If I thought that work/career had shaken up my quiet, connect-with-God mornings then having my first baby, five years into that career, was like being thrown into a blender. Of course, I was elated. As anyone who has loved a child more than they ever knew possible knows – the world looks different in light of that child’s existence. I understood in new ways how much God loves me and delights in me, no matter what, as I loved and delighted in Hannah. I went back to work on-call when she was three months old and even work looked different to me. I started taking time to rub patients’ feet, sit down and hear more of their story, and work on the “little” things that could help them or my coworkers out. It’s not that I didn’t want to do those things before, it’s just that they got edged out by other things that needed to happen. I only worked 1-2 days a week and had a baby girl to come home to and was learning a little bit about how to be more present-minded. I was mostly sleep-deprived and had no quiet, Bible reading morning routine, but somehow in the love I had for my little one, I was certain God loved me too – even with messy hair, bags under my eyes and a cup of coffee that was being heated up in the microwave for the third time (I know, gross. But that’s what survival mode does to a person, you know?). When Hannah was two, Emmett was born and that really did Rees and I in as far as love goes. The miracle of life to us was equivalent to the miracle of suddenly loving another little person every bit as much as the first little person. That gave me a teeny, tiny glimpse into the enormity of God’s love. There’s more than enough to go around and it’s always there.
We super-sized that blender to commercial-grade, high volume when Emmett was two months. We sold the majority of our worldly goods and moved to Seattle to be with our families for a couple of months before moving to Central Asia. I’m not going to get into too many of the details of that BIG transition in this post, but you can imagine what moving to a developing country, where we needed to learn pretty much everything, with a two year old and a four month old does to your morning routine. I was sick, often up most of the night, nursing a baby, trying to parent a spirited two year old while learning a new language and how to live in a completely different country. A country where electricity and water would shut off and apartments don’t have elevators. I was exhausted all the time. I applaud my husband for continuing to ask me how I was doing when he knew I would always say, “I’m exhausted.” Boy were there some exhausted years in there. It seemed we were just starting to get hopeful that we were becoming a bit more energetic when I got pregnant with Annabel. We had lived here for three years at that point. My weakness and exhaustion combined with my wiring toward being productive had already catapulted me into a big mound of grace (I’m embarrassed to say that I kicked and screamed as I flew through the air and even continue to). I got some practice dragging myself out of bed in the morning after an interrupted night of sleep – usually to a child demanding to be fed or someone pounding on my door (it’s totally acceptable here to pound and pound on someone’s door at 6am). The morning person in me was actually torturing me because even when Rees tried to let me sleep longer, I just couldn’t. I get all antsy if I feel like the world around me is up and at ‘em and I’m not. So we had a really pleasant morning situation in our home – an exhausted mom and wife who needs to sleep more and can’t and begrudges everyone else for preventing it. I had thrown out the idea of the quiet hour of prayer at some point in the early throws of motherhood and tried to just grab a few minutes of just plain quiet here and there and settled on locking myself in a room one morning during the weekend when Rees could keep the kids occupied (though they always had their radar tuned to this and would plaster themselves on the other side of the door, crying, “Mommy! Mommy!” As if they hadn’t spent every waking moment with me already). I had to accept the reality that I could connect with God and be close to Him in the midst of mess, action, need, and lots of loud. It started to dawn on me that if there wasn’t grace and worship in my everyday tasks and reality, then how could I pass on that grace to any local woman in my stage of life who has far less freedom in what her day-to-day looks like? If changing diapers, washing clothes, cooking food, parenting children, chatting with neighbors and cooking things for their celebrations and gatherings (because that’s what the community does) and connecting with my husband couldn’t be worship and honoring to God and even a joy for me – then what hope do I have to offer to anyone here? I really started to reach for the Bible and pray out of a deep need for His help and perspective and as I did, I began to rejoice all over again over how paradoxical God is. He uses the weak to shame the strong, the foolish things of this world to shame the wise. He chooses the one who isn’t super to show how super He is. I started to even occasionally laugh at the fact that He could use someone like me, someone who hardly got a minute of quiet prayer time, who takes a month to memorize a single verse due to exhaustion and who commits all kinds of faux pas all day long and often doesn’t even realize it. I didn’t even think about quiet mornings or hours of prayer any more. I figured that if I get to live to be an empty-nester, maybe that’s when I’d rediscover mornings.
An incredible gift has been given to me the last few months. We generally all sleep through the night these days (with the exception of sickness). I got up early one morning, not exhausted, and no one else woke up. I couldn’t believe it. Until now, whenever I get up early (in an attempt to find that quiet prayer time), it only serves to be an alarm clock to at least one, if not two kids. But there I was, up early, cup of coffee in hand, Bible in lap, quiet, in disbelief. A whole hour passed before a child woke up. I couldn’t believe it. I tried it again the next day and same thing – an hour, hour and a half of quiet. This has been going on for a few months and it is grace. So much grace. Such a gift and such a gift to be able to be thankful for it, to just appreciate each morning that I get – knowing that seasons change, such a gift of grace to not wake up early some mornings and not feel guilty about it but thank Him for a little extra sleep. What a gift to be able to greet little ones with a smile when they wake up (instead of grumpy-momma with “why do you always need something?” tone of voice). Suddenly those years of the slow disintegration of the morning prayer time seem like a good rebooting of my prayer life. It felt like getting out of touch with a good friend and then finding them on Facebook years later and getting back in touch again, discovering that you appreciate that friend more than ever. So for now, I’m really enjoying getting to know my old friend, early morning again, and by God’s grace, that old rascal guilt is being left out in the cold.