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.