Rituals & Rhythms for a New Year

How do we begin to process this past year and look forward to a new year when so many things feel beyond our control? In this special New Year’s Day edition, husband and wife duo Dan and Becky Allender discuss establishing rituals and rhythms that can keep us grounded and centered as we enter 2022.

Episode Transcript

Dan: Well our listening audience, Happy New Year, indeed! We are beginning. Hey, who knows where we are moving the year 2022, but I have the immense privilege and delight to be able to talk about the end of the year and the beginning of the year with my beloved wife, Becky. So welcome, Becky. 

Becky: Thank you. It’s so good to be on with you Happy New Year to you too, and to everyone listening. 

Dan: As we begin this process of talking about the end of the year and in some sense, the beginning of a new year, uh, it’s just so important to be in a position to be able to say, how do we engage all that occurred? And without going into the specifics of what the year held for each of us, all we can say is we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re in the middle of a profound political and cultural polarization, populism, uh, racial trauma, uh, economic inflation, and the reality of COVID. So all that to say, we’re not immediately going to address the year and all that occurred, but it’s just simply a time for each and every person to begin the process of doing some degree of appraisal, uh, where you really do reflect on what the year held for you. Uh, what got you through the year well. What actually didn’t bring goodness. So this is a period where, as we are launching on January 1st, this podcast, it it’s an invitation for you to do some of the work that we’re going about, that we’ve done and that we continue to do, because I don’t think you make new year resolutions, as much as you focus on what would I want to become? What do I do with the reality that even though this transitional moment of beginning a new year in some ways is incredibly artificial. And that is just another day is just in one sense another year yet, even though there is some degree of fabrication of meaning by using the term, the beginning of the year, there’s still something really valuable to be done in being able to look at the circumstances, but also to look at who we are as a character, to be able to engage this.So just to begin my love, what, what do you bring from last year where you go, oh, it was good. This is good. This helped me/us, um, do well in the midst of a very crazy past year.

Becky: Well, hands down, it would be first our, um, morning cup of coffee that we each receive from the other. And I, I hear that you make coffee more often than I do. And you bring me, uh, my first cup of coffee…

Dan: I think so, I think so. We did have a bit of an argument over that who actually makes the coffee, I would say it’s 85% of the time. Me.

Becky: I would never say that. 

Dan: And I would say, I generally bring you your first cup of coffee in bed, where it’s clear that, uh, at least as we rise and begin our day, you don’t wanna have much conversation. This is not a time to go, how was your night? How, how did you sleep? What dreams… whatever. What’s going on for the day. It’s a time where at least from my perspective, I get your coffee and I depart. Yeah,

Becky: Well, we do have a, a, yeah, a different alignment here, but it is, uh, a ritual and it’s very holy actually that first cup of coffee that I don’t always even finish is just a cozy, wonderful time where I like to sit in bed with a couple of pillows and a pillow on my lap and I watch the sky change. And so that is just, we had two grandchildren with us last weekend, and I really wanted that cup of coffee upstairs, which you had not awaken yet. So I, I didn’t quite make it back to my bed. And that’s like such a time of just peace, no, all pressure time reflecting, um, to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, just the beginning of joy of a new day thankfulness gratitude. And I’m trying to begin every morning with saying, thank you, God, I’m alive. Thank you for breath. And just from the get, go, have that, uh, stance of gratitude and actually speaking that out loud

Dan: And I don’t have anything comparable to that cup of coffee. Uh, you know, when I think about what my day begins with it, it is at least I think bringing you the coffee. And then, uh, I generally speaking launch into the email, uh, that have come from either last night or the days before. So in some sense, I begin working well before I think is helpful. So already we’re beginning to put words to what sustains you ground you and gives you, um, a kind of rhythm that enables you to have goodness and grounding. On the other hand, I think part of the reflection at the beginning of a new year is looking back and saying, uh, that was not helpful. Generally speaking, the way I began my day, uh, was not something that I want to take into this coming year. So there is this discernment process, which is why I say it’s a time for appraisal, for reflection, and then for a new level of response ability. And, and I say the word response ability, and I hear how many people would say that responsibility, which generally means do what you need to do, do what you should do. Versus, we have the capacity to respond differently, uniquely begin to craft and shape what we want out of any period of time or space. And in that sense, I’ve come to say, I’m not doing well in how I’ve begun my day, but I can go and say what we do for our first 45 minutes of being together, uh, is a walk. Uh, it’s about 2.2 miles. I could say that the walk itself is a rhythm in our lives, but we’re gonna come in a bit to define that a little bit more. But what I’d say is there are rituals in that walk, like from the time we leave the house to really almost a certain spot, we talk about what our dream life was like. And then from that spot onto another, we talk about what the day holds for each of us. You usually we read one Psalm, uh, and talk about that Psalm for another portion of the walk.

Becky: Yeah. We read the Psalm, um, not together. Yeah, we are separately and with our first cup of coffee.

Dan: And then we begin to pray. So that structure of a rhythm has actually within it, certain rituals. And again, we’ll come back to try and put words to why those are important categories, but I would say as I think about launching into the year 2022, if we didn’t have that walk, uh, I,

Becky: No, that would be, that would be sort of, that would be a betrayal in a sense to not continue that together, cuz we both love it so much. It’s so important. And so obviously grounding as we walk.

Dan: Yeah. So I think that’s part of what we’re inviting you to begin to do, not to for what the next holds, not yet at least, but at least to course back over certain times of the year, certain moments that were highlights or lowlights or in many ways in between, but coming back to this question of what structures enabled you to live well and what other ways of being in the world actually did not bring you the very good that you would desire. And I think that assessment and reflection is so crucial to begin a process of being able to hold the year with some degree of both grief and gratitude, but also as we will do in our next step episode, talk a bit more about how you reengage the year ahead, uh, for good, but let me go back to that category of rhythms and rituals. When you think of rhythms in terms of what we’ve been talking about, how would you put words to that concept?

Becky: Well, I think rhythms kind of go along with the hours of the day and our rhythm in the morning is, um, it’s a given, you know, whenever we choose to step outside and then the rituals are within the rhythm, but for sure the rhythm of coffee alone and walking together is, has become a ritual. So I mean they’re, they’re overlapping, but they keep us, um, I was thinking like train tracks, like there’s a rhythm and there’s a ritual one, side’s a rhythm, one’s a ritual and we’re we’re in between. It, it, it keeps us, um, grounded and it keeps us together, um, in a way that moves us forward.

Dan: Yeah. Grounded. Moving and communal. So in one sense, I would think of rhythm as how we structure, uh, a day, how we structure time and to move through a day and mostly, uh, the rhythms that we encounter in our lives more often than not the rhythms that have been opposed upon us by, uh, getting kids to school, uh, getting meals ready, uh, going through a process of getting to work, doing your work, getting home from work, uh, doing your zoom work, et cetera. So, so many of the rhythms seem imposed from outside so important for you to be able to say, what choice, what intentionality, what power do you create the rhythms? So for us, I, again, I would go back to say the rhythm of how we begin a day has become so crucial for, uh, finding a sense of goodness in a particular era that has so much loss and heartache and confusion and disruption. So the greater degree of clarity and choice in making rhythms provides a greater sense of how a day feels on your behalf.

Becky: And which for us has changed dramatically with COVID and zoom because you were a man and that traveled often went to school, commuted to school. So our rhythms are completely different. Plus we are nearing, um, retirement age. And so that alone gives us a different opportunity than we’ve ever had ever, ever, ever had in our married lives. 

Dan: Yeah. So situations obviously have the potential to demand a change in rhythm, but sometimes again, back to this issue of character, who do you want to become? How do you want to live becomes another basis by which I think I have come to say, I could do email in the morning, but there’s something that I see in you in how you engage the beginning of a day that I look at and go, I want more of that. I want more of what I see to be the benefits of your engagement, even though I’m more efficient in getting certain work done by doing that. Uh, I’m coming to say, I, I think efficiency, at least at my age, is something that I, I don’t want to have being a dominant overarching demand. And given that I’ve recently had shoulder surgery, uh, and I’m operating mostly with one arm, uh, getting dressed, um, brushing my teeth. And every other thing that happens in a bathroom now takes way longer. And the process of moving through a day, I’m taking, I might guess it’s somewhere between 20 and 30% more time to do things that I would be able to get done very quickly, even though it’s caused me. Uh, and I think obviously a certain degree of impatience and irritation, I’ve also had a sense of, oh, I like that rhythm. There’s something about going slower. That feels more honorable life giving and sweet that I want more of. So I think in some ways that’s what we’re inviting you again, to be putting words to, what do you wanna bring? What do you wanna leave behind as we begin to talk about certain rhythms

Becky: And, and I think what you’re saying is you like the care that you’re giving yourself, you’re being more full of care since your shoulder surgery, because you have to be, you have to be more cautious walking down the, I mean, everything about your whole frame needs to be full of care. Yeah. And, and I think, um, that, that’s what we’re learning at this time in our lives to everything. Not just because you’ve had shoulder surgery, but everything needs to be more, more mindful, full and full of care. Yeah. Which is not fast and efficient.

Dan: No. And, and again, uh, when you begin to bump up against things like efficiency, that seem not only practical but useful, but I’ve begun to name as I’ve named in other ways, it really is a form of idolatry. It is actually, and a commitment to making life work in a way that in the long run steals me of life. And so by both circumstance and character, we’ve gotta be able to look at our rhythms and to be able to say, are they leading to life? Uh, but I also wanna begin to define a little bit better the category of ritual. So when you think of rituals, what, what do you hold from what we’ve already put words to?

Becky: Well, I think there’s more holiness in ritual because I think it goes a bit deeper than a rhythm there. It just goes deeper. And I think that’s what we’re yearning for is being more, present, more connected to the ground, our space, our we’re, we’re just wanting more mindfulness with our bodies and our minds and thinking, so you just wrote a book and one of the chapters chapter six was on the stranger and you confessed your workaholism. 

Dan: I did?

Becky: You did. We studied it today in book club. And I thought, wow, you’re putting out there, Dr. Allender, like you’ve got that in print. And, and that’s something to really, that’s huge for you to say that and then really make changes.

Dan: Well, I, I can say it, but wasn’t really intending to change, but I think in some ways the benefit of this current era in, you know, I just can’t travel in the way that I once did, but also the current moment, not just era, but the current moment of I am somewhat incapacitated. And if I’m not willing to, in one sense, not only learn to do my passive exercises to work on my shoulder, I’m going to be in great trouble. But also if I can’t learn and receive something of the goodness of God in this moment, then I indeed, and even more foolish than I often perceive myself to be. So we need rituals. And the way you, you put it, let me go back to that is… it, it deepens, it deepens something of the movement of our lives, not only in space and time, but in terms of our own sense of character and the story that we have been written to reveal. So the way I would put it that rituals are a set aside context for us to worship. And I know for many people, when you hear the word worship, you’re thinking, um, prayer, which can be part of our rituals, uh, singing music, praise songs, which again can be, but staring out the window and watching the sky change is also something that I want people to hear is, is a ritual that brings us a taste of awe and gratitude. So worship is the intersection of awe, of sense of wonder, of an ability to receive surprise that literally takes your breath away while also being so aware that this gift of glory, beauty, of goodness, truly of rescue is, uh, it’s gratuitous. It it’s, it’s, it’s a gift. We don’t deserve it, but it is it’s ours to receive and to enjoy and delight and play in the middle of. So in that sense, rituals, open the door to the deepening of our connection with God through awe and through gratitude. So when you think of that awe and gratitude, how does that play with what you’ve already put words to.

Becky: Well, I think, you know, I just have to have more than watching the morning sky with a cup of coffee like that won’t get me through the day. So I think too, I’m taking time to enjoy a second cup of coffee, um, or tea either mid-morning or like around one or two, because that’s a nice sit I don’t do. I sit and I use my five senses. Sometimes I’ll just touch different things sometimes. Um, I will smell different smells with aromatherapy or candles or go outside in the garden. Sometimes I’ll just sit and listen, see, uh, you know, try and hear different sounds. I practice are those five senses because I’ve been a person that’s been busy and a doer, a good portion of my life. And now it’s time to incorporate awe and gratitude. And just by stopping helps a lot. That’s just being,

Dan: I, again, I, I have to admit that kind of freaks me out, uh, because the idea of being very conscious of, I wanna touch something to be present and alive. Uh, I, I love it. I love the thought, but it is so foreign to almost every portion of how I have lived in this body, on this earth, in this time and season. But when I think about certain rituals, I go back to what we do as we end up in this walk. Cause I love hearing about where your wild, I think personally, your dream life is nuts. Uh, and it one level terrifies me, but also incredibly intrigues me. That’s what I mean by awe. I know. And then I’m grateful that I don’t dream like you,

Becky: I know they’re so different, but it’s fun to return to that because when we were newlyweds, we would awaken one another, a couple times during the middle of the night and tell each other our dreams. And I remember you were always so like disturbed by what I was dreaming, but I’m equally disturbed what you’re dreaming, but we’ve returned to that. But at a better time of the day, not awakening each other, as newly weds would. 

Dan: Well, I, I think, I think I was probably looking for communal bliss, but, uh, but I was willing to hear your dreams. The reality is that’s a ritual, uh, it’s part of a rhythm, but there is something about being able to know where your heart, mind, soul, went to in that period. But then talking about the day is probably that’s a little bit less. 

Becky: Well, let’s just, let’s just say, I think God, it does talk to us in our dreams and we are exercising that a bit too. Well. What is the meaning? And a lot of times it’s, it’s been helpful. Oh,

Dan: Oh. No question. But I, I think I’m often more freaked out by your dream. 

Becky: I dream in technicolor and fabric and patterns… 

Dan: You do. Which means your sensuality. Uh, and in part I think because you touch trees, uh, and you smell aromatherapy and you listen to bird song, I think there’s something again, in those again, I call them rituals. But in that sense, because you set aside the time because you are actually open, not just to a process, but to the presence, uh, of, of the goodness of God in those moments. So that’s the nature to me, of ritual, of being able to go, you know, I begin a day, uh, when I come to my office in ways that feel much more like a ritual, I, I go through the Lord’s prayer and I usually have some music. I have a cup of coffee, it’s preparatory. I end a day, particularly by reflecting on what the day held and then coming to Roman 16, verse 20 and 21, to be able to say, you know, may the God of peace be with us soon when he will crush evil under our feet. That to me ends the day that I’ve had. So when we begin to put words to rituals, I know there are a few things that deepen meaning, hold holiness and allow my heart to come, not just into a process like rhythm, but into a presence of God’s goodness. But I also know I, as I enter 2022, uh, I need more than that. Uh, I need more than what I have had and I’m beginning to explore what, what does my heart need? And if, if you have a sense, I would love to hear. 

Becky: Well, I think we’re both yearning more, um, scripture, more words of God, you, I go to Hebrews 13, 20 may, the God of peace who brought again from the dead, our Lord, Jesus Christ equip you with all you need for doing his will. I think, to end the day with that. And then, um, yeah, we need a God of peace and we need more peace period. And I think that’s what we’re yearning for a bit more cloistered. Um, cloistering from the world.

Dan: Yeah. Less hectic, less driven in many ways, less efficient. So in our reflection, uh, what we’re gonna begin as we come back and start another portion of this reflection next week, we wanna begin to talk about how one shapes the intentional process to create the kind of goodness you’re gonna need. We’re gonna need to live well into this year. And I think that’s where we’ve got a long, long, long cultural history, uh, of making what’s the word I literally blocked on it.

Becky: A cultural history of making, I don’t know where you’re headed,

Dan: Honey, you know, you make, you make plans for the year.

Becky: Oh, resolutions 

Dan: Resolutions. Yes. New Year’s resolutions. And that’s why health clubs often see a, a rise up 20 to 30% of people coming in new memberships. They wanna get in shape. They wanna lose weight, they wanna do this. And again, there’s something so very good about making new year’s resolutions. But I think it’s more honorable to be asking, what’s my intent, what do I wish to become? And not just, what do I wish to do that’s included in that, but how do we frame the process to actually get clearer on what will we bring in? What will we discard and what will we try new as we go into this year? So as we end our first podcast of the year, my beloved, any thoughts before we depart? Oh,

Becky: No, no. I’m, I’m excited. I’m excited for what’s ahead. I’m excited about change. And I’m excited about, um, keeping those rituals that are

Dan: Working. Yeah. And, uh, I, I can say I get excited when I think about the reality that we get to bring something into the, of madness of this current world and that grounding, that depth, that delight and honor, uh, and the sweetness of what we can create together as a couple, what you can create on your behalf and hopefully with your beloveds, we need to have an anticipation that as difficult as this coming year, I believe will be that we’ve learned over two years, uh, that we’re not going to escape, uh, this particular difficult era, but in it, we’ve got a grounding, but we also have a purpose that we can begin to live and to play and to offer to others. And that’s part of the rhythm and ritual that if we intend to bring goodness to ourselves and others, there will be something really lovely that comes as a result of this year.