Saturday, January 3, 2009

My New Morning Place...

"If you are traveling for a length of time, or are in a 'temporary situation,' it is important to have things which will last. Continuity is important. To have familiar things around us is to feel 'at home.'.. We are not machines. We have sensitivity and creativity in some measure and in the midst of carrying out the purpose God has for us... we can still have the fulfillments which helps us to be balanced and whole creatures rather than torn, lonely, unbalanced, splintered people. As human beings we do respond in certain ways to certain *things* as well as to other personalities, and God... As adults, we should not ignore the fact that we... respond to familiar things in some measure... A continuity which can help in the midst of tremendous upheavals in life is a continuity of things with which ones is surrounded, even small things."
from The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer

In Mom's busy, active, full house of the past several weeks, I was able to find some quiet time here or there wherever it presented itself, but it's been impossible to settle into anything remotely resembling a morning routine. People were sleeping just about everywhere in the house-- on the couches and on the floors, even in the kitchen-- whatever places we could find to put our bedding. One of the little ones even slept on a foam pad on the treadmill! It was sort of like camping, and we all love camping, so it worked out just fine.

Most mornings I awoke early but I didn't want to disturb the others that were sleeping in the area, so I'd lie in bed and listen to the wind and rain and think and pray. Yesterday, almost everyone that was still here went home, so this morning, I was able to rise early. I checked my email just as I'm used to doing in the morning at home, cooked myself the oatmeal that I'd soaked overnight (and topped it with maple syrup as I always do), and brewed some coffee in my French press. I wrapped my quilt around me (the same one I always use in the morning at home), collected my journal, Bible, and devotional reading, and settled in at Mom's table.

I sat and looked out the window (a window that would be just outside the left edge of the above photo) across the lake. So pleasant. The sky was grey, and the lake was still, very unlike a few days ago when the stormy wind drove the water hard toward the northeast so that it lapped the shore and threatened to overtake the three boats that were lying there.

Sitting at the table this morning, I thought, I read, I prayed, and I wrote in my journal. I had my coffee press and cup beside me, and it struck me that even though my locale has changed from one pleasant spot (my kitchen table) to another (Mom's kitchen table), it's nice to be surrounded by a few of my own, familiar morning things. As Edith Schaeffer wrote in the quote above, this can provide a nice continuity that helps in the midst of upheaval.

Edith encourages women to make wherever they are a place to "reflect something of the artistry, the beauty and order of the One whom he is representing, and in whose image he has been made." Of course being at Mom's house is already sort of like being home, but, still, I'm 50 years old, and I've lived on my own since I was 18, so I've created my own way of living and my own daily routines and rituals. When I'm away from home I really need (and like) to keep some kind of continuity going.

Thankfully, I have a mother who understands and encourages this. She has gone out of her way to provide the space, means, and freedom for me to maintain my own routines, hobbies, and interests here at her house. She has given me places to put my things and has encouraged me to carry on with my days, doing all of the things I would do at home. She even put a little bookshelf near the kitchen table for me and told me to put out my books or whatever I wanted and to make myself at home in that spot. So I have. (Thanks, Mom.)

To go down a semi-related rabbit trail, in speaking of making wherever we are familiar and homey, Edith Schaeffer writes that we both create a physical environment and we are an environment. And an environment always says something to others about us, about our beliefs, about our values.

I'm thinking of my daughter, Aimee, as I write this. When Aimee was a teenager, she worked as a counselor at a church camp in the summer. The first time I visited her at camp, she showed me her cabin and introduced me to "her girls." The first thing I noticed when I entered Aimee's cabin was her cosy bunk. Her fluffy, colorful comforter and her cotton pillow case and sheets were cheery. On the ledge beside her bed was her alarm clock, some books, her journal, some Bible verses she'd hand-written, and some photos. It was all orderly (but not too orderly) and appealing. I commented on this to Aimee, and she said that all of the girls told her they loved her bed, and they were constantly asking if they could sit on it. I'm sure Aimee's homey environment comforted the young girls who may have been feeling twinges of homesickness that week. And I know that it definitely added to the enjoyment of Aimee's own time at camp.

Another thing Aimee did as a counselor-- something that also set a nice environment of home and goodness-- was to plan a nice "night out" for her girls. Each counselor was allowed to do this once a week. There was a place they could take their campers to watch movies and eat popcorn if they liked, but Aimee got permission to take her girls on a different kind of outing altogether. At dark, she told the girls to put on their pajamas and a warm jacket and to grab a towel and their pillow. She led them by flashlight into a dark field, and everyone laid on their towels to look at the stars. I believe they had some kind of snack or treat to eat when they settled in. Aimee said they talked and talked and had a wonderful time, and then she quieted the girls and read aloud to them (by flashlight) from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe until everyone was sleepy. She said that the girls absolutely loved their night out, and I have no doubt they did. It took time, creativity, and effort on Aimee's part, but it offered the girls something sweet and more lasting than watching a film, if you ask me.

We all set an environment every single day in our surroundings and routines and work and activities. And we are an environment in our attitudes and in how (or whether) we extend love and care toward others. The environment we create and the environment we are has a profound affect on those around us-- on us, on our families, on our friends and acquaintances, and on anyone with whom we come into contact.

In this new year, I pray that God will continue to work in my heart and life to change me. I pray I will be at least a little bit more like Him. More focused on others. More full of love. An environment that better reflects Him. I have much to learn.