It’s funny, when times are hard, I find myself longing for the good ol’ days. But when things are good and my world has a sense of steadiness to it, it’s easy for me to slip into apathy. The monotony of my daily life seems dull. I want something to look forward to.
Apathy tends to bounce down the stairs like a slinky into anxiety, cynicism, annoyance, and despair. With all this good happening in my life, shouldn’t I be rejoicing instead of feeling this malaise?
One of the best ways I have found to fight these feelings of stagnancy is to develop rituals that help me see the holy in the everyday. When what otherwise seems mundane and ordinary transforms into sacred and extraordinary, it’s hard to miss the love of God in my life.
Here are some practices that can help yank us out of the muck of apathy and place our feet back on the solid ground of joy and praise… even in the midst of storms.
Learn About All the Bits and Pieces of Creation
When I watch a nature documentary, read books that explore the particularities of particle physics, or listen to a podcast about the way our brains work, I try to listen, read, and watch through the framework of my faith.
If I believe that Colossians 1:16-17 is true, then all things we research and explore are expeditions into the heart and mind of God, the creator and sustainer of all things. Once I’ve learned more about mushrooms, soil, and the ocean, the next time I take a walk in the woods, dig in the dirt, or watch a sunset over rolling waves, I will appreciate God’s handiwork more intentionally. I care for them because I love them, and I love them because I know them.
This exploration of creation inspires deeper awe and wonder, which lifts my chin to the heavens in praise of the one who holds all things together.
Find Ways to Celebrate Each Day
The world is filled with good things and people to celebrate, but if you find yourself needing inspiration, turn to daily calendars of celebration.
Did you know that January 31 is National Hot Chocolate Day? It’s also National Plan for Vacation Day, Inspire Your Heart with Art Day, and National Backward Day. There’s a holiday for every single day of the year at National Day Calendar.
If you think this is silliness, then you might turn to the traditional church calendar. The Catholic church tradition celebrates feasts, solemnities, and memorials throughout the year to honor, celebrate, and remember the saints who have gone before us. The saints in the General Roman Calendar inspire followers to seek the will of God in their daily lives. Saint John Bosco, the Patron Saint of apprentices, boys, editors, laborers, magicians, and students, is remembered on January 31.
Celebrate the Seasons
We need the rhythms and patterns of time to orient us to what God is up to. Rites of passage from one season to the next, the changing of weather patterns, births of children and deaths of loved ones all contribute to and give our lives a sense of meaning and direction. The church calendar is a different way for us to order our year that makes space for the full spectrum of life’s experiences, from pregnancy (advent) to death (Easter), and everything in between (ordinary time).
This year, our church is exploring the traditional church calendar and seeking meaning for the seasons of our lives.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaves” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Within each of the seasons there are months and weeks and days bursting with opportunities to find the Lord in our midst.
Pray through the Ordinary
Several years ago I discovered these beautiful liturgies of the ordinary as broadside poems. I ordered “Liturgy for the Ritual of Morning Coffee” and “Liturgy for the Preparation of a Meal” to hang in our newly renovated kitchen as a reminder of the sacredness of these daily acts, both of which seem mundane and one that can be downright drudgery. But here were prayers that infused the sacred into my daily patterns.
There are two volumes of “liturgies for daily life” collected in the Every Moment Holy series. Over 200 prayers and liturgies are available in print, on an app, and through Instagram. Several are available as free, downloadable PDFs from their website. The Every Moment Holy app and offers daily liturgy quotes from the longer collections as well as access to full liturgical readings for free, like “A Momentary Liturgy Upon Seeing a Flower in Bloom,” “A Momentary Liturgy Upon Tasting Pleasurable Food,” and “A Momentary Liturgy for Trying Times.” These guided prayers center our hearts on the Maker of the Universe as God intersects in all of the moments of our lives.
Examine Your Days
This past fall, my husband began a practice of silence and solitude in the mornings and of daily examen in the evenings. The Daily Examen originated with St. Ignatius Loyola as a way to reflect on the events of our days in order to find God’s presence and discern his direction (IgnatianSpirituality.com).
One version of the Examen has five simple steps to it:
- Become aware of God’s presence
- Review the day with gratitude
- Pay attention to your emotions
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it
- Look toward tomorrow
I watched in wonder as these practices steadied my husband, opened his mind and heart to the Word of the Lord, and infused our conversations with what God was doing in our lives. He modeled what a faithful discipline of sitting with the Lord could do for me and for our children.
Whether you follow the Ignatian Daily Examen or opt for your own quiet time variation, setting aside minutes each day to center yourself around God’s presence and reflect on the moments of your day has a ripple effect throughout the rest of the day.
Pray Gratitude Constantly
I love the movie America’s Sweethearts, starring Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, and John Cusack. Throughout the film, in order to keep it together, Cusack’s character, Eddie, recites things he is grateful for. “I’m grateful for the earth, I’m grateful for the stars and the sky,” he says. In context, it makes me laugh, but lately, I’ve been trying it, and I think it’s a worthy habit.
“Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. do not quench the Spirit,” Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19. I think these three are intricately bound to one another. Giving thanks is prayer. Without gratitude, the fire of love and joy and peace that comes from the Holy Spirit has no kindling; it is extinguished. But prayer and gratitude fuel the blaze of hope in our hearts. They open space for the movement of the Holy Spirit.
So, thank you, God, for the puppy that is resting her head on my toes. Thank you for the warm mug of tea in my hands. Thank you for the cozy space you’ve provided for me to sit, the visions you’ve given to me as I write, the artists and musicians whose voices and melodies keep me company. Thank you, thank you, thank you, all day, all night, may I remember to say thank you and invite your largeness into all of my smallness.