This is a common greeting around our household. Annelle and I are often up early during the week and (even) the weekend. Usually, she is up early to put in a morning run before going to feed cattle and I’m up either reading, writing, or simply reflecting. Our promise to each other was that we would not disturb each other’s mornings right away with the immediate burdens of the day, any “immediate” discussion for the next day we try to reserve at night. Why?
The mornings are special and have become, as our relationship grows, sacred. Few moments in the day can either of us find time to do “our” thing. So, we carve time in the wee hours of the morning and the benefits, as the years have flown by, are clear.
The mornings offer a fresh start, a time where we can hit reset and prepare mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the day. As educators and professionals involved in building the capacity of young people there are a multitude of reasons we must consider reclaiming our mornings. Not only for ourselves, but in the end to benefit our students, working peers, and communities we serve.
Here are a few reasons why I choose to reclaim my mornings:
- Spending Time with the Lord:
In his book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it best, “The scriptures, moreover, tell us that the first thought and the first word of the day belong to God.”
Two years ago I was struggling. Teaching was beginning to feel like work…not a passion. I felt like I was running on empty all the time. When summer came I couldn’t have felt more happy. Yet, it was not refreshing. As I thought about what had changed I saw that as I assumed more and more responsibility in my teaching I reduced significantly the amount of time I was dedicating to reading and reflecting on scripture. The urgent was dominating and I never felt I had the time or I kept kicking the can down the road. Tomorrow I’ll crack open my bible…I promise Lord.
Annelle would get the daily devotional entitled, Our Daily Bread, I had heard it be used in her parents morning devotions, but had never given it much thought. Annelle started to get the devotion on her phone and she gave me the hard copies…
That’s how it started with a little push. The Our Daily Bread devotions anchor my daily time with the Lord. As I continued to grow in my discipline of just reading the scripture for the devotion, I branched out to reading the Bible in One Year segment. The next step was writing in a prayer journal. Each layer was possible because of the discipline I had formed before. As my relationship with the Lord deepened I rediscovered through the word the great joy and love he had in me and I in him.
Bonhoeffer, himself an early riser, would go on to write, “But there is such a thing as rising early for the love of God.”
- Sharpening the Saw:
As a youth I read the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Now as an adult, I felt it necessary to read the original book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not done with the full book, but I wish I would have read it sooner!
Stephen Covey lays out the case that Habit 7 – Sharpening the Saw, helps make the work of all the other six habits possible. It is the daily time we take to invest in growing ourselves and providing ourselves support/rest. The first step of sharpening the saw for me is in the simple phrase I started as my daily motivation a year ago: Early for Everything! Early to sleep, early to rise. Getting enough rest is crucial for my daily functioning. And above all if I want what’s safe for my kids on my bus route, I CANNOT afford to be sleepy at the wheel. Therefore, I’m a little selfish about my sleep and try if at all possible to be sound asleep by 10pm if not earlier.
Then, I use my early mornings for reading and reflection. After my daily devotions I take time to journal and just think. This process looks different and I never feel rushed by it. I let my mind wander freely and try hard not to think about the day, but about connections that are rumbling around. I cherish this part of my day and try to reserve a solid 20-30 minutes to it alone, usually while enjoying a solid cup of coffee!
This investment in myself is where I draw on the lessons I use in my daily writing for my blog and coaching for my students. I’d struggle to perform at my highest level if I didn’t take the time to just think and explore deeper connections in my life and practice.
- Embracing Life’s Outlet:
Two passions have strong roots in my life, reading and writing. They are my stress outlets and honestly what I could truly consider my hobbies. I used to feel bad when I would try to sneak in time during the mornings last Spring to write, but as time went on; I could tell the difference between bottling up my outlet rather than simply allowing it to explode forth!
My mind wanders and keeps busy…busy…busy…embracing my outlet allows my mind to focus, fleshing out the connections and ideas that are slowly being woven together. Providing myself a designated time in the mornings to embrace these passions and hobbies allow me to feel I am maximizing my gifting and not containing it to the point of extinguishing the fire that burns inside me!
- Routine Offers Support:
My daily career is never normal…
A kid has a bloody nose on the bus, aphid infestation in the greenhouse on our mum crop, 75% of the lady beetles we got to kill said aphids are dead because of residual chemical in soil from trying to treat “hellish” aphids, 9th grader has an allergic reaction after handling rabbit in animal science class, and a student finishes beautiful stool in Ag Mechanics. And it’s not even 10am yet!
This lack of normality in an odd way keeps the job fun and interesting each and every day! I love it! Yet, having a little consistency is healthy and in all sense necessary. My morning routine is just that, routine. I’ve got a very specific order, I do this so I don’t have to think about the next action or step, but I can focus in the moment upon the meaningfulness within the process. When we moved 30 minutes away from my place of work, I tested various wake-up times through early August to trial mock routine regiments for a day of school with driving my bus route. (I know, kind of ridiculous, but honestly it works for me. Yet, I’m not suggesting everyone should do this, I tend to be a little intense when I commit to something…)
This routine offers a powerful stability in my life. If something becomes way off, I can survive without the routine, but not going to lie, I look forward to waking up knowing that my morning starts in some form of order. It actually provides me motivation in getting up and lets me slowly put on the day peacefully rather than rushing around, stressed out in starting my day. Finally, the structure allows me the comfort and control to layer new habits into my routine because I can anchor them with already established disciplines during my morning.
- Cultivating Habits:
Finally, by reclaiming my mornings, I’ve been able to tackle what may have been my greatest weakness: personal discipline. To establish lasting and healthy habits, it requires more than sheer will power. It requires discipline and a clarity in purpose.
The snooze button used to be my worst enemy. I would keep hitting it to my wife’s chagrin day in and day out. Finally, she asked, very graciously, “When will you actually just get up and stay up? Just curious?” Whoops…ouch.
The first battle in reclaiming my morning was establishing the discipline and habit to awake! When this battle was won, all that I have described before became possible.
I thank my wife each and everyday for her willingness to hold me accountable in helping me become the man, husband, and future father I desire (and need) to be. Her help in reclaiming my mornings has been an indispensable part of my personal growth and my ability to grow others.
Let this morning start a fresh chapter in our lives!
Reclaim your mornings and know that somewhere there is a light on with a fellow riser cheering, “Good morning!”