Sleep Deprivation and Miracles


Being a mommy must also mean having super hero levels of hearing. From my room down the corridor, I hear the creaking of bedsprings, shuffling and … yes, a door opening. My heart sinks but I fight to hope: maybe it’s one of the other kids. All the lights in the corridor go on and there are pounding footsteps down the stairs, followed by more lights. I can now see the brightly lit backyard through my bedroom window. The sinking feeling in my heart wins. It’s 2:30am and this has been the fifth night in a row of J's night wakings.

Groundhog Day

Before heading downstairs, the disorienting feeling of déjà vu hits me. We went through this a few years ago... a time when the night wakings or non-sleepings were a norm. I remember telling friends that the 2am-4am window is the darkest part of the night. All virtues evaporate, in the face of endless sleepless hours, accumulating over weeks. J has rarely been content to remain awake, happily lying in bed. There was usually crying or running around or demands for food, and the resulting potty accidents. I still remember the exhaustion that felt like a physical ache permeating every bone in my body. Now, listening to J rummaging through the closet downstairs, my tired brain screams, ‘Not again!’

But ‘Again!’ is the hallmark of autism. Whether internally spiraling thoughts or patterned motor actions repeated ad nauseum, 9 out of 10 of the 'autisms' we see today, will cross our paths tomorrow. Like in the movie Groundhog Day, families of kids on the autism spectrum get to move thought the frustration of repetition, hopefully towards the opportunity embedded within the ‘same’.

Perspective Shift

By the time I get downstairs, J is fully dressed for the outside, winter jacket and all, and is handing me his driving vest, while requesting ‘car’. He’s not easily dissuaded from this path and I wonder about the opportunity that I’m supposed to be unearthing. I look intently at the situation. Nope. Nothing here. The sinking feeling feels like an anchor in my stomach.

Have you seen these mannequin challenges that are now popular on youtube? If you haven’t, enjoy one here. One thing that’s always fascinating for me is the constant movement and perspective shifting that’s happening with the camera. What you see depends on how fast you are moving and how close you are to the object of focus. So, I mentally do a mannequin challenge of the moment, 2:42am, Wednesday morning.

  • From one perspective, I’m exhausted, and would like to be sleeping. J is exhausted and NEEDS to be sleeping, to give everyone the best possible experience later at school. My Wednesday is pretty busy too, so I’ll be facing the day at a deficit. The anchor in my stomach begins the corrode. Let’s move the camera... 
  • I’m the only one awake in the house dealing with J and that feels … lonely. Ok, time to move the camera again…
  • Often J comments on having difficulty controlling his body. This must be one of those times (he zips by, up the stairs, then down again). What do I know about defusing compulsion? This is a helpful shift. The sinking feeling feels ... better. I slow down, then stop. breathe. think. pray. Then respond. In faith.

I choose this 'camera position'. Not knowing if anything will work, I focus on helping his body feel better and relax enough to sleep. A few minutes later, past the iterations of massage, calm speaking, essential oils…we are sitting in my office, using a letter board to communicate. After some inquiry on my part, J expresses that he is tired but his body can’t go to sleep. I suggest a small treat.

J: good idea if it helps. 

F: We don’t know what will help but we have to try.

He agrees to the treat and I negotiate for the removal of his winter gear before having the treat.


An hour later, I climb back into bed. While trying to settle down for the short nap ahead before the official wake-up time, I’m enveloped with a warm cloak of scriptures and realizations:

  • Capacity that was missing at 2:30am magically appeared at 2:43am. miracle.
  • Wisdom and ideas that were missing at 2:30am were present at 2:43am. miracle.
  • Frenzy and hyper-rigidity that were present at 2:30am were gone at 2:55am. miracle.
  • God must have helped us
  • I would have missed this example of God’s power and grace if I had chosen another lens for my proverbial camera
  • I can’t know what capacity I will have later today, but replaying the potential challenges won’t help
  • What helps? Replaying the immeasurably more that God could do, by remembering the immeasurably more that He HAS done.

I confess, I don’t want to experience God’s grace at 2:42 in the morning, unless it’s in a dream. I don’t suppose Daniel and Moses and Lazarus and so many others (Hebrews 11 has a great list) necessarily wanted to experience the grace filled miracles that they are known for. But, there’s something about my back against the wall that shows me something about myself, and something about my God.

So today, don’t shrink back. Stand, in faith and see what God will do. He’s given you all you need, and, like most of His provisions, it will show up exactly on time. The divine power of the Holy One will give you and yours all that’s needed. Know this.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Eph. 3:20 (NLT)

And, "But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back."
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
Heb. 10:38-39 (NIV)