In the last six weeks, our family of four has had two bouts of mastitis, one nasty flu/cold virus, two colds + ear infections, one week-long fever, and one ten-day case of hives, still unresolved. It’s been a ride. Somehow, we still managed to squeeze in our annual family adventure to Tuolumne Meadows, which was two parts exhausting, three parts wonderful. The trip was a gift, made possible by grit, antibiotics, the help of friends and the grace of God. In spite of little sleep during our cold nights camping, I feel refreshed. Many of the tasks on my plate that seemed enormous before we left seem smaller after a week outside focusing on the daily, physical needs of my family.

I am thinking about cadence. What are the rhythms of my life, the patterns that I put in place to live well?

Sometimes we look at vacation as an escape from reality, but there’s a better way to think about it. Our time away is not an escape from life, but a part of it—an integral piece of the cadence of our lives, one of the changes in rhythm we practice to help us to live better, more fully, and more generously. We live well when we live from a place of rest.

This summer my cadence was out of whack. Work on the book felt so urgent that I set aside the daily and weekly practices that ground me. My anxiety levels rose, and I was tired. I became, for a little while, someone who writes more about spiritual practice than actually practices it. That’s not a road I want to walk down, even a short distance.

A couple of weeks before we left for our trip, sometime between the first ear infection and the week-long fever, a friend of mine wrote me a note and reminded me of something: I have missed sitting at the feet of God. I am less myself, less present, and have less to offer those around me when I don’t make time to remember I’m beloved.

I reset my cadence. A few days after I got the note, I took a one-day retreat. The next week, I started again to take a few hours on the weekend to be by myself, to pray, read, draw and write. I danced back into a cadence that moves me toward wholeness.

Here’s the thing: it feels selfish at first. I don’t like leaving Dave with the boys for a few hours on his day off. I don’t like saying no to social opportunities. I don’t like turning off my mental to-do list.

But saying no makes room for saying yes. When the cadence of my life is healthy, I have more room in the margins. I am less thrown by changes of plans or weeks of sickness. I am more available to help other people. I am more able to sacrifice my soul-filling practices once in a while when I am practicing them regularly.

Here’s what a good cadence looks like for me right now. (It’s a work in progress, but I offer it to you in its imperfection for two reasons: 1) maybe it will be helpful for you as you think about your own rhythms, and 2) maybe writing it here will help me stick to it.)

  • Annually: A week away from home, internet and cell phone service with my family.
  • Quarterly: An overnight or one-day retreat by myself.
  • Weekly: Two hours to write, read, journal, draw, pray and listen.
  • Daily: Fifteen minutes to read a few verses, write, draw and pray, and six minutes of silence. I accomplish the former, some days, with the help of Daniel Tiger for Everett during Asher’s morning nap. The latter I’m still sorting out, but am starting to implement during the boys’ afternoon “rest time”/nap time, with moderate success.

These practices sometimes feel soul-filling and sometimes don’t, but I always notice the affects when I step away from them for long.

What practices fill you? What is your best cadence?

I’d love to know.