Rest Stops on My Journey

My Recalibrate Life Read for July is Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay for Women to Slow Down by Kim Thomas. This book centers around the themes of ceasing and feasting in the three areas of Emotional Rest, Physical Rest, and Spiritual Rest. There are suggestions, Rest Stops at the end each chapter to guide you in the process.

I have read this book slowly, a little at a time to let it soak in. I am left with a several takeaways but I will just share a few from each section of the book.

I am seeing as I move through this year that my four main priorities in recalibrating my life are to:

1. Learn to linger, savor, and slow down.

2. Learn to be present in the moments of life.

3. Learn to live in simplicity.

4. Learn to rest in the Lord’s love, abandoning outcomes to Him.

They all fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. They are interrelated, and as I grow in learning to live more like this, I am realizing that this growth in learning requires both ceasing and feasting.

Thomas says, “…we have neglected the pursuit of the eternal in pursuit of the temporary.” Looking back on my life I can see this as being true.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. The expectations and obligations send us running and in the hustle and bustle of it all, we miss much of what really matters. We are consumed by the stressors of life. And quite often we never really stop to look at what the causes of our stress are, we just keep pushing on.

Stress is the very first thing Thomas deals with in her book. She suggests that we look for the stress triggers in our lives and figure out ways to deal with them. I am learning to recognize where my stress level is at and what the triggers are. I think often in our busyness we may not even be aware of how we are living with overwhelming stress. One book I read said that stress can become like adrenaline to our bodies, pushing us on.

Stress changes how we act and interact. It causes us to react, often in ways that may be harsh. When I am stressed, I often react with frustration out of feeling overwhelmed. Thomas suggests that once we learn what our stress triggers are, that we try to anticipate what is coming rather than reacting. When we do this it is easier to respond in a softer way.

As I learn about my stress triggers I’m learning to respond rather than react. I recently realized how frustrated I was getting when my brother called. All I could think of is what I needed to be doing, and I was short and edgy with him. After thinking about it I recognized that he was always calling when I was in the middle of getting dinner ready, and that irritated me. So the next time it happened I responded by telling him of a better time to call, and since then it hasn’t been an issue. Such a silly little thing caused me so much frustration, and there was such a simple solution. But in my initial upset, I didn’t think about a solution, I only reacted.

Thomas says, “…an unbalanced woman has nothing to offer herself or those around her.” So it is helpful to begin to find some balance in the areas of stress that have kept me teetering.

Along with that Thomas reminds her readers to remember to “replenish your well.For me, replenishing my well means taking time to relax, to read, or journal, or on occasion, even take a nap. I am choosing to gift myself with those things in between tasks on my to-do list. Replenishing my well does a lot for my attitude.

Some other areas Thomas discussed ceasing from in the area of Emotional Rest, are noise, negativity, numbness, and anger. I find that often my negativity and anger arise out of stress. She asks three important questions in the areas of Ceasing from Anger, Feasting on Flexibility. Each of these are important, especially to me, because often I have trouble being flexible. Maybe you will find them helpful as well.

1. “Is it possible for us to become more flexible, to survive the conflicts around us by adapting more appropriately?”

2. “Can I find myself surrendering my need to control in favor of relaxing in God’s ultimate sovereignty in my life?”

3.”Can I put the small stuff in perspective and flexibly move through my day?”

Good questions to take into consideration when learning to choose Emotional Rest.

The next section is Physical Rest. And in this section we learn about ceasing from busyness, hurrying, over-consuming, and crowds. Busyness and hurry were the areas of most interest to me here. As we learn to cease from busyness we learn to feast on leisure, and as we learn to cease from hurry Thomas discusses feasting on slowing down.

In the section on Ceasing from Hurry, Thomas reminded me of something I am slowly learning. “God’s love and acceptance do not depend on what I do. His grace is not opposed to my efforts, but my efforts do not earn grace.” Oh, how I need to remind myself of this when I forget about walking with “slow feet” and begin rushing about.

I know I often have heard myself say, “there is never enough time for all I want or need to get done.” But using the Bible story of the feeding of the 5000, Thomas reminds us, “…if we give God what is in our lunchbox, he will make it be enough.” I need to give my moments to Him and let Him lead me in making the time I have to be enough.

Thomas suggested in this section to make a time pie relating to how you spend your days. She asks, “Which pieces should be smaller, which pieces should be bigger?” This is so helpful to really see how your time is being consumed and to see if you are doing what really matters. I know I seem to easily waste time on things that distract me during the course of a day.

Finally, in the area of Spiritual Rest, she writes about ceasing from fear, hard-heartedness, the need to know everything, and anxiety.

Here ceasing from fear and anxiety interested me most. When we cease from fear we need to learn to feast on trust. In the Spiritual Rest Stop here, Thomas gives a long list of scriptures to feast on. Thomas says, “Putting away fear and feasting on trust, we rest in the reliability of God.” How very true! That is what I am learning as I seek to know His love for me in a deeper way.

In the area of Ceasing from Anxiety, Thomas reminds us of these important truths:

1. “The first step to ceasing from anxiety and feasting on peace is recognizing our need to surrender control.” (Yes, I am slowly learning to abandon outcomes to the Lord.)

2. “We have to remember that even though we have relinquished control, we are not sent untethered into life’s anxious circumstances. God secures our tether and he is still in control.”

So, with these things in mind, knowing that God is in control, Thomas suggests that we can only do what we can do. Anxiety gets us nowhere. But in the Lord we can find peace and we can definitely trust in Him!

Thomas shares the story of the fiery furnace from the book of Daniel. She reminds us of the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they said “if their worst ‘what-ifs’ came to pass, ‘even-so’ they would praise God.” Oh, Lord help us to look at our “what-ifs” in this way, with a willingness to praise you!

This book was another great read on my journey of recalibrating life. I hope you found something helpful here for you as you journey with Jesus.

Advertisements

Sabbath: Choosing to Cease

A big part of my journey to recalibrate my life is praying about what I need help with. So recently I have been praying that the Lord will help me unwrap the gift of rest in my life. I also have been praying that my thoughts will be controlled with the words of Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” I desire for my heart to be filled with peace rather than anxiety and overwhelm. And I want that peace to overflow into my life. Sabbath is about finding rest and peace in knowing the Sovereignty of the Lord. How beautifully these prayers fit in with my theme of Sabbath.

This month my Recalibrate Life Read is Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn. She has divided her book into four themes of Sabbath. The themes are Ceasing, Resting, Embracing and Feasting. So I am approaching this month’s blog posts in a little different manner. Rather than sharing on topics and then sharing a response to the book, I am going to use each of the weeks in April to discuss one of these themes. So this week we will begin with the theme of ceasing.

Dawn explains that “the name Sabbath comes originally from the Hebrew verb ‘Shabbat’ which means primarily ‘to cease or desist’.”  Sabbath gives us freedom as we choose to cease from some things to be present and choose ways to honor the Lord.

Ceasing from work is the first area discussed in this theme. This made me think back to a few years ago when my husband and I had two huge vegetable gardens. Sunday afternoons we would often be out there weeding and watering for anywhere from two to four hours. It was around this time that Sabbath rest began to  interest to me. And at first I really struggled with going out to the garden. wasn’t that work? And isn’t it wrong to work on the Sabbath? Well, to some gardening may be work, but I found that digging in the dirt removing weeds, and standing in the rows, feeling the sun on my face, as I watered was actually relaxing. It was a refreshing time that I would spend in giving praise to the Lord or going through the alphabet praying for people. Or other times I would just spend the time talking with the Lord about whatever occupied my mind. People have differing views on what ceasing from work is to mean for us. I think it is about the attitude of the heart. There in the garden I was fully present with the Lord as I completed these tasks that actually relaxed me. I wasn’t striving.

Dawn discusses the importance of ceasing from productivity and accomplishment. She explains that when we’re not under the compulsion to be productive, we have time to really be present with others, and then get to know more of who they are. When we are so busy trying to accomplish things we lose sight of relationship and are just fixed on the goal. Ceasing from productivity on the Sabbath gives us opportunity to be with those we love and enjoy their company. You can enjoy slow-porch-conversations over lemonade, or a good movie as you munch popcorn or sip hot cocoa. It’s about being together. Recognizing the gifts the Lord has given you in those He has placed in your life.

I am enjoying being less productive as I choose to not cook a big dinner on Sundays. Instead, when I plan out my meals for the week, I make sure that I have something simple I can heat up on that day that way I am not spending the day in the kitchen. My husband and I often decide to spend part of the afternoon taking a nap or enjoying movie together. The quietness of the afternoon is refreshing and enjoyable.

Another area that Dawn says to cease from is the area of anxiety, worry and tension. Having too much to do is a huge factor in the level of stress and anxiety we experience. Dawn explains that she gets her house ready for “Queen Sabbath,” as she calls it, by putting away projects the night before. She removes any worry from her mind by keeping a running list of concerns and she sets these aside. She states, “The sabbath is not a running away from problems but the opportunity to receive grace to face them.”  We create space to know God is in control, and to be aware of His presence. Setting our minds on things above gives us a new perspective.

Dawn suggests that we practice thanksgiving as a way to cease worrying. Sabbath is about remembering who God is and what He has done for us. When we are aware of those things we can cease to be God and naturally are led to give thanks.

I don’t think that many times we are even aware of how often we try to be God in our own lives. Or maybe that is just me. Just the other day I was praying for the Lord to be at work in a situation where we needed to hear from someone in order to move forward with a decision regarding an important project. Not hearing from this person was keeping me from being able to plan my week out, so I gave this dilemma to the Lord. But only a few moments later I found myself trying to figure it all out. I even suggested to my husband that I text the guy to see if he could give me a time line. My husband responded negatively to my suggestion saying that the man would call when he was ready. I felt frustrated and then remembered I had just given it to the Lord. There I was trying to control and manipulate things, not letting God be God. Old habits die hard.

Dawn says “…God will provide for his people, they don’t have to struggle to work things out for themselves.” Obviously, learning not to strive or figure it all out is a lesson I am still learning.

The last three areas of ceasing that Dawn discusses are that of ceasing from “possessiveness“, “enculturation” and from “humdrum and meaninglessness.”

The idea of possessiveness is related to stewardship.  Stewardship reminds us of the importance of using the gifts the Lord has given us for service to Him. In her own life, Dawn chooses to make Sabbath a day to give things away–gifting others. She enjoys having dinner parties “especially for those who aren’t able to invite [her] back.” She refrains from shopping or anything that requires buying or selling on the Sabbath. So this means planning ahead to have the necessary food for dinner preparation. Sharing a meal with others is a great way to share God’s love and His gifts to us.

The point of ceasing from enculturation that stood out to me most in this book is that of setting “the Christian community apart as an alternative society to the surrounding culture.” When we choose to cease from things that are typical to our culture it causes people to stop and look, and maybe to ask why? How can we be holy and set apart, honoring the Lord on Sabbath? This is something we do not do to draw attention to ourselves but to draw attention the Lord’s impact on our lives.

Finally, Dawn explains that life can become “humdrum” in the rat-race of life. Every day begins to be the same. It is when we choose to honor the Sabbath that we realize we have something very special to look forward to. In time, we come to understand that in keeping the Sabbath that “all days derive their meaning from the Sabbath.” We recognize God as the Giver of all gifts and the One and Only Sovereign God over our lives.

These chapters on ceasing gave me much to think about. I am slowly finding my own special rhythm to six days of busyness and work, and one day of rest. I am making choices regarding what I need to cease from and how I must plan for that in my other six days. Planning for Sabbath is another way that helps you remember God. You choose deliberately and intentionally to think of ways to honor God, as well as ways to love others.

Next week our theme in this series on Sabbath will be Resting. Resting is something I am learning about for all of life. But “to rest” is actually the second meaning of the Hebrew verb “Shabbat.” We will be looking at a variety of aspects of rest which Dawn highlights in the second section of her book. I hope you will join me as we together learn more about keeping the Sabbath.

 

*Featured photo taken by Stephanie Crist found on Unsplash.