My desk faces east, looking out the window onto our quiet street and beyond, where I can just barely see the tips of the mountain peaks in the distance, all still covered with snow from what has been a long winter and what has turned into a long and still-cold Spring. I meet the day right here, every morning, every season.
For most of my life I have been somewhat of a 'morning person'. Even in my teen and young adult years when it was an option, I was never naturally one to sleep until noon. But being a ‘morning person’ always meant waking up in a relatively good mood, and outside of that the standards were low. Before children I set the alarm for enough time to get ready for work, and after children, I simply let them be my alarm, and I learned quickly that with little ones no one is 'morning person' because motherhood demands you learn to be an ‘all hours of the day’ person, good mood optional.
But when my second was five months old, everything changed. I was drowning—faking it pretty well, but drowning. Parenting a baby and a difficult toddler, wrestling with questions about who I was, the work I had left behind that I was very confident in my ability to do in order to pursue the work of motherhood that I felt like I was terrible at, and all of it was messing with me. And when I really started paying attention to my heart I realized how noisy I had let my life get; from sun up to sun down, invited and uninvited noise at every turn and I could not find a counterbalance to it all.
Then one day, after spending the weekend with a friend who I watched beautifully live out this practice in her own life, I set my alarm for 5:00am. I read the Bible, I wrote, I prayed, and I marveled at how quiet the whole world felt at that hour, at how quiet my heart finally felt. And then I did it again the next day. And the next day. And the next.
That was two and a half years ago.
(And yes, I did want to take a nap about 3:00pm every day that first month. Sometimes I still do. Power through and be willing to go to bed at 9:00pm.)
Today, I think there are ‘morning people’- those who can get up and do what needs to be done and might even have a skip in their step as they do- and there are ‘before the morning people’- those who get up before the chaos, the demands for milk, the diaper changes, and the frenetic search for matching socks. Those things still happen, but they don't happen first. I knew I had officially become a ‘before the morning’ person the day after we brought our youngest home from the hospital. He was an every-three-hours eater from day one, but even then, when my alarm went off at 5:00am I knew what was waiting for me if I could just get my feet on the ground, and the allure of that quiet, it was enough. I pushed the baby’s Rock ‘n Play out to the table with me, and my little man joined my morning routines until he was big enough to sleep through them (which took almost fourteen months by the way—because what is this ‘sleep training’ you speak of? Apparently my children were born immune to it.)
When I think of the woman and mom I was two and a half years ago and the one I am today, I know the difference, and it is the morning. I am not more or less saved, not more or less holy, and not more or less accomplished (though I am rather efficient with my earliest hours). And I don't have a sense of pride built up in my morning routine as much as a sense of desperation; I need it, my heart needs it. Because when I did find the quiet, the counterbalance to the loud world we all live in, it was in that quiet, with—finally—nothing competing for His attention, that God got big. He was too small in my loud world, an equal part of equal size of the thousand moments that made up an average day. It was in the quiet, before the morning, that He finally became unmatched.
And with all that the journey of this last year has brought us, my heart has desperately needed Jesus to be big, to be unmatched. Really, haven’t we all?
On a technical and politically correct level, there is nothing magic about the morning, no command that says if you want to hear from Jesus he has office hours only before dawn. And yes, technically, that is correct. But I push back a little, because I think there is something magic about the morning: it is untouched, not yet derailed by a day that did not unfold like I planned. It is fresh, renewed, and I will say it again, so beautifully quiet. I think the Psalmists were on to something as the chorus of their praise echoes with sentiments of in the morning, show us Your steadfast love, Lord. I cannot prepare for everything the day will bring, but I can prepare my heart to trust who is writing it all, who has commanded the morning since my days began, and who has taught the dawn to know its place. *
For months the sun has stayed stubbornly behind those mountain tops out my window, as if it were too cold itself to want to come out and play. But as we inch our way toward a new season, the day turns gold a little bit earlier every morning, offering to light the day longer and longer, warmer and warmer. These are the mornings I wait all winter long for, when I can look out the window and watch the magic that turns dark to light so quietly and effortlessly, just like it has been doing every day since God called it all 'good'.
But I think the real magic is that in these same hours of quiet at the desk by the window, as the day comes alive and greets the world, so does my heart.
Morning glory, indeed.