Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Daddy taught me to rest

Growing up, my dad used to sit and stare into the fire. I used to wonder what he found so interesting, just staring there at the flames. Why was he so still and silent? It sometimes bothered me. What was he thinking about?

Last Spring we finished putting in a fireplace at the intersection of kitchen, office, dining room and living room. The fire is now the heart of our home. And I've found a new favorite spot in the cold mornings and evenings. Right in front of that fire, where sometimes I need to just look at those flames, licking the logs. I found myself staring in quietness at the movement. The colors dancing, the time ebbing away, unnoticed, for once, by me.

I have a lot of girl friends I love, many of them spread across this nation. So many of them are accomplished, energetic, proficient, whirlwinds of activity. So few of them know how to rest. It's easier to rest if your work is outside of the house. But with email and laptops at home, women, particularly mothers, have to work extra hard to plan to rest.

What would a day of rest look like for women? For me it means a vacation from several things: turning a computer on and checking email, making meals, setting the table, running errands, tidying up, checking the clock, checking off items on a list, wiping down, scouring, sweeping, mopping, dusting, vacuuming (a note to mothers, what if you rested for one day into the rhythm of nursing refusing to be distracted by rushing about during naps, but allowing yourself full, unadulterated lounging)

When was the last time you rested? When will you rest this week?

And yes, the meals might be unhealthy, messy ordeals as everyone scrounges for themselves, the house will be dirtier, the lists of things to do will be longer. And you might even feel curious about what you're worth at the end of the day.

Good and well. Bring that to God. Let rest be something you do, not to optimize your ability to work, not to obey an ancient command, but as a way to learn who God made you to be without your work bolstering your identity.

Who are you when you rest?

Perhaps you'll find yourself gazing into a fire, forgetting how much you're not doing, forgetting to even think, as those flames quiet you into peace.


Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

This from my Dad:
Actually, When I was looking into those flames I was thinking about how I was going to answer your next difficult question!

Just kidding.

For some reason a fire and running water are like friends to me. That is why we have the fake stream in the back yard, You've hit on a cord which so many young people (in my opinion) don't know how to do, that is rest and relax, be quiet and think, be at peace with yourself when there is nothing to do. Listen to nothing so that you can begin to hear. I guess I think the Psalmist recorded it best "Be still and know that I am God"

I never knew anyone much less my daughter was ever giving 2 cents of attention while I gazed at the fire.


Ladybug said...

Recently, I've learned that when I'm writing the PhD every day of the week except Sunday that I need a true day of rest on Sundays in order to be refreshed on the Monday. The kind of rest I'm taking is motivated by my Monday work, it's true, but that is largely motivated by working to a deadline these days. I'm not sure that I only rest to optimize my work - I'm happy to take time away from it for the sake of doing other things too! But there could be some work-worth slavery lurking about back there.

But what to do with the time? We don't have tv and if Dom's at services I don't like to watch dvds without him, so (generally) mindless media consumption is not an option. No piano or musical instruments at the moment, so no music-making (unless I want to bang on Dom's practice drums). No fire to enjoy, no garden to prune or dig, supplies are available, but my visual imagination often gets a bit stuck there and I just turn to reading--which is a lot like my PhD! Hmph - some rest!

Lately, though, I've taken to baking bread on Sunday evenings instead of going to the evening service at church. I miss going to the service and being with my family there, but I guess I need the time. I miss too the old habit of inviting people round to our flat on Sunday afternoons and evenings, but I've come to enjoy the freedom from having to do something, a freedom that is punctuated and given shape by bursts of activity: kneading, turning, punching down, and forming my loaf of bread. Only on Sundays am I around the house for the 3-4 hours bread takes to make by hand. In these sessions of loafing about in my living room ;) I enjoy the fact that there is no hurrying the bread along ('Rising times must be followed!') and that at the end of the evening I can delight in the work of my hands. Although this might seem yet another task to do, just being able to make the bread is a sign of my freedom from tasks and thinking hard about something I'm reading. I don't think I'll need this kind of time for always--someday we'll come back home and have our french horn, piano, flute, more art supplies, a back yard, etc.--but it is good for now.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Dear Ladybug aka dv,
I love your analogy of how something as basic to survival as bread-making can become a sacred act of peacefulness. Thank you for sharing ways common, menial tasks can become rest. It reminds me of Marilyn Chandler MacIntyre's poem on Vermeer's Women "In Quiet Light". Here's a snippet from "The Milkmaid"
She had kneaded fat / mounds of dough, sinking heavy fists deep / into voluptuous bread, innocent / and sensuous as a child in spring mud.
Here's to your rest, D!

tinamarie said...

Part of this posting describes me to the t. Rest is not something I have trained myself to do well; in fact, I am in a constant mode of task-oriented movement. Even when Paul is out with philosophers discussing their next paper to write, I sit at home and find other things to do. Perhaps I just don't know what it means "to rest" outside of sleeping my 8-hours a night (at least I get that ;-).

Ariel said...

Do men get to rest too? j/k

I'd love to have a fireplace at the center of our home...for the time being, I equate looking out our east-side windows in the morning with that kind of renewal (we live on the 8th floor).

For me, one thing "rest" sometimes means is getting unplugged--iPod, blog, tv, etc.--and looking for a slice of silence.

Good post.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Ariel- I like that rest = unplug. There's a blog waiting to happen!

Tina-Marie-why do you think women have a hard time resting? Or do you think it's more of a "task-oriented" thing than a woman thing?