Pillow, blanket, toothbrush.. I can’t forget my Bible.
I marked off the mental checklist running through my mind while wandering around my room packing my bag for my weekend away. Naturally, I love the idea of going to a women’s retreat, there’s just one small problem.
I’m neurotic about my sleep.
I promise, I’m not just high maintenance. You see, about 18 years ago, when I started having severe anxiety and depression, I went through what I now affectionately call, “my breakdown.” At the time I was a 21 year old woman, reduced to the status of a little girl. I was frightened by almost everything and didn’t sleep for 4 days straight and struggled with sleep from then on. Night time was just, well, hard.
I have come a long way, but as with any trauma, scars remain.
Being out of my comfort zone and sleeping in a strange place is a struggle for me. Because of this, I like things a particular way when I sleep:
- MY bed
- A dark room with one, maybe two night-lights
- The room can’t be too hot
- Did I mention my bed?
- Last but NEVER least, a fan. I must always have a fan.
(I know, I know, you’re questioning that whole “high maintenance” thing about now.)
You could probably put me to sleep at most any time of day by switching on a fan. I may possibly appear to be a narcoleptic in that moment. And supposing people came with an instruction manual, mine would simply say:
Wake me up? Turn off my fan.
An ease and comfort fall over me like a warm, fuzzy blanket when a fan is whirling in my presence. My earliest memories include sneaking into my mom and dad’s bedroom at night when I was afraid, where a fan was blowing out the loveliest white noise. I would snuggle up in my blanket, feel safe as could be, and in the morning they would find me curled up at the base of their bed. As a result, a fan is more than a blustering machine to me, it has always meant safety, tranquility.
Being a sensitive, anxious person means you like things a certain way. We like control, we like “normal” and we like routine. In contrast, following Jesus, well, it tends to be short on control, normal or routine.
Following Jesus’s Call
If it were up to me I would have stayed home, however, I learned quickly, it was not up to me.
I barely knew most of these women so the thought of spending an entire weekend with them, let alone sleeping in the same room with them, just didn’t sound stellar. When a friend called to ask if I would go with her, I said I would “think” about it. (by think about it, I meant no, but I figured I’d be polite and wait until the last minute to tell her this.)
So, I “thought” about it for the week and unexpectedly, felt the Spirit telling me again and again.. you should go.
At the end of the week, I reluctantly texted my friend to say I’d come.
Leaving my comfort zone
The Friday morning we were set to leave had at last arrived. The girls had told me they’d swing by and pick me up around 3:00. Packing commenced and the list for my husband was written. All day the nagging worry about sleep and lack thereof followed me around. I tried repeatedly to swat it away but the trigger of it caused an anticipatory anxiety to begin to build as I packed.
While filling my bag, my eyes would occasionally drift with my thoughts towards the fan in the corner. As soon as my attention was on my revolving best friend, I would quickly switch it back to the task at hand.
It worked, briefly..
I’ll look like a lunatic bringing a fan with me. Who does that? Needy much?!
Sweatshirt, pajamas, socks…
Lots of people have weird little quirks, right? Geez.. what if I can’t sleep?
Tennis shoes, underwear, face cream…
Eyes glancing towards my fan.
Okay, I’ll just bring my fan.. wait, what if the people I’m bunking with don’t want a fan there?
Great.. I wish I could just have my own room.
“Oh my goodness, this is ridiculous!” I voiced out loud, throwing my sweatshirt on the bed, exasperated at the mental somersaults I was putting myself through.
“Lord, you have clearly asked me to go, so, I’m just going to go. I’m not taking my fan because I refuse to look crazy. I am trusting you and believing that you’ll be there with me. You’re going to have to be the one to give me the strength to get through this weekend without being an anxious mess.” I’m afraid my petition was expressed a little more like a threat.
Throwing my sweatshirt in my bag, I zipped it up, purposefully walking out of the room and leaving my fan behind… Was it just my imagination that it gave me a puppy dog look as I went out the door?
Awhile later, saying goodbye to my husband and boys, I climbed in the car with the ladies for our trip. Chatting and laughing over the hill and through the woods to our camp, I forgot my anxieties for a time.
Speaking my love language
A bunch of us arrived separately and pulled in about the same time. We hugged, I was introduced to those I didn’t know and then figured out which room we were in. Grabbing our bags, we began heading to the building as the last of the ladies in our group arrived.
“Hey Nicole!” A woman exclaimed from somewhere behind me. I had never met Nicole so I sat quietly until someone introduced us.
“Hi everyone!” Nicole waved and moved around to the back of her car, popping the trunk. We headed towards her as she pulled her belongings from the back.
“So, I know this might be weird, but I’ve had this crazy ringing in my ears over the past two weeks because of a sinus infection.” Reaching into the trunk, she pulled out a little black whirling apparatus.
“I’m having to sleep with a fan and I never sleep with a fan! I just can’t handle the ringing in my ears.”
“Sorry if you can’t sleep with noise.” She looked at me with a smile and the fan in her hand.
Stunned, I shook my head, “No, that’s totally fine.”
Talking, cackling and excitement for the weekend propelled us through the doors and into our rooms.
Needless to say, I had a fun weekend, slept great and made new friends. Nicole left me a note at the end of the weekend saying, “Susan, I loved getting to know you and our shared love of the fan!”
God and I talked a lot that weekend, we had a good laugh and I imagine He must’ve had a giant grin.
He got me, He got me good.
He speaks to us individually
To other people it may seem silly, but to me, it is to this day, the single greatest love letter the Lord has ever sent me. It was so unique, so personal.. and well, small, that it changed me.
My view of God drastically altered after this occasion. Granted, I knew He loved me, sure, He loves everybody. But this God, the Creator of the universe, the One that came for all, showed Himself to me.
Tiny, insignificant, me.
He met this anxious girl right where she was and brought her a little piece of home.
He didn’t have to, that I know.
He did it solely because of love, because that’s who He is.
I say it’s about the fan, but it’s really not, it’s about the blessing and what I learned of His character through an inanimate object. I heard Him say, “I know you’re anxious, I know this is out of your comfort zone, but I love you, I’m here and I care.. about you.”
In the end, He loves me. He loves you.. personally.
He speaks to us all..
I think He’s been speaking to me this way for a long time, I just didn’t know how to listen. For that reason, I sometimes wonder how many blessings I have missed because I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone.
Every time my mind wanders to that place of doubting if He loves me, I remember the fan. It’s a little inside joke between He and I.
It is entirely clear to me now that He shows love for us each in a wonderfully personal way. He speaks in a way that reaches us as an individual. Everything I read in the word of God says that’s true.
To Moses through a burning bush.
By physically wrestling Jacob until the break of day.
To Elijah in a still small voice.
To Joseph through dreams.
To Gideon through a fleece.
To Paul through a bright light and thundering voice.
How does He speak to you?
He knows each and every one of us in such a deeply personal way that what may speak to you may not even phase me. Something that would touch me deeply, may mean nothing to you. God speaking uniquely to each individual doesn’t just say something about us, more importantly, it says something about Him.
He is a remarkable, creative, thoughtful and personal God. Each and every way He speaks to His children is attentively thought out to teach us a little more about Himself.
The way we communicate with each other is a reminder of how Jesus speaks to us. I am not going to speak to my husband the same way I would talk with my mom or my child. Why did I expect Jesus to speak to me the same way he would to my best friend?
Although He is always the same God, He is an extremely personal God.
It is truly beautiful how each of our relationships with Him are completely unique. One of my absolute favorite things is to hear stories from other people of how God has spoken and moved in their lives. It is in these stories where we see more of His incomparable creativity.
I long for more of these moments with Him and try to listen carefully for them… Maybe I’ll even stop bringing my fan on vacation.
Nah, let’s not be ridiculous. Even HE wouldn’t expect such things from me.
**I would genuinely LOVE to hear what your “fan” moments are! Please share here and share with others! It’s amazing what Christ can do through our sharing with one another.
Susan is an extroverted people lover that has a slight infatuation with words. She loves Jesus Christ and knows that without Him she can do nothing. Having lived most of her life with anxiety and depression she has a passion to help others who are walking a similar path. She is wildly blessed to be married to her best friend, Don, be a mom to 3 awesome boys (oh, and a schnoodle named Tilly.) They make their home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where she home-schools, taxi’s kids around and in her free time writes. She blogs at carryonmyheart.com,