Investing Time

Life is made up of a collection of moments. The moment you read this is the only one you have right now. We can’t live in the future of our plans any more than if we spend our days dwelling on the past that we can somehow change it. Those moments are gone. Left to the interpretation of our imagination, the feelings we felt while we experienced them and the passage of time that all too often leaves us wondering what really happened. This breathable moment, this is the one we have right now. Later is later, but for now, I pray this moment as you read blesses you.

We often forget that the journey is better than the destination. I can hear you saying, “But what about the beach, or a trip to a beautiful country that you have never been to.” Those are wonderful things to have. Creating a memory bank of happy and joyful experiences is one that we all should strive to do. Those moments are part of the arsenal we build when the times are less fun than a wonderful vacation.

This world is moving fast. Too fast. What moves slowly and without understanding is our recognition and perception of time. We are neither truly here nor there. Just passing through, a wisp of smoke on the wind, a wave rolling through the ocean until it meets its end as it crashes on the shore. It is why the time we have is so very important and how we spend it matters and it shows us what is important to us.

Today marks six weeks since I began my journey of giving the first fruits of my day back to God. To say that this has changed my life would be an understatement. This isn’t a change you can see. I didn’t lose weight or change my hair, though to look at me you would be able to sense something different about me. Until now, I truly didn’t know that there was something I could wake up and have every day. What have I gained over the last full 6 weeks?

Peace.

As like most of American’s who are entrepreneurs, I wake up early. Earlier than some I know, but 4am is my friend, and while it isn’t my favorite moment when I roll out of my bed, the anticipation I now feel at going from my bed to the Word of God is something that does propel me faster. (Especially if I set up the coffee the night before!)

I have been getting up at 4am for years. It started after working with author Steve Nudelberg on his book and several choice realizations that you can get more done when you give yourself more time. The problem with that is I was only using that time to “get ahead” in my day.

I would start off by looking at my phone for the daily crisis. This is the harsh honest truth. I so expected to find a daily fire, that instead of starting my day with joy, I started it with panic. “What is going to be on fire today?(OnFire, no pun intended), What is going to be broken today?”

This is a crummy and dare I say, foolhardy way to start the day. Instead of a peaceful cup of coffee I was ordering up a large doses of cortisol(our favorite stress hormone), first thing in the morning. Then I thought I could go to God’s word to find peace and continue my day like I didn’t start it with my hair on fire. This DID NOT work.

I don’t speak for everyone, but for me, I cannot go to God’s word in the morning after reviewing what the day looks and give him my full attention. If you are one of those magical people that can compartmentalize your life like that, Praise God that you have that talent. It is not one of mine. What my current journey is showing me is that there is so much more to God’s word. So much more of what He wants for us just sitting in His word. I need only start where He is.

This giant realization came to me a week into my Breaking Free study with Beth Moore. This study has been a huge blessing and I hope one day I can personally hug Beth Moore and thank her for stepping into the calling God had for her. What a gift she is!

The Church and we as a collective of the Christian faith have the word tithing all wrong. I can literally see you beginning to squirm in your seat or feel a little more uncomfortable at this word. The church has used this word and the call attached to it in many sermons dedicated to showing us how we are supposed to give our first fruits. Let me ask you a question. What do you consider to be your first fruits? Cain and Able had no money, only what they produced by their hands.

Normally, when I pose an opinion of my personal interpretation of something I like to start it off with, I think, or I feel. I am NOT starting this off like that.

I KNOW that first fruit, tithing 10%, means everything in our lives. Starting with the first breath out of bed, the first part of my day the first part of LITERALLY everything. Maybe you are a brilliant human who figured this out already. It was a big revelation for me. I had always thought if I gave my talent and money to church I was set. Listen to me on this one point. If all you get from this writing today is this point that would be enough.

God wants all of you. He wants all of me. As a church, He wants the whole body of Christ. What does that mean? He wants us to love and dote on Him the way He loved us and gave Christ as the price to bring us back into relationship and kingdom.

The first part of everything. That for me meant my day. But I had one problem that I had to address. I would bet money that you have this same problem. My next question for you is, what is your alarm clock?

Another bet I feel like I could make pretty good money at is that many of us use our cell phones or our apple watches to get out of bed in the morning. This was my #1 obstacle to achieving a peaceful morning in the word.

My alarm goes off, I grab my phone to shut off the noise so I don’t wake up anyone else and what do I see before I even get to my bible? Notifications!

My stumbling block of which I didn’t even realize, was that I was unintentionally scanning what was up on my notifications screen before I ever left my bed. Maybe you are guilty of this too. Many of us in modern America and other well off countries do it. It has become a nasty habit. I now compare this to any other bad unhealthy habit, like smoking or drinking. The buzz you get from that temporary serotonin boost of seeing if anyone noticed you on social, or if you have something important that you need to do after you finish your bible study.

I can’t speak for you or this broken world. But I can tell you a fact of my life after this transformational 6 weeks. My soul cannot afford to start my day any other way, then in God’s word, free of distraction and free of drama.

There is nothing on my phone or in this world (especially at 4am) that can’t wait until I finish that time.

I hear so many of you saying, “I can’t get up at 4am!” I don’t blame you. It isn’t something I would have chosen for myself. But as a mom, a wife, and an entrepreneur, 4am is the only time when I can. And it is now more than important. It is like food, like breath. After six weeks, no missing days, of journaling and learning, I no longer feel like getting up is a chore to have peace. It is a necessity. I go to bed looking forward to the wee hours of the morning and that time with God. I long for it to extend out into my day. Just there, in the word, letting God use all he has built to speak to my heart so that I can help others better see what He has for us. This love story of the redemption of His people. Of every single one of us that chose to come out of the darkness and into His light.

Now, since my phone is my alarm clock, I found myself trying desperately not to look at my phone as I turned off the alarm and navigated my way to the dark office where I study. That first week the curiosity of what those notifications that shaped that lit up screen was very hard not to look at. The enemy tried to make me feel guilty and selfish for not starting my day serving my company and my clients. That taking time for “me” to spend with God somehow meant I was cheating on everyone who needed me. The enemy sucks.

I can say that the few days I failed and caught enough of a glimpse of what was happening ruined that time for me. There is nothing worse to my heart than sitting in that special time with God and feeling like all I can think about is work. Not Him, not what he wants me to see. Those days were the most fruitless of my times with him and the weight of loss was heavy. He was revealing to me that I had a choice. I could choose to spend my time with Him or not. That is a heavyweight indeed.

To overcome this, I had to get rid of the obstacle. My cell phone.

Don’t panic. I didn’t get rid of my phone. I did, however, buy an alarm clock. I went onto Amazon (since I loathe shopping in person) and looked for an alarm clock that I felt could suit my needs. I purchased it, overnighted it to my house and now I have an alarm clock that slowly gets brighter like the sun for 30 minutes prior to going off to the sounds of birds. The first night was a huge failure and I am glad I used my phone for a backup. Turns out that if you want your alarm to go off it isn’t enough to set the clock and alarm time. You have to turn it to on.

Go figure. I felt like Ian Malcolm in that scene with Eddie Carr in Jurassic Park Lost World:

turn it on

Night number two, much better. Switch it to on. Worked like a charm.

I am still getting used to waking up to the bright light of this mini sun next to my face and I am pretty sure that Joseph (my husband) thinks that his hippy wife is crazy (scratch that, I know he thinks I am crazy), but this is working for me.

So what has happened since I removed the obstacle of notifications from my morning God time? Well, I am so glad you didn’t ask internet. I am going to tell you anyway.

Peace happened. A peace that I didn’t expect. I expected to be better able to learn, I hoped that it would give me eyes that could see the day full of possibilities like Jesus sees it. Not how I saw it before. Picture my day as mompreneur and wife waking up to being on the set of Ninja Warrior. I am standing on the platform getting ready to start the obstacles to try to get to the end and hit the buzzer and win. (Isn’t that our goal every day, to make it to the end and feel like we won?)

Just one problem, I’m wearing a suit and heels and I haven’t trained at all. This is not going to go well. No matter how well you plan your day, blocking your hours, if you don’t have a sense that you can actually accomplish those things in a way that matters, a way that helps others, the enemy will get in your head and spend the day filling it with the things you came up short on. Even when you didn’t come up that short. We afford ourselves little grace when it comes to the things we expect ourselves to be excellent at.

I was trying desperately to serve my family and my company, not to mention my clients with this cup that I had not invested any time in filling. Your spouse, your kids, even your best friends can try to fill you up, but it’s a sad little snoopy band-aid, and it is a temporary fix to a problem that can only be fixed by God. I feel like is closer to a hemorrhaging gash that needs God’s tender care and only His grace-filled sutures can close up the cuts and cracks that are causes all of ourselves to flow out in a pool on the ground instead of a life-giving mist that helps everyone (including yourself)

No one else can fill your cup the way Christ can. Period. That is just the truth.

I am not telling you to give up your 4am sleep. I am not asking you to try to find a way to get quiet in the midst of the morning school routine. I am telling you that an indescribable peace that can equip you to handle every fire, every crisis with focus and with patience is available to all of us.

I thought that something in me was broken. That I was just meant to feel like I was riding life’s roller coaster and that it was supposed to be hard and stressful. That peace was something people with more faith than me got. And don’t get me wrong, life is supposed to be hard, but it doesn’t have to feel like a crisis and there can be peace and joy in the middle of crisis if you choose it.

The choice to live in a peace that surpasses all understanding is a choice. You have been equipped with the full armor of God, Christian. If you are reading this still then you know that God has given you everything you need. You don’t have to put it on. It doesn’t hang on in your closet while you sleep. The armor is always there, it came as the stylish accessory to the Holy Spirit. Complete with our handy dandy sword of truth. All these shiny pieces at our disposal whenever we need them.

It isn’t that we don’t have the things we need; it is that we choose not to use them. In your hand right now is the shield of faith.  To use it to stop the fireballs of the enemy, don’t you need to lift it up?

I knew that I had all of the things that I needed to shield myself from the enemy’s attacks. I just wasn’t using them. Painful realization but I choose every day now to live only in truth. How can I lead, teach or coach others if I sit in silence? Living in the lie that stress is just a way of life for us in this country and I just need to learn to deal with it, or medicate it, either option is stamped with the American seal of approval. I choose not to live by those approved standards any longer.

Now, my first breath of the day, my first hours, are not mine but His. This day was given to me by Him, this breath gifted and sanctified for His glory. Why not spend that time, accepting the gift, giving back in gratitude what is not mine, but rightfully His?

I don’t speak for everyone and I know that 4am can be a stretch, (sometimes I sleep in on Saturday till 6am shhhhhh)

My goal is not to admonish you into 4am, my goal is for you to see if you give God back some of the time he has given to you, whenever that is, you will reap endless spiritual rewards.

If you learn anything from my experience in all of this then take this away. God is so for us. We can get angry with him when bad things happen, we can stomp our feet when things don’t go our way, but if you just let go of what you think should happen and you embrace the unknown, step into His plan, that is where freedom lies.

You know those glow in the dark stickers that you have to expose to light for a time before they will glow brightly? Sure, if you only give them a little light or even none at all there is a faint glow there. But if you put it under a lamp or take it outside and let the sunshine on it, it glows like a beacon. That is me and that is you. We can glow just enough on our own with only the basic of light in our faith. That may even save people. How much more can we shine, how many more can we save, if we could send that light out brighter and farther? We need God to pour His light into us, every day, to recharge us so we can shine. 4am has given me back my ability to shine. My light shines a little brighter and a little farther because I let God charge me up. I am not a faint glow anymore, and as I continue to walk this daily, I pray that God uses me to become a blazing fire, one that helps spread His grace and hope. One that helps people see the power in His presence.

Christ is waiting to wake us up in our hearts. He is our love story. Song of Songs, verse 2:10-12 says, “My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season for singing as come.”

Let Him be your love story, let Him cast that light into your life, to fill you up with His, grace, mercy, joy and of course, His love.

As my daughter’s sweet Sunday school teacher says every time she walks out of her class to head to service, “I love you and God loves you.” May your peace be multiplied.

Always Your Sister in Christ,

Tiarra

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