rou·tine — noun \rü-ˈtēn\

: a regular way of doing things in a particular order
: a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way
: a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance

__________

Nearly eight years ago I left a rewarding career as a chamber of commerce professional to start my own marketing consulting business. Being able to work from home and set my own schedule was a blessing for our newly blended family with four children.

I loved the flexibility and freedom! First thing in the morning I managed the wake-up/breakfast routine and put kids on the bus. I scheduled outside lunches or coffee meetings to end just before the Mom Taxi picked up my first passengers. After dinner and sometimes well into the evening, I did “market research,” exploring how social media worked for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. I became part of the board for a local chapter of an international women’s ministry. Later, I volunteered in the jail, teaching Biblically based Life Skills classes to interested female inmates.

My life was full and fulfilling.

Over the past two years, I’ve done less consulting work and focused more on ministry-related job opportunities. Thankfully, I’ve held onto the flexibility.

Recently, however, I’ve started to wonder if my affinity for flexibility has been at the expense of healthy routine. I sense that for too long I’ve viewed routine as a negative, something in stark contrast to flexibility and spontaneity, and therefore, bad and undesirable. Routine seemed like a rut, or worse, that four-letter word: DULL.

Flexible spending allowed me to shop whenever I wanted. Birthday gifts, new clothes for the kids, even giving to worthwhile causes were available options at any time. We could make up the difference with the next paycheck. Accepting spontaneous invitations to meet friends in need of a listening ear? Why not! So what if they were in the middle of time scheduled for work or grocery shopping or laundry? I could fit those in later.

But “could” and “did” are two very different words. My life, my marriage, our family, and our home were all a bit chaotic. Maybe even a lot chaotic.

The kids are older now, and Peter and I are part-time empty nesters. This fall when my daughter began her freshman year in college, I vowed to myself that with the windfall of additional free time, I would finally accomplish a big goal: writing a book about abiding. I hired a writing coach, and over the course of a few months, I made progress towards an initial book proposal.

The holidays, however, proved to be more challenging than I thought. Once again I was in the midst of a bustling family. My otherwise quiet routine was now filled with the noise that comes from wall-to-wall people. Birthday celebrations, holiday gift shopping, and other seasonal events (three band and chorus concerts in one week) filled my days and nights. And don’t even get me started on the condition of the house!

I lost momentum and vowed to get back on track after the first of the year, but honestly, my track record hasn’t been so good.

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Enter Fly Lady, again.

I believe, providentially, the Lord reminded me of Fly Lady. Years ago, when I was a single mom and chamber professional trying to maintain sanity and order in my life and home, a friend suggested I read Sink Reflections by Fly Lady.

She was the first person I ever heard who admitted she wasn’t a naturally born organized person. She shared stories of despair that turned to hope. I was intrigued enough to follow her simple routines with a surprising level of success. At some point along the way, however, I started more fully embracing the spontaneous side of my ENFP personality, and those helpful routines fell by the wayside.

In the first few days of 2015, I found Fly Lady’s pink book on the shelves in my bedroom and started reading her sage advice again. After a quick Google search, I found the signup for daily reminder emails and liked her page on Facebook. I fished the once used “Control Journal” from the back of the closet in my office and updated pages with new morning, bedtime, and weekly routines based on my current phase of life.

Those routines are now printed out and inserted into page protectors behind neat little organized tabs inside a sturdy green notebook labeled, “Cheryl’s Control Journal.”

The house is routinely clean. Finances are manageable. My schedule, well, I’m still working on that one, but it is getting better.

Some people are natural-born organizers. Since I am not one of them, I open that notebook several times a the day when I forget what I’m supposed to do next or to help me get back on track when I’ve gotten distracted. I am determined that I will no longer eschew the benefits of routine in my life.

I had no idea how how much freedom I would gain and how much peace I would feel in the process.

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WORD COUNT: 810

AnneWilsonSquareCheryl Smith never met a stranger, is fascinated by garbage trucks, vineyards, and flower gardens, and enjoys evenings on the deck with loved ones. She’s a wife, mom/stepmom, speaker, marketing consultant, and local board member for Aglow International. Cheryl is also Facebook Page Editor for The High Calling and Connect Director at her church. Send a note to Cheryl.


In Your Own Words

An important part of bringing words to life is encouraging other writers with their words. In this regular feature, I invite other writers to write about one word that captures where they are in life at that moment, much like my own #wordoftheweek writing discipline. What is your one word?


Photo above by milo tobin, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.