Month of Sanctuary

Back at the beginning of May, with winter temperatures still ebbing from the forecast — for such is the way of things here — I flipped ahead to the coming seasons in my planner. Lists and agendas were already budding for our late summer and autumn, which will bring more events than we’ve had in a good long while. Even May’s grids and paper margins were filled with end-stage preparations for the garden, and the many “lasts” of the academic year.

These were all happy things, but I could still feel myself bracing inwardly, thinking of the maelstroms and eddies that so much activity might bring.

I turned the page to June. In a brief flash of resolve and relief, and without completely knowing what it meant, I penned a single line next to the month and year:

A month of sanctuary. 

God willing, the name would prove true.

And it has.

It’s been a month of pulling back from rushed routine and learning to “keep a quiet heart” — a gift of a month to set the tone for the season, and perhaps even the remainder of the year.

I entered June with a slow-growing catalog of ideas. Not “to-do” items, but explorations of how I might decelerate: simple, refreshing meal ideas; reminders to walk in the garden every day; re-establishing a routine of Bible reading and trust time each morning; and so on. I wrote little notes for mental intentionality as well: to come and play with the girls even if they were happily engaged, to talk at a more measured pace, to listen without allowing myself to be distracted. I’m thankful for how these small hopes have blossomed.

I have loved our walks. The first warm-weather days of Spring were so intoxicating that we drove out every weekend to trails we had never walked before. We threaded our way under twisted evergreens, treading carpets of silken pine needles; we strolled the grounds of a local resort and marveled at the whimsical fountains, the hanging baskets of flowers. I don’t know if there’s anything so good for the soul as the delighted laughter of exploring children. The girl in me skipped up the paths and sidewalks on feet as light as Lucy and Little Jo’s, though most of the time I preferred the steadier pace at Y’s side.

Our days at home have held to about the same rhythm. Slow mornings, fewer checklists, review lessons and games, tea and books. Windows flung open to gamboling summer breezes. We hosted a Beatrix Potter story time for three weeks; each session included read-alouds of two stories, a viewing of one episode from the lovely BBC World of Peter Rabbit and Friends series, and a very simple craft. It was wonderful to hear the giggles and insights of our small friends as we read through the stories. As a side effect, I find myself humming Miriam Stockley’s haunting “Perfect Day” now during sunshowers, especially if I catch them as they fall over the garden.

I’ve been treasuring my reinstated weekly tea dates with Lucy, random snuggles with Little Jo, and long conversations with Y in the shade at the playground or in our reading chairs late at night.

And a very small, near-daily occurrence sums up how I feel about all of these things from our month of sanctuary.

In the mornings I hear our daughters rise, usually within minutes of each other. A beat or two later brings the sound of child-feet pounding across the floor, and then laughter, or murmurs as they bend their heads over a story together. The feeling of richness that sweeps over me then calls back a line that we sing at our meals: “We thank Thee, Lord, for this our food / For life and health and every good…” For He is our Father, able to teach us to sing in fell times as well as golden ones, and He has, so that this year I hold “life and health and every good” with a looser, freer grasp, and with redoubled gratefulness. Thank You; thank You for this day. 

And within that whisper of a prayer, I rejoice in the strongest and truest sanctuary there is.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

– Ps. 36:7, ESV

I feel I’ve practically filled out this virtual sheet front, back, and sideways, friends, so I’ll finish with my favorite outcomes from this month later this week… but in the meantime, I give thanks for every one of you who inexplicably take the time to read the words in this space. May your rest this summer bring warmth to the very marrow of your bones, and always strengthen you to go “further up and further in.” Grace and peace to you.

~ Amy