Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Goals and Systems

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but I am quite intrigued about something this January. Behind every goal there must be a  system in place to accomplish it. 

A digestive system for example, accomplishes the goal of allowing nutrients to enter and exit our bodies while providing the energy and things we need to stay alive and healthy. We NEED this system! Without it, we would die. 

I know someone who has a system for living an uncluttered life, in a very practical way. He organizes his closet in such a way that by the end of the full calendar year, he can look at which way the hangers are pointed and see the clothes that went un-used. He then grabs those hangers and donates those clothes to goodwill. His closet stays organized and useful. 

So I've been thinking . . . can this be done with our hearts and souls and minds and bodies? Are there thoughts or emotions or energy that are un-used and taking up space? Could I create a system to get take stock of them and eliminate them? Too vague?  Let me give you an example of what I've been trying. 

I've noticed, over the past month, that around 9pm in the evenings, I tend to get a little restless. I'm not sure why. I love my home and family. Our house is full of people coming and going, doing homework or eating, playing guitars or drums or music in their rooms, computers are being used, the TV might be on or someone might be making popcorn in the kitchen. There is nothing predictable about the atmosphere in our home in the evenings. It is alive and creative and good and full of the people I love. But, I feel restless.  So I've been taking stock of my thoughts, my emotions, my physical state and my soul by journaling a little bit each evening and taking notes on what I've observed. (Call it a personal science experiment of sorts.) 

Here's what I've noticed in an un-edited, honest observation for the past few months:

  • My thinking is quite reflective and analytical in the evening. 
  • My emotions are quieted, I feel relaxed but my heart feels full.
  • My physical body is tired and I often have higher pain in the evenings, much like the early mornings. 
  • My soul feels full and reflective and needing some downloading . . . kinda like I'm 'finished' for the day.

So, in this spirit of this experiment, I saw that the old system was not working.  The OLD way was to just hang around the main part of the house, bake something, eat something, do housecleaning, engage in conversations, watch TV or work on the computer . . . but I tended to stay in the main area of our home where everyone walks through or hangs out. Part of this comes from a good desire to be with the people I love but part of it, I believe, is a distorted sense of wanting to be 'needed' or 'available' to my family for my own sense of purpose too. Not cool and not who I believe God wants me to be. The restless feeling, I sense, is a nudge from God to take a look at what's going on. 

So, I decided to come up with a NEW 'system' to accomplish the goal of changing this restless feeling.  Around 9pm, I start finishing up for the day. I check email one last time, tidy the kitchen a little, check the calendar for tomorrow, make a cup of tea, and go to my room. I have a cozy chair near my bed and so I get in comfy clothes, put the heating pad on my back and do some writing in my journal. I write about the day or make a to-do list for the next day, and I find that my brain begins to slow down, my body relaxes and my heart and soul seem to settle into a good place. Occasionally, a knock on the door happens or someone starts watching a movie and invites the rest to join in and so I will abandon the 'system' for a good movie or a conversation that comes to my door, but generally, I've been enjoying the solitude. 

What has happened as well, is that I've found that two hours can go by and I've been writing the whole time. I've started working on a children's book series that my husband and I have planned on doing and am noticing that my ability to focus and write clearly is better in the evening and so my time feels more productive.  Now, I'm looking forward to 9pm and will even begin to think ahead about what the writing will be about. 

I'm thankful to God for the restless feeling because it brought my attention to something that I believe He has been working on in me for awhile: learning to let go, trust Him, follow His lead for where I direct my energy and also that He cares for me, for my needs and my desires. With our sons, now 17 and 19 years old, there is a shift of responsibility and energy happening and my role as a 'mom' is changing yet again. This new system feels like a good response to this phase of life and will hopefully help accomplish the goal of loving God and loving my family by being attentive to what's going on in me as well. 

What about you? Sense any changes that need to happen? What have you tried with regards to changing patterns or habits? Has God been nudging you to look at anything different this year? Write me a note if you like, I'd love to hear your stories.