Oh, hello September.
Look at you, lookin’ all shiny and beautiful and almost-fall-like. I hate to say it, but these lingering summer days are numbered.
Actually, who am I kidding? This once upon a time Maui-dweller hasn’t seen fall in five years and I can’t wait for the chillier temperatures and cozy smell in the air. It’s a first for me, being in Bend with all of the back-to-school posts and fall preparations and without a familiar pang in my heart. This time of year was always a never-really-talked-about trigger for my waiting sorrow. As friends posted photos of their kids another year older, another grade newer, I silently wrestled with another year gone by without a family of my own.
So, fall became an opportunity to reset my quiet time. To “go back to school” myself and get back into a routine after the lazy days of summer. To get back into a routine after the lazy days of summer. To dig into a new book of the Bible or start a new study. For years, my morning routine consisted of hitting the snooze button until there wasn’t any more time left to waste. And then, once I quit my job to go into business for myself full time, I kicked the alarm to the curb. (To this day, I have an unnatural aversion to setting the alarm.) With no little ones at home (and myself for a boss) I casually slept in until 8:30 am every single day. My mornings lingered long, my quiet times averaged 90-minutes, and the coffee flowed freely.
And then I had babies.
Thankfully, my boys aren’t pre-dawn risers. But gone are the days of waking up lazily on my own. When I became a mother, the baby became my new alarm clock. And it took me a few months to realize: to ever enjoy the kind of quiet time I used to have again, I would have to become a morning person.
I needed to learn how to love that morning alarm and not loathe it.
And to do that? I had to create a morning routine before I could cultivate a new quiet time habit. (If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you read all about my morning routine in today’s email!)
It used to be that my quiet time looked like this photo of my daily morning perch, taken 15 days before we moved to Maui. Always daylight, never too early. Just the way I liked it.
These days? It looks more like this:
There’s a six-year stretch between the two photos. I left the first chair with still-empty arms, sowing in tears, and in a desperate search to heal one severely broken heart. And I returned to the second chair in full Psalm 126 flair, reaping in joy, my arms full with my miracle-sheaves.
That’s the beauty of cultivating a quiet time habit early on, before stepping foot into what I couldn’t have known would be a ten-year-waiting-wilderness. That first chair, right there at the end of that table, with bare walls and boxed-up life, and only five mornings remaining of the over-3,000 God had given us there? It saw me through the most difficult season of my entire life. That morning, I wanted to dig through my old journals and revisit the first mornings at that table – back when we were newlyweds of a year and chose that mustard yellow paint color because it was aptly called First Anniversary. But they were already packed away – vessels of dust and cardboard storing priceless treasures of truth.
Brokenness had happened right there in that chair. Wrestling with God had happened there. Digging and tears and begging and clenched-teeth praying and pounding fists on the walls of heaven. It all happened there. But also? The Spirit of God moved there. And I not only survived it all, I flourished. And because of that quiet time habit, I left with my roots pressed down deep into a Spirit-foundation that was not dependent upon any one location.
And now, I return to that same perch, with white-washed walls, a new table and chairs, and a long-awaited high chair tucked away in the corner. And I have the incredible privilege of being at the cusp of a new season. A new decade. One where I can spend just as much time praising God for His overabundant answers to my years-long prayer as I did begging Him for it.
How do I cultivate a quiet time like that for myself?
Step 1. Know Your Why
Before you create a habit, you’ve got to have a purpose. It’s your quiet time fuel that keeps you getting up every single morning. Is your purpose getting to know the Word of God in a much deeper way? Then tell yourself you’re one morning deeper in knowing His Word as you struggle to wake up in the morning. Remind yourself of the familiar refrain: “morning by morning, new mercies I see.” You don’t want to miss today’s new-morning mercy!
For me? Then, my “why” was just to get through my day without crying. Sometimes it required multiple quiet times in one day just for survival. And my right-now “why?” It’s to clothe myself with Christ first thing in the morning so that I can approach my day (and my children) with much more patience and kindness than I would without Him.
Step 2. Pick Your Time
Let’s be honest: early morning is not always ideal. And while you can definitely have a quiet time during any part of the day, Jesus did set a precedent in the Gospels for waking up while it was still dark to get away and get alone with God. That kind of sacrifice requires discipline, but it yields immeasurable rewards. What if you pushed through the waking-up-early pain ad allowed God to speak through your sleepiness?
In my book, Mercy Like Morning, I have an entire chapter devoted to the top five obstacles to a habitual quiet time (not the least of which is wakefulness.) Each obstacle is paired with a handful of verses that are turned into Scripture-prayers to help hurdle you over. If you’re wondering where to start with your quiet time study, that just might be it!
Step 3. Make Your Plan
Here’s the truth-bomb: your results are only ever as good as your plan. You can make your plan as detailed or as simple as you’d like, but you need to make one. Start by setting an alarm with a cheeky name (or, simply call it “Dig up God’s new-morning Mercies”!) Then, create a new event in your Calendar, and set an alert for 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off. That way, you will see it in the evening, and go to bed thinking about it. Finally, set some goals. Do you want to read through the entire Bible in one year? Just get through one full chapter? Whatever they are, write them down and make a plan to reach them.
Step 4. Stick To It
Get the idea that you only need to do something for 21 days to create a habit out of your head. Some research indicates that it can take as long as 66 days to create a new habit. And the truth is, some habits are harder to pick up than others. But I promise you this: when you start discovering truth in Scripture for the first time on your own, without the prompting of a pastor or a teacher, you will get excited to come back for more!
And always, always: give yourself grace. If you miss a day here or there in the beginning, it won’t derail the process. So don’t get discouraged if you can’t keep a perfect track record. But, according to researchers, the early days seem to make the biggest difference. So it’s worth trying to be particularly diligent at the beginning of the attempted-habit-acquisition process.
Also, accountability always helps. Grab a friend and go through a book of the Bible, or pick a reading plan (I have a free two-week plan on the names of God when you sign up for my newsletter!)
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We’ll talk next week about how I structure my in-depth quiet time. But for now, if you’re just getting started, be sure to read this post: How to Start a Quiet Time with Just 15 Minutes a Day.
And don’t forget to explore my Bible studies, devotionals, and Scripture-study resources here!