Around age 15 I began to discover who I wanted to be. I had gone to something called “Life 95”, a youth conference that forever changed me. It taught me to be intentional with my thought life and gave me real tools with which to approach prayer. This moved me to leverage my love for mornings. Sunshine and birds chirping are glorious. I would spend a couple hours each day journaling and chronicling my reflections, prayers and plans for the future. I couldn’t get enough. I would actually run a little late because I couldn’t tear away from this magical morning time. This went on for most of 10 years until I was 26 (minus a 2 year detour when I bailed on God after some scary stuff).
At 26 I married a strange and wonderful man named Tim. He could not be more suited and yet more different from me. He moved in the weekend of our wedding and shortly after our honeymoon we both went back to work, except now we shared a bedroom. A few weeks or months into it (I don’t remember exactly) Tim casually but resolutely stated that my alarm clock bothered him because it caused him to wake up before he needed to. He asked me to simply use his. As a young, eager bride I easily acquiesced. Of course his sleep mattered. Not only that but he was in the process of being diagnosed with a sleep disorder and there was no question that I would help any way I could.
Little did I know! Little did I know that I was obliterating the foundation of my entire thought life! I had no idea what had just happened. Without my alarm clock, I lost my ability to wake up with ample time. Without ample time, my journal entries shrank to mere phrases, interrupted and incomplete notions that didn’t untangle anything. Without my morning routine to remind me of my life’s priorities, I became blurry, scattered and anxious.
Of course it took years to realize this. By the time I understood the magnitude of this, the damage was done. Three years later I had lost the discipline, the “muscle” that it took to hear an alarm and will myself out of bed. I rationalized that a young mother with now 3 children couldn’t be expected to wake up any earlier than necessary. I rationalized that sleep would keep me physically capable of managing my days. A few more years went by and when I tried to write, it was dry, empty, passionless; because the processing of unlocking inner thoughts is a muscle that atrophies just like any other.
By now, perhaps 7 or 8 years had gone by. My old routine was a ghost. To be clear I never understood what I had done. There was no argument over this. Tim had no idea the importance of my morning routines. I couldn’t figure out why I was so ineffective, why my decision making process was fraught with anxiety when I had never ever ever been an anxious person before. I also began to realize that I wasn’t laughing like I used to. The kids would tell me a joke and I’d give them a half hearted smile. When things went wrong in ridiculous ways I couldn’t laugh them off. I had lost my sense of humor! I had a rich life and no ability to taste it.
Slowly it dawned on me. I was so parched. I had not steeped in my soul-filling quiet mornings and I was completely dry. At first it was so awkward to journal or pray. My hands seemed rusty and my thoughts were jumbled and unsure. By this time I was 8, 9, 10 years into our marriage. I had my 4th and 5th child during this time. Finding time to write was impossible. I have averaged 2-4 night wakings per night for the better part of 10 years. It is not easy to re-establish a 5 a.m. alarm clock when I’ve woken up at 12, 2 and 4 a.m. So I didn’t.
At first I reprimanded myself for my laziness and battled with the guilt of not getting up in the mornings. I wondered if being physically rested but spiritually dry was worse than the reverse. So I started talking to God all day, every day and letting him know that I needed help, either motivation, relief of guilt or resources to get back to my old routine.
Parallel to all this I had been wondering for some time whether I really believed God. I realized that along with becoming dry, I also became cynical and skeptical of good things. Along with the inability to enjoy good things, I suppose we also lose the ability to anticipate good things. I realized that I didn’t believe good things ever really happened. Some might consider this ungratefulness. In fact this was around the time that Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was gaining popularity. I wondered if I had become an ungrateful person. Arguably I had. It was all wrapped up in this shriveled up version of myself that was trying so very hard to live a good life, all the while completely disconnected from all that was Good.
Finally, I told Tim. It got a little (ok a lot) “blamey” for a minute there. It’s just so tempting to blame a husband for blocking my goals, rather than to take ownership in my own choices over the years, no matter how naive. I told him that I needed to find time to journal, even if it killed me. I was going to trust that being spiritually nourished was at least equally important as being physically rested.
Tim did what he does best. He researched. He found me a Hermitage. A Catholic hermitage just 8 minutes down the road where he sent me to stay overnight. I was completely and totally alone. I brought along 6 journals. One for me and 1 for each of my children. They were painfully empty with such sparse entries over the years.
However, that evening and following day were a rebirth for me. I had time to soak and literally wait until the words found their way out of the cobwebbed corners of my mind. God reminded me that He was very much alive and eager to be a part of every detail of the day. I knew that He wanted me to trust that a *living, dynamic* God was going to supernaturally involve Himself in my day to day life, if I allowed it.
It’s been a couple of years since that stay at the Hermitage (I definitely want to go again). I still don’t have all the quiet time I would like. Though I can say that I laugh a lot harder and more easily than I used to. Joy has managed to find it’s way back into this old rusty soul.