At Christmas and always. His peace.
More than anything else, home should be peaceful. Children thrive in a place where they can hear the sound of their own thoughts and ideas and just be together with loved ones. This scene in the painting below (I found it at Homespun Wife, who found it somewhere else) shows that kind of quiet of contentment, without the scream of news or entertainment media telling everyone who they should be and what they should think.
I can’t stand television and radio anymore. My hearing loss is one reason. Before my newest hearing aids, it was getting to the point where I couldn’t hear it anyway over the incessant ringing. With my hearing aids, everything is borderline too loud, so the sound of radio and TV is jarring and shrill. I get tired of it almost immediately.
I like quiet where I can think and where I can write or read. When I showed Tom this image, he said, “I doubt that very many homes look like that anymore.” I think he’s right. But nothing prevents us from creating islands of calm and togetherness in our homes. Give technology the boot evenings. Children love to draw or look at books if you give them the tools., and they love to show you what they are creating Just being together to talk is my favorite way to spend time with Tom, even when there are long pauses. In a world of insane hyperactivity and meaningless noise, it is a healing thing for all of us.
P.S. To the unknown painter of this, thank you. What a gift to people to be able to portray scenes of homey and lovely things that we can relate to. Contemporary and postmodern art fails to connect with the everyday person and is now reserved for elitists who claim to derive meaning from the incomprehensible and ugly. They are welcome to it. I’m grateful to those who use their artistic talents to create things that are meaningful and uplifting. The need for that is greater than ever.
As work on the new house proceeds, occasional breaks are called for. Our yard is in two parts, a large stretch on the outside of the white picket fence, and the other, smaller part inside. The inside part with the flowers is my new sanctuary. I sat there the other night thinking how much work the previous owner, an older lady who passed away, had gone to to make such a beautiful place. It gives me pleasure to think I will take good care of it for her.
Emily and I were sitting on the patio in late afternoon when a little chipmunk came running under the fence with something in his mouth. He stopped and looked around sharply and seemed satisfied that all was well in his garden. He went under some low hanging leaves in the border and was scurrying around there for a while. He peeped out at us several times, his cheeks still bulging. We sat quietly and just watched him. We had invaded his space, but we wanted him to know we were friends.
A robin flew down from the towering pine tree in the neighbor’s yard and landed on the fence. There are baby birds in the birdhouse on the outside of the fence. Yellow finches dart around the flowers and back out again, a bright flash of color.
The beds are getting choked with weeds, and thistles are springing up all over. Outside in the front part of the yard there is a large mound with roses and peony bushes, and the thistles are taking over. I’m leaving shortly to get a start on the weeds. They have a way of taking over if not addressed promptly.Just like in human souls and minds, it occurs to me.
So many thoughts run through my mind walking around and looking at the new yard. Tom is taking a tree down in the front that effectively hides the front of the house. He has plans. Last night we were looking at things at the garden center, and he told me what he wants to do. It is going to look lovely when he’s done.
Tom bought me a fat little cherub for my new garden. Emily was concerned that the baby angel might be lonely after dark outside all by herself. I assured her that the little chipmunks and other small creatures would make sure the cherub would have company.
I hope to get a bird bath this week for the birds seem to want one as they fly over and stop on the top of my fence. They’ll hopefully soon have one, so they know that friends, big and small, are welcome in our little sanctuary.
Gardens are a lot of work. Tom is mildly amused at my zeal, but pleased at my new interest. He bought me garden gloves and a wide-brimmed hat for the sun. I’ll be the goofy garden lady with the straw hat in our new neighborhood.
One other blessing occurred yesterday that I am hugging to myself this morning. Emmy was zooming around our driveway on her pink scooter at the new house, and I was emptying our van out with some boxes, when I heard a voice. A neighbor couple on bikes were at the end of the driveway. With them was a little girl the very same age as Emily on her bike. We had a really nice introduction and conversation. They have already invited Emily over to play and to go raspberry picking with them. There are no words to describe what this means to me, as Emily has had a shortage (as in none) of neighborhood friends, siblings or cousins her age that she can play with on a regular basis. She is always alone. The mom explained that her daughter is in the same situation with only older siblings and no sisters. It sounds promising.
I’m headed off shortly to do battle with the thistles. The ornery things think they’re boss or something. My birds and the little cherub await, just beyond the fence, inside the gate.
I first shared this post back in January of 2013. Due to several conversations recently with friends, I felt the need to re-run it here at the Hope Blog. If you are weary beyond words or discouraged, I hope it is a blessing to you.
On the south side of the road, a small, weathered sign in the shape of a T has the words “Sanctuary” on it. That’s where you turn in.
You’ll drive a good half a mile on that rough dirt road that turns and twists slowly up a hill. The trees crowd on either side and the sunlight is filtered through the leaves as you travel along. If your windows are open, the air is riotous with the sound of songbirds.
Then, suddenly, you are at the top of the hill and there you will see your destination. There stand several buildings made of the creamy field stone the area is known for. The structures look so solid that no wind could ever blow them down. The prettiest of them all, overlooking the lush valley down below, is a chapel building with a small steeple and bell tower. There are flower beds along the brick walkway, and in summer they are alive with color.
At evensong, when the sun begins to sink, the bells in that chapel can be heard for miles. There is a carillon that each evening chimes sweet peace to all of God’s creatures. Whether it is heard by the sheep dog resting on the porch of the frame farmhouse down the road or the family eating dinner in the valley, the sounds of those bells are carried on the gentle evening air.
A woman named Joan runs the place. She is a woman in her early 60’s, vigorous, with rough hands that are chapped with constant work. Her silver hair is short, because she has no interest or time to deal with it, her skin is tanned and shows the effects of much sun, but she has light blue eyes that are kindly and they nearly always have a smile in them.
There is a library in one of those stone buildings. A carpenter volunteered and put in shelves from ceiling to floor. Over the years, the book collection burgeoned and grew until Joan had to stop taking donations. The large fireplace, made of the same stone, was put in later. On cold winter nights, the library is as snug a haven as you could possibly find. Joan’s yellow lab likes to lie there on the rug before the fire, toasting himself, the firelight flickering on the backs of the books.
The green hills that shimmer in the summer heat are still with the silence and cold of winter. A different, frozen kind of peace descends. Footsteps and sounds seem muffled as the snow and ice blanket the beauty that lies in waiting.
Joan was once terribly hurt in her life. She was so hurt that she nearly gave up, turned her back on her faith and died for any useful purpose.
Then she inherited money and bought an old property up in the hills. Aroused from despair and defeat, throwing off her depression and her sense of worthlessness, she determined to provide a haven in the war zone of life for women who needed a sanctuary.
She made up her mind that she would never market her safe place. God would bring those who needed a rest, and she would provide it. And one by one, injured sheep make their way to her refuge. Sometimes they walk, sometimes they have to crawl.
She does not preach to them. But she prays for all who come. She offers her ear, her experience and plain comfort from the Bible.
Most of those who come are refugees from spiritual abuse. Like Joan. Sitting in her study, she listens to stories that are enough to make the angels weep. She sees the damage and the scars carried by those who have been nearly killed off by spiritual leaders, husbands, family members wielding the name of Jesus. Some are those suffering great loss or from long term, unresolved stress in their lives and who are nearly unable to function in their everyday lives as a result. They open their hearts in this safe place, sometimes for the first time.
And there, those same hurt people are given the opportunity to rest. It flows to them from the Scriptures and hymns at evensong, it shines down from the glories of God’s creation, where the billions of stars are not obscured by harsh city lights, it comes to them sitting on the swing where the small creatures can be heard rustling in the grass as they go about their nightly affairs.
Rest comes in the quiet of rooms, where in their plainness and simplicity, the Bibles on the nightstand can be opened without distraction, and prayer can take place without the oppression of digital noise that permeates everyday life.
Rest comes in healthy meals and walking in the hills, the sunshine warming backs and necks made stiff with stress. It comes in not having a schedule screaming its demands and all the expectations rising, exhausting and depleting.
Sometimes visitors stay a day. Others stay for weeks. When they leave, they give a donation of what they can or sometimes they donate their time to help work on the property in exchange for the kindness of their host.
There is a plaque in the narthex of the chapel, just to the left of the door.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” ~ Jesus
The need for peaceful interludes in our lives can’t be underscored enough. Our modern life has many running on fumes. For those facing truly devastating losses and long-term struggles, time away from it all isn’t just a want, it is a need. The place I have described above is fictional, part of a writing project. I thought I would share it on the Hope Blog because it describes what so many women today would love to have–time away to find quiet and peace.
We may not be able to get away, and there may be no place like the Sanctuary in real life where we can physically get strength and perspective back, but all of us can cultivate a sanctuary in our hearts, a place where we won’t let anything or anyone disrupt the peace of God. The evil of our day wars against this peace. It is a real commitment to keep hearts and minds fixed on truth, on the real Jesus, not the brutal counterfeit offered up so often today in His name.
I love this piece by Secret Garden. The nature photography in the video is very restful to watch. Watching it, I find my own sanctuary.
I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
~ William Butler Yeats
This post is dedicated to all who are sad, exhausted, hurting, confused and grieving in what seems like an endless desert of pain.
He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; and He shall gather the lambs
with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are
with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
Come unto Him, all ye that labour, come unto Him that are heavy laden, and
He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He
is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Pastures Of Tender Grass And Waters Of Rest
By F.B. Meyer, from The Shepherd Psalm
“He maketh me to lie down
In green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
In this sweet pastoral symphony, the first verse gives the air, when it tells us that there is no want to the man who lives under the shepherd care of God. In the succeeding verses the harmony is worked out, and the music in all its completeness is rendered effectively.
The first want which, according to this verse, he who belongs to Christ shall never know, is the want of rest. This verse breathes the very spirit of rest, as is even more apparent in a more literal rendering of the words. It may be rendered thus: “He maketh me to lie down in pastures of tender grass: He leadeth me beside the waters of rest.”
What a delightful scene is thus conjured up before our fancy! It is the scorching hour of an Eastern noon. The air is stifling with fever-heat, and all the landscape is baking in the awful glare. The very stones upon the hills burn the feet that touch them. At such a time woe be to the flock without a shepherd; and to the shepherd who cannot find the blue shade of some great rock, the shelter of some bushy dell, or the rich and luscious pasturage of some lowland vale!
But there is no such failure here. See where the pellucid stream is rolling its tide through the level plain. Higher upward in its bed, when it was starting on its course, it foamed and fretted over its rocky channel, leaped from ledge to ledge, chafed against its restraining banks, and dashed itself into a mass of froth and foam. No sheep would have drank of it then; for the flocks will never drink of turbid or ruffled streams. But now it sweeps quietly onward, as if it were asleep, there is hardly a ripple on its face; every flower, and tree, and sedge, as well as the overhanging banks, is clearly mirrored on its surface, and every stone in its bed may be clearly seen; on its banks the pasture is always green and luxuriant, carpeted in spring by a thousand flowers; the very air is cooled by its refreshing presence, and the ear is charmed by the music of its purling waters. No drought can come where that river flows; and the flocks, satisfied by browsing on the tender grass, lie down satisfied and at rest.
We All Need Rest
There must be pauses and parentheses in all our lives. The hand cannot ever be plying its toils. The brain cannot always be elaborating trains of thought. The faculties and senses cannot always be on the strain. To work without rest is like over winding a watch; the mainspring snaps, and the machinery stands still. There must be a pause frequently interposed in life’s busy rush wherein we can recuperate exhausted nerves and lowered vitality. There is more permanence than many think in the commandment which bids us rest one day in seven.
But there is no part of our nature that cries more urgently for rest than our spiritual life. The spirit of man, like the dove, cannot always be wandering with unresting wing; it must alight. We cannot ever be travelling up the rugged mountain pass of difficulty, or traversing the burning marl of discontent. We must be able to lie down in green pastures, or to pass gently along the waters of rest. There are three things needed ere sheep or human spirits can rest. Continue reading