My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up. Psalm 5:3
Morning is a gift from the Lord. To wake up once again, open my eyes, breathe another breath, stretch out my limbs, and begin another day, is a gift. How often do I forget to enjoy this gift of time given to me by the Lord? How often do I just go into automatic mode, put my head down, go about my morning routine, barreling through? But, when the girls are still sleeping, the house is completely peaceful…this…this is the time the Lord has given me to use. No distractions. No stimulation. Just time for me to hear from Him and be still.
Teaching the pre-K Sunday school class at church leaves me tired and happy. The goal each class is to gain their attention and hold it long enough to teach and encourage them in even the smallest of ways.
The cheerful chatter fills the tiny room. Girls reconnecting after a long week apart. Boys knocking blocks to the ground. The hugs. The sharing of toys. The whispers between friends. The excitement dwindles slightly and I sense my opportunity is nearing. I do some crazy song and dance to get their eyes and ears to turn my way. Got it! Okay, here we go! Let’s pray! Short, sweet prayer, don’t want to lose their attention now. Jump into the Bible lesson, while I still have the majority of them looking in my direction.
Eager hands are raised to share their thoughts about the Bible lesson. Some have questions, both on topic and off topic. Many want to share what they know about Jesus and the Bible. All come with prayer requests.
Entering distracted, but now fully engaged in learning the Word, the 4 and 5 year olds soak up all the knowledge. Although challenging to gain their attention, once they become engaged in God’s word, they are captivated.
After pouring my coffee, my automatic, mindless routine is coming to an end and I sense the Lord calling me. Beckoning me to turn my heart and mind to Him. Asking for my attention.
How do you want me to spend this quiet, Lord?
In My presence.
Receiving from Me.
Growing in Me.
Just like the distracted preschoolers, my attention isn’t automatic. I see the distractions around me. My eyes focus all around the house. But, the One who knows what I need to start my day off prepared for the Spiritual battle that awaits, doesn’t stop calling to me.
Once I open my Bible, close my eyes in prayer, or even just simply utter the first words to the Lord for the morning, I am hooked. Just like the preschoolers. I want more. He’s got my attention. My thirst is quenched. My dry bones are filling with life.
Is it dark where you are? Are you full of dread for the upcoming day? Is each day leaving you drained and empty?
Can you give Him your morning? Your first moments awake? Can you look to the sky, above your own situation, to Someone greater? Someone who holds the answers? Holds the peace you seek?
Someone who is calling to you.
Backing up against me, she regained her strength. Her face flushed with the question she was asked.
In certain situations, our youngest daughter needs a little reassurance. Don’t we all? When she was younger, it meant squirming, clamming up, and backing her body into mine, disappearing into my arms. Some level of discomfort would hit her, and rather than stepping forward or remaining where she was, she backed into the arms of one who loves her so much, one who offers protection, one whose shadow envelops her small frame.
Be still, and know that I am God.
An author/blogger I follow, Emily P. Freeman, writes about the importance of just being still. She recommends setting a timer. There aren’t really any other rules for this practice, and I am intentionally not creating any rules for it. I am, however, sticking to Emily’s idea of setting a timer for 5 minutes and whenever my brain kicks in during that time period, I take a deep breath and exhale, as if I am blowing the thoughts out to God.
I have spent my five minutes in my prayer closet, the couch, our office, my bed, and out on my walk. It’s my 5 minutes of just being in the Lord’s presence. Not praying. Not talking. Not reading. Not listening to anything or anyone. Just being. My favorite image during this 5 minutes is one of being in His shadow. His position is above me. Bigger than me. And, my position is close. Smaller. Lower. So close. So welcomed. So loved.
When my mind wanders (even in the 5 minutes, my mind wanders), I mediate a short phrase, like, “I am yours” or “I am under you”, or “You are over me”, or “I am in your shadow”. Those short phrases remind me of what this time is, a time to remember my smallness and His bigness.
Just like our youngest daughter, seeking the grounding, stabilizing, protection I offer her in the midst of an uncertain time. This time just being with my creator fills me with the certainty I need. The incredible peace of knowing that even on this crazy earth which seems so unpredictable at times and downright scary, I am His.
His shadow envelops me.
My security is found in Him.
My peace is provided by Him.
I am yours, Lord. And, you…You are mine.
Ephesians 51 says, be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and self professed to God.
Lord, I love my time with you. But, I especially love to stop, back up, and be in your presence. Gaining my strength, remembering my place. I’m your dearly loved child, always walking with you. Amen.
My girls and I have been on a journey. It’s been a journey to reconnect. To regain the closeness and relationship we had when they were little. To establish a regular time each day to spend individual time together. Talk Time.
To say that we love it is an understatement.
I try to begin each Talk Time by asking, “What was your favorite part of the day?”
I cannot count the number of times the answer in reply has been, “Right now.”
Me too, Dear One, me too.
I love the slow pace of Talk Time. The lights are low. Just a corner lamp on. Soft music playing in our oldest daughter’s room. Nothing to do. No list. No stuff. Nothing in our hands. Nothing but time to talk.
If you have met my children, you know they love to talk. If you have met me, you know, I do not love to talk. God has such a sense of humor, doesn’t He?
So, in order to meet all of our needs and allow for a reasonable bed time, I set a timer for 10 minutes. It may sound cruel and controlled. Maybe it is. I don’t know. But, it works for us. The first few times we heard the timer beep, I heard each girl groan…”Not yet, the time isn’t over yet, is it?” A twinge of guilt lingered for a moment, until I realized that we were truly on to something. Obviously we needed this time together. The sadness we felt when our Talk Time was over was just the motivation I needed to continue this new routine.
But, just to make sure we were on the same page, I decided to check in with each girl.
“How are you liking Talk Time?”
Leaning in close, reaching out her arm to place around me, “I love it,” Abby simply replies.
“It’s great,” states Mikayla. She continues, “It’s weird. It makes me feel less fighty the next day,” giggling as she finishes her observation.
Less fighty. Yes, less fighty. Me, too. When I am sitting close, enjoying the ones I love. Just looking at them in the eye. Listening to their thoughts. I feel less fighty. And, yes, even the next day, the less fighty feeling continues.
When I walk in obedience with the Lord, I am less “fighty”.
John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Throughout my time listening to Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, I heard about the idea of “Talk Time”.
Talk Time: 10 minutes of uninterrupted, focused time with each child at a regular time each day.
From early on in the book, Stafford told about her precious time with her two daughters and the way it cultivated an atmosphere of peace and love in their home. Her two children looked forward to “Talk Time” and began to count on it as one of their favorite times of the day.
Not a time to teach, nag, remind, instruct, change behavior, or give a lesson.
Just a time to talk. Connect. Love.
Listening to Stafford describe times of laying in bed with her girls, smelling their scent, noticing their growth, and hearing them talk, took me back to the earlier years when this was a regular night-time occurrence for our family. Reading books, singing songs, praying, talking about whatever their little minds thought up.
What happened to this sacred time? At what point did I decide my children didn’t need a time to connect at the end of the day? When did it become easier just to read one book to both girls at the same time, forgoing their unique interests and need for one on one time? And, what confused my mind into thinking scrolling Facebook at night was a better use of my time than focusing on my loved ones?
As I neared the end of listening to Hands Free Mama, I heard it again. One last punch about “Talk Time”. My mind didn’t wander this time. I heard it loud and clear. This 10 minutes of focused one on one time can change your family.
Due to multi-tasking while listening and overload of information input at times, I will need to listen to or read the book again. There are valuable tips that have already escaped my mind. But, due to the Spirit intervening and engaging my mind at just the right moment, I have not missed the importance of “Talk Time”.
John 14:26 describes how the Holy Spirit intervenes to help us learn, understand and remember what is necessary for us to live the life the Lord wants us to live, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
Because the Holy Spirit led my learning, no longer will I tell myself, “Tomorrow”…
- “Tomorrow, I will have the energy at the end of the day to focus on my kids”
- “Tomorrow, I will make them a priority”
- “Tomorrow, I won’t be too distracted”
- “Tomorrow, I will encourage an earlier bed time so we can enjoy that special time”
Nope, today is the day.
- Today is the day to look into the eyes of my girls and surprise them with my time.
- Today is the day to lay down next to them just like when they were toddlers.
- Today is the day to hear the thoughts they end the day with.
- Today is the day they will go to sleep knowing their mom wanted just a little more time with them.
Today is the day our regular adventure with Talk Time begins.
I am on a journey to live with more focus. My journey began with repeated prompting from the Lord. Again and again, He revealed to me all of the distractions I allowed into my life. Again and again, I heard Him, yet continued in disobedience.
The Lord is using Hands Free Mama to guide me along practical steps to decrease the distractions and increase my focus.
My family and I just returned from a long trip. 11 days away from home. 11 days of no regular routine. 11 days of no time to myself. 11 days to quickly turn my back on the work the Lord is doing in my life to refocus me.
It started on the airplane we took across the country, traveling to Orlando.
“WHAT? There’s a movie screen in the back of EVERY seat? We can watch movies ALL the way to Florida? Best day ever!” my screen deprived children exclaimed.
After seeing our children snuggle into their movie comas, without a word, my husband settled back to watch a “shoot ’em up” movie, the likes of which he hasn’t seen ever since Veggie Tales, Barbie movies, and America’s Funniest Videos overtook our TV screen.
I looked around and noticed every single person within my vision glued to a screen. Some focused on the screen on the seat in front of them. Some on a hand held screen. Some with both screens flashing. Nothing left for me to do but listen to the audio version of Hands Free Mama and play a mindless game on my phone. Sucked into my own screen without thought of the miniature sized games or read aloud books we had packed with plans of connecting with our children during the long flight. Everyone was content with their choice of activity. But, no one was interacting.
Not only were we not interacting, we were not listening.
“Would you like a snack? WOULD YOU LIKE A SNACK?” the flight attendant repeats her question to my children a little louder.
My girls were unable to hear the flight attendant talking to them without physically removing the headphones from their ears. In fact, they completely missed the first time she spoke directly to them. There was no chance of them even noticing her coming down the aisle with her oversize cart, asking all the other passengers the same question.
It wasn’t until days after returning from our trip that I realized that was exactly what I suffered from during my 11 days away. The inability to listen.
Due to my distracted state, I was unable to hear the Lord’s still small voice.
2 Corinthians 10:5 in the Amplified Bible states, We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ.
Your word, Lord, tells me to take every thought captive, every purpose captive…in obedience to you.
But, how can my thoughts be dominated by Christ, when my eyes and mind are bound to what displays on a screen?
The answer, the only answer is that they cannot. My thoughts cannot be bound to Christ when they are already bound to what ever my eyes see on the screen.
I cannot hear the Spirit whispering to me. I do not notice the Spirit nudging me. I am blind and deaf to the Spirit’s leading.
Thank the Lord for His mercy.
We are home from our trip and I am right back to hearing the Lord instruct me. He never left me. He will not allow me to go down in my disobedience. He remained with me. It’s just that now I am back to having my eyes, ears, and mind unbound from what the enemy uses to distract me. Instead I am wide open to hear the Lord.
I am free to listen once more.
My journey to focus:
Are you on this journey as well? I have heard from several lately that God has them on a similar path. Please share your story in the comments. Your stories encourage me.
I love the day after Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love the anticipation of Christmas. And, nothing beats waking up Christmas morning, especially with two extremely excited children in my midst. But, the day after Christmas feels like a brand new beginning. The New Year hasn’t officially started, but it’s so close, I can see it on the calendar. It’s time to start putting away the old Christmas decorations, cleaning up the end of the year mess and get ready for the New Year.
I imagine Mary and Joseph beginning their new chapter in life as earthly parents to the newborn King. A new beginning. Truly a new beginning. Our Pastor has been reminding us about the darkness that filled the days prior to Jesus’ birth. It had been so long since a prophet had shared word from God. People may have known the Law, the way to live, but there was no freshness in their walk with the Lord. It was stagnant, mechanical and in need of a fresh start.
Enter Jesus. King of Kings. The Promised One. Coming to this dark, dreary, sinful earth to offer Hope, Love and a Fresh Start. A New Beginning.
He offers that New Beginning to me. He offers it to you. When I abide in the Lord there is no stagnation. No boredom. No getting stuck.
The newness the Lord is offering me is a new found focus. Living with less distraction and more purpose. Lessons Learned at 3:00 am
The Holy Spirit is opening my heart and mind to necessary changes that are for my good and the good of my family. Hands Free Mama is giving me practical tools to implement. (Hands Free Mama)
An intentional change I am putting into practice is not carrying my cell phone around with me throughout our house. Hands Free Mama recommends closing it up in a drawer and turning it off. But, basically I just need it out of sight and out of my hands.
Christmas morning proved to be a perfect time to test out this new technology free time. My husband and I both left our cell phones upstairs while we enjoyed a focused morning with our girls.
Some things I noted in my journal about this glorious morning:
- I wasn’t turning my head away from what my family was doing to check on every notification I was receiving.
- I wasn’t trying to take a picture of each part of our morning and then posting it or texting it to my family and instead I was watching our morning unfold with my eyes.
- I saw Mikayla’s huge eyes when she opened her Pokémon book and lip gloss that actually has a little twinge of color in it!
- I not only heard Abby’s scream of excitement but I saw the delight in her face when she opened her American Girl Doll gymnastics leotard.
- I heard Jeff’s laugh when he saw the tiny playing cards I put in his stocking.
- We all watched the cats enthusiasm about their new squeaky toy.
What would I have missed if my phone had been within reach and eyesight and I looked away, even for just seconds, to see what notification I was receiving? Would I have heard what my family was saying, if I was trying to capture the perfect photo and immediately share it with others? Would my memories of the morning be so clear if I had started the day by filling my mind with information I found by scrolling through Facebook?
It saddens me to think of the years I filled with distraction. But, it’s freeing to know the Lord gives New Beginnings and I am just getting started.