Written by Lisa Vitello in her newsletter “New Harvest Homestead” from July 2005
Some of the fondest memories from my childhood are the times I spent with my grandparents. There were four children in our family and my grandmother would invite each one of us separately from time to time to spend the night and enjoy a special evening of one on one spoiling.
In the morning, we would gather together in my grandmother’s kitchen for a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and orange juice. I remember sitting at her tiny kitchen table, watching her wash up the dishes. Something about her quiet ways comforted me. She would move about the kitchen, going from task to task, never saying much. She was always whistling; no particular song, just a random kind of warbling. I could have sat there for hours enjoying her soothing presence.
When I read those verses in 1 Peter that exhort women to have a “gentle and quiet spirit,” I think about her. She seems to personify that for me. She was a believer, not one for showy, outward displays. She told me once that her favorite time to pray was when she was doing the dishes. She would look out her kitchen window to the sky and talk to the Lord about whoever was on her mind at the moment.
For many, many years, I have struggled with achieving that quiet spirit. So often, I felt like I have a hurricane going on inside of me! I have prayed quite earnestly for the Holy Spirit to cultivate that inward calm within me, and I know He hears my prayers. But still, I wrestle.
And then, one day, the Lord showed me something. As I thought about my grandmother, I realized she was not only inwardly quiet, she was outwardly quiet. I don’t remember her as a particularly chatty soul, although when she had something to say, she said it. She also did not lead a very hectic life. Most days, she could be found at home, puttering in her little garden or painting.
It occurred to me that I had been asking the Lord to give me this quiet spirit while at the same time frantically running from one activity to another or chatting on the Internet or listening to blood-pressure-raising talk radio, etc. It was like trying to give up chocolate (perish the thought) while working in a chocolate factory!
This truth is so simple: To attain that gentle and quiet spirit, we must not only seek to be transformed in our interior lives, but adjust our exterior life in such a way that we cultivate a more peaceful existence.
As women, there are a number of areas in which we can begin to make changes in order to slow down and quiet our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I am a talker. I always have something to say, be it edifying or not. As I have grown both in physical and spiritual maturity, the Holy Spirit has mellowed that inclination to open my mouth somewhat. Putting my foot in there more than once has also helped to temper my tongue!
Proverbs 10:19 says: When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
It occurred to me that, not only did I need to be inwardly quiet; I needed to literally hold my tongue more often. I decided to have a “quiet week.” For seven days, I would try to refrain from speaking empty words; words which were not necessary, unwholesome, silly talk, or idle bander. Instead, I would endeavor to speak “such a word as is good for edification, according to the need at the moment, that it may give grace to those that hear” (Ephesians 5:29).
This was not easy. If you want to get a good grasp on how much you really open your mouth, just make a conscious effort to keep it closed.
One of the first things that happened is my husband asked me what was the matter. It was humbling for me to think he was so used to hearing me blather on all the time that when there was silence, it worried him. I tried to explain what I was doing which probably sounded kind of silly, but he was relieved that it wasn’t anything serious.
When that week was up, I had learned a very valuable lesson. The more I kept my thoughts to myself, especially the ones that would only serve to cause discord, the quieter my spirit became. Imagine that.
As time has gone by, I discovered more ways to cultivate a calmer soul.
Have quiet days, not just quiet times
Fifteen minutes in the morning is better than nothing but truly will not go far in this hectic culture. We need to set aside days on end in order to fully wind down and get ourselves into a quieter state of mind. This is especially true if you have very young children. Babies and toddlers really respond to quiet days at home. You may come to find you have much calmer, happier children if you make this a practice, not to mention a more tranquil mom!
Busy yourself with quiet work
You know, our predecessors may have been on to something when they coined the phrase, “The devil makes work for idle hands.” Though women obviously need and deserve regular times of rest, we don’t do too well when we are just sitting around. Keeping our hands busy at some craft or another is an amazing soul soother. Whether it is sewing, knitting, quilting, embroidery, crafting, painting and so one, working with our hands in some fashion tends to keep our spirits more tranquil. Not to mention the lovely end product we will have when finished.
Many of our everyday tasks have the potential to become quiet respites if we approach them that way. Hand washing a sink full of dishes, hanging a load of laundry, baking a pie, all of these activities can be done in a quiet, meditative manner that can be relaxing and soothing. These often turn into times of prayer and mediation on the Word for me.
Turn off the noise
We are fully engulfed in the electronic age. There are devices that beep, whistle, ring, and talk. I have read more than once that women are far more sensitive to noise than men; probably because we have to have those special mommy ears that can distinguish our crying child in a crowd or detect a faint cough in the middle of the night.
Whatever the reason, women tend to get more agitated when the noise level elevates. Every family is unique as far as the numbers and types of electronic noisemakers they have in their homes. Think about the devices you have that may be causing you uneasiness and try to figure out how to minimize their effect on you. Answering machines can screen phone calls. Cell phones can be set to vibrate and take messages. We can designate certain days of no TV days for the kids, and we can limit our internet time. Online conversations are still conversations and can be just as emotionally charged as verbal conversations.
Things too difficult
Psalm 131 says in part, “…nor do I involve myself in great matters or in things too difficult for me.” Have you ever found yourself involved in a situation that ended up being beyond your ability to cope with or control? It could be anything from involvement on a church committee to trying to mediate a disagreement between family and friends. Maybe you volunteered for a position, only to regret it later or found yourself in a conversation with someone that had very strong opinions about Christianity or homeschooling and the like. I’m sure many of these types of circumstances will come to your mind as you think about them. All these things cause our soul disquiet.
There are some situations that are unavoidable and for those we rely on the strength of the Lord. However, many of the distressing circumstances in which we have found ourselves in the past can be avoided in the future. Try to step back and measure each decision you make by thinking: Is is absolutely necessary that I do this? Will this take me away from my first priorities of family and home? Will this cause me stress?
Remember what Jesus told Martha – only ONE thing is truly necessary in this life. So many of the tasks laid upon women are not truly necessary, but rather a matter of what others want us to do to facilitate their plans. So often we feel we need to step in and referee certain matters, only to find ourselves in over our heads. Whatever the case may be, it takes faith to step back, stay uninvolved, and stay quiet. It’s truly amazing how things have a way of working themselves out without us saving the day!
Quietness is treasured by God. Do a search in your concordance and you will find this to be so. It does not come naturally to most of us and takes practice, but the rewards of a peaceful spirit are indescribably.
“Surely I have composed and quieted my soul.”
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.