My Pillow Has Four Corners {The Grove: Crave}

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I know I’m accruing a sleep deficit when I wake up in the morning wondering when I get to sleep again. I lie in bed and plot the day by the compass on which NAP is true north. This is my clue that an adjustment is in order.

There are four things that help me make that adjustment.

Look at the Science

Sleep is a great mystery, but we’re learning ever more about it, and it’s awesome. Much more than the yin to the yang of an active day’s work, sleep is a different kind of productivity. It’s inextricably linked to physical, mental, and spiritual vitality.

How much we need to sleep and how well we are able to sleep is influenced by gender and genetics, and changes with age and the demands we experience during the day.

Far from an indulgence, a nap is a perfectly legitimate way to meet sleep needs.

Respect Limitations

A note to new field workers and language learners

During my first year overseas, I had a lot of energy and enjoyed where I was and what I was doing, and I slept a lot compared to the way I slept before I went overseas. I could easily sleep nine hours at night and still nap for one-two in the afternoons.

I felt guilty for sleeping so much, and thought I needed another dose of self-discipline. Turns out I was doing just what I needed to be doing because that energy for enjoying a new culture and learning a new job came from those long hours I logged.

Ditto language learners. Your brains need that sleep you crave to assimilate the new material you’re learning. That cup of coffee and extra hour of studying does you much less good than calling it a day.

A note to caregivers

If you are among the warriors caring for another around the clock – nursing mothers, shift workers, parents of children with special needs, children of aging parents – the night vigil you keep is sacred. Psalm 134 is for you:

Come, bless God, all you servants of God! You priests of God, posted to the night watch in God’s shrine, Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place, and bless God. In turn, may God of Zion bless you—God who made heaven and earth!

Get Permission from The Psalms

God does not sleep, but He seems to delight that we do. Two of the Songs of Ascent speak about sleep, and Kimberlee Conway Ireton has recently written about them. I highly encourage you to read these psalms and posts contemplatively.

Ascent: Psalm 125

Ascent: Psalm 127

Adopt an Evening Prayer

Sometimes I have a hard time transitioning. I’m like a toddler fully engaged in play when a parent sweeps her up and says, “Time to go!” I resist. One more task, one more click, one more… Prayer is that gentle, nurturing space in which I can let go of the undone, call it enough, and settle into stillness.

I thank you, my God, for your care and protection this day, keeping me from physical harm and spiritual ignorance. I now place the work of the day into your hands, trusting that you will redeem my mistakes, and transform my accomplishments into works of praise.

 And now I ask that you will work within me while I sleep, using the hours of my rest to create in me a new mind and heart and soul.

 May my mind, which during the day was directed to my work and activities, through the night be directed wholly to you.[i]

 Or a short form:

Save me, O Lord, while I am awake, and keep me while I sleep that I may wake in Christ and rest in peace.[ii]

Do you crave more sleep? What helps you make adjustments to healthfully satisfy that craving?


This is The Grove.  It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt “Art”.  Click here for details and instructions. 


[i] Jacob Boehme. Taken from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

[ii] Adapted from The Short Breviary. Taken from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.



  1. Michele Womble April 7, 2016

    Thank you for the post, Kimberly!  I’ve got to run off right now, but I’ll be back soon.

    1. Michele Womble April 7, 2016

      “God does not sleep, but He seems to delight that we do.”  Never thought about that paradox – He doesn’t – but He made us to and blesses us with sleep.  Something for me to ponder…

      1. Elizabeth April 7, 2016

        Amen Michele! Did you see the article from Amber Haines in last week’s Have You Seen? It talked about the brain needing sleep in order to repair. Fascinating to me that something that seems so passive to us is really quite active in God’s hands!

        1. Michele Womble April 7, 2016

          No, I didn’t, but I will go look at it.  Yes – it must be quite active, if it’s the first order of business!

        2. Kimberly Todd April 8, 2016

          I didn’t see it either. I love to hear an idea explained in multiple ways.

  2. Elizabeth April 7, 2016

    Funny to read this love letter to sleep just after getting a horrible night’s sleep because of a 3-hour middle-of-the-night-hot-season power outage while also taking care of a child with GI stuff. So I’m struggling with headaches and fatigue today. 🙁

    But in general I try to prioritize sleep. Best way it was explained to me is that the morning starts the night before — we see that in Genesis 1 in creation — “there was evening and there was morning” — and also the fact that the Sabbath (and all days) began the evening before. I love that God gives us this example in His word, or else I might not actually believe it’s true! (I’m a natural night owl.)

    So I try to go to bed on time so I can get that reparative sleep. I used to take regular naps when I had nappers, but there was a season when they were too old for naps but not old enough to be left alone. Thankfully now they are old enough I can take a nap if I want, though I don’t do it super often. 🙂 Even with all those sleep precautions, though, I’ve been extra tired lately. Falling asleep early and still being tired the next day. So I think it’s fair to say I’m craving sleep too!

    The other thing I’ve been really craving lately is nature. Sometimes I sit back in the middle of my stress and think, what is the thing I really want right now? And the immediate answer I think of is to get out of this concrete crater of a city and see some of God’s creation. Not really any parks here either. Even just thinking about getting out into nature makes me take a deep, happy breath. Last week I did go to the river front which is beautiful with palm trees and had a wonderful breeze over the water. And soon I’m going up into the hill country here and really going to enjoy the nature up there. Because I think it’s time for me to start breathing again.

    1. Michele Womble April 7, 2016

      That is so cool about the morning starting the evening before!  Cool, and true.  I never thought about that.  I think it would give me a perspective shift about the morning.  And maybe even sleep.  So if the day starts the evening before, then we are (sort) of sleeping during peak hours, in a way – the first part of the day.  We tend to think of ending our day by going to sleep – but actually we’re starting the day by going to sleep, and in order to start it well we need to sleep well…


      I can’t nap. Unless I’m sick or have jet lag.  I wish I could, but usually naps are not long enough for me to get my mind to stop circling…

      Breathing – Elizabeth! It’s definitely time you start breathing again.   Praying for your trip up into the hill country – is it already scheduled or something you’re hoping will happen?

      1. Elizabeth April 7, 2016

        Already scheduled and hoping no sick children interfere with it! Going with our team and have been looking forward to it basically all year 🙂 Thanks for the prayers! We are recovering today by canceling Friday lessons (who needs ’em at a time like this?) and playing games and reading books. It is so life-giving already that I wonder why I don’t say “no” more often to the urgency of unanswered emails and just sit and enjoy my children. I think this is an important lesson I’m learning!

        1. Michele Womble April 7, 2016

          Will be praying for your trip.  For children all well!

          Do you do a Sabbath day or a day off?  Years ago we made Fridays our day “off” – no lessons, no going anywhere, phones turned off, (and our doorbell didn’t work anyway – that’s a long story, but yes we did welcome guests in general but the doorbell not working sort of deflected the random stuff).  (I thought of that because you said you cancelled Friday lessons).  Friday was basically our family day.  sleeping in, (when the kids too small to sleep in but old enough to get their own breakfast, we would leave them a note to find in the morning with funny pictures on it and a funny story, and then instructions on what to eat for breakfast and the movie that we had set up in teh VCR for them to watch – it bought us another hour or so of sleep!)  long quiet times, lots of reading, (sometimes walks) playing games with kids, puzzles, movie night (kids movie) with a traditional Friday night meal (pelmini – Russian dumplings) and all English all day, which was particularly important during the first 5-10 years when our brains needed to recover from language.  Having that one day every week made a HUGE difference for us.  Maybe even all the difference.  The rest of the week can be filled and us all running 90 to nothing, but we can do it, because of Friday.

          Anyway – I just though of that because you said you guys relaxed on Friday.

          1. Elizabeth April 8, 2016

            Fridays usually have a lighter workload, but we still do school. 🙂

            And I’m not very good about taking a whole day off to Sabbath. It’s something that we’re brainstorming about though, as often I will do some ministry on Saturday, my only day off of homeschooling that’s somewhat free, as Sundays are already tied up. But then on Saturday the family misses out on a what we call a “Family Day.” So we are in talks to fix that! Last weekend I declared a “no work weekend,” and that was great.

            Thanks for asking — it’s something we’re definitely working on improving!

          2. Michele Womble April 8, 2016

            We do light school on Saturday instead of on Friday, (most – or many – Russian schools have some school classes on Saturday)  so that Friday can be completely off  – not that it has to be Friday, of course, but for us Saturday tends to be a good ministry day – people are available – and therefore a bad day off day…there are exceptions, of course, (like conferences, retreats, for one) but generally it works out…but of course, at first, we had to really fight for it….it also feels selfish at first, but I truly feel like it better enables us to do the things we do during the week with more energy and motivation.  When we started doing that, I stopped getting so burned out. (We had to be sent on a “vacation” at the end of our first year because I was exhausted, literally my brain was shutting down).  Some folks maybe don’t need a full day  – but I definitely do – and also for our kids it was really good that no matter how busy we might be during the rest of the week, they knew that time was coming each week when we were just going to be there without an agenda.)

            Praying for you guys to work out what works best for you….

    2. Spring April 7, 2016

      I also love your thoughts about when a good sleep starts!

    3. Kimberly Todd April 8, 2016

      Oh, me too with craving nature. I catch myself daydreaming about taking my children camping. I need to figure out where and when to do that. Enjoy the hill country!!

  3. Michele Womble April 7, 2016

    I am that toddler!  It’s so hard for me to refrain from doing “just one more task” – and that’s partly because once everyone else goes to bed I can actually really focus on something – even though I also really do love sleeping.   For me, too, if I just hit the pillow straight from the task – I’m going to be up awhile while the gears keep turning in my mind.  So I try to read 15-30 minutes before bed – preferably something without a lot of action, not too exciting  – and something I’ve already read and enjoyed – so that I already know what’s going to happen and can just enjoy the reading but am not tempted (too much!) to keep on reading…..(or it’ll become the next “just one more thing”  🙂 )

    Praying before sleep – yes.  But I have to be careful here, too, because I can start the gears to turning again.  Something about my mind – it doesn’t shut off very easily.  Unlike my husband, who has a button on the back of his head that powers everything off when his head hits the pillow.

    1. Elizabeth April 7, 2016

      Oh my goodness, YES, relate to every single word you wrote here!

    2. Kimberly Todd April 8, 2016

      I understand. This is one of the reasons it helps me to pray prayers written by someone else. It quiets my mind, rather than revving it up.

  4. Spring April 7, 2016

    Wow thanks for the thoughts on sleep.  I struggle a lot with being able to sleep and the dogs next door do not help.. I have found that lack of sleep leads to a host of other issues!

    Personally I like to take naps if it doesn’t keep me awake at night..

    1. Elizabeth April 7, 2016

      No, the dogs do not help!! I’m feeling your pain!

      And agree, the lack of sleep leads to so many other problems!

    2. Michele Womble April 7, 2016

      oh, SO HARD to struggle with sleep.  I’ve had insomnia before, it is not fun. Praying right now for your sleep – you’re so right that if you can’t sleep then so much else gets “off”.  (not to mention your immune system not able to do its job) praying for you, Spring.

      I LIKE to take naps, too, so it’s kind of a special treat when I have jet lag and can actually go to bed in the day. I’d say it’s a special treat when I’m sick, as well, which is sort of true, but then it sounds like there’s something wrong with me that I like being sick – I dont’, except that it IS nice to nap during the day, even when I’m sick.    I dont’ know why I can’t, in general, I just can’t.  I’ve tried.

  5. Ruth April 8, 2016

    Having a time of prayer and reflection before I go to bed helps me life in lots of different ways.  My current favorite prayer is from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.  It is in the compline (evening prayers), on pg. 36-37 in the pocket edition.

    “This is what we are about: we plant the seeds that will one day grow.  We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

    We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.  That enables us to do something, and to do it well.  It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

    We may never see the results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.  We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.  We are prophets of a future not our own.”

    1. Kimberly Todd April 8, 2016

      I’ve been stalking that book! I have it on reserve at the library, and can hardly wait for my turn. =) That’s a fantastic quote. Thanks for writing it out, Ruth.

  6. Kat W April 10, 2016

    Wow, how timely was your post! I was just processing with a friend about how even though I’m sleeping a lot more than usual (3rd year in China, hitting the end of my energy again quickly this season), every time I do I rarely get real rest, because I’m so busy feeling like I’m being lazy, or feeling huge amounts of guilt over the things I could be doing instead of “wasting time” napping.

    I’ve read the post on guilt and have to constantly struggle with balancing having a healthy rhythm of life while still doing all the things required of my org. Sleep in particular has been the most difficult issue every season I’ve lived overseas. I really needed to read this today!

    Thanks for speaking to where I am! (And it looks like many others).

    1. Kimberly Todd April 10, 2016

      Kat, I’m so pleased! I know that struggle and I pray for you a breakthrough into regular restorative rest and peace of mind. Thank you for this encouraging comment.

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