Whippoorwill Wakening



“Yes!” excitement filled my insides when I recognized the early bird finishing his nightshift, as morning gilded the sky.

Jetlag was over.

The day before, I had slept until 11am, wasting half of a day of vacation in this beautiful country.  I had felt like a grump all day: bothered by the heat, working at the hottest hours, one step behind my family of noisy kids all day.

The eleven-hour flight to Rome had had its “usual” challenges with four children along. Sleeping on a plane is generally difficult, but when children fight on both sides to use my legs as pillows, my elbowroom vanishes, and I am sequestered to a still position, attempting to leave their slumber undisturbed.  The price to be paid is jetlag. Some say jetlag is caused by the 6-hour time change; I have come to believe its cause is the 40-hour awake-shift that takes days for a body to reconcile.

No longer! NOW, the trip could begin! I was finally awake early enough to enjoy the cool morning with the cacophony of birds as I had my outdoor quiet time.

Scripture, prayer and foreign birdsongs began the morning.  The North Carolina cardinals were as far away as their song was different. A high-pitched squabble broke out high in the tree to the right; a rooster crowed in the distance behind me; a songbird joyfully welcomed the morning, while another sang loudly as if trying to use volume to make up for his lacking of variety in pitches. Melodies were woven together with a bass from the familiar coo of a dove.  The music screamed evidence of their Creator who wrote the score.

As I read amidst the surrounding orchestra, a familiar sound emerged from the woods.  “Cuckoo!” Subconsciously, it took me to my grandmother’s kitchen in Talladega, Alabama, where a plastic bird would emerge from the wooden clock on the wall every hour. “Cuckoo, cuckoo!” it sang as if purposefully pulling me to consciousness. I paused in my reading. “Cuckoo!” it came from my left now.  What a gift the morning has been! The church bell in the distance gonged seven times.


I recognized the answered prayer: that I would awake early enough to be peaceful before the Brady bunch arose.  It has been a secret to sanity for all of motherhood. I used to joke to myself, “I have to rise early enough to beat the children up.” (The semantics make me laugh every time.)  Many mornings, the wakeup call was, well, alarming -as a 5:30am alarm clock in an attempt to “beat up” a baby who seemed to keep waking earlier each day. But buzzing alarm clock memories made the nudging of a whippoorwill more beautiful in contrast, even though both brought blessings.

Years ago in a Bible study with girlfriends at college, one of them had shared that her first prayer of the day was, “Thank You, God, for waking me.”

I remember my own usual reaction to mornings at the time: “Really? That’s all the sleep I get?! Ugh!” and that young lady’s prayer changed me. I don’t even remember her name, but I have thought of her countless mornings when I have had to fix my thinking to, “Thank You, God, for waking me.”

Great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning, new mercies I see. Help me, Lord, to take time to recognize Your gifts, even in a whippoorwill.

And thanks for waking me.


(Photo in heading: grapes and flowers which adorn a canopy above our dining area. Photo in side bar: cypress pines which line the driveway to the villa where we are staying.)

42 thoughts on “Whippoorwill Wakening

    • Maureen, How right you are! It consistently amazes me when I get to bed way too late, and say a prayer that I will wake for quiet time, and I do! Why am I surprised when God answers prayers? Because my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. I am thankful that He takes over for that weakness! Even with a whippoorwill. (I had been up until 1:30am the night before – still trying to adjust my days, but God knew I liked the morning the best!) Thanks for saying hi!

  1. Wow Terri,

    Thank you for the reminder of the gift we have to spend time with the lord every morning. Your article was a blessing:-)!!!

  2. Today I woke up way earlier than I intended, I started reading the word and this thought came into my head, “I shouldn’t be upset that I couldn’t sleep longer, but should be grateful that I awoke.”

    Thanks for the love, wisdom and friendship you share with every post.

    • Sheila, I love the outdoor sounds, too. When I lived in Michigan, I feel like I was stunned at how SILENT winter was. I had a heater in the ceiling of our deck so I could sit under it – even in the winter, but nature was asleep – no heater in their decks, I guess. It made me all the more grateful when spring arrived! Enjoy God’s earth as you listen:)

  3. Every morning when I wake up, I thank God for giving me another day to experience His presence and asks Him to bless the day, the people I will meet and the events that will come my way. I will borrow that line too and add it to my waking up prayer! Thank you God for waking me! Have a great time in Italy with the family!

  4. Ciao, Terri! As I write this, it is probably a cool evening in Italy and we are enjoying a scorching hot first day of summer in Michigan! (I LOVE IT!) I cannot imagine YOU being grumpy even with jet lag! Isn’t it great how a good night’s sleep can refresh us! Then, you get to wake up and enjoy the beauty of nature in ITALY!! Thank you for painting such graphic pictures so that we can imagine ourselves seeing and hearing the same thing. (Can you hear the accordian playing, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Amore!”) Thank you for the reminder to thank God for waking up in the morning – no matter how early it is! I look forward to pictures and recipes from your villa. Enjoy the journey! (Enjoy the music!)

    • Ah, my musical friend, Thank you for your words! I starve for music here – which is interesting, since most musical instruments, words, and many composers came from here! But alas, God’s orchestra has been more noticeable that way, right? In Chris’s book, A Month of Italy, he tells the story of our silent car, since no CD player or iPhone hookups: When we arrived in Florence, we followed our ears, as Toucan Sam follows his nose, to a guitar player playing by himself in the town square. (piazza) It was so beautiful, Chris put the exact song the artist was playing as the background music in his new website, http://www.amonthofitaly.com. (The website is still under construction until the book comes out in two weeks, but you will love the song, as played by Kyle Reeder, a friend of ours in Kentucky.) Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. What a great way to reframe waking up and not getting enough sleep. This blog is a blessing to me. Thank you.

  6. Beautiful, Terri! You give such a vivid picture! And that is exactly how I like to start my day; up before the kids, prayer time with the Lord and the sounds of early morning nature. It’s very peaceful indeed. Enjoy Italy! Can’t wait to hear about it. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeanette, Thank you so much for your encouragement. you have a wonderful gift of that. God uses you in my life Your family is blessed to have you, indeed! Congratulations, by the way, you are the #1 commenter according to my stats today. -hee! I hope that doesn’t embarrass you, but encourages you that I really appreciate you going out of the way in your busy day to comment to me. It means a lot to me, and others who read your words!

      • Wow, lol……thank you for your encouragement. That means a lot to me!!! You have been such an encourager in my life, more than you know. I strongly believe that we are suppose to DO Gal 6:10! As you know it is so hard to find encouragement these days, outside of the TEAM culture that is. 🙂 On another note, I have to say, it was quite ironic, after I commented on this post the other day, I went outside to do some reading while my toddler was napping and what do I hear??? -birds chirping in the foreground and roosters crowing off in the distance. Then later on a trip to the market, I found Cioccolati Biscotti:) Hee Hee, for a split second it felt like I was right there with ya in Italy! I can’t wait for the day to see the dream of going to Italy come into fruition. Have a super day! GodBless!

  7. Terri,
    Today, I beat the alarm awake, too. I listened to the birds outside in the (relative) cool of the early morning, wishing for just a few more minutes of sleep. Thank you for this lovely way of helping me reframe mornings like today’s!

  8. Hey neighbor, thank you for the blog and the reminder of whether we have to or get to wake up early, that it’s a Blessing!! Love ya 🙂

  9. Terri- thanks to you I usually try to get up early every morning to get my Bible reading in and some other reading too! Now I have a new morning prayer too! The only thing missing is our walks we used to enjoy together! Love ya and miss ya! Can’t wait for the day when we can enjoy a walk in Italy together!

    • Yes! I miss our early morning walks too! You were so good at pushing me forward! and getting up early too! Some of our conversations still come to mind sometimes. It would be wonderful to walk in Italy together. I am hoping to post this week about an incredible walk just yesterday morning:) God bless!

  10. Hi girlfriend:) Aaaah peaceful morning time… You are such an elegant writer to make me feel like I’m really there:)(wish I was) Have a wonderful time in Italy!!!! Will see you back in the states!

    • If you “wish you were here,” you are going to LOVE Chris’s new book in a couple weeks. He is such an amazing writer. I lived it and still laughed out loud reading it! Yet I cried at times, and definitely thanked God for the time to take time off. Thanks for the note! See you in a few weeks!

  11. What a beautiful literary picture painter you are! And THANK YOU for the reminder to wake up earlier!!! Prior to having Miss Julia, I was consistently and very purposefully “beating the family up” and as a result, I was a much happier wife, mother, etc. Since Julia’s arrival, however, that has not been the case :o) Just like before, with God’s encouragement (I swear HE did it before), I can start beating everyone up again! ;o) (how fun!) I am in awe of your discipline, Terri! Thank you for leading by example & glorifying God!

    • Olivia,
      Thanks for your kind words! I remember with new babies and toddlers how inconsistent my quiet times could be. I could set my alarm for 5:30am and the baby would wake at 5:00am and I would feel as if I had failed! What a tool of the enemy! In Pursuit of God by Ernest Tozer, he states that the only thing that separates a secular job from a sacred job is for Whom we do it! Tozer convicted me! How many times did I virtually apologize to God, saying “tomorrow” I will get up earlier to “be still and know”, or apologize because my life of having small children was interrupting consistent quiet times, or feel guilty because being up all night with a baby made me sleep through prayers? Yet those jobs are sacred. I WAS serving the Lord, and He knew my heart’s desire to beat the kids up (HEE!), so my “quiet time” may not have been quiet, but it was worship time regardless, because I was doing it for the Lord. If only I had read that book before I had young children!

  12. Thanks Terri for yet another amazing post. I look forward to getting that notification in my e-mail of another new post from you. Thank you for the encouragement by example to serve the Lord in all we do. Enjoy Italy!

  13. I don’t know how you do it Terri, but your blog so often touches on many of my current thoughts and feelings. Mornings have become sacred to me, especially on hot summer days when the only respite from the heat and the daily chaos comes in the coolness of those early mornings . . . such a wonderful time of physical and spiritual rejuvenation. Thanks for inspiring!!

  14. Your prayer really touched my heart. My friend lost her husband almost two months ago now, he went to sleep, but did not wake in the morning. I wrote your prayer in my journal, to remind me to be always greatful for every moment I have here on this earth with my three children, my husband and our families.
    Thank you Terri for being you.

  15. Terri, thank you for this blog. Even though we dont’t see you very often, this blog helps me to feel connected to you. I love ” hearing” about your day. Hearing you talk about your daily struggles and inspirations is very inspiring! Every post I’m able to pick up a nugget or two that helps me in my journey as a wife and mother. I also love sitting out on my patio in the morning when all is quiet except for the birds and an occasional car or two, with my Bible and coffee. I love the new prayer! Thanks for being who you are. My eyes are filled with tears just thinking about all that you and your family has sacrificed to be where you are today and all the lives you’ve touched along the way, including ours. God Bless You!

  16. Terri,
    I love reading your Blog. This one is special and that morning prayer will resonate for a long time; I pray.
    Thanks always.

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