“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
Isaiah 30:15; NKJV.
When Phil and I left for Italy with a two-year-old, a four-year-old and a seven-year-old, we were about as prepared as any missionary could be. Like a couple without children are experts on childrearing, we had training. We learned from experts. We divided and sifted our belongings with advice from others who had been there before. We purged what little we owned. Our lives categorized into take, don’t take and buy here because you can’t there.
But nobody told me to bring a rocking chair.
Our apartment was furnished. There was a clunky blue velvet sofa, an antique desk and a U-Haul box end table because we weren’t chic enough to know the big lamp was supposed to go on the floor.
“Who is that woman crying in the mirror every morning?” I asked myself now and then. “And where did the other me go?”
Because from one end of the ocean to another people change and they discover things they’d never known about themselves if they’d stayed put where they once belonged.
“I miss my rocking chair,” I said to my husband one day. The thought was random, unplanned. It sounded breathy, like a sigh from my heart.
I told my language teacher. She looked shocked.
“Rocking chairs are for old people,” she said with an Italian gesture that dismissed it all as next to embarrassing.
“Well, let’s get one,” Phil said.
We didn’t know how or where, we didn’t have a car, and everyone seemed to think a rocking chair for young people was a bad move.
“Oh,” they would say after a disapproving pause, “does your mother live with you?”
One day, I walked past a little edicola, a kiosk, laden with newspapers, magazines and bus tickets. Something grabbed my eye.
“They have catalogues here?” It was an epiphany. I took it home. Pouring through, I discovered a delightful cultural experience without opening my mouth, or making an idiot of myself.
When I saw the picture of a bent wood rocker I squealed all the way down the narrow hallway that ran from our living room to bedroom. The chair cost $100.00. I still remember because it seemed like a million. Phil ordered it.
I remember the day it was delivered, the sound of the doorbell, and the man dressed in dark uniform with a big flat box. I smiled and gestured and when I shut the door I had all the pieces of a rocking chair.
Phil put it together.
With first one girl and then another in my arms, we rocked back and forth as if we were at a carnival taking rides on the carousel. I leaned my head against the wicker, closed my eyes and found a home for my heart.
Whenever I rocked with one of my children, I really didn’t need JCPenney, a Big Mac or Reese’s Peanut Butter cup, or whatever else I pined for but couldn’t get in my new home country. All I really needed I had with me, bundled in my arms, warming my lap. The mesmerizing back and forth calmed my upset soul with its sweet familiarity.
On it the shame of ordering half a cow rather than half a pound of beef didn’t matter quite so much. The embarrassment of calling my husband a woman and the humiliation of asking the grocer for a fish rather than a peach floated away with its rhythm.
Peace anchored me from its seat. Hours of rocking, hugging babies and reading God’s Word blessed me. No one could have possibly prepared me for the importance of a rocking chair in my journey to contentment overseas.
In the Old Testament, the kingdom of Judah was brought low by their own self-reliance. In the upheaval of nations, rulers and changes God’s words spilled out tender compassion.
…“in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15; NKJV.
In my overturned world, that rocking chair brought a sequence of stability. There I quieted my heart. Rest brought confidence in my Savior. Strength poured into my soul.
The chair lasted through another baby, four moves and two countries. The holes got so big in the wicker webbing we couldn’t sit without falling through, so we fixed it. It cost as much as the chair had new.
Years later, our daughter and son-in-law moved to Italy. New holes spawned in the fresh meshing. Grandkids raced toy cars and collided them up and down its back. Little knees broke through the seat again.
And when we moved back to the States after twenty-four years, I looked at it and said, “We can’t take that. It’s a wreck.”
“We can’t leave it,” my husband said, “We rocked our kids and grandkids in it.” He looked at me with watery blue eyes. And so, it made the trek back, reduced to pieces, like when we first bought it. We left it in its packing cardboard and shoved it around in storage, as if it was worth keeping. With an act of sad courage we finally threw it out.
“I guess we could get another one,” he said recently.
No one would blink an eye. We are old enough now.