Friday, July 9, 2021

To lie fallow in a frenetic culture

The moment hangs fresh with hope as I breathe in the scent of my piping hot cup of chai. The thrum, thrum, thrum of the washer beats steadily from the laundry room, the sole noise in the house where my children sleep in a miraculous, simultaneous nap. My fingers hover above the keyboard, I sip my tea, and I wait. Come, Holy Spirit, I pray, eager to see how the events of my life wind and twist together on the page. 

Nothing comes. 

Why is it that when I have a moment where I could potentially hammer out a thousand or so words on a manuscript, I sit and stare blankly? I punch on the keyboard, hesitantly typing out words, but they don't seem to fit. 

I long to grasp my thoughts on recent events, random musings, and experiences and type them up neatly, wrapped in a bow of clarity. Yet, as I ponder the wild wanderings of life, I find myself unable to do so as instantaneously as I would hope. I sit, frustrated, feeling like I've  wasted those precious, infrequent moments when "I could be productive." 

And then I read words of wisdom from educator Charlotte Mason, and though over a century has passed since she penned them, I feel as if she wrote specifically to me: 

"In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air." -Charlotte Mason, Home Education

In my parenting and educational approaches, I try to ensure that my children have time to rest and recharge. I believe that children need time to ponder, to imagine, and to think. I want to give my children that "quiet growing time," so that they can absorb God's beautiful world and soak up rich and wonderful experiences, with no required assignments and no strings attached. I want my children to simply be. "Let the child lie fallow till he is six," Mason insists.

Yet, even though I strive to protect time so my children may lie fallow, play, and enjoy life, I often forget to include myself in this. After all, couldn't we all use a "quiet growing time" at certain points? 

I suppose this is one of the motivations to attend retreats or go on vacations. We need some rest, and we want to recharge and spend time with the Lord and our loved ones. Yet, I find it very easy to embark on retreats, vacations, or into prayer time with an agenda. I want to relax and cultivate my relationship with God, but I also want to be able to come out of the experience with an idea for an article, a blog post, a newsletter reflection, a book chapter. Or, at the very least, I want to have gained a deep insight into my own life. 

When I don't have ideas or insights pouring in, I can feel frustrated, wondering if I've wasted my time. However, since reading Mason's exhortation, I'm trying to change my approach. Instead of following an internal pressure to be constantly producing and creating, I'm trying to allow myself time to ponder, to simply live, and to soak up the mysteries of life and God. 

What would our culture be like if we regularly made time and space to simply be? What would our conversations be like if we didn't force ourselves to immediately react, strongly and impulsively, to everything that happens? What would our lives be like if we gave ourselves a "quiet growing time" once in a while? 

Choosing to rest and be still in a chaotic, busy culture is a challenge, but I'm finding that those moments of rest and quiet are worth fighting for. 


  1. This perfectly sums up the past couple of months for me. I published a post on May 30 and then couldn't publish anything else until July 1. It was extremely frustrating after being used to publishing 2-3 posts per week and constantly feeling inspired. But it was my own fault haha...

    I was having some issues that were potentially demonic in nature and I listened to a podcast that said when that happens, one of the best tactics is to completely surrender your agenda to God. There's nothing that'll scare off evil spirits like God directly working in a situation. Amusingly, I had just done my first Holy Hour and had spent the entire hour filling a notebook with all the things I wanted and planned to do. So I burned those pages. The demonic stuff stopped abruptly but I also was forced to take a break from my feverish planning and doing.

    I think that I was lacking inspiration because God knew I needed to rest my mind. Good on you for being more perceptive than I am and coming up with that lesson during a single naptime >.<

    1. That is intense! Thanks for sharing your experience. It's so cool to see how God works!!!

      And thanks! Lest you think I was this perceptive in one naptime, though, let me reassure you that I have been thinking about this general topic for many months (maybe even a couple years?) and that naptime experience was two months ago. I've been sitting on it since, thinking and praying about it. Basically, "lying fallow" to learn and think about the importance of "lying fallow" :P

  2. This was SO good...there's so much pressure on us to create and produce WHILE we have young kids (the do it all mentality so prevalent in circles today!!) but I think you are on to something about just living and "lying fallow" during this season....or at the very least not pushing and forcing and pressuring ourselves.

    1. Thanks, Laura! I'm so glad you enjoyed this. More and more, I find that when I pressure myself and force things, it may seem okay at first, but eventually (usually sooner rather than later) things will go downhill and it's not healthy or beneficial for me or my family. I'm discovering that I can still utilize my gifts and produce/create in different ways, but it will naturally look different day to day, week to week, etc. and go a lot slower than it may for someone with older kids-and that's actually been really good, because it's teaching me patience and the importance of slow work ;)

      I even find that in some circles I encounter, the pressure isn't so much on moms of young kids to do "outside work," but it's on moms of young kids to do "all the things" for their kids-create elaborate homeschooling plans and activities, that kind of thing. We all have different gifts, and I know some women get very energized producing Instagrammable experiences for their little ones, but I think a healthy dose of "lying fallow" in some way can be good for everyone at some point.

    2. That's a great point too, about the pressure appearing within parenting/homeschooling itself.

    3. I see this with moms all of the time! There is pressure to do "all the things" (have an organized play room, fancy birthday parties, Pinterest-perfect craft projects, etc.). It's definitely not healthy.

    4. It's interesting that you've seen this where you live too, Shannon! I noticed when everything was shut down in 2020, I wasn't on social media a ton, and I became much more relaxed in some ways-and I think part of it was because I wasn't regularly in settings (library storytimes, playgroups, etc.) where moms inevitably compare educational plans and parenting. So, I wasn't feeling the pressure of having to offer something impressive in conversations, and also because so many people had dropped expectations since we were just trying to not get sick and also some sort of sanity! I wonder if we collectively can all regain that sense of dropping expectations even if we no longer live in lockdown.