Joy Comes in the Morning
The bestselling author shares five ways to get a spiritual start to your day.
Every time my husband, Wayne, and I go on a trip, he grunts and groans as he lifts my heavy bag, then asks, “Do you have to bring all these books with you?” It’s a rhetorical question. After some 40 years of marriage, he knows the answer. Yes, I do. Those books are how I start my day. Every day.
I’m up at 4:00. Before I head to the office, I sit at my kitchen table, read, study, pray and seek the Lord.
I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams as a writer, with book sales topping a hundred million. There’s even a TV show, Hallmark’s Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, based on one of my book series (I’m thrilled to say that it is now going into its second season).
But I couldn’t have written all those books without the ones I start my day with.
First, there’s the Bible. I read it cover to cover every year, marking and underlining passages. Amazingly, I always find some verse that speaks to me in a new way or one that speaks to me for the first time. I never feel as if I am rereading the Bible. I feel as if I am reading it anew.
Last winter I underwent what should have been a routine medical procedure and ended up in the ICU for a week with complications. Then Wayne fell, breaking his arm in two places and tearing his rotator cuff. What’s more, I came down with shingles.
“I’m beginning to feel like Job,” I moaned. No sooner had I uttered the words than I seemed to hear the Lord say to me, But Debbie, don’t forget the great lesson of Job.
I grabbed my Bible and there it was: “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
At the end of Job’s horrific suffering, he was overwhelmed with blessings. I held on tight to that lesson and good health finally returned to Wayne and me.
Then I turn to my Prayer Journal, the place I put my deepest wishes, the secrets of my heart. There were times in my life when I could tell only God what I yearned for.
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He helped me overcome the negative voices I heard in my head, like what my third-grade teacher said to my mom: “Debbie is a sweet little girl, but she’ll never do well in school.” Or the one who exclaimed, “You can’t write, Debbie. Why, you can’t even spell.” (Eventually the Lord blessed me with spell check.)
All those years I prayed about my weight, I could hear the voice from my childhood that said, “Let’s go straight to the Chubby Department, Debbie. They’re sure to have your size there.”
I keep from focusing solely on myself by picking three people to pray for every year. At some point during the year, generally around their birthdays, I give them a Bible, with a letter describing how I’m praying for them.
The true value of a prayer journal is that I can look back over the years and see a record of God at work in my life and in the lives of others.
Every week I pick a different Bible verse to memorize and I put it down in my Journal of God’s Promises. Impressive, right? Okay, so sometimes I forget verses as I learn new ones, but many of them are inscribed on my heart.
For instance, if I’ve ever signed a book for you, you’ll notice that under my name I wrote, “2 Tim 1:7.” Whenever I feel afraid or doubtful I repeat that verse: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and discipline.” I have whispered the words so many times they are a part of me.
Years ago, when I was struggling to find God’s purpose for my life, stymied by obstacles and my own failings, I was in the hospital to visit an ailing cousin and I got totally lost. It felt like a metaphor for my life. I muttered that verse from II Timothy.
Finally I stopped a doctor and asked how to find my cousin. He pointed to a door that was marked Absolutely No Admittance and hurried off. I was confused. Had he made some mistake? But what did I have to lose? I was already lost. I pushed open the door. It led me to just the right ward.
That experience became a symbol to me of how I would choose to walk through life, not with “a spirit of timidity but of power and love.” I would walk boldly through the most impossible doors. Claiming and clinging to God’s promises.
Of course, I keep a Personal Journal. Always have. In my opinion, a journal or diary is indispensable for a writer. I can record a snippet of what someone said or what they wore for later use in my novels. It’s a way of capturing life, of preserving its details.
Not long ago I looked through the diary my mother kept during World War II. Three days after she and my dad were married, he was on a troop carrier to Europe. Mom wondered if she would ever see him again and hoped he knew he was always in her prayers.
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Probably through the help of his younger sister, Gerty, he had roses delivered to Mom on their first anniversary. The entry in her diary says, “Roses from Ted. Oh, my heart.” Six simple, unforgettable words that speak volumes.
In many ways my Gratitude Journal may be the most important book I write in. Every day, no matter how I’m feeling, I put down five things I’m grateful for. My family, a friend, something in my writing, a mentor, a perfect sunrise.
It might be something that happened years ago. I’ll always be grateful to Sister Seraphina, my eighth-grade teacher, who saw me struggle through reading, math and just about every other subject. But she knew I was really good at one thing: knitting. So she organized a fashion show of my sweaters.
My classmates were amazed. It was a terrific boost to my self-esteem, and to this day I am a devoted knitter.
Gratitude sustains the soul. How can we experience grace if we don’t feel grateful? How do we know we’ve been blessed?
Norman Vincent Peale said we should be grateful for blessings not yet received, for blessings unknown. I find that to be powerful advice. Gratitude is a practice that opens me to God’s gifts every day.
So now you know why poor Wayne always grunts and groans over my luggage. And I think you know that he doesn’t really mind. These are the books I must write in before I start work writing my own.
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