Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Bedroom

I often lie next to my daughter in her bed and admittedly, especially during these days of pregnancy, I often fall asleep with her when I put her to bed.  But in the moments before sleep comes, we talk and snuggle and look around her room.  Simple pictures, cut from scrapbook paper of a flower, a frog and a butterfly are in white frames on the wall.  We talk about the colors and their smiling faces and how they match her bedspread.  And I love every minute of it.  In those moments I often wonder what that pink and green room looks like through the eyes of a little girl.  I often pray that her room would be a place of comfort, peace, joy, laughter, love and safety...all the things I imagine a little girl's room should be.  But sometimes, I feel like I'm not really sure what a girl's room should be.

Unlike Geoff's bedroom, when we returned to our childhood house, my bedroom was almost exactly as I remember.  The pink walls and the ruffle valance.  The flimsy strawberry shortcake desk and table next to the bed, barely usable because of the stuff that covered it.  The white chest peaking out from the heaps of junk between the closet doors.  I never actually remember using that dresser.  I don't even remember where we kept our clothes.  Often times the dryer didn't work, so we hung a lot of things on hangers in the doorways to dry.  I also remember that there was constantly a pile of clean laundry on top of the dryer.  That is probably what led to so much ironing.

Photo © Geoff Johnson

And then there was my bed.  It was really the only functioning part of the room.  As a young child, I remember lining the bed next to the wall with all my stuffed animals.  I got spider bites frequently, and the stuffed animals covering the crack between the bed and wall somehow made me feel safer about what might crawl up there at night.  Eventually though, when mom stopped sleeping in Geoff's room, she started sleeping in mine.  It wasn't by invitation—like how my daughter begs me to lie down with her at night—it was by necessity, and I hated it.  Especially as I entered my early teenage years and the twin bed seemed to grow smaller and smaller. It was terribly uncomfortable, but I will confess that it provided more warmth in the winter.  

Someone once asked me if I kept my room clean despite how my mom kept the rest of the house.  At the time, the question was incredibly insulting, but I suppose a part of me can now understand why someone would wonder.  The truth is we didn't really know any different.  Yes, we went over to other people's homes, but as a child I couldn't really articulate what was different about my situation, especially as a child living in the midst of trauma and in fear of anyone finding out.  We also were never made to pick up or clean.  And while it is probable that most adults would eventually clean on their own accord, I think most children are different.   I know that my kids don't naturally want to pick up their toys, so I'm sure we never thought much about it when we were little.  Probably ruling over those two things, however, was the issue that our rooms weren't really our rooms.  At one point or another, Mom shared our rooms with us, and the heaps of newspapers and bags and boxes and junk were hers.

One thing that is different in my room now, however, is the writing on the wall.  They are dirty walls, mostly from fingerprints that accumulated from years of having to brace ourselves with one hand on the wall as we walked through the house so we didn't fall.  But in our last days in the house, after Mom's passing, I penned this verse on the filthy pink paint:

It is a bad picture, I know.  (Remember, I'm not the photographer in the family.)  But the verse is from Isaiah 51:3.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and look with compassion on all her ruins,
He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. 
Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

He will make her wastelands like the garden of the Lord!  What a glorious picture of redemption!  I have to confess: now that the silence is breaking, I sometimes have been unsure of what to say or how to say it.  I don't have it all figured out yet.  There was a time when I thought I did have it all figured out.  I had been to counseling and come through the dark days of depression with new eyes.  And then ten years later, after Mom's death, I came to realize there are parts that still weigh heavy on me. For a while, it seemed easier to wait...wait to tell the story until I could confidently say, "The Lord has completely healed those broken places!"  But the truth is that while there has been much healing, there are still evidences of the pain that line my heart.  It never really goes away.  For each of us, our hearts will always bear the tender scars that remind us that things aren't exactly like they were meant to be.  But those scars remind us that we are ever in need of a Savior.

I have struggled often to answer the question "Why?"  Why was this a part of our story?  Why didn't the Lord rescue us from it earlier?  I fully believe that God could have protected us from such neglect and that He could have ordered things to be much different than they were.  So why?  Sometimes when horrific things happen in our lives, well-meaning people will recite verses to us or remind us of truths we already know—like the fact that "God will use all things for the good of those that love Him" or "There is a reason for everything." I told myself those same things for years, putting band-aids on the wounds and burying these things alive.  The "right" answers only dismissed my pain.  Yes, maybe God will use our story to help someone else, but that doesn't make the pain any easier to bear.  Sometimes just stating a truth to try to make someone (or yourself) feel better overlooks the very real hurt and grief that that person has experienced.  Yes, God will use it for good.  But this side of Heaven we may never see it, or understand it, or really fully believe it.  However, one thing I do know is that as I have been willing to venture into that hurt and grief, instead of hiding behind the door of silence...the Lord has drawn me near.  He has shown me more of Himself in those places than I ever would have imagined had I denied the pain and hidden the shame.  It is in such times  that I have seen the truth of Genesis 15:1 (NIV).

...I am your shield, your very great reward.

Indeed, if I never have a good explanation as to why, I do know that He has revealed more of Himself to me and it has been a reward, a joy!  The light of God's glory is most beautiful when we see the reality of the darkness in which we have been living.  And if we are unwilling to come face to face with that darkness, we deny ourselves the joy of really experiencing the beauty of the light!

And now, even with the scars, there are new verses written on the walls of my own home, verses on the wall of the little girl I put to bed every night.

The Lord your God is with you. 
He is mighty save.
He will take great delight in you.
He will quiet you with His love.
He will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

And every time I say those promises to her and I find my heart yearning for her to know the depth of their truth, my heart longs to know those same things as well.  Because I know that every little little girl...the one in these pictures and the one in my well as the little girl I never got to be...we all need to know the truth of those promises more than we need a tidy and functioning bedroom, more than a place to play and grow, more than dinner around the kitchen table, or working faucets. A relationship with our loving and faithful heavenly Father is the only thing that will ever bring true comfort, true peace, true joy, true freedom, true safety and true healing for whatever dark and lonely place we find in our story.

Read about Opening the Door here. 
Read about The Living Room here. 
Read about The Kitchen here. 
Read about The Dining Room here.  
Read about The Bathroom here. 
Read about Geoff's Room here. 


  1. Beautiful, thank you again, Jennifer.

  2. Thank you for sharing everything, Jennifer. You and Geoff have been very generous in telling your story in a truly powerful way.

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