At the beginning of January, my husband and I always take time away together to set goals for a new year. While the content or wording of our goals has changed throughout the years, our starting point has remained mostly the same. That foundation was laid in the early years of our marriage when we were both struggling to discover and establish who we were and wanted to be.
During that time, I reached out to a woman I’d only known and admired from afar, and she agreed to meet for coffee. I had a list of questions ready to go, but still she surprised me by asking, “How can I help you?” I pulled out my list of questions and began chipping away at them.
- “How do you write?”
- “How do you structure your days?”
- “How do you move from floundering to secure?”
- “How do you become someone who has anything at all worth saying?”
She broke into my rapid-fire questions with a few of her own: “You must ask yourself one thing: What makes Susannah Baker the person she is created to be? What are the non-negotiables in your life? What are the three or four things you must do to be you?”
In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”
So now, I turn the questions to you: What is the scaffolding of your life on which you must stand and labor with both hands at the days you have been given, so that at the end of your life you have a structure and not the strands of wreckage, lost life, lost purpose, and lost potential?
In my book, I talk about using specific tools to work toward restoration and pursue healing for our souls: God’s Word, praying the Psalms, and seeing a counselor or meeting with an empathetic listener. But how do we practically use those tools?
The first thing we must do is set a schedule and stick to it.
That sounds so simple, but it’s no less true. A schedule can be especially important if you typically lead with emotions. When I found myself in the worst season of depression and anxiety I had ever known, I found one thing I could do to stay afloat: make a schedule and stick to it. I set goals and took one step after another. In pursuing healing, I couldn’t remain stuck.
Without the scaffolding of a schedule, we can always find reasons not to pick up the tool of God’s Word and prayer, God’s poems, and good counsel. By not sticking to a schedule with the tools God has given us to move toward earned secure attachment, our pain, depression, fear, and insecurity continue.
When we find ourselves in the desert of depression, loneliness, anxiety or fear, something called “the dark night of the soul,” our tendency is to stop walking. To sit down in the sand, curl up in the fetal position, and close our eyes. Sometimes we do this through busyness; sometimes we do this through substance abuse; sometimes we do this through sleeping too much or shopping too much or drinking too many glasses of wine or watching too many series on Netflix.
One thing is certain, though—if you stop walking, you will never get where you want to go. But if you keep walking, even if it’s one slow, painful step at a time, you will eventually arrive at your destination. A slow walk through the dark is always better than coming to a complete standstill.
After college came marriage, kids, and the shift into homeschooling. There went my schedule, and I thought, my life. But holding onto and maintaining my scaffolding throughout different seasons has only given me life, not taken it away. It has helped me keep walking even in the dark of lost dreams, lost time, and depression.
After my conversation with my friend as a twenty-four-year-old, I did go home and build my scaffold. I decided there were three things that made Susannah Baker who she is.
- God’s Word. I must prioritize spending time in God’s Word and every day have regularly scheduled time to sit down to meditate on it and pray.
- Exercise. At some point in my day, several times a week, my body has to move for my mind and soul to stay healthy.
- Words. If it is one hour a week, one day a week, one blog post a week, or one Bible study a year, for me to be me, I have to write or teach. I need a way for the words within to regularly pour out.
There are seasons when I have to add a fourth rung to my scaffold—I must take the time to sit with a counselor who can empathetically listen and help me tell my story through a different lens. But here’s the crazy thing: the scaffolding I set up as a twenty-four-year-old is pretty much the same scaffolding I stand on today, four kids and twenty-one years of marriage later.
Now that my kids are older, I have more hours in my day to spend in God’s Word and to write, and I can schedule my exercise with more predictability. My rungs have remained the same, though. I am not patting myself on the back or saying, “Job well done”; I am simply saying those rhythms kept me sane and grounded when I felt as if my life had plummeted down a dark hole. And as I had more free time, I was able to structure my days around my scaffolding instead of letting my tasks overtake my days.
I don’t know what season of life you are in, but before you go any further, I would encourage you to sit down and create your scaffolding. Limit yourself to only three or four rungs of the structure to stand on—one can only do so much—but figure out what those three or four things need to be and then do them.
For believers in Christ, one of the rungs on your scaffold must be meditation on God’s Word and prayer. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” Jesus said, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). To live as children of God, we must take intentional time to ingest His Word. Another rung for you might be consistent counseling in specific seasons of your life. All the other rungs are up to you. Some of you will need to paint. Some of you will need to cook. Some of you will need to create crafty things with your hands. (God bless you, and when you do so, please send some of them my way). Some of you will need to climb mountains or swim or teach or coach.
I do not know the structure of your scaffolding to help you make the most of your days, but I know who does. If you take the time to be alone and see what your soul wears, see what you need to do to keep walking in the desert places, He will show you. Secure scaffolding provides a safe place for good work and healing to begin.
For more information on restoring your attachment through your senses or earned secure attachment, check out Susannah’s book, Restore and download the first chapter for free!