Rest is Hard

I am discovering that I am not good at resting. Resting feels like a guilty pleasure. Sinful. Lazy. Slothful. Not industrious. Not pulling your own weight. Slacking off. 

I’m in a weird in-between place right now. Our foster daughter went home after three years with us. I am finding that all the insanity of the last three years has not been processed and it is suddenly jumping up and down in my head. And I’m not just talking about fostering (which I’m going to say is the hardest thing I have ever done). How about a pandemic, family members being sick, big streak of violence in our neighborhood that turned my kids high school into a war zone, craziness in my little kids’ schools, someone close to me dealing with severe depression, discovering that one of my kids has some neurological differences, one of my kids growing up and leaving home, another one joining the army. And then quite a few other things that I’m not going to write about.

The past three years have been about surviving each blow and then running on to the next catastrophe. This is not to say I’ve been walking around in a horrible state of mind for three years. God is gracious and I have felt his love and peace with me throughout everything. But at some point in time you have to stop moving for a minute and just acknowledge that these things happened, allow yourself some time to work through the emotions, and then be able to lay it down and move forward. 

I feel like that is the place that God has put me in right now. And I don’t like it. It feels wrong. I’m not doing anything extra. Yeah, I’m taking care of my family, but nothing else. 

That “something else” is a tricky thing. We are saved by grace, not by works. But it’s really easy to fall into that “Grace Plus” mentality. I think I’ve written about this before. Probably because it’s one of the easiest traps for me to fall into. I’m saved by Grace PLUS I do this other ministry. I’m saved by Grace PLUS I’m a really moral, self-disciplined person. I’m saved by Grace PLUS I make no mistakes. I’m saved by Grace PLUS…you get the idea. 

When I reach these places where my ministry is over, some kind of transition has happened, I’m no longer doing all the things, I feel panicky. I can’t be pleasing to God when I’m just sitting here. God only likes me if I’m working. God only likes me if I’m producing. God only likes me if I’m doing all the extra stuff. 

I was in a church service several weeks ago and the minister said something about service to God and I cried out to God in my mind, Lord, what do you want me to do?? And he answered me. I’ll let you know when you need to know. Right now, just rest.

So, here I am trying to rest. And I’m not very good at it. I know that I am on empty right now. I really don’t have anything to give anyone at the moment. I’m trying to slowly rebuild habits of taking care of my body and mind and soul. Habits I used to have but which got thrown overboard when the storms of life got too crazy. 

And the hardest part is looking up at heaven and saying, Are you ok with this? I’m not doing anything. Are you sure this is ok? 

So, I grow in faith again.  Saved by grace. Not by works. It’s ok to rest. 

The Spinning Clock

It’s Wednesday. Only two more days till the weekend. The weekend will go quickly. Then another week. Before we know it, that week will be over and then September will be coming to an end. My oldest child is turning twenty at the end of this month. And while I try to grapple with this landmark in parenting, I sit back and view the years. 

I have an image of a large clock and the hands on the clock are spinning, spinning, spinning. And I am walking in a circle, washing the clothes, cooking the food, cleaning the house, changing diapers, hugging babies, and the clock keeps spinning, and the cycle keeps repeating over and over and over again. Buy the groceries, fold the clothes, hug a child. Mow the lawn, drive to church, Christmas, hug a teenager. Celebrate a birthday, sweep the floors, scrub the toilet, wave at the young adult as they head off to college. Turn on the heater, turn on the air conditioner, pack up all the childhood memories in a box, send them off with the young adult who used to be your baby and is now moving across the country ready to start their own life. And the clock keeps spinning and spinning. 

And occasionally I yell STOP! I try to hit pause. I make a survey of my life, our lives. Where are we? What’s happening? My almost twenty year old is firmly established far away, working, going to school. My eighteen year old just let us know that he is also heading out of state soon, pursuing his dreams. I have a junior in high school who is starting to make more solid plans about her future after high school. I have a freshman in high school who might start driving soon. My baby boy has now joined the youth group, stepping into the ranks of TEENAGERS. My elementary kids are rushing through the grades, climbing, climbing steadily up the ladder. My little five year old is reading like a big boy, the three year old no longer needs diapers and he is starting to engage in some pretty grown up conversations. And the clock has been spinning and spinning. And even as I try to get a good grasp on where we are right now, it keeps spinning. The kids keep growing, time keeps zooming past. 

And I think about the book of Ecclesiastes. (1:4-7)

Generations come and generations go,

    but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises and the sun sets,

    and hurries back to where it rises. 

The wind blows to the south

    and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

    ever returning on its course. 

All streams flow into the sea,

    yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

    there they return again.

But, as I was imagining that clock spinning and spinning, the cycle of life, never-ending, I also saw something else. As I was cleaning, and cooking, and washing, and drying, there was a song on my lips that floated above everything else. A song of praise. A song of worship. And it was continually floating upwards, a beautiful melody going up to the heavens. 

And I think, this is life. We are on a treadmill that we can’t get off. The seasons continue to change. We have babies and they turn into adults, then they have children of their own, the cycle never-ending. Governments rise and fall, cultures change, times of plenty come, times of going without, and the clock keeps spinning. Every day we do our part, feed our bodies, sleep, get up and do it again. 

But there is beauty. There is purpose. There is gentleness, and passion. There is comfort and joy. There is the wonder that as we tread out our paths, we are not alone. We are loved by our God. And our work and toil is pleasing to him. The compassion we show others is beautiful to him. Our perseverance is acceptable. And though sometimes we can only see a never ending grinding of daily tasks, our lives are like a fragrant offering drifting up to heaven. 

And even as my children seem to be slipping out of my hands, gone to the world of adulthood, even as the clock hands seem to be spinning faster and faster, even as I straighten my spine and tackle yet another day of cooking and cleaning and washing and folding, I can still have joy. Knowing that contrary to the sentiments of the author of Ecclisiastes, life is not meaningless. My life is a drink offering poured out on the altar. My life is a noble journey. My life is a Holy Quest.

So. Spin clock. Fly past, time. Each day is another day to serve God through the works of my hands, the love I share with others, and the faithfulness in the small things.