by Sandra Byrd
My shaking hand dialed the phone to cancel a hair appointment. One ring, two. I held back the tears.
Unexpectedly, my friend Joye, instead of the salon, answered the phone. Wrong number. I burst out crying before apologizing and hanging up.
I’d never understood winter blues. The start of a new year had always meant fresh beginnings, back to school or work. But this year, instead of my happy, let’s-keep-those-New-Year’s-resolutions-going attitude, I was run-down, depressed, and apprehensive about another round of responsibilities. Years of busyness and gutting it out had come home to call. The emotional toll was high.
Please, God, I prayed through a fog of fatigue and discouragement, help me.
Five minutes after that fervent prayer, the doorbell rang. I wiped my eyes and pulled a brush through my hair. Go away, I thought. It rang again, and again. I finally opened the door—to Joye.
“I’m here to help,” she announced. She threw her arms around my weak shoulders, ignoring my faltering refusal. Bundling my children up against the early January chill, she helped me with my coat as if I were a child, too. We buckled into her car for the five-block ride to her house. I tried to argue, but like frosty breath hanging in the air just a minute before disappearing, my protests evaporated against her warm resolve.
When we arrived at her home, she settled me on a cozy couch, tucking me under a soft, well-loved blanket, then shooed away her kids and mine to play downstairs. I felt silly. But after five minutes of thumbing through a magazine, I closed my eyes. While I napped on the couch, the children romped through an unexpected play day.
At noon, Joye brought me a tray with lunch. Tears sprang up again and I smiled. Once I’d told Joye that my mother had made tomato soup with a chunk of cheddar cheese at the bottom whenever I was sick as a girl. She’d remembered.
The next day I felt better, but Joye insisted that we come over again. My children laughed as she painted clown faces on them with costume makeup. I giggled, too—my first giggle in months. This day, Joye baked and served warm Monster Cookies. Her mother had prepared them for her when she was a girl.
On the third day I maintained that I was fine, but Joye said, “We’re having so much fun, why not come over for one more day?” So I sat on her couch while she went about her housework. I’d forgotten how much a mother and wife needs a few hours now and then to renew herself—and how wonderful it felt!
Later that afternoon, we sat in Joye’s kitchen sipping hot cocoa. She pulled three tiny plastic cups out of her junk drawer and began stuffing them with potting soil. “What are you doing?” I said, savoring a minimarshmallow as it dissolved against my tongue.
“You need a hobby,” Joye said. She snipped the best, strongest leaf off of each of her three prized African violets. “It will help you relax.” She tucked one leaf into the rich soil in each planter. “Soak these when you get home, then let them dry out. Don’t water them again until they’re completely dry. In a few weeks they’ll sprout roots, and then in a couple months they’ll blossom. It’ll be the first sign of spring.”
Now, me and my brown thumb were highly skeptical that anything would grow in my house, much less something without roots to begin with. But sure enough, one month later each of those plants budded several tiny leaves, proof of unseen roots thriving below the soil. Months later I settled the growing plants into larger pots, preparing them to withstand my move to a new home across town.
After I got unpacked in the new house, I invited Joye and her kids over for lunch. “Look at my violets!” I proclaimed as she walked into the kitchen. I smiled like a mother boasting of her children’s latest achievement.
“They’re thriving,” Joye agreed, counting almost a hundred heady purple and pink blossoms among the three plants.
I hugged her. “And so am I.”
Like the once-weary mother in tonight’s story, we all need rest to thrive. It’s not just a convenience that we try to squeeze into our schedules or an indulgence for those who aren’t willing to work hard. Regular times of quiet and stillness are a spiritual and biological necessity. Many members of the animal kingdom, as well as certain plant species, will hibernate or lie dormant through the winter months in order to survive. We humans have a much harder time acknowledging the natural rhythms of life.
But God knows about our overzealous tendencies. He created us. That’s why He commands us to set aside a day each week to rest, pray, and rejuvenate. He understands how much we need regular periods of renewal and how easy it is for us to put them off. In today’s hurry-up culture, families will often try to do it all—work, school, church, social events, and an endless array of swim meets, acting classes, and piano lessons. Life begins to feel like a runaway freight train.
Want to get off the train before it crashes? Let’s talk this week about ways to make that happen.
- James C. Dobson
“Three Days of Joye” by Sandra Byrd. © 2002. Sandra Byrd is the author of numerous books, including the Hidden Diary series, the Secret Sisters series, Girl Talk, the Inside-Out Beauty Book, and Heartbeats. She and her husband, Michael, have two children. Used by permission of the author.