How To Climb Out Of The Swamp and Stand On A Rock

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He had hands the size of pie plates that were brown as the land he tilled, and now he’s dead.

It’s 5:53 in the morning. I’m sitting on my back porch drinking coffee and listening to the birds sing. The grass is so green you can smell it. It’s going to be an amazing day.

It wasn’t always that way. There used to be days when I dreaded putting the first foot on the floor. We could go all the way back to college or the teen age years before that. Ironically I used to have a paper route and had to get up with the birds. I remember doing all I could to load by bag and balance my bike. The first couple of deliveries were a balancing act.

As the route progressed, the bag got lighter and the world around me looked brighter. It’s funny the things you remember when you reflect. I just remember working really hard, seven days a week and being looked at as a total loser. I used to have zits (not acne) and was waiting for someone to like me and say I was such a good kid, but it never happened. Sometimes I thought about riding my bike into the local swamp. They wouldn’t find me, just the handlebars sticking out of the muck and the papers sprawled all over floating on top.

Before those days there was the farm. Great BIG amazing place! Life everywhere. It throbbed all around you. Used to wake up once in a blue moon and go down to the barn. It hummed. The milking machines clicked and the cows bellowed. We used to grab an utter and squirt a barn cat. My grandfather, the guy with big, brown hands, leaned his head against the cow flanks and maneuvered the milkers with one hand. Then he’d lean against the wall and we’d talk. Don’t remember now what we talked about, but it was amazing.

I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I REALLY REALLY miss him. When I tip toe around the house in the morning real early so as not to wake anyone else up, I envision him doing the same. There was dim flourescent light over the kitchen sink. You could hear the Coffee garble as he filled his cup and tip toed out the doors toward the barn. I used to feel sorry for him, but I don’t now that I do the same thing. He had mastered his circumstances in a way that took me 45 years to grasp. I’m still grasping. But I LOVE my day more than I ever have, especially the start.

Three more things about developing the early riser habit!

You look forward to seizing the day. When we were kids, we used to get up at the crack of dawn while the fields were still covered in fog and trudge our way for miles out across the highway in the distance to Fosse’s Pond. By the time we got there we were soaked with morning dew and steam was still rising off the waters. We soon learned fish like worms early in the morning. Occasionally one would surface and SLAP the water when it landed. Now that I’m a little older, every day is a trip to the pond. Getting up early has reawakened my sense of adventure. Every day now I fill the 5 gallon bucket with memories and carry it home, switching hands from time to time to easier carry the load.

Your lows get lower and your highs get higher. My grandfather’s been gone almost twenty-two years now. My Mom has been gone almost sixteen years. My Grandmother’s been gone almost eleven years. There’s a trend here people. The older you get the more you will experience difficult days. But you will also experience and appreciate all kinds of other days. The tendency is to pretend that nothing hard is happening in the world. We tell ourselves soldiers aren’t getting their limbs blown off on a daily basis, our friends aren’t walking around with their hearts ripped out after failed marriages, our children aren’t feeling the pressures of something that moves faster and faster every day! But they are. They really are. But in the midst of it, we can learn to trust. We can believe that behind it all. Behind the curtain there is a God. Someone who loves us and has our best interests in store and is in the process of making all things new! Just this week our circle received news that one of our mentors graduated from a long, painful battle with Cancer. You can’t ignore that. However you also can’t ignore the fact that he impacted many people and his legacy lives on. Embrace your highs and lows. Give up on the idea that life will never be painful. Nobody’s ever made it out alive except for Jesus and even he had to die first.

You’ll be ready. I remember getting up to do the things I enjoyed on Saturdays and days off and taking half the day to wake up. Not any more. Everyday is Saturday! Gazing up now, there’s more light. Still an overcast morning but the grass is a thousand shades of green brighter. The glass table on the back lawn looks like an Adirondack valley covered with small ponds and lakes. The Lilacs are budding and drops of dew are hanging on the furniture. I’ve been away for an hour and fifteen minutes. It’s going to be an amazing day. Did I mention the fact that it’s Friday? All week, I’ve been looking forward to the treat of driving my truck to work. The kids are moving about and starting their day inside the house. My wife has been seizure-free for just over two years! I’m ready for whatever life sends my way. I’m expectant. Anticipating untold miracles today. I don’t want to ride my bike into the swamp anymore. The zits are gone. People can hate me and voice there opinions about me and I’m good with it. I can love them in a way I couldn’t before. I can laugh. Smile. Encourage. Make someones day! And it all began with getting ready. With starting a new SIMPLE habit of getting up early like Grandpa. Whatever it is you’re looking forward to in life, start preparing now. One of my mottos has always been “If you don’t see it before you see it, you’ll never see it when you see it”. In the words of Steve Brown, “You think about that!”.

Your rest will be sweet. I sleep like a baby. No more lying in bed and thinking. In fact, I get in bed by a certain time. Whatever it is that is so important, can wait until the morning. That means the notifications and ringer get turned off. I’m not Super human. If my phone is a machine and it needs to recharge every night, God knows I need to rest. The quality of your rest at night determines the quality of the day that follows. It’s a myth to think you can work all day and night for days on end and not come apart at the seams. If you work hard, you need to play hard and rest hard.

You don’t have to be Superman or Super Woman twenty four hours a day, but you can be if you want to. And it all begins with carving out a routine that works best for you. The sooner you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, the sooner you’ll reap the results of a life that makes a difference. You’re mistaken if you think you can stay up night and day and not experience any collateral damage. At least that’s my experience. You aren’t a turbine that was designed to start and run forever. You’re human. Don’t forget that.

However, don’t get discouraged about this thing called life. Many people have gone through it and managed to enjoy it in the process. You don’t have to be like my grandfather who got up every day at the crack of dawn and worked ’till sunset and you don’t have to be like me. But I promise that beginning the habit of starting early will revolutionize your life and maximize your enjoyment everyday tenfold!

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Psalm 127:2

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