Hello, HelloMornings!

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I've wanted to become a morning person for the longest time but so far, my attempts have not yielded long term results. 


Being a night owl was not an issue until I graduated from college and started working. Unlike my university days, evening to early morning study binges were easy. But when I started my job, midnight was the latest I could stay up to read or do something where my mind has to be fully engaged. Even as I started sleeping earlier, I still oversleep.  Our office was within walking distance from where I lived so there was no reason for me to get up ridiculously early; there was no traffic to prepare for and breakfast was quick and easy. My body clock got whacked during college and it got even more confused during employment. This affected how I started my day, when and where I did my quiet times, and how I managed my time in general. I was getting by but my walk with the Lord was not flourishing.

I quit that job after two years to get married and go back to school. I have been married and in seminary for a little over six months now. Because of yet another life change, my schedules now change every three months depending on my classes. I often find myself either over- or underestimating my time budget. From college, to employment, to newlywed life in seminary, I learned that one big obstacle was my lack of structure for myself, especially one that I can adapt whenever life seasons change. My lack of prayer and dependence on God to help me cultivate healthy habits was also another major obstacle.

I figured that the answer was to become a morning person. However, I'd like to clarify a few things. First, it doesn't mean that I consider early risers who read Scripture, pray to God, and accomplish a bajillion stuff by sunrise more blessed than the night owls who do these things. I'm sure you'll agree that God does not prefer one time of the day over the other. Becoming a morning person in and of itself won't solve anything. Second, I don't think that becoming a morning person is the best way but I do believe there is wisdom in starting the day early to seek God. Third, "early" is relative. My personal goal is to wake up at 6:30 instead of 8 (even on Saturdays I wake up at 8 but I think 6:30-7:30 a.m. is a good margin of time for myself).

I was just so dissatisfied with my lack of structure and the way the I start my day. I don't allow myself that time and space to be still, to think, to just be with God, to treat the day as a gift and not another empty 24 hours to fill with the usual activities. At night, I would be too tired to even fill myself up with things I enjoy doing. For these reasons, I remain determined to change my sleeping and waking habits. But I fight to keep in mind that any transformation I desire cannot be achieved apart from God, as John 15 teaches us.

Three days ago, I was on Google looking for tips on how to become a morning person. Happily, I stumbled upon the Hello Mornings website. And friends, I  just knew this is what I needed.

Hello Mornings focuses on three core things: God, Plan, and Move. I'll let their site blurb explain what it's all about:

Our motto is “God.Plan.Move.” and we aim to empower women to spend time with God, plan their day and make healthy choices first thing in the morning. [...] In just a few minutes each morning, we can attend to the most important aspects of our lives – our relationship with God, planning, and improving our health. The goal isn’t overnight transformation, but slow and steady progress toward life long habits that radically change the direction of our lives and allow us to thrive in whatever role God has given us. (from the site's About page)
This is it. Something structured to get me started on the road to good morning habits. On top of the worksheets for the 6-week session, participants can join an accountability group for support and encouragement. I decided to join a group with 14 other ladies to get added motivation.

The new session starts tomorrow and I'm thoroughly excited about it. At the end (or beginning?) of the day, it's not simply about a physical change that I'm after. I realize that it's more than adjusting my wake up time from 8 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. so I can cram my day with work to do. Rather, it's about taking the necessary steps to grow in my relationship with God and realizing that all of the tasks that follow are actually means for me to know Him better. Without his empowering, I can't even go through the next six weeks fruitfully.

This is not about legalism but about discipline. By the same token, it isn't the morning activities themselves that will earn my intimacy with God. But in cultivating healthy habits, these morning disciplines (quiet time, exercise, planning), they become means of grace. The Hello Mornings challenge for me is a means to an end. Ultimately, the end goal is to seek God first (literally), his kingdom and his righteousness.

Tomorrow I say "hello!" for the first time to a commitment, one that I'm laying down at God's feet. May he use the next six weeks to show me and teach me things that I've been missing out on from lack of discipline.

See you in the morning!

(Question: Are you a lark or an owl? Do you have any morning rituals?)

An Unexpected Favorite

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Photo from A Holy Experience
Can I confess something?

I have a bit of an aversion towards much of what is labeled "Christian Women's Literature" in book stores. I understand that this makes me sound like a snob. But most of the titles I see here in my context target just the emotions, as if being a godly woman is all about emotional management. The devotionals offer piecemeal growth and do not encourage deep study of the Word. While I'm all for the cultivation of healthy emotions, I lament the lack of meat in the Women's Section of my local Christian book store.

When I first heard of One Thousand Gifts a couple of years ago, I had no idea who Ann Voskamp was and what the book was all about. The book's subtitle is "a dare to live fully right where you are" and to be honest, I thought the content would be cheesy. Still, I placed the book in my imaginary to-look-into pile. I had become so cynical and disillusioned by some Christian female writers and teachers that I thought, "Ah, here's another popular book that does not make much of Jesus or the gospel, and it's all about you, you, you."

Boy, was I wrong. This is what happens when I judge a book even before finding out what it's all about.

I finally decided to pick up One Thousand Gifts when I had some spare time a few weeks ago. Since going into grad school, I haven't had much time to read for leisure. For some reason, when I cleared my schedule to allow for some fun reading, I chose One Thousand Gifts.

The result? Ann's words impacted me more than I expected it to.

She wrestled with much of what I'm wrestling with at the time I read her book. It was filled not only with vignettes of her life experiences but also of Scripture. She asked hard questions, confessed from the depths of her heart, and encouraged with such colorful poetic prose. I had a knot in my heart that loosened up because I read her words at the perfect moment. I could have sworn that God used that book to teach me a lesson or two. There is so much depth and beauty in Ann's words that it immediately became one of my favorite books after I finished reading.

I started making my own gratitude list or rather, I finally had more consistency now than in my previous attempts to make one. One Thousand Gifts is in that list. Gratitude, the eucharisteo way of life, takes discipline. But through Scripture and life experiences, Ann has demonstrated to me that it is possible and it is worth it.

 There are also many books out there that claim to be biblical but are in fact self-help/pop psychology guides in disguise; One Thousand Gifts is not one of them. It is not an academic book, which was a really good thing when I read it. Being in seminary, some days I just want to pause reading textbooks and dive into something that is not scholarly but still meaty. Ann's book is not a book of propositions but her theology is alive and kicking. It made me uncomfortable but it also comforted me at the same time. Reading the book just left me so...grateful.

I was losing a battle for joy, gratitude and humility in my life. One Thousand Gifts reminded me it's not too late.

“As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.” 

― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Question: Have you had any unexpected moments with books? How did that author impact you?