Warm thoughts in a pillow

Fear can keep us up all night long,

but faith makes one fine pillow.

—Philip Gulley

When was the last time you gifted yourself with a new bedroom pillow?

Oprah Winfrey was the celebrity who famously asked this question some years ago and I became a pillow connoisseur from that time forward. If memory serves me right, her friend and regular contributor, Dr. Mehmet Oz, had preceded her question with an explanation of bed mites and other naturally occurring pollutants that gather in overused and under laundered bedding.

I thought back to my childhood and the only pillow I ever recall using. It was filled with feathers and each night, as I drifted off to sleep listening to the quiet tunes coming from a clock radio beside my bed, I’d rub my fingers along the top seam to see if there were prickly little feather shafts working their way out.

I recalled all of the sleepovers, dance recital rehearsals, roadtrips to Oklahoma to visit relatives, and church camps that I’d hauled that pillow to because it was the only one that didn’t give me a neck ache by morning.

In due time I packed that pillow in my parents’ avocado green station wagon and moved it to my college dorm room. After the dorm stint it made its way onto my bed in a townhouse I shared with three darling roommates. Into that very pillow I buried my head the year my granddad and John Lennon both died.

It followed me into my marriage and our first home. It propped me up each time I nursed my children in the early morning hours as the world slept. And in 1989 it traveled 20 hours and 1,235 miles north to our new home in Western Washington.

At some point Oprah enlightened me. I ran upstairs and closely inspected my pillow. With huge regret yet a growing tide of repulsion, I ceremoniously tossed that pillow into the garbage before heading into town to replace it.

Today, I find myself strangely drawn to the pillow aisle on a fairly regular basis. I am never completely satisfied and I think it’s because there is no bed on which I can realistically test drive my choices. I hold each contestant pillow to my ear and lay my head down ever so briefly, trying as I might to imagine the outcome of an all-nighter.

There are simply too many decisions to be made. Regular, queen or king? Natural fill or man made? Soft, medium or firm? Price. Fabric content. And one cannot even think about a pillow without incorporating the case. Thanks to Oprah and Dr. Oz I now slide each pillow into it’s own cotton zippered liner before covering it with a case that will compliment the bedding. But that’s not easy either. There is the color to consider. Thread count. Fit.

The next-to-last pillows I purchased created neck aches that first morning so my husband and I stuffed those into decorative shams and I made my way back to the pillow aisle. My next selections are working better, but I notice that my husband occasionally folds his over when lying on his side. I’ve yet to get it completely right.

With Christmas quickly approaching, it occurred to me that appropriately themed pillow cases might be fun. My kids are all young adults, but I want them to be quietly reminded, when they lay their heads down each night this Christmas season, that I love them beyond words and they can entrust their triumphs and tribulations with me whenever they desire to do so.

I have long contended that our most honest self-talk happens in the quiet of the night, as we lay in the dark to sort through the opinions and lessons of the day. And I don’t care what aroma therapy you have at your disposal, the light you carefully block out of your bedroom, or the soothing CD you’ve just discovered. If you haven’t allowed yourself to be touched by God or opened your heart to matters of faith, fear will draw us out of bed and away from the soft place to lay our heads that God offers each one of us.

With the snow and sub-freezing temperatures outside, I set up my sewing machine near the fire and created pillow cases from a bevy of Christmas fabrics and trims. As I cut and pinned, measured and sewed, I prayed for each person who will eventually lay their head on these cases. I imagined them laughing just a bit about my wacky drive to sew, but also in the quiet of the night to consider the love I offer. The prayers I utter. The hopes I cultivate on their behalf.

This Christmas, my hopes for those I love include peace. Contentment. Joy. Energy. Health. And growing faith. Sometimes created in the light of day. Often in the middle of the night as we flip our pillows over to the cold side, draw our covers up around our necks, and utter quiet prayers that God will continue to cradle our heads and hearts as we face the days to come.

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