on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

The Routine of Gratefulness

This is the twenty-second in a series written by Malcolm Marler and Mary Bea Sullivan, husband and wife, about their journey as Mary, an author, goes to Virginia Theological Seminary to get her Master of Divinity degree and eventually become an Episcopal priest.  Malcolm is a director of pastoral care at a hospital in Alabama.

Sunset in downtown Birmingham from our new urban digs.

Routine gives us stability in a chaotic world.  When change is happening all around us, we crave predictability where at least some of our decisions are familiar and easy.  Without routine, frustration and feelings of disconnection are common.

After having a great summer with Mary home from seminary from May-August, we both cried this past Sunday as we packed up her car and she began the 750 mile drive to Virginia to start her “Middler” year (2 of 3) at Virginia Theological Seminary just outside of DC.

A week earlier, we had sold our home on Smith Lake in North Alabama and moved to downtown Birmingham close to my work.

I find myself this week trying to develop new routines which I know will take some time.  There are still pictures to be hung on the walls, but that’s ok.  I feel slightly better prepared in this second year of “our” seminary experience, though it is still unsettling and challenging.

I’m thankful that I can walk to the gym for my workouts and to my office.  Our aging lab, Daisy, and I are learning a new route for walking in the downtown area.  She is grateful to walk anywhere together, and I’ve found her to be a good teacher.

Last evening, I took a picture of a sunset from our balcony in Birmingham, which I had done hundreds of times from our deck at the lake.  Somehow, that helped to see that beautiful sunset.  Thank you God for sunsets.

Finding little things to be grateful for helps with transition.  And this is something I can choose, to be grateful.  It is good medicine.

And so we begin Year Two.  I mark on my calendar when I will be flying to DC to see Mary in a couple of weeks, thank you God.  And I refocus on my challenges and joys in my ministry which I am so thankful for at the hospital.  Thank you, thank you.

When have you developed new routines?  What did you learn in the process?  I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, thank you.





  1. Stephanie Gammon


    As usual I need our annual beginning of the school year talks. I find myself again wanting the stability of a schedule, to know indefinitely that I have picked the right profession and of course all the right and wrong answers to the question. However, this is graduate school and I have to think outside the box… I never new the world in academia was so gray. While I realize this is what real life is, it make me feel disheartened. I have learned that this is what causes me to grow in retrospect but in the moment it is hard to get over the fear of failure and the unknown. So glad to hear that the house sold even though I know it was bitter sweet… also in case you didn’t know Geroge Ward has a nice dog park:)

  2. Brad Drake

    I was diagnosed with cutaneous B cell lymphoma a couple of months ago. I’ve been examining everything that I think about and everything I do. Developing routines to keep us focused on the things that are everlasting will make a lifechanging difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2022 malcolm marler

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑