“Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves
so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.”

— Wayne Muller (Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives)

*Sailboats on Lake Norman

(I took this photo on New Year’s Day.  I just like the feeling of peace and light.)

Last week, after a particularly cold and wet walk in the rain with Isaac, I posted some photos and poetry celebrating the gifts of winter.  I hate to admit it, but I’ve never been much of a fan of January and February.  I don’t like being cold.  Period.  I like to be hot.  Sweaty even.  And January just doesn’t provide that for me.

But I have found my fair share of inspiration to help keep me warm this winter.  Much of it has been found snuggled beneath a ton of down comforters and quilts and wrapped head to toe in fleecy pajamas and wool socks.  I’m talking, of course, about the warm company of a good book.   Recently, I have become a fan of non-fiction, which is a pretty big departure from my usual reading material, but it’s been fascinating, and as it often seems to happen, one good book has led to another. Right now, I have seven books opened to different pages on my bedside table. 

I’ve loved crawling into bed in the evenings or on a Saturday afternoon and “holing up”.  Like the woodland creature I tend to be, I’m quite content to drag my stash of books into my nest and hibernate until spring.

Interested in crawling into your own nest for a few weeks?  Here’s what I’m reading right now.

I will tell you that most of them concern spiritual journeys and faith.  This is something I’ve long been interested in– my second job choice has always been some type of ministry–, but I’ve been immersing myself in it the past couple of months.

It began when my friend sent a copy of The Life You Save May Be Your Own,  an exploration of the writing and faith journeys of Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, and Thomas Merton.  It was, as he figured, a perfect combination of religion and Southern literature and would suit me well.  He was right.  The only problem is that, then, I became interested in learning more about Merton, someone who is often referenced in sermons and quoted but whom I knew very little about.  I went to the library.

There I found several volumes to choose from.  In light of my own increasingly regular prayer and meditation practice, I decided on The Inner Experience.

While I was there, I also found Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life.  I like Lucado’s work, and it is certainly a much easier, lighter read than Merton’s, so I picked it up as well.

And then I grabbed Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver because it can NEVER hurt for me to get some advice on having a Mary spirit.

I’m enjoying all of them, in bits and pieces, and which one I choose generally depends on the day, but mostly, I’m just interested in developing my spiritual life a little more fully.  I told a friend the other day that there are times when I want to step back from always being the teacher and would like to be a student once again.  I think that’s what I’m looking for right now– a chance to be taught rather than to teach.  We all need to refresh and renew our spirits from time to time.

I wrote a few weeks ago about my desire to lighten the load– this time of hibernation and learning has helped set that tone for me.

Clearly, I love to teach, both English and Sunday School.  (And it’s probably no secret that I also love to be in charge at times.)  But right now, I feel a deep need to be cared for, taught and fed.  To let others be in charge.  To go within.  To rest.

I’ve probably needed it for a while– like so many of us– but it’s one of those things that seemed like more trouble than it was worth.  “What will ___________do without me?”  Sound familiar?  Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt I’m the only one who gets sucked into the giving and doing and running around and who forgets to feed herself from time to time.  Am I right?

If you, like me, are looking for a little nourishment and would like to rest a bit, give yourself a real Sabbath.  A day of rest.  And don’t say I told you to do it.  This directive comes from a much higher power than me.

A good place to start might be Anne Lamott’s new book Help, Thanks, Wow,
which I also picked up through Amazon Prime the other day.  If you’re not familiar with Lamott, she is one of my favorite Christian writers, but I’ll also warn you that she is as liberal as the day is long (not a problem for some of you, I guess) and she lets the occasional curse word fly when she feels the need.  I like her because she’s real and she’s funny and she says a lot of things that really hit home for me.  I like her despite her political leanings, but then differing opinions have never really put me off people, especially when they get the important stuff and then share it in honest, often heart-breakingly beautiful ways.

I’ve also had more than a few inquiries about how I meditate, so I’m posting a link to my favorite guided meditation podcast, Meditation Oasis.  This was a great starting place for me when I first began learning about meditation.  I will tell you that not all guided meditations are for all people.  If you don’t like this one– the speaker’s voice or tone or content, for example– don’t let it discourage you from pursuing another meditation teacher or website.  Different things work for different folks.

I have spent a large portion of my life as the quintessential worry-wart, and I use meditation as a way to calm my mind and to help me turn off some of the constant chatter in my head.  I also use it as a way to quiet myself for prayer.  I spent a lot of years talking AT God during my prayers but very little time listening.  Meditation has helped me shut up long enough to hear some of the answers I would otherwise have missed.

Besides reading and relinquishing my role as the one who’s always in front of the group, I’m also embracing my role as a student by learning new things.  Rob surprised me recently with a violin.  I’ve said for years that I wanted to learn, so he bought one for me so I would no longer have an excuse.  Right now, I’m learning through online tutorials (and can get a way better sound than I would have guessed), but I’m in the process of finding a real teacher too.  I am truly a beginner on this one.

I’m also working toward that handstand I mentioned a few weeks ago (so far, I’m still on my forearms, but I can get all the way up now, so I’m making progress and getting stronger), and I’m working in my art journal more than ever.  The creative ideas are flowing, and while I don’t expect to make it as a professional artist, I love the act of drawing and coloring and cutting and pasting– just for the pure joy of it.

I’ll be posting more in the upcoming weeks on ways to find rest.  In the meantime, curl up with a good book this holiday weekend– even if only for a half hour before bed– and let your mind and body rest. 

Immerse yourself in something weird and wonderful and completely impractical– just because you want to.

Make like a bear this winter.

And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.