Easy Silence

by Joanie Butman

This week I said goodbye to a dear friend who is moving away to begin a new phase in her life. I am brokenhearted to see her leave, but grateful for the time and memories we shared. It’s also time to say goodbye to our summer home by the ocean, my constant companion that offers so much peace and comfort during the summer - much like my friend has done for the past 21 years. It’s a permanent reminder of the depth and breadth of God’s love. I can’t look out over the ocean without thinking of Ephesians 3:18, which encourages us “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Listening to the waves, I drift off to sleep each night with that verse on my mind and am greeted each morning by that same rhythmic sound, reminding me anew of that truth.

I'll miss the ocean for sure, but not the extra weight I put on every summer - unforgiving evidence of too many lobsta dinners, long beach hot dogs and size small ice cream cones that could feed a small village in Africa. As my sister-in-law commented when she was handed a kiddie size cone at the local ice cream store, "What kind of kids do you have around here?" Unfortunately, in Glosta, quantity reigns supreme. Believe me, it doesn’t take long for the consequences of unwise nutritional choices to surface. Isn’t it unfair how much faster it is to put weight on than to get it off? And the older I get, the longer it takes. My aforementioned friend lost 14 pounds this summer, which I found on my butt and graciously offered to return.

Once again, Tuesday marks the beginning of the annual Life After Labor Day ritual – a detox health regimen for the body and soul. I’ve written about it before, but for the uninitiated, Life After Labor Day is an expression my husband uses to describe the beginning of yet another fitness program. The concept is that he can be decadent all summer, but once Labor Day rolls around, he becomes a model of self-restraint. He always tells us that we won’t recognize him by Thanksgiving. We have a closet full of infomercial exercise equipment guaranteed to bring about that Life After Labor Day six-pack. Unfortunately, we do recognize him every Thanksgiving, and are still waiting for Bob’s Life After Labor Day physique to emerge.

I’ll be joining him again this year, determined to achieve my own version of Life After Labor Day. Though my physique can definitely use the discipline, my main concern is to restore balance to my life in every aspect:  physically, emotionally and spiritually. I struggle every summer in maintaining balance while juggling demands of family, friends and my own desire for peaceful solitude. Even though I am painfully aware of the dangers of losing balance and how susceptible I am to it, that’s exactly what eventually occurs every summer. In trying to please everyone (including myself), I disappoint everyone (especially myself) in thought, in actions, and in words.

I firmly believe balance is one of the most difficult, yet the most important, life skills to master. Balance in everything – diet, spirituality, academics, family, career and recreation – is the key to maintaining a happy, healthy life. During the summer, my scale gets weighed down in more ways than one. While my weight scale is going up, my life scale starts sliding downward towards overload in a variety of forms: a seemingly endless supply of relatives (all of whom I adore), guests, parties, parties, and more parties. When the balance is off-kilter, things start to deteriorate rapidly. This phenomenon usually occurs around mid-August when summer starts to wind down – when the parties don’t seem much fun anymore, and the sun has pickled my skin and seemingly fried my brain. I feel as wilted as the flowers in my garden.

There’s no doubt that getting back into my exercise routine and choosing to exert some modicum of self-control over my consumption (quality AND quantity) will establish an improved physical sense of well-being. However, those efforts won’t provide the solution to my much needed Life After Labor Day spiritual conditioning. God will – not only after Labor Day, but any day I ask. How do I know this? Because He’s been doing it for years. I just need to be still enough to let His peace and presence saturate my soul. It’s there I will find my balance once again by letting my Ballast do what He does best.

The Dixie Chicks’ song, Easy Silence, comes close to describing the Life After Labor Day workout routine I choose.

And I come to find a refuge in

the easy silence that you make for me

And the peaceful quiet you create for me

And the way you keep the world at bay for me,

the way you keep the world at bay for me.

I choose to train each day in Easy Silence – it’s gentle on the muscles as well as the soul!

Goodbye summer.....