In our county, kids have not seen a full week of school in over a month. From ice and snow to more snow and ice then fast forward to "Spring Break" - you could say life has been less than routine. I found myself getting irritated and short tempered. I could not figure out how "not doing anything" made me so tired (note the sarcasm, parents). I saw the posts on-line that begged for Calgon to take every stay-at-home and work-at-home and even work-outside-the-home parent to another time and place each time a school cancellation was announced. And yet, I truly wondered why I was so tired and what was it we all wanted to flee from during this break? Why did we have to be entertained? Why couldn't we just find rest? Why couldn't I rest?
It didn't make sense. The extras disappeared and we had a bit more forced space. Nature gave us a "time out" for rest and yet I was spinning my wheels rather than settling in to the space. I am a planner. So, it's quite likely if notice had been given, I would have been prepared and more mentally ready to rest. But it was not expected and I struggled. Why is it we struggle to settle in to the unplanned empty spaces in our lives? What seemed like a loss was really a gain. And, I did not take full advantage of that fact.
Now the rest transitions back to life and as I prepare to return to routine and all the commitments that accompany it, I found myself briefly getting anxious. Why? Let's be honest, the routine kicks in and the busy quickly follows - and busy is not pretty either.
Why are we so busy and why is there no in between? What is it we seek with what fills up our calendars? Why when those calendars are unexpectedly empty, do we feel lost? Are we addicted to busy?
I don't attend yoga class to make use of comfy pants. I don't attend worship to visit with my friends. I don't take my son to Scouts and basketball so his agenda is full. I don't schedule time to date my husband in order to seek out a good meal. I don't visit family or friends because I need or want something. I don't teach or plan retreats or lead or write or volunteer for recognition. So, why then? Why do I do the things that fill up my calendar? Why do you?
I've struggled with being vs. doing for much of my adult life. And thankfully, I hear permission from God that it does not have to be one or the other. We can be with God amidst our doing, we can find rest.
Here are some reminders for myself in this season, maybe for you too:
During likely one of the most challenging times in the life of Moses, God told him this, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33:14, NIV)
Every time I start to get overwhelmed, I am reminded to rest. And yet, my initial response is that I have too much to do to rest. You know the drill. The kids, the job, the house, the family, the friends, the church, the place you volunteer down the road, or even the shelter downtown - they ALL need you!
Guess what? They do need you! Without you, there will be no one to fold the laundry, help with homework, kiss the boo-boos, build friendships, give to the church, or volunteer in the community. But, here is the big news flash! You don't have to do it all at once and you aren't expected to do it all when you are exhausted.
We need rest. God designed us to rest. He even rested. He tells us that he will give us rest! So, why do we think that we are special and we do not need to rest? If you are guilty of forgetting to rest and take care of yourself, you are not alone. This has been a skill set I have been working on for quite some time. What is interesting is that many of us simply don't know where to start. Most of us have not been modeled rest or taught well how to rest by our society.
So, I'm sharing some small changes I've made to incorporate rest in my life and hope that by sharing my list it may help you to expand your list. Read it through, get some ideas and get some rest!
You may think that it is impossible to get away with God and find rest in today's society with all that is resting on your shoulders. But, it really is possible. And, in the long run, you may just find you are more productive. Or, you may find that the less important things in life just fall right off your list. What gives you rest?
I'm signing off to go stretch and then sleep while the dishes await! Happy rest!
“Doing things differently” sounds so much better than change, doesn’t it? Most of us are not fans of change and we often resist it to the bitter end. But, if we take a few steps back and commit to “doing things differently”, it may not seem as painful.
I’ve taken the summer off (a sabbath) from schoolwork and although I have my book-list, I have not read anything that is required for my next class (woo-hoo!). This summer, I’ve needed to practice what I’ve been learning rather than learn more about it and I also just needed to do things differently. For starters, I needed to not take myself so seriously. I have been in a mode of vocational discernment, trying to figure out what is next and where God is leading me. There are many definitions for “what” discernment is or looks like. But, for me, it has been a place of waiting and learning. It’s a place God has had me in for a while and I’m finally getting used to it. Just as I adjust to this place of waiting, things are starting to take shape. Isn’t that just how life goes?
Anyway, at the start of the summer, I declared it a summer of fiction and fun with the family. I can say that has been a success as I near the completion of the entire Harry Potter series! The summer has mostly been about family fun with our 7 year-old that has included camping trips and swimming in the lake. But, this week he is gone to visit my grandmother with his grandparents and I am taking this time of silence to go on retreat. So, the first thing I longed to do was write. Doing things differently this summer has shown me how much I’ve missed this time of reflection.
We often know that certain things in our life need to be done differently. We hear God’s little nudge or urge to make a change. Sometimes we give in and make drastic changes and sometimes we answer with small changes. But, I really believe that when God nudges us to do things differently, there is a reason for it. We can only ignore him for so long. I know that the spiritual formation tools I’ve been studying are to be shared with others. But, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with where to start, who to start with and when to start. Sometimes, it isn’t as hard as we make it. Here is what I have learned so far: I need to step back, look around me and simply start with myself by following God’s urge to do things differently.
I had the privilege of meeting with some amazing young women in our community who have the itch to “do things differently” this summer. They have volunteered this summer to learn and serve as "Project Collide". These girls have worshiped under a bridge with some of Nashville’s homeless community. They are definitely open to “doing things differently”.
Here is some of what impressed me most about those young women…they didn’t roll their eyes or mutter under their breath when I asked them to take a deep breath and get comfortable for a time of silence. They listened in silence as I shared a guided prayer with them. They were intrigued by the sand labyrinth I brought to share and wanted to know all about my hand crosses and stones and 10,000 Villages (a very cool store making global change). They were open to doing things differently. I might even dare to say that most of them are hungry for it. The next day I got an email asking about where some of the girls could go to visit a labyrinth. That isn’t the expected afternoon activity for teenage girls in our community, it’s doing things differently.
Yes, being different is hard and it often isn’t popular. Take a moment and think about expanding that box you’ve put around yourself, what could you do differently this week? And, I’m not talking about just the serious stuff. I went to Zumba for the first time last week (and if you know my dancing abilities) that was a good laugh for the spectators outside the workout room, but it was also fun. It was a good way for me to do something different!
Why is it that when we are looking to make a difference or find something more fulfilling in life we seek to change everything around us instead of changing ourselves?
Give yourself a spiritual, physical or mental workout this week. Yes, we are all busy. But make the time to do something different: go to church under a bridge or in a thrift store, try a new workout, give yourself a good laugh, memorize a scripture, walk a labyrinth, try a healthy new food, read a good book, create some art, go on retreat, worship with your eyes closed, pray out loud, sit in silence, volunteer your time, talents or resources and you may just find that there is great joy in doing things differently!
Whitney R. Simpson
• on a journey of #ExploringPeace
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