Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slowing Down to Savor the Moments

Tea pot and cup of Irish Breakfast Tea, photo by Susanne Barrett, copyright 2012

I am a busy woman. I have a husband and four children at home (ages 12-19). I home educate our three boys in grades 6, 9, and 11 (our daughter graduated from our home school two years ago). In order for the boys to get the co-op classes they need such as chemistry lab and basketball, I teach two classes twice a month at our co-op Class Days: 4th-6th grade medieval history and high school expository writing. I'm teaching 7-8 classes online to home schooling families at Brave Writer this school year, including two Shakespeare classes.

In addition, I have my own grading/tutoring/editing business. And in my spare time (ha! I try not to snort indelicately at the thought of having spare time!), I write. And write and write and write. I write here on my blog and on the many other blogs I keep up for myself and for various organizations, such as our local writers' workshop and our community garden, plus some fun fiction stuff that provides me with that creative release we all need so much.

So, yes, I am a busy woman.

And the one thing I think God is teaching me this year is to slow down and savor the moments.

"How to do this slowing-down thing?" you ask. Because I know you. You're just about as busy as I am, aren't you?

Well, a couple of things happened this past week to remind me of the grace of slowing down and savoring.

This past weekend I spoke at two workshops at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center's Spring Women's Conference; one workshop was on journaling, and the other on blogging. While I put a great deal of time and effort into the blogging talk (which can be read in the "On Blogging" page just under the header to my blog), strangely it was the journaling talk that spoke the most to me, and from what I've heard of the testimonies given at the end of the retreat, spoke to the women who attended as well.

Journaling--the art of writing in a journal (although I definitely included blogging as well) is becoming a lost art, going the way of a gracious cup of tea and the handwritten letter. To take the time at least once per week to pull out a pen (I write with a Waterman fountain pen which is much more comfortable for my hands which are riddled with rheumatoid arthritis) and a lovely journal and write what is on our minds and hearts provides us with the opportunity to slow down and savor. Whether we are recounting recent events or writing a prayer to God or gathering gifts for our gratitude journals, the gracious act of pen gliding across paper is soothing.

Journaling slows our dizzy minds and focuses our flitting thoughts. Whether our penmanship is copperplate or a scrawling mess, whether we write sublimely or misspell half our words, the act of slowing down to write brings us to a place of deep thought where we can actually hear the still, small voice of the One Who loves us everlastingly.

Another method for slowing down and savoring is through the age-old grace of tea. Never developing a taste for coffee although I love the scent of percolating java, I've always been a tea drinker. But each busy morning, I fill a 16-oz ceramic mug with water, heat it in the microwave for three minutes, then toss in a tea bag. That was my routine...until my birthday on Friday. You see, for Saint Valentine's Day, my husband and I left the kids with my parents, a long-standing family tradition as my parents provide pizza and ice cream sundaes while the kids create and decorate Valentine cards and sometimes ice cookies.

We had a lovely dinner, then decided to stroll the mall. My husband, being the chef of our household, insisted on stopping at Williams-Sonoma where we admired the many kitchen gadgets while secretly snorting at the prices. When I asked after a tea ball for steeping loose tea as mine had rusted out, we were directed to a small tea store. The scent was marvelous as we sampled different green, black, white, and herbal teas. But I quickly noticed the lovely glass tea pots which held a removable reservoir for loose tea; under each teapot was a glass bowl with a tea light candle to keep the tea in the pot above warm.

Guess what my husband gave me for my birthday? Yes, just such a lovely tea set. Now I can steep 40 oz of tea and keep it warm throughout the morning. And I can use a smaller, more gracious tea cup (with a saucer, even!) since I don't have to be tossing my mug into the microwave to rewarm my tea (and often forgetting and leaving the mug of now-cold tea in the microwave until dinner time). Sipping tea from a cup with saucer and pouring warmed tea from a lovely teapot is another way to slow down and savor the moment.

And, as I mentioned to both workshops this past weekend, slowing down to gather our many gifts into gratitude journals is perhaps the best way to slow down and savor the quickly-passing days. I've joined Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare 2012 on her blog, A Holy Experience, jotting three gifts into a journal each day to reach one thousand gifts by the end of 2012. As I ponder the day's prompt (today's is "a gift bent, a gift broken, a gift beautiful), I am forced to slow down, to think and consider, to let mind wander down old paths nearly forgotten, now made crisp and clear by remembrance.

Ranunculus in Window, copyright Susanne Barrett 2012

And keeping a gratitude journal in particular transports us into the lap of Our Loving Father as we say, "thank you, Daddy," for the many gifts He gives so bountifully, if we just slow down enough to truly see and take notice. My "gift bent" today shall be the ranunculus in my front window, a gift from our own church's women's retreat two weeks ago. The slightly-wilting petals caught the glow of morning light so beautifully this morning that its loveliness caught in my throat for a moment. I'm not much of a photographer (that's my husband's area of expertise), but I did attempt to capture the light on the ranunculus this morning through my lens. I shall also capture it, I pray, with words that will soften the image with the love of its Giver, its Creator.

If we would only slow down, savor, and SEE...that it's all because of Him, the One Who Creates and Loves and Came Down to us...the One Who Heals and Sacrifices, taking our flogging for us, taking our sin for us...the One Who Lives Always and Laughs Much and Loves Eternally...the One Who Loves even me, Loves even you, Loves even ALL.

Even when the bad comes and evil seems triumphant, when cancer strikes, when jobs disappear, when hunger gnaws, when tornadoes tear houses into scraps and families into grief. When all seems lost and useless, and pain is everywhere we look, and our hearts ache and throb with hurt--our hurt and others' hurt--He is still there in the midst of it all, loving us and comforting us and holding us to His Heart.

When we rail against Him, pounding our ineffectual fists against His broad chest and wailing the WHYs, He remains. He takes it all. He took it all. He shushes us with His comfort, then nudges us back into the world to do what little we can, to be His arms that hold and heart that breaks and hands that serve. And while the problem of pain is one we'll never be able to answer on this side of the veil, we can SEE Him at work, loving and healing, comforting and strengthening...if only we slow down and truly SEE and savor the moments of pain and joy and everything in between.

Slow down and Savor Him with me today. Taste and see that He is good. And let's journal and drink tea and watch Him at work, joining Him in love and service, this day and always.

My first post for the Write it, Girl Link-Up 

Slowing down to savor this day,

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