5:30am: Alarm clock goes off. Contemplate the important events of the day & decide if one press of the snooze button is optional.
5:31am: It’s not.
5:32am: Prep for the morning: pick an outfit that suits the day I will be having, hair, face, shoes, accessories, anything I may need for the day.
6:01am: Find something to eat for breakfast.
6:04am: Heat up leftover lasagna. What really makes a breakfast food anyway?!
6:15am: Brush teeth. Change slacks because of the obvious lasagna stain on my left leg.
6:20am: Leave house & pick up morning latte.
6:50am: Arrive at work to prep for the school day. Let my flood of a to do list & the real work begin.
From the moment I wake, my mind is continuously combatting a silent time bomb of a list of things I need to accomplish in order to maintain what I would consider an adequate performance. While varying at times, and while not always lasagna (sometimes quesadillas, casseroles, or leftover dessert), this has been my routine nearly to a tee for the past five years. I work as an elementary behavior focus teacher in an urban school district, one that I love dearly & put a large portion of my heart and soul into. I go into work early and usually work late to make sure that the students I love and serve have the best quality support. In the evenings my husband and I devote the majority of our weeknights in community or loving and serving others. From the time I wake to the time my head hits the pillow, I am unceasingly on the run.
Let me tell you why it took an international pandemic for me to re-center my purpose and my spiritual rhythms.
Days before no gatherings of more than ten people, & closure of schools, businesses, churches, and even nail salons, I continued to pack my schedule, even while being on spring break. I thought that if I could just get ahead a little on my to-do list, I would be less stressed in the weeks to follow. As you are already aware, God had a curveball. COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, causing mass shutdowns and states and even nations quarantined. Eventually, it had been announced that schools would not return to normal operations for the remainder of the year. Internally I knew that this would give me an ample amount of time to spend in stillness before the Lord, but I found myself returning to my tiring ways. Instead of spending the time with the Lord that He deserves, I found myself spending inauthentic time to make sure I “covered” it, proceeding to go into time of things that truly do not matter at all. Yes, I did a facemask every few days because I could. Yes, I was the number one customer at the coffee drive-through down the street. Yes, I did buy the new Magnolia cookbook. Yes, I did dishonor our family budget via online shopping (Trevor, I’m sorry).
However, it wasn’t until I spent so much time for nearly a month of doing those things that I realized that even with a slower pace in my schedule, none of those things satisfied. It was like starting my morning with a glass of water, & drinking only coffee the rest of the day (which I’ll admit, at first glance does not sound horrible). But we are designed to be satisfied in the living water, Jesus. We were not meant to be of this world, but to spend time with the Lord, growing closer each day to who He has created us to be (Romans 12:2). I immediately think back to my girl Alicia Keys singing, “Everything means nothing if I ain’t got you”. That line is Biblical truth, people.
I want to say that I had an immediate epiphany of this, but that is not the case at all. Every day as I am still walking in this season I have to make intentional choices, all day every day, to choose the Lord before the things of this world (Matthew 16:24-26). My caveat to these choices is this: we are going to mess up. We are going to make the wrong choices because we are human beings and it happens. However, that does not mean we dwell in shame because shame is not of the Lord. We may feel guilt, but we bring it to God and be still. As I said, it has not happened overnight, but I feel Him inviting me into a deeper relationship through some of the spiritual rhythms I am now choosing over my latte and Netflix. Here are four spiritual rhythms that have helped me during this time:
1. Start each day in gratitude. Before your feet hit the floor, the exception being unless you really need to go to the bathroom, start each day in prayer. Centering the start of our down around God has the power to change the entire trajectory of our day (Psalm 69:30, Mark 1:35).
2. Create habits. For me, if I have something that I need to do looming over my head, it can be really hard to focus. Make a schedule for the day, or a schedule of when you plan to rope off time in the Word. Then, make sure that you stick to that time. Set a timer, kick your family out for a little bit, but do what you need to do (Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35).
3. Worship where you are. Right now the trees are in blossom and I can take a walk feeling so connected with God. I’ll also spend time listening to worship music while I bake. To me, this is when I feel that I am worshipping God and resting in who He is. One thing you’re never going to find me doing? Running. Ew. But if that’s your jam, go do it and spend time with God! However, you feel connected with Him is a way that you can transform that time into worship. (Psalm 24:1-4, 2 Samuel 22:50).
4. Serve others. Yes, we are in a pandemic, but we are still designed to be in community. Find ways to love people where they are at. A couple of weeks ago I found a recipe for dark chocolate banana bread. I made several loaves and my husband and I played ding dong ditch by leaving the bread at friends’ doors. That is probably a terrible example, but the point is to just find ways to love and serve the people around you (John 12:26, Ephesians 6:7-8).
These take time and intentionality, but I’m so thankful to be in a season where I am able to return to more simplicity and to focus on what really matters during a time like this. I have no idea what is in store in the next few months, but I know that God is strong and has already used this pandemic as a way to open my eyes, as well as so many others. As it says in Colossians 2:6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”.
*If you’re experiencing similar feelings, here are some of the resources that have been helpful for me to spend time in:
· Find Rest by Shaunti Feldhahn
· I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t) by Brené Brown
· Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen
· The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile