3 Tips on Rest for Super-Busy People

3 Tips on-4

I suppose I am not surprised that the first two questions I got when I said “ask me anything” were questions about finding time to rest. We are chronically exhausted people. The most common response to the question “How are you?” seems to be “Busy!”

One reader wrote:

“Do you have any thoughts on how Moms of little ones can find time to rest? The cycle of sleeping, waking, diaper-changing, feeding, burping, rocking, and then back to sleeping, waking, diaper-changing… is relentless.”

Another wrote this:

“I’m a college student and am thrilled that I just got a part-time job to help cover expenses. My grades are going okay, but I feel like I’m missing out on the stress-relieving fun things I used to have time to do. It’s weird not having that emotional outlet, and that creative side of me is crucial to who I am as a person. I don’t have a clear-cut question per se, but in essence – is this adulthood? Or is there something I can do about it?”

What a great question: does adulthood mean all work and no play? Is this just the way it is? Does being a grown-up mean we climb onto a hamster wheel and just keep running until it’s our turn to stand before the Pearly Gates?

I don’t believe that adulthood means constant work and exhaustion. However, the proverbial hamster wheel does keep turning, and so adulthood means we need to take responsibility for our work and rest cycles. The wheel won’t stop, but we can choose to get off every now and then.

I know you’re busy, so I’ll keep this brief. I’ve been a grad student and I’m now a Mom of three kids 5 and under, so I’m not about to suggest taking a day per week to sleep in as late as I want, followed by a 2 hour massage and a leisurely walk in the forest. That kind of rest is just not available to me in this phase of life, but here are my 3 top tips on trying to find rest in the midst of a cyclonic calendar.

1.  Understand what rest is.

God made us to be people who both work and rest. Mentally, spiritually, socially and emotionally, we are designed with a need to be productive, and we also need to take a break. We cannot do the same thing 24/7/365 and expect to keep functioning at top capacity.

We were made to work, but we were also made to rest. Daily, we need sleep. But we also need conscious time for REFRESHMENT, RECREATION and REFLECTION. Rest does not simply mean dropping into an exhausted heap once we can’t keep going any more.

Rest includes active, awake time where we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors, relax in the presence of loved ones, remember who we are and Whose we are. We NEED time like that. It isn’t laziness, it isn’t frivolity. It’s healthy and it plays a huge role in helping us LIVE the life we’re living.

2. Plan time to rest.

Rest time doesn’t just “happen” in my life. There’s always something to do. There’s always a need to meet. There’s always something that could be cleaned, put away, better organized. If we wait until we are “done” with our “to do” list to rest – it won’t happen. We need to rest not because we ran out of things to do, but because it is time to rest and it’s important. So for me, I need to put “rest” onto my “to do” list, and it takes a little planning.

When I was in grad school, I chose to rest on Sunday afternoons and evenings. However, that means I often stayed up LATE on Saturday nights finishing assignments that were due on Monday to protect that rest time. When I was in full-time ministry, I used to take Fridays off – and at first I would schedule all my errands and personal business for Fridays, but then soon realized that personal “work” was just as tiring as office “work” – and so I needed to plan my errands for other times so that I could protect that rest time.

Now that I’m a Mom, we still try to rest on Sunday afternoons and have a “family nap time”. We get take-out for dinner or I pull out left-overs so I don’t have to cook. I don’t clean or tidy up. I don’t pay bills. We make time to play and go outside, and we try to take a nap. Sometimes the children are obliging. Sometimes they aren’t – and there has been more movie watching or co-sleeping on those days. But we plan around that time, and thus far it is working for us. We get a change of pace, and it is refreshing.

There have been seasons in life where regular rest just wasn’t possible: in the first weeks with a colicky baby, when family emergencies arose, when tragedy struck – those times demanded our full attention hour by hour. However, once the immediacy had passed and we were figuring out the “new normal” after the crisis, we needed to recalibrate our rest time too.

3. Figure out what is restful for you

When talking about the Sabbath and the concept of rest, Jesus made this revolutionary statement: man wasn’t made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.

In other words, rest is about finding what is spiritually, mentally and emotionally refreshing for YOU. It might be reading, doing crosswords, hiking, hard physical labor (my husband finds hacking at things in the garden tremendously refreshing after 6 days of sitting in front of a computer), spending an unhurried lunch with someone. It might be picking up a musical instrument, or a paintbrush, or taking a walk. But whatever it is,  it should BLESS you and leave you feeling more full of life than you did when you started.

P.S. tempting as it may be to “rest” by vegging out in front of a screen and trawling the internet, can I suggest that this is often less restful for us than we think? Watching Facebook refresh is not, in fact, refreshing. If that’s your default way of resting, perhaps consider switching it up.

The wise man in Ecclesiastes said that there is a time for everything. There’s a time for scattering stones, and a time for gathering them. There’s a time for being born, and a time for dying. There’s a time for weeping and a time for laughter. Our calendars are busy and our “to-do” lists are long – but there is time to work and there IS time to rest.

Sometimes we just need to put life on hold for a while, so that we can truly LIVE. We may need to think creatively about how to make that happen, but it’s always worth it.

How do you find time to rest in your season of life? Have your resting habits changed? What difference has it made to you? I’d love to hear your comments.

The gift of the forgotten commandment

In Sunday School I learned the 10 commandments, but really there were only 9.

Honor God, yes. No idols. No cussin’, lying’, murderin’, adultery, disobeyin’ or wanting-what-she’s-got. But that one about the Sabbath? Skip that. We aren’t legalistic about Sundays.

The Sabbath got thrown in the same basket as prohibitions against shellfish, bacon and mixed cloth: Jewish artefacts left at the cross; and there it remained for the first two decades of my walk with God.

Then someone began talking about the radical idea that God had given the commandments to teach Israel a path of life and blessing. Instead of the me-focused social order of human rights, God gave an others-focused social order of human responsibility. The loving obligation to refrain from stealing did the same job as protecting the right to property, except it was better.

Laws for blessing, not burden.

Honor your Mother and Father that it may go well with you

And so, too, my view on the Sabbath has changed. I now understand that Sabbath does not mean Sunday, or even the more authentic Saturday. It means a designated time to rest, and God’s injunction that we should rest is meant to bless us, not burden us.

We are not ruled by the Sabbath, we are graced by it.

We do not belong to the Sabbath, it belongs to us.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. – Mark 2:27.

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. – Hebrews 4:9

I wish you the gift of God’s rest today. May you slow down enough to let Him fill your cup and lead you beside a stream of quiet water.

Sabbath
The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.

Wendell Berry (1934-)

20131019-202949.jpgThis post is day 20 of 31 Days of Belonging. For a full list of posts, click here.

Breathe in, breathe out

Sabbath
The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. And it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.

Wendell Berry (1934-)

I have been thinking subversive thoughts of late: why do Christians put so much emphasis on a “daily quiet time”, and yet neglect the weekly practice of setting a day aside to rest, remember, reflect and be re-created?

This morning Wendell Berry’s poem reminded me of the gift of rest that is given to us. Just as the changing seasons allow us to appreciate each one (what would the joy of spring be without winter?), so too the gift of rest allows us to appreciate work, and work allows us to appreciate rest. So today I’m breathing in, and breathing out (a mini-sabbatical). And tomorrow, I will rest. For hurry is the destroyer of time.