Morning Ritual

Do you have a morning routine or ritual? As a stay-at-home parent, I often don’t have plans that we need to get dressed and ready for but if I start the day by waking up late, staying in jammies, making a big breakfast, and just responding to the girls’s needs and the house chores, my day gets slurped up.

Unless I am intentional, I do whatever is right in front of me, especially if it’s something for the house or family. I push my goals and priorities to the side because they don’t seem as urgent or important. I’m trying to get better at this. I just came out of a rough season of being tangled up in some mild postpartum depression but I feel it passing, thanks in part to time and God’s grace and a lot of tough spiritual/mental/emotional work on my part. 

It has also been awhile since my last anxiety flare-up. I’ve been working on healthy eating habits and self-care to manage my anxiety better.

Seasons of struggle can be such times of growth and coming face to face with God and with yourself. 

One totally shocking thing I’ve learned recently— I’m an introvert! Can you believe I HAD NO IDEA? I’ve spent the last 30 YEARS thinking I was an extrovert. You are probably shaking your head in disbelief right now. You knew, didn’t you? Isn’t that funny! The people around us know things about us that it takes years for us to learn and accept. So I’m only just now realizing that alone time is something I need in order to recharge! Since finding out that I'm an introvert, it has been easier to give myself permission to seek alone time.

Since I can’t count on being alone at night time or nap time (especially now with two nap schedules to juggle!), waking up early before the girls are awake has become a critical part of my day. I’ve been working on developing a morning ritual that helps me start the day with intention. It makes a huge difference in my mood and feeling of centeredness. 

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Here is what my current morning ritual looks like:

Wake up and slip downstairs
Preparation
Matcha + Meditation + fresh air
Prayer of Intention
Freewrite and Music
Prioritized To-Do list
Writing
Vitamins, Good mornings, and Breakfast

Wake up and slip downstairs 

I try to start most days between 5 and 5:30 but if it was a hard night of wake-ups with Clementine (pretty rare) or if I just feel exhausted, I will listen to my body and choose sleep.

Occasionally, I will throw on clothes, brush my hair and go somewhere else to write. But I recently stopped drinking coffee, and I really resent regularly paying $3 for a cup of tea so I usually choose to stay home. This means I have less time to work (before everyone gets up) but at least I get to be home and not feel obligated to talk to baristas or strangers. 

Preparation

Get the kettle going. Put my laptop on the table with my to-do list notepad, my project notebook, and a pen.  

Matcha + Meditation + fresh air

Don’t hate me but I started drinking matcha. Long story short, I fasted from caffeine for a couple months this spring. It was a healthy choice for me physically and spiritually but I eventually added a cup of caffeinated tea back to my mornings to help me focus and as an alternative to an anti-depressant. (This is not prescriptive for everyone dealing with postpartum depression! This is just what started working for me.) My mom is really into matcha and my therapist suggested it, too, so here we are! 

Matcha is green tea leaves and stems that have been ground into a powder. It is a Japanese tea tradition. I add a tablespoon of good coconut oil, some almond milk and a tiny bit of maple syrup to mine. 

(Sidenote, matcha is expensive! I couldn’t afford it this last week so I just bought green tea and it is super boring but I’ll drink it till it’s gone.)

Once it’s ready, I meditate using the Insight Timer app. I usually pick a short guided meditation. I sit outside on the deck with my matcha where the bird sounds are loud and the air is lightening to dawn. The mosquitos bite but it’s a fine tradeoff for fresh air. 

Sometimes when I meditate I will just be mindful and listen to the noises around me and concentrate on my breath. Or I imagine I am in a tangle of trees in the woods behind my Granny’s house. Sometimes I visualize our living, breathing savior, Jesus Christ, and just spill my heart to him. I like to visualize him and meditate on what his presence would feel like. 

Prayer of Intention

Then, I pray this prayer that I wrote for myself. It’s what is on my heart in this season. It will change. 

I arise today knowing how badly I need you
How, even if I did all my best things,
it would be nothing without you, God.
I would still come up short
still run dry
still fall flat
without your work in me.
Give me your grace
before I speak.
Give me your grace
in my spirit
where things get balled up and knotted.
Give me your grace
to love myself,
to treat myself with compassion.
Give me your grace
to run, to chase, to pursue
my goals,
to move the ball forward,
to see clearly
the singular next step
when my paths seem many
and I feel lost.
Oh, let me attend your work in the world.
Let me move where you move
in my home, in my small sphere, on this Earth.
Show me my depths so that I may repent.
Show me my gifts and draw them out.
Fill me to the brim with courage,
with conviction and boldness,
with the energy of living water, 
a ticking clock, a passing life, a summons
to worship you with my life and breath.
Bring me to you in each inhale and exhale.
Bring me to love in each word.
Bring me to stand alone in truth.
Bring me to my knees
so that I will not persist in sin.
Lift my face and remind me
you made me lovable, worthy, 
worth knowing, worth saving
worth sanctifying in all these creaking
crunching aching days and nights. 
Give me Jesus.
Give me grace.
Make me that inspired image
you first imagined
when you shaped me
in your palm.
Amen.

I've been enjoying tiptoeing into contemplative prayer and meditation. I'd like to write a series of poetic prayers like this one.

Freewrite and Music

Now I’m getting going! Earlier this year, I would just skip to this part. Wake up and start writing! But my new ritual is more nurturing. I have to set a ten minute timer on my free writing or else I’ll just go and go and go and wind up being a professional diarist. I use OmmWriter for my free writes (some people call them morning pages based on The Artist’s Way). And I like to listen to classical music, preferably cello. (Okay, Yo Yo Ma! I really am basic.)

I like the order of meditate then journal and then make a to-do list because it helps me to be the most in touch with my dreams and priorities at the time that I need to crystalize them into actionable items. 

Prioritized To-Do list

This is critical! I make a list of everything I need or want to get done. I try to include even regularly occurring type things like dinner prep or getting Clementine down for naps. The reason I put those things on there is to give myself credit for all of the daily, mundane things I do that are important and time-consuming. 

This is where valuing my personal priorities really starts to show up. I try to include several tasks that move the ball forward on my own goals and projects. 

Then, I number everything in order of priority. It loosely follows the order of the day, too. So, morning ritual is priority number one and lunch is somewhere in the middle. I am trying to nudge my personal priorities like editing my novel (fourth draft!!!) toward the top instead of pushing them off to the end of the day (I.e. never). 

Sticking to a prioritized to-do list has been game changing. Not everything that crosses my path is the same priority level. Not every google-search has to be done the minute I think about it. Even the load of laundry in the dryer isn’t the most important thing if I haven’t edited my one scene for the day or taken my vitamins. There are lots of opportunities on the list to rest or play or read. Rest is as critical as work. 

Even though I like to just go-with-the-flow and be spontaneous, having a to-do list guides me through the day with structure. If something goes wrong (a nap strike or a cancelled plan) it doesn’t have to derail me (although it still does sometimes). I can identify the next important thing and move on. It helps me recover and to see the possibility of every day. It’s evidence of the mountain of work I do each day and helps me feel proud of myself. 

I do not finish everything on the list! That’s really not the point. The point is to try to do things in order of importance, to reaffirm my priorities throughout the day every day. It’s also a way of clearing everything out of my head so I don’t feel overwhelmed. 

Writing 

The second most important item on my to-do list (right after morning ritual) is a writing task. From January through mid-March, I had a strong writing habit but then it took a dive for a few months. Putting one writing task at the top of my list each morning has helped me make progress on this new edit of Willa. And look, a blog post!

Vitamins, Good mornings, and Breakfast

Everyone starts waking up around 6:30 or 7. Anabelle comes to the gate at the top of the stairs and calls down to me or Mitch and Clementine will come downstairs together and the day begins. If I haven’t finished my list or my writing yet, I try to get Anabelle set up with some breakfast and then keep working. I like her to see me writing every morning. We eat a light breakfast (I stopped cooking breakfast! More on this later!), take our vitamins, and would you look at the time? I’ve been up for two hours.

And that’s it! Sure, I love the idea of waking up slowly with the family and lingering over coffee and a big pancake breakfast but that is just not working for me right now. What do y’all do in the mornings? I would love to hear your routines and rituals. 

(These semi-unrelated photos are from our May trip to Orange Beach. I couldn't find any good morning pictures that I've taken at home.)

Sara Mitchell