When my husband and I sat down to brainstorm a list of things we wanted to focus on and accomplish this year, it was a long list. It could’ve quickly became overwhelming. As I was categorizing the list, I noticed a theme. While there was quite a lot there–from gardening to health, travel and writing–they all could be described as rhythms. They weren’t particularly new things we were adding to our lives. They were already there in some part, but the consistency in which we practiced them was out of sync.
We’d work on the garden when it’s warm and things were growing. But forget weeding in the fall, pruning in the winter, or starting seeds in February. We’d tackle house projects with ferocious abandon every few months and then be wiped out in exhaustion and not touch another project for a few months (we’re renovating our 102-year-old farmhouse, Hiraeth). We’d eat healthy without feeling restricted and then have a busy season and fall back to quick foods that aren’t always the best. We’d workout when the weather or sleep was good, but if it rained, was 20*, or didn’t get into bed unitl 2am…oh well. I’d have a few weeks of doing my morning pages and get in a little writing, then miss miss writing for weeks or months at a time other than a few lengthy Instagram posts.
It wasn’t that we were looking to add anything new to our lives, but trying to figure out how to handle what was is already there.
That’s the what we’re looking for. A cadence, a regular pattern to all the areas of our life.
It makes sense. I’ve talked and read enough about the importance of rhythms and routines in conjunction with home educating and raising kids, but somehow those fall by the wayside when it comes to house projects, travel, spiritual disciplines, or community. Generally, we’d remember we want to do these things, realize we haven’t done them as we ought or desired, and then made immediate plans to do them that week or month. Unable to keep the momentum with these plans, we’d wear ourselves out and fall into old habits again.
We made plans without looking toward how we could support and sustain them day to day, week to week, month to month. And really, isn’t that the hardest part? Realizing that this goal I want to accomplish and see in our lives, whether it’s 2-3 camping trips a year or doing a prayer of examen each night will take time, planning, and commitment. It’s not enough to just have the desire, but to be disciplined to do the work.
I began to realize the language of rhythms is self-discipline in disguise.
What we do little by little, becomes the disciplines of our days and lives. But those disciplines don’t exist unless we attend to them day by day (or whatever pattern is necessary for the individual goal). So I’ve made charts and routine calendars and am slowly refining the disciplines of habit in my life.
Two months into the year, I see areas of progress and areas in need of growth. I’m able to identify triggers that send my daily and weekly rhythms out of sync. For me, the main triggers are lack of sleep, getting sucked scrolling the internet, and worrying about what others think of me. It’s the truth and a terrible trifecta. I’ve noticed worry (which in relation to others, for me, is a mask of insecurity and fear) will steam roll any day. I can wake up fine, be focused, joyful, content, but seeing one thing on the internet, having a child not respond well (triggering my insecurity and fears as a parent), or wondering about a situation can send my mind spiraling out of control. That worry moves me to inaction.
Instead of taking those thoughts captive and putting them to the test of the truth of Christ, confessing the fears and insecurity, or even just stopping to pray and confess my need for Jesus right then and there, I will let those control my day. I will follow whatever current those sins (because that’s what they are) take me, tumbling head over heels knowing I need to grab onto something to moor me.
But at the same time finding a twisted pleasure in my own fears and insecurities, as if whatever I’m turning over in my head is justification for me to wallow in these sins. I’ve earned feeling this way, because of what I’ve read, feel, saw, fear, or how I’ve been responded to. I allow my unhealthy reactions to toss me instead of shaking them off as the hindrances they are and pursuing the good before me. How it messes with my entire day!
Then when I realize it’s noon and I’ve been “Woe is me!” for half the day (or more), I beat myself on the back and pick up perfectionism to try to get back on track, check off the to do list, rearrange things, and berate myself (and often the kids) for why things aren’t going smoothly and the important things aren’t getting done. When the problem wasn’t those things to begin with. It can’t be blamed on lack of sleep, the internet existing, or not knowing everything people think, but in how I choose to respond to those things–whether I choose to trust Jesus and follow his way or my own. Can we just say fighting sin with sin never works?
So what two months of 2019 has taught me is this:
The rhythms of the outer life are helped or hindered by the rhythms, or self-discipline, of the inner life.
Whether or not we actually plan those camping trips, tend to the garden weekly, keep the laundry under control, or I hit the 500 word count each day is not so much the goal. I desire and hope for those. I want to see their fruits. But what is being revealed is I still need Christ. Every second. Every day. I need the rhythm of the Spirit within me propelling me to consider what is true, noble, worthy, lovely and cultivate in me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The rhythms of the Spirit. As I walk in those, abiding in Christ and bearing the family resemblance in imaging the Father, I can’t help but think the old distractions will pass away and new rhythms will come.