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A place to rest

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At the beginning of August I usually tell myself that it’s still summer, that an entire month — a long month at that — still remains, that there is still time to rest. And even as I think the words, the spaces on the calendar begin to fill.  The early autumn hustle starts to encroach on the last days of heat and humidity, and I see the opportunity to really rest slip past us for another season.

Not this year. This year, I’ve spent the whole summer resting.

In the past 18 months or so, I published nine books. There were deadlines. At one point there actually were deadlines upon deadlines. I pushed and pulled, and I kept promising myself that just as soon as I cleared the last hurdle there would be work-life balance. Instead, there was utter exhaustion and an illness that mandated rest — a whole summer of rest.

Frankly, I was new to working full-time. I made a bunch of new-to-this mistakes. In hindsight, looming large above the mistakes is the one where I neglected home. I did the necessary household tasks (made simpler because I work from home), but the homemaking was most definitely unattended.

Home is where we rest. No home. No rest. Home anchors us. It’s not work-life balance we are after. Work is part of life. It’s work-rest balance we really want. We are a culture that celebrates busyness and lives in the tension of out of balance chronic fatigue. We tell ourselves that rest is the thing that we will get to as soon as our schedule opens up. Our houses become places we go between tasks or even places where we keep doing the tasks of the workday. Because everyone is in full productivity mode, no one is tending home. There is no haven, no place to truly sigh out the stresses of the day and be at peace in stillness.

Of course what seems like busy productivity is actually less productive in the absence of rest. It’s rest that fuels us, and it’s home that ensures we rest. The Lord calls us to rest. He commands it of us. We turn a deaf ear to his beckoning. Frankly, we sin in our obstinance, pressing on without pausing in the stillness that can foster what is holy.

This summer has afforded me time to consider anew the idea that the most valuable work we do is homemaking. It’s work that is not limited to women in families. Every adult who lives in a dwelling is called to contribute to the creation of a home. We all need to bother with homemaking.

When we intentionally create a home, we cultivate comfort and beauty in both environment and relationships. We care for ourselves and for one another by providing a place where rest can happen. There is under-appreciated value in creating a haven, just as there is under-appreciated value in rest. When we value our time based on its measurable productivity, we miss its worth.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time this summer folding sheets. It sounds a little ridiculous, but when I stop to consider why I have made and remade the many beds in this house countless times and why my linen closet is now magazine-worthy, I think it’s because I wanted the work of my hands at home to smooth out the wrinkles in my life, and I wanted to go back to the very basics of caring for my family and myself. This was the summer of crisp sheets and peaceful sleep. It was the summer of making — and appreciating — a soft place to land for myself. I needed a place to rest. I found it under my own roof. And I rededicated myself to shaping it and sharing it with the people I love.

This — the work of creating a place to rest — is the most important work I do. I intend to remember that.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019