Saturday, March 5, 2011
Early Morning Light
I remember a time, in my early childhood, when waking up in the morning was reason to jump up and cheerfully embark on a new day of adventuring. I couldn't wait for morning to come! If I woke up when it was still dark, and the house quiet, I would often quietly dress myself, then climb back into bed under the covers until I heard some noise - any indication at all that I was allowed to get up!
As I became a little older, and I had grown into the responsibility of school, my excitement for mornings did not wane. I was finally "bigger" and could meet new people and learn new things. Mornings were filled with hurried bowls of Rice Crispies and the obligatory blue Tupperware tumbler full of orange juice gulped down before dashing out the door. My brother and I walked together, with my little legs hurrying as quickly as I could go to keep up with his lanky gait.
Somewhere along the years, waking up became more of an effort. When I was in grade 5, my brother was starting grade 7 and we had to go to a new school that had an elementary school and middle school so we could remain together. We began to take the c-train and city bus about 35 minutes every day and had to get up quite a bit earlier. Since we were old enough to wake ourselves, and get our own breakfast, my mom let us be responsible to get to the bus stop on time on our own. With that new schedule began the ever-compulsive disorder of time-gambling. It was hard to get up that early - only to shuffle outside and wait in the cold for a smelly bus full of strangers! How many times could I push the snooze alarm? How late could I get up, and still be on time for the bus? The downward spiral of dreading morning had begun.
In my teen years, I was addicted to sleep, as many growing adolescents can attest to. Fortunate for me, I had began to homeschool in grade 7, and while my mom did require us to be up in the morning "working on schoolwork", I quickly learned to prop my books open on my chest, against my knees while I snoozed on the bed - the appearance of a diligent student, but napping the morning away!
Over the years, I had numerous commitments that had me rising early - whether to attend college classes, get to church early for worship practice, or get to work on time. Now I'm committed to getting up in the morning for a crowd of children who need my attention. I am often tired - and having a young baby is a rightful excuse for exhaustion. However, as my baby is getting older and sleeping all night long, I am quickly losing my excuse for an addiction to slumber.
I LOVE my bed and my husband can attest to this point. I adore clean, new, fresh sheets and I feel like a kid in a candy store when I get a chance to shop for new linens. We recently replaced our mattress (after 12 years on the same mattress, it was time for something new) and we upgraded to a king-sized bed. I hate to brag, but for descriptive purposes, I'll let you know that this bed is AMAZING! It has a euro-top (so basically a huge pillowy top, on top of an already wonderfully comfy mattress). I received some fantastic Egyptian cotton sheets as a Christmas gift last year, so I am set with the perfect sleeping conditions!
Most mornings, I have begun to hear stirrings in the house long before I feel rested and want to get up. To be honest, I shouldn't complain because the noise rarely starts before 8 am. For a family with 6 kids, I understand that is rather miraculous - but we prize our sleep and have worked hard to teach the kids to stay in their rooms and be quiet when they wake up, until the appointed time to come downstairs for breakfast. So, back to waking up in the morning - I often notice the light outside the window, and hear little noises in the house, but I resist waking up with all my might. I will bury my head under a pillow, or cover my ear by flopping an arm over my head... sleeping is just too easy and comfortable and it seems like I never get enough time to myself, to relax!
I've known for quite sometime that this pattern isn't necessarily... healthy. It's not wrong, in essence, but I've wondered at the deeper meaning behind my reluctance to start a new day. I have felt the conviction to "start my day right" and get up before the children, and gather my thoughts; spend some time in prayer and meditation. Yet my bed is far too inviting to leave behind.
A thought has crossed my mind. When I was young, there was excitement with every new day. There was the joy of learning new things, facing new challenges and experiences. As adults, we have many stresses in life to deal with. If you don't get up and go to work, you might lose your job, and if you lose your job, you won't have money to pay your bills, etc., etc. We have responsibilities in the form of children or school or work - and if we don't do it, we are placing an incredible burden on those around us (or things will slide and not get done at all).
Not surprisingly, when I'm on vacation (especially somewhere wonderful and warm), it is difficult to sleep in! I don't want to miss a single minute when I could be out in the sun, playing and having fun. If only I could bottle some of that ambition and package it and sell it! I could make a fortune.
For the time being, there is no magical pill or wondrous trick by which I can motivate myself to jump out of bed every morning. Yet, in understanding the problem does not lie directly with my physical state, but in my mind and emotions, I believe there is an available remedy to give a sense of impetus to my weary self in the morning. Where is the lack of wonder for each new day? Have I been expecting a frustrating, strenuous day or am I looking for adventure and joy?
David wrote Psalm 118:19 which says "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." I wonder if that was a true reflection of feeling like everything was great - or, if it was actually a confession and purposeful re-direction of his emotions? That verse is immediately followed by :"O Lord, Save us" so I'll let you draw your own conclusions!
Expectation is key in how you experience life. I talk about it a lot, probably because so much of my life is out of my control. I can't make my kids be good all the time, and I can't stop my babies from teething (and whining all day and crying half the night!). We can't keep people from frustrating us and saying hurtful things. We can't keep our boss from wrongfully accusing us and we can't stop the economy from taking a downturn. It would be very easy to look at all the bad things, and despair, but on the other side of things, there is hope and grace.
If my thoughts were focused on the wrong things, which (I admit) I can tend towards, then of course it will be difficult to get up in the morning and face another day of drudgery.
I don't want to miss another day, though. Each day is a gift from God. If I wrongfully hold fast to things that are beyond my control, and stress out over what is not in my power to change, each day will be a trial beyond bearing. If I truly believe that my life belongs to God, the one who created this universe and loves me beyond measure, then each day is an opportunity to see His blessing and power in my life!
Although it may take putting a timer on my coffee maker to prop me up for a while, and adjust to getting up earlier, I am committed to working on a fresh morning attitude and perspective. Part of that simply involves centering and focusing on what is most important. It involves seeking God and His involvement in my day and my family.
In the early morning light, as I awaken to a new day of possibilities, I will do my best to clear the cobwebs from my mind and declare: This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. (Hopefully it will NOT be to the tune of that popular chorus we used to sing in churches back in the early 90's... but if that inspires you, go for it!)