It's that time of year again. Autumn. The trees are shedding their leaves, and it seems as if all of nature is getting ready to go to sleep. It is changing and preparing itself to draw in all of it's energy to survive winter. Change - there's that word again. Change is hard for me, but change is built into God's creation, and everything He created is infused with rhythm. Every day the sun rises and sets. The seasons change, and each season serves a purpose. However, sometimes it's difficult to see the purpose in change.
I can sometimes feel depressed this time of year, also a little anxious. I used to think it was because I didn't care for the cold temperature of winter. While I'm not a fan of cold weather, I've realized that is not all there is to it. The cold weather and especially the shorter days cause me to be indoors more. That is a problem for me because my soul is fed when I'm outside in nature. I love the long days of summer that enable me to be in the garden after work. The sun on my face and my hands in the dirt grounds me in a way that nothing else does. So, there is that - but I came to understand that not only does this time of year represent shorter, cooler days, but it is also the beginning of the holidays. The holidays are a beautiful time, but for many of us, the holidays epitomize who is missing from our celebrations. Since our daughter Nicole passed away three days after Christmas, it's hard not to associate Christmas with her death. Her stocking is still packed away with our Christmas decorations, but I won't be able to feel her hugs or look into her sparkling blue eyes. That is hard. It is easy to get lost in sadness or preoccupation with the loss during seasons of change.
I wrote about how this felt in my book Victorious Heart:
"As the days dragged on, we felt a series of vicious emotional assaults, as the reality of life without Nicole slammed us repeatedly. We felt as though we had been thrown into the old children's game, Barrel of Monkeys. We were shaken furiously before being dumped out on the ground in a jumbled heap. The rest of the world still turned, still functioned, still continued on like before. But for me, the new reality lacked color and order. As we began to untangle ourselves from one another, we had to step into a world that looked familiar but was not the same."
When I'm feeling this way, I've learned that I need to be diligent in creating routines to help me maintain clarity and purpose. Routines are just a template that helps develop practices that preserve the natural rhythms of our lives. Routine anchors our soul in rhythm and help us adapt to change, bringing something familiar into the chaos, grief, or illness.
Like creation, we are all uniquely designed by God, so our routines will also be unique. It is important to seek His purpose and rhythm for your life. However, there are some elemental components in establishing healthy practices to help ground us and bring clarity.
Keep it Simple
We may be tempted to make an elaborate plan initially, but it's better to start small and set yourself up for success than to make a big plan that will be hard to implement. In times of pain or stress, it is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like giving up, so it is essential to keep it simple and lay a foundation ritual that you can build on later.
Decide ahead of time what your foundational routine will be and write it down. When I am struggling, it is hard to get out of bed in the morning, but if I decide ahead of time what my morning routine will be, it is easier to do the first thing on the list. My son-in-law Jonathan told me once that when planning his day, it was helpful for him to think about what yesterday's Jonathan had decided to do…. Yesterday's plans bring clarity to today's actions.
I can be motivated about a plan and start strong, only to fall off quickly. But when I execute my routine consistently, it eventually becomes more manageable and becomes a habit. I also find it beneficial to implement my routine at the same time every morning, even in the same location.
Your struggle may not be at the changing of the seasons or the approaching holidays, but we all have times in our lives when we can't find our footing and feel lost and disoriented. I would encourage you to create some routines that will help you find your rhythm for those seasons. Figure out which practice makes you feel grounded and start there.