the pieces.

Splattered across frozen pavement, figurines too big to be chess pieces laid surrounded by a fine powder. Their whitewashed faces wore solemn expressions: pious, pinched, opaque. Were these angels resting on a blanket of fresh snow? Or crime scene corpses outlined with smudged chalk?

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Underneath the pile, I discovered a flattened cardboard box and used it as a makeshift dustpan. Printed on its creased front, I found a gravestone marker: Frosted Glass Nativity. Mass-produced in a foreign factory and sold at a discount store, this set had survived cycles of storage and display only to face annihilation on a suburban street.

Their identities revealed themselves as I took a closer look. Some were maimed, forever mute or lame due to missing heads and limbs, but others were miraculously intact. Some were duplicates.

The January wind bit my exposed skin as I collected the pieces and rushed back to the shelter of my van. Buried under rubble, the survivors clinked together, jostling inside the bag. At home, I sorted through the wreckage, tossing the unsalvageable into my kitchen trash can and examining the remains.

The body count included two identical Marys. With downcast eyes, they crossed their arms against their chests. Their diminutive size and distinct head coverings identified them as feminine, the sole wom(e)n at the scene. Joseph was missing; the baby was left in his mothers’ care. Three complete and two partial wisemen clutched angled packages against the folds of their robes.

The only animals, a pair of sheep, formed mirror images, each with one foot extended, helpless in the absence of their shepherds. An unexplained red splotch marked one lamb’s back.

Propped in the chipped glass manger rested baby Jesus. His pouting lips cooed and limbs extended into the scratchy hay. No swaddling cloth protected his arms as they stretched wide, toward the edges of his dirty crib, longing to be rescued into someone’s loving embrace.

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I rinsed their bodies under the faucet with lukewarm water, then spread them onto a clean dish towel laid on the counter to dry, where they remain.

Christmas is over. They do not fit with our home decor. These discarded idols are broken, chipped, and incomplete, yet I can’t bring myself to condemn them to the landfill.

I can’t shake this odd discovery. Not simply trash, these relics are mementos of faith that carry a musty reverence.  For believers like me, to toss them feels like sacrilege. Two weeks later, I’m still pondering the significance.

These figurines manage to convey the identities of those present at the nativity despite the absence of color, texture, or detail. And yet, they are woefully insufficient: lifeless replicas representing real flesh and blood people that witnessed history’s biggest miracle.

The God of the universe squeezed himself into the body of an infant, small enough to fit in a manger. But God won’t stay in the boxes we create.

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God is still in the business of incarnation, taking up residence in fragile human hearts.

For now we see as through a glass, darkly..imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror. Frosted glass blurs our vision, making objects translucent by scattering the light passing through.

All that I know now is partial and incomplete. Much like the church as a whole: imperfect vessels holding the light of the world. Much like me: guilty of offering the world fuzzy, distorted glimpses of Jesus.

Maybe the breaking is necessary to sharpen our sight and expand our understanding of God. Maybe when our beloved idols are tossed out the window, our faith can be reborn. When I surrender my partial understanding, I make room for it to grow.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:12-13

 

limited presence

I stopped making official lists of resolutions in my mid-thirties. Instead, I began to select “one word” each January to guide me through the year. In a season of chasing after young children, composing lists of unattainable goals felt futile. The simplicity of selecting a one-word vision convinced me to make it an annual tradition.

My 2017 word was present. This lofty concept embodied my intent to practice awareness, foster gratitude, and offer my words as gifts to others.

I wore the word on a silver chain around my neck and engraved on a bracelet on my wrist. These physical reminders prompted me to engage when I would rather retreat, to look deeper when I was tempted to skim the surface. 

A review of my year revealed some progress. But in the end, what stood out were my limitations.

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Present has a cost. That’s why we say that we must pay attention. It demands a lot of vulnerability and intentionality. Present carries a lot of weight. My hope was that repetition and practice might make me stronger.

But success came only in spurts. Little victories drawn in sharp peaks were immediately followed by flat lines and valleys on the landscape of my days. Oh, I showed up…only to withdraw again and again. Distraction and weakness prevented me from catching up with my shadow and maintaining my focus.

What I discovered was this: my inner static clashes with the noise of the world around me. To lean in and listen deeply means filtering out my complicated motives and confronting my deep-seated fears. Awareness stings and reveals me in ways I can’t predict or control.

*

This fall, my grandmother died. At 94, her body was giving out and she knew it. Instead of fighting the inevitable, she faced the end of her life head-on. She chose to forgo invasive treatments that might have lengthened her days but limited her ability to live them fully.

When I got the news of her decline, I wanted to imitate her courage and make the most of our remaining time together. The anticipation of this loss made my eyes sting and burn, wearing me out with the intensity of impending grief. I did my best to stay present, to process my emotions, to offer my words as gifts to her and others in my family. By the day of her funeral, my spirit was spent. 

In the midst of my family’s season of loss, the world kept spinning. Others in my world were suffering their own pain so I tried to show up for them.

News came of the death of the husband of my college friend, a man my age. One rainy Sunday afternoon, I drove to a church on the other side of town to attend the calling. A hug and a few moments of conversation were all I could offer. Ashamed, I found myself unable to stay past the visitation for the funeral. I retreated to the safety of my car, shaking as I held back pent-up emotion. Tears had only been a blink away for weeks. Once they started, I wasn’t sure when they would stop.

Loss loomed across the street as well. I took brownies to a neighbor caring for her mother in her final days, but couldn’t offer much comfort. As my fresh grief collided with her reality, I lost my composure and my words.  I wanted to make it better, but felt helpless to ease her pain. These encounters exposed my own frailty.

Reflecting on my “one word,” I felt the sting of failure when I acknowledged the truth:

My instinct for self-protection demands I keep a safe distance. My fear swerves me away from conflict in order to avoid pain. My pride tempts me to surrender to pull of the urgent, neglecting what’s important. My insecurity crafts a false image to please other people. My energy, my will, my capacity, and my understanding are all limited – by my personality, my sin, and my humanity.

But God used a walk in the woods to remind me: His presence is boundless.

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Lines from a poem I memorized in college but hadn’t thought about in years floated through my mind as I hiked on a November afternoon, fallen leaves crunching beneath my steps.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

This e.e. cummings poem, whispered by the Spirit, reminded me of my favorite psalm. 

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“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

   If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
   If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
  even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.”

       Psalm 139:7-12  

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There is no place I can venture, no hard moment I will ever face, that God’s presence can’t reach. God is omnipresent, free of physical or spiritual limitations. God is omniscient, fully aware of every detail, reality, and need, never shocked or overwhelmed.

When my presence fails, God remains present, both to me and to those I love. In 2017, as I encountered my limitations, my view of God was enlarged. May it continue to be so in the years ahead.

the dragonfly eye

I stepped outside into the calm of the retreat center grounds. The calendar had announced spring’s arrival a few days earlier. Though the world was slow to wake, everything felt possible in the glow of the morning sun. The neon green of emerging grass contrasted with the dull bark on naked trees and the litter left by last year’s leaves. No chlorophyll canopy covered the bordering woods, so I still could see deep within. I remembered: resurrection begins at ground level, then rises. I descended to sit next to some small shrubs lining the walkway.

The ground chilled me through the seat of my jeans. I considered how silly I must look, a grown woman seated on the sidewalk, toy in hand. Luckily, here, few people would pass and notice. The birds don’t laugh, and even if they did, their teasing doesn’t translate. It sounds like music to my ears. Their high-pitched chirps and trills swallowed my senses. I looked around, wondering where to begin.

I brought with me a borrowed “dragonfly eye” that promised new views of the world. This bell-shaped instrument in birch casing survived many moves and Goodwill purges to maintain its place on my friend’s bookshelf. I’d unplugged from the world for a fresh perspective and a little worshipful play.  This tiny telescope made me feel like an explorer.

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IMG_20170324_113910877I pressed the narrow end of the dragonfly eye up to my face and pointed it toward the ground. The beveled glass lens manipulated a spiky sweetgum ball resting in the rocky soil. Magnified and replicated, the image filled my entire visual field. Browns and grays poked at my eyes with their sharp edges.

I aimed the tool upward to find some branches of the little tree not yet adorned with blossoms. Thin lines crisscrossed into knots. All I could see was chaos, a tangled mess. Then, with another half turn, I struck gold. Star-shaped forsythia illuminated each tiny window. Its delicate yellow flowers exploded and sparked surprise.

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I rotated and reflected until I’d lost all sense of time. Any one angle was incomplete. The fleeting glimpses didn’t form a cohesive whole. Pinhole snapshots made vision a piecemeal process. My mind couldn’t hold them all. I spun the glass eye until my head dizzied. Before I attempted to stand, I chose a single spot and focused in order to restore my equilibrium.

***

The name of the toy intrigued me, lingering in my brain long after I left. Through the dragonfly eye, the world around me shrank into manageable pieces. My view was the opposite of panoramic: myopic wallpaper. Mere scratches on the surface that never widened to unite with the whole.

I wondered: how can the dragonfly navigate the world or orient itself within it with such limited vision? (For that matter, how can I?)

***

Curiosity drove me to find the facts. I learned that eighty percent of the dragonfly’s brainpower is dedicated to its sight. Wide, multifaceted lenses allow it to see in all directions simultaneously, giving it a 360 degree view. Thirty thousand pixel-like facets cover most of its head.

In addition, the dragonfly displays an almost-human capacity for selective attention. Its ability to zoom in and focus enables it to capture and eat prey, as well as to mate while in flight. This incredible creature is present to the full reality of its surroundings: alert, responsive, and nimble.

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The dragonfly’s iridescent body reflects different colors depending on varying angles and polarization of light. Its lithe core dances and paper-thin wings shimmer as it flies. Not only does it possess the ability to see a wider and deeper reality, its very being stretches the vision of those who encounter it.

***

The disconnect between this new information and my experience prompted me to consider: perhaps the limitation lies not in the toy but in the viewer. When overused, my selective attention becomes a disability.

An hour after I went to bed one night this week, I laid awake, filled with anxiety. Unsure as to why, I reviewed the details of my day. I’d spent hours taking in news and stories. Podcasts about weighty topics. Audiobooks with heavy themes. Facebook updates and tweets linking me to upsetting world events. NPR alerts about an elementary school shooting in California. Threats of war on the evening news. My porous eyes had soaked too much in through a dark and limited lens. When I closed them at the end of the day, I started to drown.

The next morning, the state of my soul showed on my sleepy face. “I wish everything would just bloom already!” I said with a half-hearted smile to an acquaintance who inquired about my irritated eyes.  I blamed my appearance on allergies because I was too weary to explain. The truth was too complex.

That next day, I made some changes. Filled my ears with poetry and music instead of incessant talk. Read only that which inspires. Rehearsed truth and offered honest prayers. Connected with the people around me instead of merely observing the whole world from a distance. Adjusted my sensory input to ease my soul back into balance.

When my gaze is fixed only on the broken, it colors my vision and leaves me unsettled, lacking hope, on edge. My view is limited. Focus matters. I need to rotate the lens to take in the just-as-real beauty all around. With each small turn, I let the light fall on me anew.

my three-dimensional focus for 2017

My “one word” focus for the new year arrived as a gift on a silver necklace pendant wrapped inside a small box. The engraved quote by Maya Angelou reads: “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” This message is written in tiny cursive letters I must squint to see clearly. I have to concentrate to focus. That’s the point, I realized. In order to cultivate gratitude and happiness, I must start by paying attention. Being PRESENT.

img_20170104_110007338The word danced around in my brain before settling down to make itself at home. PRESENT. The more time I spent with it, the more my fondness for the concept grew. It blossomed until it revealed its distinct three-dimensional shape which embodies the wholeness I seek.

Present (ˈprez(ə)nt) is a noun meaning either a gift or the current moment. Present is an adjective that describes one who is attentive, conscious, and actively existing. And present (prəˈzent) is a verb that denotes the act of offering a gift of words to others.

I knew it was the “one word” for me when I felt a simultaneous urge to embrace and to escape it. While PRESENT extends a hand to usher me into a deeper, more connected and meaningful life, it also requires a lot from me.

Temptations for escape from PRESENT abound. Digital distractions, endless chores and errands, to-do checklists, and upsetting news headlines all add noise to my inner world. When I’m tired, bored, or overwhelmed, the last thing I want is to be fully conscious. I hide behind a screen, choosing entertainment over reality. Or I double down and plow through tasks, whizzing through my days, avoiding the present in the blur of constant motion. Or I line up all my ducks in tidy rows, reining in my worries with organizational muscle. Meanwhile, the gifts to be enjoyed now get ignored. The words I can offer are crossed out and drowned out; they never make it to the page or through my lips. I’m too busy thinking about what’s next to engage with the life right in front of me.

A little dictionary noodling landed me at etymonline.com, where I read that present has its roots in an Old French term meaning “existing at the time, evident, at hand, and within reach.”

The phrase “at hand” reminded me of Jesus, who proclaimed “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) His initial sermon included this simple invitation.

Jesus had entered the scene: present, in the flesh. The Greek word for repent (metanoia) means “a transformative change of heart” or “to change one’s mind.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.) To change direction, to make an about-face, to think new thoughts and act accordingly: that sounds like a fresh start to me. Suitable for a new year’s resolution.

The presence of Jesus inspires me to see everything in a different light. God is within img_20170104_105828219reach. PRESENT. But I will only encounter and experience God if I, too, am present.

Like any relationship, it’s interactive and alive, an ongoing sharing of moments. I must stay present to recognize God’s presence, to notice the gifts and hopefully to become one.

My goal for 2017 is to wake up each day expectant. I’ll be praying that this little word will come to define me. PRESENT: counting the gifts, offering my words to others, and living awake in each moment.

The Labyrinth’s Invitation

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My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I do not do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Expectant, I approach the labyrinth, wondering how long it will take to complete. It isn’t what I imagined it would be. I envisioned tall, thick hedges trapping me in a maze where I am a mouse feeling its way to the cheese prize. Instead, a map stamped into the concrete courtyard of the retreat center is laid out in plain sight. Its concentric swirling rows remind me of a Celtic knot. Unable to untangle the pattern, I look down and plant one worn-out running shoe in front of the other. I begin: heel-toe, heel-toe, embarking on my quest to reach the center.

The morning air vibrates with pulsing crickets, punctuated by intermittent chirps from overhead birds. The surrounding woods provide a buffer, absorbing the angry grumbles of accelerating trucks on distant roads. Sunlight pierces through the trees, illuminating patches on the ground and leaving others covered by shadows. With each tick of the clock closer to mid-day, the sun continues its ascent. We seekers are increasingly exposed to its penetrating heat.

I am the obedient pencil, tracing this puzzle with each willed movement, staying inside the lines. I enter into the flow, picking up my pace on straight stretches, curious and eager. Then the winding footpaths bend, forcing me to change direction and return to the border of the circle. Momentarily disoriented, I grow restless, discouraged by illusions, uncertain of my coordinates, doubting my progress. These temporary setbacks slow and humble me. I’m relieved when the path reverses, pointing me back toward the goal.

Along the way, I encounter other travelers, fellow participants on this retreat. A sideways shift of my shoulders and a brief step out of bounds allow us both room to pass. Exchanging knowing looks, we remain silent, walking alone together on the journey.

Delicate leaves dangle above on weeping branches, then descend to join their fallen brothers crunching beneath my feet. I move through the tears of a changing season waiting to be wiped away. The other side of this winding path is clear, as if a custodian left the job half-done. The smooth portion is guarded by evergreens holding tight to their bristling needles. I traverse the divide, unwittingly wandering from one into the other and back again,  as I follow the course.

I am free to exit the path at any time by breaking the ‘rules,’ stepping on cracks, and forging my own way. But the labyrinth whispers an invitation: Come. Follow. Seek. Find.

There is no way to get lost. I need only to take the next step and trust.

I keep my eyes fixed on the ground so when I arrive at the spacious center, I’m surprised. Admiring the intricate pattern, I grieve that it’s over too soon. “Teach me to number my days aright, that I might gain a heart of wisdom. “  Psalms echo in my quiet soul, wrapping words around my grateful heart. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  

New Mercies

Light leaked through the vertical cracks on either side of the picture window into my three-and-a-half year old’s room. Her bedtime hadn’t changed, but Daylight Savings Time made her daddy and I look bad. Even the blackout shade couldn’t hide the fact that the day wasn’t over, so just-one-more requests and existential questions often escalated into meltdowns. Our sleepy girl resisted rest; she hated missing out.

“Is he in there? I don’t want him to be in there!” she whispered. Her doe eyes widened, swallowing up even more of her face than usual.

“No, honey, it’s not like that. He’s not physically inside your heart,” I backpedaled.

“I don’t want anybody in me!” she persisted, whimpering. “I wanna go see Jesus in heaven now, not have him come here.”

“We have to wait for that, honey. We don’t get to do that until we die.”

“Die? Am I going to die? When?”

“Oh, Becca… not for a long, long time, sweetheart. Why don’t we talk about this tomorrow? Where’s Little? Let’s get you tucked in.”

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Bedtime Comfort (Before the Paci Fairy’s Visit)

I searched along the space where her big-girl bed met the wall, digging through the pile of stuffed animals for her beloved teddy bear. She grabbed “Little” from my hand, whisking him close and breathing in his familiar sticky-sweet smell. Her just-washed honey-colored hair fell across her face as she soothed herself with her lovey. He was all she had now, since we’d broken her addiction to pacifiers a couple of months earlier. They disappeared from her bed, collected by the Paci Fairy to send to newborn babies and left a  tricycle as her consolation prize. She suffered withdrawal for a week of bedtimes before moving through the stages of grief to arrive at acceptance.

With her innocent questions, Becca had deconstructed the evangelical lexicon that served as supporting framework to my understanding of faith. “Asking Jesus into your heart” was a phrase I’d heard so many times over the years that it slid off my tongue. I’d prayed the “sinner’s prayer” and crossed the threshold long before she was born. But I’d been a teenager, able to absorb and apply abstract thought.

My little girl still lived in the borderland between fantasy and reality. She wandered in and out of the world of make-believe, unsure of its boundaries. Jesus was someone we sang about about at church, an invisible person we talked to at bedtime and before meals. It baffled her that Mommy and Daddy acknowledged Jesus’ presence, yet couldn’t see her imaginary friends or hear the chatter of her stuffed animals. Her longing to see Jesus with her own eyes reminded me that faith begins with and is sustained by love.

As much as I longed for her to achieve fluency in a faith of her own, this misunderstanding was a speed bump, a wake-up call telling me that her path might follow a different course. Language that resonated with fifteen-year-old me might not speak to her at age three. I couldn’t reduce the mystery to a formula to ease my own conscience. I shouldn’t shove concepts she can’t pronounce down her throat. I wouldn’t be able to pave over the potholes that will rattle her along the way. The God who created her is more than able to reveal Himself in ways she can understand.

My effort to introduce her to faith backfired when I collided into her age-appropriate concrete thinking.  Afterward, all I could do was gently guide her away from the wreckage and try to help her feel safe again.

“Lie down, sweetheart. Here are your blankies. You’ve got Little. It’s time to sleep.”

She sunk her head into the bubble-gum pink pillow and spread out onto her tummy, clutching her matted teddy bear. I rubbed her back and began to sing our nightly blessing, praying silently that God would save her from my blunders and draw her to Himself.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord. Great is Thy faithfulness.”

I kissed her cheek and rose to leave. Closing the door to her bedroom, I headed down the hallway to my own, hanging on to the promise of those same mercies.