I want to crack the stiff spine and read a gorgeous book with language so lovely I have to say the words aloud and let them roll off my tongue, dripping like a whispered veil over my solitude.
I want to sip hot tea after dunking a fragrant woven satchel into the steaming water, cupping the delicate mug in my lips like a kiss. I want to leave a voweled o on the rim in lipstick so red it tastes like ripe pomegranate, and I find myself dreaming of hammocks and sunshine and the gentle sway of California poppies dancing in the breeze.
I’m beginning to dream again, to see beauty resting in moments that look nothing like those desires. The solitude, the quiet, the pristine moments where I believe I’ll find rest. While those are beautiful, I’ve sold myself short because I haven’t chosen rest in the midst of my normal life.
Rest is an elusive beast, a mythology based on forested paths and beach houses, lapping waves and quietly flickering candles.
It’s more than beauty; it’s solitude.
And though there’s a time and place for retreat, often my normal life is more of a release. Release my alone time, my quiet, my selfishness when the kids want to do another project, eat another snack, ask another question. Release my desires when I wish I could escape my routines, my often sick body, my normal everyday ordinary.
How could I model rest for my children if the only time I find it I am escaping from them? How do I model rest in my life if the only time I find rest is in retreat?
The truth I’m finding is that rest isn’t always in the moments when I can shut out the world and nestle into my overstuffed chair, pull a woven throw up high on my lap and clear my mind of the swirl and chaos that is life and motherhood and work and marriage. All the things that wake up early and need feeding and nourishing and answers. The floors never stay clean and the crumbs collect, and sometimes I forget that their abundance stems from our abundance, from a life where putting away things and washing dishes and sitting down to break bread is a gift.
The tender care of a life together is not a burden but a blessing.
If you can’t fathom how sinks full of dirty dishes might make holy space, you’re not alone. But maybe you could find the way the swish of the sponge floats across the dish, the warm water, and soap as distant from that Calgon tub that takes you away not so different after all.
Be still, and if you listen and pay attention to the constancy and rhythm of it, you might create holy space — even if for a few moments.
I whisper prayers at the kitchen sink, my lips forming my questions as I plunge dishes into soapy water. I come with so many questions. A petition of sorts — for strength for my day, for joy and peace, for the ache of this broken world, for the woman who’s got weeks left to live and is facing leaving a husband and kids in her absence, even as her body gives way to eternal rest.
I scrub at the crusted egg yolks dried onto the plate that would’ve come clean had I soaked them first thing, but maybe this is holy work too? Maybe soul rest could even be found here in the Palmolive?
I work at it. Scrubbing harder and feeling the tension build in my shoulders. I survey the mess that remains and for a minute I’m so tired again. There are book deadlines and the piles of clothes springing like full grown beings from my laundry basket, like empty limbs flung over the side of the hamper trying to crawl out of the bathroom.
I feel invaded by the mess that spreads, chasing my ankles and tripping me up on stacks of books I long to read and stacks of junk mail I don’t, and I wish to make a truce with my day. I give you my time and my energy and maybe even a small dose of my will to live, and you give me tasks checked off the list, an empty inbox, dinner on the table, and a finished file of book edits.
But I have nothing left to give, so completely overrun by the constants in life.
I think back to the quiet spaces, and I long for them. A reward for my service. But rest needs to be so much more than that.
It cannot be a reward; it must be a requirement. To find it and seek it before everything is done, while everything is being done. Rest for the soul in the midst of dirty dishes and questions and unanswerable things.
I close my eyes, only for a moment. I feel the tension ease as I push my shoulders away from my ears where they inevitably end up. A song slips quietly from my lips in a gentle hum, and I let the dish sink, leaving it to soak a bit longer. I take my mug to the table where the sunshine slants gently across the dents and scratches on the table’s surface. We live here, smack dab in the interruptions and the imperfections. This is life. A full one at that. My kids voices wash over me, and I tune back into the needs of the day.
I leave some things undone. I make peace with the imperfection of a morning and I sip my hot tea, my soul quieted, full, in the midst of the noise.
It’s enough for today to find rest along the way.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
This has been a crazy summer, but this week I had a half-day of completely-alone-time, and it was glorious. Like you, though, I need to be working on embracing the rest that Jesus offers in the midst of the stack of dishes, the dog hair on the floor, and (in my case) a garden that is literally belching forth veggies that need to be picked and canned. Whenever I catch myself grumbling about the abundance of this full life, I try (really try!) to look hard at the reality that I’m actually complaining about rich blessing that is too big for my heart to hold. Thank you for this encouragement to love the evidence that life is full, and that I’m surrounded by my people.
Alia Joy says
Yes, that evidence of a full life can be exhausting!
Your writing is beautiful, soothing as a long soak in that waiting tub. Thank you for this much needed reminder. “The tender care of a life together is not a burden, but a blessing.” I needed this.
Alia Joy says
Thank you! I’m so glad it was a helpful and needed reminder to you too!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Your post is exactly what I needed this am. I’ve spent all week “recuperating” from a retreat….a vacation. This may sound weird, but trying to go away someplace stresses me out. It’s lists of things to take, things to cancel, arranging for a pet sitter and re-arranging when the original falls through. It ramps up my anxiety until I’m a mess trying to drag my suitcase out the door. Re-entry can be stress inducing as well. Why are we tired after a vacation?? I wholeheartedly agree. We/I need to look for rest in the everyday. I’ve learned, as I’m working at home, to glance out at the bird feeder and watching the antics of all my varied friends who come to visit. I study the individual flowers and their unique color and design as I water them. I stop and rub the velvetine ears of my beagle while he sleeps. I breathe along with his soft snoring and enter into rest with him. (We could learn a lot from our pets). Grabbing these small moments of rest put me in touch with God much more so than a retreat. I don’t have to pack for them or make lists….I simply need to stop, breathe, and notice. Absolutely beautiful!!
Carol L. Gonzalez says
I agree that coming home after vacation can be stessful. There is the dirty laundry from the trip that has to be washed, the mail that has accumulated has to be gone through, etc., etc.. When my husband and I used to travel it was always by car and I remember as we were returning home we would be in our town and I could not wait for the last few minutes of the ride to be over and for us to be back in our house again.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Alia Joy says
LOL. This is so real. Vacations are lovely if you’re able to have them but the recovery time can be exhausting!
Jessica Sommer says
‘How do I model rest in my life if the only time I find rest is in retreat?’ WOW it’s like you’re reading my mind! Thank you for your heart baring share!
This is my story too! Loved the prose and hoping I don’t forget the message when my troops come home from church today, boasting about their Sunday school lessons, forcing coloring pages of Jesus in my face, and demanding lunch. (Home with newborn for a “rest” Sunday.)
Alia Joy says
I’m so glad it resonated with you.
Christina Cruz-Mendez says
Beautifully stated. I am finding more and more each day how much rest is a requirement.
This rest begins as a start to our day and several moments throughout in order to be sustained by Him. ♥️ Great piece. Gbu.
Joanne Peterson says
Oh My Alia Joy, I need to read this today. I feel can’t retreat from the demands without chaos ensuing. Husband’s health, our two very active special needs boys, grandchildren, grown children, elderly mother, now school closing in, appointments, paperwork, my home, etc, etc. I take time, but feel guilty and then don’t feel rested, or when I’m sitting with a mug, I’m doing something else that is screaming for attention because it does need to be done. I feel God saying now this has to be in the midst, in quiet appreciation in my soul. I know God chose my family so He also has this figured out too. Thank you also for the way your weave words with the message I can receive in beautiful word pictures. I too dream of the vacation in my mind, and I’m here. Thank you also for listening so you know the message to create in words. Blessings, Joanne
Alia Joy says
Yes. Sometimes I get frustrated when I see people talk about rest and it looks more like walking away from things or retreat because that’s just not possible for a lot of people. Sometimes we get that time and solitude and when we do, we should be thankful but also, sometimes there is no stopping in the middle of our lives with responsibilities and needs and we need to find that rest in the middle of our lives. God meets us here too.
Karen B. says
You sure can put words together pretty. . Thank you for sharing your gifts.
Alia Joy says
Thank you! <3
Lynn Koukal says
Hi Alia Joy, I loved your message, and if you will permit e to condense its lovely meaning for my own purpose, in which I have been learning to “Rest Along The Way” Taking your words and their description I quote the meaningful phrase “the tender care of a life together is not a burden but a blessing. And to practice rest often not as a reward, but as a requirement, to replenish the soul. In the midst of life’s daily interruptions and imperfections, “choose rest” and Peace shall come and wrap you in its comfort, and the things of this world shall grow strangely dim. In this manner you shall rest in the Spirit of Him.
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
Reading this beautifully written post was like looking through a kaleidoscope and turning the lens to see the multiple views, I see rest from a new perspective now.
Alia Joy says
I’m so glad!
Your post brought Bro. Lawrence, Practicing The Presence of God, to mind.
A 13th century monk working in the kitchen saw his job as a way to worship and praise God in all things; among the pots and pans.
At our age, most of our friends are traveling. We are home to 4 aging dogs and one age unknown cat. I think of walks on the beach. Walks in the mountains. We have enjoyed many of those days.
We have grandchildren now. They remind me often! of the days of non stop dishes and snacks and messes. I no longer mind those things. I savor the moments. Redemption moments.
I remember the Calgon take me away days. Those days I wondered if there wasn’t more to life than scraping food out of the carpet. Now I know the answer. Kisses on my face. I love you grandma moments. This is the finest time.
Washing dishes is a great place to thank God for all of the blessings. To ask for his protection over our daughter and her children. It makes scraping the plates and pans a time of reflection and hope in the days to come.
Thank you for your word pictures today.
I echo the thoughts of some of the other ladies comments here on your well written post, thank-you.
Have a blessed day all,
Lara Sadowski says
Oh, Alia Joy, what a beautiful post written straight from your heart. It is sometimes (actually a lot of the time) so hard for me to rest. Not sleeping rest … resting in The Lord and allowing Him to fill me up and replenish my soul.
Recovering from severe anxiety, panic attacks and depression has been a tough journey (Thanks be to God that I’m doing very well now) for me, but He is teaching me day-by-day, minute-by-minute-by to trust Him and to not worry.
Thank you again for a beautifully written post!
Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!
Joy in Jesus,
Alia Joy says
Oh yes, I can relate to how hard it is to feel rest for your soul in the midst of those struggles. Sometimes it’s that minute by minute reliance that teaches us rest and dependence the best. I’m glad you’re doing well!
Theresa Boedeker says
Lovely thoughts and images. This is the struggle of motherhood. Of a busy life. Finding rest in the day without everything being done.
I really enjoy reading your words.
Thank you for this beautiful meditation. I find insight, validation, and solace in your words; you speak to a my struggle eloquently. I have no idea how to find rest, and am also grasping to find myself as my children grow independent. I need one for the other. I escape my uncertainty in busyness that feels necessary, but needs to be more intentional. thank you for sharing your gift.
Beautiful and honest. Reading this post was truly inspirational … as I now return to the countless tasks awaiting me. The dishes, laundry and mundane housekeeping chores that will surely reappear with tomorrow’s sunrise. But I go forth smiling with a joyful spirit and a grateful heart. For your words bring to mind a favorite Scripture passage: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). With each task and moment of rest this day, I shall give thanks.
May our tasks be purposeful and our rest intentional as we discover the love and peace of God in both.
I so needed this!!
Ruth Felt says
Your words themselves are soothing to my soul, and the message they carry is beautiful and oh so needed.