Dear sisters, each of you needs to hear something slightly different today. Some of you need encouragement to stick with your plans and achieve your goals.
But others of you may find yourself in the place where I was recently…too tired to dream anymore. Especially if you are a natural go-getter, this is my story for you. I pray that it encourages all of you to trust our God and take the time to be still in His presence.
I wonder…do the waves ever get tired of rolling in and out, day and night? Rushing forward, surging back, all in sync with the silent pull of the moon so far away–you’d think they would wear down after a while.
I feel like the tides sometimes, crashing up against the same rocks day after day, wearing smooth tracks on the sand in the same place I washed across just a few seconds before.
Routine. Normal. Everyday. And I get so restless. It is easy to wonder–am I making a difference at all?
You feel so small sometimes. Maybe you’re just one drop of salt water riding a wave you can’t control. Life is going crazy around you and you feel like it’s all swirling by, and what if you aren’t doing something that matters?
After working from October to nearly the end of November in another state, I came home just before Thanksgiving. Coming off of a “just-had-the-coolest-job-in-the-universe” high, I plummeted into dishes, cooking, stress, a noisy house, and lots of decisions to make.
Over the next few weeks, I tossed out a year and a half of plans, failed to get a couple jobs I wanted, and ended up a bit breathless. Truth? I wasn’t so upset about the ditched plans as I was about the uncertainty that followed.
A change of plans? Sure, I can deal with that. Total restlessness? That was a bit harder.
You ever have those days when absolutely nothing sounds enjoyable? I’m talking the “bookworm can’t get up the motivation to pick up the new book” kind of restlessness. Yeah, that’s serious all right.
But at the same time, a very basic routine intervened. So…I didn’t want to do much at all. I still had to get up. I still had to do dishes and cook some healthy food for my family. I still had to play the songs I was about tired of hearing on the piano. I still had to pull on my rubber boots and slog up our red-mudded road with my mom on our daily walks. I read the books that I needed to return to friends. I cleaned my drawers and closet.
I didn’t have a big job or project. I just did what I could think of to do.
A host of negative emotions followed my restlessness: Guilt that I wasn’t getting anything important done. Nervousness that I wasn’t doing what others thought I should be accomplishing. Absolute terror that I would never get back that spark that I somehow lost along the way. Worry that I was missing out on something God had for me to do.
I was afraid because I didn’t want to live from one task to another for the rest of my life. But I was all dreamed out, and somewhere deep inside, I knew that the restlessness would pass.
My 2-month stint away from home with the writing job had left me a writing cripple. I gained fantastic experience, became a better writer, and learned a huge number of things, but when I got home, something was wrong. I didn’t want to write. Yes, it’s true. Me, the writer. Me, the girl who has a few book ideas a week. Me, the girl who gets excited about words like “synecdoche” and “asyndeton.” I. Did. Not. Want. To. Write. It was truly frightening.
I wondered if I was just being lazy. Should I have pulled out my laptop and put in a few hours of staring at the screen everyday? Should I have forced myself to snap out of it and get busy? Maybe.
But what I did instead seemed to work a lot better.
Yes, I kept up my basic routine. I ate, exercised, read, did things with my family. But I let myself stop my projects and just recover from all the recent ups and downs of life.
Wave in. Wave out. Wave in. Wave out.
And in spite of my fear that the waves would never end — that I’d be stuck in the tide for good — that’s not what happened.
Since I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself, I talked to my parents and we found some wise ways I could use my free time to be a blessing to others. My weeks were finally free enough that I could drive across town and help out my music teacher friend if she needed me, spending a day showing a group of children how to hold a violin and pluck the strings. I could go play piano for someone who needed a smiling face.
And somewhere between the waves, a new rhythm emerged.
Instead of worrying about all the projects that I couldn’t bring myself to plan, I slowly built up what was important to me. Guarding family time. Working on my relationship with God. Having the freedom to drop everything to help out a church friend. Cooking healthier meals with my mom. Taking walks on that wonderful muddy road.
The small, repetitive, seemingly-unimportant tasks became the things that freed me.
I’ve written on this blog about the importance of the “small things.” However, being worn-out gave me a vivid illustration of just how vital these tiny pieces of life are.
Maybe those in-and-out waves aren’t so awful after all. Maybe they provide exactly the subtle rhythm that each of us needs to thrive.
Instead of fearing the restlessness, I learned to rest in the middle of it.
Do you want to know what happened?
My “free-time” spent teaching music to little kids or playing music for a nursing home resident became the highlights of my week. Soon, I found words creeping into my head–an idea for new song lyrics, a theme for a blog post, or a hankering to write a scene in a novel I’ve never quite finished. My writing returned!
Opportunities began to spring up, making me smile at my silly fear that I’d have nothing to do.
Resting prepared me to dream again.
It can be hard to know when to take this kind of breather. People around you might wonder what happened to your packed schedule and productive personality. They might ask what you’re doing these days. They might wonder why the projects are on hold.
But sometimes we just need to be still. Yes–be still and KNOW He is God. He is God when we’re worn out. He is God when we can’t get up the oomph to plan one more project. He is God when all you can accomplish is the bare bones of a routine–and He is faithful to make even these small rhythms of the day into times of growth and refreshment.
This isn’t a call to be irresponsible or lazy, but there is truly a time when it is wise to step back and breathe. If you have been plowing full-steam ahead for too long, consider if it is time for some rest.
If the things you are passionate about suddenly grow dull, try taking a break and focusing on the basic, everyday tasks that God has entrusted to you.
Most of all, if you need to take a breather in your small corner, remember that your value is not based on how much you accomplish. As Christians, our value rests in the undeserved love of God. His grace and creative touch make us valuable–not anything we do on our own.
Take this time of refreshing to dive deep into God’s word and prioritize the vital rhythms of your life: personal faith in Christ, family relationships, and fellowship with your church family. Put nonessential plans on hold and give your body, mind, and emotions time to recover their normal energy.
Is it time for you to rest a while?
“Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you….You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.”
– Augustine of Hippo –