Lost in the pages of a story, we do not hear the battering rain overtake the gentle tapping, or the soft breath of wind begin to heave around the house.
But the little one crawls into my lap, unsettled and unsure.
(The cat paces the floor).
Then lightening casts shadows on the page.
The thunder rumbles, a growling that persists until I lay the book aside, peer out the window to measure the sky.
“Nothing to fear, girls. What page were we on?”
The nighttime sky is bright, the wind is strong. Little One’s grasp is stronger.
Air-siren screeching from my iphone.
Storybook aside, we retreat to the basement.
I am calm. Little one is undone. Big sisters are worried about Daddy, worried about every little noise, worried about how they could possibly sleep if a tornado carried away their Stuffies and Dollies who are now alone upstairs with only a blanket to hide them from the storm.
At least we have the cat (hiding in the hollow of a bass drum).
We open another Book.
I read from swatches of bright yellows and greens and pinks:
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7)
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’ (Psalm 91:1-2)
These words offer peace and safety.
But still, life is frail, storms splinter, the darkness of night deepens.
We turn more pages, read more rainbow promises:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging… The LORD Almighty is with us.” (Psalm 46:1-3 & 7)
We do not fear. We trust His hand that is mighty to save. Even when He does not calm the storm. Even if our worst fears materialize before us. We do not fear for He is here. In the midst of the worst storm, He is here.
The stormclouds pass. We emerge. Brush teeth. Shimmy into pajamas. But before slipping between the covers and rescuing the lonely Stuffies and Lovies, we dance.
We spin (like a tornado), we lift our hands, we stomp our feet: I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind, the God of angel armies is always by my side! The One who reigns forever, He is a Friend of mine, the God of angel armies is always by my side!* (Chris Tomlin, Whom Shall I Fear?)
Such power in speaking against fear! Such power in declaring His control over the universe itself and our very lives.
Such power in entering fear together! I can tell my children over and over not to fear when I myself have none. Then the siren blares, and my rational mind tells me “nothing will happen,” and my calm demeanor only masks the flutter in the corner of my heart, the one that says, “I don’t like tornado warnings in the dark.” So I spoke to the fear. And in speaking to the fear, in living a moment WITH fear WITH my children, they saw the Word of God alive in their lives. Not read in a colorful storybook, not spoken in the controlled environment of a Sunday school classroom, but alive and active, speaking light into the dark places.
I hope they remember this night. I hope they speak truth to their fears, sing to the heavens, dance with joy.
I will remember this night. I will remember the Living Words. I will remember the dancing.
But I will also remember the rocking chair:
Little one would not let me go. I left Big Sisters with music playing and assurances of a storm diminishing so I could lull little one to sleep.
Head pressed to my shoulder, little arm curled tight around mine. Slowly, she gave way to sleep.
I gently tucked her beneath blankets, glided to the door, tapped it closed.
No matter how deep the sleep, she would not be alone.
So I gave into the rocking, the sweet embrace, the quiet and the dark. The rhythmic swaying of the minutes.
She did sleep finally, and I marveled.
Marveled that I could be her safe place.
Words, and the knowledge of a God who is there in the midst of the storm, calmed my growing girls, will calm me in the dead of night when the fear can sometimes surface unexpectedly from the depths.
But to Little Ones, words are nothing. My arms, they WERE the safety. The comfort.
The storm may rage, but does it matter in the safe place? The place of peace and calm? When we have entrusted our very fears to Another?
Today I carry this image with me: my arms as the safe place…God’s arms as my safe place…my arms acting as the tangible expression of His love.
I carry this image with me because I felt the safety, the comfort, the peace curling into the spaces between us as I held her in that rocking chair.
I carry it because I need to know that those Words I spoke over my daughters are not mere words. They are declarations of faith, but also the declaration of the reality of His embrace, His ever-present help in trouble.
And I will carry this image with me because I am a foster mom.
These little ones whom I love as deeply as my own may only be within my embrace for weeks or months or maybe years, but somehow Almighty Infinite Father has loaned me His arms, that they might draw these little ones into comfort, peace, security, and ultimately love, not for the occasional thunderstorm, but for the very real storm of life.
They need a place of safety in their tempests.
How grateful I am that He has made my arms a place of safety for them to dwell.