In the night and in the morning - by Helen Murray

I like sleeping, and I'm good at it.

The secret to my success is practice. I practice often, and for as long as I can. I hope that when the time comes for me to depart this world the end might come while I'm asleep, and then those who know me well will wipe away a tear and say, 'Well, she died doing what she loved doing most...'

The thing is, sleep has not been going well, lately. I've lost my mojo. Most often it goes like this: I wake in the night for no obvious reason and my head is so cram-jam full of things that I can't get back to sleep again. I lie and watch the red digital numbers on my bedside clock as they flick closer and closer to the awfulness of Getting Up Time and try in vain to empty my mind of all the stuff that's clogging it up and stopping the dreams from coming.

Here's a little story from the other night.

2:26am. Desperate shrieks from Katy's room. Surely she was being stung by a thousand wasps, or the roof was falling in, or some dire nightmare was frightening her witless.

'What is it, love? What's wrong?'  (Me, breathless, having vaulted out of bed and sprinted along the landing at warp speed.)

'I woke up.'


'I don't know why I woke up.'


'So I shouted you.'

Hmm. What do you say to that?  I shared that I didn't know why she woke up, either.

The only weapon I have in circumstances like these is to write it all down so I don't forget and bring it out at some wedding speech sometime along with the chicken pox photos. Heh heh heh.

2:41am and of course the bloodcurdling yells from Katy's room had roused Lizzy, who wondered if the house was on fire. Seriously. If we do not expect the house to catch fire, why do we have so many smoke alarms? If we have smoke alarms in case the house catches fire then we cannot say with certainty that the house will not catch fire, can we? If we are taking precautions to alert us to the early signs of fire, then we allow the possibility that the house might catch fire, don't we? (Yes, she actually said that. In the middle of the night.)

Many reassurances later in one room and then the other, and then back to the first, I settled and calmed, pulled duvets up to chins and stroked hair.  I finally crawled back under the duvet (in my own bed) and closed my eyes.

2:56am. 3:10am. By 3:30am my head was a maelstrom of all the stuff that I'm doing, hoping, fearing, planning, trying not to worry about, at the moment. All distorted, pulled out of shape, exaggerated, coloured in scary colours and with creepy shadows. It all seemed too much.

Left side, right side, on my back, unclench teeth, make effort to relax shoulders. Release the frown. Unclench everything.

Eventually I sat up and started to blurt it all out in my journal. 3:38am. Usually putting the light on is the last thing I do as I'm trying to lull myself back to sleep but there was nothing for it. I unburdened myself to my Friend, who happens to be Lord God and Creator of the Universe. Put like that, it's pretty cool, isn't it?

God sat with me for half an hour as I scribbled away and had a moan and dumped it all in front of him. Then he settled me down, pulled the duvet up to my chin and stroked my hair until I was asleep.

Where God is, there's peace, if I let there be. He took the stuff I was worried about - he took it away, and in its place he gave me peace. And sleep. It was a little miracle.

If it had been daytime, I most probably would have sent a harried text to a friend detailing my anxieties, maybe with a worried-face emoticon. I might have asked them to say a prayer for me, or maybe asked if we could meet up for a coffee and a chat.

But, since it was 3am, vanilla lattes are hard to find, and the local world was fast asleep, I turned to God first.

Friends give a listening ear; coffee and toasted teacakes give a degree of emotional comfort; text messages and emails give an opportunity to vent; but only God gives all these things and peace as well. He always listens, he is endlessly patient, he understands me, he doesn't laugh at me or take offence, he doesn't hold what I say against me.

He sits down next to me, smiles gently, listens carefully, takes the heavy stuff from me and says, 'Don't worry. I'm here and I love you.'

Why on earth don't I go to him first all the time?

Head knowledge and heart knowledge. I know it is true that God is there and he answers prayers and honours his promises, but the other night I really knew it was true. God likes it when I seek him out and he soothed me that night just like I soothed my little girls who had woken with anxieties of their own. My heavenly Daddy.

I don't think any of us ever actually grow up.

I woke the next morning and wondered if it had actually happened. I read back the entry in my journal and realised that it was, yes, it was exactly that way. I had been having a panic; I was letting things get out of control and there was no wonder that I couldn't sleep, because there had been a huge volume of rubbish bouncing around in my mind.

As I was lying in bed with a smile on my face, remembering my small-hours rendezvous with God, I noticed that the light round the edge of the curtains was golden. I drew them back a little way and look what flooded the room.

I gazed at the majesty of a new day and I heard 'Peace'.
'Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.'
John 14:27

I climbed back into bed and lay watching the sky striped with red and orange and glittering gold leaf.

A few minutes later the sun appeared from over the church tower and dazzled me where I lay. Gold was everywhere. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

As a start to a weekday it was pretty good.

Thank you, God. For the middle of the night and for the early morning. You are my God, and you are amazing.

Walking home from dropping the girls off at school run a couple of hours later the song in my headphones was YFriday's Reign In Me. One verse in particular put the smile back on my face.

'As the song of my life unfolds
And the truth of your love takes hold
You refine me like purest gold
Bright shining as the sun.'

At 3am when my head was bursting with things that don't matter, the truth of the Father's love took hold of me indeed. And later on when his glory fell all around me propped up on my pillows, I basked in the warmth and light of it.

So that's my story today. The faithfulness of the Lord in the night and in the morning. He opened my eyes even as he gently closed them. He calmed me and comforted me and he gave me a peace that the world can't give. He smiled and told me, 'Yes, this is who I am.'

He is there, loving, in the darkness and the shadows, and he is there, majestic in the brilliance and the glory.

He cares. For me and for you.

Thankyou, Lord.

*K Riley, YFriday Great and glorious 2009 Survivor/Absolute records 

Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire with her husband, two daughters and her mum.

Having spent time as a researcher, church worker and Hand Therapist, Helen is now a full time mum and writer, currently supposed to be working on her first novel. 

As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims, breeds Aloe Vera plants and collects ceramic penguins.

Helen has two blogs: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith, and Badger on the Roof where readers are treated to a blow by blow account of her novel-writing progress, or lack thereof. It's been a while since there was anything to report, but she hasn't given up.

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01


  1. I'm glad you remembered to press "publish" in the end, Helen. I had a little moan before breakfast that there wasn't a new post here! Anyhow, now there is a great one! Sue

    1. Thank you so much, Sue. Yes, it should have been there by breakfast, and right up until I fiddled with it yesterday, it was all set. Ah well, better late than never. (Better never late, my Grandma used to retort, with one of her looks).

  2. Wonderful Helen. I, too, am thankful you pressed 'publish'. I loved how you described your Friend, how you likened your rendezvous with God to how you quietened down your girls, and how you awoke with a smile on your face. Lovely, truly beautiful. And then that wonderful gift He gave you of a golden sunrise. What a fantastic and amazing Friend! xx

    1. Thanks, Mandy. Sometimes when I'm so tired with the hamster-wheel that is my life at the moment it helps to remember that there's someone with whom I don't have to pretend to be a grownup. x

    2. Yes, don't we all need that!

  3. I can so relate to this! Glad I'm not the only one who wakes and ponders, and ponders, and ponders...Thanks Helen.

    1. You're more than welcome! Thank you for the 'Me, too'! Things are so distorted in the middle of the night, as well.

  4. All distorted, pulled out of shape, exaggerated, coloured in scary colours and with creepy shadows. It all seemed too much.... This is such a great description of those middle-of-the-night moments. Pulled out of shape. Exactly right.

    1. Thanks, Fran. You've been there, I can tell....

  5. A great piece of writing! And it all really happened! You're right, priceless encounters with God can occur at the most unsocial hours, I've had them too...

    1. Thank you! That means a lot. It did happen indeed; only a small thing but you're right, priceless. x

  6. Beautiful piece Helen. Beautiful!

    1. Lynda, thank you. You are lovely and encouraging. x

  7. This is beautiful, Helen. I love the image of our heavenly Daddy soothing us in the same way as we soothe our own children. Thank you. xx

  8. Wonderful story beautifully told. I so know those moment of creepy, horrible delusional thoughts beating my brain to bits in the night ...or that awful too-early-but-sort-of-morning time. Seems we all. When we are at our lowest (physically, around 3.00am!) and God is still at his greatest. Thank you.

    1. Thank you. The shadows are indeed long and weird at that time of night. But God is so gentle, and he cares for us -even the rubbish in my head. Thank you. x

  9. Helen, what a wonderful story! And it really happened!! Beautifully told and so encouraging. God is great at middle of the night rendezvous and reassurance. He doesn't always follow it up with a fantastic morning light show (you were blessed) but He always shows up, especially when His children cry out to Him. Keep looking out for your Friend. He longs to hear all your troubles and cares. Thank you for your gift of words and sharing your heart so beautifully here. Xx

    1. Thank you, lovely Joy, for being so encouraging, as always. Thank you.


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