Whew! I didn’t expect this article to be so long, but there was such a wealth of wisdom in this January chapter Creating a Framework for Home on the rhythms, routines, & rituals for those of us with low-energy. Pick up the book! There’s even more treasure to unearth.
In an effort to build healthy relationships, I’m reading through The Lifegiving Home by Sally & Sarah Clarkson and the companion book, The Lifegiving Home Experience by Sally & Joel Clarkson, this year, pulling out the ideas that will help build long-lasting, loving relationships for those of us that are sick or healing. I’ll also add some thoughts from my own experience plus some extra thoughts from Dr. Lawrence Wilson, the expert in Nutritional Balancing Science (NB).
You can read my post on the introduction and the first four chapters of the book. The remainder of the book is organized by chapters focusing on a different month of the year.
Be sure and read all the way to the end where I offer suggestions for exceptionally stressful times.
January – CREATING A FRAMEWORK FOR HOME – Rhythms, Routines, & Rituals
Sally lists some of her annual activities for herself personally and also for her family – the rhythms, routines, and rituals that helped them get their year off to a good start, regrouping, and putting priorities back in place. I will highlight a few of her ideas that are helpful for those of us spending considerable time healing.
January – a new beginning – a time to step back and evaluate our priorities and start fresh. It’s a great month to process, plan, and declutter. But, please remember, these also can be accomplished any time of year that it’s needed. This healing process is new and changes as we heal, so being able to step back a few times a year to reevaluate and adjust is helpful.
“All great works of life must be planned in order to make them productive, useful, and flourishing…the greater care we take with planning our days and years, the more productive we will be. Great works of life art don’t just happen. They must be imagined, planned, and worked on before they become a reality.”
The companion book adds more about a very important part of healing – a calm and peaceful environment. “Managing time is especially important when it comes to creating spaces of calm and restoration. No one can indefinitely manage the whirring machine of the home without taking a break from time to time. Having a rhythm in the home implies that there are both ups and downs, and downtime is a vital part of keeping a good beat…Everyone has a different way of refreshing and restoring their soul. But for most of us, unless we specifically schedule such times of refreshment, they will never happen.”
Planning for the Year
Sally walks through some questions to ask ourselves so we can create or improve the structure of our days and weeks with the rhythms and routines that work best for our limitations and strengths. She respects and appreciates that every home will be unique to those living within it and that every family will set their own pace and find their own rhythms.
I’ve found that to heal deeply it’s imperative to identify the rhythm that works for me. A slower, deliberate, intentional pace can lead to a peaceful spirit. This allows space to focus my mind and can bring joy when I’m fully present in whatever task I’m doing. I also find the proper rhythm to my day is conducive to breathing deeply and sets the environment to be proactive at a balanced pace instead of a reactive frantic pace. Use this time to find your rhythms.
“Planning well takes time – preferably time away from the bustle of everyday decision making. If we want to fill the year’s activities with meaning and purpose and also be able to say no to activities that steal time and energy, it helps to get away and think.”
Over the years, I’ve learned that planning for meaning and purpose is essential for me. It focuses me, organizes me, and I become more peaceful and productive. Otherwise, all intentions get lost in the day to day busyness and days of brain fog, and those activities that steal time and energy creep into our lives. Having a detailed plan helps me see what I want to accomplish, while also allowing me the confidence to adapt on the fly because I can also see the big picture. Then, if needed, I’m able to make quick decisions for what I can eliminate and still accomplish our family’s goals.
“Letting our days just happen not only leads to chaos but also increases the chances that what we value most just won’t get done.” – The Lifegiving Home Experience
Planning for Ourselves
“One of the most important aspects of planning, I have found, is that I must include me in the process! If I take care of my own personal needs – proper nutrition, rest, exercise, prayer and devotion, work, friendships – then my family and all who come to my home will have a full well to draw from when they encounter me. But if I do not plan for my own personal life to be satisfying and productive, I will have nothing to offer or give to those in my care.”
I need to hear these words of wisdom from Sally over and over. I completely agree but I have such a hard time with this! When I first began my NB program I immersed myself in it, fully dedicated to healing (which was an absolute necessity considering how sick I was). But when I began gaining energy and attempting new habits of continuing healing while simultaneously caring for my family and living a full life, I began struggling.
And so I’m discovering that making habits a priority becomes essential, but only under the attitude of grace. We didn’t get sick overnight and neither will healing and the new habits that go along with it.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson says, “A healthful lifestyle is more than just a list of habits to cultivate and those to avoid. It is also about the balance of the healthful items in your life.
- Helping yourself versus helping others. Thinking about and assisting others and their needs is a key to a balanced lifestyle. However, this must be balanced with a healthy self-concern so that you do not ‘burn out’ helping others and forgetting to care for yourself and your own needs.
- Loving the self and loving others. It is important to balance your own need for rest, proper nutrition and every other aspect of a nutritional balancing program, and the needs of those around you. Self love is essential for success with this program and for all healing, in fact.”
Plan, but be Flexible
“Making plans for a home, after all, does not mean that everyone will always cooperate or follow those plans perfectly. Sometimes, in fact, I used to wonder if the work of home building and investing in my children’s lives made any difference whatsoever. Quarreling, selfish moments, and daily messes challenged my confidence that I was doing anything of importance. Yet now I look back and see that the plans we followed, the rhythms we practiced day after day, eventually became the values that all of us embraced as a family. It didn’t always seem like they were paying attention, but all of them breathed in the oxygen of our home ideals and have grown up to reflect the values we wanted so much to instill in them.”
Don’t lose hope if good daily habits feel non-existent. Pick up fresh every morning and trust the process will improve incrementally over time. Just keep building in the rhythms that fit your unique circumstances.
One example of being flexible: I was out of town at the beginning of the year and, consequently, the rest of the month was a little chaotic because of lack of planning. So this year I’m taking some time in February to focus my intentions and plans, settle my soul, and steadying myself for the remainder of the year.
“If we don’t have a plan, all the ebbs and flows of life will take us by surprise.” – The Lifegiving Home Experience
Decluttering the Soul
Decluttering the physical stuff is one step in starting the year off well. But I’d like to concentrate on what Sally says about decluttering your soul. I love this phrase!
“Too much clutter and too many piles of stuff can cause anyone to feel overwhelmed….But decluttering isn’t just a matter of stuff. I have also come to realize that my brain and heart can be the same way – cluttered with worries, responsibilities, duties, concerns over the future, finances, time constraints, expectations, disappointments, critical attitudes, resentment. All of these added together can tend to create soul piles and mind clutter. If I don’t take the time to sort them out, my spirit becomes a mess, and my heart becomes overwhelmed and weary.”
Sally offers steps she’s used as an example for us to simplify the “mind messes”…cleaning out our hearts and thoughts. I believe this can be useful, if not necessary, a few times a year especially during times of healing or detoxing.
Establishing a Devotional Routine
I will write more on establishing a devotional routine at a later time in a separate post because I believe it deserves more space. But right now I’d like to note Sally’s view of the importance of it in her life.
“It is the single most important and influential practice of life and has given me strength, wisdom, a sense of God’s truth and direction, and a thankful heart.”
In Sally’s Home
“The activities we practiced daily in our home – morning and bedtime rituals, mealtime practices, chore and cleanup assignments, reading every afternoon, and more – not only anchored our days and simplified our lives but also deepened our relationships, strengthened the rest of our commitments, and helped us develop positive lifelong habits.”
Planning for Fun!
“Making sure that life has homey pleasures gives grace to those long, cold days.”
This is where my heart is – making time for these soul-filling moments that instill coziness, binding hearts while also filling the home with peace. The day to day responsibilities and health issues can become tedious if we let them. But they become more pleasant when connecting in fun ways.
A few of Sally’s heartwarming fun ideas include: playing outdoors; attending concerts, plays, movies, or exploring museums; audio books by the fire; and more.
These are ideal for fitting into our schedules because they’re flexible depending on our energy levels and lifestyles. Since these are not day to day activities, I’ve found they can be easily fit into the rhythms of my health and unique circumstances. Long, cold days of sickness have been lightened for everyone by planning for a little fun. But now the flexibility also fits very well into the time constraints of healing or unexpected downtime of detoxing symptoms.
“I think we built more ties to one another through shared meals than anything else we regularly did together…We always had candles at the dinner table, whether we were eating toast and fruit or a multicourse meal. The act of lighting the candles quieted and civilized our mealtimes.”
Lighting candles is a great way to bring delight onto the Nutritional Balancing table, quieting and civilizing our mealtimes. This is one practice to help give meals the space of time and respect needed – peaceful breathing room for rest several minutes before and after eating as the NB program recommends.
Dr. Wilson agrees. “Meals should be enjoyable social times of conversation and togetherness. Do not let soccer practice or other activities take precedence over family meals. Restructure mealtime or skip the lessons at this time of day. Making meals special by lighting a candle, dimming the lights, saying grace and other methods can also help set the tone for peaceful, enjoyable meals.”
An exceptionally easy habit to incorporate, even on very sick days, is greeting each one every morning with welcoming and affirming words. It really does help start the day out well. “Loving words have the power to provide hope, encouragement, confidence, and energy for the tasks of every day.”
The routine of an afternoon reading hour/quiet time is valuable to add at any age. Not only can it instill a love of reading, it gives everyone some much needed downtime and a peaceful break in the day. Honestly, this daily practice is what allowed me to keep going through years of illness. From baby and toddler naps to older reading times, this quiet time allowed me the rest I needed to make it a few more hours into the evening when we could all enjoy dinner together and I could devote a little time with my husband.
Sally offers details about what type of books and encouragement she provided her children. “The afternoon reading routine lured my children into the world of imagination and words. Because of it, all of my children have become lovers of books and avid readers on every topic imaginable.”
Closing the Day
“Blessing children each night before they go to bed gives them the gift of a peaceful, restful, loved heart. No matter what a day has held – fussing, conflict, excitement, drudgery, joy, celebration, hard work – it’s a way of ending the day well. A bedtime blessing ties all those loose ends together with unconditional love and helps put to rest all the burdens of the day by placing them into the hands of God.”
From the beginning, starting when my boys were babies, my husband graciously took over the bedtime routine. At the end of the day, because I had nothing left to give, I usually collapsed in bed. This was a huge help for me and a gift for them. They connected each night and my boys have some funny memories of dad falling asleep while reading and continuing to sleep talk…“pizza head eats liver”…then back to the story again. This happened quite frequently until we all suggested he read for shorter amounts of time. It wasn’t perfect, because, let’s face it, it’s an exhausting time of day. But it was so worth the effort.
I do have some regrets. My mama heart longs for those missed minutes connecting with them at the end of the day when they were younger. But I’m choosing to let go and not feel guilty for the things I had no control over. I’m abundantly thankful for this opportunity to heal and a husband that lovingly and willingly allowed me time to rest. Now the bedtime routine looks different in the teenage years, but there are days they may actually need this time more than when they were young.
“It’s not always easy to manage this, of course. Bedtime can be a burden for an exhausted parent…But I think when one is intentional about making a bedtime blessing an anchor of the day…bedtime can become a grace to all that has transpired throughout the day. A bedtime blessing gives children one last impression of their whole day, and it is a redeeming time of bringing and restoring and offering peace.”
I do believe this is one area to put a little extra effort to make this happen. It might need to look a little different depending on your circumstances, such as a short rest after dinner so you can give one last bit of energy for a nightly blessing.
“This routine of ending the day with love required a commitment of heart and time. I was often exhausted and drained, desperate for some grown-up time, and a bedtime blessing was the last thing I felt like doing…I acted in love even when I didn’t feel particularly loving, and I believe this was foundational to my closeness with my children.”
Even though I’ve quoted Sally quite a bit in this section, she has so much more to say. I urge you to read the details she has to share and the impact it had on her children.
Suggestions for Exceptionally Stressful Times
Along this long journey of illness and now healing, I’ve discovered a few tips that have helped me make it through exceptionally stressful times. Incorporating a few of these into your planning for the new year might even help prevent some of that stress!
- make your health a priority
- find your rhythm
- plan, but be flexible
- let go of any guilt or expectations
- seek joy to keep propelling you forward
- be fully present in each task you undertake
- be grateful for everything that has brought you to this moment
- develop a daily quiet time with the Lord – praying, reading the Bible, pouring out, listening, & journaling
- embrace solitude
- arrange relaxed time with friends
“It’s easy to get caught up in the details and forget that the purpose of a lifegiving home is to nurture real human souls and bodies.” – The Lifegiving Home Experience
The Creating a Framework for Home chapter has an abundance of knowledge and insight to get your year off to a good start!