Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Case of the Missing Conductor

I was able to attend a college orchestra concert tonight. After all the performers were in place and the stage was set, the audience became quiet as we waited for the music to begin.

There was only one problem. The conductor didn't come out.

At first, I thought the few seconds of delay might be for dramatic effect, but time ticked by. Someone coughed loudly. People were looking around, shuffling in seats. Someone coughed again. Soft murmurs and low speculative chatter. The percussionists appeared to go backstage to look. I thought, "This isn't planned. Something isn't right." My friend and I exchanged glances.

Everyone waited for what seemed like 5 minutes but was probably closer to 2. Finally, the conductor emerged and quickly took her post in front of the group with her hands poised to conduct the first note. Not a word was spoken about the strange delay.

I wondered where she had been. Why had she, a respected professional, offered no explanation? What could have caused her to delay her group from beginning on time? What more than an emergency could have held her back?

Later, after the concert was over, it was revealed that she had been ready all along. The delay was because one of the orchestra members did not have a mute and could not perform any of the pieces without it. Until the mute was retrieved, the concert couldn't start.

To everyone in the audience, the conductor appeared to be at fault. However, she had mercifully covered for an unprepared member of the group.

On the way home, I started thinking about how I perceive delays in my own circumstances. My go-to person to confront and blame is God. He's the leader after all, and if he was ready to come out and make things right in this world (and in my life), then there should be no hold up. What, after all, could keep him from acting immediately when the stage appears to be set for his intervention and deliverance?

When I think this way, I fail to consider that God considers us all players in this world with him, and though he leads us, he will not force us all to be prepared for his coming. He mercifully waits, hoping that more people will come to faith in Jesus, that those of us who believe will forsake our earthly idols and begin to love him with all our hearts.

When he comes back, will you be prepared? Will you be longing for his appearing? Or are you sitting back, resting and backsliding because you think he's running late (or might never come at all)?

Be assured, the Messiah will return to earth suddenly and without warning. We are promised in scripture that we will be rewarded if we live spiritually prepared and ready for that day. In the meantime, it does me good to remember that sometimes God's delays are merciful, allowing just enough time for all the players in my life to become prepared - especially me.

I think about the valuable lessons God continues to teach me through my season of waiting, and although I want the circumstances removed right away, he uses them as tools to prepare me, to reshape me, to purify me. Tonight's experience at the concert was a reminder that He will indeed come to redeem my trials for his glory - in his merciful time.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:8-9

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Living Better with Dysautonomia (Help #6: Sleep)

Help #6: Regular Sleep

I am writing this post at 2:20 AM.

Why, you may ask, am I qualified to give advice on improving sleep?

For the past 5-1/2 years I was unable to fall asleep at the same time for more than a couple days in a row. Always shifting forward, some weeks I couldn't fall asleep till 6AM, and the next week 10AM, and the week after 2PM, and so forth. However, as of early this year, I can now maintain a regular bedtime indefinitely. What changed?

Achieving quality sleep at the right time has always been a battle for me. I have mild sleep apnea and a circadian rhythm disorder: Non-24 Hour Sleep-Wake Syndrome (think severe, advancing, chronic jet-lag). Improving my dysautonomia symptoms was difficult when I couldn't even get a regular night of sleep. Despite countless attempts to improve the situation, I've slept away many days and weeks in total frustration, missing important events, only to feel sicker, defeated, and out of options. But this year, I've finally discovered a safe and medication-free way to help me sleep on a regular schedule.

Call now for this special offer and get the bonus gift free! Just kidding.

No, this isn't an infomercial, and what I'm going to share isn't a miracle cure, but it has improved my quality of life and stopped my sleep from cycling around the clock every month. Best of all - no pills!

The treatment is a pair of blue-block glasses. Before you think of the 80s commercial about amber shades making the golf course look 'crystal clear,' let me share a little background:

Melatonin is a substance produced naturally by the body to make you sleepy when it's dark. It is inhibited by light, particularly *blue* light, which is why people normally feel awake and alert during the day. Melatonin production can get disrupted in people with dysautonomia, fibromyalgia, CFS/ME, night-shift workers, nursing mothers, and people with sleep disorders. For some reason, the eyes don't respond to darkness cues properly or are exposed to excessive bright light at night, leaving us feeling revved up when the rest of the world is gearing down and exhausted when we should be refreshed.

What blue-block glasses do is protect the eyes from perceiving blue light. Worn only for a couple hours before bed, these glasses allow the body to produce more melatonin naturally, even in well-lit areas. I can wear them while watching TV, reading, using the computer, and all the while, my body is essentially fooled into thinking I am in total darkness. Not to be confused with regular sunglasses (which I tried and don't work!), these lenses are specifically designed filters that block out virtually all blue light involved in disrupting melatonin.

The effect has been remarkable for me. When it's time to fall asleep, I can drift off naturally and wake up at approximately the same time. No more drastically shifting bedtimes or widely varying wake times.

Additionally, I discovered the benefit of using blue-block light bulbs in the bedroom. These bulbs (which produce a pleasant yellow glow) can be used in place of the blue-block glasses in an otherwise dark room. Candlelight has been said to work too. The site I linked to also offers computer and TV blue-light filters as well as night-lights. The home page (lowbluelights.com) offers help on why and how to use these products most effectively.

From my experience, blue-block glasses at night are a great way to naturally wind down before bedtime without drugs or supplements. They help me to feel relaxed. Though not the cure for all sleep problems, they are well worth the effort if nothing else has worked for you or if you are seeking a drug-free way to improve your bedtime.

A few last words:
1. Be sure to read over basic "sleep hygiene" practices to use with the glasses for a better night's rest.
2. The Uvex brand (first link) is made with adjustable earpieces, which are not immediately obvious unless you know to push them in.
3. The LowBlueLights brand offer small sizes which are better for children and petite adults.
4. The glasses are not what I would call stylish, but if you are desperate for an earlier, regular bedtime without depending on pills, these might be worth a try.
They have certainly made a difference for me.