My 2018 resolution was to figure out what it means to “intentionally rest.” I know what you’re thinking, rest as a resolution seems like a major cop out – lie on the couch in your sweat pants, eat a bag of peanut butter pretzels and let Netflix whisk you away. Believe me, I tried that … which is probably why I had no idea what I was learning about rest for the majority of the year. I would think about it, sure, but I never seemed to feel particularly rested.
I tried applying the typical advice:
-”Just say ‘no’”
-”Ruthlessly cut activities out of your schedule”
This is excellent advice, especially for people pleasers (like me) who feel the compulsive need to say “yes” in order to be remembered/loved/accepted. However, as I have lived with this people pleasing condition for a long time, I have grown to be diligent in applying this guidance to my daily life over the years. Instead of providing extra time in this season of my life, the advice made me feel stuck – I’ve done this, what’s next? Where does this leave me? For most of the year, it felt like the more I sought intentional rest, the more it eluded me. I came to realize that for this specific season I needed something more – I needed, acceptance, grace, and life.
2018 was a busy year – I was out of town six months out of the last twelve, mostly for work, but some for fun as well. My work was tiring, not just physically, but also emotionally. At the beginning of the year I kept telling myself this busyness was a short season, I just needed to get through it. But, as the months wore on I realized this season wasn’t going away anytime soon. I could either accept it and learn to lean into it, or I would look back and see a gray cloud of exhaustion covering the whole year.
There will always be some seasons of life that are busier than others; seasons when “no” is not the right answer and margin is allusive. I came to accept that there was nothing more I was willing to chop from my planner and that I needed to view the bits of time I did have (even while traveling) as opportunities for intentional rest.
Once I accepted my schedule for what it was, the voices in my head started to chime in. Someone else could handle this better. They wouldn’t be as tired. Maybe you’re not cut out for this. I’ve heard these voices before, little nuggets of comparison trying to snatch my joy and steal my contentment. The truth is, maybe someone else would have handled this busy season better – in fact I know some people who do. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I believed I was supposed to do the work I was doing, living life in a community spread around the world. I believe I was called to this season. I had accepted my schedule, but then had to give myself grace when it was easier to criticize.
With a fresh wave of acceptance and grace, I started asking new questions.
When I was home and had time to rest it often looked like this: get home late from work, make the simplest meal possible, lay in bed and watch a Netflix chick flick. I would go to sleep early, but still wake up the next morning thinking about my next nap and wondering why I didn’t feel rejuvenated in the slightest.
I realized that in my moments of free time I was asking, “How can I expend the least amount of energy possible?” instead of asking, “What gives me life?” When I answered that question, things started to change.
I bought a brightly colored yoga mat. I didn’t know if yoga would give me life, but I knew that exercise I could do while traveling and at home definitely would. I used my first five minutes of the day to read a devotion instead of checking text messages. I started writing again in all the forms I love. When I woke up in the morning on the weekends, I would ask friends to have picnics or watch the sunset – enjoying the freedom of not always having to plan in advance. And every once in a while, I would watch a Netflix chick flick (because Christmas Prince can give life too, my friends).
To be completely transparent, most of this I just figured out in the last few months. I have a long way to go before intentional rest becomes second nature, and I imagine each new season will bring with it new obstacles. What I learned this year was how to take care of myself a little better so I have energy to care for others a little better too. For 2019 I pray that you and I would have a greater acceptance of our present, grace for ourselves and others, and energy to live life to the fullest.