"Construct a calendar of grace,
Genesis days and moon-marked months."
I still can't believe I did it. I lost Mike's car key. You know, the key fob original to the car that is dumb expensive to replace.
Mike was gracious. After a few days and still no key, he simply ordered a new one. But I found I was fussing at myself on the inside about it. What a dork! How could you lose his keys? How hard could it have been to put the keys in the drawer right away? Stop what you're doing right now and look again!
When I caught myself ruminating over it even after the new key was bought and paid for, I realized I needed to let it go and be as gracious with myself as Mike had been. I needed more grace in my conversations with myself.
Then I stumbled on this line of poetry from Eugene Peterson, "Construct a calendar of grace". My internal dialogue over lost keys and that line of poetry led me to ask, What might a calendar of grace look like in my life?
Because of Peterson's poetic prompt, I went to Genesis to find out more.
In Genesis 1-2, I saw God creating the world from light to sky to stars to flowers, even placing us humans in a garden he planted with his own hands. I saw God's delight in us and with Eugene Peterson that, "We are a placed people." Loved and cared for.
As I thought about constructing my own calendar of grace, I started with a look at my planner and my camera roll to see what I was really up to. Here is a sample of my days from my camera roll.
I saw lots of sunrises, flowers, studies, books, my people, a rainstorm, and getting outside. That's what I appear to be doing lately. Is there a calendar of grace in there? What would that even mean?
I suppose I want to look back and feel I used my days without regrets. That I didn't just let them slip by without a thought for how I wanted to spend them or how they added up.
So I dug around in the moon-marked days of Genesis.
I was surprised to find a framework there, maybe not in exactly what we put into those blank squares on our calendar, but perhaps what they could be about. I noticed that God created the universe with artistry, goodness, beauty, order, rhythms, togetherness, rest, and intentional care. And He invited us to share in the naming and care of domains with our own days and activities.
order God created order out of chaos. He separated the light from darkness, sky from water, and land from sea. Then he placed his people in an orderly world. I realize we don't always feel this since we chomped that first bite of apple, but underneath it all, are still orderly layers.
Our lives are ordered by domains defined by relationships with ourself, God, family, friends, home, land, work/school, neighborhood, church, city, country, and world. These are lived in increments of time: hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, and years. Our first step is to look at our calendar for where these domains are being lived and what time we have given them.
quick question: How are your activities ordered? Where does all of your time go in this season of life?
practical tip: Get a blank calendar grid where you can see an entire month on one page. Fill it in with your life. Get it all down on paper, every meeting, project, errand, evening event, trip, kids' activities, and wedding/shower/party. Add in grocery shopping, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, paying bills, etc. Just get it all down.
artistry When I think about the design of God's creation, I am in awe of the intricacies of details and delight - a butterfly wing, a pinecone, tree bark, tails that wag and swish, swimming, flowers that grow through concrete cracks, babies learning to crawl and laugh, the way dust dances on light beams while you're busy watching babies grow - to the overarching way it all works together. Artistry is woven into this world and our place within it.
My days ache for artistry. I believe it is available in my everyday life. I just have to notice it: look out my window when I first wake up, read a line of poetry, listen to music or birdsong while washing dishes, cook meals with cumin, make an appetizer for no guest but my family, pick weeds and wildflowers and put them in a jar, stop and smell the coming rain, notice the star pattern in my kids' irises. Even cleaning up messes means there is life in your house.
quick question: What do you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel in your everyday life that makes you smile and appreciate your life?
practical tip: Name the beauty you notice and appreciate in your everyday life, keep a running list in your journal. Include the messes and the struggles. This is real life. Meister Eckhart writes, "If the only prayer we can say is thank you, that would be enough."
goodness Goodness, I think, is underrated. We have made it mean something mediocre. But the writer of Genesis writes seven times beginning with light, "God saw that it was good". In the beginning, we were made in goodness. We were open and near to God our Maker. And it was not only good, but it was also very good.
So something of goodness was born into God's creation by his own hand. It was God himself, his character and creativity. I'm on the hunt, trying to see and say the good whenever I can. Lately, that means saying it out loud to someone when I see in them bravery, kindness, generosity, beauty, and vulnerability. Someone once told me I had Christmas eyes, and I have never forgotten it.
quick question: Where do you recognize God's goodness in the people around you?
practical tip: Tell someone the goodness you see of God in them, someone in your family, community, or even a perfect stranger. Make it a habit to be generous with your good words.
rhythms Our lives have rhythms and seasons just like the rhythms of a day or month or the seasons marking a year. Our calendar should reflect those movements by embracing our current season of life and nature. This is just one chapter, not the whole story.
For instance, right now it is summer, I'm in Seminary, my kids are mostly grown and married, but one still lives at home. I'm a grandmother to four Wonders, age 8 months to 4 years. I am simply welcoming my current season of life and not wishing for anything else either in circumstance or weather.
I am trying to reflect this stage of life in my calendar. I have ordered my life in chunks of time, morning is for schoolwork and getting outside. The afternoon is for errands, meetings, and keeping up with friends (less now that I'm in full-time Seminary). Thursday afternoons, I watch one batch of the Wonders. Summer days are long on light, so we can eat dinner a little later and something about summer means it can be simple. When I cook, I take a break and sit outside on the porch swing while the last ingredients simmer on the stove. Because I'm in school, we are ordering out and Mike is cooking more.
quick question: What is your current season of life: school, work, or both, marriage or singleness, expecting a baby, toddlers or teens or no kids, building a dream or losing one, experiencing an ending or beginning you weren't ready for?
practical tip: After naming your season, give yourself grace and creativity for helping your calendar reflect it. Ask your family for help and ideas for making your season work well for everyone.
togetherness God created from within a loving Trinity relationship, they were all there in the beginning. My life, too, is lived in relationships with Trinity God, my husband, Mike, our four kids, their spouses, the Wonders, friends and neighbors, classmates, my parents, my in-laws, and the world God placed me in. I am making room for my relationships to be reflected in my calendar. Lately, that has meant going to Sweet Pea's first dance recital and Facetiming with those Georgia peaches. It has also meant scheduling a few coffee dates with friends and mentors so I could tell them thank you for all they poured into my life.
quick question: Who might need a thank you or some loving care this week/month/season?
practical tip: Be intentional about connecting with someone you care about - share a meal, read together, go out for ice cream, go on a hike together, meet them for coffee and a scone, leave a small surprise at their doorstep, call them, or send a snail mail note.
rest God integrated both work and rest into the fabric of the universe. Working hard and then resting from work is part of how we are made in God's image. Rest in God's gift to us is wisdom to care for ourselves, our relationship with Him, and the good earth.
By rest, I mean not striving, not making things happen, not producing what I produce all week. I mean getting refreshed in God's love and starting the week from that place of trust. I do savor a set-aside time in the community at my local church. But there is more to be discovered in Sabbath rest.
A few years ago, I started extending rest further into Sunday afternoons with other restful things that mark this day as different. For me, that has been adding in creativity (I took a few art classes), or nature (taking a walk or hike before or after church), or, now that my kids are mostly grown and out of the nest, togetherness in the form of family dinners potluck-style.
quick question: What do you need more of/less of in your week?
practical tip: Then tailored to your work and season of life, choose one thing to resist and one thing to engage in that fosters deeper trust in God and God's kingdom.
intentional personal care All of the days in Genesis seem to have an undercurrent of intentional care for all the parts of the universe and how they flourish together. And that care was personal. God named people, places, and beauty. Adam studied the animals and gave them names. Together they saw the lack of a woman and completed the world with her creation.
quick question: Where can you offer more intentional personal care in your days; to yourself, your spouse, your parents, your home, in your neighborhood, at your church?
practical tip: Choose one person or place to be more attentive and personal. Learn someone's name or something about them you never knew.
If you skimmed the list to this point (ahem, summertime), no problem. Just skim again and choose one place to begin thinking about your own calendar of grace.
If you've followed these steps for yourself, now take stock. Is there an order in your calendar? Do activities have time slots with room for getting there? Is there any margin for dreaming, sick kids, late starts, or hobbies? Is there beauty and artistry? Is there togetherness?
Don't shame yourself with the holes you see or if it is jam-packed, with the ones you don't. Think and pray about it. Discuss it with your spouse or if your kids are old enough, as a family. Ask some good questions about where there is too much of something or what is missing.
This is an ongoing process of reframing to create a calendar of grace. Mike and I recently decided there were too many nights of TV in our week. (We do love Endeavour at the moment.) So we have created reading nights where we spin vinyl and read a good book instead.
When you fill in the squares in your calendar, pattern them after God's own hand. Fill your days as God filled the earth. Make your calendar full of your people, gratefulness, beauty, and rhythms of work and rest. Keep some of those squares or half squares intentionally blank. Leave room to nurture yourself, your world, and your relationship with the Shepherd.
Take this prayer with you as you go in grace.
prayer for a calendar of grace
how did you do it?
sit at the well,
sip from ladling cup,
speak to timeless hearts
with grace to days,
knowing time comes up
before the ready
and beautiful dream.
let’s meet again
across the laughing stream
yes and amen
When it comes to calendars, this is my favorite:
My favorite planner that promotes a calendar of grace is the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner. I just ordered my new one for the academic year. It is full of prompts for living spritiual rhythms, places to journal on Sundays, and follows the seasons of Jesus' life. Want $10 off? Order one here.