morning routines and servant leadership

Posted: October 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

Though we have learned that G’s 5 AM start time is not (for now) permanent, he is still on 5’s for the duration of this 2-week schedule, at least.  No matter what time either of us starts work in the morning, we are all about routine.  There is a comfort and a peace in having a way that we do things, and it helps us know how to work around each other as well, rather than competing for space or being confused about who is doing what.

The way it works when G is on 5’s is that he’s the one who sets the alarm the night before, on his phone.  This is new for me; on all other schedules, it’s me who sets the alarm, and really for all of my adult life, I have taken responsibility for not only what time I get up, but also often for what time others in my household rise as well.  I’ve been the reliable one who sets the alarm and makes sure people don’t oversleep.  So it was a bit of an adjustment for me, when G took over alarm duty on 5 AM start days.  The first few nights, I didn’t sleep very well because I was uneasy – my alarm was not set.  What if his didn’t go off?

I made the decision not to give in to that uneasiness.  I talked myself through it.  G opened the kitchen at 5 AM at JPUSA for years.  He too is a reliable person, not given to being late and blaming the alarm.  So every time my uneasiness asked if I shouldn’t maybe set a backup alarm, I just told it no.  I’m back to sleeping well at night, and of course his iPhone alarm is just as reliable as mine, and he reaches out to silence it immediately when it goes off each morning at 3:15 AM.  The system works.

He sneaks out of bed like a ninja – we even had one morning when he rose before the alarm and shut it off preemptively, and I didn’t know he was gone until he came back later to wake me.  THAT is unusual – I’m a pretty light sleeper at this age and stage of life, though I wasn’t always.  He gets his shower, gets mostly dressed, and feeds his bunnies.  He makes his coffee and breakfast.

Most mornings he starts the dryer for me (to get whatever is in there fluffed so it won’t be wrinkled when I go down to fold it) and helps our washer do what it has no idea how to do – switch from “wash” mode, where it stops, over to “rinse and spin” mode.  He’d do a lot more about the laundry, but his wife is the daughter of the Laundry Queen of the Universe, and thus has some cranky and particular standards about laundry.  I’ve asked him to let me do all of my own laundry, and I’m happy to do his as well, though he does sneak his in when I’m not around some of the time.

At 4 he comes to wake me so that I can sit with him and we can go through our devotionals together.  This schedule is the first we’ve had where he consistently rises before me, rather than us rising at the same time; he seems to be taking special delight in finding ways to serve me.  When I come to the kitchen these days, my supplements are already on the table.  My mug of hot water is already waiting for me, and he has even added a shot of cool water (like I do) so that it’s at perfect ready-to-drink temp for me.  There is even a neatly folded tissue in my spot, because when I am waking so early (not so much when I wake later, but EVERY DAY when I wake this early) I need to blow my nose about 3 minutes into our devotional time.  He’s noticed, and has made the decision that I won’t have to ask him to reach me one (they are closer to him than to me).  I’m telling you…I walk in there with my bedhead and crusty eyes and morning breath, in the warm and unlovely sweats I wear to drive him to work, and I feel like a freakin’ PRINCESS when I see that spot all laid out for me like that.

(One morning recently, I woke before he could come get me at 4 AM and I just missed him so much and wanted to be with him.  So I got up early and went to sit with him ahead of schedule.  That’s when I learned that without me in the kitchen, he has his headphones around his neck and his punk music turned up loud.  This made me feel even MORE like a princess, that he goes out of his way to make breakfast quiet and peaceful for me, when he still clearly loves to start the morning turned up loud.)

G has his breakfast and I sit beside him, sipping my hot water and reading our devotionals aloud from my phone.  Jean Vanier.  Henri Nouwen.  Streams in the Desert.  And last of all, Oswald Chambers.  It’s amazing how often the same theme runs through two or more of the daily readings.  We ponder them aloud together.  We say what we like about them, what is hard to understand, what is hard to follow.  We talk about places where they apply to our lives.  We note where we are falling short.

At 4:30 he goes to finish getting dressed and I just lay on the bed talking to him.  Then we pray together – I pray for him, and he prays for me, and we pray for our marriage and for others who are especially on our hearts and minds, although some mornings I am just SO TIRED and out of it, and I just say, “You do the prayer,” and he does – and then it’s time for me to drive him to work.  Since we live a mile from work, that’s a quick proposition.  When he steps out of the car, he goes from all mild, gentle and quiet for his wife to instant Turbo Gary, charging out of the car like he’s headed to a battle, complete with big grin on his face.  I can practically hear the punk music screaming in his head as I watch him go.

When I get back, there is more than enough time to work on that laundry (I can even get a second load in, if needed) and do my writing in the hour or so before it’s time to hit the shower.  On this schedule, the last two things I do before I leave home are wash up the breakfast dishes and make my breakfast shake, which I just then take to work.  This allows me to get to work somewhere between 7 and 7:30 AM, which helps me to get a jump on the day.

I like our routine.  I have said before that I’m not especially a morning person – if life would just let me do whatever I want, I’d sleep past sunrise.  But life is so full, and there is so much to get done, and this schedule bends nicely with that.  I thank G most mornings for the simple fact of what a joy he makes it for me to rise at this ridiculous hour – that I even LOOK FORWARD to it, despite the early hour.

I was thinking this morning, as I so often do, about G’s servant heart.  About how he is driven by a desire to serve.  About how hard he looks for ways to do so before he can even be asked.  About how he strives to do each thing with excellence – I don’t think he’s constitutionally capable of making a half-hearted effort or doing any chore in half-measures.  I was thinking about how it makes me want to serve him.  How it makes me look for chores to get done so that he won’t have to do them.  I thought about how often I conclude that I will never be even half as cool as he is, when it comes to serving…but how very much I WANT to get there.

Last night I listened to a podcast of my son-in-law (the pastor) preaching at his church.  He was talking about how counter-intuitive the ways of Christ are, and he mentioned this business of “the first shall be last,” and that if one wants to lead, one must serve.  This morning I connected that with what I see in G.  YES.  As he chooses to put himself last, as he chooses to serve with such gusto, it DOES make me want to serve him, to follow him, to be like him.

All those years when I was being a single mom, I worried about how any man would ever be able to “lead” me – and I’m just enough of a traditionalist that this was what I wanted (though still enough of an egalitarian to not think I am some sort of lesser being by the nature of being female).  I have never liked leading, but have been put in the position to lead in many ways and places.  The hardest leading for me was being the head of our household, but I did it.  I worried that the combination of the strong personality I inherited (we are a family of strong women with a weakness toward the need to control) and the daily practice of running a household was forming me into a lady who couldn’t be led.  Who would this man be, who could lead a bull-headed woman like myself?  It seemed unlikely that he existed.

Being married to G is really teaching me the truth about servant leadership.  He doesn’t try to run the show.  He doesn’t attempt to boss me around (there is enough bossiness in me for ten people – he is wise in not trying to add more bossiness to the mix, and I try every day to kill some of the Bossy Bessy that lives in me).  We don’t have some rule that if we disagree, as the leader he gets to choose.  Leadership in our house looks like the most servant-hearted man I ever met, and me wanting with all my heart to follow after his way.

It’s a beautiful thing.

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