It is a gray November day, and it rained last night. I wonder what happened to October; it seems a blur. I try to remember October. Women's Bible study ended, but made its mark on how I pray. October held meaningful visits with daughters and coffee with friends. All in one day we moved a friend in the morning and sat with Jim's mom and dad in the emergency room that evening. We have checked, via calls and text, on folks who fill our hearts with concern. We've been doing home projects; putting in new flooring opened up an array of other projects. At night we crash into bed and wonder what happened to all the hours in our day, a day scarfed up and swallowed whole with little awareness of all the delicious moments. Does this describe a time in your life, or most of your days? In the midst of the blur I was spinning a cozy web about our home, creating inviting corners for rest and renewal. Scattering bits of autumn into nooks and crannies was therapy for me. Have I told you, I love autumn?
One day in October I wrote these words:
An Adirondack chair is snuggled up next to the pedestal flower pot crowned with a bumpy, bright orange pumpkin on our little porch. The sky is gray and a cool breeze blows through the trees while the sparrows cheep noisily. Then all at once they go silent for a few seconds leaving me to wonder if there is something they know that I do not. I sit, listening. I am tired, dirty and unmotivated. The morning was spent creating an invitation to rest on the porch and planting succulents. My mind is nearly as gray as the sky. The accomplishments should please me, but the tired, foggy thinking wins out.
The cool air helps me to press on with the writing. All I have to do is propel thoughts through my sluggish brain and type when in actuality it is a perfect day for napping or reading. My mind seems to be stuck these days thinking a lot about ways to escape the disciplines of daily life while all the while pushing myself to do them. Ever go through such a time? It is as if I am burning rubbing, moving and resisting all at the same time. Deciding what to make for dinner or wear to church seem like big chores. Retreat time!
Some time ago I decided one Friday a month I would declare a personal retreat day. It would include doing any creative activity I wanted, reading, resting and no cooking. It would be a day for disappearing into a place of renewal where no one would find me. Not totally true. My husband would be nearby. But I would sort of wrap my time in a bubble and take a break from all I do and restore my enthusiasm for serving. I haven't scheduled one yet, but it seems the time has come.
I did make time for a retreat day during the October blur. It wasn't, perfect, but it was a start. I worked on a folded collage repesenting areas of my life in which I want to grow. It was rewarding, restful and satisfying. There was time for reading as well as a nap. If I had prepared a little bit I would not have had to cook, but still the day restored a calm within me and renewed joy.
No matter how full the days and how fast they fly, I do not want to miss the treasures big and small we are to delight in through God-given senses. I want to be more present and grateful for the ways He ministers to me. One day when I took a few minutes to pay attention I noticed:
how the sunlight shined on the plants by the window and skipped over to brush across the corner of our bed
the worn, brushed softness of the flannel robe wrapped warm about me on a glorious chilly morning
over the top of all the morning sounds of our neighborhood I still heard the birds chirping wildly about their business
the almost minty scent of an eraser I use to refine my attempts at drawing
the light scent of coffee diluted by creamer
the sweet, nutty flavor of nutmeg I added to the coffee grounds
What are some ways you slow down and really notice the people around you; the room you in which you sit; the way nature responds to the seasons and weather; to all you can taste, touch, smell, see and hear? I am highly sensitive to my environment. At times the negative things wear on me without my noticing. When I pay attention to those things, I can make adjustments.
We Christians get so busy doing things we feel we should do and we have no time for beauty: creating or appreciating beauty. I believe it is part of being present to His presence. Years ago I read a book by Edith Schaeffer called The Hidden Art of Homemaking. She was a mentor and teacher I never met, but loved and appreciated. She inspired me to think about the environment I create.
In her own words:
“It is true that all men are created in the image of God, but Christians are supposed to be conscious of that fact, and being conscious of it should recognize the importance of living artistically, aesthetically, and creatively, as creative creatures of the Creator. If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for us” (p. 32).”
― Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking
― Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking
When life gets crazy I feel I have no time for dipping into something creative or drinking in some refreshing beauty, but this would be the time I most need to create and admire His creation. The fog lifts, the blur clears, my body relaxes and joy returns when I have spent time responding to the image stamped upon my soul, the image of the Creator, Imago Dei. I understand the challenges; I face them daily, but I know without some time soaked in beauty we find ourselves living mechanical lives and feeling disconnected from ourselves and our Savior. Those you serve will be grateful for when you've been softened by time spent being present. You are more apt to see them through the eyes of their Creator.
It rained off and on all night, and now the sky glows bright blue with puffy, gray clouds float about casting shadows making it seem as if the light is playing hide and seek. I've a to-do list to write, but first I want to pay attention.