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At the behest of my daughter, Patty, I have been reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. There is a type of creature, sort of, which appears when certain processes occur, both emotional and physical. Sort of a mix between spirits and vibes. So there are angerspren, painspren, gloryspren, deathspren. Lately, I’ve been plagued by Nightspren or maybe worryspren. I suppose you could attach any worry or concern or difficulty or even achievement to “spren.” Sort of a superstitious way of looking at the world. Or possibly a description similar to the idea of giving off a vibe.

Like many parents of kids with autism, I am sometimes awakened in the middle of the night with concerns. Patty says, “Why don’t you call it what it is, Mom. Just plain worry.” She is right of course, no matter how much I try to euphemize it. I think I must give off a vibe. Sometimes, when I am intensely concerned about something, Ralph will walk in from another room and say, “What? What’s going on?” I didn’t say anything. He couldn’t even see me. Sometimes he’ll call me…at work. “Did you call me?” he’ll say. “No, but I was thinking about you intensely.” A kind of telepathy. Perhaps spren is just another idea for processes in the world that we can’t see and don’t understand. Only in The Way of Kings, Sanderson’s characters can see them.

So in the middle of the night, I am pestered by small and large worries:

Mary will be starting training for a job at a computer help desk in 10 days. We hope that she will be able to learn computer language, but what if she can’t? Her spelling is terrible, although she has learned how to use tools available in Microsoft and other programs (like WP) to assist her. What if she gets through the program, but doesn’t pass the certification test? What if she passes everything, but doesn’t get hired for the job? What if she gets the job, but can’t handle the help-line calls? What if my car breaks down? Or the hours mean I can’t drive her back and forth and she has to take the bus? What if the bus doesn’t come in time? And you can see how this goes, round and round my mind goes, racing faster and faster.

And then I think about Patty, and Will, and my job, Ralph’s job, finances, health, war, famine, and pestilence, etc.

From both a physical and spiritual standpoint, I need to stop this; turn it off.

Physically, I have bipolar disorder, and I can’t tolerate sleepless nights for long without having an episode. Sleepless nights also affect my ability to function during the day. Physically, I can quit tossing and turning and get up out of bed, eat something, read a book, clean something that has been bugging me, take pain meds if pain is issue, get a warmer blanket, or find a way to distract myself (usually, the history channel) and then go back to bed.

Spiritually, worry chips away at my faith, my confidence, my strength. Corrie ten Boom, a Christian who survived the death camps during the holocaust, commented, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” I’ve been awake since 3:00 a.m. (one of many early wakings in the last several weeks). Spiritually, St. Peter encourages us to cast our cares upon the Lord, for he cares for you. (I Peter 5:7). If something is waking me up in the middle of the night, it is an opportunity to bring it to the Lord in prayer.

Sometimes if something is waking me up in the middle of the night, it may be time to repent or make a change in our lives. At times, my night time struggles have caused me to own up to going the wrong way in my life (to break up with a boyfriend). Or sometimes, a night time awakening has led me to make a change (Instead of going back to school to become a teacher, I became a legal secretary).

Sleep deprived nights can occur due to circumstances beyond our control. Then what? One of my Sunday School teachers, Ken, was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. He was often in the hospital for extended periods of time. One Sunday when he was able to make it to our class, he said, “When I am in the hospital and can’t sleep due to the pain, I pray for each one of you by name in the watches of the night.” I miss him. Sometimes I have found that when I pray for others in the watches of the night, sleep does come. Not always.

King David from the Old Testament was troubled, yet spiritually sensitive to God. He spent many sleepless nights, sometimes due to his own failures. Yet he wrote of his struggles with sleep in Psalm 63.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:6-8

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What do you find helps when you are pestered with sleepless nights?