By Pastor Paula Burchill
It was still early as I pushed the sheet off my body and swung my toes onto the tiled floor. I gazed out the tiny window of our villa and saw blue skies as I breathed in the scent of olive groves and ancient buildings. As I crept down the steep hardy planked open staircase, I woke my lanky son on the sofa bed and told him he could go upstairs if he wanted to sleep longer.
I knew he would—that kid is growing and takes sleep however and whenever he can get it. And I wanted to be alone, my feet propped on the window sill, coffee in hand, reading another mystery set in Italy in the quiet of the early morning.
I walked into the kitchen that reminded me of a beautiful dark fort. Copper pots climbed up the walls and hid under the coves of the sloped wooden ceiling. I filled the pot of the bright yellow coffee maker with water and just dumped in the espresso we bought at the market. As I pushed the button, I placed my hands on the stone sink and reveled in design and function and beauty.
But I wanted my coffee and to start reading, so I grabbed a cup, and moved the carafe to sneak the essence, as my brother Jeff calls it, placing my cup under the brew dripping down.
Only in Italy, apparently when you remove the pot, the coffee doesn’t pause in its brewing like my pot does. As coffee spilled onto the chipped green wood of the counter by the refrigerator, I quickly replaced the pot and started wiping the mess as best I could.
I almost had to laugh out loud. Here I was, preaching about and thinking about pause and slowing down but apparently Italian coffee pots had something to teach me.
Our last night in Rome, we sat around a white linen table cloth and asked our kids what they missed about home and what they wanted to take back from our trip. We laughed about not missing the smell of cigarettes everywhere and how nice it would be to get free water with ice in it at a restaurant again, but then Carl piped up and said, I wish we took more time eating dinner like we do here. At home it seems like we are always in a hurry. Erik and Ingrid nodded in agreement and said how much they have loved our meals at night.
Many have written about the fine art of eating dinner like the Italians. It starts late, ends late and it is slowness and pausing interspersed with pasta and wine and conversation and insalata and meat courses and it is topped off with an espresso to aid digestion. No one brings your bill unless you ask. The expectation is that you are there to be together and to take your time and to enjoy. There is no rushing.
As I mopped up the coffee—how did it manage to get in every nook and cranny when I couldn’t have had the pot away from the spout for more than 2.5 seconds—I thought about the fact that Americans would make coffee pots where you don’t have to wait for them to finish brewing before you take the essence, and how that didn’t occur to the Italians.
I want to be like the Italians. I want to live knowing that the essence is found in the waiting and the pausing and the slowing down. My kids showed me what can happen. I mean, three teenagers without phones wanting to sit and talk for two hours over dinner? Miracles happen when you slow down and quit rushing around.
I took my cup, turned off the light in the kitchen and walked to my window. As I pulled up the wicker chair and put a pillow on the sill for my feet, I paused. I breathed deeply and just waited. Waiting isn’t my strong suit, but I’m willing to learn. I’m starting to realize that is the way to get to the essence.
Now that I’m back at SLC and the kids have started school [Erik is a senior!], the fact that pausing gets to the essence of life seems even more important. Pausing is important for hearing the voices of each other but also the voice of God. So I’m wondering if you would like to join me in learning, struggling, trying to pause more. Write the word on your hand, your desk, your refrigerator, your coffee pot. Let’s pause so we can enjoy each other and our neighbors and our amazing God. Are you in?