Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Tea

I've been pondering the Bible verse which tells us we are not to despise small beginnings. Thinking instead how our culture despises just about anything small... and slow.

Our society admires the person who has mastered multi-tasking, not giving full attention to any one thing but cramming as much work as possible in each moment.

Illness forces us to be still and reflect.  It brings one to be "in the moment" as we think of that which must be a priority to accomplish.  We learn to appreciate those timid beginnings and small successes.

We go from being able to do little... washing a few dishes... to laundry... to decluttering the house... to cleaning the bathroom mirror and sink... to sweeping the front porch... to putting together simple meals.  Work done just a few minutes at a time but reaping the feeling that all is well again in our world.

Yesterday morning I looked out the French doors in my family room and cringed as I saw the results of multiple big storms and high winds hitting the deck these past weeks.  It was such a mess and cleaning it enough to enjoy the deck again seemed overwhelming.  However... I decided not to despise small beginnings.  :)

Armed with a roll of paper towels, cleanser, and my old broom, I set out for the deck to give it what Mom called "a lick and a promise".  I cleaned the two tables, swept the floor of the deck (not perfectly but it looked better), cleared leaves and greenery from chairs, and swept spider webs away from the door.  The plants were rearranged and freshened and the watering hose moved to a corner out of site from the window.

Little bits of work here and there, not all that much... accomplishing a small miracle as the deck was transformed back to a place one could sit and ponder, take a cup of coffee in the morning, or just look upon while sitting in the Lazy Boy inside with the air conditioner cooling the tired worker as she rested.

I don't remember when I realized the "truth" of society I'd been given for years was actually false.  As we grow up, we assume what those older and in positions of authority are telling us must be true. From high school years onward my generation was taught we must reach for the stars, solve all the problems of the world, and that true success was found in working long hours so we could have lots of stuff.  That which was slow, or rural, or homemade... was old fashioned and obsolete.

Perhaps it was when Stephanie was born and I found myself enjoying hours rocking her as she slept that I felt a twinge of doubt.  It certainly became apparent as I started to enjoying time in the kitchen mixing together butter and sugar and flour and eggs in various forms... watching simple ingredients become... magic.

I know I was becoming aware of the un-truths as I would turn on the coffee pot in the morning and begin to chop and dice and assemble a stew to slowly cook... anticipating what dinner would be like later in the day.  By the time I chose to check the thrift store before the mall... I knew what I thought was truth was all society's smoke screen.

There would be a twinge of  looking back as I would stop by the grocery store for picnic food and see women in suits and heels... bringing memories of enjoyable projects and business lunches (but not of the crazy schedule).  However, when I enjoyed the picnic and spent the afternoon climbing trails with a young boy, I knew our decision to educate at home was good.

Relearning early lessons has taken a lifetime.  "They" roll their eyes when walking by one who is knitting on a park bench, enjoying time alone on their lunch hour... how ridiculous when one can buy a sweater online in seconds.  How odd to enjoy spending time pushing a toddler on the swing as one ponders beautiful weather.

"They" mock us as we write a letter by hand for a dear friend instead of spending two minutes on an e-mail and "they" certainly cannot understand an hour spent in prayer.  Let's not even think of what "they" say when one decides to take their child out of "real" school and spend their years homeschooling.

"They" cannot understand the happiness of homemade cookies filling the cookie jar when there are shelves of colorful packages to be purchased at the grocery.  "They" do not know the joy of the farmer's market or walking out to the garden to pick vegetables, looking through the recipe file, tying on the apron and spending time in the kitchen all to prepare one meal... and watching the faces of loved ones to see their reactions to the work of our hands. 

Who are "they"?  "They" are my own thoughts reverting back to early teachings.  "They" nudge me to hurry through an afternoon of creating beauty in my home to do something important and it is "they" who cause guilt when I'm watching a cooking show or perusing cookbooks in the afternoon for a delicious way to use kale.

I have learned the only way to overcome early (wrong) teaching is by living life on purpose and enjoying the process of those simple skills such as sweeping a deck or washing dishes in sudsy water.  I no longer despise small beginnings... or humble work... lessons learned as I realized the slow life is the good life.  When I stop to mend a shirt, take kitchen scraps to the compost pile, or spend a Saturday morning at garage sales... I am renewing my mind and embracing domesticity.

There are times in life when we are forced to slow down... illness, job loss, personal crisis, pregnancy and sleepless nights with a newborn, moving... just to name a few.  Small beginnings, taking time to develop skills through a lifetime, choosing loveliness instead of rushing through life, walking slow enough to feel the presence of God... changing the way we think as we find Truth.  A good thing.

Further reflections on the above... here.


freetobeme - Anita said...

I'm terrified during a storm but love to smell the air after the fact!
I always worry about my relatives and friends in Iowa whenever a storm is reported. I lived there enough years to know how severe they can be. I'm glad you were safe.

matty said...

Good morning, Brenda! What an insightful way to frame "they." Often I have these same thoughts; I hadn't framed it in the terms of my thoughts versus what others thought. We suffer from a kind of double-vision. We see life through other's eyes when we are really seeing our perception of what we think they see or think! You've really made me think!

Anonymous said...

Very good points, Brenda! And I have found that some tasks I do might be not appreciated at all by most around me, but that does not change their importance in the scheme of things! Our Creator seems to have different paths for some of us!!

Vee said...

This is a precious post and I so enjoy reading about one setting chaos to order again with a "lick and a promise." (I really do, I think that's why I love so many of the books that I do cherish for that's the theme in a nutshell.)

All of this perfectly echoes the little quote I have at the bottom of my blog — "The most important work that..."

Hope that your hubby enjoys his day! And that you enjoy this day, too, though I have no doubt that you will.

Cherrie said...

This is a beautiful post. I feel the same pressure. Because of my RA I am forced to slow down. I am in the process of tying to get disability.
Thank you for this post,

Elizabeth said...

What a great post - so many truths.

Linda said...

I have to fight those voices all the time that tell me I need to accomplish a certain amount, to slow down and if I don't get it all done there is always tomorrow. Linda

Lisa in Texas = ) said...

Such a great post!
Have a great day!
Lisa :o)

Anonymous said...

Right on Brenda! It's about time somebody said that. God really is in the details.
My wakeup call was when a (whatever) was found in my breast. Non-malignant, thank God, but it did get me thinking about what's really important in life and about all the blessings there are. i.e. God, Family, friends, home, my cat, etc. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding us that the "they" is most often inside our own heads. "They" tell me it's not right to be happy or enjoy the moment when there are so many crises looming on the horizon. I'm enjoying your small tasks vicariously and now will go to take up some of my own.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, Brenda. Very helpful to remember that "they" are most often in my own thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Brenda ~ I have enjoyed all that you share...this being my first time to comment though! You have shared such simplicity and such "charm" in our being the keeper of our home...such special tasks to tend to that make our home say "welcome"...please come in and sit a spell...relax and find peace here! Thank you for sharing from your heart! Simple blessings! Teri

Kelly said...

Amen, Brenda!