Friday, January 4, 2013

What a Difference a Year {of rest} Makes

Exactly one year ago my days usually looked something like this:

Get kids out the door for school. Sit on the sofa for hours--sometimes writing, sometimes journaling, sometimes reading, sometimes dozing. I'd leave at 12:45 to pick up the youngest from preschool. I picked up the older two at 2:30. Because I'd spent most mornings doing nothing, I had a wee bit of energy to transition into mom mode, oversee the kids, and throw together something for dinner. It was not uncommon for me to doze off by 8:30, sleepily slurring words while reading Harry Potter to the kids. The bare minimum wore me out.

For months on end, my days were characterized by exhaustion and rest. My thoughts waffled between gratitude for the opportunity to just finally stop and recover, and guilt because I had nothing to show for my days. I wondered if I would ever feel normal again. I could hardly remember what normal was for me. 

But here's the thing about having nothing to give: "Nothing" is void of inertia. {I'm sure there is some law of physics that puts it way better.}

No amount of bootstrap-tugging or mantra-repeating can make it happen. On my better days I knew the futility of trying to make myself different than I was. I prayed and hoped that one day things would change and in the meantime, I received the grace to simply accept who I was: a tired, emotional mess. My job was to rest and heal. And so I did, some days better than others. {See? I even measure my rest as successful or not. Surely perfectionism is an illness.}

Yesterday was a day I couldn't have executed even a few months ago. I got up early to run, came home and readied the kids for school. Then my five-year-old and I took the dog to the vet for shots. The dog peed and pooped twice in Pet Smart just like she always does. And so I cleaned it up, just like I always do, all the while laughing at the ridiculous dirty work of my everyday. I held said dog during the shots while fielding 5,269 questions from my five-year-old and making sure he didn't collapse the folding examination table on his head. After that we went to Target, stopped for lunch, visited a thrift store, and browsed an antiques shop. I made phone calls, paid bills, talked with a neighbor, picked up kids, debriefed about their school days, fixed something new for dinner, and did at least three loads of laundry. By the time we finished our read-aloud time last night, I was tired. And I should have been. I packed a lot of stuff into the day.

A day like that would not have been possible last year. I would have been lucky to fit all of those tasks into one week, maybe even one month. It's crazy how great I felt about myself when I went to bed last night. And I mean crazy in a bad way. 

Because here's what I've learned. Productivity and "success" don't force one to wrestle with issues of grace and acceptance and weakness. On days like yesterday, I was my own motivator and savior. I relied on my trusty to-do list, boundless energy, and welcome creativity. 

I needed Jesus less...or so it seemed.

But the "loser days" and the "winner days" are actually shouting the same message: Girl, you need Jesus every day. On the exhausting days, you need him to save you from your circumstances and your inability. On the energetic days, you need him to save you from yourself and your ability.   

Both kinds of days point to my complete and utter dependance; productivity simply disguises the need a little more. 

I wouldn't say I'm back to "normal," whatever that is. But I am returning, slowly, to a place where I'm more functional. Rest looks a bit different now. Last year I rested out of complete necessity; this year rest will be more of a discipline. I am learning to practice time-outs even when my mind and body are telling me I can accomplish more. 

Yesterday my running partner and I were talking about where I was a year ago. I joked about how, for months on end, I had absolutely nothing to show for my days. She said, That's not true. All those days of rest are showing up now, this year. 

And that's the truth. Rest takes time. Its effects are cumulative and life-giving but it requires a patience which daily accomplishment doesn't mandate. Projects and checked-off to-do lists provide instant gratification. Rest makes you wait for it. I've learned this the hard, beautiful way and I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

After two days of productivity, I'm forcing myself to bask in the quiet this morning, to stay in my pajamas, to read and meditate and write, to acknowledge my need even though I don't feel it as acutely, physically and emotionally.  

Now that each and every day aren't plagued by utter inability, I oscillate between being Mary on a pensive Tuesday and Martha on a task-oriented Thursday. And though work and rest are needful rhythms in our lives, Jesus reminds us that only one thing is truly the main course: to sit at his feet, to rest in his presence, to know that his words are life-giving and that his perfect life is what gives us life. 

We fill up so that we can pour out. 

Sometimes we devote ourselves to rest for a season, a very long season if that's what it takes. Other times rest is a practice, a lifestyle of margin and weighing opportunity costs and tough prioritization. My husband is good to remind me that fruitfulness and productivity are often not the same thing. 

Maybe this year is one dedicated to rest for you. Maybe it's one of new opportunities and exciting projects. Maybe it's one of dealing with grief and debilitating transition. Our lives change but they're tenderly held by a God who doesn't. 

Whatever this next year holds, my hope for all of us is that God meets us right where we are to custom-fit each of us with exactly the kind of rest and renewal our bodies, minds and souls need, to fill us up so we can eventually pour our lives out in service to those around us. 


And now a New Year's Prayer for all of us:

May your 2013 be one of wisdom and encouragement. Say "no" to that which is not fruitful. Say "yes" to fresh possibilities and brave new paths. Rest when you need it. Work when you have to. Be encouraged that all work is sacred, whether you're at home wiping bottoms or in an office filing papers. Accept the season in which you live, glamourous or not. Know that it's divinely appointed and therefore beautiful, even if it's a mess. If you feel invisible and unimportant, know that it's a lie. God sees you and keeps track of every last hair on your head. You matter and he loves you more than you can possibly comprehend. If you belong to him, you're royalty. Realize that God sees neediness and dependence as virtues, not disabilities. May his grace give you new eyes to see that He is strongest when you are weak. Amen.


  1. One of your most wonderful posts . . . and so early in the year!

    Your running partner gave you a beautiful truth-message: It's "showing up now." Every morsel of today's energy is the result of prior rest and renewal whether over the course of weeks that turned into months, or a good night of sleep last night.

    I pray, dear one, that this will be a year of continued rest . . . and fruitfulness . . . all perfectly balanced by the One who holds them both.


  2. I love this and was nodding and screaming YES YES YES in my mind while reading it: Because here's what I've learned. Productivity and "success" don't force one to wrestle with issues of grace and acceptance and weakness. On days like yesterday, I was my own motivator and savior. I relied on my trusty to-do list, boundless energy, and welcome creativity.

    Your blog is always a blessing to me. Cheers, grace and rest in your new year!

  3. Thank you for the reminder that rest is vital, I've learned that this year as I ran from the rest I needed. Lesson learned 2013 will be different. Your words encourage me more than you could ever know.

  4. You are the future Dave Ramsey of the energy bankrupt! I'll be first in line for an autographed copy when your book comes out. Love this post, as I am (slowly) learning that the way out of bankruptcy looks way different than how this over-energy-spender got herself in the red.....soooo needy for the Spirit! this is your story, this is your song...Keep Singing it! love, jordan


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