You might have opened this email because you thought, “There is no way I can cultivate silence in my life right now.” Or maybe you thought: “I desperately want silence. I need it! But how??” I feel both those sentiments deeply. Silence and solitude tune our hearts to God's voice. But how do you practice silence while raising small children? How can you have solitude when you're caring for an aging parent or child with disabilities?
I think we've created an idealistic approach to spiritual discipline that inevitably results in all-or-nothing. Doing nothing won't return good fruit, but doing “all” is impossible. There must be a middle way and – I argue – that's the way of true discipleship! Like grace-based time management, like the holy moderation of freedom and restraint, true discipline is not a hard master. Neither is it a lenient one. True discipline will call you up beyond yourself while graciously lending a hand for the journey.
We've talked about prayer, bible study, and fasting. Prayer and bible study are obvious, but sometimes we even neglect those. Fasting is less obvious but still important. But perhaps the most neglected and the MOST needed are the practices of silence and solitude. The “impossibility” presented by our over-connected culture is what makes these disciplines that much more essential to a deep, intimate Christian life.
As someone whose work relies on social media and the internet, I understand the addictive draw of busyness, connection, and online “noise”. Did I hear about what so-and-so said? Am I current on the latest theological faux pas? How would I answer XYZ issue from Scripture? I used to think I had to be current on all these things to serve God's people well. I've learned: God doesn't need me to be up to date on the latest TikTok heresy to obey His will. He simply needs me be in the Word, to be in prayer, and to listen to the promptings of the Spirit. Sometimes He'll prompt me to look up that TikTok trend so I can serve His people better; other times He'll prompt me to spend time away from it so I can hear His leading better. Without silence and solitude, I cannot enter the noise of the crowd.
But this leads me to the impossible question: Where do I find silence and solitude raising (and homeschooling) three children 8 and under? Where do I find silence and solitude when they rise at 7:30 AM and go to bed at 8 PM, leaving just 2 hours alone with my spouse? Add to that the work of Every Woman a Theologian, writing deadlines, making meals, feeding animals, tending the farm, seeing friends, going to church… the question really is, when?
For me, the question “when?” is answered differently every day. Each day is distinct. Each day has its own demands and priorities. My friend Crystal Paine once told me that in seasons of overwhelming busyness, you have to accept that no two days will look the same and have the grace to live those days well. She and I both like our schedules, but pursuing silence and solitude is a lifestyle, not a rigid scheduling choice - at least if you're a busy working mom, or busy working single person, or busy working empty nester. We're all busy working with something! Silence and alone time with God will always be a choice.
Choosing silence is easier than it sounds. Most of the noise we consume is voluntary. The noise of news, social media consumption, TV, podcasts, voice messages: while all of these can be good things, they can hurt our spiritual health when consumed at a constant and un-boundaried rate. If your day is just a succession of Instagram reels, podcast episodes, emails, voice messages, and the latest news, there is little room to hear God's voice clearly. Worse, it can be difficult to even recognize His voice in the cacophony.
To choose silence is to shut it off. Delete the app. Limit the news. Set a time for podcasts and voice messages. And set a time for silence. Keep the radio off in the car and discipline yourself (discipline takes work, intention, and self control) to turn your mind to God instead. Get up earlier and listen while you quietly ready for the day without your phone. Stay up later and put away the TV, book, and social media to listen for God's voice.
Solitude is harder to achieve, but remember that these disciplines don't require long, unrealistic periods of time. Daily short-term disciplines have more impact (in my opinion) than occasional long ones. Your solitude might be 5 minutes in the bathroom. Instead of bringing your phone, use that time to pray and think! Sometimes I get embarrassed that I'm literally pursuing God in the toilet. How ridiculous! But if that's my season, I think God laughs with me - After all, most of Jesus' ministry occurred when He was interrupted!
Silence and solitude teach us to create a void in faith that God will speak. We cannot hear God if we make everything else our god. Give Him the space He deserves.
Finished Stiff: This book about human cadavers and their role in science was fascinating. Even the morbid parts were readable because the author is witty and makes it lighthearted! I learned a lot reading this book, even if I had to skip a few parts for my own sensitivity.
Still Reading Circe: About halfway through this one and still pleasantly surprised that the sexual content is minimal (and no descriptive scenes). For a book based on Greek Myths it could be much more perverse, ha - though maybe it's on the way and I just haven't read that far yet. I appreciate how the myths are personalized and brought to life by the novel! If you like the Odyssey, this would be a good read.
Starting The Benedict Option: This book has been on my list forever and I am so excited to read it. I really like Rod Dreher. The parallels between today's culture and the Dark Ages fascinate me (maybe due to my interest in medieval church history) and Dreher's appeal to follow Benedict's example aligns with what I believe about the importance of home and discipleship.
Ask Anything Q/A
Would love to hear your breakdown of predestination/free will!
ValMariePaper Prayer Journals: The launch is this week and this is my ride or die prayer journal! While we can certainly use just any old notebook, the structure of this has been so helpful for my prayer life. I love checking back in on what I was praying for and when. Preorder here for 20% off!
Boyne Valley Vineyard: There are countless wineries in our area, all of which have options other than alcohol (charcuterie, pizza, maple syrup, coffee, non-alcoholic drinks) in a beautiful setting. Our neighbors Maple Moon and Petoskey Farms are at the top, but we recently tried Boyne Valley and the environment was utterly peaceful. If you're visiting (especially for Verity Conference in October!) check them out!
This sermon on the battle of Christian life by Father Mike Schmitz: This is a Catholic sermon a friend sent me, and while I have clear theological disagreements with the RCC, I do respect Father Mike and enjoy listening to him. There is a lot Protestants can take away from this video.
The girls started piano lessons! I've been waiting for this day - I play piano and the girls have played around with it since they were tiny. It's so exciting to see their joy in learning.
Shout out to my Ember mug from my friend Kristen LaValley: This thing is the MVP. Not only can I set it to the temperature I want, it can keep the temp going without my phone nearby! I leave my phone at home on Sundays, so I can take this mug to church with me and it will maintain the temp until the battery runs out. Love! (Kristen's SubStack email list might be an encouragement to you too!)
At Home with Phylicia
This week I focused on slowly getting back into a real routine:
Mornings have been hard this summer - here in NoMi the sun is up from about 5:30 AM to 10:30 PM. This is amazing: long nights outside with friends, sitting around the fire, talking and watching kids play… there's nothing like it! But it makes mornings a rough start. Since we start homeschool after Labor Day, I am slowly putting a morning routine into place. Here's what I'm doing:
I'm getting up at 5:45 AM. I know that might sound ruthless, but I've found - to get a full head start on my day - I need a solid two hours before the kids are up at 7:30 AM. Getting up at 5:30/45 allows me some slush time to wake up slowly.
First stop is breakfast. I'm trying to eat protein within 30 minutes of waking and saving my decaf coffee for after my workout.
While eating, I'm doing my reading and prayer time. This includes the Bible in a Year Club passage for the day, my prayer journal, Verses app Scripture memorization, and any devotional reading. I set a timer for 30 minutes.
After study time, I do a strength workout. I'm doing a short 15 minute strength workout 3-4x a week.
Once finished, I go for a run or walk. I'm using the Joggo app to get into a running routine – I haven't done this since 2019 when I broke my leg, so it's slow going! I try to keep my run to 30 minutes.
When I'm back I shower and get dressed for the day,then review the day's tasks and plan. This morning I was ready for the day by 7:45 AM when the kids got up to make their breakfast. This structure is a gift to me and us since we can't homeschool and run Every Woman a Theologian without a firm schedule. I'm looking forward to fall!