Friday, January 21, 2011

Doing Nothing Refreshes and Restores

In 2002, my 20-year marriage ended in divorce. Wanting to be near family, I migrated south, put my belongings in storage and moved in with my sister until I could find work and get on my feet. It wasn’t as easy as I’d envisioned. After months of no interviews, I needed more space—physically, mentally and emotionally—so I loaded up a few things and headed to my parents’ house. It was a risky move, but something had to give.

Adjusting to life in a small town was challenging, for sure. Nothing exciting going on. Not even a fancy restaurant. Just a scattering of small businesses along Main Street, most of them locked down at sundown.

To complicate matters further, Mom and Dad aren’t your “normal” mom and dad. They have no televisions. No computers. No surfing of the web. The radio is Daddy's domain, and once the news is over, the radio is off.

In a nutshell, there just isn't much to do at Mother's house besides sit on the couch, eat lemon pie and watch logs burn in the fireplace.

Initially, I didn't do so well. I felt an inexplicable urgency to be busy. My canoe had capsized in the deep, blue sea, after all, and I needed to be doing something besides breathing and batting my eyelids. I mean, I really, really did!

Didn’t I?

No. Not really. Just the opposite, in fact.

Yes, I was drowning in a storm unlike any other, but for my own self-preservation, I needed to stop struggling, release my fears and be still for a spell. I needed to learn the art of doing nothing, you might say.

And, finally—after much kicking and screaming—I did.

I learned how to take deep, cleansing breaths, long, warm baths and slow, lazy strolls to the mailbox.

I learned how to see magic in the morning sun, dancing through the pines, outside my bedroom window.

I learned how to stare at nothing in the yard swing, while a choir of cicadas sang evening’s shadows away.

(The view from my window at Mother's house.)
I learned how perfectly round the moon is, how exquisitely detailed a sparrow is and how comforting flannel sheets are on cold Texas mornings.

In essence, I learned how to see--and not just look. How to feel--and not just touch. How to listen--and not just hear.

But above all, I learned that doing nothing clears the mind, strengthens the body and restores the spirit like nothing else can. Like a magical antidote for whatever ails you, it opens your heart to God's whisperings and focuses your eyes on things that matter most.

It puts life in perspective, you might say, so that wind-blown souls, capsized in the deep, blue sea, can sit peacefully on the couch, eating lemon pie, watching logs burn in the fireplace. ♦

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3

I'm linking to Spiritual Sundays, where Faith Lifts are free.


  1. Such a lovely post, Gayle! I am a Recreational Therapist so I say "Two thumbs up!" Everyone leads such busy lives these days and don't take time to truly relax. Observing nature, bird watching and taking a stroll in the country is just the ticket.

  2. Oh Gayle - I love those times when I can do nothing; although they are few and far between. You paint a beautiful picture with your words - I was right there with you hearing the cicadas, watching the moon, observing the sparrow. And I can attest to how good flannel sheets feel on a cold Texas night!


  3. I think this is the reason a "retreat" is always so refreshing. You had the chance to have an extended retreat. What better place than with your mom and dad, too.

    I have been giving thought to a "turn off" retreat without leaving my home where I turn off my television and computer for a spell to create a stillness around me.

  4. I can relate to this soo well. Following my cancer surgery in June, and then HUGE move in July, I needed a good long spell of just NOTHING. At first, I felt guilty...but after a while I felt restored. I am still enjoying this little retreat...nothing like it really. I am soo glad you put into words how I have been feeling. Have a wonderful week. BLESSINGS

  5. One of my favorite things is enjoying the silence, doing nothing.... and lemon pie.

  6. Wonderful!
    I think on some level, most of us feel compelled to fill silences with innane chatter, or fill a void like a whirling dervish.
    (Color me, "guilty"!)
    I love how you've expressed this necessary observance!

  7. Wow, I love this post. Thank you for sharing. Now I want a piece of that lemon pie and watch those logs burn.

  8. Gayle, I really needed this today. Thank you so much!!!

  9. Gayle,
    I agree wholeheartedly! I like to be busy and get things done and do, do, do, but it is so important to be still.
    Also, I had to learn to be content being single, which I did, by the grace of God. He was my Husband and raised my Chickie with me. He is so faithful, isn't He?!
    Both your blog and Dayle's blogs are such a blessing to me. Thank you!

  10. What a peaceful post, I loved it! I actually have a small book called The Art Of Doing Nothing. Thank-you so much for sharing your heart with us.
    God Bless,

  11. Thanks for this reminder. I really needed this today.

  12. Absolutely wonderful. This is one of the best things I have read in a long time--and I read a lot. Thank you.

  13. What a sweet post. have a wonderful day.

  14. Loved the encouraging Bible verses and the reminder that we all need to take times to be still and know that HE is God. Have a blessed week.

  15. Doing "nothing" definitely has it's merits, especially when you can learn something from those times (and as long as there's a piece of pie involved :)

  16. Hi Gayle,

    As I read this post, my first thoughts were that as a Type-A personality, I would have sensory deprivation issues, but the Holy Spirit reminded me that I don't live in Chicago anymore. I've lived in small town Austin (TX), and even smaller town Fredericksburg (VA), so without realizing it, I've adjusted to a slower pace.

    I'm glad you can stare at nothing in the yard, and that you can hear a choir of cicadas sing away the evening shadows. Those thoughts remind me of God's peace.

    Blessings and peace.


  17. I loved that post, Dear. I do a lot of that myself. Thank God He is always with us, and for His love, peace and joy. Blessings ~

  18. This is a beautiful post. How hard to change our "busyness" into "stillness." God follows us in every situation we face--no matter how hard the place we are in. When I saw your picture I immediately thought, "The SON always shines in the windows of our soul."

  19. Gayle,
    This is one reason I so look forward to my yearly "senior" retreats...spending a week without any electronics or outside "noise" is absolutely refreshing to my soul. Seeking God in solitude.

  20. I was directed here by Miss Debbie at words upon wheels, and I'm so glad I came over. I really. really enjoyed this post. I will go take a deep breath now and maybe contemplate making lemon pie.

  21. Beautiful! When we had five days of being snowbound in our home, I cooked, played cards, read, soaked in the tub, did my nails, prayed, sang.
    I loved it.
    Can your momma take me for awhile?
    I can make lemon pie.


  22. I came over from Debbie's post too. This is beautiful! I am also a Texas girl, and I have seen and heard what you are describing, but only when I MAKE myself be still. Your header..."We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness."... oh boy, isn't it true! No wonder the verse, BE STILL and KNOW...

    This was such a blessing, thank you!