What do these three things have in common? Quite a lot for me.
As I recently began preparing to speak at a retreat for mothers, I decided to focus on the importance of morning rhythms that bring us to the feet of Jesus before we begin our days filled with motherhood.
Anytime I touch on this topic, the classic response happens: “I’m just not a morning person!”
So as I began to think through how to address this common thought (I know you’re dying to journey through my thought process with me, ha!), I returned to a season in my life when I became the elusive “morning person.”
(And yes, here’s the first part of my rebuttal – you actually aren’t born a morning person or a night owl. Spoiler alert – you are what you do repeatedly. It’s simply a habit that can develop you into one or the other based on what you do or don’t do repeatedly.)
So, the season when I became a morning person just so happened to be on a mission trip to Japan where I served for ten weeks one summer in college.
I don’t really remember having any disciplined routines or rhythms prior to that mission trip experience. Sure, I could wake up at 4:30am for college basketball weight lifting or conditioning sessions, but that was definitely because someone was making me. The entire team had repercussions if even one of us was a minute late. There wasn’t really any self-motivation required for that.
But why would I choose to change my habits and become a morning person while in Japan on a 10 week mission trip?
Maybe hearing more of the setting will help. I was the female leader of a team of 22 interns who were serving there for the summer. We all lived together and it was my responsibility to multiply myself into them, which is just a fancy missional leadership term for saying that my job wasn’t necessarily my own personal ministry on the mission field; my primary focus was shepherding these girls to make sure they could do their roles well.
So here’s what that looked like:
I needed to be ready to go when they were ready to go. I never knew when a counseling session would be needed, a listening ear requested, a discussion asking for wisdom or a change in schedule or appointments, or someone becoming sick or just acting flat out defiant and not wanting to do their job for the day. I managed cleaning schedules of our living space, handled our money, budgeting it to individuals throughout the week. I cleared my evenings to be able to sit down on their beds and chat with them about how their week was going, what their victories and challenges were. I needed to be available with no agenda, but simply to be a listening ear…someone who encouraged, guiding when needed. I then would attend meetings and be a representative for them to the leadership I answered to both back at home as well as on the field. I put out fires, caused a few myself, and dealt with high emotions of overly tired individuals who weren’t reasonable at times. Heck, I was overly tired and unreasonable at times. I sometimes found myself being less than gentle when needing to address something because I just wanted to get my point across in a given situation so I could do my work and go to bed.
Go back and read that paragraph again.
Sound anything at all like motherhood?
I know, it gives me shivers, too!
But really, in the moment, I had NO IDEA how similar to motherhood it was. I wasn’t married, and was still far away from having children.
But isn’t it cool how God begins to prepare us for things we don’t even realize will happen in the future?
Somewhere in the midst of the messiness of that summer, in ways I didn’t even understand then, God was sanctifying me.
I started waking up earlier than everyone else. I remember my routine well. I awoke, put on tennis shoes, and took off for a run through the city and into a nearby park. Once I returned from my run, I would shower, make some coffee and toast and eggs, and sit down with my Bible.
This was how my team began to find me when they awoke. At first it surprised them. Heck, it even surprised me! But then I just kept doing it because I continued to see the benefits of doing it.
Those benefits are content for another post another day, but I can tell you now, 12 years later, that my morning rhythms are the lifeblood of my day. Trust me, they’ve looked differently in various seasons, and there was one time specifically I even forgot about the value of it all together (after having my second child and struggling for 5 months).
But God has been so kind to return me to having purposeful morning rhythms that enable me to begin my day with Him, reminding me of my dependence on him, which always helps me to do all the things through the day better as a mother.
I didn’t know it at the time, but God knew that my time as a college student, stumbling through leading a team of 22 girls one summer in Tokyo, Japan would be a pivotal point in my life where he would teach me the importance of beginning my day with him – something that would spill over into a much more important role in my life later on in motherhood.
And motherhood is absolutely a mission field, too.
Missions, Mornings and Motherhood.
What parallels do you see in your own life between these three areas? I’d love to know!