Homeschooling, Poetry & Words

The Autumn Liturgy of Rest: How Seasons Can Prepare our Hearts

The Autumn Liturgy of Rest: How Seasons Can Prepare Our Hearts

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 [1]. ( 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 Autumn Liturgy of Rest: How Seasons Can Prepare Our Hearts (from the Oaxacaborn blog)

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.

The Autumn Liturgy of Rest: How Seasons Can Prepare Our Hearts (from the Oaxacaborn blog)

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.

The Autumn Liturgy of Rest: How Seasons Can Prepare Our Hearts (from the Oaxacaborn blog)

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.

The

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.” [2]

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.

Life in Photos

POETRY AND WORDS :: This Corner of Wednesday is the Most Beautiful Place on Earth

1000px - Silhouette of geometric garland in window via Oaxacaborn
Black and white interior via Oaxacaborn
Chinese lantern lights and Girl with Pearl Earring by Vermeer via Oaxacaborn

Outside, the sun shares the stage with the ragged-edged clouds, like an old shadow puppet show.

Inside, lego pieces click into each other and climb higher, building a tower which rises higher in imagination than it does in tiny reality. Johnny Cash strums on his old guitar, and sings through the decades, through record scratches all the way through to internet streaming.

I tap my foot without realizing it, as I pull laundry from the dryer and pile it into a basket, a colorful tangled-up heap of he-and-she-and-small person. There’s the lingering aroma of coffee and lavender, of biscuits and clean clothes.

There are dirty dishes in the sink and the bed is unmade and the couch pillows are on the floor, but I hum along and Aveline dances and this corner of Wednesday is the most beautiful place on earth.

Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: It’s all (mostly) black and white

Aveline - January 2013 - Aveline on couch in black and white - Photo via Oaxacaborn dot com

Top of the bookshelf - photo via Oaxacaborn dot com

Colander, calendar, and stars on white kitchen wall - photo via Oaxaacborn dot com

Inside the closet, with a paper star and a painting - photo via Oaxacaborn dot com

Black and white Kawaii Panda Bear plate - photo via Oaxacaborn dot com

Aveline - January 2013 - Aveline reclining on couch in black and white - Photo via Oaxacaborn dot com

“In returning and rest shall you be saved;
in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

These words keep coming back to me. In the midst of frantically getting this and that done, in the midst of the bowl of macaroni & cheese dumped on the carpet, in the midst of the screaming fits which two-year-olds are wont to do from time to time, in the midst of lists and laundry…in the midst of it all, these words echo.

And I know I need to stop, and truly listen.

In rest. In quietness. In confidence — a kind of calm assurance, free from anxiety.

This same Lord also whispers in my ear,
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30)

How foolish I am to refuse!

Poetry & Words

WRITING & WORDS :: I don’t have to be able to see clearly for it to be beautiful

She was desperate to look outside. She pulled at the shades, tangled herself in the curtains, and whined, impatiently dancing on her tiptoes.

I understood. I understand.

I swept the curtains aside and tied the gauzy fabric into a loose knot. Tugging the braided cord downward, we watched as the slats slid upward, pouring sunshine over us.

She was instantly silent, instantly still.

She rested her fingertips on the wooden sill, the wooden sill which has seen more tenants than just us. It’s buried in coat after coat of sticky white paint, and not all of them had been evenly applied. She doesn’t notice this.
Toddler looking out of apartment window - Black and white photo via Oaxacaborn dot comShe is still, transfixed, mesmerized by what’s beyond those two panes of glass.

For a moment I feel sorry for her. She looks at the grass and barely knows it beyond something that’s labeled “Keep Off”, “Pesticides Applied mm/dd/yy”, “Clean up After Your Pet”.

But this does not trouble her. She is quiet and calm, lost in her own little world of thoughts.

In this moment, I feel that her world is much deeper than I can begin to imagine.

She places her small hand on my arm, and my precarious camera-toting, nearly-kneeling balance is lost. She pats my arm reassuringly, and looks up at me from her squatting position.

I click the camera button, and glance at the screen.Toddler in Black and White - via Oaxacaborn dot comYou can’t really see her face clearly.

And then it hits me. That’s ok. I don’t have to be able to see clearly for it to be beautiful. I don’t have to have a perfect exposure, a perfect view.

I just have to be here — here in this quiet moment, kneeling in front of the low window with my daughter, quietly watching the trees and the sky, washed in His redemptive Grace and Peace. Here in gratitude, here in thankfulness, here in the kind of perfection that I can’t create, but can receive, with arms open wide and eyes fixed on my  great and wonderful God.

My arms of full of blessings; my heart is full of peace.

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. … In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” -James 1:17+, the Message version

Poetry & Words

The Thread of Hope

Aveline is finally asleep. The house is quiet for the first time in hours, silent except for the raspy motor on the overhead fan and the clink of the spoon against my cobalt cereal bowl.

My eyelids are heavy. I stare, unsure what to do with this pure, quiet, uninterrupted time. The need for sleep tugs at me, but it no longer captures me with the same intensity it once did. In the past year, I’ve adopted a new definition of what it means to be well-rested.

There is a profound peace in this stillness, tonight. I exhale, the sound of my own voice blending with the fan.  I watch the blades spin, lifting and twisting the Florida air. I think of how one year ago, I and a five-week-old Aveline flew through the Florida air to join Josiah, who’d been here for a couple weeks already due to an answered prayer — a full-time job.

I think of the fear and hope of the past two years. I think how hope has been woven into our lives, how hope is the shining thread, the strongest cord, the lifeline of who we are — not because of hope itself, but because of God in who we hope.

I think of the myriad of ways our God poured down manna to us, sometimes as a raven in the wilderness and sometimes as a coin in the mouth of a fish. I think of how He always, always, filled our cups and let them overflow.

And I stand here now in the overflow, here in the land of our sojourn, filled with thankfulness and gratitude and wonder because today — today! — we are finally debt-free. I close my eyes and breath deeply. The glory is God’s.

I lower my spoon, resting the silver-scrolled edge against the bowl. I stand up, and walk toward the bedroom. The night pulled its dusky cover over the earth long ago, and sleep calls.

Before the sun burns off the early morning haze, Aveline will awaken, bright eyed. The sound of silence will be overcome by the sound of life, the sound of love, the clink of the coffee scoop. And the aroma of coffee will swirl and mix with the Florida air, Josiah will kiss me on the forehead, and the thread of hope will shine brighter than ever.