Trusting God in sleep

PJ, wearing my sunglasses at a soccer game

Last spring when our old Joe Boxer (literally of the boxer breed) died, he was fairly docile. He grumbled when we had the college men’s soccer team over (he was a woman’s dog), but that was the extent of his grumpiness.

He wasn’t always that way. We got him as a wild, uncontrolled one-year-old, and he didn’t respond to the regular training I’d used with all our other dogs. By the time he was 3, I was fed up with his desire to fight every male dog we encountered and I worried that this aggression might spread to people. I called a dog trainer and shared his history. She asked to see him in our home.

He was tense with her, displaying all the behaviors of an unreliable dog, and when she sat down with me at our dining room table, I could tell she was going to give me bad news.

Then Joe came over and curled up at my feet, quickly slipping into a deep, snoring sleep.

She stopped her lead-up to the “bad news” and looked at me in surprise.

“He trusts you!” she said.


“Dogs don’t sleep like that—“ she pointed to his now fully-splayed-out position—“unless they feel secure with a person.” She looked back up at me. “I think you can work with him.”

I recently re-listened to a sermon by John Piper ( on Psalm 127:2, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.” The most straightforward interpretation of the second half of the verse is simply that God gives us sleep and rest. He allows us the time we need to step away from life, to lose consciousness of stress and concern, heartache and pain. We ALWAYS need this break from life, but it is especially necessary when we are suffering with deep grief or pain. In those times, sleep is one of the greatest blessings.

But Piper pointed out that this interpretation, though completely valid, doesn’t fit with the phrases preceding it. Therefore, based on the context of the verse itself—and the meanings of the Hebrew words used—he suggests another interpretation: “He grants IN sleep to His beloved.”

In our sleep—a resting, trusting sleep—the never-slumbering, never-weary God works for us and in us.

Piper gave the example of preparing for the seminary classes he taught years ago. He would stay up late, trying to get everything right, and wake up stressed about the class. Finally he realized this was a lack of trust.

I identify with his example. I’ve burned the candle at both ends for much of my teaching career. I’ve regularly gone without sleep to get things done and not sacrifice time with my kids. And I’ve trusted and prayed that God would increase my strength even though I was not getting enough sleep (and, for seasons, I think this is valid).

But long-term patterns of this are not healthy. And the pattern I’m currently in of living like this is going a little too long.

Could this be a lack of trust on my part? When I’ve managed my time well and prioritized my tasks and responsibilities, should there be a clear stopping point? What would happen if I really trusted this promise? Really trusted that God will work miracles while I sleep?

Obviously this is not like the elves and the shoemaker. I’m not going to wake up to find my house cleaned and my papers graded. But perhaps the verse “the mercies of the Lord are new every morning” applies to this. At 10 at night, facing a messy house, I feel nothing but frustration. At 2 a.m., bleary-eyed, staring at a computer screen, I lose sight of anything but exhaustion. But in sleep I gain a new perspective. I see those mercies of the Lord. I gain strength. My creativity is refreshed.

Doing my best and then stopping my efforts, allowing for good rest: this requires that I trust God will increase my strength, my creativity, and my thinking IN sleep so that the next day more is miraculously accomplished than what would have gotten done had I stayed up late.

That interpretation fits with the first part of the verse, which tells me that it’s foolish (and counter-productive) for me to stay up late and get up early—in this hamster-in-a-wheel effort to get it all done.

That brings me full circle (no pun intended) to Joe Boxer and his trust in me. The trainer was right. His trust allowed me to work with him, to form a dog-person relationship that transformed him into a dog that was amazing with the twin babies I had less than a year after I talked with that trainer, and with the rambunctious three-year-old we brought home from Africa in Joe’s old age.

Could the same be true with God?

Is my lack of trust in this area hampering His work in my heart? Interfering with my focus?

Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

Jake, being silly and wearing my sunglasses at a soccer game (where much of our afternoon time is spent right now).

For You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.”

This Way, His Way

The four beautiful Del Vecchio women: from left, niece Anna, sister-in-law Cindy, niece Sarah, and niece Grace. Not pictured from their family are my brother Mike and nephew Luke. We visited them this past week for spring break and had a great time. Thank you, Del Vecchios, for hosting our crazy family.

I give the “five minutes till we need to be out the door” call, but four of us are still together in the bathroom. I stretch over Maddie, brushing her teeth at one corner of the sink, so I can lean against the mirror and dab mascara on my lashes. Beside Maddie, PJ shoves for space to spit. Behind us Em scrabbles in the “hair stuff” drawer to find a rubber band for her braid. Then Jake wanders in. I glance at his feet.

“Where are your shoes?”

His eyes go wide.

Shoes? His look says to me. Did you mention shoes?

“Jake, I’ve already asked you three times to put on your shoes!”

“Oh, okay.” He turns to go.

“But don’t you need to brush your teeth?”

He turns back. “Yeah, but you just said to get my shoes.”

“Well you might as well brush your teeth while you’re in here. Patrick, stop wiping your mouth on your sleeve. That’s gross.”

Maddie interrupts. “Mom, what’s today?”


“What day is today?”

“Why does THAT matter right now?”

“I want to read the verse for today, and I don’t know if you’ve already flipped it.”

I hadn’t.

I’d been too rushed.

I look at my watch and tell her the date. She reads the verse aloud, “Psalm 25:4. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.”

And in the fussing of Jake getting to the sink and Patrick and Maddie away from it, of Emily reaching between to wet a hairbrush, I hear the Holy Spirit’s clear whisper: “This is not My Way.”

This: the hustle-bustle that I in large part created with my impatient spirit.

This: the grasping of minutes only as vehicles to “being on time for the ‘bigger’ thing” rather than as gifts in themselves.

This: moments lived without remembrance of the Giver, without heeding what He wants me to see and learn

Suddenly they are gone and I am alone in the bathroom. I lean over the sink, finally still.

Why do I have to learn this lesson over and over? I wonder, but I look again at the verse: Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

I’d read Psalm 25 recently. I know what it teaches about “His Way.”

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust… Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day long.”

Not rushing.


Even in busy moments, waiting—to see God’s gifts, to see HIM. I often think of waiting as inactive, but couldn’t “waiting” be “expectation”? Couldn’t I live each moment expecting that I will see Him in it? That I will learn more about Him in it?

The psalmist did. He wrote, “For You I wait all the day long.”

All the day long!

Every minute lived in expectation that God will be in it!

THAT kind of expecting would affect far more than my rushed moments. It would cause me to “lift up my soul”—my whole being— to God. It would cause me to trust in Him as my complete salvation, my full purpose. It would lead, eventually, to what the psalmist calls friendship (also translated as “secret counsel”) with God (verse 14) and a deep understanding of God’s way—so, so different from ours.

Am I going to live this way—in the hurry-scurry of my middle-class suburbia, this way that leads so easily to a life that’s self-focused and blinded to others’ needs?

Or am I going to live His way?

One small step at a time, one moment leading to the next, listening closely and expectantly to the Holy Spirit’s whisper, trusting that all the moments—the small steps—add up to the everlasting path, the Way of Life.

His Way.

Show me Your ways, my Lord, teach me Your paths.

And then, please, help me to walk, step by step, in Your Way.

Slow down

I took this picture during our trip to Vermont, where life DOES seem a little slower. It made me laugh then and it seemed quite appropriate for today's post. Another sign on the property said this lady sold wool. It was a little late for us to stop and bother her, but I wish we had.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (NLT).

Last Saturday I got sick with a cold, sick enough that I slept through the Saturday noise of my household and still fell asleep early that night. When I got out of the bed Sunday morning, still woozy but better, I felt slowed down. Quick movements made my head feel like the tilt-a-whirl at the carnival.

I actually enjoyed it. I washed the breakfast dishes methodically, enjoying the warm water on my hands. I did only the things that absolutely needed to be done before going to church. When I began to cough during the service, I stepped out, got myself coffee, and chatted with a young mom nursing her baby daughter.

This quiet spirit flowed through the entire day, even through the meal preps and cleanup and the lesson planning for my classes.

Then came Monday.

Vroom, vroom. Let’s go. Hurry, hurry. Lots to do.

I left my lower gear behind and jumped straight to overdrive.

And I lost something really important in the process.

Then my in-laws arrived Thursday afternoon. Though it doesn’t seem so bad to multitask while interacting with my kids, husband, and colleagues, to do that with people you love but don’t live daily life with seems, well, RUDE. I slowed down.

And then, late that night, after everyone else was asleep, I read the next day’s devotional in Jesus Calling (just trying to get a jump on the day, you know). It was about time—literally, “time.” “Don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the go. Many, many things people do in My Name have no value in My kingdom. To avoid doing meaningless works, stay in continual communication with Me.”


The next day I read the Scripture passages that were listed with the devotional. “Mary…sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

I’ll be honest, though I LONG to be a Mary, I identify more with Martha. I often say, “But, Lord, ALL these things HAVE to be done. And quickly!” I can understand exactly how Martha feels.

Then I looked at the passage in a couple other translations. The “had to be made” is absent. The ESV just says “distracted with much serving,” and the Amplified says she was “overly occupied and too busy with much serving.”

What if all my rushing around, my multi-tasking fifth-gear—an attribute so highly praised by our culture—is nothing more than “over-occupation” and “busyness”?

Maybe rushing is, ouch, sin.

Maybe slowing down is “choosing the good portion,” like Mary did. The Amplified says this “good portion” is “to Mary’s advantage.”

There is still much that HAS to be done. But I don’t think my rushing accomplishes it any more quickly. And rushing keeps my focus and concentration off of Christ and on the pile of “has to be done.”

This afternoon, in a conscious effort not to rush it, I left early for an appointment. PJ, in between his morning and afternoon sessions of preschool, was with me. As we walked out the door, he said, “Look, Mommy. It’s snowing. It’s a gift from Jesus.”

We had a couple blessed minutes to stop and watch the gigantic flakes float down, a couple blessed minutes to consider the gift and the Giver.

“Only one thing is needed. … (Choose) “what is better,

And it will not be taken away…” (NIV 84).