to set the mind
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
For me it goes a little something like this: After playing tag with the snooze button a few times my hands begin to fumble around in the dark, overturning pillows and blankets in search of my phone.
Through half open eyes I peak at the time, gauging whether I can afford to sneak in one more little snooze. Maybe just five minutes? I sadly realize I can't, and accept that my day begins NOW as I hit the off button.
And then, because it's already in my hand, I check my phone. Everything that happened in cyber world while I was sleeping—texts, Facebook notifications, emails, maybe a quick scroll through Instagram. After catching myself up, next I leave the warm, cozy goodness they call "bed" to grab my Bible and hopefully squeeze in a quick quiet time before it's off to the races—showering and getting ready and fixing a quick breakfast before jumping in the car and doing my best to make it in that office chair by 8am.
It's been just over a year now that I've been working full time and let me just say, mornings are still a struggle. I like my sleep and I need a lot of it—at least 8 hours and preferably 9.
In college it was different. I had control over my schedule and after one 8am U.S. History course mishap, I made sure not to sign up for any classes before 10:30am. It's funny now to think, at the time even that was early. In those days it was easier to be intentional about my mornings. To make time for an unhurried quiet time, to not begin my day already feeling rushed and stressed.
As I've transitioned into the jarringly different world of 8-5's and work cell phones, I've also had to learn how to adjust my habits, to learn how to be intentional about making time for things that were once so easily cultivated by my relaxed schedule. But that's been a process. For a long time, my mornings looked exactly like the one I just described and some days, they still do.
But the effect of mornings like those became quickly apparent to me.
My mind started to revolve around to-do lists and every spare moment including lunch breaks was an opportunity to catch up. I felt like I was playing the "Whac-a-Hippo" arcade game, frantically trying to tackle anything that came up so that I could hopefully earn myself a breather, a ration of time to spend doing things that bring me joy.
I started to find myself anxious at random points throughout the day with no seeming explanation. I felt that maybe I wasn't doing enough, or that maybe it was me that wasn't enough. I kept finding my thoughts in cycles of anxiety, and wondering how they got there. Waking up each day, it's like I was waiting to see what kind of day it might be.
Another post-grad adjustment was student loans. Going to school you don't think too much about them but upon graduation you're confronted with the very real reality of those numbers. Though I wouldn't wish debt upon anyone, in a way I'm thankful for it because it's pushed me to want to learn about finances and how to be smart in that area. In the process I've learned simple principles and developed good habits that I think will benefit me far beyond that glorious day I hit 0 and see the words "Paid in Full." The main resource I've used in this endeavor to educate myself is the book The Total Money Makeover written by Christian finance guru Dave Ramsey. (This can also be found in the list of books I recommended in my last post).
There's something Dave talks about in his book over and over again that has really stuck with me. Referring to budgeting, he says that at the beginning of the month you have to tell each and every one of your dollars where to go. Otherwise, you'll get to the end of the month and wonder where all your money went. So simple, yet so profound. I think the idea here is to be intentional with our money. You know, "If you fail to plan you plan to fail." If we want to be smart with our money and meet our financial goals, whether that be getting out of debt or saving up for a big purchase, we need a plan. We need to tell our money where to go.
Ever since reading this I've realized the same is true with our thoughts. We have to intentionally tell our thoughts where to go, to intentionally decide where and on what we'll allow them to dwell. There is no such thing as "neutral" or just hoping that we'll have a positive mindset, or that we'll remember to be grateful or kind. Unless we tell our thoughts where to park we'll end up finding them somewhere—in some spiral of frustration or anxiety or discontentment—and wondering how they got there.
Not only that, if we don't tell our thoughts where to go then our circumstances and surroundings will.
Our to-do lists will remind us to be rushed and stressed, and we'll forget that no matter what our job title is, our true job is to make Jesus known, to be an infusion of hope and light anywhere and everywhere we go. The highlight reels of our peers on social media will tell us that we are not enough and we'll become so focused on proving our own worthiness, we'll become blinded from opportunities to notice the people we come in contact with throughout the day, and how we might be able to show them love.
I'm still learning and I'll always be in process, but nowadays I strive for my mornings to look a lot different than the one I described at the beginning of this post. I try to cut out the unnecessary game of snoozing that really only makes me more groggy than if I'd just woken up at the first alarm, and instead use the time to sit and be still in the presence of the Lord. I also refrain from checking my phone now until after this time, because those first few thoughts of the day do a lot to determine my thought patterns throughout the rest of the day. Those first few moments are a time for me to reorient my heart before God, to remind myself of who He is, and who I am in light of that. To open His Word, and ask Him to reveal the opportunities He has purposed for me throughout the day as it unfolds. To ask Him to give me eyes to see what He sees, and courage to act on those opportunities to step out and share His love.
To set my mind on me, and my own worries, and my own agenda just brings about stress and frustration and a lack of contentment. To set my mind on Jesus brings the sweetest satisfaction, and life abundantly.
There's so much richness around us, so many occasions for us to feel that rush of purpose as we rise up to the opportunities God has set before us, to experience that sweet communion as we draw near to Him.
I don't want to miss out. Who's with me?
In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.