When my father remarried after my mom’s death, a self-made lady came into our lives. She was self-taught, formal education was not valued by her father for his daughters. So she worked and owned businesses at a young age and later travelled the world with her then husband, studied history art and literature and continued to expand her awareness of a well done life. In her travels, she had been an avid learner of the world, been an executive’s wife and managed to become one of the most engaged with education people I have ever met.
As time went on, my father became terminal with cancer. In our family, one of the agreements we had, my parents and I, was that i would return home as caretaker to allow them to remain in their home as long as they chose to be there. This was no small promise or practice. I had a husband, a career, and four children at home, at times six with two we took on. Exiting to be fully available for my parents was no small thing financially or experientially. My father was always a part of my life, though a busy physician and I was determined to be a good daughter to care for him.
By the time my father’s cancer required more than supportive care, I had already seen the season of my mother’s three year death process. My parents are tenacious people, and they didn’t much allow the inconvenience of life threatening disease to disrupt their daily endeavors. “Most folks enjoy ill health to some level” my mother would say tongue in cheek, “I’m not giving sickness and disease one more ounce of my life than I have to.” And so it was that way. She continued to be the volunteer, the leader, the speaker, the Grandmother who sewed, the bride and the friend as though she wasn’t in stage 4 devastational ill health.
When I returned to live in 761 Washington, the antebellum home my father had purchased when he returned to his childhood home. It was an easy homecoming in that I grew up in that home from ages 10-16. Summers and seasons later a few times as I did student teaching or graduate school breaks.
That home liked my father’s new bride, she didn’t have the realities of raising teenagers with antebellum fixtures as my mother had. Modernizations Mom did in her thirty year of caretaking the old girl allowed the new bride a much easier row to hoe. She was given the space to renovate with precious things, not sturdy things as our young family required. The house seemed to sigh with enjoyment at her every polish. The long seventeen foot windows and drawers were open drawing in the natural light. The rooms repurposed for entertaining arrangements and one had the feeling that each room beckoned you to come in to admire it. It became a perfect blend of my Mother’s practicality such as creating and sewing the drapes and sheers on such long windows, and the bride’s new style at restoring some of the finishes to the 1850 time period styles. A perfect compliment to each other.
My father’s bride teaches me still today so many valuable life lessons. Many grown children resent their parent’s remarriage. I found Virginia to be a gift to my father. My father’s bride had after all, been one of the five my mother had suggested as she planned his life without her. Mother was rarely without a plan for all occasions.
The new bride created a life my father had not experienced, They shared eight wonderful years together before he died. Even then she moved at eighty to a life she desired with a lake view and beauty surrounding her. It wasn’t easy, it surely wasn’t taken lightly, but she chose to build a life she loves.
She is very disciplined and ordered in her life choices. She has cultivated a life many would envy in that she lives eloquently, with excellence about her. She engages the concept of excellence whole heartedly. Whether it is achieving the flavor of a dish, or the textural choices in an eye engaging flower arrangement. She is well versed and read and a conversationalist.
My energy is disruptive to many. My high energy and willingness to live within a non-routine life when it is required, was foreign to Dad’s bride. In her world, datebooks and planners are defined weeks before personal consideration is involved. My professional life may mean disruption happens consistently to catch a flight.
The bride would rise at 5 am, do her stretches, exercise and yoga, then engage in solitude with a perfectly brewed cup of tea or coffee in a quiet space for an hour. She did not desire to talk, hear or engage for the first hour and a half of her day.
“Solitude for intelligent people is necessary” she would say. My world at that time was still children at home in a nearby town, school drop offs and pick ups. It was foreign to me to think you could get up earlier than the 4:45 I was already getting up to gain more solitude. You see I want to be the one who welcomes, who listens, who supports and values those in front of me. That means hard choices must be made continually on what to engage to preserve presence.
I was soon proven wrong in my limited thinking that earlier was the answer.. Choices could be altered to focus on what matters more.
It wasn’t that I needed to get up earlier, I needed to change my priorities and engage them. The Bible has some pretty compelling reasons to make solitude a part of our lives:
‘Peace be still”
“Study to be quiet”
“But Jesus himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray”
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, closer your door and pray to your Father, who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you’ Matthew 6:6
“Mark 6. And he said to them “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (for there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat”
Solitude allows us the time to quiet our mind, to drink in the presence of where are, and to listen to our heart reconnect to our minds. The twenty first century has glorified busy. Do this, do that, but often like the hamster in the wheel, the effort is often wasted when you do not realize the destination of how you live your days is to look. Life can get so busy you stop living and simply keep doing.
I was in a conversation yesterday where the goal was to create a community who would make disciples of the community as they experience the church. I found it difficult. It seems to me that a lifelong journey of becoming a disciple to God is quite enough. The holy spirit’s role is to draw others to him through his sweet spirit. Solitude time with God allows for the roadmap. It’s much like GPS, if you don’t take time to listen , to plan, and to hear the opportunities, you miss our on the Creator of the world creating within you that which serves his purpose and honors you as well.
The Ozarks offer me visual solitude every time I drive, am outdoors, or take a walk. That time alone with nature, with God, is everything. Add a beautiful drive as I have the last few days and my heart is stilled my mind calm and my life happy. Solitude with beauty is a powerful elixir to balm the soul. This week brought great sorrow in my professional and personal life in multiple scenarios, but in that grief, solitude was there and delivering the gift of perspective.
Where do you choose solitude in your day? In your week? How is it important to your life?
It’s a powerful practice and one that will rest your soul.