for when your to-do list looms large

rest, peace, still, know, God, Psalms 46:10

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

July 10, 2012

rest, peace, still, know, God, Psalms 46:10

I brew a cup of Darjeeling, then slather a toasted sourdough English muffin with butter. I spoon on some homemade strawberry freezer jam, enough to drip down my chin when I take a bite. The white wooden porch swing hangs from rusted chains and creak-squeaks as I settle into it. It’s hot already, but it’s dry, and there’s a nice breeze from the west.

I plan to sit just long enough to eat. I have a lot to do, and sitting won’t accomplish it.

But I’m mesmerized by the way the light plays on the maples. The Russian olive smack in front of the porch, its leaves sway graceful. Its branches spread out over the roof and across the driveway, dip low as if to kiss the gravel.

An awe wave overwhelms me, and I must go touch these trees, rub roughness of bark, run fingers down fissures.

And, yes, hug them.

I marvel at the chlorophyll-laden organs and try to imagine the hidden work that hums in their waxy thinness, that vibrates within their veins. How did God think of photosynthesis? I wonder if He clapped His hands and giggled with glee as He completed each new work of art.

I wonder if He giggled and clapped His hands when He made me.

I notice more lately. Shapes and colors and textures and smells. A garter snake that slides along the foundation, a lime green tree frog that hides in the gate slats, a gleaming dark gray mouse that creeps from under the periwinkle carpet to sneak a black oil sunflower seed, a cabbage butterfly that flits over the side yard gone wild.

I notice how everything looks new when seen in new light.

I look out over the field. We need rain. The corn is dying of thirst. Dull green leaves curl in on themselves, some brown and brittle. Our shares pay the land taxes. I sense a fret rising.

And my to-do list looms large.

So I stop.

And inhale the fragrance of white jasmine, of fresh-planted patriot petunias.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

I’ve been pondering this verse for weeks—no, months.

This slowing down.

This stilling.

This stopping.

This being over doing.

This knee-sinking surrender to Elohim—Creator and Artistic Designer. He who reigns and holds the reins. Who infuses us with strength in our own thinness.

The Amplified says, “Let be and be still.”

Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God writes, “In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God.”

Rest.

I walk around this word. Reach out to caress its double meaning. It’s not just the rest He delights to give His beloved–the physical rest when we close our eyes or the mental and spiritual rest when we lay down our frets and just climb into His lap. But it’s, as Buchanan puts it, “the rest of God—the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.” The intimate and deeper knowledge of Him, all of Him, each facet of His being.

Buchanan goes on to say, “Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that, you need to be still.”

I think about all those errands and chores that beckon, but I brush them off with the muffin crumbs, crumple the napkin, and stack the dishes. I carry them inside and set them on the kitchen counter right next to my to-do list. I leave my cell phone there, too, and return to the porch. I give the swing a gentle push and curl myself into it.

And there I stay.

Still.

27 Comments

  1. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Of course He giggled and clapped His hands when He made you. Just as I did when I met you. This is lovely, Sandy.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I’m dizzy with joy knowing that we get to hang for a few days together on the Frio this fall. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Shelly Miller

    This is gorgeous writing Sandy. I felt the day sitting there with you on the porch (and I wanted to wipe your chin for you). I’m in this same place of wanting to linger, take it all in, noticing things like I was blind and now I’m seeing for the first time. And that Buchanan, he’s one of my all-time favorites. Love that book, I re-visit it often.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Thank you, friend. It seems there are a lot of us across cyberspace who are in this same place right now. It’s like a grand reopening.

      (You’re going to use my napkin, right? You’re not going to spit on your thumb?)

      Reply
  3. Deidra

    Oh my. And now I’m pushing up my own jaw.

    I’m reading Barbara Brown Taylor. She has me walking around my backyard in slow circles. Barefoot. Because, of course, every place is holy ground. If we only pay attention. I hope my neighbor, Maxine, understands this.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I can’t believe I wasn’t familiar with her until you mentioned her over at your place. Crazy, huh? But I’m reading her words now. And I’m smitten.

      I know the neighbors think my behavior is a little questionable when I move around the yard in my jammies snapping pictures of–I’m sure they have no clue. And Grace told me the folks across the yard have wondered if I’m taking pictures of them when my camera is trained in their direction. I’m glad I have people here in this space and others who understand me. At least partially. 🙂

      Reply
    • Diana Trautwein

      I so love BBT – and have for about 15 years. Read everything she’s ever published in book form. The two memoirs are grand. And the sermons? On my, just breathtaking. So glad some of my favorite people are meeting each other.

      Reply
  4. Diana Trautwein

    Oh, so lovely, Sandy. This is my cutting edge, so to speak. Stillness. Watchful attention. Calm, steady, quiet. Ahhh….

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      A calm and quiet center in the midst of what often feels like–is–chaos. That’s my longing.

      Reply
  5. alwaysalleluia

    Really really beautiful, Sandy. Wow. This really stirs things in me, I’ve been pondering for weeks. Thank you for this gift.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Thank you so much, Kris. Now I’m thinking of this big giant spoon that gently stirs our hearts, our souls–lets all that sediment settle to be sifted out. 🙂

      Reply
  6. dukeslee

    You are a GREAT writer. Keep sitting still. Really good stuff is coming out of that place. Love ya.

    Reply
  7. Megan Willome

    Wise, wise woman! You make rest sound like the most attractive thing in the world.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      It’s 11:30, and I’ve just come back from the fair, and hanging with an adrenalin-ride-rushed grand girl, and the most attractive thing in the world sounds like rest! 🙂

      Reply
  8. soulstops

    Such wisdom in your words…yes, to be still enough to receive what He longs to give us…and it is not sloth – I keep reminding myself…thank you, Sandra 🙂

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I keep reminding myself of that, too, Dolly. And yet how else can we expect to hear His still small voice?

      Reply
  9. Kimberly Sullivan

    And this is why I love your writing so much….you force me to see.

    Reply
  10. Martha Orlando

    When we are too busy for God, we miss out on the most important relationship in our lives. Thank you, Sandy, for reminding us to be still and know, once again, who He is.
    Blessings!

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      True that, Martha. How can we spill love if we don’t take time to fill? All our best relationships hinge on our relationship with Him.

      Reply
  11. Duane Scott

    Still.

    With you, I sit in this holy place.

    Still.

    With you, and God.

    Love this, love you, Sandra.

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      Even cyberspace holds sacred spaces. So glad we can sit together with Him because of it. Looking forward to that face-to-face meeting on the Frio or in Iowa or in Michigan or somewhere else. (Did you ever tell your mom I adopted you?)

      Reply
  12. Patricia W Hunter

    I’m so far behind in all of my reading, Sandra…and just now read this. So beautiful. Truly. xox

    Reply
    • Sandra Heska King

      I am, too, Patricia. So far. And I’m missing out. Thank you. xo

      Reply

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for when your to-do list looms large

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min
29