by Monica Steely
The boys upstairs play video games and sounds of laughter and cheers and quality time waft down from the staircase. My girl is doing homework and nuzzling the dog in her favorite sweats and sweatshirt. Candles are flickering, smells of vanilla and fall spreading through the house.
I’m in yoga pants and a baseball tee, and it’s my third day without mascara. It’s my second day without evening plans, or mid-day appointments, or meetings, or practices to run to. It’s the first day there was actually, unbelievably, a chill in the air. The sky stayed gray and the leaves were bright orange and yellow, as if God almost purposely created my perfect fall day.
The dishwasher is filled, pots and pans drying on the stovetop (my favorite kitchen clean-up cheat), the counters freshly sprayed and I’m in the process of wiping them down when I notice it. The feeling of fullness and contentment. The feeling of satisfaction and comfort. The feeling of (dare I say it?) joy. The feeling of returning, of coming back to awareness, back to myself.
The feeling of home.
In our (scratch that, my) excitement of being back in a city where everything is at my fingertips, it seems I secretly told myself that there was a contest to see how much I could fit into our first few months. I subconsciously believed that because I could do anything I should do everything – I should go everywhere and reconnect with everyone and fill up more than two nights a week with activity, because I can! Because everything’s so close! Because it’s only 15 minutes away and not an hour and a half! And so the nights filled up and the days filled up and there was always something to do. It’s okay that some weeks will look like that – some will have to. But not all the weeks. Not 12 of them in a row.
My excitement blended into activity which blended into busyness which blended into striving and suddenly, one day, I stopped being and I lost myself. I left her standing at the corner of Still and Free right when I was beginning to like her the most.
It’s easy to forget the core of who we are and who we’ve always been. I don’t mean we forget that we’ve always been and always will be a beloved daughter of God (even though we are). But rather, I mean we forget the weird, quirky core He gave us that maybe others don’t have or even understand:
- That makes me a slow processor, a mull-over-er that thinks through all the sides and angles and even understands them
- Who needs about eight hours of sleep a night, nine would be great and 10 is the dream and my family knows if I only get six, y’all best stand guard.
- Who craves solitude and quiet and space to not just hear her thoughts but to fully think them through.
- Who needs time for her mind to wander and explore the random dirt pathways and trails her brain tends to take her, for those are the places the sparks of creativity burst into flames.
- Who is easily overwhelmed by an onslaught of emails or texts or calls and has to disable badges and notifications, mute group conversations and turn off the ringer in order to feel calm.
- Who loves to explore and process life through words, fingers flying over a keyboard or with a mechanical pencil in hand (always, only) in a special journal with the right kind of lines.
- Who won’t fight for space to be heard in a crowd, but will shrink back and in and wait for the one person that will listen.
- Who sees all the million shades of gray and less the solid black-and-white.
- Who wears the struggles of loved ones almost like a garment at times and needs to pray and process them off of her shoulders and onto God’s.
- Who plans way in advance for the sake of sanity.
That girl can’t hang with five or six or even seven full days and nights of busy. That girl ends up imploding. I forgot that girl is me, and therefore I forgot God. I forgot Home.
I wasn’t giving the first of my time to the Creator, and so the wild spiral was quicker to unravel. The correlation between stillness and freedom is downright supernatural, if you want to know the truth. It’s one of those upside-down principles. Blessed are the meek; to gain life, lose it; to be free, still yourself.
And I had forgotten that home for me looks a lot more like wide open spaces and less like activity. I forgot that home looks like dinner together at the table as we share a mediocre meal I cooked in chairs we need to replace. That home is less time out and more time in, and my people sprawled on couches as we laugh at our shows together.
I forgot that I hear God better when I live freely in the quirky way He created me. That I can discern His voice when there’s margin. That my mood is better when there’s white space and that my family is happier when I don’t wear mascara every day. I forgot that the first sign of my lack of stillness is always my mood. It’s always my mood.
Stillness isn’t just so I can know He is God, it’s so I can know who I am in relation to Him, too. That even with my weird, quirky core and all, I’m created in His image and fearfully and wonderfully made. That maybe that odd core of mine is the balancing center for a family that is bombarded daily by pressures to Do more! Be better! Look cuter! Achieve, achieve, achieve!
Maybe by forcing myself to remember who I am, I’m giving my people permission to be who they are, too.
As I leave the pots and pans air drying on the stovetop, strains of Christmas music lingering in the kitchen (yes, already, don’t talk to me about it), I wipe my hands on the kitchen towel and inhale deeply – from my core – and smile. I realize suddenly that my thoughts had been drifting down those dirt paths and trails for the past three days and nights. I discovered words and phrases had been forming into sentences and was hit with an overwhelming desire to put them to paper before they drifted away.
Hello, old friend.
It’s good to be home.
“So she had this moment of self-reflection: ‘What am I doing here?’… So she got up and returned to her father. The father looked off in the distance and saw the young woman returning. He felt compassion for his daughter and ran out to her, enfolded her in an embrace, and kissed her.” (Luke 15:17 & 20, gender changes mine)
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