Rest for A Weary Heart

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” - Mathew 11:28-30 The Message

The song called, "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North describes perfectly how I often feel:

Somewhere along the course of my life, I started believing the lie that rest isn't important and accepted it as truth. That lie burrowed it's way deep into my heart, and I've had a terrible time uprooting it.

I feel guilty when I sit down. And when I do sit down, my mind is still racing, thinking about all I should be doing. Just writing it down makes me feel tired!

I picture the plate-spinner guy on "America's Got Talent" who has the tall sticks and starts spinning a bunch of plates on them, trying to keep them all balanced while adding more and more plates. Eventually, the plates all come crashing to the ground, shattering into a thousand pieces.

My "plates" are my calendar with too much writing in every box, my "to do" lists (I have more than one), endless appointments, responsibilities that pile up, and trying to be a manager and juggler of seven people's schedules. I have noticed I have been crashing more and more "plates" lately. I feel God tugging on my heart, saying to me, "Tammy, slow down. You need to rest."

My mentor said recently about rest: "It's one of the Big Ten you know. It's right up there with "do not murder." I'm pretty sure God thinks it's important."

I guess I've never thought of it like that. Why would I ignore one of God's Ten Commandments?

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as The Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to The Lord your God." - Deuteronomy 5:12-13

My Sabbath is not on Sunday. Sunday's are not restful for me. Getting five kids ready for church is not restful. We also tend to have extended family plans on Sundays, which is not restful for me. As a mother, my rest doesn't usually come in 24 hour periods. It is broken up into small pockets of rest, whenever I can find them. But it is crucial that I do find them!

I really didn't think much about rest until I became a mom. Now, I often get kind of annoyed with people who tell me to rest more. I think to myself: "You have no idea everything that needs to get done in a day at my house. You have no idea what I deal with. Who else is going to do it if I don't do it?" I get angry because they don't realize how hard it is for me to find times of rest, and how rare it is. Sometimes, it doesn't even feel worth the work I have to do (food prep, instructions for babysitter, etc.) to prepare to leave and go rest! And when I get back, trying to catch back up wears me back out again.

Resting and doing less sounds amazing, but also totally unrealistic in my particular season of life, since I'm a mom to five small children. While resting is a nice thought, the reality is there is just too much that needs to get done in a day. If I rest, I'll just get more behind, right?

After becoming a mom, I realized how ridiculous all of my dreams and expectations about being "the perfect mom" were. I thought I would be organized, keep things in decent order, be really fun and creative, and be somewhat clean. I definitely thought I would have enough energy to do everything i needed to do. Wow, I was living in a dream world. I had no idea how exhausted I would feel.

I laugh at this now. Just about everything I had expected about motherhood has been blown right out of the water with a big dose of reality. And I'm sure God has allowed that to happen on purpose. My kids are my biggest teachers, and the lessons I learn are often profound and painful.

Life is messy and imperfect. And over time I have learned that's okay! I have had to learn to stop with all of my unrealistic expectations of others (especially my children), and also of myself. There is no freedom there. Now The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of The Lord is, there is freedom. - 2 Corinthians 3:17 When I let God's Spirit fill me, I find freedom from exhaustion, striving, and my head spinning to-do lists.

On especially exhausting days, when I am completely overwhelmed and want to quit, I pciture myself catching a plane anywhere that has mountains, a beach, sunshine, and quiet. Anywhere but where I am at that moment....

And then my baby son will belly laugh, or run up and give me a hug and a kiss. Or I will hear one of my kids say something sweet, or my oldest child will say, "You are the best mom ever! Thank you for everything you do."

And it will hit me. I have a moment of clarity. When I look into the eyes of any of my five kids, who I love more than I could ever describe, I suddenly realize how blessed I am.

So I stop and take a deep breath.

And as I look around the chaos and the mess, I'll realize that maybe I had the wrong dream. Maybe I am living the perfect mom dream. It's just not the one I was thinking of. It's the dream that God chose for me. I am the perfect mom for my five children. And though we fail each other every day, our family was still made for each other. We were made to love each other through those imperfections. Life is meant to be lived, messy and imperfect. And that is a dream I can embrace on this earth.

And it is there that I find hope again.

God gives us the grace for each day. He is with us in whatever moments we are in.

It is through times of rest that I am able to bring these truths to the surface. If I don't rest, I can't hear God's voice the way I long to hear Him. I can't hear truth the way I long to hear it when I'm weary and overwhelmed. The truth gets more distorted and twisted as I get more exhausted.

I can't remember where, but I read a question online recently that really disturbed me. Are you willing to do less and be more?

Do less. Be more.

Am I willing to worry less and trust more? To choose to quit trying to control everything and just let go?

If I was truly at rest, what would that look like for me? What would it look like for you?

What would be different? How would I go about resting?

I've had to give that some thought. I tried an experiment recently, and the results were not encouraging.

I tried to sit.

I tried to sit and just be with God and the quiet. It didn't go that well. I can hear God really well when I'm running with my worship music on. But sitting and being quiet was really hard for me.

I felt restless and distracted. I kept wanting to get up and go do something. I tried to stop my mind from racing. It took quite a while for my mind to settle and become quiet. It took a long time for me to connect my mind and my soul so I could think clearly, so I could hear God.

I have forgotten how to be quiet and still. It's so rare, I forget how to do it. And maybe I'm afraid of what I'll hear in the silence. When I am truly quiet and resting, I may uncover things I would rather avoid, like fear, anger, bitterness, pain, or hurt. But I may also uncover hidden joy, hope, peace and courage. Resting can be a time of processing, of observing what's really going on in my heart and soul. It can be a beautiful time of refreshing and renewing.

I can sit all day long, but if my mind and soul aren't "sitting" and resting too, it's completely pointless.

One of my pastors (Joe Johns) said this about rest: "When you are resting, let God's favor fall on you. Accept that He (God) delights in you just because you're you. You don't have to earn that favor."

Another thing he (Joe) said was to do something I delight in as a way of resting.

What do I delight in doing? What refreshes me and gives me joy?

Which of these images brings peace and rest to your soul? Do any of them delight you?

Dating my husband, running with my favorite worship music blaring, being alone anywhere in creation, reading a great book just because, hiking, drinking hot chocolate with a girlfriend, being with someone I don't have to perform for. All of these refresh me and bring me joy and rest. What brings you rest? What do you delight in doing?

I read somewhere that healing won't truly progress (physically or emotionally) until we get some rest. Until we sit and process, until we soak in Jesus, and let Him bring healing and truth and peace to our deepest wounds.

We must take time to be quiet, because it is there that we find Jesus. His voice isn't usually the loudest. But it's always the most profound. We can only hear His voice if we stop and get still.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." - Isaiah 30:15

We must stop and rest so we can have enough strength and energy to do God's will and the purpose and mission that He has planned for us.

We may need to say no to some things so that we can say yes to rest, and to the things that God wants us to say yes to. God doesn't want me to juggle a bunch of "plates" in the air. God doesn't ask me to say yes to every opportunity, to every need, to every person. It doesn't say anywhere in the Bible to do it all or drop dead trying.

I need to let God help me choose my "plates." He always chooses just the right amount; an amount that is perfect for me. Which "plates" does God want you to let drop so you can get some rest?

Rest is a gift, and a command, that so many of us fail to see. We so often miss the value of it completely.

Jesus rested. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16 - Then, because so many people were coming and going that did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." - Mark 6:31

So, did you answer my question earlier?

What would it look like if you were truly at rest? If your soul was truly at rest?

Here is what I came up with for me:

I would stop searching for what is right in front of me.
I would trust and stop trying to manage everything.
I would laugh more.
I would hug more.
I would sit and just breathe.
I would watch my children playing. I would play with them.
I would stop making lists.
I would stop lettting fear control me.
I would take more risks.

Lord, help me. Help me to quiet my mind, my soul, my body, and rest in Your Presence.

When I stop. When I cease. When I quiet my soul, it's then I will hear a gentle, loving Voice. And He says, "Tammy, put down the "plates." Lean on me. Rest in Me. Breathe. It's okay. I AM with you every moment and I love you."

Are you willing? Am I willing?

It's not a question for your schedule. It's a question for your heart and your soul.

Lord, I fail so often here. I ask for Your forgiveness and Your help today. You are the only One who calms my soul, but I must be the one who chooses to stop and rest, and who listens for Your voice. Rest is a commandment from You. Please help me honor that command. Help me to breathe, to let go, to drop some "plates" that were never Your will for me to carry. Help me to sit and soak in Your presence and peace. You bring life and refreshment and joy, and I praise You for that priceless gift. Amen.

A few starting suggestions for those of you who are like me, who find it difficult to rest and to cease:

  • Take a 15 minute nap.
  • Sit in a chair outside (or wherever) and quiet your mind. Ask God what He's saying to you...
  • Get alone with no music, iphone, facebook, etc. Practice doing nothing for a few moments.
  • Sit down and think about all that you are thankful for.
  • Do something you love at least once a week.
  • Ask a friend to pray for you as you practice resting.
  • Go outside and play with your kids.
  • Find something that makes you laugh. Then laugh!

My all-time favorite verses about rest:

To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. - Colossians 1:29

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. - Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. - Zephaniah 3:17

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If you are an imperfect wife, mom, daughter, or friend, struggling to stay focused on God in the craziness and find joy in the heartache, then we have something in common. I am a recovering perfectionist and daughter of the King, slowly learning to fully trust the One who sees me just as I am, and is already pleased. I’m so glad you are here.

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