Thoughts on a rhythm for life...
I just got off the phone with my dear friend and mentor, Tara, and my heart feels glad. There are those we meet on our journey who feel as kindred spirits, and Tara has always been that for me…a “soul friend”. Then there are moments when those kindred spirits speak words that resonate with you, when they share things God is doing in their lives and you find that it is very similar to the paths God is taking you down as well, and you feel freedom and encouragement and challenged… that’s what talking with her tonight was for me.
One of the things we talked about is the idea of creating a rhythm for life and not a rhythm that is someone else’s or that is inspired by should’s and shouldnot’s but a rhythm that comes from listening to yourself and to God and together with God creating a rhythm that works for you at that place and time in your life. That has been something that I have been thinking and praying a lot about lately as I have briefly shared here and I wanted to share a little more about that process for me…
As I’ve thought about creating a rhythm and “rule” (using the word in the way that monasteries would use it) for my life I have found that for me it has been helpful to break it down into smaller pieces…what parts of my life and things in my life do I want and need to create rhythm for?
For starters my health… this past year I really struggled with some health issues and I have felt that this year I need to create some rhythm and rules for the sake of my health. The first rhythm that I created for this was put in place not by me but by my doctor when he “prescribed” (he’s a homeopathic type doctor so it’s not really a prescription) a number of vitamins and minerals and supplements for me to take and gave me specific directions on when to take them. I have some that I take first thing upon waking up and 30 minutes before eating, I have others I take with every meal, and I have others that I take right before bed (and 2 hours after eating). This has become a habit for me a sort of rhythm and as I started to think about wanting to incorporate a rhythm of exercise (specifically yoga) into my life I decided to use this vitamin rhythm as a framework – because I have to wait 30 minutes before eating after taking my morning vitamins I decided that would be a good time for me to do some yoga and since I know that I get bored really easily and struggle with sticking to things when they get to monotonous I decided that each morning I would customize my routine to fit what I needed and felt for that day. So for the pasts three weeks or so as I get up every morning I try to listen to myself and my body…what do I need today, what would work for me today? And then do a routine based on that. For example today I felt really soar and stiff and tired when I woke up so I just did some gentle and relaxing yoga poses mostly seated poses to ease myself into the day, but a few days ago I felt really energized when I got up and felt like I wanted and needed to praise God and open myself up to him so I did a lot of strong poses and a lot of backbends. It’s been a really interesting process and rhythm and it’s been fun – it’s really worked well for me.
I also feel that I need to create a rhythm for my year for my months something that keeps me present with the season and allows me to rejoice with God in the passage of time and years. For me beginning to learn about and practice the Church Calendar has been a good rhythm for this goal (at least at this time in my life). As I’ve shared before here it has been so good to join with the rest of the church in remembering Christ and aligning my life with His life in a rhythm of remembrance.
Another thing that I want to create rhythm for is a rhythm for rest and work. In the past year I have gone through this cycle of working really hard (10-15 hour days, 7 days a week) for a few weeks and then burning out and barely working at all or having visitors or going somewhere and not really working at all. This has been really difficult for me and it doesn’t work for me. So, on Sunday we were talking about the creation story and we talked a little bit about the rhythm of rest that God set up for his creation and it really challenged me. Ever since I was a very young girl I have loved the idea of the Sabbath and a day of rest and I always thought that when I grew up and had my own home/family I wanted to “practice the Sabbath” and really set aside a day for rest…but then life happened and I definitely haven’t been practicing a day of rest at all. So, I decided that I would stop working on Sundays (something I’ve been doing a lot lately) and I’m really excited about that.
Another area of my life that I felt has become very unstructured and very disorderly has been housework. I don’t like to clean, I don’t like to do dishes so I don’t and then it builds up until it gets to the point where I can’t stand it and then I clean it all at once – this is a sort of rhythm but it’s not a good rhythm for me or for Bryan and it hasn’t been working. So, tonight we talked about a “rule” for housework and set up a system for dishes that involves both of us and a day each week that would be “cleaning day”. So, I’m not sure if this rhythm and rule will work for us but I’m excited to try it out.
The biggest area where I want to create a sort of working rhythm though is in my journey with God. I think I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking that the only way (or at least the best way) to relate to God was through the Bible and free form prayer. People would say that God could speak to you through anything and things like that but I didn’t really believe them and they seemed to always follow it up with “…so you should read your Bible more.” There came a point in my life where I felt like I didn’t know how to read the Bible and pray, and there was even a point where I stopped doing these things all together because it felt cold and I didn’t know how to make it feel real. Then when Bryan and I got married he said that one thing he wanted to do was pray and read the Bible together every night so I started doing that with him. But, it still felt cold and empty and many nights I would ask him to just read and pray and I would just listen because I felt like I didn’t know how to authentically do those things anymore. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God or His presence anymore and it wasn’t that I didn’t value his word or prayer it’s just that I didn’t feel God’s presence through those things anymore and I didn’t know how to relate to Him through them anymore. I had a rhythm for relating to God but I didn’t relate to Him through that rhythm. I struggled a lot with that over the past two years…until recently. Recently I feel like God has begun to woo me to him through the things I have read lately and the people I have talked to and He has begun to free me to experiment and try out new ways to relate to Him. I still feel like I’m learning how to relate to God, still trying to figure out what is a good workable rhythm for me and God, but I feel new freedom in figuring that out. One thing I have begun to do is Bryan and I have begun to read the book of common prayers together on the weekend and it has been really nice (as I have mentioned here before). In practicing the church calendar I have also tried to incorporate other different forms of worship into my life like going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and planning on attending a liturgical service on Ash Wednesday. I have also started to think more about who I am, and what works for me and how God created me to relate to him – when do I experience His presence? What things does He speak to me through? And trying to not listen to the should’s and shouldnot’s of how I am “suppose” to connect with God but allowing Him to openly call me in any way He chooses, whether it be through something I read, or a picture, or a movie, or a conversation I had with someone, or whatever. In this process one thing I am realizing is that often God speaks to me through community through other people and often I experience him in community and through other people. So, one rhythm I would like to incorporate into my life is speaking more regularly with “soul friends” like Tara, and the many other women (and men) who encourage me and challenge me and speak God’s truth into my life. God has also been speaking to me a lot lately about social justice and the need to care for the things Jesus cared for and came for -- “He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) I want to walk with God in a rhythm of care and concern for his creation, his people, and his redemptive work on this earth. I don’t know what all this will look like, I’m still fleshing it out, but I feel excited to experiment with God and allow myself to relate to Him in new ways and be called and lead by Him in honesty to the person He created me to be. Interesting enough as I’ve begun to experiment with new ways to relate to God the old ways of reading His word and free form prayer have taken on new meaning and have seemed to come alive again as I’ve mixed in new forms and ways of connecting with God.
I think I also desire to create a rhythm of play and “delight” in my life. I have always been a pretty serious, “heady” person and playing and laughing and delighting have not been strengths of mine, but I feel God calling me to play with Him, to enjoy life with Him, to delight in Him, in others, in the world and life around me. I want to take more long walks through the park and delight in the trees and creation around me, I want to play with kids more and laugh and run and play tag and delight in the innocence of childhood and the beauty of the unique people God creates, I want to take more pictures and delight in and capture the beauty around me, I want to sit silently and smile and delight in and enjoy God’s presence with me, I want to laugh with friends and delight in the joy of common connections , I want to dance and delight in the movement and life that God has given me…the list could go on…I think I just get really wrapped up in all the things I have to do in any given day and all the things I should do, and the “good” girl I should be and I forget to just be and delight and play. I’m not sure yet what a rhythm of delight would look like but it’s something I want to incorporate more into my daily/weekly life.
Anyway, those are some thoughts I’ve been having on life rhythms. If any of you have done things that have incorporated rhythm and healthy structure into your life that you liked and that worked for you I would love to hear about it… as I am still processing all of this and trying to create a rhythm and pattern for my life I love hearing what works for other people – maybe I can steal some of your ideas J
May the blessings of walking with God in a rhythm that is authentic to your being and healthy for the time and place your find yourself in be known to each of you.
Rejoicing in the journey – Beth Stedman