My friend Amy moved to the United States from Vietnam last August. Bright, curious, and eager to improve her command of the English language, she finds me a willing conversation partner. Although I often speak too fast and use too many words, she’s not afraid to ask me to “say again slower, please.” Because I’m especially fond of brave young women in their early twenties who are bold enough to chase big dreams—especially when their mamas are on the other side of the world—I am eager to cheer her on and help her achieve her goals.
Amy repeatedly asks me about snow. Having never seen snow, she is eager for her first real snowstorm. As an avid weather watcher and snow lover, I am happy to discuss one of my favorite topics.
The last time we were together, she asked, “What do you love about snow?”
For a moment, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I wasn’t sure I’d ever thought about why I love snow before, and even if I had, I didn’t think anyone had ever asked me to put those thoughts into words. As I considered my answer, I carefully chose simpler words out of respect for her growing English vocabulary.
“Stillness,” I said. “Stillness, quiet, and peacefulness. Something about the blanket of white makes everything seem peaceful and cozy.”
I was reminded of our conversation again this weekend while attending a silent retreat in the mountains of West Virginia. Practicing silence in community is a new experience for me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Last night, before entering into silence, we gathered for dinner, and I discovered many of my fellow retreatants attend this event annually. As they attempted to describe what they love about this opportunity to those of us who were new, they too struggled to find words to encapsulate their experience. The recurring theme of their answers centered around peace.
I am still at the retreat as I write these words, and I’m struck by the similarities of my snow day description as I sit in silence surrounded by others in a room with a roaring fire on a cold winter day. Once again, I’m feeling a “covering” of stillness and quiet. The peace and tranquility I’m experiencing surprises me as I pause to notice the beauty in this moment of silent togetherness so foreign to my usual way of being with other people.
Like many of us, I’m addicted to words, activity, and busyness. I’m endlessly curious about other people and passionate about building bridges of communication. Even though I’m often alone because I work from home, I am always connected, filling the silence with images, messages, sounds, and conversations. While my extroverted personality thrives for a while in my constant striving for interaction, my longing for snow days tells a different story.
The word beginning to bubble to the surface for me is Sabbath. The longing to stop, slow down, and be quiet is placed within us by our Good Father, who knows the rhythms of our spirits. We cannot pour out of what is empty, so we were created to long for Sabbath quiet and rest. We are made to crave hard work, meaningful connection with others, and physical activity, but we are also made with limited mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual resources. Our batteries need to be recharged.
February is a perfect time of year to consider how well we honor God’s suggestion commandment for Sabbath rest. Because our culture no longer rewards or encourages Sabbath, I am responsible for the ways I choose to slow down, unplug, embrace quiet, and cease striving. No one is going to make those choices for me. Those of us who love or parent children are also responsible for the ways we model self-care and Sabbath to those who watch what we do more than they listen to what we say.
How can you embrace Sabbath quiet and rest this month? What practices recharge your battery and fill your tank so you can return to the work you are called to do with renewed energy and passion?
Here in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, my friend Amy and I will be praying for lots of snow!
Photograph © Warren Wong, used with permission