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Brain on Alert

When our kids were little we'd often pray with them before bedtime.

(I say "often" because although our goal was to do this every night, some evenings went more like this:

"You kids get into bed! I can't stand to look at any of you anymore and if I see you out of bed I'll ....". Perhaps I should've just written "we were far from perfect".)

Anyway, we started with simple prayers like "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep ..." but before they were too old they'd tell God what they were thankful for, ask Him to bless the people they especially liked that day and asked for what they felt they needed, as well. Our son, the youngest and only boy, was an extremely active child and many an evening would start out strong in his prayer but then, because he'd calmed down for a minute, his voice would fade away. We'd think he'd just stopped to take a breath or was thinking about what to pray next but soon we'd call his name and ... nothing. Fast asleep.

Two nights ago I was awoken at 0440 with a headache that was starved for Tylenol and a bladder ... well ... you know. After making the quick decision in favour of meeting the demands of my bladder, I then slammed an analgesic down and climbed back into bed. I hoped to quickly return to la-la land but nope! I laid there awake for over two hours. The pain in my head dissipated but still ... my brain was on full alert.

(Interestingly, this same grey matter is often challenged to awaken fully in the day time. But at night? A different story.)

Now that I feel more "settled" after retiring and moving (not quite adjusted but more settled, I suppose) I have a theory as to why this is happening. I don't think it's just about anxiety either. I think it's because I've finally quieted down but my brain still aches to work.

Think about it. Our brains surely kick it up a notch as soon as we spit those kids out or, if not from that, for the simple reason that we grow into mature adulthood and have many responsibilities. We must stay alert because we might be feeding a baby at two in the morning, waiting for a teenager to come home or we can't find sleep due to our grey matter synapsing overtime as we mentally gear up for all the challenges that might await us at work the next day.

In previous years I've had much on my mind at any given time but now ... it's like crickets in there and not very loud ones. My brain can't stand it and it really wants to keep working!

As I laid there that night, I decided a new tactic was in order, but only AFTER the clock shone an excessively brilliant 0640. I decided to pray. Of course, it started as a whiny plea that He somehow knock me out, but eventually a few other people came to mind and I started turning my selfishness into more meaningful prayer. Next thing I knew, I'd slept for a few more hours and woke up ... well ... much less alert but I had stuff to do so that figures. At least I woke up!

A friend of mine once told me that she felt guilty when she awoke one morning and remembered she'd fallen asleep as she'd been praying the night before.

I don't think I feel guilty at all about falling asleep while I prayed. After all, I asked to be granted sleep so He answered me faithfully. And two, it showed how God's peace -- that peace that we can't possibly explain or understand -- had been given to me once more.

It's when I took my focus off myself (which I ashamedly admit is often there), and thought of others I love and care for (or maybe some I don't but I prayed for them anyway) that I succumbed into sleep again.

What a fantastic thought! Eyes on Jesus and then ... closed because of Him.

No matter what stage of life you're at -- if you're up in the wee hours remember God is there and He is always listening.

And a most sincere shout-out to all the people who must remain alert as they do their very important jobs at night! I believe God has special attention for you -- all day and ... all night.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

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