During this season of Lent, I am discovering the power of seeking refuge and solitude in bolstering my own mental health. While I have always spoken of the value of self-care, I admit that I don’t always practice what I preach. In the midst of a life that is much too busy, and many times much too stressful, I find that I often move from one thing to the other, without making time for intentional reflection or appreciation for the moment I am living. Put simply, there are times when the moments of my life seem to blur together, melting into each other, without a period or comma between them. I am trying to learn that there are times when I need moments of solitude and peace in which I can seemingly make the world slow down, if only just for a moment.
These past few months have been more stressful than usual at my house. My son will be graduating from high school in a few months, so our days have been filled with college applications and scholarship information. My daughter will be graduating from elementary school and we have been waiting to hear which middle school she will be attending. As her school year winds down, her calendar is filled with testing and celebrations. As for me, I am hoping that my final exam in seminary goes well and that I will finally graduate in May, adding yet another celebration to the family calendar. These are all wonderful life moments filled with excitement, stress, uncertainty, and busyness. However, as I deal with each overlapping piece of these various events, it often seems as if my life is racing beyond my control, moving along at a pace that is much too fast.
The other day, I was sitting in my backyard with my laptop open and my books spread around on the patio table. I was deep in thought about the revisions I was making on my final paper for seminary, when I became distracted by the incessant chirping of birds filling the trees around me. This was not simply background noise. These birds were demanding to be heard. I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing to appreciate the different varieties of birds that had filled my trees and the songs that they were singing. I realized that I was alone at home, something that does not happen very often. It was a rare moment that was entirely mine. In that moment, I became aware that I needed to give myself permission to stop what I was doing and allow myself time to just be, in the company of the beauty that was surrounding me. For those few moments, life seemingly slowed down. I had found refuge in plain sight, in my own backyard.
We often speak of Lent as a time to give up something that is meaningful to us. This Lent I am finding that my spiritual journey has led to me to the power of adding on. In that moment in my backyard, I realized that I needed to become more intentional about finding time for solitude. I needed time for reflecting on my life, adding punctuation where there was once only a blur of activity. Perhaps by adding on, I am finding a way to give up some of the stress my busy life brings, not only for a season, but for my life.