In August we moved across the country. We bought an old farmhouse and a few acres of land on the edge of a suburban development. McMansions grow where corn once stood.
In September we had a baby (our fourth). We brought her home and marveled at our dreams coming true. A farmhouse full of children. Plenty of room for apple trees, a chicken coop, and a garden as big as we can handle. Also, neighbors. The best of two worlds.
In October the old maple trees started dropping their leaves. Busy with a baby and unpacked boxes, we let those leaves lie.
Last week, the snow melted suddenly and spectacularly. We were left with a sweeping view of soggy, mud-colored leaves.
Then, a Wednesday morning miracle: warm sun and a sleeping baby. I decided to spend a few hours with the rake. I wanted at least some of those leaves for the compost bin. I wanted at least a few more to mulch the raised garden beds. I hoped we hadn’t killed off all the grass.
Only 30 minutes in, and the doubts started whispering. One hour in, and they were shouting.
Is this really the best use of your time? All this effort, and you can hardly see the difference. Surely there is something more important needing your attention. Why are you working so hard for so little in return? Do you think other mothers are outside pushing a few leaves around? Do you think other writers are wasting their time like this?
I thought about my old big-city life. Only a few years ago, yet it feels like another lifetime. Back then, with a husband who traveled for work and a dissertation demanding my attention (not to mention three young kids), we cooked quick and easy meals and hired help with the housecleaning.
That was an especially good decision. It meant we could spend our Saturdays exploring museums and parks rather than cleaning the bathroom. The work still needed to be done, but it wasn’t the best use of the limited time we had to spend together.
That dissertation is finished. That life in the city has ended. It was good, but out story has moved on.
We heard a voice calling us in a new direction, and we followed it. I said goodbye to academia. I said hello to blogging and sourdough bread baking.
This new life is beautiful but inefficient. I tend seedlings even though a grocery store full of produce is just down the road. I push leaves instead of hiring help. I clean my own bathroom (with much gratitude for the women who used to do it for me).
This new life is nonproductive, at least in the way I used to understand that word. I sit around a great deal. Holding the baby. Playing one more round of CandyLand with the three-year-old. I’m reading more than I have in years. I often feel guilty about this, but I’ve determined that books mean more to me than a clean floor.
I don’t have much to show for how I spend my time. If you stopped by today, you would see a front yard patchy with snow and soggy brown leaves. You would swear we didn’t own a rake.
But I am convinced – more and more each day – that I am storing up treasure in heaven.
Efficiency and productivity have their place, but they aren’t the only thing. We were made to worship. Made to love. But those things can’t be scheduled. They can’t be checked off the to-do list. I am discovering that what looks like waste – what looks like pointlessness – is often the stuff of life itself.
When the doubts start talking, I will have my answer ready.
Why make when you can buy ready-made? Why step outside when the sink is full of dishes? Why sit down with a book on a Monday afternoon?
Here is why: when I slow down, I notice two things.
Life is beautiful.
God is here.
Christie Purifoy is a wife and mother of four who lives in southeastern PA. A PhD in English lit., she recently traded the university classroom for an old farmhouse and a writing desk. She blogs at www.christiepurifoy.com.
*Beautiful photo by Kelli Campbell