Prayer

4 Things to do First Thing in the Morning

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Have you ever woken up to the tune (or beeps) of your alarm and had to think for a minute to remember which day of the week it is? And then you groan, as everything comes flooding back to you and you remember what you have to do during the day. And you push your face into your pillow, half wondering if somehow you could get really sick today so that you can cancel on all your responsibilities – apologetically, of course.

Yeah, me too.

Some days, it’s just hard to roll out from under the blanket and greet the day, hard as we may try. Some days, we exit our beds already thinking negatively about what’s going to happen and what we have to do, putting ourselves in a bad mood before we even burn breakfast.

I often have a hard time making myself get up to face another day, but here are a four things that help me in my quest to not hate the sound of my alarm so much. Maybe they’ll help you too.

1. Wash your face.

Purpose: Start your day refreshed.

This step is about feeling clean inside and out first thing in the morning. For me, that means washing my face, drinking a cup of cold water, and getting dressed. It could also mean taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or whatever makes you feel fresh and awake.

Often, when we pull ourselves from our beds, we wander through the house with that gross taste in our mouths and blinking hard to see through the crust in our eyes. We feel kind of bleh. Making yourself feel clean first thing in the morning makes anything else a little easier to face. We feel more put together and ready to do whatever comes next.

By the way, this step also includes making your bed. Not to sound like your mother, but a made bed really can make your room feel more orderly and it’s a nice thing to come home to at the end of the day.

2. Pour that coffee.

Purpose: Start your day relaxed.

I drink coffee every day and it’s something that I look forward to. Having a cup of something hot and caffeinated relaxes me and makes the morning feel more gentle. Find something small that can soothe you first thing in the morning, when you’re still in that squinty I-can’t-see-anything phase of waking up. It could be coffee or tea. Maybe it’s a warm robe that you like to wear for a few minutes. Just pick something simple and give it a try. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

If you start off your day with something that calms you, you can refocus and think through the day without that obnoxious song that you thought would make a good alarm blaring in your ears. This step really is about collecting yourself and taking care of yourself before you enter into all the crazy that you know is coming next.

3. Pray.

Purpose: Start your day with a focus on God.

For me, this step also includes reading my Bible, working on my memorization, and reading a theology/spiritual life book. I know that’s a lot of stuff, but that’s what gets me focused on God for the day. You don’t have to do all these different things first thing in the morning. That might not be a good time for you (I used to fall asleep with my Bible open on my lap every morning). But I would encourage you to at least pray for a few minutes.

Take this time to praise God and to pour out your heart to Him. You’re not here to impress anybody, so don’t pray like it. Tell Him what worries you have about the coming day, pray for friends and family, and just be with Him for a while. It sets a new tone for the day and really centers you at the very beginning.

4. Read and write.

Purpose: Start your day with something you enjoy doing.

After I read my Bible and pray and all that, I write. In fact, I’m writing this as part of my morning routine. I chose writing as the thing I want to spend some time on in the mornings because it’s something I enjoy and I don’t really do it at other times of the day if I don’t do it first thing. Some days I blog and some days I outline. Soon, I’ll replace outlining with writing The Fiction.

For this part of your morning, pick something you like to do, but don’t really make time for the rest of the day. You could read a book, walk the dog, cook a nice breakfast, workout (I’ll do this once the temperatures rise above freezing in Virginia), or whatever else you like to do. Again, this allows you to focus and think before the day begins, setting you up to have a good outlook on whatever you have planned for the day. Plus, it’s something to look forward to first thing in the morning.

The collective purpose of these four things to do first thing in the morning is to start the day off in a way that doesn’t leave you smothering yourself with a pillow at 6am. If you build a routine that you actually enjoy first thing in the morning, you will be ready for the rest of the day. You will feel good because you took care of yourself and spent some time breathing before running off to work or class.

I would also encourage you to get up a little earlier if you don’t already do so. Give yourself the time you need to do the routine you build for yourself, even if that means rising before the sun and going to bed when the ten year old does. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it prepares your body for whatever comes next. Your morning routine is arguably the most important time of the day because it prepares you as a whole for the rest of the day.

So maybe try adding one thing in the morning that makes you smile – once you’ve remembered what day of the week it is of course. It’ll make dragging yourself from bed just a little bit easier.

Kira

What does your morning routine look like right now?
Is there anything you want to add or take away from it?

It is Good to be Near God

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For me it is good to be near God. (Psalm 73:28a)

I’ve been caught up in a lot of stuff lately. I just turned in my first two college applications, my car keeps breaking in expensive and obnoxious ways, I’ve just had to leave a steady nanny job to look for different work, and so on. My mind is always consumed with something. Will my chemistry homework get finished? When’s the last time I worked out?

I’ve always thought myself a busy person, but it’s amazing how you can handle more stuff in life than you think. Just when you think you’re at capacity, one more things is added to your schedule and you still somehow survive.

One of the things added to my schedule a few weeks ago was preparing a Bible study for a discipleship ministry that I’ve been a part of for about eight years now. I’ve done a few Bible studies for the group before and preparation often involves listening to sermons and reading commentaries on the passage (Romans 6:1-14 in this case) in order to learn as much as you can before leading the team in the study.

While listening to a sermon by Sandy Willson called “Lord, Change Me“, I began to realize how I have been drifting into trying to run my own life. One of his three lessons at the end of the sermon was to invest real time to cultivate the relationship you have with God. He said, and I quote, “You can’t microwave this, America!” (By the way, you should all go listen to Sandy Willson – he’s awesome)

A relationship with God never reaches its full potential, at least in this life. There is always more room to grow and the amount of time I have been devoting to my relationship with God is not enough. That’s why I’ve been so wrapped up in the world. That’s why my car, college, and career are such a big deal.

When we don’t pour ourselves into our relationship with God, we become envious of the wicked in Psalm 73: they seem to suffer no consequences for their sin and even seem to prosper. But when we go “into the santuary of God”, then we can discern their end (Psalm 73:17).

When we go into the sanctuary with God and spend time with Him – in His Word, in prayer, in coming to know Who He is – we realize that we do not need the things that we so greatly desire. We realize that “for me it is good to be near God.”

I’ve been learning that through drifting my own way and then coming back. For me, Kira, it is so good to be near God. And the same is true for you.

Kira

Grace Draws Us Back

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The grace of God has reached for me
And pulled me from the raging sea
And I am safe on this solid ground
The Lord is my salvation
“The Lord is My Salvation” by Keith and Kristyn Getty

I have fallen this week, this month. I have sinned repeatedly, even when I knew it was wrong. I have prized the things of this world above the things of Heaven. I have allowed myself to be swallowed up by worries and fear. And still the grace of God has reached for me.

The prophet Hosea obeyed God’s call to give Israel a picture of the Lord’s redemption through the formation of his family. He married a prostitute, Gomer, who represented Israel in all her spiritual adultery and wandering from God. They had children together who were given symbolic names to show Israel what state she was in as a result of her sin. When Gomer left Hosea to return to her life of prostitution, he redeemed her and brought her home. God did the same for Israel and He will do the same for us.

Grace is the most beautiful part of the gospel. It is what draws us to Heaven. It continues through our lives, drawing us back to Christ day after day. He pulls us from the raging sea of our sin and our obsession with this world and what it can do for us. And He brings us to Himself to be loved and forgiven every time.

Thank the Lord for His steadfast love and salvation which He offers continually and without condition. His is the perfect love we can return to and His are the open arms that will receive us. Don’t hesitate to come to God in your need and ask Him for forgiveness. He will give it.

Kira

How has the Lord shown Himself good to you?

The Upside of Gutting it Out

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“You seem to be disenchanted with life this morning.”

My mother’s words before church on Sunday perfectly captured what I had been feeling for the past week or so (and am still feeling as I write). Disenchanted with life… I don’t want to get up in the morning because it’s just another day of school and work until falling into bed. I’m exhausted from the minute I wake up to the minute I fall asleep. Social interactions and books don’t hold my interest. There’s not much time or energy for writing. And don’t even mention working out – that hasn’t happened in weeks.

Living like this is frustrating. It feels like nothing’s working even though I’m trying so hard. I just don’t love life.

I don’t know what the cause of this is. Maybe it’s just a phase or season. Maybe I’m not getting enough vitamin C (though I know it’s not that – gotta ward off those germs). But I do know something that has helped me. Habits.

A couple years ago, I formed the solid habit of doing devotions (Bible reading, prayer, verse memorization) every day. I don’t often miss it. When I got a job and suddenly became busy, I formed the habit of praying constantly. Through years of siblings waking up bright and early, I formed the habit of getting out of bed by 7:30am at the latest (and considering that sleeping in).

I’m in the shower by 7:10 every morning. I work on school with most of my spare time. I get my chores done (mostly) in between various things. These things help me mechanically move through time, even when I’d rather not move at all. I can still get work done, I can still move forward, even though I feel terrible.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I say it rather to urge you to form solid habits. Decide when you need to get up in the morning and work on it until you wake up before the alarm rings. Pick a book of the Bible and read a chapter every day, at the same time every day, and pray afterward. When do you need to work out? Do it (and I say this one as much to myself as to anyone else).

We have so many feelings and they’re not always good. Bad moods, frustration, “disenchantment with life” will sometimes overstay their welcome. But life can’t stop for a week of disenchantment – or two or three.

Use the good times to form habits. They won’t fix the bad, but they’ll help.

Kira

What habits help you keep moving when life’s got you down?

Any new ones that you need to form?

God is Not an Afterthought

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I’m back! A month and a half later, and here I am, finally writing again. Nothing in particular has kept me from it, other than my busy schedule.

Life’s been crazy lately. I’ve never worked this much and there are an awful lot of projects soon to be due for different classes. Thanksgiving was, of course, wonderful, but also hectic. Random little things are in abundance: birthday celebrations, driving siblings to school, and getting the flu shot. It all adds up and, before you know it, you’re out of time.

We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, the same seven days in a week. How we choose to spend it speaks volumes about who we are and what we value. The fact that I take books for school with me in case I have a few minutes shows that I value getting that done. Showing up for work on time and doing your best while you’re there shows a work ethic to be admired. There are a lot of good things to value, but there is only one best thing.

Often, God gets pushed to the backseat in the middle of busyness. Yes, I can make it to practice, but no, I don’t have time to read my Bible. This has become a problem for me. I was blessed enough to be able to pour a lot of time into my spiritual health and relationship with God over the summer, so that now I have that desire to spend time with Him. What I’m lacking at the moment is the time.

It is prideful and foolish to fill your life so much that there is no room for God every day. That is a sure way for things to fall apart. But I know what it feels like to be drowning in so much that it seems reading the Bible won’t fit anywhere and praying is a thing of the past. So here are some things I’ve taken to doing to make sure I’m still spending time with my Lord, Creator, and Father every day.

Create a habit for devotions.

This one’s tough, but it’s essential. Look at your average week and see what time of day is usually free. And give yourself some time. Make sure you’ve got at least half an hour to start, even if it won’t take you that long. Then do devotions every day that you can. Don’t beat yourself up over the days you can’t, but don’t let yourself skip the days you can, even if the time must be abbreviated.

It’s okay to be busy, but if you are unable to set aside time to spend in full devotion to God most days of the week, there’s a problem.

That being said, here’s what I do when devotions are not a possibility (and often when they are):

Pray EVERYWHERE.

Pray in the car on your way to work and class. Pray in bed before you fall asleep. Pray in the shower. Pray in class (maybe not all the time, but if you can pull it off…). Any time you find yourself with nothing in particular to think about, pray.

And vary your prayers. You can pray for your family at a traffic light. You can thank God for your blessings while you wash your hair. Just take a deep breath and talk to God.

Make meal times count.

I know that meals often get lost in the mayhem and tend to turn into “what can I grab from the fridge in two seconds flat so I won’t be late for fill-in-the-blank” sessions. But I would encourage you to take a minute to pray before meals. Yes, every time, and yes, in public.

You might only have thirty seconds or maybe you can take five minutes, but that’s time well spent. Besides, it’s good for you to stop to eat a proper meal every once in a while (or so the “experts” say).

Read your Bible whenever you get the chance.

Block out other thoughts while you read, even if it’s only for a few verses. Take notes and underline. Pray while you read. (I know – I won’t stop talking about prayer, but it is the one and only reason I have survived this past month and a half.)

Don’t confine yourself to the plan you’re doing if you only have five minutes and you want to read somewhere else. God’s Word sanctifies us (John 17:17) and gives us rest.

Go to church.

I don’t care how busy you are. If you are not dying of the plague, go to church. I understand that some people must work on Sundays, but do your best to avoid it. Church is specifically designed to be a place of fellowship with God’s people while we worship Him together. The Sabbath day is a day of rest. Church is an excellent way to rest. Don’t give up the opportunity to be spiritually fed and in turn praise the Lord because you’re too tired or don’t have time. Church is essential.

 

I hope some of these will be helpful to you in staying close to God through the chaos. Busyness isn’t a reason to push God aside; it’s a reason to draw even closer.

Have a blessed and fruitful day!

Kira

What do you do to stay “in-touch” with God? Are there any particularly weird places you like to pray?