When I was a little girl, there were nights I’d lay in my bed at the top of the stairs in our yellow Cape Cod house on a street near where the road ended in a cul-de-sac. We called the cul-de-sac “The Circle” because cul-de-sac hadn’t yet made its way to our consciousness. My mom had wallpapered my bedroom in stripes and she’d purchased an orange shaggy throw rug (not to be confused with shag) and laid it down next to my twin bed with its orange bedspread. The orange rug and the orange bedspread picked up the orange stripe in the wallpaper that ran from the baseboards to the pitched and (nowadays they’d call it) vaulted ceiling.
At night, after the lights were turned out—and not every night, mind you—I would suddenly find myself spread eagle on my twin mattress, the sheets and bedspread vanished, and my bed spinning ’round and ’round in the middle of the linoleum floor of my little bedroom at the top of the stairs. I never gave it a second thought. It was what it was.
The bathroom at the top of those very same stairs had tiny pink and white tiles on the floor. The tiles were arranged in a nifty pattern—some of them rectangles and some squares, and all of them laid next to each other at right angles on the floor. Sitting on the toilet, my tiny feet dangled over those pink and white tiles and sometimes—not every time—the tiles on that floor would free themselves and bend and roll like water at the end of a dock. Sometimes I could “make” it happen. Other times, it happened on its own. I never gave it a second though. It was what it was.
When I was about nine years old, my parents moved me to a bedroom downstairs on the first floor. I was the only one sleeping down there on the first floor. Years before, my mom had been on the game show, Concentration, where she won a bunch of prizes, including a grandmother clock which ticked loudly and gonged every fifteen minutes. Knowing I was all alone on the first floor with only the sound of the grandmother clock was a scary experience for nine-year-old me. I huddled under the new bedspread my mother had bought for me and wished myself to fall asleep without anything terrifying happening to me.
One night, in that room all alone on the first floor, I heard a whistle, as clear as day. Clear enough to make me turn my head to see where the whistle had come from. Standing there, beside my bed, was a man in a purple robe—not a bathrobe, a robe like something a king would wear—and a crown of laurel leafs on his head. I was wide awake when it happened. I was terrified, and I turned my head away and wished myself to sleep. It wasn’t the man beside my bed that terrified me. I was already terrified, because of being alone and the grandmother clock. But all that fear changed my perspective.
After that, the bed didn’t spin in my room anymore, and the tiles in the bathroom stayed glued in place. I think fear keeps us away from the edge.
When my son was a baby, my mother-in-law, who believed God is I Am and everything else, would watch my son staring off at some point over our shoulders. “He sees angels,” my mother-in-law would say. I believed her. What reason was there to doubt?
We don’t really know who said it, but some attribute this to C. S. Lewis: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Sometimes, I think we play it too safe. We grow up and we look at things logically and reasonably and we call foul on anything that colors outside the lines.
I think heaven might be closer than we think, and not at all what we’ve decided it might be.
Some questions for you: In what ways does fear keep you away from the edge? When you read my stories, did you try to explain them away, or did you want to give them a chance? Do my childhood stories remind you of any stories of your own? What do you think children know that we don’t anymore?
I love this; though my childhood was far from prosaic, I also grew up on a cul-de-sac called Eliot Circle, and saw things that others did not – and, as an adult, I get to mine that vein to tell stories that point to God, even though much of that childhood was painful. Also love C.S. Lewis, and it was from him that I first got the phrase spiritual amphibians, one he used well to describe our experiences here.
This speaks volumes to me. This and Lorretta’s words up there. Heaven is not afraid of the darkness. Heaven gets through.
Colleen Connell Mitchell
When I was a little girl, I was a Native American princess who lived in a tee pee some days and lots of other days, I had brown skin and a big kinky Afro and I was hiding in the chiffarobe of a house as a runaway. The mirror kept telling me I was a little white girl with freckles and fair Irish-American skin. One day I finally started believing her. But my heart still knows it has a bit of everyone in it and loves that way. Also, I’m pretty sure I flew, just a few inches off the ground so no one really noticed, for a few years. I’ve forgotten how it’s done now but not how it feels.
Colleen! I love this! And how long you resisted what the mirror told you. We see through a glass dimly, you know. You were wise to resist, I believe. I remember how it felt to spin ’round and ’round on my bed, and how it felt to “make” the tiles in the bathroom dance around. I’ve forgotten a lot of things, just since yesterday. But those things, I remember.
I love this so much. I seem to remember levitating down a staircase once – and then falling the next time I tried! And I had nightly conversations with the empty milk bottles on our side porch, standing ready for the milkman to exchange for full ones. P.S. I bought a sketch pad – only thing I could find without lines. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll risk it. AND YES, ABSOLUTELY, fear has kept me on the edge of lots of things. Right now it’s keeping me from going back to my book project. All the years I pastored, it kept me from even considering a full-time or senior role. I trust that God can work with me still, despite my over-weaning anxieties. Sigh.
Levitating down the staircase, Diana? That’s right up there with Madeline L’Engle! What was it like?!?!
I’m so glad you bought that sketch pad! Let’s not let our achy joints keep us from discovery and creativity and imagining and, well, faith!
Patricia W Hunter
Oh how I love this, Deidra. I have a couple of seeing angels and children stories and I wrote about them, along with a photo, here: http://pollywogcreek.blogspot.com/2013/04/see-angels.html
I don’t know that children know more than we do – I think it’s the opposite. I think we are too smart for our britches and think we know more than we really do.
Yes! Yes! Thanks for turning my question on its head! I think you’re right. We crowd out our believing with all of our knowing.
Now you are speaking my heart language, Deidra. We can learn so much about faith from children. I still remember the way the animals would start to speak at dusk and that old hermit, Hermrette, who lived in a tree. Such magic when we expand our belief!
Hermrette?!?! Oh my! Even the name is fabulous, Laura!
I do believe in angels now in the present tense. I know they walk among us we just don’t have eyes to see them. We notice them sometimes when we near miss a car, or realize later, that could have been very bad. I believe it is when they stop us from having harm done. Not always, because harm does happen but they are here and they are there, in heaven too. Hope this makes sense.
Of course it makes sense, Sharon. 🙂 It makes perfect sense. But then, we aren’t talking about sensible things here today, are we?
Yes! Today the gospel was about Jesus healing two blind men. He asked if they had faith, and then he healed them so they could see. It seems that some things we can only see when Jesus opens our eyes through faith!
OK. I”m sorry. I”ve turned into THAT person on your blog. I have to comment. I’m compelled. Because you are speaking my language now. For reasons I won’t go into, here I had to spend a lot of time in isolation as a child and all I can attest to is this: the angels came and ministered to me. Good to know that you have “walked on water” too! 😉
Yes! Yes! Please comment! Join the conversation! I want to know what this stirs up in you! What you’ve shared here is real, and I believe it. And the image of angels ministering to you as a child just makes me smile, Lorretta. You will always know it, won’t you?
“Fear keeps us away from the edge”. Those “ministers” gave me a voice I guess that’s it. Yes, a voice. I just knew that God was there. Mind you, I came from a completely UNCHURCHED background so there was no reference point for God except as the first part of a common curse word. Years later, when I met Him and began to put all the pieces together, it was as if I was then reunited with a piece of my self that was kept with Him for safekeeping. I do believe that’s what was spared in those dark hours alone. The truth of me. I guess it’s why I still write out here because I want to point others to that possibility too.
Wow. That part about a part of you being kept safe. Yes. It feels so true to me. And so much like Jesus.
They are closer because they accept it, how we must become like them to go to Him. My little one was 1, 2, 3, 4 while my mom was spending her last days on this earth, in some senses not unlike a child.. and they both taught me much (or maybe just reminded me and took me back) of the thin places, of heaven, the mingling of heaven and earth..and how He is the covering and how it is there just beyond the horizon of our grown-up seeing and believing unless we journey the seas to that shifting meeting line.. and those experiences (I have tasted) along the way more real now than ever.. and maybe that’s part of His doing more than what we can imagine
Wow, you’ve painted a beautiful picture here. When my mother-in-law died, I wasn’t in the room. I had just left her room in the hospice wing of the hospital to return to the house to get a little rest. But, my husband was by her side when she made the transition from here to there. He said her presence filled the room, and that it was like nothing he’d ever experienced before. It was mystical and beautiful and, hearing him try to tell me so that I could feel as if I’d been there, it reminded me, too, of the thin places and the mingling of heaven and earth.
I love your posts. I’m compelled to share my answers to your questions. When I was reading your childhood stories I distinctly felt some fear. I didn’t question what you were saying…I’ve come to trust you from following your blog. You said, “It was what it was”. I loved that you didn’t sound afraid… Until you were alone downstairs. I absolutely believe everything you described. I cannot imagine what seeing the “King” was like. I am also a child of God and know He keeps me…I hope (and believe) that if I get a animate visit that He would make sure I would not feel afraid. My response is very chatty. Thinking back on my childhood I remember a night when I was in bed it was the dead of night and everyone was asleep. I felt that my body was frozen (like a board) and I had a sensation of levitation. My memory of this was fear that this was not a good or Godly thing. I remember very vividly that I prayed to God for protection.
Last thought…I’m a strong believer that instinctual fear can be God keeping you alert. I’m talking about the “in the moment” feeling of fear. But I think that isn’t the type of fear we are talking about.
Thanks for your blog.
I’m so glad you commented!
My son and I talked a little bit about fear when we were together last week. I’m still processing a lot of that conversation. I know (for me, at least) fear keeps me from being open. Like, when I start thinking about the universe and how it doesn’t end and how eternity is forever, I hear myself saying, “Oh no. That’s too scary. Don’t go there.” And I want to turn and walk back in the other direction—to time and gravity and the ground beneath my feet.
There definitely is evil out there, and even the bible tells us to go in the other direction—to flee—the very appearance of evil. And then, of course, over and over again in the bible, God says to us, “Fear not.” Maybe, and I’m thinking out loud here, what we identify as fear, isn’t always fear. Maybe it’s something else, like the Holy Spirit raising our awareness in the moment.
See? You’ve got me thinking! What if you hadn’t commented? Ha!
Deidra – are you in my head? I was just trying to remember that quote yesterday afternoon. Last night I couldn’t sleep, because I felt so compelled to research angels. I agree, heaven is closer than we think. And, as you said, fear is the quickest way to put up a wall that blocks it out.
You know that phenomenon where, when you’re in the market for a new car and you finally decide which one you want, you suddenly notice all the other cars on the road that look just like your new one? Is there a name for that? Whatever that is, is probably the same thing that had you thinking/dreaming about angels before you landed you here today. And, that had me writing about these childhood memories while you were researching. We are more connected in this world than we imagine ourselves to be, I think.
First of all: Cape Cod?! I spent a summer in P-Town in 1983 putting together a new clothing store.
Secondly: H’s mother knows exactly what she was talking about. I’m convinced babies are able to see the angel that God has appointed to each of us. (Matthew 18:10) (Our pastor just completed a remarkable series on angels and demons)
Lastly: Your recollections do not surprise me at all. The things of God must never be neatly packaged in a box… For years now, every so often, I am awakened in the middle of the night by sound the doorbell. (I shared this story on my blog about a year or so ago). The sound is so real, so clear, that I actually get out of bed. No one is ever at the door. A few weeks ago, my Sunday school teacher shared that from time to time, over the years, she is awakened in the middle of the night by a doorbell ringing, and no one is ever at the door. I gasped loudly and almost burst in to tears. There was one other lady in our class who has had the same exact experience.
There are mysteries we simply can not explain.
Wow! The doorbell story is fascinating!
When I published this story here in this space, and asked if anyone had similar stories to tell, I didn’t expect to get any response. But oh, how wrong I was! Knowing there are others out there who’ve had fun and amazing encounters has made me feel, I don’t know, not so odd. Or maybe, pleasantly odd. 🙂
Thank you for sharing this, Dina. Incredible!
I freely confess that fear is the gate surrounding the wall keeping me away from any possibility of edges. So many times, we do not allow ourselves to live in a place of wonder. Instead, we explain mystery away until there is little left to ponder. My 7-year old has often spoken words that have later come true. Oh, that I would open myself up to dream as he does, so that I too would see possibility and hope!
Yes. We do explain mystery away. At least, I know I do. I have to make a conscious decision to sit with the tension of the mystery and press into it. Press past that gate, you know?
Two funny/strange things have happened to me in my life time, the first was when I was about 9 years old, we lived in an apartment building and I didn’t like taking the elevator by myself. I was at a friends apartment and it was time for me to go, it wasn’t late, about 2 in the afternoon or so, but I was terrified to go by myself but I couldn’t tell my friend that. Anyway, I was standing at the elevator and then there was a man beside me, I could see through him, I am going to say he looked like the North American version of Jesus, long brown straight hair, linen robe, and sandals. He motioned me to come with him on to the elevator, I followed him, I got off at my floor and turned to see him again and he was gone. I was awake and aware, I know it was God keeping me safe. The next time was 11 years ago when I got the news my husband was dying. That night I thought I would not get any rest, but before I started drifting off to sleep, my Dad’s mom(who died of cancer when I was 10) and my Mom’s parents(Who I never got to meet), took turns rocking me like a baby in my rocking chair. I slept the whole night, woke up the next morning and knew what had happened and that all would be well. My husband did not die, thanks to the Grace of God and I know that when I needed Him the most is when he is always right beside me in some way.
Wow, Stephanie! Incredible stories! Thanks so much for sharing them. They both brought tears to my eyes.
This is the best thing I’ve read on the Internet in weeks. I do not know where to begin to find those memories within myself. I was an only child, tossed back and forth between grandparents in different states and parents who were not even trying to get their lives together; I know that what some would call my imagination kept me safe and secure until I met the One who could ultimately keep me secure. My husband and I often talk about how severely disabled people, especially those with communication issues, must have a spiritual insight that we cannot yet bear.