ritual : done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol. A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

I like routines. I like having tasks and patterns that guide me through my day and help ensure that everything gets done. Moving to a new city and getting married naturally threw off just about every routine I’d put together over the last few years. And that was okay – it was a time of necessary transition. But after a couple of weeks of travel, moving, and getting settled, it was very clearly time to get back into an organized form of life.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a planner. When it came to planning our wedding, I thrived on the lists and the fully stocked binder that kept everything running smoothly. The same went for homework, still goes for exercise, emails, meals, etc. For me, routines don’t mean feeling trapped. This quote from my recent read says it nicely:

“Some joy comes when you least expect it. And some joy comes because you set yourself up for it.” – Emily Ley, Grace, Not Perfection

I set myself and Nick up for joy when I use these systems and routines to make sure that our tasks are done, our fridge is stocked, and our bills are paid on time. When these things are as automated and brainless as possible, it clears mental and physical space for joy to nuzzle its way in. When the “have-to’s” are simplified, “want-to’s” shine out from the chaos.

Since moving, I’ve essentially started each of these routines over again. There are new wake-up times, new meals, new schedules, new grocery stores, a new church, and a new culture. (It may be only eight hours away, but there are still a surprising number of differences between Nashville and Chicago!)

In the morning, I sit with a massive mug of tea and have breakfast date with our calendar and budget. I don’t have homework anymore, (Hallelujah!) so every afternoon, I try to write for at least 30 minutes. Some things have stayed the same: Saturdays are still for cleaning. Sundays are for meal planning. I can’t sit on the half-wall in my Mom’s kitchen and tell her about my day anymore, but we Facetime every week.

Or… sometimes every one of those gets switched because a schedule changes, a new opportunity arises, and we adjust.

We’re getting there. No plan is perfect – that’s not the point of a plan. The point is being able to watch a Netflix comedy special in the evening because the email inbox has already been emptied for the day and lunch is ready to go for work tomorrow. The point is good food on a tight budget and sharing that time together. The point is having time to write because I know my work schedule as much ahead of time as possible and I plan around it. The point is to make space for life to happen in the midst of all of the junk that crowds in.

Again, we’re getting there.

We’re giving each other heaps of grace and spoonfuls of patience every step of the way. We’re figuring it out. Like a new favorite writer of mine says…

Grace. Not perfection.


I obviously really enjoyed Emily Ley’s book. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new approach to simplifying and finding space for joy in life.

August 3, 2018

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