After Jennifer died, I began a daily quiet and meditation time in the early morning. In the summer I would head to the local fitness center to swim laps and then would sit on a bench at the side of a small pond. Being outside became an essential ingredient of this routine. Unfortunately, once school began the routine was harder to follow because. If I followed an exercise routine, then there wasn’t much time for the communion with God. As the weather changed, it became almost impossible.
My annual rhythm eventually grew into an outdoor quiet time in the summers, usually on my front porch or back deck. Since retirement from teaching two years ago, it still took me until this summer to return to the early morning meditation. Allergy season seemed to last forever this past spring in Tennessee, and to stay healthy I stayed indoors. Finally, in June I was able to sit on the back deck with my basket of books and other tools and find that peaceful place.
After a Women’s Retreat in March which used one thousand gifts for its theme, I began my list of 1000 gifts. I found it challenging to list small moments like those Ann describes so beautifully in her writing. I noticed that many of her gifts and photos on her blog are of nature, since she lives on a farm. My list didn’t have many things from nature because I was not in it. Once June arrived and I began my Morning Moments, I found joy in just listening and watching the world wakeup. I am loving this time to list the gifts in my backyard.
Establishing any habit requires careful intention and planning. I gathered tools for a basket and keep them near the back door. I begin each morning by counting my Morning Blessings in a small journal just for mornings. Since I love the beach, it’s a beach notebook from Target. As I read over my list of gifts from the first mornings, I find most of them are about what surrounds me in my suburban backyard:
892. ground and grass soaked with last night’s rain
896. brilliant sunlight casts long shadows across the green yard
899. another cool morning requiring long sleeves and a sweater
990. colors seem more intense, deeper green, brighter red rose, bluer cloudless sky
993. solitary cardinal perched on leafless top branch singing its “good morning”
994. Mr. Squirrel scampers along top of fence, then head first, straight down to the ground
A dear friend gave me a copy of Jesus Calling at the retreat. So I read the daily entry, look up the Scriptures that Sarah Young includes for that day, and write them in the book. The basket also contains another journal of my memorized Scriptures, some notecards of other memorized verses, a prayer cross, and a channeled whelk shell.
The thing about being in nature is that you never know who or what will show up. We have an abundance of mockingbirds in our neighborhood, so I can usually count on at least one or two. The rabbit who lived under the house for awhile also made an appearance in the mornings.
The words in David’s psalms continually remind us of God’s gifts through nature. Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Look at all the praise psalms; they are full of the bounties of God’s world.
Today our lives are filled with technology – man-made technology that consumes time, attention, and focus; staying in touch with friends and family has become so simple. But God’s natural world remains more complex and beautiful than anything man has made. Consider His poetic words to Job:
“Can you send for the lightnings, that they may go
and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward part
Or given understanding to the mind
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
When the dust runs into a mass
And the clods stick fast together?
Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
When they crouch in their dens
Or lie in wait in their thicket?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God for help,
and wander about for the lack of food?
I am reminded of a book I used in my dissertation research on teaching virtues. Written from the perspective of Native American Indians (Jacobs and Jacobs-Spencer, 2001), the authors contend that the American culture has separated itself from nature, spending 95 percent of our lives indoors. “We believe the loss of a true focus on virtues in our world is a result of our inability to get back in touch with the vibrations of nature that make us whole. Nature reconnects us with the spiritual origins of love. We are naturally attracted to the sights, sounds, aromas, and sensations in nature.” (p. 8) This book stresses the importance of balance in all areas of our lives: diet, exercise, play, music, love, nature, spiritual, and purpose. (Teaching Virtues: Building Character Across the Curriculum, 2001)
I’ve finally have learned that taking care of myself is not selfish; it’s actually what I must do in order to give back. I need to pay attention to each of the items in the list above. Starting my day with Morning Moments prepares my heart, centers my focus, and reminds me that God’s daily presence in my life brings me peace and joy.
Counting joys today in