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“I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Thanksgiving is here; another year has flowed quickly and steadily past us. If we are honest, not many of us thought this year would be filled with new blessings. But for many of us, it has, even on the heels of 2020 through 2022.

This doesn’t mean the year hasn’t had its ups and downs, wins and losses, good and not-so-good times. But for all of it, we can be thankful. For out of the easy and hard times have come.

  • new relationships
  • new jobs
  • new ideas
  • new insights

This week reminds us to stop and take it all in. Breathe deep, shut off the working brain, shut out the world’s busyness, and focus on people, those we love the most: family and friends.

This week reminds us to just BE: be ourselves, be relaxed, be present. For most of the year, we are employees, managers, bosses, and customers. But on Thanksgiving Day and the following weekend, we are just us: moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts. We are who we were made to be, our most honest selves.

It’s not easy, though. As Madeleine so wisely says, we can feel guilty about downtimes like the one coming up. We aren’t “doing” enough. We aren’t “contributing” anything of value. But I like to think of the character Winnie the Pooh and his profound wisdom when he said, “Doing nothing very often leads to the very best of something.”

When we stop all our “doing” this week and start doing nothing, we are available for our sons and cousins to dispense some wisdom or encouragement. We find ourselves helping others feel loved and cared for with a smile and a giant turkey leg on their plate. We create memories with those we may not see often, refreshing our life with a pause, a breath. We help and serve, listen, and share.

And more importantly, we end up reclaiming something we lose during the everyday work-family life: stillness. For three or four days this week, we can reclaim the time and use it to just be still, be calm, be silent, take in our surroundings, and observe life. This can be especially true for those of us who can’t be with those we love; push away any trace of sadness and embrace the calm.

In the silence, we hear the cry of our hearts, drowned out January through November by other voices, calling us to celebrate our wins and heal wounds we might have ignored. The quicker we do both this week, the better the New Year will be—but that’s looking too far ahead, so we return to the moment.

Let’s read Madeleine L’Engle’s quote one more time:

“I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.”

Guilt and lack are present in her phrase: guilt of stopping and a lack of stopping. We must shed one and embrace the other. Her quote calls to my mind the story of a painter.

Every year, around springtime, the painter would pack up his RV camper, drive out to a location he wanted to paint—the desert, the forest, the ocean—park the camper, and pull out a lawn chair.

He’d walk out a few steps from the camper, fix himself in the right position to see the landscape or object he wanted to paint, and then sit. He’d sit and look. He wouldn’t read. He wouldn’t listen to music. He didn’t draw or paint.

He sat, and he looked and soaked in the scenery.

Of course, he’d eat and sleep, but most of his days were spent sitting and looking. Then, after two weeks, he’d fold up his lawn chair, return to his camper, and drive home. Then, he’d paint, and the art would flow out of him like a river.

I dare say not many of us have done something like this—nor could many of us do it. In fact, his family members mocked him and thought he was lazy and reckless with his time. They thought he didn’t use it wisely.

But here was a man who shed the guilt of stopping and took an immense amount of time to be in nature, to be with nature, to be with himself, every year to produce works of art that touched hearts and healed souls.

This is radical, but sometimes we need radical examples to awaken us. For the sake of Thanksgiving, of our families, of our own hearts, find your location, pull out a lawn chair, shed the guilt, stop the work, and just be. It will be healing to your spirit and nourishment to your soul.

Christopher F. Dalton

Christopher F. Dalton is a writer, author, illustrator, small business owner, but more than that he is a follower of Christ, a husband, a father of three stellar sons, and friend in need. He and his wife run Huck&Dorothy, an entertainment company.