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Framed In Joy, Melissa N Smith

Beauty & Rest: My Sanity Savers

balance savor beauty

The school year ends in May like clockwork, but I didn’t see it coming. I know it’s a busy season. I know I have autoimmune issues that leave me fatigued when I’m stressed. I know I need to schedule white space into my calendar.  Despite it all, I charged ahead into the end of the school year-fray. With our oldest graduating high school, an international guest in our home, and several work deadlines on the horizon, I found myself mentally, emotionally, and physically depleted.

Rest beckoned.

Since I was a child, natural beauty spoke a language of restoration to my soul. The butterfly house and azaleas at Calloway Gardens sparked imagination in my young mind. Sitting on the second-story veranda of our home and painting at sunset soothed the ragged patches in my teenage heart. One summer break during college, the red rocks at the Garden of the Gods taught me about freedom, laughter, and adventure.

The middle years of life, like the busyness of May, caught me off guard. Yet, I should have seen it coming. I hate the word “should,” don’t you?

When our children were younger, I said, “It doesn’t get easier. It gets different.” But deep in my heart I really hoped that as my children became more independent, parenting and life would smooth out. Every parent of a teenager is shaking their head at me right now. It was a foolish hope.

These middle years are definitely different. If possible, I’m more tired than when we had a baby and a toddler in the house - late-night chats with our Bigs, running the middle schooler around, appointments, Zoom calls, and the spiritual weight of preparing our progeny for this crazy world. The pace of suburban life leaves me frazzled and searching for rest and beauty.

For our teenagers, it’s a “beside me” life now, instead of a “follow me” life. I watch them stretch and grow into the people God has called them to be, which sounds really lovely. The reality is that I privately cry and pray a lot as they dip, crash, and soar their way out of the nest. 

By the end of December and May, you can find me in a puddle on our couch with a book in hand. I have no mental energy to actually read, but the act of holding the book while ensconced in pillows brings me comfort.

And so, I’m learning to be the boss of my schedule instead of letting my schedule boss me. Carving out time for rest and beauty keeps me sane. I think my teenagers prefer a sane parent. I know I prefer sane teenagers.

I’ve had to be super intentional in seeking out rest, and I’ve had to learn to plan better for our busy seasons. I joined the Botanic Gardens and schedule a monthly visit. With camera and journal in tow, I leisurely meander the groomed paths. Under a shady tree in an alcove, I scratch out my disjointed thoughts on the page until tears or clarity arrive.

Sunset is the perfect time to ride my bike in the neighborhood. No matter which path I take, the sun chases me around the corner painting color in the sky. With only my breath and the evening birdsong to keep me company my mind quiets. God meets me on the path.

During the pandemic, I learned to watercolor. My husband helped me create a corner of our home as a studio. When laundry piles up and the demands of the day far surmount my energy, I retreat. With brush in hand and music playing, I delight in the magic of color on a page. 

On a rare occasion, I schedule an artist’s retreat. This June, I met up with a friend in Colorado for a Writer’s Conference. The red rocks of the Garden of the Gods again greeted me with warmth and color. Rest met me quietly every morning and invited me to drink deeply. Home. It felt like home.

December is around the corner, but I see it coming this time. I’ve scheduled my monthly visits to the gardens. My paints lay open and ready for me in the studio. A large stack of books waits for me by the couch. Beauty restores my soul, and I will not wait for rest to beckon. Instead, I will invite her in. No, in fact, I will schedule time to seek her out.

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