THE BLOG

Words for My Daughter on How to Be Still

05/27/2015 10:56 am ET | Updated May 27, 2016
Monica Stevens-Kirby

This piece originally appeared on http://denadouglashobbs.com. I was a guest blogger, part of a month-long series on Motherhood, "Mosaic of Motherhood," by author Dena Hobbs. This consistently intelligent, diverse and tender collection of essays is curated by Dena on her blog. A fellow guest blogger, Jennifer Tucker, designed the graphic below:

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We are equipped with a vast and civilized lexicon. It hums around us, through our ears and brains, leaking out our noses, pouring off our tongues. We use multisyllabic, multifunctional letter combinations, abstracted and tied to semantics at a level my hippocampus shrivels up trying to recall.

More is not better, and, in an age of Infinite More, I want to practice with my daughter a lesson I am still learning.

I want to remember the Sabbath and to keep it Holy.

I am not ordained clergy. My childhood life was fashioned on a cornerstone of service and volunteerism and good behavior and all that nice stuff.

Remembering the Sabbath was doing good and showing up and being busy for God; because no one argues with God and God's work. I surely didn't. I showed up and worked, often leaving addled, exhausted, sometimes bitter. I served so much and gave so much that I forgot how to be present with God.

I had a rough pregnancy that literally forced me to slow down. I had to sit still. I thought too much. I WebMD'ed everything, which made it worse. If my body is a temple, I honor that there are times it needs to be still and know God, even when my spirit is disagreeable.

Sabbath is a lyrical word, a reminder of quiet places, sweet spots of shade and sunlight, warm, protecting. Sabbath is spoken with a whisper. At night, I sing the hymn, "In the Garden" to my daughter. Its melancholy lilt is knitted in a promise that God is with us.

Sabbath has a rocking movement. I sit, get grounded, find rhythm, learn pacing. My chair is low and hard to get out of, so I linger, the way God does with us -- steady, rhythmic, gentle.

What does it mean to keep the Sabbath holy? Making love, stirring a pot on the stove, dancing in the living room, getting lost in books, being magnetized by live theater that stays with you, becoming a part of you, putting your arm around a sweet lady at the nursing home?

I want to know, where do you find holiness, and how do you keep it?

Busyness is unattractive. It's glorified in the workplace, at home, on social media, with our friends and families. We shine everything up so preciously. Go look at my website. My collection of "good deeds" is well-curated.

Holiness is encountering God, communing with God. In holiness, we see the vastness of the world. We connect with our Creator, and we acknowledge how small we are. And we are grateful. We are changed.

Holy is thick. Holy is work. Holy takes dedication, sacrifice, discipline and planning. When you and I enter a church, people who rehearsed music, wrote lessons, practiced reciting, centered themselves in prayer and contemplation, printed copies of bulletins, assembled them, arranged flowers, studied Scripture, polished pews, mopped floors, cleaned toilets, cut lawns, ironed robes and more have already left an imprint where we gather.

Holiness requires our rigor.

Holiness doesn't happen without enlightenment, a belief in possibility, faith or ritualized practice to make room for it in the same way we make room for going to movies, buying groceries and cleaning our toilets.

Some preparations for holiness are less glamorous than others. Somebody has to clean the toilets. Somebody stands up to preach. Both are prepared for; both are difficult (and often thankless); both take hard work and time.

Holiness is the reward of transcendent experience in which we intimately connect to the Holy Spirit. To encounter holiness, to remember it, to keep it, is not happenstance. It may seem that way, but think about where and why we make room for holiness by softening ourselves, letting go, trusting, forgiving and accepting the nudge to meet holiness, tempering our fears in sacrifice to God.

I want to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy because I want to give my daughter the gift of being able to accept the safety in just being, just allowing, just watching, just listening, just noticing.

I have a friend with teenage kids. Late one night, I was on the phone with her. A gifted teacher, she lamented how parents of gifted kids want them to be "special," overcommitting them, pressuring them, all with the best intentions.

She told me when her kids were young, their family would sit on the porch after dinner and blow bubbles. The kids would catch them, or not. The world kept moving, the cicadas kept singing, things did what they were going to do. They will. They do.

I wrote this poem for my daughter on one such night:

"Together, Let's Go"

By Monica Stevens-Kirby

Let's go to the woods-and not too far.

Let's wear our new jeans with bare feet.

Let's walk like Natives, tiptoed, shushing.

Let's be loud when we need to-and watch for traps.

Let's be funny and silly, smear berries on our noses.

Let's have a tea party on a tree branch.

Let's build a hammock and count the stars.

I'll hold you in my arm. Your hand will shoot up. I'll hear you naming numbers in your sleep.

I'll take you to the bathroom by a tree. We'll both be scared and a little happy to spot a bear.

Let's hang upside down like bats, just talking, just being.

We'll catch our dinner, spit-roast a fish, soak it in hippie gumbo.

Don't go to school, where ladies have diplomas but don't know proper grammar.

I can't put you on a yellow bus, or drop you off there either.

I will miss you too much, and these years are eclipsing.

Let me hold you. When I am tired.

Let me hold you. When I cannot go on.

Let me hold you. Nothing else matters.

I'll carry my spear, and, you, your bow. We will be together, fending, together, written on, together, tree carvings only the clouds can see. We named the clouds together.

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