Sunset comes in like a whisper, hushing the robin’s monologue, stretching and bending the shadows until, at last, nothing speaks save the skies. They breathe deep navy words — slowly, confidently, and silence settles down. The lamp glows warmly, inside, and I pull my legs up over the pine bench and settle down into the posture of writing as the last remnants of Jasmine rice and watermelon dissipate into the air.
We’re moving, friends, in a whirlwind.
Josiah was laid off last fall, and now, suddenly, he’s got a new job in Nashville.
The cloud is moving. 
Seven years ago this month, I held a one-way ticket to Orlando, stepped on a plane with a (very!) infant Aveline, and touched down in this subtropical land where palm trees sway and hurricane winds rage.
Before page-views were king, before influencers was common jargon, before the time of 5 Reasons my Words are Important Enough for you to Click, I might have opened a tab and written —
you’re impossible to me now
in a sea of lost Novembers.
the periwinkle fog has settled
over Paz, and the velvet chair.
This summer, we whisked ourselves away to the rugged northern wilds of California, Minnesota, and Michigan. On the West Coast, we ducked into a secret redwood garden awash with Rivendell lights.
I came to America after the tanks rolled in, just barely before they took Sarajevo. After the helicopter shadows moved across of the fields of buttercups and horseradish and daisies and wisteria, but before the mortars fell. I came to this country when the shelves started to empty of bread, of meat, of corn flakes. I came to this country after the money had already begun to crash, after sunken stacks of rubbery, hollow-eyed gas masks stared back at me at the check-out, but before pensioners had to stand in line to trade bag after bag of devalued coins for stale bread. I came here when the skies had already begun to darken, when the fear had started to slink down the quiet gravel streets.
I’m drawn to the changing of the seasons, the time of the year when everything is on the cusp and the old world starts dying and the new world starts coming on . ( Each new day does this too, but the rising sun doesn’t bring out the poetry in me. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to liturgical holidays— this neat and tidy slicing up of seasons, tied to the calendar but not the clock.
It’s a reminder that mercy is new, always.)
And I like the changing of the seasons for the nudge to pause and breathe. It’s a time to take stock of whether or not frenetic busyness has creeped in, unnoticed, encroaching on our calm and peaceful margins. Margin is important to me. Margin is vital. I cannot thrive without margin.
In the 1990s, Dr. Richard Swenson wrote about this in his book “The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits“, saying, “We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore?”
The changing of the seasons, for me, means a reminder to cultivate those still waters in my own home. I have good intentions, of course, but they are prone to slip, and the seasons give me pause to reconsider whether I am still being intentional about my goals of rest.
Rest doesn’t happen on its own. We must fight for rest.
There’s no escaping it this time of year in Eastern Europe and in the American North. The leaves surge with one last burst of chlorophyll, summer’s flowers tuck their heads, and heirloom rugs are rolled up and beaten outside, clearing the stage for fall, scouring the home for winter, and steeling one’s heart against the coming wintry blast. All of nature is preparing for the quieter, slower season.
There’s no such meteorological shift in the climate, here. I’ve never seen anyone take a rug out of the front door to clean it. But the days are lengthening, even if the air plants still cling to the palm trunks, and the egrets never stop sifting through the marshes for brunch. But I don’t need an obvious equinox outdoors to prepare my home and heart for the autumnal shift, setting out pumpkins on the stoop, simmering ginger and spice on the stove, singing along to my favorite music, and pressing vinyl cling leaves up against the window panes.
This takes time and intention — and more often than not, it takes saying no to things, even good things. You might feel silly saying “no” to that extra event, that meet-up, that task you’re not even obligated to do for the committee. You might feel self-conscious regularly scheduling in an entire day (or a week!) to breath in the scent of the autumn blend wafting out of the diffuser, stash away the clutter and close the laundry closet doors, pick up the toys off the floor and switch out the bathroom hand soaps. After all, tomorrow, the laundry doors will be open again, the LEGOs will be strewn — but you know what else? Tomorrow, the leaves on the window panes will catch your eye and the lingering aroma of clove and cinnamon will still flutter in and out of the curtains. And there’s a certain transforming power this has on the heart. Somehow, I find that when the house is clean, when corners of the home hint at the changing season, I feel more calm and purposeful.
I suppose this is a way of presenting a visible reminder of worship before my eyes. And in the autumn especially, when all of creation is storing and stockpiling and preparing to slow for hibernation, this visible reminder of worship pulls me into the present, and slows me. It’s easier to sit down and drink in the Word, when the clutter isn’t pulling my attention away. It’s easier to help my daughter navigate that non-stop brain of hers, when I’m not stressed over the neglected housework.
No, I’m not perfect. I haven’t learned this art yet. My home is not a spotless showcase. I know a slower rhythm doesn’t solve the pressing problems of the world. This doesn’t instantly heal what hurts. We are real, and real people are messy people. But real people can also be purposeful people, fighting for what matters.
Preparing our homes and hearts for the season sets the stage for contentment, and for cultivating margin. That makes a big, big difference.
You see, it is difficult to pursue purpose without margin.
It is difficult to even complete tasks effectively — to say nothing of cheerfully or contentedly — without margin.
Dr. Swenson told the story of how at one point before his epiphany of rest, he was so overwhelmed, overloaded, over-scheduled and burnt out as a physician that he actually deeply resented his patients for being sick. I find in my own life, that in times of marginless frenzy, I resent my tasks as a wife, mother, and full-time educator (that last one takes up every waking hour — can you relate?)
But I refuse to glorify “busyness”. I refuse to put “busyness” on a pedestal. I’d much rather fight for margin and rest, wouldn’t you?
It’s not a popular choice. Possibly, fighting for rest for your family might put you in uncomfortable situations. It might make you unpopular for a time. But it will also make you peace-filled.
Swenson writes of contentedness: “It has so little cultural traction that I don’t even hear it in casual conversation, let alone preached or praised. The word contented has been replaced by driven, aggressive, hungry, ruthless, relentless.
Taking a deeper look, however, we notice that contentment has been a principle in good standing throughout history, endorsed by philosophers, statesmen, men of letters and theologians of all religions. Even if times were marked by destitution, tragedy and pestilence; even if gutters were filled with beggars, doorways filled with prostitutes and people beat each other with chickens; still, contentment was lifted high. Thought leaders endorsed contentment as a source of hidden comfort and riches, treasured within a human heart despite circumstances.
It is only recently that contentment has fallen out of favor. With the escalating totalitarianism of progress and economics, something had to give, so contentment was replaced by unbridled ambition. No one stopped to have a memorial service nor slowed to light a candle.” 
This autumn, won’t you join me in making margin and rest your ambition? Let’s slow down together, and purpose to let our hearts rest in contentedness, no matter the storm outside.
I’ll light a candle or three to that.
I’ve always loved maps — the delicate wandering lines, the stars and circles hovering over city centers, the softly-worn paper folds creating ridges and peaks where the creases bisect latitude and longitude.
Maps, to me, are about more than just distance.
Maps hold stories, and remind me how connected we all are.
I’m thrilled to say you can read more of my thoughts on this over on the Sonlight Curriculum blog, where I recently had the chance to talk more about the human connections maps hold, and why I believe a global perspective is absolutely essential for not just homeschoolers, but for all Christians.
Head on over, and leave a comment, if you are so inclined!
Image Credits: Priscilla Barbosa Photography
When I started blogging publicly — over at Xanga, fourteen years ago! — I was in college, and blogged too many song lyrics and homework details. Then over the years, I moved back and forth across the country, working at sheet metal factory, a juvenile detention center, and an IT department, and wrote about all the ups and downs. When I became a mother, I even went through a phase where I predictably blogged about cloth diapers (I am so sorry). I’ve written about death, beauty, brokenness, joy — and interior design. And you’ve likely noticed that in the last few months, I’ve written a few longer pieces about homeschooling.
My blogging “methodology”, if you can call it that, hardly follows all the blogging advice. It’s always just followed the seasons of my life. But that’s the beautiful thing about life, too — it’s not stagnant. It moves like a current. It flows, it goes through seasons, through changeable states of being. Way down at the bottom of this blog, in the footer, Anaïs Nin reminds me, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”
I kind of feel like things are coming full circle for me, and it all has to do with books. As a girl, I devoured books, and read everything I could get my hands on. Now, it’s only April, and Aveline’s already read 130 books since the beginning of the year. So, you’ll probably be seeing a lot more posts about literature and children’s books, and more posts about homeschooling. (Although, this is no surprise if you follow me on Instagram @oaxacaborn). I have so many good books to share with you all, but I’ve been holding back, thinking for some reason that this isn’t the right place for it, and worried about losing followers. Well, that’s kind of ridiculous. Because when it comes right down to, perhaps, like Margaret Atwood said, “Perhaps, I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.”
I’m just thankful some of you keep following along as I scrawl in the snow.
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