Learning the unforced rhythms of grace

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Refreshing Routines

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When the kids were young, and my pain was worse in the morning, I made it a habit to have my coffee on the couch. They would eat breakfast there with me, or have a hot chocolate. We'd look out the window, curl up in blankets or watch tv. It was my way of managing pain and keeping the morning relaxed. Since then, I have continued the habit and even though our kids now drive themselves to school, I still sit by the window or outside and enjoy a coffee before anything else. This is what I would call a refreshing routine. It doesn't matter what the night was like, if I had a good or bad sleep, if pain woke me up or if I slept like a baby, it is something I look forward to in the morning. I won't check email, or clean the kitchen at the same time, just enjoy the coffee.

Building refreshing routines into your day bring a certain stability into an unstable and unpredictable life. If you don't have any room to include these, then it may be a good time to ask yourself why? What difference could it make if you did? We are so motivated by deadlines, due dates and pressures that other people place on us, but we hesitate to build our own priorities into our lives.

One of the blessings of living with a chronic illness is that it requires energy to manage and so I must be very careful about where my energy goes. I often say to my husband, "I don't have the energy for stress, so I must face conflict, decision-making, and anxiety straight on." For me, this means building refreshing routines into my life so that I have the resources for those stressful times. I'll give you a few examples of routines that I have and perhaps it will encourage you to find some routines of your own.

Keep in mind, the point of these routines is that they can be sustained over a long period of time. Taking a day off work, or going to the mountains may be very refreshing, but is not always possible. These small routines are meant to be predictable for any day.

Here are a few examples of my routines:

Morning Prayer:  I wake up, roll over to check the clock, look out the window, and say "Good morning Lord". It usually softens my heart to any stress that might be creeping in. Sometimes it turns into prayer . . . and sometimes that's all I say.

Enjoy Coffee: I just enjoy the making of it, the stirring, the warmth, sitting still and enjoying it. That's all (no multi-tasking).

Lunchtime: My husband works from home and often takes his lunch break outside. I'm tempted to keep doing my own tasks but have decided instead to take the break with him. It has turned out to be a really enjoyable time in the day that we share together.

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Relax in the Prep: The afterschool, supper, evening part of the day can be varied with our two sons coming and going. Instead of trying to make supper 'happen', I make myself a cup of tea and then set to the task of preparing food before, or as they come home. Sometimes they arrive with friends or just on their own. If I am stressed, busy and focused on getting supper on the table, then home is not a great place to come to. If I am simply enjoying my prep time in the kitchen, slowly and lovingly, then it allows them to enter the house, tell stories or keep quiet, eat food and stay or go, do homework or hang out, or sometimes want to take over the cooking themselves because they have an idea of something they want to try. So, if I'm relaxed, I can step aside and let them take over. (Usually, if I get grouchy in the kitchen, it's a good sign that I'm trying to impress someone or fill an expectation that may not even be there.)

End of the Day: At some point in the late evening, everyone seems to arrive back to the living room. It is tempting for me to look around and see dishes on the counter, or paperwork undone, fresh dog paw marks on the kitchen floor and want to either do it myself or get everyone to help out. But I've chosen to call it the 'end of the day'. It is dark outside, the lights are dim, everyone is winding down from their day and wanting to just relax. So, I join them. We watch tv, someone makes popcorn, the dog gets played with or hugged, and conversations and laughter happen that couldn't have emerged when the day was in its intensity. These are good times. (Dishes can wait until morning.)

Sleep Routine: I start shutting down information a good hour before I fall asleep. This means, no watching the news, no reading, no checking email or the calendar. My mind is pretty active and needs time to slow down. I take time to slowly begin to rest my mind and body. I usually stretch a little before bed to loosen up muscles etc. I have a basket of a few things beside my bed like hand cream, lip balm, and I have begun to look forward to these little luxuries. It helps me relax and helps me remember that I have ended the day with carefully chosen routines. Something about that gives me peace.

In Psalm 131, David wrote,

"God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content. Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!"

May you find some refreshing routines that add stability and rest to your day and may God grant you peace in the midst of your circumstances.