How Intentional Mornings Are Changing My Life

It wasn't all that long ago that I was sleeping in as late as my kids. Now for some people who have kids that wake at 6 a.m., that's not saying a lot. But when your kids often sleep until 8 a.m., well, it's a little embarrassing. But after five months of living off maybe - maybe - two hours a night (aka, colic), then eight more months of regular night wakings, I think I was just making up for a long-lasting deficit. But as the night wakings *generally* faded, I've been working on getting up before my kids. It was slow going at first, I started with alarms at 7 a.m., then 6 a.m., and now 5 a.m.

I know a lot of times as moms, we like to joke that mornings are impossible for us. That there's no way we can wake up before our kids.  And in certain seasons, I think that is completely true. As the saying goes, "Sometimes the most holy thing we can do is sleep." But as my kids grew up and my true need for sleep grew less, I started feeling conviction that I should be more purposeful with my mornings.

Honestly, I've tried waking early before. Back then, I was just waking up and dinking around. No true purpose. Maybe I'd blog. Maybe I'd read a bit of a book. I'd try to have a quiet time sometime in there. Research a new iPad cover so when my kids throw it in the backseat on a trip it bounces instead of cracks. Paint my nails. Spend 30 minutes comparing tissue prices on Amazon Prime.

But before I knew it, the kids were up and I hadn't gotten anything done except grab a low price on 16 boxes of tissues that would arrive in two days.

So I knew if I was going to keep this up, if this were going to be a lasting habit, I needed to make my mornings more intentional. As I did that, as I forced myself out of bed one morning, then the next, and the next, I found I started to love that time to myself. I actually craved waking before the rest of the house (Even on weekends!) and found that time to be invaluable, not only in getting things done, but to set my heart on the right things.

Intentional mornings have completely changed how I mother. Now that I have time to do a little self-care, get organized and get a few things off the to-do list done before the kids wake, I'm finding that I'm much more patient throughout the day. I'm less distracted. I'm more intentional to set aside time to have focused play with the kids, which fills both our tanks. In short, I feel like I can fully "mom" throughout the day instead of feeling pulled in twenty different directions.

It's not perfect of course. Sometimes, I'm still impatient – because: selfishness. Sometimes, things come up in the middle of the day that I want to deal with right away and I find I'm distracted. And sometimes, I don't get that time in the morning and I can easily find myself making excuses for my attitude, when in reality I need to put on my big girl pants and remember that intentional mornings are a privilege, not a right.

Here are some tips I've found helpful to have an intentional morning (because just because you wake early, doesn't mean that the time will be well-spent)!

Have a set time
It's pretty easy for me to just keep hitting the snooze button on my phone. I once did it for two hours - TWO HOURS! In hindsight, I really wish I would have either just gotten up or turned it off an actually got good rest. It's not worth it if you're just going to hit your snooze a million times. Really try to stick to the time you've committed to. And don't be afraid to work up to a certain time – more power to you if you can go cold turkey to the time you want to wake, but don't feel bad if you need a bit of a weaning process.

Decide what you'll do
Remember my aimless mornings? Don't be like me. You might as well be sleeping. I have friends that wake up and work out, others that meal plan, some that write, and some that run their businesses. The key is planning how you'll spend your time, and making sure it's on something that's going to start your day off right. I tend to prioritize the things that I can't do well with the kids underfoot. I start off with my quiet time (I gave the full run down on how I make that happen here), then move to emails/messages/planning for the day, and two mornings a week I have meetings for the Risen Motherhood podcast at 6 a.m.

Go to bed/wind down early
This has been huge for me. For a long time we weren't going to bed until around 11 p.m. And I like staying up, but often my brain is just fried from the day so we were spending that time zoning out to TV, which really wasn't productive at all. Getting up a 5 a.m. means I'm in bed by 9:30, 10 at the latest. I also started reading paper books instead of looking at my phone, just to help my body wind down and fall asleep faster.

Make it easy & get rid of excuses
For me, it's all about the coffee. I'm in a low-grade haze when I wake up until I've had my first cup of coffee.Whatever it is you decide to do with your mornings, make everything easy to access. The first thing I do is have a quiet time, so I keep all my materials together on a desk in the living room. Everything's easy to nab and I can't make any excuses. I also now get ready before I go downstairs, being dressed for the day helps me feel more focused, and avoids the last minute scramble that was happening when I waited until the end and my kids were waking. If you don't have time to get ready in the morning, try showering at night to save some time. We can all think of a million excuses - but excuses are different than reasons. Excuses blame other things or people. Reasons take accountability for what's happening and help us figure out how to take control of a situation in the future. We can deal with reasons, get rid of the excuses!

Don't be discouraged
As moms, our lives are super unpredictable. A few weeks ago my son was sick and I was co-sleeping with him for a few nights in a row. You'd better believe I didn't wake up early those days. I just asked the doctor for a caffeine IV drip in my arm to go along with my son's IV. (Kidding!) Don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen for a day or two, or even a longer season. That's normal. That's life. Just start over when you can. All is not lost if you sleep through your alarm, just try again tomorrow. It's simple.

I've never thought of myself as a creature of habit, but as a young mom we all know our days rarely go to plan, so having one thing in the morning that's consistent has been so beneficial to me. Are you an early riser? I'd love to hear what you do with your mornings and if you've found any other tips!

In Which Suffering Brings Us Deep Into The Heart of God

It was the same conversation we'd been having for a year and a half. Six years really, but the past year and half its frequency has really picked up.

At the end of it I told my husband I was having déjà vu. I was having déjà vu not just of the conversation, but of even just saying I was having déjà vu about this very topic.

"I hate this, but nothing's going to change today." I told him. "So how do where we are, well?"

***

A crumpled, well-worn sheet of paper hung on our fridge for most of my growing up years, "Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and ninety precent how you react to it." In my high school years, my mom would tell me to "choose my attitude" at least twenty times a day, then nod to the piece of paper.

***

We all have limitations in our life, things we wish were not happening, and things we wish were happening – but are not. And as I approach turning 30 in less than a month, I'm learning every stage of life has hard things that we have to learn to cope with and continue to function well within. Some things we deal with for just a moment – like choosing not to yell at our kids when they flush a bouncy ball down the toilet and flood the bathroom. Some for few weeks or months at a time, like a sickness that sweeps through the entire house, a colicky baby, or an overcommitted schedule. And some things last for years: family health issues, infertility or miscarriage, a difficult job, spousal tensions, financial strains, or a child's behavioral issues.

Some things are easy to find solutions for: get the kids to the doctor and wait for them to heal, scale back on your schedule going forward, but what about those things that you can't change? Those things you keep coming up empty on when looking for solutions, those things that are out of your power, out of your control, those things that just make you feel like you're running on a hamster wheel of non-solutions?

As my mom engrained in my brain, you have a choice. You can use this season to suffer well, or you can fritter it away with bitterness, guilt, blame and anger. I have come to find that if I choose it, suffering draws me into a deeper and sweeter intimacy with Christ. It is in the long seasons of waiting for God to bring redemption that I have found myself dwelling deeper in the heart of God. It seems like it's backwards, that suffering should drive us away from the one who is sovereign over the universe, but I have only found that the deeper and longer the wound, the more intimate and affectionate my love for my Savior has become. When I'm in the valley, at the base of the mountain, I drink deep from the River of Life.

Because, and this is the key: Do you count it all loss for the sake of Christ?

Suffering has a way of forcing us to choose. Do we choose this life? Its worldy pleasures? The things our culture tells us we must have to be happy? Or do we choose Christ?

We treasure many things in our time here on Earth, and most of them are good, splendid, wonderful things: children, strong marriages, physical health, exciting job opportunities, involved husbands, the ability to make ends meet, life-giving friendships – but are we prepared to give all of that up for the sake of knowing our Lord? In the midst of your suffering, are you choosing a heart attitude that says you treasure Christ more than these things, as good as they are?

Hard times force us to turn our gaze to God and his eternal glory and not put our hope in the things of this world that are passing away. Take hope in knowing there is purpose in your suffering: To know Christ in a way you never have before. You count all else loss because you are gaining something far more valuable: The precious treasure of going deeper into the heart of God.

Tips for Getting In God's Word As A Young Mom

It's been a while since I truly felt a long-term passion about God's word. In high school and college I spent a lot of time in scripture, but as I started working, got married and had really little littles, I wasn't spending a lot of time in the Bible. I hunted and pecked here and there, did a few inductive Bible Studies – my time and depth ebbed and flowed depending on what I was involved in and who was holding me accountable.

And with the lack of time, I felt some of my passion for God dry up. If you asked me, I would have told you I wanted a more passionate relationship with the Lord, but I'd tell you that for one reason or another I was just kinda going through a dry spell. And if I were honest with you – if I were honest with myself – I would have told you that I believed God was the distant one, not me.

But really, I was feeding myself a lie. I was the one distancing myself from God – by not spending time with him. My words were not lining up with my actions. I gave lip-service to God, but was only having a quiet time a few days a week, for 15 minutes at best. I often found myself praying one line prayers for wisdom, for God to "give me the words," to be a mother that spoke truth to her children, and drew constant connections from their lives to their God's, but I wasn't putting in the right things to actually get something out.  I longed to have the passion I saw in others, to have their fearless faith and their Biblical wisdom to believe and speak freely of God's redemptive story. But when you're just having your quiet time to check it off a list, not for comprehension or heart change, none of those things are going to happen.

When your well is dry, you'll always be thirsty.

So this past year I started committing to spending more time with God. I started getting up earlier and instead of blogging, surfing the web – or doing anything really – I sat down and spent time in his word. I considered it a meeting, one that I couldn't use excuses to get out of. I told myself that before I did anything else, no matter how much more pressing it was, or how much "fun" it offered, I would give the first part of my morning (even on the weekends) to God. And not just 15 minutes, but as much time as it took to come away with a truth for the day.

I've ended up spending less time here because of it. I don't read nearly as many blogs or books as I used to. I watch far less TV. I do less DIY. I say "no" to more new and fun opportunities that come my way.

But I have so much more love for God.

Slowly, over the past months, the Lord has transformed my heart. Where I could barely focus for 10 minutes on a passage of scripture, I now wake up in the morning, sometimes spending 45 minutes to an hour reading, praying, learning. This is something I've longed for all my life, something I've felt was both bizarre and admirable in others, and something I've felt like I could never attain, especially as a young mom. But life is about choices and I'm learning that I have to give up things – even a lot of good things – if I want to prioritize my relationship with God in my life.

For example, I don't work out. Now don't get me wrong, working out is a good thing, and something of great value, but not eternal value. When I realized I was prioritizing working out over my quiet time, I knew something had to change. For me personally, I wasn't willing to make time for both. (I'm so fighting the urge to write, "didn't have time for both." But as my mom always says, "You have time for what you want to make time for.") I have other things I want to give my time to: here at OA and on my social profiles, Risen Motherhood, friendships, women's ministry at church, etc., so working out quickly came off the list when I knew something needed to go in order for me to grow spiritually.

If you're like me, you've looked at moms that have said things like this and wondered how in the world they can possibly find this much time to be in the word - even with giving up certain things. I'm not perfect of course, as moms, our lives change quickly. Rarely does one day look like the next. And even when we set aside time in the early morning hours before they typically wake up, things happen. Kids get sick, they wake early, we go on trips or spend time single parenting for a while. We have a lot of "seasons within a season of life," but we can still prioritize our relationship with Christ and spend time in scripture.

Maybe you can't give this much time right now, I know how hard the little years are! But no matter how many minutes you actually have to give, it's vital to be in the word every day. If you've been longing to reconnect with God, but have been wondering where he is, might I encourage you in having a daily, purposeful quiet time? Over time, I promise you, you will begin to feel the passion again. He promises that his word will not return void.

Here are a few things I've learned about getting in a consistent, intentional quiet time no matter the season you're in:

Try to find a consistent time.
This is huge. For many young moms I've talked to, they've found first thing in the morning before their kids get up is best. Admittedly, there are some seasons where this is simply not achievable, but once you have a little more routine, a little older kiddos, if you can swing waking up before the rest of the house, I highly recommend. But if your kids are up all night or routinely up at 5 a.m., try to find another part of the day that typically works - nap time, before bed, on the train to work, don't feel like you have to structure your day like anyone else's. You do you.

Figure out distractions and get rid of them.
I found that having my phone nearby was a big distraction. Sometimes I like to look things up on the internet as I'm studying God's word, but my phone had too many alerts and access to too many apps for me to stay focused. I try to put it in a drawer while I study and look things up on a computer if I need to. You could even just put it on airplane mode for a time.  Within the first couple of days of doing an intentional quiet time you'll figure out your distractions - deal with them quickly so they don't set you off track.

Put things where you can easily access them.
I keep everything for my quiet time on a desk in my living room, so I can quickly grab them in the morning. I keep my regular bible, a journal for quiet time notes, a prayer journal, the ESV Study Bible, pens and highlighters with me on the couch while I study. In addition, I have several reference books on the shelf above the desk so they're easily accessible if I have a question come up.

Have a plan.
This. Is. Huge. I've always found that when I'm in a formal Bible study, I'm much more committed to spending time in God's word because I have a plan and accountability for what I'm actually doing. But I've also found that I like to change things up and often find myself running on tangents with questions and wanting to study other things.

I'd like to write on choosing quiet time structures more, but lately I've been doing the material for a summer study I'm in with my family in about two mornings, then the other five days I spend working through a word study or larger passages of scripture. (I use the plow and trowel methods, this post is a great overview!) I'm currently blazing through the Old Testament, and it's amazing what you can learn when you 1) read for comprehension, not just to get your daily reading plan done and 2) read Judges close enough to the Psalms (or any two books of the OT) so you actually get some of the references that had always gone over your head before. I also really enjoy using the inductive study method. I grew up using it in my church, but Jen Wilkin has a great book on it too.

There are no rules!
Remember, there are no true rules when it comes to quiet times. It's between you and the Lord. Don't be afraid to change up what you're doing, or if the day is a little out of whack and you can't fit in your normal amount of time, don't toss in the towel. Do what you can, even just leaving the Bible open on your counter so you can look at it throughout the day is better than nothing. Don't compare what you're doing to anyone else - especially not to me. For a time I felt like I needed to learn specific things in a passage, or study some of the most popular books of the Bible, or spend a certain amount of time studying. But if I've learned anything it's to allow the Lord to direct my thoughts and my time. Some days, I really do just have 15 minutes, other days, I have an hour. I can trust that he'll guide me in the right things to study, bringing the right things to mind, and allow the truth I need to hear stand out in the time he's provided.

Get accountability.
Telling someone else to check in on you is a surefire way for you to get your rear in gear and actually read God's word. Swap emails or Voxes about what you've read, send each other texts to let each other know you've done it, or even have a weekly playdate to discuss what you're learning. Accountability is a great way to grow with others and to motivate you on those extra tough days.

What tips would you add?

If you'd like more on this topic, check out this episode on the Risen Motherhood podcast. Emily and I are chatting all about how this concept can be so hard as a young mom, but so worth it if we apply ourselves. 

Mothering When The World Is Scary: Raising The Next Generation To Change The World

This has been a scary couple weeks for our world. I watch the news with a stomach ache, wondering how my children will grow up, wondering what more horrors they will see and experience. I wonder for their physical safety, political freedoms and what damage will be inflicted on their hearts as they grow and mature. I feel hopeless as to how to protect them, like the world is spinning out of control and we are merely along for the ride, no matter how dark and scary it gets.

There's a question that's been swirling in my mind, a question my friends and I keep asking each other, keep asking ourselves: "What kind of world have we brought our children into?" And more importantly: "What can we do about it?"

So what is a mother to do when the world seems to keep getting scarier? What can we do?  How do we respond to the frightening things we're seeing happen on TV, on the internet and even in our own cities, in our government, at our children's schools and with their friends? How do we deal with raising children in a broken culture?

When I hear about the shootings, the refugees, the political corruption, the terrorism the bombings, the racism, I know my first response is to lose heart, to lay awake at night worrying and agonizing over the devastation in the world and feel helpless concerning my children's future. But as a mother who fears God, this is the exact opposite response that I should have.

It will not do us or our children any good to live as fearful mothers.

God has called us to to be steadfast, faithful women, women who trust in his promises, who believe what he says to be true. When we take him at his word - when we eradicate our unbelief, we can live in a radical way that's counter-cultural to our world today. We mothers can watch the news without despair, because we know God is sovereign and has a much bigger plan than what the 10 o'clock anchors are reporting. No matter what awaits us, or our babies, we don't have to fear because our hope is not in today.

We can live with a rare fearlessness - because we have a hope in God's great redemption story - that even though today I am drowned in grief and sorrow over what is happening to African Americans, to police, to the LGBTQ community, to the Syrian refugees, and so many more innocent people, I can still live with trust in God's great mercy and love for his people - that someday, all will be redeemed. No more tears. No more pain. No more fear. No more suffering or shootings or protests or fighting or people fleeing for their very life.

One day we will be with him in eternal glory, and no matter what happens to us today, we can trust our future is secure. We can mother fearlessly with faith, because of what God has done in the past and hope for what we know he will do in the future. We trust that he is sovereign over all, that he is still fighting for us

To be honest, I find myself daily crying out, "I believe, help my unbelief!" I am not perfect at this, is anyone? But when we put this into practice, when we study God's word, when we spend time talking to him and walking in his ways, we can admit this is a hard truth, but that we know it IS truth. And slowly, surely, our hearts are transformed.

And when we have this truth (as elusive as it can feel at times) embedded deep in our souls we can raise our children to understand the same.

So what does our world need? What can we as mothers do?

We can raise our children to weep for a loss of life. To have mercy on the helpless. To know that all people are created in the image of God - and no matter the age or race, all have value - every life matters. We teach them to have eyes for the hurting, hands for helping, hearts of bravery and valor. We teach them to love God's law, with a deep conviction for truth, yet great mercy and empathy for lost and hurting souls.

What we can do is impact the next generation.

If we want to see our world changed, then we start with our own children. We must train them to love righteousness, to have a deep compassion for the pain and turmoil the world is in, yet understand how to stand up and fight for truth.

You are raising a world-changer, mom.

You are enormously, vitally, part of the cause to change the world.

You are shaping souls in your home, every, single day.

In everything you do, every bedtime story, every breakfast conversation, every walk to the park or drop off at daycare, you are shaping them to someday change the world.

When you talk to your children in the car about loving their black friends well and not placing stereotypes on them, you are shaping them. When you treat your gay family member with respect and love in front of your children you are shaping them. When your children watch you swing by a birth center to stand up for a helpless baby in the womb's right to life, you are shaping them. When you email your politicians, serve on PTA or walk to the mailbox to send money to a cause Middle East, you are shaping them.

Our children are taught, not in lengthy, great, eloquent speeches, or in a few, random moments of awkward talk about Christian values when they are teens - no, they are shaped and transformed little by little, though living life with you each day.

Your children will learn to live their life by the wisdom of God when they have watched you, their mother, model it for them day in and day out.

This is a weighty responsibility. But it is an investment that is worth more than anything else we will ever do.

We are the gatekeepers of our homes, and we will likely have the greatest impact on our children's lives - on what ultimately shapes their opinions, loves and values. We must teach them to become leaders in their generations, deep thinkers and high action-takers, shaped by a love for what God loves.

Our children will be world-changers when they learn to live different from the world, with a deep reverence for the balance of unity, mercy, truth and grace.

When we see horrific stories covered on our news, it should not make us fear and want to hide, it should spur us on to become even more committed to raising our children to become protectors of the helpless, Godly messengers to a lost and broken world. When we have no fear for our own futures (however bleak and full of suffering they may become) we can raise our children confidentially, radically, to rest secure in the same future hope we have in the coming return of Christ.

Moms, if we can unite in this truth, if we all would strive to raise our own children with this hope and truth deep in their souls, then someday, an entire generation will rise up that loves moral goodness, values life, protects the needy, bears the burden of grace and acts in love! It will be a generation like we've never seen before, one that is dedicated to the good things of God, to shaping our culture towards righteousness, towards the way it was originally designed.

When all hope seems lost for our world, there is something you can do, and you're doing right it now. So go, live life with your children, remembering that you are making an impact on generations to come. Your responsibility as a mother is great, but it is not on your shoulders alone - Christ the King has given you all that you need when he gave his life for yours on the cross.

Me and my little world-changers.

When You Doubt God's Goodness (enCourage)

It was about a year ago the doubt began. We had just moved across states, a three month old and a not-quite two year old in tow, living in temporary housing while we renovated a house. I didn’t necessarily want to move, but a new job opportunity for my husband called, and I agreed, wanting him to pursue his dreams. As the weeks ticked by with a colicky newborn, and nap-striking toddler, and no friends or family available for support in a unfamiliar city, the doubt grew. Slowly at first, but soon spreading, infecting, deepening its roots in my heart.

 As I watched my toddler play with the handful of toys we brought to temporary housing, I found myself thinking about all that had happened: the move, the baby, the toddler tantrums, the long hours my husband worked, the colic, the loneliness, the fear – the feeling of abandonment by God. I was wallowing in self-pity, feeling unloved and unseen by a Father that I had always been close to. I began to believe the lie that I am the orphan, knowing I have a father, but never feeling his love, joy and affection for me.

The lies crept further in telling me that I was overlooked by God, unremembered, passed over. I was disappointed with God and questioned his goodness when he didn’t answer my pleas. I was asking him for a change, for the good gifts he promises me in his word, but as the weeks ticked by with nothing but the same struggles, I began to question if God cared for me at all ... to read more visit the enCourage blog. I'm honored to be guest posting over there today!

Backyard Camping & Becoming A Mom of "Yes"

Why is it that summer days always seem to go so much more quickly, and the weeks feel so much fuller? As a SAHM to two under three, it's not like my schedule changes at all. There's no "last day of school," summer camps or sports, so I'm still trying to figure out why it feels like we're running around like crazy to get things done. Lately, between adoption paperwork, outside projects (like Risen Motherhood) and traveling, it's been hard to really slow down and enjoy the summer.

I feel like I'm often having to say, "no," or "hurry up," or "we don't have time for that," and after a while I realized that was about all I was saying. So halfway through June, I decided it was time to change my tune, and become a mom of a bit more "yes." With the longer days, it's easier to keep the kids up later – and easier to keep their good attitudes with all the fun things there are to do outside. Eli's been asking to go camping since Christmas, so one random Saturday when he asked yet again, instead of thinking about how much work it would be and how late a bedtime he'd end up having, I just said "yes."

"Yes! Camping! Wonderful idea!"

You shoulda seen the look of shock on that kid's face.

So Mike and I set up the tent in the backyard and I grabbed a snack for the kids since I knew it'd put off dinnertime (and bedtime) quite a bit. I love pulling out snacks like FLYJOY bars, since they have such long-lasting, healthy energy from ingredients like quinoa, chia, flax and nut butter. Colette can get pretty fussy in the evenings, but having something to munch on quickly puts her in a good mood. As soon as the tent was up, both kids had a blast just playing in it while it was empty – in the future, I plan on setting it up on random days just as a clubhouse for them to play in.

As soon as we brought in Eli's sleeping bag, he promptly requested that we all go immediately to bed and he put all his gear in the little tent pocket while "sushing" all of us as loud as he could. First time I've ever heard that kid request to go to bed.

Of course, what's camping without a campfire? After we put Colette down inside (the beauty of camping in your own backyard), we built a fire and made s'mores with "marsh-pillows." As soon as he was done with the sweet treat, Eli continued his requests to go to bed immediately, so I went inside to sleep in the AC and a bed with a mattress, and Eli and Mike had a "boys night" sleeping under the stars.
Even a week later and every time I ask Eli what his favorite part of his day was, he still says, "When I went camping with you and daddy and made "marsh-pillow s'mores." 

And that my friends, is why it's worth slowing down summer – and becoming a mom of "yes."

This post was sponsored by FLYJOY.