rhythms

rhythms

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During the summer of 2012, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. I have a certain fondness for books read in the summer. A book has to be enticing to lure one away from playing in the sunshine.

I was consumed with this book because it was everything I believed but didn’t have the beautiful language to convey. This blog was started in 2006 and named A Work of Heart with the tagline, paying attention to God in our midst. I wanted to write about all the ways God shows up in everyday life. Reading this book made me feel understood and embraced. It’s my deepest hope to lay down words here which more often point to God than to me. It’s the place where I get to share about the geography of my faith.

“Or I can set a little altar in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven–one more patch of ordinary earth with ladder marks on it–where the divine traffic is heavy when I notice it and even when I do not. I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on to where I am due next.”
~An Altar in the World

We have plenty of time to take notice of our surroundings and our lives now. There are no longer the perpetual distractions and busyness of appointments, events, practices, sports, etc. In many ways, we don’t have the luxury to look away and bury our thoughts in a full schedule anymore. We have the gift of being able to reflect longer and deeper than usual if we dare. 

We don’t have to redecorate our homes to make a place of refuge, a respite from the storms which rage throughout our world. It’s as simple as lighting a candle at the beginning and the end of each day. Maybe it’s pulling out the good dishes while you eat grilled cheese sandwiches and telling jokes during dinner. You could sit on your porch with a book, making sure to greet all who walk past. Or spread a blanket on your front steps and drink a favorite beverage. Yesterday, we anchored a crate to our giant maple tree along our parking strip and filled it with bottles of bubbles for passing children, hoping to impart a tiny bit of airborne joy from our home to theirs. 

In what ways can your home become a place of refuge and rest in a weary world?

Those who have loved Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing have often borrowed a question she was asked when invited to speak.

“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked him.

“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he answered. It was if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.”

Recently, I have been closing some posts by recounting what has helped over the past week. It is the same as describing what is saving my life. 

Daily rhythms are saving my life right now. When I look over the past month, there have been productive days and days when I felt kind of crummy inside and out. There have been days the pace of a snail and other days I couldn’t believe it was time to fix dinner. 

The consistent part of my days has been maintaining, adhering to and if I am honest, running towards my rhythms. They have been an anchor during this turbulent time. I have written these ways before but repetition is the beauty of rhythms and routines. The value multiplies over time.

At night, I write in my journal documenting the day. This helps me remember and drains my brain so I can sleep. It’s kind of like how I wished I  had written down EVERY funny or cute thing my children said instead of thinking I would NEVER forget them. This is for the same reason, I will forget. I want to remember.

After I finish writing, I bring my Bible, studies, other journals (#writer problems), planner and whatever book I want to read in the morning. It could be non-fiction, fiction or a devotional book. I make a stack in front of my chair at our dining room table. Sometimes I fill a glass of water and place it on the table as well. I love cold water but sometimes room temperature water feels better in the morning. I pray, write or recite any verse I want to memorize and usually write a card to send. 

This rhythm circles my day. My end of the day rhythm helps me sleep and prepares me for the next day. The day begins in a way that brings me peace and direction for the hours ahead.  Each has become a sturdy signpost drawing my attention away from fretting. A colorful journal to remind me of the beauty in a day when the world seems to have shifted to black and white hues. A small stack of hope to help affix to my heart and mind. 

A signpost could be reading glasses to remember to read or running shoes as a nudge towards the outdoors. It might be a water bottle to stay hydrated or a sticky note with the word BREATH in bold letters. Rhythms don’t have to be complicated or take hours. Try one thing, repeat it and see if it adds value to each day. We all have rhythms whether we are conscious of them or not, now is a wonderful time to create rhythms to strengthen you now and hopefully will last way beyond this patch of time. 

 

What’s saving your life right now?

May the gift of each day, whether filled with easy or difficult parts, be anchored by rhythms to equip you with peace and stability. May your dwelling place feel like a sanctuary of rest and hope.

gotcha

gotcha

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I had a dream in the wee hours of Tuesday. 

I walked into our bedroom to find Carl high atop a ladder painting our bedroom.

I was puzzled and asked him what he was doing and he insisted that he needed to get this room painted. I glanced at the ceiling and noticed large globs of paint starting to descend onto the perfectly made bed, the carpet and me. I tried to reach out my hands to catch pools of paint but there was too much for me to even help the situation.

Dreams are strange. To be honest, I don’t really like to hear other people’s dreams and I doubt they want to hear mine either. Mainly because when dreams are expressed they often become a jumbled mess to the dreamer and hearer.

I forced you to read about mine because it isn’t that complex or crazy. If I had to interpret my dream, I would venture to guess it was about the feeling of being out of control. 

They say our dreams are about what we cannot resolve during waking hours. So it isn’t surprising I woke up not feeling great, a bit nauseous. I wanted to spend the day in my pajamas. I couldn’t seem to muster up any of my “pick one thing” mojo. 

I did a little of this and that and nothing seemed to lessen the tightness in my chest or stomach.

It was pretty dark outside with all the signs of threatening rain so I decided to take a five-minute walk. An hour later and fully drenched, I felt a little better because my breathing had changed shallow to deep breaths. 

I showered and ate lunch. I sat in my living room chair and listened to a playlist of peaceful verses until I fell asleep. I know I was asleep because I was startled from slumber by my phone alerting me to a Zoom video call. I spent the next half hour talking to my daughters who are no longer live under our roof. We caught up, laughed, talked about everything important as well nothing of value. 

After our call ended, I noticed I felt lighter. I realized how much I missed seeing their faces.  I have felt this same way from text messages with friends and whenever we Skype or Zoom with my parents and brother’s family. 

*****

It’s Wednesday and I didn’t have a dream last night. But I changed my morning routine and walked first thing after a big glass of water. I need to help my body rid itself from residual anxiety and help myself breathe deeper. 

I haven’t been walking in my favorite park for the last week but instead neighborhood routes. There’s a marked difference in how walkers and joggers are conducting themselves, people are very intentional to switch sides of the street or in my case, a lot of zigging and zagging to keep safety in mind.

Near the end of my walk, a fellow walker and I attempted to increase our spacing, I  moved closer to a fence and she risked soggy socks by moving to the grass strip and as we drew closer,  I looked to the right to greet her with a smile and a waving hand, she said, “I gotcha!” with a smile. 

In two words, a stranger communicated her care for me and about our safety. Perhaps I am a bit tender right now, but those two words meant a lot in that sweaty moment.  This upside-down time of separation is brutal but it is for the greater good of people beyond our reach. It further reminded me of how although we are isolated, we are not alone. In our day to day lives, we never know what those who cross our paths are enduring. They could have received bad news or the loss of a loved one or are worried about how to pay their rent. But now when we encounter a stranger, we know they are experiencing this global pandemic alongside us plus all the weighted concerns from before the virus extending to here and now. It’s a lot for our bodies to store and absorb. 

Be gentle with yourself.

Be gentle with others.

There may be days when you lose your temper or patience.

There may be days when tears come out of the blue. I found myself tearing up while watching Top Chef All-Stars this week. The chefs were visiting small restaurants and sampling their cuisine. Sadness escaped from my eyes when I thought of so many restaurants that may be shuttered for good.

There may be days when you want to stay in your pajamas.

There may be days when you are filled with energy and resolve.

Each day is different and without a manual or road map.

Be kind to yourself.

What has helped me this past week:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Seeing the faces of those outside my walls
  • Naps
  • Lots of water because a bathroom is always close at hand.
  • Not trying to fix the vacillating moods within my walls, mine included.
  • Documenting the day in my journal and with photos. I will want to remember this time, even the reality of recording the mundane parts of each day. There is no need to write a lengthy report, simply jot down a few sentences or an adjective rating for the day. If your planner seems neglected by less scheduled hours, perhaps use those lines to capture bits and pieces of your day. Or use the notes app on your phone.
  • A surprise book arriving in the mail. I have struggled lately to read fiction but this one has helped.
  • Watching one news program a day, listening to music and podcasts designed to bring peace not fear. 
  • Hugs

What has helped you during this time?


These mountains that you are carrying,

You were only supposed to climb.

                                           ~Najwa Zebian

 

casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].
 I Peter 5: 7 (Amplified Version)                     

 

I am forever grateful not to have to carry the weight of the world in my small palms.

 

Tyler Perry’s He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands Challenge

 

P.S. After watching this video, I seriously need to up my fingernail game!
Also while editing this post on Saturday, I saw a man standing on our sidewalk, waiting for someone it seemed. Suddenly a woman who had been out of my line of sight walked through our lawn, carrying scissors, a small bunch of the orange wallflowers blooming in our side yard and a large grin across her face. I was startled at first but as I reported this action to Carl, I realized, she simply is capturing beauty within her day.

Go forth and do likewise!

 

pick one thing

pick one thing

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When our oldest daughter Carlen was 4 or 5 years old, a friend gave us a timely book to help us teach her about cause and effect. The book was called What If Everybody Did That? The premise of the book was showing a child moving throughout a day making seemingly insignificant actions and the repeatedly asked question was “what if everybody did that?” Then on the following page, the fallout was shown of the same action performed by many people.  Throwing a banana peel out the car window seems minor until the entire city begins to throw their trash willy nilly.
Picture mountains of garbage causing traffic to come to a halt. This book evoked plenty of giggles but the point was cemented in our minds, our small actions matter whether individually or collectively.

I unplugged last week for a few days. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by each email bearing the subject line of “our response to COVID-19”. Every email was well-meaning but when amassed it became daunting.  So when emails begin piling up in our inboxes one by one they sidle up next to the stress already present inside us. Because when our senses are lured to a solitary topic, our emotions follow and grow.

We are beginning another week of isolation and the needs around us are most likely going to continue to increase. My suggestion is to pick one thing in the various areas of your life right now to lessen the potential of being overwhelmed.

As life would have it, I have had plenty of home alone time since Thanksgiving, thanks to leaving a job. I knew that particular time was to be about resting and healing and slowly looking for work. But a small corner of my mind started compiling a list of ALL the things I could do with this new unassigned time. I could repaint our kitchen, organize decades of photos or reorganize ___________. 

But I soon realized, rest and being uber-productive aren’t very compatible companions. Now that I do have actual companions during the day and night, it becomes even more important to choose areas that breed peace to me and those who suddenly surround me.

I want to suggest that you don’t have to achieve or accomplish anything monumental during this time. Your most important assignment is to find ways to navigate this segment of time as best and right as you can. We are not the same, possess the same personalities or preferences but collectively, none of us have encountered this newfound reality before, let’s tread gently. 

Since I have had a little head start, this is what picking one thing looks like for me now:

For my body, I am taking a walk outside every day. Yes, I would love to try every online exercise workout currently available for free, but for now, I am keeping it simple. Also, my personality is the pick too many good things and because of all the choices, I don’t start anything. 

For my mind, I am taking five minutes before I go to bed and writing in a journal about what the day was like, what I did and how I am feeling. The other day, I might have rejoiced about beating Caleb at backgammon. I have forgotten to journal once already. It’s an intention, not perfection.

For connection, as part of my morning practice after my devotional time, I am writing a card to a loved one. 

For others, I purchased a gift certificate from a business I fear will not survive. There are countless ways I can give and there will be more ways I will give or help in the weeks to come but last week, I picked this one way. 

For my home, I will clear the weeds along the fence and plant nasturtium seeds.

For my people within my walls,  I will love and care for them well, however, that may look on a given day.

For my people outside my walls, I will check-in frequently via all the wonderful ways technology allows.

For those I encounter outside, I will smile at them.

Yes, I said pick one and I have listed eight. I have picked one thing in the areas of my life I want to nurture during this time. However, you might pick as your one thing to: 

Meditate every morning. 

Listen to music while cooking dinner. 

Endeavor to look for something beautiful every day and list it. 

Create a bracket of picture books by reading two a day and determine the champion as a family. 

Learn to say I love you in different languages and reflect on the people with this tongue. 

Take a nap every day. 

Read a poem at night. 

Blow bubbles at sunset. 

Read a psalm.

Learn a joke and tell someone. 

Complete a crossword puzzle every morning.

Start bird watching.

Watch no more than an hour of news.

Limit scrolling your devices.

Watch the flames in your backyard fire pit or fireplace.

Reread a favorite book.

Paint your nails a color you normally wouldn’t. Be bold, you are not in public.

Share never told stories with those who are living in your midst.

Fill an egg carton with dirt and plant some seeds, let each day be numbered by growth.

Print out these coloring pages by one of my favorites and color something gently humorous.

Pick one thing which can provide an anchor during these challenging times. 

What if everybody did that?

We might just create a mountain of peace, joy, and love.