Christmas can be joyous without being happy. It can be special and full of well-spent time without being a “moment to remember.” I struggle (a lot) with expectations from others and myself during the holidays. (Will the kids really be scarred for life if I don’t make fudge, frosted Christmas cut-out cookies, AND gingerbread men this year?)
Honestly, this year, it’s not about the sweets. I could care less about them, although I know I’ll be baking at some point.
This year, I feel like I need to do something to center my joy around Jesus. Actually, I just need to recognize that I don’t need to do anything; Christmas has always been centered around Jesus no matter what I do.
I’m considering starting a series on this blog, feeling my way through the holiday season, searching for truths that have always been there, but are waiting for me to discover them.
But, I’m not committing myself. This has been a year of saying no to many things. And yes to other things I’ve never said yes to before. This year is a little like the drive home from the grocery store yesterday afternoon. The sunset was beautiful orange-peach streaks in the west. I was alone, quiet, physically restful. Yes, I can enjoy this even though my mind was not emotionally restful. Something was restful! And that counts for something. Yes.
Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety, but many of the homeschooling moms I have met, myself included, find themselves more likely to fall prey to one camp or the other. When we are weak in virtue, we inch toward vice. A curriculum that leaves no room for the soul to breathe will suffocate, but so will the absence of purposeful and intentional teaching. If we are doing our children a great disservice by shuttling them through a set of books and plans without consideration for their souls, we are doing them an equal disservice by ignoring their formation and leaving our children to form themselves.
— from Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015), pg 7
I like the image of a pendulum, moving from the vice of negligence to the vice of anxiety. The virtue we need to create balance in our lives, rest, is found right in the middle.
Rest, in this sense, is not relaxing on the couch. And anxiety, in this sense, is not collapsing on the couch because everything is too much for you. Negligence, however, might be one of those. Rest is looking to God for direction, and then knowing that you’re going to fail, and then also knowing that it’s okay because God has everything under control. (See the pendulum in that sentence?) I’m full of pendulum movements. It’s called mood swings! But God remains at the center, fully in control of my life, my kids’ lives, my family, my homeschool, my everything. He is there making sure I don’t go flying off the end into utter ruin.
I read a strange novel called Transit by Rachel Cusk (2017). The woman the book is about is a writer and mother and recently bought a house that needs lots of work. But the story takes place in a series of long conversations the woman has with people she meets. In these conversations we find out about the lives of these other people. This narrative style is disconcerting because it turns the spotlight on these other people and away from the main character. However, the main character does have a problem, and the problem itself seems more menacing because of the backhanded way it is confronted in the book. The main character lives her life forward, but I get the impression she has been hurt too many times and is now only living, stubbornly sticking to her miserable, broken house, and allowing her own flat emotions to slide beneath the much more passionate stories of her friends and acquaintances.
I have heard it is wrong to give up and withdraw from your own life. I have heard we must keep doing the right thing, keep actively loving and drawing nearer to the people God has given us to love. And yet, I see the ease of living in a lower key and allowing other people’s dramas to upstage your own. To cease caring, at least for awhile. The other way, the righter way, is rough and choppy, bouncing back and forth between gaining trust and losing trust in people. That way has the disadvantage of wearing a person out. I can’t entirely assure you that it is better. Will God be glorified if I fall down under the radar, quit trying so hard to live the right way, just let life slide a little from under my feet? That sounds so shifty and criminal, but maybe it’s just… rest.
Last night’s sermon was about rest on the Sabbath day. I wanted to hear the sermon, so I did the very unrestful thing of getting my three children out of the muddy outdoors, into the bathtub, into clean church clothes, into the car, into the back row of church, and then attempted to keep the two oldest from whispering and poking each other while the youngest slept curled up on my lap (and she’s pretty big). I realized at one point that I was listening to the preacher, my eyes on him, while I was shaking my head at the kids, who were trying to tell me something. I hope he didn’t get discouraged. His sermon was good.
I learned that rest does not equal leisure. Rest is what heaven will be like. Our Sundays should be about glorifying God, exalting Him with our praise and worship. Sundays are different from the other days of the week. We should honor them, keep them holy, set apart. There are ten commandments, not nine. One of them is “keep the Sabbath day holy.”
Although I did not take notes, and I didn’t catch everything, I did catch the phrase, “Sundays should not be a burden.” That’s where I’m wrong. Sundays are a burden to me. They are difficult. Because my husband is at church in the morning, he has more chores to finish in the afternoon, so he’s out almost the whole day. He doesn’t get home in time from milking to go to night church. And I’ve been raised to not do extra work on Sundays. I don’t do laundry, I don’t dust or vacuum. If something is dirty (and I have time to notice dirty things) I can’t clean it until Monday. The kids get restless. I read a lot of books, but we don’t do school stuff. I make popcorn on Sundays. Popcorn gets all over the carpet. Mostly, we get exhausted trying to keep Sunday different from the other days. It doesn’t feel restful at all. I don’t like Sunday afternoons.
So there it is. My Sunday joy gets squashed when I’m at home. I will say that church is fine. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing there. I suppose I was hoping this sermon would solve my problem. It didn’t. However, I do have some more thinking to do about the difference between rest (as in relaxing) and rest (as in the heavenly sense).