January 21, 2022

I have spent the past few weeks laser-focused on rituals – what they are, why we have them, the whole nine yards. Why? Well, I am teaching a workshop on “non-churchy” rituals for colleagues at Phillips Seminary in Tulsa next week, and I sure want to be prepared. Also, two years into a global pandemic, I am keenly aware of the struggles people are continuing to face. The seemingly endless nature of this virus makes me think that the need for the touchstone and grounding that ritual provides is more important than ever. 

A lot of my processing has been done alongside my husband. He is my lifelong conversation partner, and he brings his own perspectives as well as an ability to fine-tune my thinking and call me out on flaws or incomplete thoughts. Our favorite time to process together? Silver cup days.

My husband has two coffee mugs. I love them both because they are his – but also because they mark time and space for the two of us. During the week, as I am usually up before he is, I prep his coffee alongside my tea (my own daily ritual). I set up his white travel cup, lid open, next to the Keurig (hey, we aren’t fancy). I place his Breakfast Blend eco-friendly coffee pod in the Keurig and turn it on, warming the water so it’s ready for him when he joins me in the kitchen. A quick kiss, “good morning,” a splash of milk, and hit the brew button. Soon after, he is off for his day.

It seems like a simple routine. No big deal. Just a pattern. Something we do to move us to the next thing. But some time back, out of the blue he texted me, “Thank you for always setting up my coffee during the week.” I realized it meant something to him.

This simple act holds the key elements of ritual: repetition, intention, and attention. And from that text message onward, I made it a point to bring that intention to the weekday ritual. It’s a sort of caffeine dance between his coffee maker and my teapot – a small dance we share between the two of us.

But then come silver cup days. Silver cup days are the best days. For whatever reason, he does not use his white travel mug on weekends or holidays. The coffee set-up is the same, but it goes in his silver insulated mug. And those mornings are the best – lazy mornings where he drinks his coffee with me (drinking my tea). Conversation often ensues, but sometimes we are just quiet, reading a book or the newspaper. We always sit together on our couch, my feet propped up in his lap. Yes. Those days are the best days. A similar ritual. A similar song. But a different verse – a different rhyme.

Two years into this global pandemic, so much remains out of rhythm and rhyme. So much remains out of routine. Maybe things are starting to equalize. Maybe we’re slowly moving from pandemic to endemic. But no matter – it still feels discombobulating, depressing, and difficult. Life still seems unpredictable and chaotic. As humans we need community; we need routine, and the calming certainty that comes with it. It grounds us and makes us feel safe and supported.  But when the dominant theme of daily life is uncertainty, when the music of society has a disrupted and disjointed rhythm, certainty and grounding feel elusive.

So, I ask you – no, wait – I invite you to take a moment to consider your days, even and especially in “these days.” What is your routine? It might be a coffee or tea routine like ours. Maybe it’s something you do each evening – help your children with homework, take a bath, read a book – and then lights-out. Or maybe it’s an exercise routine you just started this January, 2022. Perhaps it is a simple mantra or meditation you give yourself each day. Or it’s a song you listen to over and over again.

Take that routine act – whatever it is – and add intention to it. Add attention to it. Add a commitment of repetition to it. Do it for three months, six months, or the year. And call it ritual.

May that time be blessed for you. May it ground you. May it bring you a simple rhythm; a heartbeat of life, thumping once a day, every day. May it bring light to these challenging times. May it be your silver cup this coming year.