It began with what I can only call insomnia. That wasn’t the real problem, but the underlying cause of everything created a form of insomnia. Almost overnight, I went from considering a midnight bedtime as being a “night owl” to being happy if I could fall asleep before four… in the morning.
For nine, long months, I couldn’t do anything but sleep when my body determined it was tired and wake up when it decided it no longer was. I had every medical test for a heart condition you could imagine. EKG… at home EKG… echocardiogram, some thing where I had to hang in a medical-styled pillory without moving at all. For forty minutes. Then came the pharmacological stress test. They shot me with some kind of drug and made me walk on a treadmill. “You’ll feel like you can’t breathe,” they said. “But you really can,” they said. “So keep walking,” they said.
So, I walked. Even though I couldn’t breathe. “It’s all in your head,” I said. “You can do this,” I said. “Why am I seeing black?” I asked.
They shot me up with drugs to combat the stuff and sent me to drink coffee.
Frankly, I considered that punishment for not finishing the test. Nasty, revolting stuff.
Walked back into the office an hour later and the nurse had me blow in a tube. The little dealie bob was supposed to spike up near the top. It gave a tiny little blip at the bottom like the last beep of a dying man’s heart on a monitor.
“Breathe again,” she said.
I huffed with all my might.
The diagnosis? Asthma. Shocker, right?
I spent six months trying to get back to a normal sleep schedule. I’d made it to around one in the morning, feeling like that was reasonable, when daylight savings flipped stuff. And my body revolted.
One by one, things vanished from my life. It all began with church.
Trying to get up and go when my body didn’t want to was fine the first week. The next it was hard. The following it wiped me out for the whole week. It took until Friday night to feel like I could function. Monday of the next week, I didn’t even get out of bed.
By 2014 or so, I’d lost my ability to attend church on a regular basis. And it hurt. At age eleven, I began attending church in Ventura, California at Wells Road Baptist Church. For over thirty years, I rarely missed a Sunday (and often Wednesday nights, Sunday nights, Friday nights, Bible studies…). For clarity’s sake, I need to point out that I wasn’t at that same church for all those years.
If I’m honest with myself, I felt like a great joy of mine had been taken away.
Several times since, I’ve tried to force myself into normal people time again. Every time it’s failed. Once a month I go down south for a meeting, and I often have to get up early to do it. It kills me for the next couple of days. I’m wiped out. If I do it too close together, it takes longer to be able to function normally
When I travel, forcing myself onto normal people time means I’m worn out when I return. It’s not jet lag, folks. It’s “normal lag.”
So, when I got the call from my Mom that said she needed me to come, I was concerned. What would happen? When would I crash? Then what would we do?
It didn’t happen, though. I went to bed at ten o’clock the first night. Got up at seven. That’s kept up for the whole time except for two days when I had to stay up until 4 and 5 a.m. Guess what? I was right back on normal people time again.
Now look, it’s not going to last. I can feel my body saying, “You’re not normal, so quit pretending you are.” But… so far, it’s letting me keep going. I thank the Lord for it every day. He’s blessed me in so many ways, and I had to share some. Ready?
What’s So Great about Being on Normal People Time?
Meeting with the church. That’s what. People who can get up and go to church every Sunday… you have no idea how blessed you are. There are people all over the world who are housebound or chained to odd sleep patterns—shift work. We’re not able to do something we’d love.
Meet with other believers on a weekly basis. (Okay, to be fair, I have a Wednesday night Bible study that I started because of this very problem, but you know what I mean.)
I arrived on a Saturday. Sunday was just me trying to adjust and adapt. Sunday night, I met with a friend and talked about things I’d need to do to help Mom, so that killed it then. I don’t recall why I didn’t go that first Wednesday night, but I didn’t. I felt the loss of something I hadn’t actually had in years… and at that particular church, in thirty-five years!
But on that second Sunday morning, just eight days after arrival, I walked down the street and into the building. My old Sunday school teacher, now the minister, directed me to the ladies Sunday school class, I sat at the table with the other women, and immediately, I felt like I’d never left. That’s what the church should be to all of us—coming home. Every week. I miss that feeling. Every week.
But not here. Here, on normal people time, I get to go.
Sunday night came, and I hoofed it all four doors down the street, walked in, sat down, and sang with the rest of them. It was wonderful. I have pages of notes in my notebook that I’ve made while sitting in church for the past month.
That second Tuesday, I got up and drove to Southwest City to attend the ladies’ Bible study. Once more… home. I arrived late, but it didn’t matter. It was home.
Wednesday night, it started all over again. I arrived, we all ate a meal, discussed the Bible… just a church meeting together.
That woman up there? That’s Jan. My fourteen-year-old self learned a lot of things from Jan, but the most important was how every question we ever have in life can be answered (and should be) in the Bible. Don’t write “Dear Abby” a letter. READ “Dear ABBA’s letters to us.
I know it sounds so simple… so commonplace, even.
“Yay,” you might think. “You went to church. Woo. Hoo.”
Well… when you can’t go much, you treasure when you can. You treasure moments where you sit with others who worship your Lord. When your body holds your internal clock captive and steals any hope of living on normal people time, then when the Lord gives you the gift of it, you revel. And you praise Him.
That’s me here. Praising the Lord for almost a month of time spent every week, several times a week, with His people. With family. Even while I’m almost two thousand miles away from my physical family, I have family. I have mom. I have the church.
That’s the main thing, but it’s not all.
Since I’ve been here, and on normal people time, I’ve gotten to go to the library. I’ve walked to the mailbox. I’ve driven to Springfield. Twice (and I get to do it again in a few hours. Y.a.y.). But really!
I’ve met with long-time readers and online friends for lunch. Sunday, I get to help a writer I’ve never met before figure out what he needs to do to prepare his manuscript for publication.
Being on normal people time means that I got to meet my fourteen-year-old self on the streets of Noel. She wasn’t a night owl back then (although she would have been if she could have). It means I got to see the river when it flooded and came down the creek. I got to rediscover a building I once loved—Scripture fused into the sidewalk that I walked almost every day when I lived here.
Being on normal people time has meant that I get to soak in every bit of this little town that I’ve loved for so many years. I don’t know when or if I’ll be back. I get to give it a proper goodbye… just in case.
It’s a gift from the Lord. I’m grateful for it.