Playdates with God: Insomnia

My first spiritual director once told me that before she opens her eyes each morning she lays her plans for the day out before God.
 “This is what I would like to do today,” she tells the Lord. “But if you have other plans…please, feel free.”
So this morning—when I awaken prematurely and cannot return to the embrace of sleep—I think of this dear woman. Lord, there are many things in need of doing, I hum in the dark.
The list seems neverending and I have trouble with that second part of the prayer—the surrender. I let my resistance lead me through the moments of the previous day. I hold each one up before the Light—scrutinize from every angle. Opening my mind as a student allows me to step away from ownership—to step away from pride—and I ask God what I can learn from each one—searching for the blessing. I thank God for the moments that sit sweet in my mind. And for the opportunity to learn from the not-so-sweet.
It’s called the examenprayer and it’s always been hard for me. Too many regrets are carried in my back pocket from day-to-day; too many spilled words. I had a teacher once who referred to the examen as praying with the sacred text of your own lived life. Do I dare to see the moments I’ve breathed through as a sacred text?
In their book Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life Dennis, Sheila, and Matthew Linn tell the story of the orphans of WWII.
During the bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and place in refugee camps where they received food and god care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a pice of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”
The authors tell this story to illustrate how the examen prayer helps us focus on life-giving elements of the passing moments—even in the difficult ones.
As I sift moments in the dark I feel my heart begin to open. I hold on to the bread of grace and I feel my will—supple and light as a willow branch.
Please, I say. Feel free.
The next thing I know I am waking to the sound of the alarm. 
Over at the High Calling we are starting a new book discussion today on The Life of the Body: Physical Well-being and Spiritual Formation by Valerie E. Hess and Lane M. Arnold. Will you join us? It’s a great book about how the choices we make for our bodies impact our spiritual life. 

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

the Playdates button:


  1. Kim says

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful post, Laura. I’m happy to discover your playdates with God!

  2. OutnumberedMom says

    “The bread of grace” — I love that, Laura. To receive it, all we have to do is ask…and let go, open our tight grasp enough to hold fast to what HE has for us. Lovely image, Laura.

  3. Sylvia R @ says

    What a poignant picture is that bread in the orphans’ hands! I had my own rare insomnia the other night, and the getting up and working out of its causes took a bit of time, but it was grace, all grace, just the same. I wish I’d had the imagery of that bread then. But I do now, thank you!

  4. Jody Collins says

    We are all blessed by the fact that you are such an avid reader and you share your ‘crumbs’ with us. (Woke up at 3:30 myself this morning……..maybe it’s the moon?)
    Beautiful post.

  5. says

    I have to say, I don’t always pray the prayer of examen, but when I do, it “frees me” just like God has done for you here, Laura. Thanks for sharing your heart and that story of the orphans–so sweet! It reminds me to hold to the bread of God’s grace as well … for we are so richly blessed. Thanks for this great word of encouragement, my friend!

  6. Diane Bailey says

    I had heard the story of the Orphans years ago, and had forgotten the lesson within. Thank you for such a wonderful reminder to carry in my hand and heart this week.

  7. says

    Isn’t it a sad yet beautiful story, Diane? In the book, the authors also mention Viktor Frankl and his observation in the concentration camp that the men who gave away their meager portion of bread seemed to have a greater survival rate. He said it was because with everything that was taken from them, they were still able to hold on to their dignity.

    It does make one think, doesn’t it?

  8. says

    I rarely have trouble sleeping but lately there are many things weighing on my mind. The image of the bread has helped me too and I’m glad to share it with you, Sylvia!

  9. says

    Isn’t this the truth, Laura? Surrender seems easy enough–until it is required of me. But this–the reassurance that my needs will be met–this is what God gives. And this is grace.

  10. Diane Bailey says

    Laura, that is so scriptural ( Isaiah 58) Also, as Jesus said, My food is to do the work of the Lord. When we obey His Word, even when it goes against human survival, God comes in and honors His people! Whoohoo! Love the way God works!

  11. says

    Hold on to the bread. Love that visual image. I’ll try to remember it when I lie down tonight…hold on to that life-giving grace. Thanks again, Laura!

  12. Mia says

    Dear Laura
    What an incredible story about these little ones!! I am so very grateful that once we have received our Lord Jesus, we have the Living Bread of Life living in us and us in Him. What more could we ask for in this life.

  13. SimplyDarlene says

    Ah. That part about the orphans… For the last few years, especially since all of our moves, I’ve been waking up in the mornings with my hands clenched so tight in fists that it literally takes me a few minutes to uncurl my fingers. I never thought of the timeliness of it, until just now.

    And He is there, all along, while I’m curled or not.


  14. Diane | says

    Someone else recently shared that story about the orphans…there is something there to think about….
    The Examen prayer…I’ll go to your link to learn more. This is totally new to me. But…what’s interesting is that our pastor referred to using/doing this prayer a few times in his message Sunday. Hmmm….I think maybe there might be a nudge in this. Yes?

  15. kingfisher says

    So glad, Laura, to hear how you’ve taught your mind to look at Him and contemplate His meaning in your life, amidst the ordinary, and in all things — even during a bout of insomnia. I know that “seeking and finding” didn’t happen overnight, but through diligent practice.

    Love ya.

  16. says

    Examen prayer… you live your entire life as a christian and think you are a know-it-all and then you read this blog. Love how God is in the business of putting me in my place. FYI, I really am in no way or shape a christian know-it-all 🙂 I do love the idea of this kind of prayer!

  17. says

    I read Richard Foster’s book Prayer earlier this year, and he has a whole chapter on the prayer of examen. I need to go back to that chapter…. thanks for this nudge. 🙂

  18. says

    Oh, friend, I wish we could have swapped prayers in the dark hours before morning- I’ve decided that those waking hours really are a gift if I can just open my hands/ears and listen for His voice. Love this-definition – praying with the sacred text of your own lived life.
    I may need to ponder that one line all day!

  19. soulstops says

    I love that book, and how you found the grace to surrender your day to Him as you prayed the examen…what are those gorgeous pink flowers? Love to you, my friend 🙂

  20. says

    Oh Laura,
    I really like this. May I use part of this and link back to your site. I write at Under the Cover of Prayer and we are always looking for guest posts (or contributor posts).

  21. says

    Isn’t it a sweet book? I need to re-read the entire thing as a refresher.

    Those flowers are lilac blooms from my bush. They smell soooo good on the table.

  22. says

    If I had your company in those wee hours it sure would be a gift :). I don’t know what it is about this decade–I’ve never had trouble sleeping in my life. But this body is switching a lot of things up on me…

  23. says

    Isn’t Foster’s book on prayer beautiful? I’m crazy about his Celebration of the Disciplines. It keeps me fresh when I try different methods. And this time–sure helped me get back to sleep 🙂

  24. says

    🙂 Lisa. I didn’t think you were a know-it-all…at all! Isn’t that the great thing about this faith journey? Its so rich and deep there’s no way we can ever know it all.

    Nice to see you here, friend.

  25. says

    All along. You know that old wives tale about sleeping with a piece of wedding cake under your pillow and how it says you’ll dream of your future groom? I wonder what will happen if I sleep with my Bible under the pillow? Maybe one of those little copies of the New Testament so I don’t get a stiff neck…

  26. says

    Don’t you love those little nudges, Diane? Let me know where the nudging takes you. It’s an ancient practice and one I find very sweet. Nothing like going through the day with my Sweetheart.

  27. says

    I know a young woman, adopted as a child from Korea, who arrived in this country clutching a piece of stale bread. It’s powerful imagery–today I ate, and I will eat tomorrow of this Living Bread.

    And this, “and I ask God what I can learn from each one—searching
    for the blessing.” I need to practice this–searching for the blessing, looking for the mercy.

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