The Elusiveness of Rest

Why does rest seem such an illusive state to many of us? How is it that we somehow keep pushing ourselves, sometimes to our absolute limit, without even realizing it? Why do we feel guilty if we take a break? Why do we drive ourselves so ruthlessly?

For most of my adult life, rest was a foreign concept to me. In my late thirties, my chiropractor asked me what I do to relax. I looked at him blankly and couldn’t think of a single thing. My friends used to ask me what I did for “alone time” (since I homeschooled my kids), and I would respond with something to the effect that “alone time” is more a selfish, popular notion.

I constantly ran at full tilt, thoughtlessly adding more to my already overstuffed life. It seemed my yes’s were as prolific as my state of perpetual motion. It’s not surprising that at my breakneck speed, running was one of my great loves. My mantra was, “Why walk when you can run?”

Me crossing the finish line the Casino Niagara International Marathon in 2002. I ran my first long-distance race at ten years old and won and continued running and racing until 2006 when my back pain no longer allowed it.

There was never enough time in the day, and I would drop into bed at night, my brain full of all the things I had to do the next day while berating myself for those I hadn’t managed to accomplish—or not accomplish well enough. My to-do list regularly filled an 8 1/2 x 11 page! What an exhausting and chaotic way to live!

Fortunately for me, two things made a huge impact on my journey toward rest. One arrived about about thirteen years ago when my body rebelled and forced me to a literal standstill. The other was an intentional “Year of No” where I cleared my life of every single one of my commitments except those I needed to keep for family or friends. The first decision was forced on me, the other I chose as a result of how my life had so easily refilled a few years after the first.

Our front porch has become a favorite respite of mine. It’s where I enjoy my morning coffee and soak in the beauty of the waking day, the dew-soaked garden, and the chirping birds.

It’s humbling to ponder the reasons I chose to live my life at such a frenetic pace. I suppose for different personalities, the reasons we over-extend ourselves will look a little different, but perhaps there are some common threads, some of which you may recognize below.

A lot of my harried pace was linked to performance, striving, and people-pleasing. It wasn’t enough for me to take on a project or goal, I had to accomplish it to the absolute best of my ability. While there is nothing wrong with reaching for excellence, the way in which we do has much to say about our motives. Are we doing a project to garner accolades? Competing with others to be the best? Saying yes to please others? Constantly driving ourselves with unreasonable expectations or goals?

Lack of boundaries, saying yes without restraint, and not being intentional about taking time to rest lead to burnout. Some indicators of my maxed-out state were depression, anger, anxiety, resentment, forgetfulness, feeling overwhelmed, joylessness, and trouble falling asleep. Everything grew much more difficult. The smallest request felt like an enormous burden. Simple tasks such as answering an email took special effort and responding to friends attempting to choose a date to get together was daunting.

I’ve always loved plants and gardening, but during the years my life was over-stuffed, its upkeep became a chore and I had little time to sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

After my intentional “Year of No”, I discovered a sense of spaciousness in my life. This more balanced, simplified pace made room for stillness and space to recognize the beauty that was always present but which I had often overlooked. I began to appreciate the little things like sitting on my front porch, the first sips of my morning coffee, actually listening to the birds chirping, and enjoying my garden.

This uncluttered approach to life meant I could also more fully partake in the big things like time with my family and friends, and the found time to reach the goals and dreams I had often pushed aside for the sake of others’ demands and expectations. I was surprised to find that this slower pace was infinitely more fulfilling.

I learned that much of the striving and people-pleasing came from “fear of people” meaning that I cared too much about what others thought of me and drove myself in an effort to coax people to think well of me. The opposite of this is being secure in your identity, being present in truth, and loving others without abandoning yourself.

I’m slowly discovering what I should have known all along—I am loved by the One who made me, who loves me no matter how much I do or don’t do, and who is infinitely kinder to me than I am to myself. In Christ, I lack nothing and am fully accepted. In this, there is great security, peace, joy, and… rest.

It’s never easy to make room for rest and you may have to fight for it. It’s not a bad idea to schedule periods of rest into your day and into your calendar. Part of doing so ensures that you show up for yourself, are kinder to yourself, and are present and fully engaged in the parts of your life that really matter. If you’re not sure what those parts are, sit down and make a list of what is most important to you. Are you living in such a way that reflects the things that made the list? If not, adjust as necessary. Life is too short and too precious to not live intentionally!

Intentionally clearing space in my life created room to fully engage with my kids and ensure I don’t miss moments like these… swimming with my grandson.

“God loves you more in a moment than anyone could in a lifetime.” ~ Author Unknown

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ” ~ Matthew 11:28

On Novel Writing, Deadlines, and Perfection

heavenpicRecently, my novel was handed over to the publishing company. It has taken a mere sixteen years, since it was first conceived, for the submission of this final copy. Finally, after countless chides from my family to get it published, numerous edits, and one title change, One More Tomorrow is officially out of my hands.

The process of writing a novel—or the creation of any art form for that matter—bears some striking similarities to our lives. Well-lived lives, like well-written books, are crafted by thoughtful decisions, intentional choices, inspiration, imagination, creativity, and untold toil undertaken over its entirety. Even as I handed my manuscript over, I knew it would never be perfect. There could forever be tweaks, cuts, and additions, but there was a deadline, and so I gave it away.

Our lives are just the same.

It too will never be perfect. It has a deadline, and you need to give it away.

No matter how hard we try, no matter how we imagine it, painstakingly craft it, and steer the process, our lives will never measure up to our expectations. Our days, we ourselves, will never be flawless. There will be times when those around us will fail us, circumstances will crumble, and we will be less than perfect.

But the here and now, and all that we make of it, isn’t all there is. And despite all our efforts—all our cuts and edits—to achieve perfection, we can’t become good enough for all that comes after this life. We weren’t meant to achieve perfection, nor was life meant to be perfect. Because this life, with all its aches and pains, is not heaven.

As bleak as this sounds at first appearance, it’s actually good news. Forget trying to be flawless like you wish the manuscript, the painting, the song, or the dance of your life to become. There will be plenty of time for that later when perfect is the norm. But like my book, our lives have a final submission date. That date occurs on the day you pass from life, to death, to eternal life.

On that day:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

~ Revelation 21:4

Until then, we can rest in knowing that there’s nothing we can do to be good enough for this moment—for eternity. No amount of hard work, good behaviour, rule following, or believing we are better than the person next to us will gain us an admission ticket into heaven.

Jesus alone bought our passage; we only need receive it by faith.

Everything else, the cuts and edits, will come as a result of his life in you. You give away your life’s manuscript, and he does the work crafting it—and you—into his masterpiece. He’s the only one who can make you fit for forever.

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 

~ Hebrews 10:14

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  1. Have you found your rest in Jesus? I would love to hear your story!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best is Yet to Come

It’s more than a little discouraging when we feel stuck in a period of no growth. Let’s face it, we live in a fast-paced world where productivity is everything. If we aren’t producing then what are we doing? We worry when we’ve nothing to show for our labour. We place heavy expectations on ourselves and get worked up if a deadline or goal has gone unmet, or if our best-made plans fall through. If that weren’t enough, we feel guilty stopping for a rest.

Let me tell you a short story. Last year, my son, Konnor, gave me an orchid for my birthday. It was in full bloom with a terrific display of purple-laced white flowers that were staked and arched to perfection. They lasted quite a long time, then eventually wilted and fell off the stem. I wondered if the plant was finished.

After a bit of research, I learned I needed to cut off the barren stem and, depending on the type, it may again bloom. To my absolute glee, several months later, it began sporting an even lovelier array of blooms. Maybe the flowers just appeared more spectacular as a result of my surprise and wonder, but every time I looked at them I marveled and thought of my sweet son.

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My orchid surprised me blooming again in a spectacular show.

So here it is. Just like that orchid, so our lives have seasons. Sometimes we are amazed by the size and number of the blooms. Other times the landscape of our lives look barren and not especially spectacular (have you seen an orchid without blooms?), and you wonder if it will ever produce anything beautiful again. But as nature dictates, sometimes things need to fall away if anything is to flourish again. When a season has reached completion, there is much-needed preparation for the next one. For an orchid this is called the rest stage.

But that’s a bit misleading. I prefer to label it the rebuilding or preparation stage. Though the plant – or you and I – appear bloomless, there is a pile of unseen and necessary things happening during this time. After all, we can’t go into the next stage of fruitfulness unprepared. And so we rest, but we don’t exactly rest. We take in nourishment in the form of learning and lessons to prepare for what’s next, and then we wait for it to come to fruition.

And we need this stage more than we understand. After all, it can be a bit messy and uncertain when a main part of your life gets lopped off. Some of the things we go through during this barren stage are just plain painful. It seems long waiting for things to flourish anew, so long that we might begin to wonder if we’re the type that will ever bloom again.

But as I like to remind my kids, nothing is wasted. The most menial, the most monotonous, the most memorable, or painful – none are wasted. At the very least, the hard times of fruitless waiting help you to see that you are a resilient human. But this stage also has the effect of building character, patience, resourcefulness, endurance, strength, and possibly even peace, until eventually – and almost miraculously – new flowers appear.

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My orchid is preparing to bloom again. This time I staked the stem. Though temporarily flowerless, the solid leaves and aerial roots are dignified and strangely beautiful.

And like everything good and beautiful, the display isn’t just for your benefit. Everyone else in your circle of influence is affected too, celebrating alongside and being encouraged by the blossoms of beauty that have appeared. The weary wait has made this season even more spectacular.

Take heart. As my spiritual mom says, “The best is yet to come.” And truly it is. Let’s not waste time lingering and looking back at a finished season, or get stuck thinking of the past as “the glory days”. There are glorious days ahead. Let’s instead make the most of today and all its gifts while we wait with great expectation for what’s next!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” ~ Isaiah 43:18-19

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  1. Are you living too much in the past, or too much in the future? While we wait with expectation for the things to come, let’s not forget to enjoy today. Who knows, there may be buds already showing. You don’t want to miss them!