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Monday, May 27, 2013

Not-So-Quiet Time

"'Rise early, for it is the early bird that catches the worm.' 
Don’t be fooled by this absurd law;
I once knew a man who tried it. 
He got up at sunrise and a horse bit him."
 -Mark Twain

The laws of time as I know them changed forever on October 9, 2007. This is the day my daughter was born, the glorious, terrifying day when, miraculously, I lost over 15 pounds in a matter of hours.

A lot of other great stuff happened too. But that quick weight loss is something else, huh? 

I still remember how I felt in the hours and days that followed her birth. My insides were jumbled up as all of my lady parts shrunk back down to size. I was 95% sure that I loved this little creature with the crazy eyes, and 78% sure that I actually wanted to take her home as my prize once my stay at the hospital's women's center was yanked out from under me by my insurance carrier finished.

One thing a woman can't grasp until she becomes a mother for the first time is how drastically her perception of time will change. Once a mother, I learned to sleep when I would normally be awake, to wake when I would normally be sleeping, to finish tasks in a fraction of the time it would have taken me when I was "just" a wife, and to do all of this while keeping my newborn daughter on a water-tight schedule so that she would ultimately grow into a "normal," "well adjusted" child who sleeps, eats, and poops on command. I even taught her to read before her first birthday.

Kidding. I think she was more like 14 months. Huked on foniks.

I quickly realized that finding alone time, "me" time, was going to be much more difficult than it had been in the past. Gone were the days of doing what I wanted, when I wanted to. In order to have time for myself, I was going to have to make some serious sacrifices.

One area of my life that I have always tried extremely hard to prioritize is my time alone in the presence of God. I am nothing if not for His Spirit in me, and in order to walk daily in stride with Him I must, must, must spend time in His Word and in prayer. I am a morning person. I have to have my time with the Lord in the morning, because by 8:00pm, I am officially spent both mentally and physically, and nothing ever gets accomplished except the occasional load of laundry being folded. And ice cream being eaten.

Before I had children, my typical morning looked something like this:

7:30am - My alarm goes off and I hit the sleep button.
7:40am - My alarm goes off and I hit the sleep button.
7:50am - My alarm goes off and I stumble to the kitchen to get my cup of coffee, irritated and wondering why jobs have to start so dang early in the morning (and, let me just say, I was in MINISTRY, and if you've been there you know what that means...getting in to work by 10:00am was usually quite acceptable, because you'd been spending time with the LORD before then!).
8:00am - With my Bible in hand, I'd settle in on the sofa with some nice worship music in the background, my hot coffee on the side table, and my journal and pen on my lap, ready to pray and listen to the voice of God. Overwhelming peace. Quiet. Tranquility.

Now, those of you with children read this and you laugh. You laugh in camaraderie, followed up with a "oh, my, I remember those days" sigh. You can probably still remember the mornings when you awoke to the sound of birds chirping because they had awakened before you, and the sight of bright rays of sunshine blazing through the cracks in your curtains. You remember the way you did things every day in their proper order: coffee, breakfast, teeth, shower, makeup, hair, clothes, go. These days I'm lucky if I remember to brush my own teeth at all because it takes 10 minutes to brush my children's for them as they pitch a royal fit over whether they say "eeeeeeeh" or "aaahhhhhhhh" first for that day's tooth-brushing pattern.

But I digress...back to my quiet time.

After having children, everything changed about my quiet time. Everything.

I think that there is some kind of unspoken pact made among newborns while they congregate in the hospital's nursery. A pact to band together to make sure that their parents know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that they now rule the roost. That "bedtime" is questionable, meals must be served promptly, and that when they say it's time to wake up, well, that is when it's time to wake up. 

No one ever warned me of the laws of baby slumber. Something like, "she who wakes up must do so at the most inconvenient time possible." 

Anyhow, after my daughter was a few months old and was sleeping 12 hours a night, and after I settled into a routine and recovered from the trauma that is becoming a first-time mother, I decided that I would start to...wait for it...wake up early for some time with the Lord. On purpose. Like, regularly. I still remember my exuberance at the thought of being so disciplined that I was actually setting my alarm to get up before the sun. I just knew this was going to be a powerful time of communion with the Lord, since I was waking early and my daughter "always" slept until at least 7:00am.

In my mind's eye, I saw my morning looking something like it had in days past...the coffee, the quiet, the focused time with God. Instead, I am pretty sure it was more like this:

5:45am  - My alarm goes off and I hit the sleep button.
5:55am - My alarm goes off and I stumble to the kitchen to get my cup of coffee, trying my very best to be as quiet as an Indian (I mean, Native American). As I enter the kitchen I accidentally kick a chair, knocking it over and shaking the house. I freeze, completely silent while I assess the damage. I hear no stirring from the baby's room, so I proceed with fixing my coffee.
6:00am - I tiptoe to my reading chair, turn on the most dim light possible, wipe the dust off of my Bible and journal, and sit down to be in the presence of the Lord.
6:01am - I begin to pray.
6:02am - The baby cries. I ignore her.
6:05am - The baby cries harder. I start to feel rage.
6:10am - The baby is crying so hard I am starting to worry that she has a limb stuck between the slats of the crib, so I stop what I am doing and go in to check on her. Upon my entry she stops crying and grins. The end.

The next morning I try again. Only this time, I get up 15 minutes earlier. So does the baby.

Day three, same drill. Set my alarm even earlier. The baby does too. Well played, baby. Well played.

And that is just with one child. Once number two came along, and then number three, the chances of everyone sleeping each morning until a reasonable time become slimmer and slimmer. Nowadays I am convinced that I could wake up at 2:30am and by 2:40am the kids would be up and ready for breakfast.

A few days ago I woke up early to try and have some time, and the moment my rear end hit the chair I heard my 23-month-old in his crib yelling, "no." Nothing else, just "no." Over and over and over and over. Try listening to that for an hour while trying to journal and pray; the fury that built up inside threatened to overflow, and I wanted to punch something, anything. By the end of my "quiet time," I needed to confess my anger and beg God's forgiveness, which is pretty funny considering that if I had just slept in I wouldn't have gotten angry to begin with.

There are times when I am beyond frustrated with this scientific phenomenon, times when I want to ask the Lord, "I mean, really? Don't you see, I am waking up early, sacrificing my precious sleep, to spend time with You like You say I should? And you can't give them a dose of spiritual Benadryl to keep them in sleepy land for even a few more minutes? What about MY quiet time?!"

Then He whispers, "But my child, it's not about you."


You see, I don't think that having a "quiet time" makes me a better Christian, or more loved by God. He is not concerned with checking off a list of the chores I have accomplished. He doesn't need my time. But He wants me to want Him. He wants me to want to spend time with Him. It brings Him joy to see my sacrifice of what I would consider precious sleep to be with Him, even when there's not much that gets accomplished because of the chaos that is life with munchkins.

I think He wants to see that I trust Him.

I think it is less about how long my prayer time is and more about whether or not I really believe Him to hear and answer my prayers.

I think it is less about how eloquently my journal reads and more about whether or not I am honest with Him in the few words I can write.

I think it is less about how many Scriptures I can cram in and more about chewing on the simple truths found in a small section of His Word.

I think it's more about the just showing up. It's more about being available for Him, just saying, "I'm here."

Even as I write this, I must be honest and tell you that there are seasons when I quit. Sometimes I just don't even feel like trying. I grow discouraged, frustrated, and tired of not seeing the fruit of my sacrifice. So I place my time with Him on the back burner and opt for my solace to be found under my down comforter. And I get good sleep.

But in those seasons, I am dry. I am worn down. I am tired, even though I am sleeping. And it's not worth it. It's just not.

Time will never again be what it was to me before I had children. What I once took for granted has become a precious and rare commodity, and I must make the most of it. And, most importantly, I must give my time back to the One who holds all of time in His hands, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Because it's the least I can do when He deserves my everything.

"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple" -- Psalm 27:4

Before we part ways, I will leave you with one quick tip for those morning quiet times. If your precious little one often awakes and decides to serenade you with a steady stream of cries as you pour your heart out to the Lord, I would urge you to visit your nearest drug store where you can purchase a mega-pack of earplugs for under $3. These things really do the can tune just about anything out. They also come in handy on extended car trips.

Feel free to laugh!

P.S., I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention that when I think of the many women who would love nothing more than for a baby's cry to interrupt their quiet time but have not yet seen that dream fulfilled, the sounds that once frustrated me instead fill me with an overwhelming thankfulness. My home is loud. It's stirring. And I am thankful. 

P.P.S., If you long to see your dream of motherhood fulfilled and your home filled with the symphony of chaos, know that I would love to pray for you and with you about this!