How to Fall Asleep

from the wisdom of the ancient King Solomon:

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Psalm 127:3, emphasis Macy’s

WinterNapOne of my favorite indulgences on a day off is an afternoon nap.

Recently, as Macy and I were snuggling into our own blankets on top of the made bed (this, by the way, is the best way to nap, in my opinion) – she under purple fleece with a reverse side of lady bugs and butterflies, me under the gold of Old Mizzou – I asked her if she needed anything.

“No. I know how to go to sleep. First, you just pretend to be asleep and then – you are!”

I have to admit, I take an odd sort of joy from the fact that I have four children and four excellent sleepers. Sleeping through the night in your own bed cannot be overestimated in terms of general sanity and life-giving rest. The first night I brought my first child home from the hospital, I put him in his own room in his own crib and I have rarely wavered from this stand. When life got a little more crowded and newborns were best served by sleeping in my room for a season, I moved them out as soon as it was possible. (And, yes, this usually meant a couple of nights of crying it out. I’m that mom. But I sleep well!)

One of my clearest childhood memories is of my dad standing beside my bunk bed (I had the top) teaching me how to go to sleep. I know he didn’t tuck me in every night because of his schedule, so I can’t imagine that this happened more than once. But I remember it perfectly (my version of it anyway).

“Close your eyes. Now starting at the top of your head I want you to make each muscle relax, like Jello. Soft and slow. First your neck. Now your shoulders. Do you feel it? Make them melt. Like your sinking into your bed. Now your arms . . . ”

All the way down to my toes. By the time we got there, I was almost gone. I’ve refined the technique over the years until now I can almost put my head to the pillow and be asleep just minutes later.

So when Macy shared her wisdom on how to fall asleep, I felt proud. I don’t know if I’ve ever specifically coached her like Dad coached me, but she figured it out.

Think I should patent our method? I know it’s probably easier when you are a kid – when responsibilities and pressures are quieter and smaller. But maybe this is another reason God refers to us as his children. Maybe we should act more like it at bedtime. Reminding ourselves of his provision and the uselessness of our worry.

I know so many people who have trouble sleeping. For all of them (and maybe for you), I pray the rest of the beloved.





One Word 2013: Devotion


I once read that it takes one thousand hours of practice or study to become an expert at anything (such as a musical instrument, for example). That’s a lot of hours. Years, actually. But the point of the writer was that becoming an expert in something (almost anything) is what it takes to be able to not just consume in this world but to be able to contribute as well. I’m interested in that.

My 2013 One Word is Devotion. I’m finally embarking full-time into my graduate career in English. I want to be devoted to my studies.

One of the sports radio guys I listen to on the way to work each morning was talking recently about how successful people never live lives of balance. The top coaches and athletes aren’t balanced. They focus their time and attention on what matters to them – usually winning games or championships.

Graduate school isn’t my championship. I’m excited about it, but it isn’t my life’s deepest desire.

My championship is a life well-lived. I want my husband to feel loved and my kids to be likeable. (That’s one of my famous parenting lines: “I know you don’t like to be disciplined, but I’m trying to help you. I want people to like you. I want you to have friends.”)

Still, I believe devotion means I put in the hours where I want to be an expert: as a parent, a wife, and a student. It goes without saying that every hour of every day I’m practicing to be an expert Jesus follower. Everything else I do fits into that pursuit.

But you can’t be an expert in everything, so I won’t be working on devotion in all areas. I’m not going to shoot for balance in this season because I do want to be an expert in some things. But I can’t be an expert in everything. There are only 24 hours in a day and I sleep during some of them.

The nature of the area in which you are trying to become an expert has a say on the degree of your devotion, too. In my case, the English fellowship is renewable for two years as long as I maintain acceptable progress. That means I need to squeeze all those hours into a short length of time. Parenting is a little different. I have the rest of my life to become that expert. I can spread it out a bit more over the years. (Assuming, of course, acceptable progress.) When Claire was a premature infant with health complications, it required a different kind of devotion from me to become an expert in her care. I didn’t even think about pursuing my degree back then.

These are things I probably won’t be devoted to in this season: cleaning my house, eating vegetarian, running a marathon, or creating enough clever crafts to fill an Etsy store. Worthy pursuits? Absolutely. And maybe I’ll be able to put in a few hours toward some of them, but I won’t be able to become an expert. Not right now.

Maybe in another season.

But this season is about devotion to my studies and to the five people I live with. Naming my devotion helps me prioritize. When someone is devoted to something you don’t have to ask her what it is – you know by watching what she does, where she gives her time, and what makes her smile.

Here’s to a year of Devotion.