Grace in the New Rhythms. A Series.

new rhythms title pic

I specialize in long subtitles, as you can see from the above photo. That’s because I don’t want you dear readers to be misinformed. I don’t want you to think this is a “7 Ways to Be Awesome at Everything” sort of post, written by an expert at being awesome. If you are already awesome at everything or even at many things, you can stop reading and get back to your Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Because we’re only four days into the new school-year and I’m already hearing the judgey voices that chatter about in my head, the voices that tell me I should be managing life with a little more know-how and finesse.

How did you run out of baggies? For the love, it is the first week of school.

I can’t believe you mindlessly wandered the aisles of Walmart for that long. 

Why didn’t you realize they’d lost all the ice packs from last year? Their cheese sticks will be warm and soggy by lunchtime. 

You shouldn’t feel so tired today. You are a stay at home mom / writer and all of your kids are in school. 

Most of the nagging guilt during my days has to do with time and energy management, things I’ve always stewarded rather poorly. But ironically, one of my most cherished commodities is time. Preferably time alone. This is partly because I’m a mother and partly because I’m an introvert who recharges through time alone and not feeling rushed or needed. And because I love my time like it is a small, furry, cuddly pet, you’d think I’d be better at managing it.

Things get kind of complicated when you consider that I’m also sort of ADD {I prefer the terms “spontaneous” or “distractable”.} And I have a bothersome addiction to wanting to be productive and efficient.

Combine these characteristics with being a daydreamer from as early as I can remember. And an over-thinker. And a creative. And a recovering academic who can’t shut down her critical thinking skills. And maybe a perfectionist.

What do you get?

A hot mess, that’s what. An angsty, fearful, scatterbrained, overthinking, overwrought mess of a person. You get someone who outwardly looks okay but is actually an inwardly frazzled grown-up whose goals for the day are constantly being sabotaged by the thoughts and whims that go rogue, one whose real-life outcomes can’t quite catch up to her ideal-life expectations but that sure doesn’t stop her from trying.

It’s a messy ride when one is such a mixed bag. Maybe I’m not the only one.

I’ve been doing some cleaning out, going through old letters and journals, even stumbling upon my report cards that date back to 1979. These artifacts have triggered a lot of memories and observations. Though I was a decent student through school, I also recall completely zoning out for entire class periods — particularly math — and then frantically trying to learn later what had been taught in class, usually from a friend or by going in to meet with the teacher or staying up late with the textbook. I never quite learned to capitalize on the best time / task combination. I ran away with my thoughts when they came to me {whether I was traipsing through a meadow when I was supposed to be Geometry-proofing or imagining that the boy I liked actually liked me back.}

Somehow, somehow I usually reached the necessary goals but with a ridiculous amount of stress, anxiety, blame-shifting, and last-minute panicking. I may have been daydreamy and bad at math but I was still ambitious. As early as middle school, I stayed up as late as I needed to and did whatever I could to get the job done. Not turning something in wasn’t an option. But sleep and sanity seemed negotiable.

Looking back, I realized that young Marian could’ve used a little more help governing her life and responsibilities. And possibly a little bit of medicine and a lot more sleep.

I’d love to tell you I’m different at 41 than I was at 14. Alas, we are pretty much the same girl / woman. Only now I will usually choose sleep over an unfinished task. And I have a lot more self-awareness.

But if left to myself, the trajectory of my day can easily jerk from contemplation to consternation, from peacefulness to panic. And so I’m prone to live in a state of reactionary whiplash and much of this comes down to the issues of priorities, time, and accepting who I am.

I say that like it’s easy. The truth is, acceptance is a daily fight when you’re too introspective and a living, breathing paradox. This does not make for tidy categories or tidy living. Because how can you be Type A and also Type ADD and not live in a perpetual state of frustration and condemnation? I wouldn’t know.

Most days I feel like a cosmic joke, like God said to himself when He made me, “I’m going to fill this one up with enough contradiction for a hundred people. She’ll be like a wind-up toy that whizzes around in zig-zags and circles…and then she will run out of both zig and zag, come to a screeching halt, and fall on her face. It will be hilarious.”

I know, I know. God’s not like that. But I question — all the time — why I think and operate in such complicated, non-linear ways. It’s hard to feel so incongruous in everything from my tastes to my habits. {Or lack thereof.}

I need order and rhythms and knowing what’s ahead, but also creativity and spontaneity and surprises. I crave organization, but often find myself scribbling notes, appointments, and thoughts on whatever piece of paper / gum wrapper / back of hand that’s closest to me. I’m passionate about delicious food and I love to cook, but dread the dailyness of dinner.

And then there are the big, consequential ironies. How all my life I dreamed of being a wife and a mom and also Martha Stewart. But then marriage and motherhood and domesticity came along and I had finally to accept that they are such unnatural roles for me. Being a nurturer and loving to be needed and having compassion for paper cuts — so not part of my natural skill-set. But very much a part of my real-life responsibilities.

I can tell you the theological terms for this sort of tension. How this is for my “sanctification” and all of that. And it is. It definitely is. But that doesn’t change the fact that nineteen years into marriage and thirteen years into motherhood, I’m still kind of Neanderthal about the whole thing: “Me wife. Me mommy. Me go make fire to cook dinner. Me go kill animals and get skins so you have clothes to wear. Me pretend feel sorry for boo-boo. Me want alone-time.”

On many occasions, I’ve asked God what I’m doing being married to an actual husband who deserves a wife with a clue and molding the lives of actual human beings who will one day be grown-ups, hopefully of the non-Neanderthal variety.

{Clearly I have digressed to the outer reaches of this topic and am now using my blog as a virtual confession booth. Forgive me.}

Here’s the point I am circuitously trying to make. We’re not necessarily “good” or naturally gifted at showing up for the life we really have. We may not be adept at doing life the way we should or the way we think we should. We may find that we don’t have the skill-set we’d hoped to have for the life we’ve actually chosen. And sooner or later, we will definitely find that we don’t have the skill-set for the life or the season or even just the day that we didn’t choose but have been handed anyway.

It’s the theme of everything I’ve written about for the last six years: receiving your own life.

It’s about the intersection of real life and grace and redemption. It’s about moving forward with acceptance and hope instead of resentment and bitterness.

It’s about freedom. Freedom from comparison, freedom from blame, freedom from pretense, freedom from trying to live someone else’s life and instead, embracing the one right in front of you. The one that’s messy and sometimes feels like a joke. The one that holds more beauty and possibility than you can see on an everyday Thursday when you burned the taco meat and forgot to pay that bill and feel like you’re getting it all wrong.

So in this little series on new rhythms and grace, I will continue spilling my pathetic guts to the whole wide world and it’s a little embarrassing. Why would anyone do such a thing? Because I want you to grasp that I’m a person who desperately needs to receive grace as I try to establish rhythms and practices for myself and my family at the start of a new school-year. I’m a certified non-expert, a hack. And as you can see, rhythms and routines and stellar time management don’t come naturally to me.

Neither does grace.

Maybe they don’t come naturally to you either. Maybe you feel like a distracted, struggling, Neanderthal and you could use a pep-talk like this series written by a struggling non-guru like me. If so, welcome. Me glad you here. Grunt. 

This short series isn’t exactly a how-to on organization for the absent-minded person or how to be more disciplined! or anything like that. I don’t promote “systems” because there is no one-size-fits-all way of doing anything. But I am learning a few things about establishing workable rhythms based on my personality, my priorities, and my individual family. I’m learning which variables needed to be taken into consideration.

Most of all, I’m learning a lot about the undercurrent of grace that holds us all up through the trial and error of it all.

Originally I thought this was just going to be one post. But sometimes you get going on a theme and discover you’re 1,850 words in and there’s much more to say than you first realized. A series is just a fancy way of saying that we’ll continue this conversation next week. I hope you’ll join in.

If you don’t want to miss a post in the series, you can subscribe by e-mail in the box below. Feel free to unsubscribe anytime you like.


So what about you? Do you struggle with time management? Are you good at establishing rhythms but not-so-great at maintaining them? Do you structure your life based on what works for someone else instead what works in real life for you? Do you see trial and error as a gift or as failure? Are you struggling to keep up with all that you’ve committed yourself to? These are some of the thoughts I’d like to explore as we all begin anew this fall.

I’d love to hear from you as you navigate these issues in your own real life. I welcome your questions and thoughts. We can dish about them in the comments or on the blog’s facebook and twitter pages.



  1. says

    we are on our 5th day of school. All 5 are in school this year after homeschooling for a very long time. I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel like I have wasted the whole week. I feel guilt at giving myself rest, alone time, etc. but I know my introverted self needs it like I need air. I am looking forward to this series. You and I sound a lot alike. I am way too introspective too.

    • Marian says

      Five kids after a long season of homeschooling? You definitely need rest. Rest without guilt! You’re making up for lost time. Glad you have you along for the series.

  2. says

    Posted on your FB, but wanted to say a more lengthy word here. Thankyouthankyouthankyou for bringing up exactly where my head is lately. With only 3 now to homeschool (5 graduated), you’d think the pressure would be less. I keep telling myself that. Maybe since I’ve aged alongside of them….dunno….my head isn’t on so straight anymore.

    So, thanks again for this series. I’m really looking forward to it. :)

  3. Mom says

    You wrote, “someone who outwardly looks okay but is actually an inwardly frazzled grown-up whose goals for the day are constantly being sabotaged by the thoughts and whims that go rogue, one whose real-life outcomes can’t quite catch up to her ideal-life expectations but that sure doesn’t stop her from trying.”

    I read this and thought: she just described more of us than she can possibly know. For me, my job provided a modicum of structure that resulted in productivity. Yesterday was my last day of that!

    What’s an almost-68-year-old-girl to do? Oh, the projects that are waiting! Can only imagine how long they may actually take now that I have the option of actually choosing how I spend my time and energy.

    Lead me through this, dear one!


  4. Valerie says

    You’ve just described me also. Ain’t it funny how we’re all the same and yet we’re all afraid of being the only oddball. I collect cookbooks…cook books for heavens sake and I wallow in the guilt of serving jarred sauce over boxed noodles more than once a week if I’m being honest. I babysit my grand kids 8 hours a day and feel like a failure cuz I’m too pooped by 9:00 pm to do the dishes and fold the forgotten laundry. I will be following you through this grace series and am looking forward to it!

  5. Aneta says

    You’ve described me! I keep blaming it on midlife menopause, etc. So distracted, anxious at times, lots of plans and dreams, but often little oomph to move ahead and do what it takes to get things done. And I’m an empty nester! Can’t blame it on my kids ;)(homeschooled, now working p/t online supporting homeschoolers). Looking forward to your series!


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