When I wake this morning, I can hear the birds beginning their daily shift. What seems like endless drudgery to me, the call to rise before the sun every morning and sing their hearts out, greeting the day before it exists, setting the mood before I throw covers off and stand in the cold air, is joy to them. It is their art, their love, the purpose they rise to, the clock they live by, the structure and harmony that unify their every heartbeat. There in the feathered dark, they sing, calling things that are not as though they are. Trilling the very soul of hope into my darkened room and eyes and sometimes, heart.
I sit up quickly in bed, out of alarm and startled from the solitude of sleep. Morning has come and I feel no friendship between her and me. We are so different. Me, slow to warm, slightly suspicious of everything that moves, naturally in a lazy state, wishing for more darkness at times, longing to live in dreams, keeping the bright part of myself back until all the doors are locked and it is perfectly safe to emerge. But not her.
Morning rises like a dancer, slowly, with grace and tempered light. She picks her wardrobe, explores blues, grays and whites with enthusiastic advancement, and usually settles exuberantly on gold. She is lithe and bright, with blooming flowers all done up in her hair. She sings sporadically at first, in the lilting soprano that sends the crickets to their beds, but then, she builds her birdsong, weaving a harmony, adding a player here and there, swelling the symphony at perfect pitch and tempo, but differently every morning, to eventually match that of the sun's arrival over the horizon.
I sit in bed drinking my coffee and striving to become one with the hope that is morning. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)
Every single morning. My mind stretches her arms out blindly to grasp a truth that seems a lie. I sip quietly, and the children start to rise and Rosey begins preparing breakfast for all of us and I stumble through the house, putting articles of clothing into tiny, splendid, waiting hands, saying good morning in my frog-grumpy voice, hating speech, hating light, wishing for gray rain and soft quilts and quiet. Wishing for all of the things that would take this miracle of family mornings away. I climb back into bed and continue drinking my coffee.
The light outside my windows is changing. The birds have worked themselves into the height of song that tells me that any minute now, over the distant hilltop that I can see from my backyard in winter when the leaves are gone, the sun will begin to break forth, first in simple greeting that grows and burgeons into ecstatic, shouting light with the birds as accompaniment. All of the night-darkened melancholy world will begin to feel that daily lift, the aligning of ourselves to the light of a new day.
Is this the physical manifestation of those new mercies? I puzzle it over while I finish my coffee, still sitting in bed while my family continues in their morning cycle around me. "Mommy, can you put a braid in the front of my hair today, or two on either side?"
"Mommy, did you see the dinosaur I made for you? I named it Jillian, since that's your name. That's your name Mommy! Your name is Jillian."
"Mommy, I can't find my other shoe and the laces on this one are too short."
"Jillian, do you want me to make you a smoothie or a fried egg with toast?"
The questions are my final signals that it's time to engage, my catalyst for immersing myself in the daily routine, usually with all the excitement that most people have for jumping into frigid water. I stand and rub my eyes, drain what's left of my coffee, and shudder involuntarily at the thought of being up before the sun, waiting for the promised new mercies to kick in. Where are they? Doesn't He know how badly I need them?
Everyone is dressed and eating breakfast while I begin to pack lunches.
"Mommy, can I have two cookies today instead of one?"
"Mommy, I showed Mrs. Schwenk my carrots yesterday and she said I was lucky that my mom gave me healthy food."
"Mommy, will you put my necklace on?"
"Jillian, can I take you out for lunch on my break today?"
Amazingly enough, I answer the wonderful we-need-you questions in a voice like a zombie, still striving to awaken to their needs, their hopes, their beauty, their love. I am in slow motion, moving through these early minutes like someone wallowing in thigh-deep mud.
I can still hear the birds as I start the car, letting it warm up for awhile before we all pile in, now that the sun has fully risen they are more subdued, maybe in awe of the golden light, or in awe of how the old, sad world looks fresh and young once again. Perhaps they are just being reverent. How I wish to be like a bird, preparing joyfully for the rising sun, singing lustily with all of those in my home, swirling in an instrumental symphony of enthusiasm and grace, that crescendos and climaxes into a towering sound of life and reverent gratitude as I become increasingly aware of the sun and the light. My Sun and Light. From Heaven.
It is not until we are in the car that the Light starts to have its way with me. Driving down the hill toward the front of our neighborhood, on the way to take everyone to work and school, I naturally start to shift. I notice the naked trees, their limbs stretched up in cold surrender to the quickly brightening winter sky. I see the folks out walking their dogs, the steam rising off of cars, the fog lifting from the hollows everywhere. I see the dew, like glimmering jewels, almost wasteful, all over the dead brown grass. I notice where standing pools of water on the roads and sidewalks have frozen into ice, vast mystery enclosed in tiny dirty ruts. My mind begins to worship. Kindness for my family arrives. But it is late for this. Five minutes later, they are all gone, at school and work, and I am left to myself for the day.
It is then, as I drive home in a now silent car, with the beautiful well-made world scurrying all around me in her winter state, that I realize they were there all the time. Did I think new mercies an intangible emotion, or a spiritual state? Did I fancy they would be like that of an abduction of all of my most hostile morning thoughts, a lobotomy of my tendency for early suspicion? No. They were in the open hearts of those I love, the simple acceptance of my human inability to be cheery in this fragile state. They were in the sweet declarations and the hopeful questions of need. They were in His love for me, His placement of all of this around me. All of this! His mercies, new in every way, treating me as the best, while I swam in the knowledge that I was the very worst, humming over me while I trudged and dreaded and stumbled. All of this loving-me-as-I-am forcing me to realize.
All of it. All of it is a mercy. My whole life is a mercy, given newly, given freely, every single day.
Oh teach me. Teach my heart to rise joyfully to each new day, to hold reverently these early moments, to see, really see, the untold riches I am given, the grace that permeates my life. Teach me to see your mercies, to recognize them at the onset of every dawn, to prepare for them even in the darkness.
Teach me to know everything that You are for me, and in every place.