Thursday, March 24, 2011

Longing for Rest

Perhaps the most important lesson motherhood has taught me has been the need for rest.  From the earliest moments of pregnancy, my body began to demand rest (often in the form of passing out on the couch at 6pm and sleeping through until morning).  The most frequent advice I got as a mommy-to-be was to "sleep when the baby sleeps," and I certainly did, at every available moment, most often with my sweet little girl in my arms.  I still enjoy the (now rare) times when we can grab a nap together (whenever she can take time off from her princess duties, that is).

Two nights ago, as I snuggled our baby son during our pre-bedtime nursing session, my husband asked if I ever got tired of the demands of breastfeeding.  My honest answer was yes, sometimes it is wearying, but it is infinitely more rewarding.  (Stick with me; this is not a sermon on breastfeeding!)  As I thought about it, I told him that one of the reasons I appreciate the process of exclusive breastfeeding is that it requires me to stop everything several times per day.  Sometimes I am annoyed by having to stop in the middle of a task, and unfortunately, sometimes it takes me an embarrassingly long time to get back to finishing that task, but I am choosing to appreciate those moments.

Babies grow so quickly.  If you don't have children, you can't even imagine how blindingly fast those precious moments go.  And with this one, our second, I also have a three-year-old to consider, to pay attention to, and to parent.  It's work, believe me!  And although the constant demands of nursing a baby often interfere with my planned activities, I am learning to appreciate them because they make me stop, and for just a few moments, focus on my little boy, who won't be little for long.

 And just as my body often longs for rest, so does my spirit.  A full night's sleep is hard to come by with small children in the house, never mind a quiet moment for focused reflection and prayer!  And so last Saturday, Greg and I asked a friend to babysit for a few hours so we could get out of the house for a while to talk.  Our major topic was Sabbath observance, something that we have discussed before but never really practiced.  We set out some ideas of what such a practice would look like for our family, which things we would include and exclude, and some benefits we hoped to get out of it.  Our first Sabbath day will be two weeks from Saturday; we will have just returned from a week-long trip to visit family, so we will definitely need the rest.

Some of our parameters so far:
No electronics (tv/computer) (to encourage fully engaging the world around us)
No commerce (to resist the urge toward constant acquisition and consumption)
No housecleaning (to rest from our work and focus on enjoyment)
Family-centered activity (to celebrate our God-given relationships)
Emphasize creativity (to celebrate our Creator through art, gardening, knitting, crafting, building, etc.)
Simple meals free of whole foods (to respect our bodies and fill them with healthy ingredients)

I am excited to try this practice, and I hope it will become a valued part of our family life.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Waste Not

I can tell spring is coming, because I'm starting to get that stir-crazy, "I have to clean every closet and ledge and shelf right now" kind of feeling.  Spring cleaning has arrived... surely the warm weather will follow (eventually).

One of the things I am trying to do during my spring cleaning is to use the stores of certain items that we have built up.  For example, we have enough bottles and half-bottles and partial-bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and body wash that we could go without buying it for six months at least. I like variety, so when I get tired of a certain scent, if there is only a little left, sometimes I go ahead and switch to a new one, but because I feel wasteful if I throw out good product, I keep it in the cupboard, "just in case."  And then I often forget about it, and so the stock builds! 

A few years ago, when I was teaching the high school Sunday school class at our church, we covered the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in John 6.  Near the end of the story, Jesus tells the disciples to pick up the scraps; "Let nothing be wasted," he says.  That phrase lodged itself in my mind and has been there ever since.

I am trying to use up these stockpiles, because we don't need to keep umpteen bottles of body care products for no immediately obvious reason.  If I had to move, I would probably throw it all away, and what a waste!

The kitchen is another place where I have identified a lot of wasteful behaviors.  We in middle-class America have plenty to eat, so much so that we think absolutely nothing of throwing away perfectly good food.  I have tried to cut down on my wastefulness in this area.  One way was by composting our kitchen scraps, though I have to confess that when Joel was born in December, that went by the wayside.  But spring is coming, the compost bin has been moved, and I am ready to start again.

Another way I am trying to reduce waste is by using the ingredients I have.  Cooking, to me, is a creative endeavor, so making recipe substitutions and adjustments is in my nature.  But lately I am looking at buying food in a totally different way.  I used to think of what I wanted to make, then write out my grocery list.  Now I look at what foods and ingredients I have, decide what I can make with those, and the grocery list consists of whatever else I need.  More work, yes, but also more reward.

Sophie helped me make dinner last night (an unpopular Asian-inspired meatloaf; I liked it, but Greg and Sophie were not impressed)
And then there are the other creative pursuits: knitting, crocheting, sewing, gardening.  And this year, since Sophie is 3 now and has some fine motor skills I can work with, I have started doing some basic craft projects with her.  In all of these, I am looking for ways to use or reuse household items in ways that let me express my creative energies.
Sophie's first experience with painting; I found an inexpensive wooden jewelry box painting kit and let her do her thing.  It may have been the happiest I have ever seen her; it was definitely the most focused!

Oh, Spring!  Season of renewal!  Hurry up!  I know it's early, so I don't completely trust this warm spell we are experiencing.  My soul longs to see things green and growing again, to get a fresh start at becoming the person I was made to be!