Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nourishment: On How to Find Quiet

Have you ever just craved nourishment?  How do you get it physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Because I have these questions and I want answers, I've asked a series of people to come in and share how they find nourishment.  Will you come along for the journey?  We will meet here every Thursday until the posts  run out.  Have something to share about nourishment?  Contact me and we will set a date!
Meet Michelle.  Oh, I'm sure you've seen her around the blog world, but if not, you are so in for a treat!  Michelle speaks from her heart, shares her struggles, and lives out her faith in such an authentic way.  Here she is...

I often daydream about indulging in a week-long silent retreat at a monastery. The thought of sitting alone in a tiny cell with a book and a window, or walking through lush, quiet grounds in early morning appeals to me.

I also frequently entertain a “someday” vision that includes an adobe bungalow in New Mexico, surrounded by fragrant lavender and unusual cacti, with a wrought-iron patio table balanced on flagstone, atop of which sits a sweating pitcher of iced tea and a paperback novel.

My husband once asked, “So am I anywhere in this someday vision?”

“Yeah, you’re there. Quietly there,” I answered.

Both visions include a lot of quiet and a lot of doing nothing. And the reason I’m pining for quiet nothingness? Because I don’t have any of that right now.

I’ve done the math. In a typical 16-hour day (rising at 6:00 a.m., going to bed at 10:00 p.m.), I enjoy a half-hour of quiet each day – that is, if I get up early enough to sneak downstairs before the kids awaken. 

This is “do-nothing” quiet – time for either reading the Bible or sitting. Not writing, not working, not socializing, not tweeting, not emailing. Just sitting.

A half-hour in sixteen.

It’s no wonder that I find myself praying more and more for rest these days.

The monastery retreat and the New Mexican adobe house are obviously out of the question right now, so I’m doing the next best thing: I’m spending 12 weeks doing a contemplative study in my own backyard, using L.L. Barkat’s book God in the Yard as my guide. I sit outside for at least 15 minutes every day, usually in the morning, and do nothing but absorb the natural surroundings and drift.

The problem with the study is that it’s making me crave more quiet time. Fifteen minutes isn’t nearly enough, yet I don’t know how to carve out additional pockets of peace in my day. With a part-time job, two children, a husband, a home, errands to run, laundry to fold, rugs to vacuum and a burgeoning writing career to consider, I don’t have a lot of wiggle room.

What I’m learning though, is that those pockets of quiet do exist – I simply need to snatch them up and use them wisely instead of letting them pass by, or worse, filling them with detritus – like extra cell phone calls or texts or tweets or emails. For example, I usually have 10 minutes or so between when I arrive at school and when I walk up the sidewalk to retrieve my kids. Usually I make a phone call, or walk toward the doors early to chat with the other moms. But what if, instead, I sat in the mini-van with the radio off and the cell phone on mute and just stared out the window?

I suspect I have more of these random pockets of time available here and there throughout my day. The trick is, I simply need to look for them, and when I uncover them, embrace the quiet they hold rather than rush to fill it. The monastery retreat or the Mexican adobe may be in my future someday, but for now, I will snatch bits of solace wherever and whenever I can.

What about you? How do you carve out quiet in your hectic day? 

Want to get to know Michelle even better?  Click here to bounce over to her blog, Graceful, and subscribe to and/or follow her posts.


  1. I am blessed enough to get up a full hour earlier than my kids for a quite time (one of the blessings of homeschooling!) and I find that if I hear their door open in the middle of my time I dismay. That is absolutely my one quiet time of then day from 7 to 11. I must have it to make it through the day half-way sane :)

  2. Half an hour out of 16 - that sounds about right. No winfer we feel imbalances ad off kilter sometimes. But you're right - there are pockets here and there. I find them in the car, even in the shower!

    It's also comforting to know that God can do more in those 30 minutes and brief pockets sprinkled throughout than we could ever ask or think. Blessings to you!

  3. I agree, grab 'em when you can! I used to be the mom that counted on running errands in between dropping a kid somewhere and picking them up--dance class, soccer practice, etc. Or even trying to go home in the middle just to unload the dishwasher or something. Then I figured out that if I just stay...I can an add a bit of peace in my life. The errands, the home chores still need to get done, but honestly I spend most of that time driving an extra trip anyway...

    So now, often, my car is my sanctuary. I bring my Bible and journal, or even a novel I am reading (not that I do that very often I'm afraid) and just sit. slow down--even for a half hour or hour. Breathe. I've found it totally worth it.

    In fact, my post yesterday was about a practice in my spiritual life these days, and my example was from one of my soccer practice quiet times!

    Another thing I've done during those times is walk. Leave the car there and walk around the soccer field, etc. Redeems the time instead of driving somewhere just cause I feel like I need to be doing something.

  4. Oh, I SO feel your pain :) Your day sounds a lot like mine too! Sometimes all I get is the 20 minutes in the shower and that's not a guarantee! I am learning, like you, that I have to be super intentional about carving out that time. My kids are finally to the age where I can close the door and put up the "do not disturb" sign for a good half hour... I just need to DO it! Blessings Michelle!

  5. I have plenty of quiet NOW, but I remember... one summer my husband was unemployed, we were house-sitting in a new city during the job hunt, our boys were young and rambunctious and I worried constantly about our hosts' furniture and stuff. One night as I was reading, a single half-sentence in Revelation made me burst into tears: "... there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." (Rev. 8:1)
    I couldn't wait.

    Remember: this, too, shall pass.

  6. I love your comments, everyone -- thank you so much for your sweet encouragement and other ideas for eeking out a bit of quiet in the chaos. And thank you, Jen, for your series on Nourishment -- a gift.

  7. Great encouragement, Michelle. As busy as we all are, the are pockets of quiet that we can find throughout our day. I will be more aware and look for those opportunities to just sit in silence. Thank you!

  8. I would love to be in that bungalow, too! I need to carve out some much needed quiet time. In the past 24 hours, I have gotten a ticket ( I still say that light was yellow), my husband's car died on the side of the road, and when we put the new battery in it someone (I won't say her name) put the battery in backwards and it blew up! Real Flames were coming out of the battery! Now the plumber has found roots in the line going to the septic tank, and they are ripping out part of the bathroom!

    I really need a bungalow day away! Give me a call when you move there, I'm coming for a visit!

  9. Loved getting to hear Michelle's heart. I'm off to check out her blog now. I hope your "lazy day" went well today, my friend!
    Looking forward to learning more on Thursday's here at Finding Heaven.
    Cindy :)

  10. For some reason, I resonated with the monastery vision. When I was unmarried and work in an office job downtown, there was a church I used to go into during my lunch hour sometimes and just sit and reflect. That's been MANY years ago!

    Although I do currently do have times where I can just sit and be quiet, I usually don't. I just try to "fill-up the time" doing something. Ugh! Maybe I need to remember those earlier years when I went to the church and just sat down upon the pews and rested.

    Good thoughts! :)

  11. Monestery out. Cozy cabin in the woods in.

    I love the term "pockets of quiet". Yes, they do exsist if I just let them.

    Love to you. Both of you (Michelle and Jen!).

  12. Doing a little catch up here...but, that monastery you speak of, Michelle, sounds like a dream...or a cabin...or a secluded day.


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