Enjoy That Cheese Plate
Here’s where I give you the advice you’ve been waiting for your whole life. Stop what you’re doing. Grab a wedge of fancy cheese. Go sit someplace beautiful and quiet. Eat the cheese. This is all you need to know for a happy and abundant life. Well, mostly.
A few weeks ago angels sang and fireworks exploded as I realized that both of our kids were scheduled to be at birthday parties that Saturday—at the same time. I was beside myself. It had been ages since Jon and I had free time together. Sure, we’d sneak in a lunch during the week here or there, but when you have to part ways in thirty minutes to work, it’s not quite the same.
This—this was a whole different situation. We had an entire afternoon to enjoy, do whatever we wanted, to seize the day, carpe diem! So naturally I decided we’d run errands and then catch up on some weeding.
I did feel a little twinge of guilt—maybe we should do something fun, something different. But the thing is, errands and yardwork are fun to me, especially if it’s with Jon and an iced coffee. We’re just those people who like getting stuff done. We don’t need all those frills to be happy.
How fortunate for us if we can have a great time going to Lowe’s simply by adding a cup of coffee. How fortunate for us if we have a spouse or friend whose mere presence makes the mundane feel special. Still, I couldn’t escape the feeling that this time was a gift—and a very needed one at that—and it should be treated as such.
I popped open a new browser on my computer screen and put together a plan. There was a cheese shop just one town away I’d been wanting to try, and it looked like they were offering delicious little to-go boxes for the nearby Devon Horse Show. A horse show was not in the cards for us—we didn’t need small talk and formal outfits. We needed rest. We needed quiet. And we needed zero pressure.
A few more clicks and I discovered that the cheese shop was only a short drive from Chanticleer Garden—more than one friend had recommended we get there for a picnic, but unsurprisingly, we had yet to make the time for one. This was it. Plan set.
That Saturday as soon as both boys were out the door we put on our most garden-picnic style attire (flowy sun dress? Check!), picked up our goodies from the cheese shop, and found a sunny spot to take it all in.
As we sat there amidst the flowers, clouds floating overhead, munching on cheese, soaking up the sun, I couldn’t help but feel a little indulgent. I mean, there were people at work, people schlepping kids around, people cleaning their homes and mowing their lawns, bustling to catch up from the work week—and here we sat, in total peace, doing nothing at all. Taking in the beauty. Reveling in the quiet. Savoring the goodies from our basket.
Yet by doing nothing, we were, in fact, doing so much. We were giving our hearts and minds breathing room. We were relishing the many good things that often go unnoticed in our daily rush. And we were fighting hard against our culture’s pressure to do more, get more, be more. And can I just say, any battle that can be fought by a day off in the sun is one to get behind.
Of course I’m not suggesting that we all quit our jobs and let our homes go to pieces, and I’m not advocating laziness. I am suggesting that, yes, work is good—yes, productivity and getting stuff done is good. But there is more to life than what we produce, there is more to us than what we earn and accumulate and have to show for ourselves.
We can fight back, every day, against the cultural pressure to perform and produce. We can and we should enjoy time that neither ups our socioeconomic status, adds to our work portfolio, nor props up our image. Start your day with coffee and without your phone. Pause to admire the incredible blue butterfly that flutters past. Sit at your piano and play a tune.
As a (generally) reformed productivity-and-efficiency-obsessive, I can tell you that sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing. But this doesn’t come naturally to most of us, does it? Even our free time is often spent accomplishing something, checking off to-dos. It’s difficult to view free time as something to enjoy—that’s when we play catch up, right?
Yes, there is a time to act. There is a time for work, productivity, and even spending the afternoon running errands with a coffee. But there is time for recreation, there has to be—to accomplish nothing, to just be, to refresh, admire, dream, let your mind wander, to simply enjoy the beautiful world around you.
Rhythms of rest and recreation are not lazy, and they’re not neutral either. They are acts of faith, and they can be beautiful acts of worship as we honor God for who he is, for his power to sustain all things, his deep care for our world, his creativity and artistry that gives us the most beautiful landscapes, the warmest sunshine, and the creamiest Hummingbird cheese.
It might make you feel uneasy to bow out of the productivity pattern, but you can do it! Set down the basket of laundry. Close your laptop and set your phone to silent. Grab that picnic basket and don’t look back. And when you sip coffee and browse a cookbook on your patio, refuse to feel guilty when a group of runners rocket past or you hear the sound of a lawn mower cranking up. Relax, you were made for this.
Jen is happy to spend most days rotating between friends, family, writing, cooking, and her neighborhood yoga studio. A color enthusiast, obsessive foodie, and compassionate theologian, Jen holds an MA in Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and develops curriculum for a variety of churches. She lives in Philadelphia’s Main Line neighborhood with her family. Connect with Jen at JenWise.co