Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Tea

One again, we are meeting for our "Sunday" tea on Monday. Such is life... not perfect but definitely "do-able". :) So... you may want to join me for Monday morning coffee. Since I didn't have to leave the house today, I took the time to watch a gorgeous sunrise through my kitchen window while breakfast was cooking on the stove. It reminded me of the scripture, "The heavens declare the glory of God". He didn't have to cause the glorious colors of a sunrise. I believe the glories of nature give us an amazing glimpse into the character of God. Such breathtaking beauty on a cold, Winter morning.

As we sip hot coffee (with Splenda and cream on this end), we can chat about my ponderings this week. My good ponderings that is... not those that caused tension or fretting... those ponderings are also called worry and I try not to let them build a nest in my everyday life. No, I've been thinking a lot about good things like tradition and rituals... especially domestic rituals. One of my very favorite books is Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard. I need to pull it off my shelf and reread it soon as she writes about what has been on my heart this week. Of course, so do other favorite writers but this book seems to put my thoughts into words better than any of the other books.

Judging from the comments and e-mails I receive, a lot of readers love rituals, too. What is the difference between a tradition and a ritual? Well, making breakfast each Saturday morning for friends or family is a tradition. The process of making them can be a ritual, especially when we are aware of each step we go through every week. If it includes pulling out our favorite vintage reproduction bowl, using the wooden spoon that was my mother-in-law's, adding whole wheat flour I ground a few days earlier, glancing as I cook at flowers in a nearby vase, slicing fresh in-season fruit and serving everything on pretty plates... than it is indeed a ritual and not just another weekly habit.

I need domestic rituals in my life for I tend to run on autopilot. Even though I am making every attempt to "Life Life on Purpose", as my "to do" list grows longer and life gets busy... I often default to ingrained habits. That is why I must make such habits easy and my life is more pleasant when they are turned into domestic rituals.

The most important relationship in my life is that with my Lord. He drew me to Himself as a young teenager and redeemed my life from great sorrow and distress. You would think I would put Him first in my time, too? Especially those days when I do have time here at home to plan my schedule around Him. I wish I could say it was that way most days but how often I find myself at the end of a day without opening my Bible or spending any time talking to Him... other than the usual "Help!" or "I need/want this item" or "protect Christopher as he is driving in bad weather".

The one thing I do that helps is to make it a daily ritual instead of "just" a habit. I keep a gingham lined basket in my living room where it is easily reachable but in a safe place. In it, I have my Bible, a notebook, two devotional books, the latest nonfiction book about "spiritual" things I'm reading, and pens. Sometimes I'll place my Week at a Glance there so I can go over my schedule that day.

How much better to take coffee or tea into the Living Room and grab my basket with everything all together than to try to find everything from all parts of the house. It looks so inviting as I walk by it during the day and it acts as a reminder that the Creator of the Universe is waiting to spend time with me... now... not just in Eternity... now... a very good ritual. It's not perfect, I try to pick up my basket and meet with Him in the morning with coffee. Sometimes it gets pushed back to much later in the day with a cup of my favorite green tea. Too often more than one day has gone but having made it an anticipated ritual causes those days to happen much less than they used to.

I have rituals that have been with me for years... my favorite is waking before the others in the house, walking in the kitchen to push the "on" button for coffee, feeding the kitties (now just Sasha), catching five minutes of the local news for today's weather forecast, thinking through the appointments or "gotta do's" of my day... alone, ... sometimes watching a sunrise in Winter or sitting on my front porch in the early light of Summer. How different my days are when daily schedules prevent this much anticipated ritual.

Washing dinner dishes have become a ritual as I rinse them then fill the sink with very hot water and a squirt of delicious smelling dish soap (either Mrs. Meyers or Seventh Generation for I believe if we "go green" anywhere, it should be with that which comes in contact with our dishes). I let the dishes soak 30 min. to about 45. min., just until the water is still hot but my hands do not get burned. It doesn't take long to wash them, rinse, and place each dish in my red Kitchen Aid dish drainer. Somehow the aromas and sites that surround me (my pretty dish drainer, sometimes flowers on my windowsill, the seasonal sites out my window) all come together to turning a chore into a ritual.

My ponderings this past week have been about the changes in rituals through the years. For instance, when Stephanie was little either her dad or I read to her at night. I would make certain she had her covers just right, give her a kiss and tell her how much I loved her... every night. For many years we had a tradition of going out to breakfast each Saturday morning. The birth of her brother when she was within days of turning twelve changed a lot of that (but she loves him, anyway). :)

Christopher and I once had a tradition of going out to breakfast each Monday morning as funds permitted. When we lived in Detroit, we would often go out to breakfast (almost always having to walk) when Dad was leaving on a jet plane for New England, Germany, or other destinations. It was different when we lived in Iowa when he was a baby or a very active toddler. During those years, we ordered pizza for dinner on the day Dad left. His job as an engineer often required him to be gone for days at a time. By making such traditions and rituals we have a balance in life, even when we have moved a lot or had major changes we know "this is what we always have done" and life feels more secure.

I've recently had a change of Saturday evening rituals. I used to have my Solitaire Tea Time (which I've written about before) in the Living Room, while watching British comedies on PBS on the little TV in that room. Unfortunately, my antennae needs to be replaced so I can pull in only one channel these days (a local affiliate). For awhile I used this time to read but a few weeks ago, I began to take a cup of tea... the old (beat up) red 9 x 13 pan that holds my scrapbook materials, my spiral bound artist's book that is my scrapbook journal, my actual scrapbook I've kept for years (started as a place to put my favorite pictures from Victoria magazine when I could not keep them when we were moving to Detroit), and the envelope files which are now holding my various pictures (along with scissors, a little X-acto knife, colored pens, and adhesives).

Each Saturday evening while the dinner dishes are soaking, I either take the small X-acto blade and cut out magazine pages or I pick up scissors and cut out pictures for either scrapbook (sometimes I'll find a great article that I will staple together to file in my section of the file cabinet). After awhile, I'll return to the kitchen and wash dishes before coming back to cut out more pictures if I have a lot of pages waiting to be cut. Then I file them in the appropriate file folder. Since these file folders have sides to them, the pictures are kept secure.

I've used this time to listen to music (via headphones) on my CD player. This past week, I asked Christopher if I could borrow two of his CDs... The Phantom of the Opera and a CD (one of the "Wow" CDs) that contains all #1 hits of Contemporary Christian Music in the recent past. How enjoyable is such a ritual, taking very little mental thought as I either remove entire pages or cut out beautiful pictures. I can listen to music, or ponder, or pray, or think about what I would like to write about here. :)

Why did I begin this particular ritual? Well, I have wanted to begin a scrapbook journal for months now but I could never find the time to put one together like I wanted. I even purchased the spiral bound artist's "notebook" a few months ago and it has been waiting for me to pick it up and use it since then. That is when I realized by having everything ready and in one place (as I do with my quiet time basket) then as I have some free time, I will be able to put together the scrapbook journal (or continue with my old scrapbook which contains only pictures, printed out poetry, etc.). Only by making this easy have I been able to make room for it in my life.

Has it worked? Yes! Now when I have some time to "journal", everything is ready (pictures are already cut that I can use and supplies are at hand). Not only that but the process... the Saturday night ritual... in itself... has become enjoyable. Right now I still have a number of old magazines I'm going through so there is plenty of "cutting out" and placing in file folders to do. As I catch up, I'll only have the new magazines and those found on the free rack at the library.

I remember as a bride, reading a book by Edith Schaeffer where she commented about the "brevity" of life and how fast it has flown by at her present age (at the time) of sixty. I was around age twenty and I didn't see my life passing quickly at all. However, having thirty-three years of marriage behind me, I know she was so right. I can't tell you how many times I have come to an end of a week... or a month... or a year... and realized I hadn't added something to my life I very much wanted to do (or removed a bad habit!).

By thinking about the events of my day, by planning habits (and making them into lovely rituals), that is the only way I take control over my minutes and hours... which become my years. No I must turn my attention to making my grocery list and menu planning into a ritual and not a chore. :)


Quinne said...

Hi Brenda :) I enjoyed this so much! I love the idea of your gingham basket with its Bible, books and pens at the ready. Have a blessed week! Love, Q

Heather L. said...

I enjoy A. Stoddard's books too, and am waiting for the library to get me her new one on writing together (I think that is the one).

Also, I'm in the middle of "The Mom Walk" which you recommended and which I'm finding to be very, very good! I can't wait to recommend it to others. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Another lovely post. :)

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Like Quinne, the basket supplied with a Bible, and everything you need to take notes sounds wonderful to me. I think I'll be looking for a basket and follow your example.

Anonymous said...

You bring up such thought-provoking subjects. I have a couple of Stoddard's books and enjoy soaking in her words. I don't have my favorite books in a basket but should think more on doing just that - for asthetics *and* practicality.

bless you this day...

Anonymous said...

Brenda, thank you for sharing these lovely, encouraging thoughts. I'm going to start considering how to make those "have-to's" into lovely rituals. I, too, love Alexandra Stoddard's writings and have a few of her books on my shelf or in my book basket -- to refer to again and again. Blessings to you. I am Desert Lady, a former Michigander.

Sharon said...

Wonderful post Brenda!

Anonymous said...

P.S. Brenda, the Orange-Cranberry scones are superb, especially with the orange icing. I made them Saturday, using fresh cranberries, which provide a burst of flavor when you bite into the hot scone. Thanks for sharing the recipe! Desert Lady

marye said...

so true. I have used the Bible basket since I read Emilie Barnes years ago...and I do like ALexandra Stoddard's books...
another morsel for snacking on today..thanks, because this is something I have been thinking about alot.

Kimberly said...

I have the same dish drainer! Isn't that the nicest red? I snagged a matching dish brush a few weeks ago. I needed to replace my old, dead one and found the red one. It's not KA, but matches perfectly. A little thing, but it does make the endless washing of dishes a bit more pleasant.
Have a great week.