Monday, September 21, 2015

Learning to Love My Mornings

“The Lord’s love never ends. His mercies never stop. They are new every morning.” – Lamentations 3:22-23 (ICB)
Note to reader: This is the first of a week-long series of posts related specifically to life with rheumatoid arthritis, as Spring Sight is one of the blogs featured in #RABlog Week. If you have RA and are new to this site, please know that it is spiritually oriented, from a Christian perspective, and here for your encouragement. If you do not have RA, this is a great week to learn more about what it’s like to live with the disease. I hope you will keep coming back! You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
The truth is, I never was a morning person. I found out the hard way, when I went to college. Before that, I was your average kid, forced into a schedule engineered by parents and school administrators. Of course I didn’t stay up late! My parents were strict about bedtimes – the earlier, the better. And when the school bus picks you up at 7 a.m., well, you don’t have much choice. You get up!

So when I got the dorm application that asked “Are you a morning or a night person?” I had to think hard. Hmmm … I knew there were a number of times I would beg my parents to let me go to bed and get up early to finish the dishes, do homework, or whatever else I was too tired to do after a long day. So I assumed I was a morning person.

Unfortunately, for me and my first college roommate, I assumed wrong. Put a real morning person with a natural night owl in one teeny tiny dorm room, and you learn quickly why universities ask that question.

“Turn off that d--- music!” my roommate would growl, each time I dared to turn on the stereo past 9 p.m. I thought it was playing very softly, but nothing was soft enough for her.

The tables would turn the next morning. I glared at the woman whose alarm clock had interrupted my slumber at 5 a.m. and had already turned on the TV, watching some talk show as she sipped Dr. Pepper, her morning beverage of choice. How the heck can anyone be fully awake at this time of day?? I thought.

Little did I know that many years later, I would find out exactly what it was to be fully awake at 5 a.m. It wasn’t out of desire, however. It was due to RA.

The very first thing I ever knew about rheumatoid arthritis was its effect on mornings. I had begun to see less and less of a good friend, and had inquired of her husband as to where she had been. “Oh, didn’t you know? She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s been really hard on her. It can take her two hours just to get out of bed in the morning,” he said.

Wow. Two hours to get out of bed? I couldn’t imagine. While not a super-late night owl, due to the reality of having a job and a child to send to school, I was the kind of woman who would do whatever it took to not get up any earlier than necessary. I always asked the hairdresser for the “minimal maintenance” style and had learned to put on makeup at the speed of light. Within just 30 minutes, I could be up, showered and dressed, with a quick bowl of cereal in my stomach and a cup of coffee in my to-go mug, ready to head out the door. The thought of having to get up two hours earlier to get ready was just unfathomable to me. Way, way too painful to think about. My poor friend.

I had no idea that I too would be learning to adjust to an “extended morning routine” due to my own diagnosis of RA, just a few years later.

When I first developed rheumatoid arthritis, I didn’t choose to wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. The disease itself woke me up. A deeply intense, dull ache permeated my hands each time I tried to open or close them, whether as an involuntary response to a dream or as I tried to pull up my bed covers. I didn’t know what was wrong with them. They just hurt. Bad. I couldn’t go back to sleep. Not like this. But when I got up, my feet hurt too, just to stand on the hardwood floor. So I laid in bed, tears running down my cheeks as I tried to rub the pain away.

Eventually, I would hobble across to the bathroom and down to the kitchen, where I sought comfort from my coffee pot and sat, now wide awake, at my breakfast room table. What now? I thought. What can I do of any value at this time of the morning, without waking up anyone else in the house?

With limited energy – I was fully awake but still tired – and still aching in my joints, I wasn’t ready to hit the ground running but felt restless and frustrated. I can’t just sit here! I thought. And then I looked across the room, and saw it: the book I had been saying I would read every day, if only I could find the time. Well, now I had the time, and I was full out of excuses. The Word of God – the Bible – called to me, like a friend wanting to share her intimate secrets. She was there. Would I accept her invitation?

It’s been almost two years since I began waking up early due to RA. Back then, it was disease that woke me up. Today, it’s desire. Desire to spend time with the One who loves me most. Desire to spend time in His Word. For I have found that the Scriptures are true: His mercies are new every morning. It is that time that gives me strength for today, hope for better tomorrows, and joy for the journey. I have learned to take the time I need for my hands and feet – and today, my knees and shoulders too – to “wake up” and feel better, and use it to my advantage. There is something about healing the soul that does something for the body too.

I will never be a morning person, as long as there are late nights to enjoy. But today, whatever time my mornings begin, I no longer look at them with dread. Yes, depending on the day, there may be pain. But there is also joy, and on that I can depend, for I know the One who will bring it and He never fails to deliver. It comes wrapped in a nice little package, like a gift I get to open every day, with a tag that reads Love. 

If you have RA, how do you handle your pain in the morning? Do you rely on warm heating pads or cool towels to soothe your joints? Where do you go to soothe your soul? 

Learning to Love My Mornings originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. It is one of a series of posts specifically about Rheumatoid Arthritis, as part of #RABlog Week. 

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  1. Beautiful words. Thank you for highlighting RA to bring a greater understanding to all of us. Taking back your mornings by spending them with God is a beautiful way to start your day. Blessed to be your neighbor at Encourage Me Monday.

    1. Thank you, Mary! Hope you are having a great morning and that you have a blessed day!

  2. An amazing look at the mornings with RA and a positive outlook to our new "normal" life. Have a wonderful day!

    1. Thanks, Christina! I hope you have a great day also. {Gentle hugs}

  3. Hello Linda,
    thank you for this post. I don't know much about RA after reading your post I had to do a little research about it.
    I'm not a morning person too, so much that most times I prefer to spend time with God more in the night. I do most of my work, writings and sometimes washing at night.
    Lately I have been struggling on keeping up with a strict morning routine. Reading your post is making me think: If I bring my quiet time up in the morning, and probably wake up because I want some time out with my loving Father, i think it will be a good start for me and less of struggling.
    Thanks Ma.

    Blessed to have you linkup with us at #EncourageMeLinkup.
    Have a great weekend.

  4. Blessings to you too, Grace! Even if you continue to enjoy dedicated time at night with the Lord, I hope you will experience His joy in the mornings as well! Thanks for visiting (and for taking the time to learn about RA)!