I set out to practice rest two weeks ago on a vacation to the beach with my hubby and kids. It was our kids’ first time seeing the ocean, so expectations were high. I wanted the kids to love it and I was hoping to sneak in some time to relax, too.
I am not so naive to think that traveling with a 5 year-old and an almost 3 year-old would be restful or that the beach with kids is the same as the beach without kids. But I still had dreams of reading my book for maybe 8.5 minutes while listening to the waves gently crash into the shore as my kids happily built a sand castle at my feet.
We made it to the beach day and got everything set-up: tent, chairs, cooler, sand toys and towels. The kids and LJ began building a sand castle and I immediately saw my opportunity to lay down unnoticed. I strategically positioned my towel behind the cooler where I would be out of sight of my little monkeys. As I laid down and began listening to the waves crash, I was asleep before I could even reach for my Kindle. Though it only lasted for 10 minutes, my power nap was glorious.
I quickly realized that the beach is just like every other fun activity you do with kids: 80% preparation, 3% playing and 17% packing up. So this explains why I couldn’t find the energy to read. I was a little disappointed in myself because I had a plan for my rest but I fell asleep before I could start. But I think I had it backwards.
I think my physical body was taking care of itself because I know I can’t do much of anything if I’m tired and worn out. Scripture tells us we are embodied souls. How we care for our and treat our bodies has a direct impact on the health of our souls. In allowing my body to rest first, I could then usher in rest for my heart and soul, if I chose to do so.
Fast forward a few days and we finished out our vacation with more beach-fun, yummy Tex Mex, wave jumping, and happy times with friends. It was a BLAST! And by the time we got home we were pretty tired. The kids and l napped every day for a week straight (including my 5 year old who is past naps) and LJ and I felt like we needed a vacation from our vacation!
As I was lamenting in confusion to an older mom-friend as to why I was so tired after our vacation, she gently smiled and knowingly shook her head saying, “You took a trip not a vacation. When you travel with kids it’s a trip, without kids it’s a vacation.”
Where is this in the mom’s manual!? You know the one you get when your kids are born…
Suddenly it all became clear and I felt relief in my chest as I realized I didn’t totally fail at my attempted restful vacation. The irony is not lost on me that I spent my last post defining rest and then when I tried to practice it on vacation it was way harder than I suspected.
I think it was hard for the obvious reason that we went on a trip not a vacation.
But also, I’m discovering there are two parts to rest.
The discipline of creating space for rest is step one. What you do in the space is step two.
God created rest in the beginning of time as a gift to humanity. He knows we need it and He commands us to keep and protect it. When we obey and accept the invitation of keeping rest we receive His gift of nourishment and refreshment within the rest.
Keeping rest is the practice of stopping and doing the things that fill my depleted energy buckets. It is carving out space in my life’s rhythm so that I can receive.
Receiving rest means positioning my heart to be open to God’s gift. A gift is meaningless if it is not received. And I can’t receive if I don’t stop, open my hands and wait for God to fill them.
When I reflect on our trip, I see how we moved towards the first step of keeping rest. We carved out time for a trip and time together. We filled up our family’s shared emotional energy bucket, by experiencing joy, togetherness and delight. Our kids had our full attention as they built, explored, and played and we didn’t have the constraints of time or an agenda. I can see that we are continuing to draw energy from this experience two weeks later and I know we will draw from the memories years from now.
So I was “keeping rest” but didn’t find many moments to “receive rest.”
I took time to be still in the mornings and we took breaks throughout the day. But in the spaces where we paused, I didn’t find myself waiting to receive. Instead I filled the spaces with noise because I think waiting can be uncomfortable. I picked up my phone and scrolled social media. I binged Netflix with my hubby late into the night. I listened to Podcasts.
This all was fun and entertaining and an escape from my reality but I found what we do with the space within rest matters. I chose to quickly fill the space instead of waiting for God to fill it.
Scripture tells us, “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.”Isaiah 40:31
I filled the space, but I can trustingly wait for God to fill it too, with exactly what I need. Just as He was faithful in bringing me sleep when my body was worn out, I know He will replenish my soul if I will be patient and wait.
I can welcome the waiting by starting here….
- Sit in silence and write down a gratitude list, saying it outloud as I go.
- Pray a verse from Scripture. This is one of my favorites: Inhale your breath “Be still and know” and as you exhale, “that I am God.”
- Close my eyes and bring awareness to my senses, what do I hear, smell, feel, and touch? Quietly pray, “Lord, I want to see what you see. I want to feel what you feel. I want to love like you.”
- Meditate on scripture.
- Read a devotional.
- Quietly pray out loud as if I’m talking directly to Jesus, in the chair next to me.
- Match my breath to music, inviting God’s presence.
God deeply wants to spend time with each of us. I’m learning if I turn towards Him, I can trust He will draw me back to Himself strengthening me with exactly what I need.
His presence and nearness is the gift I find within the space of rest.
We had the best and most fun-filled trip. I wouldn’t take it back for a minute but next time, I want to find moments to be with God the way He wants to be with me. I’ve learned that His gift of rest is always within reach and my prayer is that you know that, too.
If you are looking for more resources or want to talk about different ways to find rest, please reach out. I’m going to try “keeping rest” myself by taking the month of August off from writing. I’ll miss being with you all but I am trusting God in this space of waiting.
Know that I’m cheering you on in the waiting and your spaces of rest.