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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Be Still

When Bruce came home from work this afternoon, I was in the middle of preparing our favorite family dinner, homemade pizza. (Evan’s generic word for “food” is “pizza.” He can also say “pickle” and “Cheetos”.) The dough turned out perfect, and the “grown-up” pie was going to have ground beef, black olives, onions, red bell pepper and mushrooms. The kids were happily stuck with cheese. After watching me chop and cook for a bit, Bruce cautiously asked how I had spent my day and how I was doing.

All in all I had a very uneventful and antisocial day. I avoided answering the phone and the door, fully enjoying the peaceful pace my domestic duties. I washed and folded four loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen (several times), vacuumed the master bedroom, read to Ellie and Evan, sorted through some outgrown kid clothes, and hung a few sconces in the living room. For lunch I made pumpkin soup (passable). While Evan napped, I spent some time with Ellie introducing her to pre-school activity books, and under my tutelage she worked on tracing and coloring circles and squares. Later, under her tutelage, I did triangles.

My answer to Bruce’s question about what I had done during the day was, “Nothing. Why?”

He answered, “Because you seem so relaxed.”

Thinking about this conversation later in the evening, after the kids were finally all tucked in bed, (Evan had issues because we were out of “cocoa,” e.g. milk; water wasn’t cutting it – Bruce had to make a store run to get some before he would settle) I find I am still grappling with that tension that many people have: what does time well-spent look like?

Baking 500 cookies in three days, making scarecrows, purging my oldest son’s room – these are all great things, but they are taxing. If they leave me bitchy and unhappy, is what I’ve accomplished worth it? Or, is tooling leisurely, but productively, around the house, putting the peanut butter in the cupboard on one pass through the kitchen, and hand-washing the wine glasses on the next pass, but not going for a walk, not calling a hurting friend, not volunteering in a kid’s classroom – is that not time well-spent?

I don’t know.

I am not a super high-energy extrovert who goes and goes and goes. That is why I make such a big deal about baking cookies and making scarecrows or even praying out loud in a group. I don’t really want to bother with any of these things. I want to be left alone, with my books, and just be.

And yet, I also want to be loved and cherished and close by those same people who I love and cherish in return. But, truth be told, often I want them to love and cherish me quietly from another room.

I don’t know what this all means. The pendulum swings between wanting to do lots of meaningful activities, helping out and making the most of my time, and just wanting to stay home and methodically putter about the house. Why is it so hard to give myself permission to be a homebody, to admit to myself that this is who I am? I think part of it is guilt for feeling like I’ve already squandered too much of my life not doing enough.

Tonight I was supposed to be at church for another night of group-prayer. I agonized all day about going, particularly because I have to work tomorrow, and Saturday is going to be busy day from purgatory. After the way Monday through Wednesday were, I needed a quiet night. So, using the moderately valid excuses of a slight cold and cramps, I stayed home. Bruce told me he was glad.

Instead of church, I played Junior Scrabble with Jack, tucked Sabrina and an overly exhausted Ellie to bed, then spent 30 minutes rocking Evan and singing to him while Bruce went off for milk.

In the end, I spent precious time with each of my four kids today. I am very thankful for this. Anymore, such an event is a rare occurrence. When I decided not to go to church, I was pretty sure I was going to miss out on something there. Instead, I find I missed nothing, and gained everything by staying home.

Over these past three weeks of group prayer, a theme has been emerging: the need to be still and know who God is. Tonight, holding my son in my arms, I remembered another comment made at the one prayer meeting I attended: the idea that God longs to hold us close and still, in the same way we hold our babies. There I was, missing church, but holding Evie, and I was utterly still (except for the rocking). In a weird way, I really felt like I was having my moment of worship.

I do not want to be frenetic. I want to be peaceful. I want my home to be peaceful. I want my husband and children to be peaceful. I want others to come to my home and feel that peace also. I want out home and my family to be a blessing.

I had one other thought tonight. I still have pretty young kids. I forget this about 100 times per day. Evan is only 20 months old. He still requires daily naps. Three-year-old Ellie is doing a middle-child number right now, aching for my already greatly stretched attention. Both these precious little ones need me, whether I like it or not. When Jack and Sabrina were those same ages I never went anywhere. The truth is, I really do like just hanging around with the kids. I see how fast time is flying by, and I think I might just give myself permission to slow down and savor that time while I have it.


At 1:46 PM, Blogger Gateway School and Learning Center said...

You've been a prolific blogger! Great job. I wish I could have been around to help you with your cookie baking. That would have been fun. When are we getting together? Coffee tomorrow or do you have MILK?


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