Friday, September 12, 2014

Finding Our Rhythm

Moving always has its way of shaking things up a bit.  I like consistency.  And that translates into just about every area of my life.  Each time we move I have to learn a new place, unpack our belongings and figure out a new home for the pictures and dishes in differently positioned spaces.  New jobs take time to become familiar, and relationships start from nothing.

All of this takes time.  Time that isn't so free when you're also trying to figure out change for the other five people in your family.

If it was just me, I could wander aimlessly around town, hang pictures on the walls a million times before getting it 'perfect', and go door-to-door visiting for hours with my new neighbors.  The reality is, that can't happen right now.

So, instead, I hustle to feel settled, easily become unglued and this makes me lose step to the beat that is happening around me.

//From Routine to Rhythm//

Routine has been my best friend for years. Through high school, college, single life, married, and even with children.  I realize to some people this seems absurd, maybe boring, but that's just how I always felt I functioned best.

Over the past two months that we've been living in this new place, I have been extremely frustrated at what I considered the lack of routine in my life.  Yes, there were fun elements to it:  we went to the beach, took walks, had spontaneous dinners out--all good things.  But, in my home I felt like things were out of control. Cleaning was sporadic. My two youngest always had sticky black legs from crawling around the dirty linoleum floors, and we ended up grocery shopping every few days because I couldn't decide what to plan for our meals.

Then, I read a post by the Nester on routine vs rhythm.  She defined routine and rhythm like this:

Routine: something cheerleaders did when I was in high school to 90s dance music. It had predetermined, robotic movements and it was either correct or incorrect, and it was obvious if you messed up. Routine focuses on rules and doesn’t like to be changed.
Rhythm: a frame of mind that suggests more of an art. If you have rhythm, then whatever you decide to do with intention fits in the dance. Rhythm feels like choice and nuance and paying attention to your surroundings. Rhythm is alive and open to adjustments based on the circumstance. Rhythm focuses on needs.

At first I kind of chuckled because I would definitely fall under the 'robotic movements' and I always felt like I was messing up because we hadn't settled into a good routine yet.  Later that day, as we were hanging out as a family after dinner, getting ready to start the bedtime 'routine' I realized that although we weren't following strict rules, we had a sweet rhythm.

For some reason I felt pressured to keep my consistencies in every area of my life.  Breakfast is at 8, laundry is on Friday, grocery shopping on Monday, plucking my eyebrows on Sunday, etc.  I was focusing on my own rules, hating that things were changing, and then berating myself for not keeping it all together.  The reality was that everything was going just fine.

Myquilin said it beautifully in her post:

Where I get into trouble with pre-planning my meals is when things change and I get all worked up over changing my precious plan. Suddenly it turns into a routine that’s the boss of me.

Routine had become the boss of me.  Instead of providing me with the freedom and direction it had previously given, I was feeling crushed beneath the weight of expectations for myself and basically flipping out.

Releasing the idea of a routine enabled me to feel the rhythm around me.  We were learning to embrace the changes, pay attention to what was taking place around us, and focus on the needs of our children. Our rhythm was good.

//Keeping the Beat//

I started taking piano lessons when I was eight years old.  It came pretty easily at first, learning how to plunk out simple tunes, memorizing the notes in each scale.  But then I progressed on to Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart and somewhere between Mary had a Little Lamb and Fur Elise, I discovered that I could not keep a beat.  My teacher made me get a metronome and I would practice each day with that little machine tick-ticking away to keep time, giving me the beat I needed to stick with the rhythm.

There are a few practices in my daily life that help me to keep the beat, my metronome, if you will, making what I now call our rhythm seem not so harried, flow more smoothly, and help to keep me from getting unglued when things change.  They aren't all earth-shattering practices, but I share them with you to maybe help you notice some of those things that you do (or might need to do) in order to keep your beat.

Set the coffee the night before.  There's something about making coffee in the morning that just sort of sets me off.  When I discovered this, it became much easier to add coffee prep in with cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, rather than grumbling about having to start it in the morning.  It's also an added bonus to be lured out of bed at 5AM by the smell of fresh coffee brewing.

Plan out a grocery list and meals for one week at a time.  Buying in bulk is wonderful and in the past that has worked well for us.  The past two months have revealed that I dislike that right now.  It's less overwhelming to prepare for one week, and I find myself more excited about cooking dinner and being creative when I only have to think ahead for seven days.

Rearrange daily activities to fit into the rhythm.  As I mentioned above, breakfast has always been at 8, and my babies always stayed in bed in the morning until just before this.  With Isabella's school schedule, we leave the house at 7:10, so I lost almost an hour of my morning time.  This was hard for me at first, but there's no getting around it.  Our kids are all in bed now by 7:30 in the evenings, so if I'm disciplined (which isn't always), I can utilize that extra time in the evening to accomplish some of the things I had previously done in the morning.  Laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping get done.  But now they are squeezed into times between Mason's therapy sessions and picking Isabella up from school.  Errands don't have to take place first thing in the morning, and I have learned to be okay with that.  I'm just keeping with the rhythm.

Daily time with the Lord.  Some days this looks different than others, but as a general rule I get up and with that coffee that got me out of bed, I journal about life.  Emptying my mind of what's been running through it since the day before helps me prepare to read God's Word.  Generally, I read through a book of the Bible at a time, reading just a few verses.  I read and re-read, sometimes write down verbatim some of the passage, other times I might outline a little of what I understood, and often there is a prayer written down.  I need Truth, and for me, starting the day out by thinking and meditating on it keeps me grounded throughout the rest of the day.

Relax.  A few months ago I asked Bradley how I needed to change most.  He gently told me that I needed to relax.  About everything.  I would get worked up over the slightest thing and it negatively affected him, our kids, and certainly me.  Keeping to the beat doesn't happen very easily when we're uptight and resisting any change taking place.  My best performances on the piano happened when I was relaxed and let the music flow through my fingers to the rhythm.  As I relax I'm able to accept the changes that come and work with them to keep our family going.

Everybody's rhythm is different.  I don't expect you to keep to mine, and I won't try to march to yours.  But whatever rhythm you have, find those things that help you keep the beat, and when things change, you'll be okay to eat breakfast at 8:30, do laundry as needed, even if it isn't on Fridays, and pluck your eyebrows on Thursday instead of Sunday.

What do you do to keep the beat in your family?


  1. I needed this right now. Life with a newborn changes up things everyday! I need to remember to just go with the rhythm and enjoy every minute! You are truly an inspiration!

    1. Oh, Lydia, yes days with a newborn are challenging! Some of my hardest days were during the first 8 weeks of each of my babies' lives. Yes, enjoy every minute with that sweet baby girl!

  2. Loved this post! I tend to be stuck in a routine too, but a rhythm makes much more sense and sounds so freeing! I've been trying to be a little more laid back with our meal planning the last few weeks... it takes a lot of the stress off, and I've found that we don't waste as much food! I also am trying to get into a rhythm of working out... a routine doesn't work for me in that sense because I get so burnt out from the same thing/same time. But then sometimes I feel guilty if I don't have a strict "workout routine". This encouraged me to just be consistent with doing something - and listening to my body! Thanks for posting! :)

    1. It has been SO freeing to think of it as a rhythm. I agree, we haven't wasted as much either. When I planned too far ahead my produce would go bad. I need to add exercise to my rhythm...

  3. Love this angle to look at life from! I tend to be more routine but the more children i have the less control I have over the routine I think I need to keep! Thank you so much for posting this I really needed to hear youngest is three months old (she is number 5). Today I'm going to really look for our rhythm!


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