My Favorite Summer Tradition

“I love these quiet morning hours, la madrugada, when the stillness beckons you not to flip the lights on just yet and the sun calls you outside to watch its rising.”

This was a journal entry of mine a few summers ago after one of my all time favorite summer “traditions” began: getting up before the sun and spending my mornings reading and praying outside as the sun begins to color the sky with its waking.


I started doing this the summer before my senior year of high school as I began to realize my lack of routine in the summers was ruining my productivity. Sleeping late was draining me, physically and spiritually. When I slept till noon, as summers often went, I would be about 0% motivated to do any real work, would actually be more tired, and would tend to never get around to having a “quiet time” with the Lord. I felt like I was basically wasting my days.

When I decided I wanted to get up earlier, I thought, why not sunrise? If I’m going to be up early, I might as well make it early enough to enjoy the beautiful morning sky. I grabbed a blanket, a notebook and pen, my bible, my camera, and a cup of coffee and headed out to the back field at my parents’ house, where the horizon is long and flat and the sunrise is visible all morning.

Let me tell you, it changed my summers.

IMG_0580.JPG

First of all, it totally charged me spiritually.

It was such a sweet time to sit in the presence of the Lord and learn from His Word. I normally begin by journaling a list of things I’m thankful for (anything from my family to the color blue to pizza) and then writing down notes on the passage I decide to read. I also spend time in prayer and listening to what God is telling me, all while looking at one of His most magnificent creations. There’s something about sitting in the cool of the morning when the rest of the world is still sleeping that is just so alive spiritually. It has really grown me.

 

Secondly, it super boosted my productivity

– like, through the roof. This part comes in after the sun has risen and I’ve gone back inside and not gotten back in bed.

It’s between 7 and 7:30 and the rest of the house is still waking up, and for whatever reason motivation is up 3000%. Suddenly I have all these ideas for my Etsy shop, semester planning, or other projects and the energy to start them.

I’ve found that sleeping in late usually totally saps me of energy while getting up for the sunrise has me crazy focused. Where I would usually get two or three (or zero!) things done when I woke up later, I now have most, if not more than, my to-do list done by lunch on days where I get up early. Then I have the rest of the afternoon to relax, although I’m usually motivated to continue the productivity.

When I’m at school, I would normally be heading to class to get started on the busy day, and if snoozing makes me groggy then, why snooze in the summers either?

Lastly, it gave me something to remember.

I love photography, and some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken came from those gorgeous, golden magic hours. I usually take photos throughout my quiet time as the sun is rising and they are beautiful mementos of sweet times and great backdrops for other projects I may think up .

When I’m done reading and praying I often take even more photos, do some stretches/exercises, and occasionally journal some more. It’s overall just a rejuvenating time and honestly feels a bit adventurous. While I’ve been blessed to enjoy some beautiful sunrises in the lush mountains of South Africa and the peaceful warm of Mexico, amongst other places, some of my favorite have still been in my own backyard.

Mornings like that make for a summer worth remembering.

A gorgeous sunrise in George, South Africa.

Here are some tips for starting your own sunrise summer tradition:

1. Make it your own. You could skip the journaling if that isn’t your thing, or choose a novel to read that you’re into, listen to a podcast or music, or do some yoga. Whatever your morning needs to be to make it feel rejuvenating for you, give it a go!

2. Set multiple alarms if you have to. It doesn’t have to be every day, either! It’s okay to enjoy a lazy morning sleeping-in every now and again. (But you’ll find you like the early ones better in the long run.)

3. Ditch the phone. If you have a camera or aren’t inclined to take pictures, and don’t need your phone for music or something, try leaving your phone inside while you enjoy your morning, distraction-free. There’s nothing new on social media, yet, anyway!

4. Do it even if you can’t spend the whole time outside. If you’ve got little ones asleep inside or no spot to really sprawl out outside, just take a peek at the sunrise and fix up a cozy corner in your living room to do your morning routine inside. Hopefully there’s a good view from a window, but even if not, getting up early is still worth it. (If you already get up early and spend it inside, I would totally suggest taking just a moment to look at the beautiful sky!)

5. Make yourself a nice cup of something to enjoy. Coffee is a personal favorite.

6. Set up everything you need before you go to bed. Having your journal, pen, book, blanket, and camera all together when you wake up is easier than fumbling around in the dark (who wants to turn on the light at 6am?) and it can be motivating to actually get up if you know it’s all ready to go. I stay in my pjs and just grab my things, make a cup of joe, and head outside – less than 5 minutes.

IMG_3034.JPG

Overall, because of these early mornings my summers have completely changed for the better. They’ve become some of the most productive, alive, and memorable.

What do you think? Are you ready to start a new summer tradition?

Advertisements

Don’t Just Wait

It seems like we spend most of our lives waiting. We wait for college, for summer, for the holidays, for Friday. But what does that mean for all the life in between? A lot of times we’re so focused on the “next thing” that we’re completely missing the moment that we’re in.

We do this with practically anything. We trudge through the week while we wait for Friday to get here and then press repeat. We do assignments (sometimes half-heartedly) to get through the class, to get through the semester, to get the degree and finally be done with it. We mope through our jobs, lacking intentionality, until we get the job we really wanted.

Not only does this sap us of the great experiences we could be enjoying in our current stage of life, it robs us of the preparation that time could be giving us for the next stage.

A part-time job in fast food isn’t just a “filler,” a waste of time until the better opportunity comes. It’s temporary, sure, but it’s actually preparing you for the next job in ways that you might not be prepared otherwise.

Time management, handling money, working with people, being punctual, having good work ethic – these are important in any job you have. Chances are you have been involved in some job or task that prepared you for the current task you’re in, even if they’re seemingly unrelated.

From a biblical standpoint, we are called to be faithful with little so that we can be faithful with much (Luke 16:10).The small responsibilities we have while “waiting” for the next ones are testing our character and strengthening us to be prepared for more.

If there is anything I have learned over the past year and a half of college it’s that the process is just as important as the end goal. In fact, the end goal is more often than not wrapped up in the process and we miss it if we spend all our time waiting instead of engaging.

As an Elementary Education major, I hope to one day teach overseas with a missions organization. I’m more than excited for the future. I practically can’t wait to be in the classroom, and sometimes I feel like jumping on a plane and leaving today.

But I know that If I wasn’t at school, being taught the content and the methods that I will use, I would be far from prepared to be a teacher. There are a lot of steps I know I’ll have to go through before I get there.

So I have to soak it all in here. While I see being a teacher as something of an “endpoint,” this current process is crucial – and I should enjoy it. While you’re being prepared, you’re surrounded with opportunities to make awesome friends, engage in extra-curriculars if you’re in school, grow as a person, and look for ways to serve in your current “mission field.”

No matter what you’re waiting for, the time in between isn’t for nothing. No season of life is pointless, and we should always be looking for how we can make the most of our current circumstances. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Seize your opportunities and take this time to be prepared.

How are your current circumstances preparing you for the next chapter of your life? I’d love to hear!

I Have Too Much Stuff

So it’s midway through January and, like a lot of people, I’m already having to consider the hard-hitting truth of failed New Year’s resolutions.

One of my “resolutions,” so to speak, has been taking a serious look at my possessions and considering how I can minimize. To be quite honest, this is no easy task for me. As much as I know and believe possessions should not be our number one priority in life, I have so much stuff. Way too much.

I’m a bit of a pack-rat. And an impulse buyer. So naturally I have way more than I need and way more than I use. Every now and again I’m reminded of the trips I’ve taken overseas, where children ran barefoot through filthy alleys and dusty roads and houses were strewn together with scrap metal and rotted cloth. Do I seriously need all this stuff I’ve accumulated? But to be transparent with you, in the comfort of my American home that overwhelming feeling unfortunately often passes as quickly as it came.

Stuff isn’t bad. But when I have brand new clothes I never wear and multiples of things I don’t even use, it’s just too much, and there are other ways I could be using my resources.

I think a more minimalist lifestyle would help with a variety of things.

I would be a better steward of what I have.

When I accumulate tons of junk I don’t need, nothing is valuable. I can hardly keep tabs on all of the things I have hidden away in my closet or shoved in my dresser, so what does it really mean to me? If I get a little more serious about what I’m willing to spend money on or take the time to make, I know the things I have will be worth it and I’ll take better care of them. If I have twenty-seven coffee mugs (who, me…?) who cares if one breaks or I leave it on the floorboard of my car for three weeks? Having fewer “things” and only hanging on to what I really need and love would make me maintain what I have.

I would be better able to give to others.

Less money on useless extras means more resources for being generous. I truly believe that God blesses us that we could bless others. In Genesis 12, God calls Abram to leave his homeland and become a father to many nations. Verse 2 says, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (ESV, emphasis mine). I am so thankful for the abundant provision God has given me, but I know it’s not just for me to sit on and hoard for myself. I know that the opportunities I’ve been given are there so I can pass on opportunities to others. If I spend all of my blessings on myself, there will be none left over for me to pour out to others. So why not buy less and give more?

I would be more willing to just go.

As you may have gathered, I feel a call to missions on my life.  Although I’m not quite sure what this will look like yet, one thing is for sure – it will require me to leave a lot of things behind. Whether relational or material, some things just can’t go with me. To follow Him, I will have to sacrifice, and I know it. That being said, it would probably make it easier on me if I had less to leave behind in terms of material goods. When it comes time to go wherever God is calling me, I don’t want to have to worry about what to do with copious amounts of stuff, or worry my family with having to store it! Whittling down to more of the basics would, I think, give me more freedom to jump on board quickly.

Like I said, getting rid of stuff isn’t easy. I’m sentimental and sometimes irrational and it can even be kind of painful. But it’s also necessary.

In order to actually carry through with this change in lifestyle, I’ve come up with a few points of action that I hope will get me heading in the right direction.

  1. Put 1+ item a week in a cardboard box to be given away when full.
  2. Wait two weeks before purchasing anything that isn’t a basic necessity (I would consider food, toiletries, and school supplies to be mandatory at this stage in my life).
  3. Give away doubles of things like clothes items, kitchenware, etc.

What kinds of strategies do you have to minimize? I’d love to hear!

 

 

Our Role in God’s Will

As college students, we are daily confronted with questions, the heaviest of which are often about the future. What major should I choose? Will I be able to get a job? Will I be successful? Will I have a family?

Many of us tend to ask, what’s God’s will for my life?

These are often difficult questions to answer, but what if they aren’t the questions we should be asking? Don’t get me wrong, I want the answers to these questions, and I’m sure you do too. I want to know that I’ve picked the right major or whether I’ll someday have kids of my own, and I definitely want to know what God’s will is for my life.

Lately, however, a new question has posed itself that has made me rethink the focus of all of the previous questions I’ve been prone to ask. What if instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, we ask “what is my role in God’s will for the world?

Last semester I had the privilege to take a course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, and it really challenged the way I view my relationship with God, His will, and His Word. One of the major insights I gained from this class was that God doesn’t have to use me. But He chooses to. And while He lovingly gave us His Son to bring us back to Himself, it ultimately isn’t about us anyway. It’s not about my personal success, whether I make a lot of money, or even if I end up with a career I love. It’s about His name being praised among all the nations and peoples of the world. His will for the world is that the world would glorify Him.

Habakkuk 2:14 says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Our purpose is to truly know Him and make Him known. And that doesn’t necessarily mean vocational ministry or going overseas as a missionary. But what it also doesn’t mean is spending our lives chasing something akin to the American Dream, hoping to find out what joys God has in store for us personally while neglecting to realize that our lives aren’t really for us anyway. The question needs to shift from an inward-focused desire to be fulfilled to an outward-focused desire to fulfill His purpose.

This of course is not to say that God doesn’t have individual plans for us. I truly believe He does. He gives us ambitions and talents and desires, but those plans He constructs correspond with His ultimate purpose to make His name known all over the world – whether or not they end up looking like the plans we had for ourselves.

We are all called to follow Him, abandoning what we must abandon and going where we must go in whatever way best brings glory to His name, that every tongue, tribe, and nation would stand in praise of Him.