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Things that Go Bump in the Night: Part 2

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, UK --- Childhood nightmares / night terrors --- Image by © 2/Andrew Bret Wallis/Ocean/Corbis

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, UK — Childhood nightmares / night terrors — Image by © 2/Andrew Bret Wallis/Ocean/Corbis

I told myself I would post once a week, just to help get me into the swing of things and to keep this fun and not let it become overwhelming.

But I REALLY wanted to tell you about the other night terror regarding the spiders I mentioned in my previous post. If you didn’t read it yet I suggest you do. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So now that you have background information on the subject, let me tell you about the spiders.

This story starts with me quite asleep; like that kind of sleep that takes you awhile to wake from when you are startled from it. Which is exactly what happened. I’m fuzzy on how it all started but am all too familiar with how it progressed.

I begin to wake up when he is, again, thrashing about in bed. I roll over and prop myself up, my usual stance for night time questions of, “what’s wrong,” and, “are you okay,” and “what the hell are you doing?” (I like my sleep, people, and I don’t like it interrupted).

By the time I am “up” he has gotten out of the bed and is telling me, “they are coming.”

This is a terrifying little notion but since this is not my first rodeo, and I am pretty positive he is still asleep, I indulge: “Who is coming, hun?”

He just repeats, “they are coming,” a little louder this time while he moves around to the foot of the bed. He continues shouting, “THEY ARE COMING,” and all I can do is stare at him, wide-eyed and confused, while he shouts and screams at 2 a.m.

Finally something snaps:

“THEY ARE COMING! THEY ARE–
OOWW!!

IT BIT ME!

IT BIT ME!

AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”

This is the point where he takes off running out of the room and down our narrow hallway where I can only assume he collided with a chair in the dining area because I hear a crash.

The running out of the room thing was new, and deeply concerning. I shout after him (without leaving the bed, of course),  repeating my questions of, “what’s wrong”, “are you okay”, and, “what the hell are you doing?!”

He is still shrieking. I’m not sure if he hears me, but he is making his way back to the room because the wails get closer and louder. He appear is the doorway, still whimpering loudly, still claiming he was bit by something.

From what I pieced together from him, the following is what happened:

He “awoke” in our bedroom to see dark shadows moving in the corners of the room. He sat up and at some point deduced that they were MONSTROUS spiders (okay, maybe we need to lay off Skyrim for awhile) that were coming to get us. He jumps out of bed and was “trying” to get me out of bed to come with him when the spiders attacked. One bit him hard on the foot which is when he screamed and fled, leaving me to fend off the hoard of angry spiders by myself.

He is still crying about being bit by something though so I am worried that maybe there really was something attacking him, although not as dramatic as he was making it out to be.

I still don’t get out of bed (I’m almost certain he is nuts) while he searches the ground for evidence of what “bit” him. He discovers a safety pin in the carpet. I’m pretty sure the thing was closed so I could not tell you how it poked him, but the man is positive that is what did it.

Whatever helps him sleep at night.

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Things that Go Bump in the Night: Part 1

The stuff of nightmares...

The stuff of nightmares…

I started this blog post with in depth re-tellings of a couple night time experiences with my darling husband of 2+ years when I realized something:

I’m long winded and you don’t need that. You don’t WANT that.

When I realized I was not entertained by my own writing I decided scrapping the post was for the best… but I still want to tell you the stories! So I’m going to do two things:

  1. I am not going to give you the unnecessary details, making it shorter and more enjoyable.
  2. I’m only going to post one at a time. One story now, one story later…

So, without further ado let me tell you about my husband’s night terrors.

You might be thinking, “Valerie, you are a horrible person and wife! Why would you write a post about something so personal/frightening for your husband?” Maybe you have experienced terrors yourself or know someone close to you who has. There are many people for whom this is a serious and super scary experience. Sometimes they even hurt people they love, not aware that they are not fighting a monster/enemy but their spouse or significant other. I totally get that they are awful for some people, in fact, when I was I kid, I had some pretty awful night terrors. But let me tell you something… this is not the case with my husband’s.

First, they are funny as heck. Seriously, I sit flabbergasted after the ordeal wondering what on God’s green earth did I get myself into by marrying this man! Okay, that is an exaggeration, but I do marvel at the ridiculousness of the terrors. He has never hurt me while he is experiencing these very vivid, very bizarre hallucinations (at least not yet) so I just get to laugh and roll over and go back to sleep. Second, he tells everyone anyway. They are fun stories for us share tandem style– him from his perspective, me from mine. He knows they are crazy the minute he snaps out of the delirium of the waking nightmare and the only thing he can do is laugh.

So we both get to laugh.

Let me help you laugh too.

page break 2

One night, shortly after we were married, I am lying in bed trying to drift off to sleep unsuccessfully. Patrick (who, I just realized I didn’t clarify, is my husband) begins to toss and turn and mutter. I ignore this, as he has a tendency to say unintelligible things in his sleep that he never remembers in the morning anyway. Suddenly his wiggles and mutters turn into thrashing about in the bed and bellowing loudly. I hear him shriek what I think to be a word sounding something like … “bug.”

Well that had me out of the bed because if there was a bug in the bed making him freak out this bad, I wanted nothing to do with it. I jump to the light switch, flip it on, and whip around. I wanted to find this bug and kill it immediately. DEATH TO THE INVADER!

What I see puzzles me. Exceedingly. This was my first experience with his terrors, mind you.

He stands hunched over the bed, eyes wide in a state of panic (and possibly confusion), breathing heavily and not saying a word. His body language tells me he has no idea what is going on, which makes two of us.

When I asked him what happened he began to tell me that he “woke up” and rolled over to look at me and instead of seeing my beautiful face he saw my face…

… with a hawk perched on my forehead trying to peck my eyes out.

I’m dead serious.

So when he was thrashing about and I thought he said something about a bug, which neither of us actually knows what he said at that moment, what was really happening was he was desperately trying to save me from the evil hawk that had me in its clutches. My hero.

So I do the only thing I can.

I tell him I love him, that he is CRAZY, and I am going back to bed. Then I switch off the light.

At least I know that if some monstrous creature were attacking me he would be up to the challenge…

That was until spiders attacked. But that story is for next time so STAY TUNED!

Have you ever experienced a CRAZY dream you could have sworn was real when you woke up? Tell us about!

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A Tale of Two Woes

girls worship at camp 2014

This was my small group of freshmen girls I lead at camp last summer.

I began writing this in October and am only just now posting it. I hope it sparks something in you like it did in me.

I work and serve at Central Christian Church in Arizona, specifically in the Student Ministry. I’d like to point out that my story is just that: my story, my opinions, my flare. What you read next in no way reflects my awesome church or all the awesome people who work and attend here. So now that is out of the way I can tell you my tale of woe…

I love students. I love mentoring the young minds and encouraging and challenging them towards a greater potential. I love that, occasionally, they also do the same for me– a symbiotic relationship, if you will. But in the very same moment it can be the most taxing, the most frustrating, and the most disheartening thing I have ever invested myself in. There are tons of quotes from respected people saying that the best things in life are often the most difficult things in life as well– which is so true, but saying that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

I recently have had two separate freshmen ladies that I know and love approach me and tell me woeful stories about life taking turns and directions that they were not prepared for. Both involved them losing some part of their innocence and feeling lost and confused about where to go from there. They were clearly in a place of deep pain as the related their tales to me with tears rolling down their cheeks. I do not posses the gift of mercy by any means, but watching these two girls suffer caused me to ache inside. While part of their pain was brought on by themselves, which they were keenly aware of, the fact that this was something they had to deal with at all broke my heart.

So what do we do, as caring leaders/adults in the lives of these teens, when we have a fourteen year old telling us something horrible, wrapped in pain, and earnestly staring you down to receive comforting words of guidance and assurances that everything will be okay? What do we do when the spotlight hits us and they expect us to speak but we have no words to say?

In the case of these two lovelies, I prayed hard and fast that the Lord would remove my brain and replace it with his knowledge and wisdom so that hopefully whatever would come out of my mouth would be his words, not mine, because I was ill prepared to help these girls.

While I know my responses were not perfect, I also know that I conveyed to them both that I cared for them and I was there for them whenever they needed someone. I have made my own mistakes and have been haunted by my own sins and the key to being able to empathize with them was to remember that I had been there– in some ways I was still was (this blog is not called the Messy Phoenix for no reason). Was it my place to judge them? No, absolutely not. Was it my place to to chastise them and tell them what they did was wrong? No, absolutely not. Their own spirit had convicted them and they felt awful enough without me adding fuel to that fire.

They both hated themselves in different ways– I was not going to be someone else they thought they may have disappointed. Was I disappointed? Yes, I won’t lie, but does that mean I did not love them and want them to rebound and to heal? No!

The book of James in the New Testament of the Bible is one of my absolute favorites. While not technically considered a Book of Wisdom, like Proverbs or Job, I believe it imparts so much to us; I think this book is the slap in the face most Christians need in their life:

11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[d] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

These verses make me think of Jesus’ teaching in the Book of Luke, chapter 6, when he speaks to a large number of followers telling them not to be a hypocrite; if there is some sin in their own life it is not their place to be pointing out the sin of another. We are, ALL OF US, in this thing together. No matter our stage of life, no matter our experiences, we all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

The beauty part is, in our brokenness, we have support:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Galatians 6:1-3 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, tells us we are to share each other’s burdens! Yeah! And if you are believing yourself to be too good for that, check it again because Paul tells you to get over yourself (clearly I am paraphrasing here). Jesus even tells a parable in Luke 18 that condemns the Pharisee for believing himself to be better than the tax collector.

Friends, Listen!

Just like I had to do with these two teenage girls, we need to put ourselves aside; we need to find it within ourselves to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. Does this mean we condone bad things done? No, absolutely not; that thinking does not reflect Jesus’ heart either. What we do is understand that, heck, we’ve been there too. I may have not experienced the same fall from grace that these girls did, and it may be I have, but that does not mean I cannot look at them and say, “You are beautiful, you are loved, and not just by God but also by me, and I’m telling you we can fight through this together. Let’s get back on track TOGETHER.”

I’m not sure this is the direction I initially meant for this post to go but I do know God spoke it through me for a reason and I hope you have been challenged or given hope by it today.

I’d love to hear from you! When have you been confronted with a similar situation and how did you handle it?

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Six Flags with a Side of Insomnia

04 May 2010, Sumatra, Indonesia --- Children board a crowded Indonesian school bus --- Image by © Greg Dale/National Geographic Creative/Corbis

04 May 2010, Sumatra, Indonesia — Children board a crowded Indonesian school bus — Image by © Greg Dale/National Geographic Creative/Corbis

The above picture, clearly, is not one of the trip but I looked at it and thought, “this is exactly how I feel when we take these trips.” I only WISH we could strap some of the kids to the top– how fantastic would that be? I originally started this post back in October of 2014 right after the last trip and didn’t finish. I began writing to tell a particular story about my bus riding experience on the way home from this event.

Which I will now continue…

The last couple of years in October I have participated in a trip that most normal, reasonable people would never/should never go on — a theme park turnaround trip. I am an adult, I cannot handle these kinds of adventures anymore, and yet I’ve done it– three times to be exact; 2 a.m. on a charter bus with 50+ students and other out-of-their-minds adults followed by five other buses of the same. Our pilgrimage takes us to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern Cali every year, where we arrive at about 10 a.m., stay until 11:30 p.m., and make the trip back home arriving at the church at 7:30 a.m. What little sleep you get, is pock-marked with screaming teens who are filled with excitement, broken down buses (oh yes), pinched nerves, and periodic bus driver stops at which point kids will want to rush off the bus to run into whatever convenience store is nearby to purchase RIDICULOUS souvenirs. Save your money for the park crazy kid!!!

X2 and Tatsu

Easily the best two rides and Six Flags Magic Mountain– or at least they are my favs!

Before I continue on to rant about the horrid experience, please be aware that I wouldn’t go on this trip if some part of me didn’t absolutely love it. I love getting to hangout with teens in a relaxed, no pressure environment where we are just having fun and making memories. I love roller coasters! They are the best things ever! I love bonding with the other leaders on the trip over crazy things whatever group of teens we were tasked with engaging with did while waiting in line or, better yet, during Fright Fest when all the scary monsters came out. It is a blast of a trip! Here is a photo with the two 7th grade girls I got the privilege of tagging along with all day. They were awesome, which made the trip even more awesome.

Tatsu: Six Flags Magic Mountain

Getting ready to ride Tatsu, front row, at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

So believe me when I say, my trip home destroyed almost all of those awesome positive memories that were made in the 12 hours prior. My husband is also a leader with the students and has attended the last two trips with me– last year, he was my seat buddy. This past trip, however, we were required to split as we had an odd number of girls and boys– we can’t have any “purpling” happening (PINK + BLUE = PURPLE… I hope that makes sense…). Anyway I got to sit next to this girl from a campus of our church that I don’t normally attend so I didn’t know her, which was fine because I have no problem sitting next to students I don’t know; just means I get the opportunity to meet someone new.

Using my keen perception skills, I deduced that my seat buddy was “odd”. The kind of odd where she wants so badly to be friends with the other girls having giggly conversations around us but is too socially awkward for them to really give her much attention. I felt bad for my seat buddy and did my best to talk to her and find out more about her and make sure the girls around us (most of whom I did actually know) included her in conversation; selfishly, I also did this so I could sleep because boy did my seat buddy want to talk. So the ride to Six Flags was pleasant enough; I got a chance to sleep, she was happily conversing with the other girls, all was well.

The day in the park was had, we sluggishly made our way back to the buses (which is an ordeal in itself! Do you know how far the buses have to park away from the actual entrance to the park?!), and collapsed in our seats. This is where the “fun” began. I lead a life (small) group of freshmen girls and several of them were on the bus with me. One had ended up being a “third wheel” and was sitting with someone she didn’t know and wanted to sit with me on the way home. I told her she was more than welcome to if my current seat buddy would trade her…

This girl WOULD NOT BUDGE. Which is fine, it was her seat and I wasn’t going to force her to move, but she really had no evident reason for staying in her seat. All the girls she chatted with on the way there were already getting ready to sleep the whole way home and she still would have had an aisle seat, if that was her desire. So I had to tell my life group girl she would have to stay where she was. Was I peeved? I would be lying if I said no. Did I respect the fact my seat buddy didn’t want to move? Sure I did. Now, what happens next is fuzzy because, A) I was tired and B) it was 7 months ago that it happened.

The next 8 hours were torture for me and, I can only assume, for her as well. At some point, not sure when because I was dozing in and out of consciousness, my seat buddy began to whimper.

Why is she doing that? (I feel a little bad for this next thought–) Maybe if I continue to pretend to sleep she’ll stop.

Shortly, the whimpering was accompanied by rocking– forward and back, forward and back– additionally the whimpering grew in volume.

Why?! Why, why, why, WHY?!

The whimpering grew even louder and the rocking more violent.

I cannot be the only one hearing this right now. Please just go to sleep… I beg of you!

My seat buddy busts out her phone and makes a call, I assume it is to a parent but I can only hear one side of the conversation:

“…I can’t, everyone is asleep… I can’t, it hurts…” and the conversation continues like that for a few minutes until she hangs up. She gets quiet for a little while and I begin to be relieved.

Okay maybe talking to mom/dad helped and she will be fine now… ugh my leg hurts…

Then it started again.

Oh no…

It grows in intensity until she is violently rocking back and forth again.

No no no… ugh, I can’t take this anymore, I have to move my leg…

I moved and she took that as a sign that I now wanted to talk:

Seat Buddy: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Me: “Okay, then go.” (we were in the front of the bus, the bathroom was in the back)

Seat Buddy: “But I have this rash on the inside of my leg and every time I move it hurts really bad.”

Then why are you rocking?! 

Me: “Then hold it and stop moving around so much. ”

Seat Buddy: “But I really have to go.”

Me: “Then go.”

Seat Buddy: “But it hurts to move and I am afraid of tripping over peoples feet.”

Me: “Then sit still and hold it. Would you like me to try to contact the nurse to come look at you at our next stop? I can’t do anything for you right now.”

Seat Buddy: “Okay.”

Me: “Alright I’m texting her now”

I text our nurse, who is on another bus, who tries to ask me questions about her condition but my seat buddy has now tuned me out and won’t respond. I took this to mean maybe she was okay and I could try to sleep again.

Wrong.

“Hun, you have two choices. 1) Toughen up, deal with the pain, and walk to the back of the bus and use the bathroom. 2) Sit here, quietly, and hold it until we get home (which was like 4 more hours away). Personally, I think going to the bathroom is your best option in the long run.”

FINALLY she gets up and goes to the bathroom.

Praise Jesus!

When she comes back we enter into a pseudo calm where she is still whimpering and rocking but not nearly as bad anymore. Then the buses all stop to give our drivers a quick break and the nurse boards our bus.

Nurse: “Hey Valerie, how is she doing?”

Me: “I’m not sure, she finally went to the bathroom but she was still in pain a moment ago.”

Nurse: “What is her name?”

Oh crap…

Me: “Umm… I know she told me before the trip started, but that was 24 hours ago and I don’t remember.”

Nurse: “That’s okay.” *Turns attention to Seat Buddy* “Hey sweetie, how are you doing? Where does it hurt?”

Seat Buddy: *Unresponsive*

Oooooo! After all she has put me through she had better wake up and answer the nurse’s questions.

Nurse: “Sweetie?” *Shaking Seat Buddy gently*

Oh she is definitely playing dead. Oh I could kill her, I really could…

Nurse: *Talking to me* “Okay, well without being able to see what is happening I don’t know what to do. Here is something to ease her pain, if and when she wakes back up.”

Me: “Okay thanks.”

Nurse leaves, buses begin moving again… and so does my seat buddy.

I straight up did not feel bad for ignoring her this time. I had done all I could to help her, I had not slept a wink past the first hour on the road home and I was just fed up. At this moment, I could not have hated anyone more than I hated her.

When the trip was done, and most of the kids had been picked up and several of the leaders gone home, one of our pastors, who’d been on my bus, asked me what in the world was going on.

Ah ha! I KNEW I could not be the only person experiencing this girls crazy antics. But eeevvveryone kept quiet and let me deal with it alone. Even my husband, who was in the row in front of me with his seat buddy, offered no help (granted, he had his own fun little issues to deal with).

Reflecting back on this story I realize I learned a few things:

1 – My compassion levels are not where they should be; ESPECIALLY when I am tired. Is this bad? Yes, probably. I was their to be a leader for these students and when one was “in trouble” I tried to shirk my responsibility– unsuccessfully.

2 – The only way I will ever share a bus seat with a student again is if I get to pick the student I am riding with. I.e. one of my life group girls.

3 – No matter how hard I, or others try, none of us can be exactly like Jesus to all people all the time…especially when sleep deprived. I need Jesus in my life just as much as the students do and I am not above getting into selfish internal hissy fits when I don’t get my way– and I know I am not the only adult who feels this way.

Point is… I’d still go on this trip again.

Because I am nuts and possibly a glutton for punishment.

Even though the trip home was awful, the relational time was worth it and I know it was important to those two girls in the photo above. I do it for them, I do it for Jesus, and I do very little of it for myself.

Welcome to my mess, and praise the Lord I can be reborn from it.

Tell me… do you have a crazy story from a trip with teens? I’d love to hear it!