{This Sacred Everyday} Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey is my first blog crush to ever turn into a real friend. Getting to know her in the blog world has been a great gift to my soul. She speaks about worship and mothering and marriage in an original, life-giving voice that never ceases to challenge and refresh me. If you haven’t heard me go on and on about her blog yet, consider this your introduction. I’m grateful and honored to have her here today.


In which I minister Love in the night

My youngest child is 14 months old. And she has never, not once, slept through the night. That is roughly 426 nights, straight, of broken sleep for me.

My first child slept 12 hours through the night from early infancy. My second child was a bit more of a challenge because we lived across the street from a busy urban fire station, but eventually, he, too, became a twelve-hour sleeper. We put our tinies to bed at 7 o’clock, and did not hear from them until the next morning. I waxed philosophic, contemplated writing a baby sleep book to share my wisdom.

Miss Evelyn, courtesy of Retrospect Photography

Enter Evelynn.

Evelynn is healthy. She hardly ever cries. She has never had a bout with colic. She is happy and delightful. She is secure. She is loved. She is a good eater. She naps consistently and well.

And she does not sleep at night.

For a long time, exhausted and sick with longing for my bed, I tried every trick and tactic to help her sleep through the night. I grappled with my ideals, finally tried out the things I always swore I would never allow, but nothing ever worked. She was up, every hour or two, every night, every night, every night.

This was what she needed, clearly, and so I began to wonder, after several months, if maybe, just maybe, God had something here, for me, too? Grace of God, will you be here for me in this? I asked for wisdom, I asked for help, I cried, I begged, I wondered, I read, and then, in the stillness of one long night of nursing, I heard the Spirit of the living God say to me, let her be, and minister Love to her small soul, and this will be our time, too, Sarah. So I found it easier to roll out of bed, head to her tiny room, nurse her, rock her, hold her, over and over and over again.

I started to pray in those moments. I started to hold the big things of the world and the little things of my home up for God to notice. I started to sing old songs from church. I started to rock until we were both half-asleep. I started to sit in the silence, quiet, waiting, even after she drifted off in my arms. I started to find my energy. I started to be okay with it. I started to find God in the stillness, in the darkness, in the giving, in the exhaustion. It was good. It was sacred. And, yes, it was everyday.

I remember one night this past winter, I stood in the middle of my living room, alone, in the wee small hours. The cold house was lit with stars and street lights. I couldn’t go back to bed, it was so quiet, so still, so other-worldly. I was brimming with something like wonder in the loneliness of the night, I could see the stars, something in me wanted to stay there, awake with all the mothers-hearts, up in the small hours, I felt them. I remembered a phrase from the Common Prayers, that I was with those who wait and watch and weep in the night. A thin connection was there, I felt a holy sorrow and knowing, an enveloping love, I felt held and I felt like I was holding, I was breathing in the Holy Spirit, cold and bright and enough. Two hours later, I wasn’t so sanguine. I was tired, I just wanted to sleep for two hours together, I was muttering and resentful. But as I lifted her, whimpering and longing and alone, again, she exhaled with relief, and she fell asleep minutes later, milk-drunk and peaceful. And I wondered if I was writing a story with my life in these nights, because if I was, then this would be the chapter of metaphors.

At 14 months of age, just this past week or so, she began to sleep most of the night. She still wakes up once, maybe twice, a night. The first few nights that she slept for 6 hours straight, I woke up frequently, panicked, rushing to her room. But she slept, peaceful, and I found I was disappointed.  I missed her. I missed the quiet. I missed the stillness. I missed the prayer. I missed the worship. I missed those hours of communion. I missed the weight of her need in my arms, I missed being able to minister peace and rest. Just like that, it was over, this stage was over, she was sleeping. I went back to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Retrospect Photography

Sarah Bessey writes at www.sarahbessey.com, where she has become an accidental grassroots voice for postmodern and emerging women in the Church on issues from mothering to politics and theology to ecclesiology. Her writing has appeared in many publications including ChurchLeaders.com, Relevant Magazine, A Deeper Story, SheLoves Magazine, and Emergent Village. Sarah also works with Mercy Ministries of Canada, a non-profit residential home for women seeking freedom from life-controlling issues. She is a happy-clappy follower of Jesus and social justice wannabe. Sarah lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, Brian, and their three tinies: Anne, Joseph and Evelynn Joan.

Follow Sarah on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Rae

    Like you I spent many nights, almost 3 years, longing for sleep but loving the tender God moments I had with my littlest girl! Love this picture of life & this blessed journey weare all on! Thanks for sharing ….

  • http://www.themommyhoodmemos.com Adriel Booker

    I’m buried deep in the begging right now. I understand what’s “right” – that I should look for grace, pray in the night, find God – but it’s so, so hard. I read posts like this and automatically think “you must be stronger than me” because I feel so weak, so little, so desperate. I wish I could say I’m responding with the grace that you have. I know that things will change in time, but life feels very tainted by desperation right now. I’m still begging.

    • michaboyett

      Adriel, I hear you. I think all the mothers around here hear you. Some nights I’m stomping around and crying at my nearly 4 year old’s bedside. (I’m not proud of that, btw.) And some nights I feel the sacredness and ACTUALLY believe what I’m doing is a gift. And I say this past the infant waking stage. (My 15 month old wakes at 5 to nurse then goes back to sleep and, other than that, the wake-ups are their bad dreams and random weirdnesses.) All that to say, though, there’s no shame in the begging.

      • http://www.themommyhoodmemos.com Adriel Booker

        Thanks Micha & Sarah & Brianna. x

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com Sarah Bessey

      Exactly what Micha said, exactly. And for every night of transcendence, the very next night is usually stomping and muttering.

      • http://fountainlove.blogspot.com Brianna Graber

        Yes, Adriel, you’re not alone. So many mamas feel like you do! Some nights are good for us….some, I sigh in frustration as I roll over to try nursing my 7 month old yet again. Or have to give up and leave the room to try something new because it’s not working. And I wonder why the heck he can’t be like “all the other babies” and just sleep, for Pete’s sake. And when my first (who’s 2 and usually sleeping through the night, or only waking once- YAY!) was 15 months, and I was in my 3rd trimester, I remember reaching the end of my rope. She was up every 45 minutes every night, for months. I was a less-than-sanctified mother as it took all I had just to not be too rough….let alone any chance at being gentle, loving and peaceful. My stress and frustration would keep us both up extra hours as it took longer to sooth my baby who didn’t find the comfort she was looking for in me. I still regret so much that I wasn’t “strong enough” to love her fully, sacrificially….but I’m human, and humans fail sometimes. My husband started helping her at night, transitioning her from nursing around the clock, and things got better. Now I can usually greet her with smiles when she wants to join me in the night. But we still have our nights…I suspect all mothers do. Hugs to you!

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  • http://aprilkarli.com AprilK

    Wow. This post is like a time machine taking me back to when my girls were infants!

    I had a similar experience with my oldest daughter. She slept once she was down for the night, but she took *forever* to get to sleep. I’d think she was asleep, sneak out of her room, and she’d shoot out of bed! Some nights I was in her room for over an hour just waiting for her to fall deeply enough asleep that I could leave.

    One night, lying next to her in the dark when she was about a year old, anxious for her to fall asleep so I could get a break, I heard God tell me to be still. He told me that time in her room, in the quiet and dark while I waited for her to fall asleep, he was teaching me to rest. I began to enjoy that time with God and even look forward to it. As my daughter got older and became easier to get to sleep I missed the nights in her room. I still lie down with her at night, but she’s 10 now, so it’s only for a few moments of prayers and chatting about her day.

  • http://www.eloranicole.com eloranicole

    this resulted in a deep soul sigh. hanging tight to these words for those nights i know are coming.

    • http://www.thesacredlifeofrain.com rain

      i love this comment. i love you.

  • http://www.pohlkottepress.com tara pohlkotte

    oh, sarah. you just. always *get* it. those moments that seem suspended from time and space. that exsist only in the holy. thank you, dear one.

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Melissa@Permission to Live

    The youngest any of my children slept through the night was 10 months old, and that was my oldest. The following two did not sleep though the night until aroun 18 month old, and one of them woke up every hour all night long for months. I spent the nights with my first 2 children pacing and crying out to god over my lack of sleep. I’ve spent the nights with my second 2 children just being with them, they need me, whether it is love, or milk, or snuggles, they need me. And they aren’t going to get that help from anywhere else. These nights are only for a season, even though sometimes they feel like they could last forever. After 5 years of broken sleep, my current nighttime friend is my youngest, and he is 13 months old, it’s almost over.

  • http://loveiswhatyoudo.wordpress.com Jessica

    My problem is always that, once I’m up, my mind runs to the people I know who are hurting (there seem to be a lot in my life right now). This phrase says so eloquently what I feel in those hours: “I was with those who wait and watch and weep in the night.” Tucking that one away. Thank you.

  • http://perceivedpresence.blogspot.com/ Terence Grandfield

    As the father of six children ranging in age from 13 to 28 year old I can only relate on certain level. I have often told my wife if I was the one bearing our children and being their primary care giver, (especially in their early and most formative years. I did try to do as much as possible) then we would have only had one child. Mothering is the most awesome and precious gift that God has ever given humankind. One that I as a male can only “attempt” to do. Keep being strong with that and all your precious children. Thank you for your words!!!

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston Yancey

    Dear friend, teach me what it is to pray this, “Grace of God, will you be here for me in this?” with such conviction, to come to this, even in time. You convict my heart, in the best way, to be attentive and still again.

  • http://becomingpeculiar.com Kathleen Quiring | Becoming Peculiar

    *Sigh.* So gorgeous, Sarah. My heart felt a little squeeze at “I missed her.”

  • http://divandmama.blogspot.com Jenn

    I love that you have experienced both kind of sleeps Sarah. It just reminds me even more that each baby, each child needs different things from us. I struggled the last few month even with just breastfeeding still. There were days where I loved it, the being so close, the gift of comfort. Then the days of biting, hitting, only sleeping for me would drive me mad. Now that she is done? Totally miss it! It keeps reminding me to just live in the moment . To appreciate the joys and struggles of today, because tomorrow will bring new and different ones, and for some tomorrow may not come.

  • Amanda Nash

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Sarah for the beauty of your story and your words. You touched my mother heart

  • Michelle

    Sarah, I’m a relatively new follower of your blog, and I am transfixed by your words on a regular basis. Like you, I have a twelve month old who recently started sleeping longer stretches after a year of waking often during the night. She is our last baby, and the time spent nursing her in the wee hours of the morning are forever etched on my heart. Thank you for sharing your writing.

  • http://thealreadynotyet.com Matthew van Maastricht

    This is a wonderful reminder about how even when we are in a situation in which we are struggling and protesting (even rightly so), God is never that far. The psalms of lament, the Book of Lamentations, many sections of the prophetic books — indeed all of scripture! — show folks who struggle with suffering while also trying to understand God’s presence within all of this.

    This also shows the importance of reflection, because when we are looking back on an experience, we can often see God much more clearly than when we are in the middle of it. Additionally, your reflections underscore the significance (and necessity) of Christian community, and the importance of story telling within the Christian community — we can all help one another to see God not only in the happy times, but also in the difficult times. Thank you for your post, it truly blessed me.

  • http://eco-babyz.com Anastasia @ eco-babyz

    Beautiful, just the same as I feel with my baby who wakes frequently. I remind myself that this will be such a short time :) I know I will miss it!

  • http://www.CreeksideMinistries.blogspot.com Linda Stoll

    Ah … I wish I had heard this these beautiful words of grace when my grandchildren’s mothers were babies …

  • Ursula

    Thank you! I can’t say it enough. These are words of life to my tired mommy soul.

  • http://www.sortacrunchy.net/ Megan at SortaCrunchy

    Oh, Sarah! Oh, how I love this. You know I do.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Thank you for this reminder that God really can meet us wherever we’re at. I need that reminder today, but I’m sure we’ll need it in about a month or two!

  • http://www.willowofwonder.blogspot.com Jackie

    OH I love this. My first was this kind of baby. Nothing I did worked and it took 18 months for him to sleep through the night, despite everything I tried. I felt so lonely as I heard so many moms talk of their children sleeping through the night from three months on or even sooner. I cried and journaled and begged God for sleep. I learned to stop talking about it and felt like a failure. He is now ten and continues to this day to break me in with each new stage we face together. I also believe that each new challenge is a way the Lord is leading me closer to Him and meeting me right where I am. Keeping me on my knees, where I’m meant to be. :)

  • http://friedokra4me.blogspot.com Megan (FriedOkra)

    Yes. I know this story well, as I have lived it too. And really, of all the things God has asked me to do, it has been the easiest, once I did it willingly and in the intended frame of heart. I loved reading this and knowing we felt/heard some of the same things. Maybe she’ll let you nap with her sometimes to make up for all of her newfound independence.

  • http://www.tothinkistocreate.com Arianne

    I have never had a sleeper, so I didn’t really know that babies sleep at night. River is the first one to not scream and scream, so I try try try to give the grace you describe. I absolutely love that you come and remind me, as I need constant reminders right now, that “just like that, it was over”

  • http://lifeyourway.net Mandi @ Life Your Way

    My youngest didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost two years old (and I didn’t always handle it with the grace you describe here), but I so identify with missing her in the middle of the night. Even now, 9 months later, I jump up when she calls or fusses, just for the chance to rock her as her eyes slowly blink and her body gets heavier. I can’t bear the thought of moving her upstairs with her big sisters; it’s just too far away, and if I already miss her so much now, how will I handle THAT?!

  • http://www.thisbeautifulstruggle.com Michele

    Ah, so true. I’ve given up the frustration of my 11-m0-old getting up 2-3 times a night in exchange for the realization that it’s in those early, EARLY hours that God often speaks. Perhaps someday God will speak at 3pm, but for now, I just need to love and listen.

  • http://www.shelovesmagazine.com idelette

    O, your words are a Magnificat for us ordinary moms today. Love love love it.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    Lovely, Sarah. And thank you, Micha. I, too, wish that this kind of thinking/writing/experiencing was happening when I was mothering my babies. My kids, however, live this reality, although only one has one young enough to still be a troubled sleeper (she’s two and has night terrors – oh my soul, that’s tough!). These are words of wisdom and grace. And yes, it is all over in a blink.

  • http://life-edited.blogspot.com Amanda [Life. Edited.]

    This is so stunningly beautiful, gently convicting, and deeply encouraging, all at the same time. Thank you, Sarah. My weary heart thanks you.

  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    oh, i know this. i know this well (but it took me three sleepless years to get there.) at relevant, the weekend james turned one, a speaker spoke of miscarriage and infant loss and had women stand who’d lost babies. more than one third of the room stood, sometimes half of every table, and we wept. the nights after that, i nursed my boy-babe and lifted high those mamas with empty arms and everything else and found that holy communion, too.

    this is exquisite and true, sarah.

  • michaboyett

    Oh, I so LOVE reading these responses! Sarah, thank you for speaking to something that is obviously striking a chord in so many women. So often moms come into motherhood with a formula for what prayer should look like and our lives don’t allow it. (And then we feel guilt.) But who is telling the mamas the miracle of how God meets us in the moments we do have? Thank you for speaking boldly and loud enough for us to hear it, Sarah.

    I’m so grateful you were here today!

  • http://dreammore.com Christine

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This brought tears to my eyes. As I was reading this actually, my 23-month-old cried out “Mommy Mommy Mommy!” in the middle of her sleep and I went to her tonight with a lot more hope and peace inside of me. So many nights (especially during teething) I feel like I’m losing my mind still night-nursing an almost 2 year old who has never slept through the night. But then other nights I feel just as you – that I’m part of a beautiful tribe of weary, hopeful mamas up in the middle of the night with their babies, and there’s comfort in that. And when my daughter sighs and goes back to sleep contentedly as she did tonight after a few short minutes of connection with me, I know I’ve done the right thing for her. The Lord has refined me during this time in unbelievable ways, and I KNOW I will miss it whenever it ends.

  • http://www.jesstock.blogspot.com Jess

    YES! I have totally experienced this! But I have never heard anyone say it . . . and you write it so beautifully. My sleepless nights are finally coming to an end and I am already missing those sweet quiet moments when the rest of the world sleeps.

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com erin a.

    Sarah! And just like that it was over… You have me teary & missing night waking. Ha! My Kendall is just a few months older than your Evelyn & she was our “worst” sleeper, too. I, too thought I had loads of wisdom for peaceful sleep habits, after my firstborn. ;)

  • http://www.girlwithblog.com anna {girlwithblog}

    Thank you, thank you, for this cool drink of water for my soul. My 6 month old Samuel has never ever slept through the night either, and it is taking a toll on daddy and on me. Perhaps tonight I will try to calm myself before calming Sam, and actually and intentionally invite the Lord to sit with us in the middle of His night.

  • http://metropolitanmama.net Stephanie

    I’ve spent many a night in the same situation. It’s tough to be up in the wee hours (especially 2-5am), but…those “moonlight moments” with my baby are sacred indeed.

  • http://shelaughsatthedays.net carrien (she laughs at the days)

    None of my babies slept all night, and none of my toddlers either, and since I have 4 and the youngest is 22 months I still spend half the night with a child sleeping on top of me, literally, because it is all that will get him back to sleep.

    I love this post. It says so well what I have tried to articulate about the deep calling of motherhood to joyfully lay down everything of self and surrender to the need and the pulling of children, only to find true life on the other side of it.

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  • http://divinginbluewaters.blogspot.com Jenna

    This is so beautiful. My 19 month old is still not sleeping through the night but your post helps me have a new mindset about it. These are sacred, quiet hours together (the three of us – me, my daughter, and God) set apart from so much noise and action of daytime. I look forward to following your blog.


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