We recently spent a few days at a cabin in the Nantahala National Forest. It was peaceful, refreshing, inspiring… all the things that make it worth the hours of planning, budgeting, and working ahead. We spent our days enjoying the mountains, hiking to waterfalls, relaxing and having fun together, and eating lots of good food.
But my favorite thing about that getaway, besides being with my husband 24/7? The screened-in porch at the cabin!
It wasn’t that the porch itself was that amazing — but the setting was great. It was one story off the ground and surrounded by trees, with the soft soundtrack of birds and a nearby fountain.
It was a deep breath of fresh air, for both body and soul.
I would wander out there after pouring my coffee in the mornings, curl up with my Bible and journal, and read and pray without distraction — without thinking about the time, or our plans for the day, or anything else. I was focused, quiet, and settled.
But sadly, all vacations must end. And as we headed home, I started feeling discontent about going back to my “normal” devotional routine. My time with God at the cabin had been less “routine” and more delight. I had found myself eager to meet Him in the quietness, and I didn’t look forward to giving that up.
So I started considering how I could replicate the porch in the woods, in a way that would help me focus more completely and find deeper enjoyment in my time with God.
I realized that I needed to involve my 5 senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Let me compare the two settings, to demonstrate what I mean:
- Sight — bedside lamp in a darkened room vs. natural lighting
I have my devotions first thing in the morning, but that means reading my Bible in a comfortable bed in a darkened room. Which also means I’m fighting drowsiness the whole time. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good place to sit outside — but I figured out a different spot inside that gets more natural lighting than the bedroom, and moved my devotions there. Bonus: it helps me wake up faster, since natural light helps decrease the production of melatonin.
- Sound — complete quiet vs. gurgling stream and soft bird calls
When it’s too quiet, it gets hard to fight the drowsiness. In this instance, a little background noise is just what I needed to help me focus. I found this mp3 track on Amazon for less than a dollar, and it sounds just like those mornings at the cabin. In fact, it sounds so similar that I keep expecting to look up and see all the trees. I don’t use it every day, but it’s so refreshing on the days when I feel a little soul-weary! Bonus: it also masks background noises (like the washer and dryer, morning kitchen routines, or traffic outside) which means less distraction for me.
- Smell — stale bedroom air vs. fresh air and trees
Have you ever noticed how stale the air smells when you get up in the morning? Now compare that to an outdoor setting with fresh, clean air. Just the thought of it makes you take a deep breath, right? Moving my location out of the bedroom helped, since it moved me to a room with an air purifier. I’ve also been applying a favorite essential oil just before I sit down (like lemongrass or frankincense), to help uplift and center my mind on what I’m doing. Easy alternative: if neither of those options works for you, and you can’t let in any fresh air, try lighting a candle in your favorite nature scent (ie, woodsy or subtle floral).
- Taste — nothing vs. coffee
Okay, so that one seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? And yet, I’d always waited until after having my devotions to get up and pour my coffee. But the small change of pouring it before makes such a difference! Not only does it help wake me up, but I freely admit that the rich taste adds another layer of enjoyment to my morning time with God. Easy alternative: whatever your favorite morning drink is!
- Touch — warm covers vs. cool breeze
Another no-brainer, right? If you stay under the warm covers, you’ll want to cozy up and keep your eyes shut. But once I actually had my devotions in the new location (with coffee and forest soundtrack), I realized that the coolness of the air was another important factor in those cabin mornings. It heightened my senses and kept me more focused and alert. Since it’s usually cool in our house when I get up, all I need to do for this one is wait to put on a sweatshirt and embrace the goosebumps! 🙂
Now, instead of waking up dreading the thought of getting out of bed — I wake up, eager to enjoy that time with God. I spend longer soaking in His words and lingering in prayer. My soul leaves that time refreshed and ready to meet the day, even when my body feels less-than-par.
Making a few small changes in the environment can lead to some big changes in our normal time with God. tweet this
I know these “copycat” mornings won’t happen every day. I know other things will intrude sometimes, and sometimes the “perfect conditions” just aren’t feasible. But sometimes they are. And sometimes you can get creative.
We all need daily time with God, even if it’s just 5 minutes in the car or while the kids are napping. And if we can make a few changes to satisfy our need for beauty and help us block out distractions, then that makes it easier to maintain — and truly enjoy — the habit of getting alone with God.
How can you refresh your environment to add beauty, block out distractions, and find more enjoyment in your daily time with God? I would love to hear your ideas!