6 Ways to Combat Sleep Deprivation

If you’re a parent of a child on the spectrum or with special needs, you know that wakeful nights are not just for babies. You know that there will be seasons (sometimes much too frequent or much too long) when your kiddo will wake overnight, sometimes several times.

In other words, your days of dealing with sleep deprivation may not yet be behind you (says this mama whose 5.5 year old woke three times last night). So, here are a few suggestions to help you on those mornings when you wish you could sleep for eight more hours but it’s time to get moving (even if that movement is extremely slow-going).

Caffeine is your friend

IMG_7406Research shows that caffeine improves reaction time and logical response in those who get less-than-optimal sleep time (can you say parenthood?). It can help improve energy levels and perhaps get you over that hump from bleary-eyed, foggy-brained zombie to (minimally) functioning parent.

It’s not a long-term solution, but the eternal optimist in me also chooses to believe that this circumstance will be short-lived and my sweet girl will be sleeping through the night again soon.

Partner with God

Even on my good days I try to start my day with God to help set my rudder for the day. But on the days when I’ve slept in two-hour bursts and been awakened two or more times, I find it absolutely essential to pray as soon as my brain stirs into a semi-awake state.

For me, it’s not just about starting the day with Him, it’s about spending the day with Him: praying ceaselessly, reading encouraging devotionals, planting His Word, and therefore planting His Hope, His Truth and His Peace in my heart.


Assign Positive Intent

Unlike pouring a cup of coffee for a caffeine infusion, this idea takes a bit more effort, but it will make a big difference if you do it. For me, it’s far too easy to want to blame my sweet kiddo for my mood because “it’s her fault I didn’t get any sleep.” But the danger in this fault-finding way of thinking is that it sets you against your kiddo rather than putting you on the same side of this difficult circumstance.

Remember, your kiddo isn’t doing this to spite you or to manipulate you. For reasons she may not be able to express, she isn’t sleeping well. She needs you to love her unconditionally through this. She’s feeling the effects of little sleep, too, but, unlike you, she doesn’t have the brain development or life experience to process this in a reasonable way.

Engage Survival Mode

You have permission to do the bare minimum. Everybody gets fed, everybody gets plenty of water, everybody takes necessary bathroom breaks and everybody gets good doses of downtime. Anything else is the gravy on this bare-bones meal of success.

(p.s. Protein is your friend; make sure snacks and meals include plenty of it, starting with breakfast.)

Start the Day with Protein

This is a smart choice no matter how you’re sleeping, but when you’re operating on little sleep, protein is a must. Protein will help get your brain firing at its best and boost your alertness. So, skip the cereal and go for the protein (for you and the kiddos).

IMG_7407Be Generous with Grace

Let’s face it. These ideas aren’t foolproof and don’t guarantee 100% success. Will they help? Absolutely. But will they also fall short of what you need at some point during the day(s) when you’re exhausted from little sleep.

Be generous in doling out grace, not just for your family, but for you, too.

Remember, parenting isn’t about perfection, it’s about relationships. It’s about love. Because even on the worst days, love covers a multitude of mess ups.

Not Why God; But God, Because God

Some days what I want are answers. I want clarity and wisdom and the ability to meet my daughter where she is; I want answers.


I want to know the why behind all of the questions and confusion I have as I try to navigate through the maze of Asperger’s and special needs and sensory issues and anxiety. I want to know where God is, yes, but even more, I want to know His why.

Trust me. I’ve heard the sermons and read the devotionals about not asking, “Why?” because that’s not the right question.

Even so, some days, like today, I find myself crying out, “Why, God?”

Why Asperger’s?

Why our girl?

Why us?

And the questions snowball from there.

Did we do something wrong?

Did we wait too long to have our children (something at least one doctor intimated as we began the evaluation process)?

Why our girl if we don’t see Autism or Asperger’s in either of our families?

And all of those Why? questions burn inside me, building up an anger that feels justified.

It’s not and I know that. Deep in my heart, I know the anger is about the pain and the fear and the unknown I face each day. I know the anger is really grief; this isn’t how things were supposed to be.

my girlAnd, yet, this is where we are. This is who she is; and she is amazing.

Eventually, the anger recedes and the longing returns. The longing for hope and the longing for His presence even when my eyes are focused too much on me than on Him.

Anyone who has faced the unknown – disease, death of a loved one, job loss, bankruptcy, disability – has stood on the threshold of Why? and the threshold of anger. Fist-shaking, it’s-not-fair, anger at God.

Fortunately, for me, I know He’s big enough for my anger and my questions and my fears and for my grief. I know He’s big enough to shoulder the burdens I cannot.

When I’m standing in the midst of a life awash in the unknowns of Asperger’s, overwhelmed with the reality that I don’t know what to do to help my sweet girl, I need hope more than anger. I know this because in the last 7.5 years I’ve been angry at my daughter, my husband, myself, at circumstances, at Asperger’s, at God.

And that anger has done little to get me through unconsolable crying or through sleepless nights or through days where I long for connection in the face of isolation. But hope?

Hope has carried me through a moment I wasn’t sure I could face.

Hope has reminded me that I am exactly who my girls need me to be.

Hope has provided the light that guided me through the dark moments.

Hope has allowed me to breathe.

Oh, I wish I could tell you that it’s an easy choice to pick hope over anger, but it’s not. The Why? is so much stronger than anything. It’s stronger than the desire for hope sometimes.

But God.

God is stronger when I stumble and when I fall.

God is stronger than my grief.

God is stronger than my fear.

God is stronger.

But God.

When you find yourself walking in the shadows of life’s unknowns, hold fast to just two words: But God.

IMG_7303Those words won’t change your circumstances. Never once have those words stopped a meltdown or provided instant clarity in an Asperger’s moment. But those words have stopped my downward spiral into anger and darkness.

Those words have given me enough of a respite to breathe and to meet my daughter where she is. Because God meets me where I am. Because when God meets me where I am, He holds out hope. His hope.

Because God.

Stronger Than Yesterday


It’s easy for me to hold on to hope and faith and God’s promises when the day is smooth sailing and basically meeting my expectations. Faith in those moments requires almost no effort.

And therein lies the problem.

Because I am not actively engaging my hope – my faith – when the seas of my life are placid, my hope, my faith, evaporates quickly when storms erupt. Like yesterday.

Yesterday is what I like to call one of my Peter moments; specifically that moment when Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples and closest friends, responded to Jesus’s invitation to step out of the boat he was in and meet Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. Immediately, Peter climbs out of the boat and takes a few steps before the storm overwhelmed his senses and he began to sink, crying out to Jesus to come to him and to save him (Matthew 14:22-33).

crashing wavesEvery morning, Jesus calls to me and invites me to join Him where He is. Every morning, like Peter, I respond without hesitation and step out of the boat that is my safe haven. I step out to join Him in the adventure of my life and to live it boldly and confidently in the face of whatever comes.

In the face of Asperger’s and parenting unconditionally and special needs and living out the God-given dream that He placed in my heart and designed just for me. A dream that includes writing, serving my family in love, parenting unconditionally, building an extraordinary marriage and creating with Him, living in community and guiding and empowering my girls into who God designed them to be.

Of course, adventure involves risk and it involves unknowns. It also tends to include paths that are not smooth and that test my resolve, my hope, my faith. Because of this, I know I need to keep my eyes on Jesus and not on my circumstances. Sometimes I succeed.

Yesterday I did not.

Yesterday,when faced with an overwhelming meltdown in the middle of the behavioral center waiting room I took my eyes off Jesus and like Peter I quickly sank into the storm. In place of hope, doubt. In place of boldness, humiliation. In place of faith, frustration, desperation, hurt.

If you’re a parent of a child who is more, perhaps you’ve been there, in that moment when doubt wraps itself around you and you sink into despair. You wonder if you’re doing anything right and worry what all those other parents watching you must be thinking about you. You question everything you thought you knew and how you’ve been doing this whole parenting thing.

It doesn’t take long to lose your hope and your faith and find yourself like Peter, like me, gasping for breath and calling out to Jesus for help. I didn’t cry out immediately. Instead I let the lies seep in and I followed them down the rabbit hole of fear and doubt, led into darkness by the voice of my worst critic – me.

Whether you’re a parent or not, perhaps you’ve experienced similar moments. Maybe you’ve faced storms that upend everything you think and believe. Storms that cause you to lose sight not only of Jesus but of who you are in Him.

Well, here’s the good news. Those moments are building you up even as you’re sinking down into the depths of doubt and darkness. Until yesterday, I’d read the verses and heard people talk about how trials provide us the opportunity to grow and to persevere and to become more of who God calls us to be, but they were merely words.

Until yesterday, they were words without real meaning or serious application.

Until yesterday.

Because yesterday, though I sank into the familiar dark and doubt, I was different. I stopped in my tracks, the rabbit hole tracks leading into wallowing desperation and the enemy’s lies, and I sought Jesus’s face. I called on His name and His promises. I broke into prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for wisdom.

IMG_7303And He met me there, reminding me who I am in Him, renewing my hope and whispering His Truth to my heart, my world-weary mama heart, through His Spirit living in me. As with Peter, Jesus pulled me to safety and then reminded me that I can trust Him; that I should trust Him by now.

And I do. More today than yesterday.

So today, like yesterday, when He calls me to join Him in the adventure of this life I’ve been given in Him and through Him, I step onto the waters and know that I will take more steps in faith today because of yesterday.

Today I am stronger than yesterday. And you are, too, friend. You are, too.

Victory over Despair

I will not despair because God is always good. These words embrace for me the promise God gives us in Psalm 27:13.

imageI will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Those are powerful words that supply hope to a world-weary soul. I can choose to despair or I can choose to see God’s goodness and know He cares for me.

He cares for me.

Even when Asperger’s is at its worst. <I see the goodness of the Lord in my daughter’s gift for art as she sits and draws a story when we were supposed to be doing math>

Even when there is no solid plan in place for dinner. <I see the goodness of the Lord in the laughter over a simple meal of grilled cheese for one child and scrambled eggs for the other>

Even when you have little left to give. <I see the goodness of the Lord in a red-bellied woodpecker perched upon my windowsill and who looks at me as if to remind me that I am seen and that I am known by the Creator>

Even when you want to quit. <I see the goodness of the Lord in the respite provided when a favorite song plays on the radio as I clean the kitchen for the tenth time today>

imageEven when the five year old gets up at 5:15 am and grumps through a good portion of the day. <I see the goodness of the Lord in the joy she expresses as she digs in the dirt and feels the earth beneath her hands>

Even when your joy seems elusive. <I see the goodness of the Lord in the way the sun strikes the trunk of a tree just outside the living room window so that the bark shimmers like gold>

Even when the day is far longer than the energy reserves you’ve got. <I see the goodness of the Lord in the clock reminding me that bedtime and songs and snuggles are near and feel God’s strength holding me up>

Even when fear rises up like a giant. <I see the goodness of the Lord in the five promises written on the white board in my kitchen from Isaiah 54:17, from 1 Corinthians 10:13, from Psalm 27:13, from Romans 8:28, and from Deuteronomy 31:6>

God calls His people to victory every day no matter our circumstances or our excuses or our feelings.

He is calling you to victory today. Do you hear Him? Do you see the goodness of the Lord at work around you?

God is always good and He is calling you to victory.

How will you respond to His call?

Faith, Out of Control

Parenting is unpredictable.

Heck, life is unpredictable. And for us (mostly) recovering control freaks, unpredictable is not an easy thing to embrace. It’s strange really because I lean in the direction of being a free spirit who is not good with schedules and planning but unpredictability often creates stress for me if I let it.

And that is the key phrase: if I let it. 

imageBecause if faith has shown me anything it’s the importance of surrender and the yielding my will, my desires, my dreams – all of me – to all of God.

Because ultimately, God is in control. Even if He doesn’t appear to be because my life’s circumstances are beyond my abilities or my liking and even when the world seems to be spinning out of control.

Always God remains all knowing and all powerful and always present.

Never is this more important than in my journey of learning to parent unconditionally. Especially when it comes to parenting a child on the spectrum or a child with sensory challenges or a child with anxiety.

Ultimately God is the One I must lean on from moment to moment. Because ultimately God is the One who knows what my child needs as well as what I need; He designed both of us in His image. He gave us to each other. So I trust Him with the unexpected outbursts and the meltdowns and the tantrums that arise and threaten to upend an otherwise tranquil and seemingly ordinary moment.

Like the moment when I took my girls to the library for what should have been a fun children’s event but it spiraled into what for me was a confluence of warring emotions ranging from defensiveness to humiliation to helplessness to frustration to despair. As I attempted to guide my child toward self-control and comfort, I couldn’t help but mourn what both my girls would miss out on, not just in that moment but in so many untold moments to come.

imageWe left within but a few minutes of arriving and there were tears and non-stop, super wound up chattering as she processed things in her own way and I took deep breath after deep breath to keep my own tears at bay and whispered prayers of desperation, frustration, and longing while speaking softly and offering a soothing balm of words. At home we created our own stuffed animal breakfast event and found our sense of self.

But even as I offered prayers of thanksgiving I offered God my fragile mama heart with its pain and doubt and fear and anger – the question of Why loomed on my mind’s horizon but instead I surrendered. I surrendered all of me to all of God: His presence, His power, His wisdom, His faithfulness. I thanked Him for holding my hand and my heart through those moments and asked Him to guide me along this unfamiliar wilderness.

The moments continue to come and I continue to seek His presence and His comfort.

We have good days, days that can lull me into a false sense of confidence, and we have bad days, days we cannot predict or control. And through them all we have God. And just like in every other aspect of life, that is enough.

One of Those Days

Yesterday was “one of those days.” One of those days in a series of those days that doesn’t make sense as I make food and feed my girls.

The day before, my youngest ate scrambled eggs with relish. Yesterday, she asked for them again and ate two bites.

Two days ago, my youngest ate spaghetti with sauce and cheese – two helpings, in fact. The next day, she asked for the same thing and ate one bite.

She asks for food she thinks she wants and then refuses it.

It’s enough to make me lose my cool with her; but when I assign positive intent, I see a little girl who genuinely thinks she wants what she asks for and then sees it and does not like something about it: the taste, the texture, the look, the smell? I can’t say because I’m not inside her mind.

When I assign positive intent, I see a little girl who wants to eat and knows she should because we talk about why different foods are important for the brain and the body; but she doesn’t eat.

silly girlsWhen I assign positive intent and I take the time to see her – the unique and amazing child that God gave me five and a half years ago and not what she is or isn’t eating – I realize that living with an older sister who was diagnosed with Asperger’s (or high-functioning autism) only six months ago likely affects my five and a half year old as much as her big sister.

When I pause in the moment, I see a sweet little girl and a younger sister living in the shadow of her sister’s Asperger’s and struggling to discover who she is in her heart, in her sister’s eyes, in our family and in the world.

Autism is not an individual diagnosis but a family diagnosis. It affects all members of a family in a variety of ways and in recent years the effect on siblings has become a focus of autism-related studies. But parents of children who are on the spectrum already experience what these studies are beginning to show: that living in the shadow of autism brings with it its own set of challenges.

For us, that has included increased anxiety that shows up sometimes in aggression and anger and other times in regression and clinginess. Whatever it’s form, it is a longing to be seen, to be known and to be loved, all unconditionally.

imageBecause when I pause in these moments I see in her the essence of each of us – the deep longing to be known and loved for who we are. The way we are loved by the One who created each of us. Loved in our brokenness and with our imperfections. Loved when we are angry or when we are needy. Loved when we are afraid and when we are courageous.

And so yesterday was one of those days when I made food and then made more food an hour later. And at some point she ate.

And in the midst of all the making of food and cleaning up of the kitchen, there were prayers. Sometimes whispered words of need, sometimes desperate pleas for wisdom, sometimes disjointed attempts of praise but always praying as ceaselessly as I was able.

Yes. Yesterday was one of those days: the kind of day that provides an opportunity for me to choose who I will be and how I will respond to the circumstances of this life. I am learning on these days that when I choose to trust God and seek His face, He provides a way through the wilderness I find myself traveling.

Because in all my circumstances, God is always faithful.

Finding Hope on the Spectrum

We rent a house with an unfinished basement in North Carolina. It’s further south than where I grew up and there are more and seemingly bigger bugs, not just outside, but inside, too.

dragons-653439_1280In fact, when we first moved in three years ago, my girls were still quite young and transitioning to their beds. Because of the move and all of the changes happening in all of our lives, we set up a full-size mattress on the floor where I could sleep with our girls if need be. Well, one night that first week, the need arose.

And, within moments of my lying down beside my three and a half year old, a palmetto bug ran over my head and, yes, I sprang off the mattress and out the bedroom door in search of my husband (aka the Dragon Slayer) in less than a nanosecond.

Long story short, he eventually tracked the bugger down and dispatched it. But that put me on high alert for every scurvy bug encounter from that moment forward. And while I would testify under oath that there have been well over a thousand or more, I will concede that my emotions are not a valid indicator of how many encounters there have been. I will further concede that the number is far less than a thousand.

Despite the low number, I remain on high alert always.

I find that I scan the area of a room upon entering it.

I find that I catch movements more readily out of the corner of my eye.

I find that I anticipate an encounter with some scurvy varmint often.

And that got me thinking about how quickly that habit formed and how proactive I am and how I expect a multi-legged critter to skitter across my path.

And I wonder how it is that I do not have that same anticipation or habit or expectation involving God. That seems a little strange, you know? When it comes to something I loathe, I’m find I’m in tune with my surroundings and the sense of possibility that something might happen.

Cast CaresBut when it comes to this God that I love, I am less engaged. Unlike entering a room in this rental house on high alert, more often than not, I do not enter my days or my quiet time with the same elevated alertness or anticipation.

And, yes, the physical encounter during those first days in our rental with an oversized roach (there, I finally wrote that awful word) probably set the stage for this heightened awareness, I can easily recount countless times (this time without exaggeration from fear) God showed up and provided for our needs, including our financial needs.

God showed up in just as real a way as that flying roach and He has shown up in equally dark circumstances: when I’ve been alone or desperate for hope or been crushed by the weight of special needs both known (diagnosed) and unknown.

my girlsFor the next 31 days, as I join the #31daysofwriting challenge, I will explore and share living life on the spectrum with my girls (one with Aspergers and sensory issues, the other with sensory issues), my amazing husband and with God. Because sometimes when you’re walking through a day on the spectrum, there are more unknowns than knowns and more questions than answers and a deep longing for Hope from the One who knit each of us together so that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.