Life gets busy. The pace seems to be dizzying some days and weeks. I looked at the calendar yesterday and could not believe that it is almost October. And while the sunlight tells me it is autumn, I cannot help but wonder where summer has gone? Did I sleep through it? Perhaps I was living in a haze of stress and to-do lists? I always think of how we need to slow down on Sundays. Mass is not something we check off of a list. Now that I am teaching junior high religious education, Sunday mornings are, well, busy.
Maybe it is that I live in the South now, but I find a great deal of romance in the idea of a lazy and slow-paced Sunday. A time for picnics on the church lawn, fishing poles, walks, or long country drives after Mass. During the colder months, I like the idea of making a hearty meal of roast and vegetables that is topped off with one of my homemade pies. Too bad it is more alive in my imagination than reality.
We get distracted. There are only two weekend days and Saturday is always full of jobs around the house or activities somewhere else. Those jobs tend to spill over into Sunday, especially during the months we are growing a garden. We just bought our home in May, so it has been a whirl of projects and issues that come up as we get to know our house that was built in 1947. That is old by American standards, which I always find amusing after my time living in Europe.
Speaking of Europe, while the Europeans have largely abandoned their Christian heritage and faith, they still know how to take it easy on a Sunday. When I lived in England, I always enjoyed the slower pace. The shops don’t open until late, if they open at all. The pubs tend to serve one item and that was a roast with vegetables and Yorkshire pudding. It was a good day to brave the weather, or enjoy the sunshine for the two weeks a year it stayed out, and go for a country walk. There are thousands of country trails in England. You don’t have to worry about getting shot walking on a trail through someone’s property. There is a serious lack of “Do not trespass” signs in that part of the world.
I need and crave timelessness. Matthew Kelly talks about it in some of his talks. He talks about how our relationships with people and with God thrive on timelessness. If I could pick one love language that heals and soothes me most, it would be time. My husband and I fell in love during months of timelessness. We did not focus so much on the tasks we had to get done, as much as we focused on each other. We would wander the mountains of North Carolina on a Sunday afternoon after we went to Mass together at our beautiful mountain parish. The one we were married in. My eyes were opened to the grandeur of autumn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I am a native Montanan so I am used to the pine and stone of the Rocky Mountains. I had never seen so much color explode on a mountainside before. We found hidden waterfalls and were awe-struck by God’s creation. But, life happens.
We moved away from Boone two weeks after we got married. We moved to the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where the Parkway is a good 45 minutes away rather than 10. Phil started working. I got pregnant with our beautiful daughter. Parenthood began. Our priorities shifted. We had more to accomplish and little time to do it in. Timelessness vanished all together.
The moments I am most at peace are when I stop and truly watch what is going on around me. When I look at the way the wind blows through my daughter’s hair. Or how the golden light illuminates her face. Those times when I look in my husband’s eyes or admire his face. Perhaps counting my gifts is what is helping me to do that more? Looking for moments of blessing in my ordinary day. I tend to live on autopilot way too much. My brain is always humming with thought. I could power an entire city with energy if we could harness my constant thought-processes. I get lost in my day and before I know it months and years have passed.
After Mass yesterday, my husband suggested that we go look for a new truck for him. His died completely two weeks ago, which has added to our financial and emotional stress in what has been one of the most stressful years of our lives. It has been one thing after another: medical issues, a serious miscarriage, the near death of a friend, the sudden death of a friend, major costs on the house, and now the need for a new truck and a heating system all in the same month.
At first I was resigned to another Sunday of shopping and busyness. We started driving around. Looking for a cheap used pick-up is a daunting task. It is hard to find used vehicles anymore thanks to the joke that was Cash for Clunkers. We drove through a few car lots and then we went to buy me a Pumpkin Spice Latte. We then found ourselves heading outside of Roanoke onto the road that leads to Bedford and Lynchburg. It turns into a lovely country road. And something wonderful happened. In our process of looking for a pick up, we started a country drive just like we used to do. Our toddler slept and I looked out the window at the green countryside that will soon be alive with fall color. Even though we were looking for a truck, we were able to just drive and enjoy the day. The truck became secondary. Timelessness.
I felt like I could breathe softer again. I looked around me and enjoyed the moment. I was not thinking about the bills, dishes, laundry, or to-do list for the week. We stopped at a garage sale and found a cheap St. Francis statue. We had been looking for one for a while, but they can be expensive. It needs a paint job, but it was the right price for us and our garden. We drove through historic Bedford and took our time. And by the grace of God, we found that pick up we needed. I knew right away it was a blessing from God. It was the right price, a Toyota, and it was well taken care of by the owner who is now deceased. I was at total peace with buying it for my husband. We could pay cash for it and still afford to pay cash for our heating system. Our savings is depleted, but our needs are met.
I want us to recapture the restfulness of Sunday. I know that it can be a struggle. Americans live at warp speed and it makes it difficult to slow down and keep the Sabbath. While going to Mass is our duty and privilege, I think that God also knows that we need a break. We need time with our families. We need times of rest, even if it is just watching football. We need timelessness. I know that the number one thing that gets in the way of my prayer life is my lack of timelessness. It is much harder for me to focus on my Bible, Rosary, Divine Office, or simple prayer when I feel like I am going to get interrupted or cannot stop thinking about what needs to get done. All relationships need periods of freedom. That includes most especially our relationships with God, our spouse, and our children.
One of the amazing blessings of the day was that it made me more focused on Christ, my vocation, and my prayer life. I thought about the blessings of the day and was truly thankful. I spent time in prayer and then I cleaned the kitchen and folded and put away laundry. Those are tasks I usually would have left until today, but by truly resting, I felt rejuvenated and I could serve my family better. That meant that I did not start this week already feeling overwhelmed. Do you have periods of timelessness in your life? Make Sunday a day of rest and peace for your home. It will bring abundant blessings to your and yours.
Some of the things that I am thankful for these days:
My bossy toddler
Wide open country lanes
The wind in my daughter’s golden hair
The way my husband’s eyes light up when he smiles
An affordable truck for my husband
My junior high students in religious education
Michaela sitting still for most of Mass
An encouraging word from my Dominican friends
Christ helping me deal with my fears