The Things that Wake Up When the Lights Go Out [thoughts on sleeplessness]

A lot of things came together to inspire this post.

I’m not usually an insomniac, but a few times a month something comes up that keeps me awake when I’m trying to sleep, something that wakes up when the lights go out. My Grandpa rarely—if ever—sleeps through the night because of all his broken parts. The little boy I nanny suffers from nightmares. Many dear ones feel the weight of life most keenly when it’s time to sleep and they’re alone with their thoughts. And there are so many others. Thus, this post.

So this goes out to all those who are as wakeful as I am and especially to those who are more so. These are the measures I take to make use of the time when I’d rather be sleeping and/or combat the things lurking in the dark. Pick and choose what proves helpful for you.

wake when the lights go out feature image.jpg

Things can go… bad in the dark, after the lights have been turned off, the covers have been snuggled under, and the silence has set in.

Sometimes the mind shakes off any semblance of sleepiness and decides to wake up all the way and ruminate over the stresses of life—the next bill to be paid, the child who left God, the mess that is the relationship with a friend, the car that is currently throwing that check engine light again (like, it must be doing it just for kicks now, right?), upcoming tests that you feel like you should be cramming for instead of trying to catch up on all your sleep debt, or whatever other stressers might be robbing you of your sleep.

Sometimes the mind takes a darker turn, one toward self-harm and inadequacy and silent tears and a sense of helplessness. Isolation folds in and a millstone drops on the chest, suffocating, crushing, draining.

Sometimes the mind twists toward something else, something more alluring. Fantasies in the dark can feel anonymous, an inviting cocoon to drop into in the wake of loneliness and unfulfilled emotional and physical desires.

Other times, the mind runs its merry way right to sleep… but then the whole body is frozen awake by a nightmare that leaves the heart racing and the mind shivering. Every sound in the hall is the footstep of humanity’s most depraved approaching the bedroom door.

And yet other times still, wakefulness isn’t due to stress so much as it’s due to bones that were once broken and still ache enough to keep you awake. A hip, a back, a migraine, something physical that won’t let rest come.

So here are four things that help me.

Pray. I am a firm believer in the sweet tenderness that God has for his people and that he is more than able to meet every one of my needs—including pouring out the purest comfort on my unsettled heart and mind. So, when rest is not restful, I pray with honesty. There’s nothing more peaceful than taking refuge in God and falling asleep aware of his presence. That begins with prayer. And don’t pray only for yourself. Sometimes it seems as though God is keeping me awake just so I can pray for the people he brings to mind.

Music. Music helps pull my mind from wherever it is to look at God and offer tranquil worship as I rest on the truth shared beautifully in the lyrics. Some of my favorite restful songs include Fall Afresh by Jeremy Riddle, Come Thou Fount performed by Kings Kaleidoscope, Surely Goodness, Surely Mercy by Shane and Shane, Far Too Wonderful by Shane and Shane, Sweet Hour of Prayer performed by Casting Crowns, and Captain by Hillsong (feel free to check out my sleep playlist on Spotify). Pick some songs that encourage and calm you and play them quietly when you’re having trouble sleeping. (You do have to be careful that you don’t train yourself to rely on music to fall asleep.)

Psalms. I’m a bit over the moon about the book of Psalms (which may be part of why I cannot recommend the entire Psalms Vol. II album by Shane and Shane enough; seriously, go look the album up and listen to Lord of Hosts – Psalm 46 first). The Psalmists knew how to commune with God, and they understood the dearness of intimacy with the Lord of Hosts. Turning on a lamp and slowly reading some Psalms draws me back to the God of peace.

Meditation. Take advantage of the opportunity to meditate on Scripture or work on whatever passage you are currently memorizing. Remember that this is the mightiest of swords we’re talking about here; there is no foe that can withstand the words of God. So use the Sword; make it part of your heart, mind, and soul. There are few better uses of your sleeplessness.

All these things help me, and I hope they help the restless of you too.

Do you struggle with insomnia? What do you usually do? What would you add to my list?

With love,


P.S. – did anybody notice that these four suggestions in this order make “P.M.P.M.”. Which is kind of swanky since we sleep at nighttime which is called “The P.M.”. Just sayin’.

P.P.S. – also, extra points to me for taking a picture of my meager seaglass collection and randomly throwing it up on the ol’ blog for a post on sleeplessness. #winning

The Psalm 119 Challenge

Psalm 119 is famous (perhaps infamous) for being the longest chapter in the Bible, reaching 176 verses.

See, we don’t really pay much attention to Psalm 119. Psalm 23 is the poster child for the book of Psalms, and it seems like the other Psalms (especially 119) get ignored or skimmed. Typically, church kids memorize verses 11 and 105 of Psalm 119 at an early age, but I don’t think we usually look beyond those to the rest of the chapter because it’s loooooooooooong (remember, a whopping 176 verses).

The length, not the content, is Psalm 119’s claim to fame, and so its beauty and power have been forgotten. I’ve been going through Psalm 119 for my devotions for the last month, and I can’t believe that I used to think it was a meh chapter. Psalm 119 is about God’s Word and our response to it, and reading it has changed how I view Scripture.

The Psalm 119 Challenge 2016 feature image

The Challenge:

I challenge you to read all of Psalm 119 every day for the next 31 days (aka: the month of August).

The Benefits:

– Inspires a new appreciation for Scripture.

References to God’s Word as precepts, rules, law, testimonies, ways, commandments, and statutes are made 158 times over the course of these 176 verses. When you read how the Psalmist views God’s Word, you will be both amazed and inspired.

– Helps fight against temptation.

All Scripture can help fight against temptation, but after reading all the way through Psalm 119 for about six consecutive days, you’ll begin to notice that lines and verses from Psalm 119 will start coming to mind when you’re tempted. This has been a blessing to me personally.

– A closer walk with Christ.

Any time that you spend in the Word will strengthen your relationship with Christ. Psalm 119 is no different. This challenge is every single day in the Word, and I think very few (myself included) are used to 31 days straight of having a quiet time. This naturally draws you closer to Christ.

– Cultivates a curiosity in the other Psalms.

After reading Psalm 119 for a few days, you’ll begin to wonder what other gems you missed in this beautiful book. The Psalms are so full of wisdom and incredible examples of true devotion, true repentance, true love, true worship (guys, Psalms is one of my favorite books of ever).

Terms/themes to keep an eye out for while you read:

– Delight

– Meditate/meditation

– Long/longing

– Love/loving

– Keep/keeping

(You can download this list; it has more terms as well as some questions to consider. They’re kind of no-brainer questions, but I’m trying to be a good little blogger and give you “resources”.)

Tips for getting the most out of Psalm 119:

– Don’t skim; read carefully. Personally, it helps me to read Scripture aloud (especially a Psalm) because then I’m seeing the words, saying the words, and hearing the words. It reinforces the ideas and helps me stay focused.

– Set aside enough time. Of course, you can use this challenge in addition to your usual devotion if you have one, but I personally recommend letting this take over your devotion time for this month. It’s been taking me about 15 minutes to read all the way through Psalm 119, and I read average speed (I think). When you’re sitting down to read Psalm 119, it’s probably best to set aside at least twenty minutes to afford some time for prayer and reflection. As with any devo time, the longer, the better.

– Write down thoughts as you read. Keep track of any themes that you notice, verses that stick out to you, or any other ways that the Holy Spirit speaks to you. It’s fantastic to look deeper at these verses whenever you get the chances.

– Pray Psalm 119:18 before you begin reading. “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.”

– Morning is better. It’s best to start the day with Psalm 119 because then it affects how you think and act throughout the day.

My last request.

Every day, please pick one or two verses that you will focus on throughout that day. Write them down on an index card and keep it in your pocket. Whenever you get the chance—in line at the store, waiting for some water to boil, eating lunch, etc.,—pull that card out and reflect on those verses.

So! The gauntlet has been thrown! The challenge has been issued! Will you accept?

P.S. – I’ll be sharing my verse picks a couple times a week on Facebook and/or Twitter.

P.P.S. – And please share your findings with me! I would love to know how God uses this Psalm in your live just as He uses it in mine!