This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24 (NRSV)
Routine has never been my thing – until it was.
In November 2016, I went to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico for a week with a group of pastors I am a part of. I arrived a day late, and as we prepared for worship that night, I asked, “What is your usual practice?” They laughed, but we tend to settle into routines pretty quickly.
While there, I awoke early and hiked a 2-mile route as the sun rose. It became my routine while there. I loved being out in the quiet and the beauty. The exercise woke me up and prepared me for my day. It centered me.
When I returned, I continued to get up in the darkness and walk in the morning. No beautiful mesas but still quiet and beautiful. It continued to center me – and wake me up for my morning devotions.
I also found that it helped with my depression. Sometimes it would take me over an hour to get out of bed in the morning. Sure, I got up to get my kids to school, but then I would return. Never sleeping, but just unable to get moving. Then, of course, I would feel terrible because it could be 9:00 am, and I hadn’t done anything yet.
But I found when I set my alarm for 5:20, I always got out of bed. I couldn’t just snooze or it would wake Dave up. My routine became stumbling out of bed and into my running shoes (or boots if there was a lot of snow), pour a cup of coffee, and then head outside for a 2-mile walk.
It’s Five Minute Friday: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”
Five minutes are up, but I’m not quite done.
And while I used to always drink decaf, I began to add a little caffeine. These things, my new routine, have become life-giving. Getting out of bed, a little caffeine, and some exercise have allowed me to start my day in strength rather than in a feeling of failure. During our long, cold, dark Wisconsin winters, my routine has helped me to keep depression in the background: still always there but not finding its old power.
My morning devotion time has also been strengthened. I am not only more awake and present but also don’t “run out of time” because I couldn’t get moving in the morning. I’m also more creative in the morning – this gift of early morning routine has birthed many a sermon or communion liturgy.
It’s true, that sometimes I am tired because I can’t get to bed as early as I need to get a full night’s sleep. But these early mornings have become more than a simple routine. They are part of the rhythm of my life. And for that, I am thankful.