The Reality of Rest

Our fall break didn’t go as planned. I mean, when does any stretch of time off really go as planned? But this week capped any week I’ve ever had. From an unexpected health emergency landing my husband in ICU for a few days to a drunk driver plowing through our fence at midnight one night, we had a week I hope to never repeat.

On the last Sunday before our first grader had to return to school, we had plans to go to church and then to our local garden center for their Fall Festival. We’ve done this with our neighbors every year and it’s one of my favorite fall traditions.

As we were eating breakfast, I noticed the first sign of a migraine headache move across my vision. I’ve had ocular migraines since I was about 11 years old but with age, they’ve lessened in frequency and intensity. Now, I usually get one or so each year, after a particularly stressful event. So, it was no surprise that this migraine moved in as we were preparing for one last day of a highly stressful and unusual break.

The only way to combat these headaches is Excedrin, a dark room and rest. This was how I found myself on this last day to redeem a decidedly unmagical, unrestful week of break.

I’m going to go out on a generalizing limb here and guess that most of us moms have trouble resting. It isn’t until our bodies completely rebel against us that we take time to rest, and even then I often power through. (I still did two loads of laundry mid-migraine thanks to a potty training regression.) My husband absolutely stepped up, took the girls to church and the pumpkin patch, despite his 30% blood loss from the week before. But even with the best partner on this journey, rest doesn’t come naturally for many of us.

I often blame our current state of affairs for this lack of rest. We are constantly on the go, able to work from anywhere, always plugged in. It’s hard to truly rest. In fact, some of my favorite vacation spots are the places with spotty connections and no Wi-Fi because I’m unable to cheat and must just enjoy the moment.

But then I read the Bible and realize that this whole idea of rest has always been a revolutionary idea. Why else would God have to explicitly put rest as one of the Commandments? If we were able to naturally practice this essential skill, we wouldn’t need a divine reminder.

And clearly, the word of God didn’t change people’s attitudes toward rest. Centuries later, Jesus needed to remind his followers again and again of the importance of rest. He modeled it by going away to quiet places, much to the chagrin and bafflement of his disciples. He reminds us, Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

I don’t know about you, but it gives me a lot of comfort knowing that I’m not the first or only person who struggles with rest. It’s human nature to want to get one more thing finished, to not trust that God’s wiring of our need for rest is holy.

In a perfect world, rest would look like a silent retreat away from all responsibilities. Last year, I was able to spend two nights at a convent, just me, some cows and a group of faithful nuns. I was able to hike and wander, to eat meals in silence, and to pray the offices as I wanted. I came home so rejuvenated!

That’s not my reality, though. My reality includes two early-risers who start the day enthusiastically ready to go. It starts with moments squeezed between squabbles and getting teeth brushed and into the cracks of naptime.

I’m learning to live in this tension of raising active and needy humans and longing for rest. Sometimes, rest looks like a walk after bedtime with our dog. Sometimes, rest looks like putting on screen time so I can just read the Bible or get something done. Sometimes, rest looks like setting my alarm a half an hour earlier to write a bit before the house wakes up. Sometimes, rest is acknowledging that I cannot get everything taken care of — and that’s OK.

That week of fall break taught me something important. If we don’t rest (however that looks) then our bodies will rest for us. When I go too long without that act of self-care, my body rebels against my worry and struggle. Maybe I need to start paying better attention to the gift that God has given me: That I depend on rest, for my physical health, emotional health and spiritual health.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog: https://blog.mops.org/the-reality-of-rest/

Letting Autumn Guide My Days

The nights are getting cooler and our garden’s harvest is slowing down. We ate tomato and cucumber salads, made tomato cobbler, and I baked two apple pies using the fruit from our backyard tree. It was a flurry of seasonal eating and delicious vine-ripened produce.

IMG_0705Less than a month later, things are slowing down. We’ll pick a few more tomatoes before it gets really cold but not many. Our squash plants are officially done and we’ll soon be turning our compost that’s been churning all summer into the earth as we prepare the ground for a long winter’s sleep.

It’s funny how we wait all season for a big harvest only for that harvest to be over in a matter of weeks.

Last week was a busy one for our family. Usually, I try to create space in the week with no plans or activities but through a variety of planned and unplanned visits and errands, we had a jam-packed week. One of my planned activities was to go for a walk with one of my pastors. We had talked about getting together for coffee but as we confirmed, a walk was suggested and I’m so glad it was!

I know that, especially with deeper or more intense conversations, walking helps my thought process. Sitting across from someone in a crowded space can feel a bit intimidating – not because of our relationship but because of the environment. It’s harder for me to have vulnerable conversations in the intimacy of a shared cafe space. But on a path out in the open, not looking directly at my friend? The conversation winds and meanders and we’re able to touch on big topics, comment on a puppy or flock of birds or beautiful garden, and circle back to those discussions.

As we were starting the second half of our six-mile loop, my pastor returned to a comment I had made earlier in our conversation about time and vocation and the big questions of what’s next? She reminded me that in order to produce, we must plant the seeds and then let them germinate and grow in the soil. She pointed out the books and conversations and groups I’m part of and wondered if I’m in a growing place. That I may not be producing much right now because I’m preparing for the harvest.

The way she phrased this thought fit into what I’ve been pondering and reading on my own but it all clicked as we worked up a sweat on that sunny morning. Recently, I’ve been in a production season. I’m seeing friendships grow at school and writing had come fairly easily. I was reading books that pushed my boundaries and was able to process those ideas quickly.

But the past few months have felt a bit more forced. I assumed it was our summer routine but, now that we’re over a month into school and autumny sorts of things, I’m still struggling through the work.

I just finished Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer. This is a book that needs to be read at the right moment. If I had read it earlier this year or last year, I don’t think it would have meant as much as it has at this moment. In his last chapter, all about the seasons of life, he says,

“I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted. Instead, my mind is on the fact that the green growth of summer is browning and beginning to die. My delight in the autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by the hope of new life” (pg 98).

I’m watching our own leaves fall to the ground as the weather starts to shift. I love the changing of seasons – the active process of watching leaves turn brilliant before they fall. But the season itself can be quiet and melancholy. After the leaves fall but before the winter snows come, life is brown.

Similarly, in spring Palmer reminds us of the slush and mud that precedes the blooms. That each season has that time of transition and muck before the brilliance.

I’m learning to lean into the burrowing nature of autumn. I’m quieting my soul, reading books that may not emerge in thought or conversation for a while, and putting aside that list of hopes and goals.

Practically, this looks like making lists of thoughts and ideas for writing but not putting pressure on myself to hit “publish.” This looks like starting and abandoning books that may be incredibly interesting but not what I need right now. It looks like really limiting my time reading the news, checking social media, and instead focusing on engaging in the small work of the now.

I was talking with another friend and she reminded me to give my soul space to breathe. I’m learning to do that. To balance breathing with discipline; to let the plants grow and nestle while still tending the garden. I’m leaning into autumn and remembering that, while seasons are predictably three months, my own life’s seasons aren’t so neat and tidy. And there’s something beautiful about that, too.

Life seasons don’t always follow actual seasons. What season are you in right now? How are you finding balance through it all?

Books Referenced:

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Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Made Like Martha Guest Post + Giveaway

Before becoming a mother, I was an efficient do-er. I was often the first to get my grades in at the end of the semester; I’d plan my days around productivity and quiet time; I felt pretty in control of my schedule. And then kids happened… And I quickly learned that the best-laid plans of productivity go by the wayside for a myriad of reasons. Being a mom has taught me to hold my to-do list loosely, to go with the flow, and to remember to live in the moment. Some days, this happens more gracefully than others.

When I heard about Katie M. Reid’s book, Made Like Martha, the title resonated with me. Martha has always been a woman I’ve connected with and I feel like she’s gotten an unfair reputation as a frenzied worker. But really, she kept things together. Made Like Martha reminds us that God has created “Modern Marthas” as do-ers. The question is how do we worship and work, without losing focus? Katie delivers a grace-filled look at how we can use Martha as a role-model, rather than a warning.

I’m honored to feature a guest post of Katie’s here. Read to the bottom for an opportunity to win your own copy of Made Like Martha, which releases tomorrow!

Sabbath Rest for Those Who Get Things Done
by Katie M. Reid

PerfectioninUsMadeLikeMarthaKMReidI knew I should be more intentional about Sabbath (a day set apart for the Lord and recuperation) but I thought it had to look a certain way too. Since it hardly ever looked “that way,” I often felt restless about getting rest “right.”

Some friends of mine are more purposeful when it comes to Sabbath. Some don’t go out to eat because that causes others work on the Sabbath. Others implement no screen time on their day of rest. Some mandate a nap (yes, please!). Some do yard work. Some sleep in. Some go adventuring. Some are physically active, others avoid it all costs. Some brunch at a leisurely hour. And some are required to work on Sundays, so they pick another day to chill.

Have you felt unsure about what a day of rest should look like?

Fielding questions about Sabbath now:
“Can we go out to eat?”
“Should I do housework?”
“Should we allow technology?”
“Do I need to connect with God for hours in order for it to count?”

Good questions. I’m glad you asked. Here are my off-the-top-of-my-head responses (for what they’re worth):
“Yes!”
“Definitely not. Let’s just say it’s not allowed. Like ever!”
“I dunno know. I try not to, but it doesn’t seem to stick.”
“Grace Darling, so much grace.”

Much to my surprise, my family is hungry every Sunday—of all the nerve! No grace for that. J/K! #kindof (insert sheepish and conflicted emoji face).Thankfully, we’ve uncovered the beauty of leftovers, a.k.a. Operation Fend For Yourself.

Sometimes our kids have soccer games on Sundays. Although we enjoy cheering them on, we miss our afternoon nap on those days.

Sometimes our day of rest (whether it’s Sunday or another day) is filled up by our own choosing, but other times, unexpected things disrupt our ideal.

It can be hard to rest on the inside when there is a flurry of activity happening around you—self-induced or otherwise. Like the crowds that pressed in on Jesus and vied for his attention, you can’t always retreat from the hustle and bustle.

We need time to recharge (Jesus did that after all). But beach vacations (my favorite way to unwind: staring at waves, hearing the caw of gulls overhead, sipping iced tea with lemon, reading a book, not being interrupted…insert contented sigh) are few and far between. And if we wait to spend time with Jesus until the conditions are ideal, we never will.

Instead of being annoyed that your day of rest is not as serene as you’d like, why not connect with God in the midst of it?

Rest can look a thousand different ways. Let’s ask God for wisdom to rest in ways that focus on Him and refresh us. Yes, we need shuteye. Yes, time away is important. Yes, a break helps us recharge, but the peace of Jesus’s Presence is carried within us at any and all times—waiting to be enjoyed.

Rest is not something to search for, but Someone to be with.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” -Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)

What are some of your favorites ways to rest?

KatieReid_MeetKateKatie M. Reid is a wife, mom to five, and a fan of cut-to-the-chase conversations over iced tea. Katie is also a speaker, Bible study facilitator, and author of Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done (which includes a 5-week bible study for individuals and groups). She encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life at katiemreid.com. Subscribe to Katie’s site and receive resources to help you breathe deeply and walk freely.

You can win your own copy of Made Like Martha!MadeLikeMartha_sidebar

Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done releases tomorrow! Katie’s publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah has generously offered to host a giveaway for one copy. All you have to do is subscribe to my newsletter, The Compost Heap and leave a comment here telling me you’ve signed up. If you’re feeling chatty, tell me why you connect with either Martha or Mary more and why. I’ll randomly select a winner on Thursday, June 12, 2018.

As a member of the Made Like Martha launch team, I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

The Compost Heap

 

The Importance of Reading Genesis

Last Friday, after we took Bea out for her celebratory last day of school lunch, I packed five books, two journals, two packs of pens, my computer, and my sneakers and drove up to the Abbey of St. Walberga close to the Wyoming border.

IMG_9055I was two hours into the drive when I realized I had forgotten my Bible. I had just gotten a new version and had been eagerly awaiting this weekend to start reading it. Somehow, it was left on the kitchen counter. Of all the retreats to forget a Bible on, this isn’t too terrible, as nearly every room in the Abbey has a copy.

After Vespers at dinner my first night, I was talking with a friend who also happened to be there for the weekend. (What are the chances?) My friend reminded me that the Desert Fathers likened nature to reading the Bible and said, Just go out and spend time in Genesis!

I had some loose goals and ideas for how I wanted to spend those 48 hours alone. I read a lot, attended the Offices, and napped. But I also remembered to “read Genesis.” My friend, who had lived at the Abbey for a few years as caretaker, took me to some of her favorite spots.

Looking at the trees growing out of rocks, listening to the streams and birds, and breathing in the wildflowers reminded me of what uncultivated earth is like. We talked about how being out in the wild landscape is like a glimpse of the New Earth, though such a pale shade of comparison.

I love the idea of catching glimpses of the Earth to come. Of getting out of my norms and seeing trees and grasses in new context. Even though we have wildflowers growing in our garden, actual wildflowers are so very different.

In the afternoon, I walked to the front of the property to hike the Stations of the Cross. The route winds up a hill and, at the top, a view of the Abbey, nestled in a valley of rock formations with the snow-covered Rocky Mountains in the distance stood below me. I saw the cultivated farmland of the Abbey but it seemed so small and orderly compared to the landscape surrounding it.

Looking down on this scene, I was reminded of my own orderly life. I work so hard to cultivate it and make it fruitful and I often see good results from the rhythms we have as a family. But I need to remember to get out of my order and go “read Genesis” in the wilderness.

I had been in a bit of a creative slump when I arrived and looked forward to resting. I brought my computer, just in case, but was hesitant to open it. Walking in nature, getting out of my routines, not talking for most of the day sparked that ember of creativity. I started seeing my adventures through the lens of storytelling and would come back to my room ready to write and connect what I had been seeing and learning.

Writers—and creatives in general—are often told to just “do the work” of creativity. That if you show up, the muse will meet you. I agree that the only way creativity happens is if I’m willing to show up and do the work.

But I’m also reminded that I need to rest. At this stage in parenting, rest is hard to find at our house. The girls are up and ready to go, regardless of the day of the week. We cook and eat and tidy and do bedtime every day without much variation. I needed to pause and physically get out of my routine.

I loved doing this at the Abbey where the balance of showing up to pray the Offices and go out for unstructured rambles could live hand-in-hand. (For me, not the nuns…) I wish there was a way to practically implement this idea into our daily routines.

Maybe there is. But if it doesn’t make sense, I’m also realizing that this is ok. Sometimes the only way to rest is to leave. The only way to “read Genesis” is to get out into new territory.

How do you break out of your norms? What ways do you “read Genesis” to experience the Bible in fresh ways? Does nature connect you with faith?

Recalibrating Toward Rest

I’ve never really been cutting edge. Growing up, my clothes were hand-me-downs from my fashionable cousin. I get most of my books from the library, so it’s rare I’m reading material that came out at the last minute. Maybe it’s because I’m such a processor that I have to sit with new ideas for a while before committing to action. Maybe it’s just that I’m not cool enough to be a trend-setter.

IMG_8155Right after I started blogging, seasoned bloggers declared that this medium is dead. No one reads blogs anymore! No one comments anymore! The golden age of blogging has passed! Many of these bloggers moved on to write books or create podcasts, which is awesome. I’ve loved many of their books and podcasts. Now, a few year later, some of them are coming back to blogging. In their newsletters, they’ve said they miss this type of conversation.

When I finally took the leap to start writing publicly, it was a bit disheartening to hear that the blogging world was dying. Was it worth it? For me, it has been. I didn’t start writing to get a book deal or build a huge platform. I did it to help view life more intentionally. For me, when I write an essay meant for public consumption, I have to put some thought into my life experiences and the message I’m learning from those moments differently than if I processed in a private journal. As with most creativity, this journey has been more for me than for recognition.

With the announcement of the return to blogging (by some – I’m sure many others are still making the case for the death of blogging) I wondered if blogging had ever really died or if bloggers just needed a rest.

When I’m reading too many heavy books, I know it’s time for a break in that genre when the entire world seems hopeless. Often, I need not look farther than my Goodreads list to see that too many books on mass incarceration can shade my outlook on justice in this world. While these books are necessary, I need to balance them with fairy tales and memoirs to remind me that there are many stories in this world.

When our house seems claustrophobic and the mess seems unbearable, I know it’s time to get outside for a walk or a trip to the park before I tackle the clutter. A change of scenery, even for an hour or so, shifts my perspective of home.

I’ve written before about how we all rest differently – that sometimes rest looks like a nap; sometimes it looks like a hike in the mountains; sometimes it looks like a walk around the block.

What I do know, is that before we declare something dead, we most likely need to take a rest first. Whatever it is – from something as benign as blogging to something as impacting as spiritual burnout – I wonder if we need to pause and rest first. Maybe this means resting from the news or resting from reading Biblical commentaries. Maybe this means resting from journaling or a specific type of exercise. Maybe your rest means more of those same things but in different ways. When I get overwhelmed or easily annoyed, it’s time to rest. It’s time to recalibrate my mind and body, even if just for a few hours.

We’re entering our family’s tax season schedule. If I let myself get overwhelmed, I easily go to extreme places of death and destruction. What I’m trying to remember is that, before I declare our family dead from lack of connectedness, I may just need to rest, to call on my community for help, and to recalibrate what I know to be true.

How do you find rest in the midst of chaos? How do you recalibrate your expectations of an experience or situation when you’re overwhelmed?

Listening to Myself

I’m sitting on a blue and white striped bedspread in a sweet little room named Nantucket. Boats and fishing nets and white curtains and distressed wood decorate this small room. The window is open and I listen to the little creek running through the backyard.

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View from my room

Last night, I arrived at this little bed and breakfast, just outside the city on the way to the mountains. I didn’t really know what to do with myself – Two whole nights by myself?? An entire day, just me? I was at a loss, and got a little antsy.

Unable to just stop. To breathe. To listen, I watched a movie, read some books, and went to bed so early. Perhaps by divine intervention, I left my computer charger at home and arrived here with a half-full battery. I’ll have to be more intentional about screen time tonight.

I had been asking for 24-hours to myself for a couple years now but the timing was always off – pregnancy and newborns just seemed to complicate plans for a retreat. With school underway and a free weekend on the calendar, we decided now was as good a time as any.

And so, I’m spending some time relearning how to listen to myself. With days spent listening to the needs of two small children, of listening to the needs of friends and our family dynamic, I fall into the trap so many moms seem to: I forget to listen to myself.

So, here I am in a little room. A stack of books that would take weeks to read, just in case. A dying computer for a bit of writing but nothing else. And the sound of the creek outside, reminding me that it’s ok to do all or none or some of what I imagined for this time of rest.

How do you stop and listen to yourself? What is the best way for you to find rest?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “listen.”

Lazy Summer

After a month in no-schedule summer-mode, Bea’s had a week of morning Vacation Bible School at her preschool. It’s been a fun week – projects, games, seeing some of her teachers, and best of all: Hanging out with teenagers!!

Because our mornings are full again, we haven’t done much else. Both girls need afternoon naps, and I look forward to an afternoon rest as well. (Depending on the day, nap overlap can vary between 10 minutes and a full hour.)

While it’s been a good experience and I’m so glad we signed up for VBS, it’s also been a good reminder of the need to keep summer as summer. No agendas, low-key playdates, swimming, biking, spontaneity.

IMG_1114It’s easy to plan up the rest of the summer. We have a few road trips coming up and some camping with friends. A lot of our friends are signed up for really fun things – fairy ballet camp and art camp and gardening camp. It’s tempting to see if there are spots averrable – how cool would it be to hang out at the Botanic Gardens, going on scavenger hunts all morning?

And then I see Elle absolutely light up and start laughing as we walk home from VBS. She’s missed Bea all morning. It makes me think that school starting in the fall will be hardest on her. I see how much fun it is to lounge and just be together – even on the long days.

And so we sit in this moment and soak it in, remembering that time flies and we won’t have long summers of rest forever. Soon they’ll be filled with other amazing, fun activities and I’ll embrace this new season. For now, I’m glad we are able to slow down and breathe for a bit.

Do you like lazy summers or do you thrive on activities? What’s your ideal way to rest?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “rest.”