Emily DeArdo | A Year of Living Adventurously
Even though I am (gulp) almost ten years out from my college graduation, I still love the back to school flavor of late summer and early Fall. New notebooks, new pencils, new backpacks, new start. We’ve cleared out last year and are ready for a new challenge (said no kid ever, but that’s OK.). As Miss Stacy in Anne of Green Gables was fond of saying, “tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.” That’s how I always used to feel heading into a new school year.
Now that I’m no longer in school, I still use the fresh start feeling to re-evaluate my life. I’m not a big New Year’s person. In Ohio, it’s usually cold and snowy, and that doesn’t say to me clean the house and make things fresh. It says hibernate. So this time of year is my back to school revamp time. Some years, not much needs to done. Other years, like this year, it’s sort of crazy. I need to get rid of my excess possessions. I need to revamp my fitness program with a solid exercise plan and more healthy food. But first and foremost, I need to work on making my prayer life an important part of every day.
Mother Teresa said: “Our lives, to be fruitful, must be full of Christ; to be able to bring his peace, joy, and love we must have it ourselves, for we cannot give what we have not got.” Even God cannot fill what is already full. So while I’m divesting myself of clothes and books, I also need to create empty space in my schedule for prayer, lectio, Mass, and other devotions. I need to take time to be still and pray.
So the first thing I’m doing is getting up earlier. Instead of sleeping in a bit, I get up and say my morning offering first thing. (You can find an example of on here.) Then I get dressed and ready for my day. While the coffee’s brewing, I say lauds from the Liturgy of the Hours. As a lay Dominican, saying the office (at least morning and evening prayer), the rosary, and attending daily Mass when possible are part of my responsibilities. I say the office of readings around three, and vespers between 5-6, depending on dinner.
I also need time to say the rosary. Normally I say it before Mass, if I’ve gone that day. When I was doing summer theater I said it on my drive to the theater (the drive was about 40 minutes, which is ample time to get in five mysteries). But I realize that I need to add lectio divina (sacred reading) and I need to devote more time to sacred reading and study, both of which are of prime importance for Dominicans.
So to do that, I need to make space. I need to say no to commitments that would intrude on this time. I need to work prayer in first, not last. So while I clear out my schedule and my home outwardly, I need to divest my interior life of the things I don’t need to do or think about.
If God is truly the most important thing in my life, what I do should reflect that, right? My priorities, what I do with my day, should reflect my love of God and my desire to do his will, and to listen to him in all things. I shouldn’t just give him the crumbs that fall from the table, so to speak. I should give him the best of my self and of my day.
I’m just starting on this road to integrating more prayer into my life. I’m sure there will be bumps along the way as I try to carve out a new schedule that meets all the needs I have—spiritual, physical, emotional. For millennia, monks and nuns have had schedules that meet all their needs, but place God first. I’m sure a laywoman like me can use their wisdom to adapt to my own domestic monastery. (Even if monks probably didn’t attend ballet class once a week)