I have found the phrase “sleeping in” to be a relative one. When I was a little boy and full of energy, sleeping in meant missing the first round of cartoons. By the time I was a teenager, sleeping in was sometime around noon. In college, sleeping in meant skipping my morning class. After getting married and having a steady job, sleeping in was sometime around 8 am. Now, with four kids and some life experience, I have “slept in” when the clock says 7 am.

The Morning Rush

As life changes, our morning routine evolves. Right now, our family of six has a morning routine that goes something like this.

My phone alarm goes off at 6 am (because I set it to do so months ago and haven’t bothered changing it). I turn off the alarm and promptly turn over. At some point between 6 and 6:30 our one year old wakes up crying, ready to nurse. My wife gets him from the adjoining room, where our three boys share a room. Thanks to daylight saving time and ridiculously large, east facing windows, the boys are all awake and wired by 6:30.

Eventually, some time around 7, my wife and I stumble out of bed, make our way to the kitchen, throw some Apple Jacks in bowls, and make school lunches. In the midst of it all, our four year old daughter wakes up in a mystery mood. Some days she’s a beautiful princess, ready to twirl and sing. Other days, she resembles something closer to an ogre with serious anger issues. Meanwhile, our one year old eats bananas like he’s training for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. Seriously, we can’t keep food on that kid’s tray.

At some point in the craziness, we manage to load up the two older boys and get them to school by 8 am. Nobody is happy with the routine. The boys want more time to play in the morning, our little diva daughter needs more “attention,” and our one year old just wants to eat for the first three hours he’s awake. I’m left feeling worn out and my wife is ready for nap time by 8.

My wife and I recently began to implement something in our marriage called “coffee time.” After the older boys are off to school, the eating machine has been fed, and miss mystery mood has “regulated,” my wife and I sit down to enjoy our morning coffee and talk about the day ahead. This has been an awesome addition to our daily routine and has produced some of our best conversations. One conversation led us to a realization. Our busy, hurried mornings were having a negative impact on the rest of the day.

Diligence: The Challenge of Parenting

We often read Scripture during coffee time and this particular day we were reading Proverbs 21:5. I like the New Living Translation of this text: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.”  Was it possible we were creating a relationally impoverished family through our “hasty shortcut” of sleeping in? While lying in bed a little longer seemed like it might buy us some time, we began to realize it was making us a slave to the clock.

Our morning rush was making us irritable and angry. We were short tempered with the kids, trying to race them off to school in time. Instead of “prospering” as a family in the mornings, we felt bankrupt. As we reflected on the text a little more, we began to realize that the key to a more productive morning routine was a plan and “hard work.” Yikes.

We didn’t arrive at this hasty, shortcut oriented morning routine overnight. There have been many discussions about what time we should get up and what we should do when that time comes. That’s where the 6 o’clock alarm came from. But all of these plans have lacked an important factor. The hard work of being diligent to carry them out. This is the challenge of parenting.

Parenting is both incredibly simple and incredibly complex. Our morning struggles are just a piece of the picture, but they help to illustrate the tension of being a parent. It is as simple as being on the same page, having a plan, and putting in the hard work to stick to that plan. It is incredibly complex because we are dealing with a house full of humans. As we continually walk through the tension of discovering what it means to “prosper” as a family, we are learning it will be hard work and require many restarts.

The Treasure of a Plan

At first, the idea of making a plan and working hard made me cringe. However, the more we discussed the idea of working hard to fight for our morning plan, I realized there was an incredible amount of grace in the work. It is an absolute gift of God that He would assure us that if we work hard at these plans, it will produce prosperity.

I want my family to be rich in faith, hope, and love. I want my family to be rich in grace and mercy. I want my family to be rich in justice and righteousness. And if we desire these treasures, we must diligently work towards them.

And, for us, it starts with making a plan for the morning and working hard to stay with it. There will be much needed grace as we strive to work hard. We will continue to fall short of the plans we have made. There will be times when it does not look like anything is working. There will be times when we want to quit. I’m thankful that my Father in heaven has been diligent to stick to his plan of bringing about transformation in my life so I can do the same for my family.

We will continue to work hard in the mornings, not because we hope to earn God’s favor, but because we already have it. We will continue to work hard in the mornings because we know it will produce prosperity in all the right things.

Image via Lars Plougmann via Flickr