Why can’t I sleep?

It’s 12:05 a.m., and I can’t sleep.  Again.  

Make no mistake.  When my head hit the pillow at 10:30 p.m. (my usual bedtime), I was out.  Like. A. Light.

But something stirred me around 11:30, and I’ve been awake ever since. The sandman has left the building.  And I’ll be eyes-wide-open.  Indefinitely.

I don’t suffer from chronic insomnia.  In fact, just like tonight, I rarely have trouble falling asleep.  And most of the time, I sleep for eight hours with very few interruptions and feel rested in the morning.  (Thank you Baby Wise.  Because of you, I have excellent sleepers in my house.)

But when the awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-can’t-go-back-to-sleep kind of insomnia rears its ugly head in my bedroom, it comes in like a tidal wave.  It appears for seemingly no reason at all.  And, sometimes, it lurks for weeks before leaving again.  I’m swimming in one of those waves right now, and I just can’t seem to shake it.

Not so long ago, I dealt with insomnia by laying in bed for hours on end.  Tossing and turning.  Watching the minutes tick by on the clock.  Running through the list of all the things I needed to do the next day.  Feeling the anxiety rise within me as the opportunity for sleep passed me by.  And rarely would I fall back to sleep.  

The following day, I was wrecked.  

Every time.

But a few years ago, I took Beth Moore’s Bible study on the book of Esther, It’s Tough Being A Woman, and my perspective on how to deal with insomnia began to change.

If you’ve never read the book of Esther, I highly recommend it.  It’s a great book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  It’s filled with stories of extravagant parties.  Its plot takes an abundance of twists and turns.  There’s drama.  Suspense.  Scandal.  Betrayal.  Romance.  Power struggles.  And a Persian version of The Bachelor to boot!  Everything that a Hollywood Blockbuster would include.  It’s a great read just for fun.   

But it’s also filled with great lessons.  And it includes countless stories of how God is continually at work.  On the main stage and behind the scenes.     

The story has profoundly impacted my life.  And you should read it.

But what does all of this have to do with insomnia?

I’m getting to that.

The story begins when Queen Vashti is banished from the kingdom for refusing to obey an “order” from her husband, King Xerxes.  As a result, a search begins for a new queen.  (Thank goodness we don’t play by THOSE rules anymore.)  Out of all the eligible women in the kingdom, King Xerxes chooses Esther, a young woman who, unbeknownst to him, is Jewish.  

While King Xerxes is out playing The Bachelor, Mordecai (Esther’s cousin and caretaker) becomes a government official and foils an assassination attempt against the king.  But despite this service to the king, a man named Haman is appointed as King Xerxes’ second in command.  When Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, Haman becomes furious and sets out to destroy not only Mordecai, but all the Jewish people in the Kingdom.

At this juncture, Mordecai pleads with Esther to go to the king and intercede on behalf of her people.  After some convincing, Esther agrees.  

But here’s the good part.

The night before Esther goes to the king with her petition on behalf of the Jewish people, the story says:

“That night the king could not sleep, so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.  It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Terish, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.”  (Esther 6:1-2)

Did you catch that?  

The night before Esther plans to plead with King Xerxes for the life of Mordecai and all of the Jewish people, the king is stirred from sleep and reminded that Mordecai saved his life.

Coincidence?

I think not.  

And this revelation to the king has a profound impact on the rest of the story.

As I read that passage for the first time, I was struck.  

How often am I stirred from sleep?  

Could I take a note from King Xerxes’ story and choose to change my perspective on how to deal with insomnia?  

So instead of looking at my inability to sleep as an inconvenience, I challenged myself to consider the possibility that it might be an opportunity.  

What might God have for me in the wee hours of the morning when I can’t sleep?

What might God lay on my heart if I were to rise from my bed and commune with him?

How might God speak to me through my prayers in the darkness of the night?

So instead of tossing and turning.  Watching the clock.  Making to-do lists.  And growing anxious.  I started getting up.  And I started spending time with God when I couldn’t sleep.  

I can’t tell you the ways in which God moved in my heart during those times.  And I found that when I embraced the opportunity to spend time with God when sleep was beyond my grasp, the sleep returned to me so much more quickly.

Now, if I lay in bed for more than 30 minutes without falling asleep, I usually seize the moment.  And I’m always glad when I do.  Because God always shows up.  And the time I spend in community with God is always fruitful.

Are you having trouble sleeping tonight?

How might God work in your heart if you were to choose to spend time in his presence when the sleep won’t come?

I challenge you to seize the moment and go to God in the midst of your sleeplessness.  You never know what might be in store for you there.  

Night Night, my friends.

 

Would you like to save a life?

After Kory and I got married in 1999, we joined a young couples mid-week Bible study at the church we were serving.  The group was comprised of about 10 engaged and newly married couples without children.  This was our first “community” as a married couple.  And it was a special one.

It was a tight-knit group.  We met weekly to study the Scriptures and to pray with and for one another.  We had regularly scheduled socials and retreats.  And we engaged in missions outings together.  

In the Fall of 2001, though, tragedy struck our community.  One of the wives was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 34, and she battled the cancer for almost a year before it took her life.  During that time, our community grew even closer to one another as we joined hands to rally around this couple and their family.

We did a lot of things to show our support.  We cooked meals.  We helped around the house.  We visited when visitors were allowed.  And we prayed for a miracle.    

We also organized a bone marrow drive at our church in honor of our friend, with the hope that a match might be found to cure her blood cancer.  We worked in partnership with Be The Match, the bone marrow registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.  And though we didn’t find a match for our sweet friend, the drive was a huge success, adding hundreds of donors to the registry all in one Sunday afternoon.  

I didn’t know much about the Be The Match registry or bone marrow donation prior to the drive we held, but I came to understand the importance of it through that process.  

According to the Be The Match website, “[e]very four minutes, one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies from a blood cancer. That’s more than six people each hour, or 148 people each day.”

That’s a lot of people.

To make matters worse, seventy percent of all patients who need a transplant don’t have a matched donor in their family. Yet according to the NMDP, there is an estimated 76-97% chance that a patient will find a matching donor on the Be The Match registry, depending on race and ethnicity.

Those are good odds.  But the odds only stay good as long as people continue to join the registry.  

Once on the registry, the statistics for donation are as follows:

“1 in 40 registry members will be called for additional testing. Additional testing can be used to narrow the list of potential donors and determine the best possible match for a patient.

1 in 300 will be selected as the best possible donor for a patient. These potential donors will have an information session with their donor center representative to learn more about the donation process. Due to changes in the patient’s condition, not all donors who are selected as the best match will donate.

1 in 500 members will actually donate.”

It’s been almost twelve years to the day since I joined the Be The Match registry.  And I haven’t really thought about it much except when we’ve moved, and I’ve needed to update my address.  But yesterday, when I went to the mail box, a letter from Be The Match was waiting for me.  

I’ve been identified as a “possible match” for a patient considering a transplant.  I’m the “1 in 40” referenced above.  After all these years.

I spoke with a representative of Be The Match yesterday evening.  She explained the two procedures that are used to collect bone marrow, confirmed my willingness to donate, and walked me through a preliminary wellness screening to determine my eligibility.

She told me that I would receive word within two months if I am, indeed, a match and further screening needs to be done.  She also said that if I don’t hear from her within that timeframe, it means that they do not need my bone marrow at this time, and I will simply remain on the registry.  

If anything comes of this, I will post updates along the way.  But in the meantime, I felt compelled to take a minute and highlight the importance of bone marrow donation.  

Would you please consider joining me as a member of the Be The Match registry?

Don’t underestimate the significance of your decision.  The cure to blood cancer lies in the hands of ordinary people like you and me.  You could be the only person who could save someone’s life through the gift of bone marrow donation.

So what do you say?

For more information about the Be The Match registry, the National Marrow Donor Program, and bone marrow donation, visit www.bethematch.org.

And that’s why we don’t have a dog!

Twelve days ago, the school our kids attend held a Book Fair Carnival for the Lower School.  Every class sponsored a booth.  Games, popcorn, cake walk, bounce house, sack races, and temporary tattoos just to name a few of the … Continue reading