Rhythms of Home and Hearth

How our home routines change us

They say home is where the heart is.

So during my past four years of living in eight cities, I've left pieces of my heart in a lot of different places. But it was no odd happenstance or random chance that allowed me to quickly find peace in each home away from home. Rather, the familiarity was cultivated through the familiar habits that are practiced in every place we can truly call "home." As Tolstoy put it in the famous opening line of Anna Karenina: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In other words, an unhappy family never discovers nor puts into practice the natural rhythms of each day, week, and year that form a foundation for peace of mind, fruitful relationships, and a prospering community.

My favorite way to think about the Home closely parallels an observation that Prosper of Aquitaine made about the early Christian Church:

Lex orandi, Lex credendi, Lex vivendi

Translation: "The way you worship becomes the way you believe, which shapes the way you live." A common misconception in our modern world is that our daily habits – waking, washing, cooking, eating, working, playing, loving, and praying – are mere reflections of our fixed, pre-conceived notions... just visible manifestations of our unseen and unchanging beliefs. If we choose to believe instead that each daily routine actually gives shape to our thoughts, habits, and virtues, then a measure of gravity is added to our thoughtless comings and goings. The way we choose to ignore or internalize this rhythmic mindset has profound implications for the types of people we will become.

Few of us are forced to think about this difference until we leave our first home. It's usually not until we leave relatives to live with friends, classmates, or strangers that our traditional understanding of "home" falls apart, and we begin to understand that our experiences in this tight-knit community are powerful enough to shape our relationships, habits, attitudes, and identity.

This is one of the most overlooked (and unprepared for) realities of college life. Even the most capable young adults become overwhelmed when confronted with a plethora of rhythms they will continue or begin anew. Teenagers are suddenly forced to compromise their own habits to accommodate the rhythms of strangers, for better or worse.

Thankfully, these new rhythms have the potential to be just as productive and formative as the old. Living with new people in new places requires humility, forbearance, and love, if those people hope to establish a sense of home. It does not take long to realize that our series of small, interpersonal choices and actions are not just reflective, but formative of the relationships we will have with everyone living under the same roof. This is precisely why it helps to have intentional rhythms that only change slowly (if at all).

Key to a healthy rhythm of home and hearth is a routine recognition of God. A book of common prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of a conscientious homemaker. I wake up every morning and have the opportunity to confess my sins, to ask for aid in loving others, and to praise the Almighty for blessing me with another day. I go to work every day and have the opportunity to make peace or sow discord with my colleagues. I come home from work every evening, make dinner, and have the opportunity to engage in pleasant conversation around the fireplace, or withdraw into isolation: Netflix on the couch, talking on the phone outside, or going to bed early in my room.

The frame of mind I begin the day in will likely guide my actions for the rest of it, so it is both comforting and helpful to greet the rising of the sun with this prayer:

"Father God, we implore thy grace and protection for the ensuing day. Keep us temperate in all things, and diligent in our several callings. Grant us patience under our afflictions. Give us grace to be just and upright in all our dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all men, according to our abilities and opportunities. Direct us in all our ways. Defend us from all dangers and adversities; and be graciously pleased to take us, and all who are dear to us, under thy fatherly care and protection. These things, and whatever else thou shalt see to be necessary and convenient to us, we humbly beg, through the merits and mediation of thy Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen."

So if Home truly is where the Heart is, consider resting yours here as well.

Start now. Find or create a daily routine: a simple habit, a simple prayer, a simple yoga pose. Use it to remind yourself that with every sunrise comes a new opportunity. An opportunity to eat, play, and go about your day with friends and family in peace, rather than stress; in joy, rather than sadness; and in love, rather than conflict.

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Image above from Flickr user nadja_robot via Flickr Creative Commons license.