The Epic Battle of the Blanket and the Bible

I’ve had many ladies encourage me over the years after I’ve voiced my frustration over not spending quality time with the Lord, “It is just the stage of life you are in. Don’t beat yourself up. The Lord knows your heart.”

The problem with heeding that advice is that I have been in this stage for almost 10 years; six babies, nursing late nights, early morning feedings, pregnancy aches and pains, countless 2 am full baby belly stupors to the bathroom, and months of morning sickness. And then, just when the baby is sleeping through the night there is a bout with strep throat and I have feverish kids sleeping in my bed. This isn’t a “stage of life”… it’s just life. My life. And it’s called motherhood.

I allowed this life of mine to overpower my will and desire to keep my appointments with Him (which, in my single days, was unheard of). Standing Him up day after day, year after year, left me feeling distant from my Savior. I tried afternoon naptime devotions, but those fell short due to exhaustion and Netflix always trumping a deep time in Scripture. I was living in discouragement and shame over my spiritual shallowness. Here I am living on the other side of the world because of my King, but a daily devotion is a real struggle in my life. On top of that, I’m far from home, fellowship, and weekly meetings with the body. I was feeling lonely. And not just wishing I could meet a friend at Starbucks alone…but alone, alone…like, ‘does Jesus really care,’ alone.

I know the well-intended advice that has been given to me over the years was rooted in the spirit of grace. I do believe that the Father’s grace carries me in times when I can’t physically meet Him, when my brain is mush and I read the same scripture 15 times but still can’t recall what it says. I truly believe abiding in Him, the John 15 way, is a life work and a 24-7 pursuit.  For me, that pursuit has had to start somewhere. In the morning, early, before the sun shines and the children stir awake with their heavy demands. This is where I found my start.

One morning led to another and then another. I started becoming consistent in my morning practice. Sometimes I still give way to the blanket and the pillow or hit snooze 14 times. But thankfully by the grace and mercy of Christ, my morning time is building into a discipline. Just today my six-year-old was playing with Little People and the mommy was out on the balcony reading her Bible. I’m hopeful that my children will remember me as a consistent model of faith and not the slacker that I often am. I deeply desire that meeting with Jesus in the early hours will be my way of life for years and years.

My personal time with Jesus isn’t about warm fuzzies or the checking of a box on my to- do list, but rather a time of preparing myself for the day and preparing my heart to hear from the Father. I can’t judge how effective the time is by my emotion or I will get easily discouraged and stop my waking. Instead, “I stretch my understanding daily, I deposit what I glean, and I patiently wait for it to accumulate in value, knowing that one day I will need to draw on it.” (Women of the Word, Wilken)

So sisters, set your alarm clock, drag yourself out of that warm comfy bed, grab a {large} cup-of-joe and your Bible, and seize the quiet of the early morning. The Creator of the World is there and deeply desires to spend time with you. How absolutely amazing is that?

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Sometimes we make a disciplined life more complicated than it has to be. Here are three things that may help you in building the discipline of an early morning quiet time.

1) Start.
Choose to get up. I know that sounds simple…because, it is. And challenging. I like sleep. You like sleep. The disciples liked their sleep so much they chose to nap during Jesus’ darkest hours. Even if you go to bed late, set your alarm anyway. Before you know it you will be going to bed earlier because your body will be screaming “must sleep!” and your feet will hit the floor quicker than the day before.

2) Enlist.
Tell your husband your intentions. Enlist him to run morning decoy. Voice your plans to a friend. Commit together. Call each other early in the morning or have a friend in your home country send you a text for accountability. Confess to your children your need for Jesus and share with them your hopes for an early morning time with the Lord. If the little ones rise unexpectedly and your husband is nowhere to be found, be ready with special morning time toys. Have a plan.

3) Be reasonable.
Getting up early before your family will not ensure that you won’t be yelling at the hooligans you call children by 10 a.m. You may still struggle with anger towards your neighbor or frustration with the ants in your sugar. You still may doubt and waver as the winds of reality start to stir the waves of the day. You may miss a day, rather you WILL miss a day… or a week. Grace, sisters…hit restart, and begin again at #1 for His mercies are new every morning.

~~~

What have your struggles been in establishing a morning devotional time?

Have you found any creative fixes?

23 Comments

  1. Natalie Bautista May 11, 2016

    Thank you for your honesty and transparency, Denise. Even though I don’t  have much time on the field, I can already see how valuable Jesus-time is. I’ve been exhorted and encouraged; thank you!

    1. Denise James May 12, 2016

      Hi Natalie.  Valuable is a great way to describe the time we need with Jesus.  It is so great for you to carve that time out in the early years and build a discipline!  Thanks for your comment.

  2. Amy Young May 11, 2016

    Denise, thanks for sharing this truth we can all benefit from — whether we are in the phase of little kids or not. Practice, yet gentle. Focused, yet free enough. Accountability, yet not about the rules. Beautiful. Thank you 🙂

    1. Denise James May 12, 2016

      Thanks, Amy and VA for this platform to be able to be transparent and to spur each other on in good works!

  3. Elizabeth May 11, 2016

    I can relate because I have a very similar story over the past few years! And it IS an epic battle of the blanket and the Bible! One my blanket has been winning lately, but that I’m recommitting to conquer!

    1. Denise James May 12, 2016

      I feel I read your stuff, Elizabeth, and always relate.  I bet we could have a couple conversation over coffee or tea, if that’s your thing, about life, family and overseas.  Thanks for reading this little article and reminding me I am not alone in my struggle as a mom.

      1. Elizabeth May 12, 2016

        Generally coffee’s my thing 🙂 And maybe some day we will!

        Also, no, you’re most definitely not alone in your struggles! I think we have to remember that more often. Just this week I was confiding my struggles with some other moms here, and all of a sudden I no longer felt alone. Wow. Such a difference that made.

  4. Taneille Lowe May 12, 2016

    Yes, yes!  I felt like I was reading my life!  I finally made the commitment after a year of living overseas and feeling like I didn’t know The Lord anymore to GET UP!  What sweetness it has been!

    1. Denise James May 12, 2016

      Victory! Thank you for sharing your commitment with us and how it has been so great.

  5. Jenilee May 12, 2016

    Finding your own groove in devotional time is a life long thing… such a beautiful post. There is something very special about dedicating even 5 minutes to God in the morning… then you slowly hunger for more. And your children WILL notice and they WILL remember the example you are setting.

  6. Denise James May 12, 2016

    Hi Jenilee.  Our kids notice everything, ya? I hope they WILL remember too.  Thank you for reading and sharing your experience too.

  7. Ashley Felder May 12, 2016

    Praising the Father for this timely post. I’ve been feeling for a while that I need to get up earlier (and, for me, it wouldn’t even be THAT early since my people sleep until at least 8), but it’s just so hard to go to bed earlier because that’s my time to get ANYthing done without breaking up fights, Mr. 4yo asking me a bajillion questions or Little Miss 1yo glued to my lap or leg. But, this is it. I’ve heard Him beckoning me too many times. Time to actually do it! And may I remember His grace when I fail at it. 🙂

    1. Keri May 12, 2016

      Ashley, I commit to lifting you up in this and offering a word of grace when needed.  I love you and I am excited to see what the father has for you…

    2. Denise James May 15, 2016

      Ashley, I just prayed for you.  I also am cheering you on from SEAsia.  The gluey 1 year old is always a challenge…grace for them, grace for us.  Haha!

  8. Susan May 12, 2016

    Thanks, Denise! Loved your title :>) Too often the blanket (and the pillows) win – even w/o kids I can find 1000 reasons why I ‘should’ stay in bed just a few minutes longer. But like you – I’m always happier when I don’t. It’s a discipline I wish I didn’t have to fight for, but perhaps that keeps it precious.

    1. Denise James May 15, 2016

      I know! The fight is real!  Hopefully one day it will be very natural and I can be one of those old ladies who wakes up early and everyone makes fun of me.  (Also, I didn’t make up the title and I can’t take credit for it.  Haha!  🙂 )

  9. Spring May 14, 2016

    What a important post and depicts well the struggle that happens. A few years ago a woman told me she makes sure to spend her quiet time with God before she gets out of bed. Since my kids are a bit older, this approach works well with me. Daily I am able to set aside that time. My older kids will start their school day without me and my younger two get into things. It isn’t ideal and sometimes I think “if I was a better mom” but I know that the time with God is important and doing it this way is what works in this stage of life

    1. Denise James May 15, 2016

      My husband likes to read and pray before he gets out of bed.  He can even do it on his phone…which is a wonder for me.  Oh my word, the extravert in me can’t help but check Facebook.

      I am thankful to hear your story of how you are meeting Him every day.  I think through different stages of life the pursuit looks different.  The best mom is one who puts the Lord first and finds the time!  Thanks for sharing!

  10. Erika May 14, 2016

    I have agonized and agonized over this post. I usually agree wholeheartedly with everything written here. But this time I had to hesitate. It brought to mind a friend in college who came to me in tears, heart broken because she was struggling to maintain an early morning devotional life. In that moment, I realized that a quiet time is a creation of modern day evangelicals. There are no Biblical mandates for an early morning devotional time. In fact, even having an individual Bible is a modern day privilege. People experience God in so many ways. Mothers through the ages have experienced God in so many ways. I too agonized over how to get my language study, prayer/bible time, and exercise in. I had, at best, a one hour window “before” the kids woke up (because, one never actually wakes up before the children… they always KNOW….) I ended up opting for the exercise. I began walking. And God met me there. A tired mother on a walk. I listened to worship music, and spread His praise through our village. I was also involved in a Bible study, but was able to do that anytime, even standing at the kitchen counter fixing snacks. I think we need to be very careful admonishing people in extra-Biblical good things. For some women, sleep is the holiest activity she could engage in. For some women, a walk. For some women, an early morning prayer time. It IS important to pursue meeting God. But it can be done at different times and in different ways. Being an overseas worker woman/mother carries so much extra-Biblical expectation. Much of it is good,  much of it is not.  It’s not easy, and sometimes I think we can get so tired. So when women told you it was a season, they were trying to ease the burden of expectation. No doubt you continued to learn about God and from God in that season. I am sincerely glad for you that you have been able to navigate a way to pursuing God that you feel comfortable with. I know how precious that time is. That quiet morning time. For me, it’s walking or running, and it’s HOLY. Precious holy time when I see a glimpse of God. He meets me. He tells me things while I breathe in the frangipani scents.

    1. Denise James May 15, 2016

      Erika thank you so much for your comment.  It sounds like you have found a wonderful way to commune with the Lord through walking/running and praying.  Sounds like we have a very similar routine.  You on the road, feet to the pavement and me on the balcony overlooking our street.  The Lord can meet us anywhere.  That is totally amazing and something I am very grateful for.   I totally believe that holy lives are a life that is fully sold out for Jesus and can’t be ticked by a box of an early morning quiet time.  As I wrote in my essay, “For me, that pursuit has had to start somewhere. In the morning, early, before the sun shines and the children stir awake with their heavy demands. This is where I found my start.” I would never want to be legalistic and say that the only way to spend time with the Lord is in the morning.  The only thing I would challenge about what you say is that waking early in the morning for a quiet time is an modern evangelical practice.  Maybe it is a modern word “quiet time” or “devotionals” but I see through scripture the pattern of early rising.   David talked it about it many times in the Psalms (Psalm 5:3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.) Proverbs 15:13 speaks of the virtuous woman rising early.  Then of course we know the very busy Jesus arose early to meet with the Father as seen in Mark 5.  I have learned that for me before the distractions of the day I have to get up.  When I was in college it made no matter.  I also know moms who can use nap time and have wonderful time.  I am not one of those moms.  My brain is too dead or maybe I am just too dead.  Please know that my article is not to condemn women but to challenge them.  Are we making Jesus a priority?  Are we sacrificing to meet with him or are we giving away to selfish desires?  Are we bathing in grace when we don’t get it right? That is my hope for this essay.  Thanks again Erika for your opinion.  I always enjoy hearing perspectives of other woman trying to run the race with perseverance.  I find it encouraging.

    2. Elizabeth May 15, 2016

      So much to love about this comment, Erika — and I also love Denise’s original essay, which just goes to show your words aren’t in opposition to each other!

      You are doing what nourishes your spirit in the early morning; for some sleep-deprived women it really will be staying in bed 🙂 Just because you’re not sitting and reading doesn’t mean you’re not meeting with God; you clearly are. Early morning exercise is not a way I meet God (too tired and dizzy at that time), but there have been times this past month when I couldn’t connect with God even when I got up early, so I chose to read a science magazine instead. But that nourished my spirit. It fed my need to worship God through learning in awe and wonder all about the world He has made. There were other times I just listened to music, like you mentioned. Sometimes I meet God in a puffy, cloud-filled sunset. Sometimes the holiest thing I can do is talk to other believers. And sometimes there are no words necessary — either mine, or God’s. (I had a hard time connecting with God this month.)

      (And yes, the kids ALWAYS know. They always know. It’s just a question of whether they are old enough to actually understand and not bother Mommy.)

      I also think you are right in saying that women on the field already place extra-biblical demands on themselves (or feel them placed by others, or both). It’s so important for us to name that. I have been doing that to myself lately, and learning all over again (ALL OVER AGAIN, why do I have to learn it so many times??? why do I keep making the same mistakes???) not to place extra burdens on myself.

      So anyway, yes, love what you say here, while also loving what Denise said, because for me, morning really is the only time I can successfully connect with God (for various reasons I won’t bore you with), and when I skip it, boy do I feel it. I don’t think it earns me anything. I just know I need it in the morning. So yes, agree with you both!

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