Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Promises: Days 4-14 of 31 Days of Rest

The words of that old hymn's been running through my head these last two weeks.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail, 

when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, 

by the living Word of God I shall prevail, 

standing on the promises of God. 

The promises that cannot fail. The promises of God.

As I've been w[rest]ling with this idea of rest, I've found myself seeking out and standing on the promises... specifically, the promise of rest.

In the version I memorized as a child (the one that I know by heart?), Jesus says, 
"COME unto me, ALL ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I WILL GIVE you rest." 
This translation with it's extra, unnecessary vowel brings to mind the image of one of those overloaded buses in Asia or Africa - the kind with the chicken coops strapped to the roof. Suit cases and trunks piled high. Bodies determined to get to where they're going by hanging on to the smallest hand hold - grasping to not fall off at every bump and turn.

And maybe that's what we do to ourselves. We think that this must be the only way to get where we're going so we keep piling things on until the only space left is the roof and the weight of it all is threatening collapse. 

As we desperately hold on, there He is looking kindly into your face, my face - all - and He says, "C'mon. Let me help. I WILL help." 

Can you hear Him gently urging, "Get off the overcrowded, overburdened bus. Get away with me. Let me teach you the unforced rhythms of grace. Learn to live freely and lightly."

The unforced rhythms of grace. The voluntary repeated pattern of mercy, goodwill, favor and pardon. This is the way of Jesus. He voluntarily, repeatedly extends grace.

He promises to give us real rest, and it takes the smallest of efforts on our part. We need only to walk down the road with Him a while to recover life. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

w [rest] ling :: Day 3 of 31 Days on Rest

It's midnight. Officially October 5 and I'm just writing this post because... well... honestly, for the love I should NOT be writing about rest. It makes me anxious because seriously, this is NOT something I've mastered. I'm wrestling with rest.

I wrote about rest even in sleeplessness and then spent all of Thursday night tossing and turning. Friday, I felt like I'd been through a washing machine.

AND we have a foster puppy on the weekends which requires our undivided attention every second of every minute. (On a side note: isn't she the cutest thing ever?)

So, then. Where do we go from here?

For me, often when I'm confounded by a problem, I start with definitions (thank you Merriam Webster).


"repose, sleep; specifically:  a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities" Well, that's out. What's next?
"freedom from activity or labor, a state of motionlessness or inactivity, the repose of death." Uh. Hello? It's 2014. Who has freedom from activity? We've assigned 4-letter word status to the word rest. We've made busy the best thing, when really shouldn't rest be the best thing?
"a place for resting or lodging" hmmm. That one has potential, but let's face it. We can't always hang out a country manor in England and even when you do you're not guaranteed rest... More on that later.
"peace of mind or spirit,  free of anxieties." Doesn't that sound ideal?

How do you really find peace of mind and spirit? Can we really be free of anxiety? This is all a bit of midnight rambling, but maybe - just maybe - the rest (noun) we crave is a consequence of the rest (verb) we choose. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Irritation or Opportunity :: Day 2 of 31 Days on Rest

Years ago I did some work for the National Sleep Foundation. They talked about the long-term and wide-ranging effects of sleep deprivation and I.DID.NOT.GET.IT! I heard them, but sleep just wasn't an issue for me. If I'm being honest, I pitied the people they were talking about.

If I was tired, I slept. If I was stressed, I slept. If I was car sick. bored. You name it.

I slept well. And then I didn't. I started travelling for work. I moved to Europe. I moved back. I turned 35. I stopped sleeping well.

I saw a doctor and had a sleep study. (hello, weirdest experience ever.) There's little to nothing to be done for "classic insomnia," they said. I don't even get the benefit of staying awake and getting things done in the middle of the night. I wake up over and over again. So, insufficient sleep is my new normal. There is a lot of eye cream being used now.

I spent a long time being irritated and angry about it. I tossed and turned and had a generally bad attitude. I complained about it. I kept my husband up with all my thrashing about and huffing.

Then, we got a bed that measures our sleep, and the truth of it showed up on my ipad as a green and yellow bar chart. Fantastic! (sarcasm font)

I've never been a morning person and snarky can be my default. You can just imagine the added 'benefit' of poor sleep. Not pretty. Really, really not.

But something changed this summer. I was participating in a Bible study called Red Hot Faith (which I highly recommend) and heard this little whisper in my soul. "Come to me all you who are weary and heaven laden and I WILL GIVE you rest."

How I spent those accumulating middle-of-the-night minutes mattered. I can't change my sleeplessness, but I can change my attitude about it. I can spend those precious minutes in aggravation or I can start resting even in my sleeplessness.

In those wee hours, when my eyes wouldn't close, I chose differently. I stopped being frustrated and started talking with my friend, my comfort.

Giving Him all my weariness.
Quieting my soul.
Chatting with my all-sufficient God.

Sometimes it's 2 sentences before I drift back off. Sometimes it's 20 minutes.

My circumstances haven't changed, but my attitude and focus have. Middle-of-the-night prayer is such a sweet, quiet rest. And apparently anybody who is anybody does it.

"I get up in the middle of the night to thank you." - King David in Psalm 119:62

There in the dark, talking to the Maker of the universe, I am thankful for these minutes. I'm thankful that I've started seeing them as gifts, concentrating on the opportunity rather than the irritation. Thankful that there is more rest even if there isn't sleep.

If you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, start a conversation with God. He's always available and a great listener.

Sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on your health. I'm working with a doctor to improve my sleep. If you suffer from sleeplessness, see your doctor. Also, there are great resources available at sleepfoundation.org.