“I don’t do down time very well.” How often have I thought or spoken these words? Although I know it’s important, I often have trouble embracing my need for rest. I pressure myself to check items off a never-ending to-do list and allow myself to believe the lie that rest equates to laziness.
We’ve pushed past the one year mark of the pandemic, but the news continues to bring me anxiety and sorrow: violence, vaccines, and my family’s unique struggles. Lately, however, I’ve realized rest can help me cope with stresses, both slight and substantial.
In Matthew 11:18, Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Rest is a gift He offers to the weary.
I’m welcoming it into my life in three key areas, bringing rest to my body, spirit, and soul:
First, I’m embracing rest for my body by delighting in God’s creation. My parents loved plants, and I remember their favorite nursery and the fascination of walking through its warm, humid greenhouses as a child. Our home was filled with the beauty of God’s creation — from the rosy red geraniums my mother added to our window boxes each spring to the majestic ponytail palm in our front window to the graceful weeping willow that stood in the back of our yard.
Now I delight day-by-day as spring awakens the plants and trees in the yard of our new home — flowering pear, cherry, and dogwood trees, hardy lavender, creeping succulents, and a beautiful Japanese red maple.
I pull out old, worn field guides, join online plant identification groups, and text photos to my plant-savvy oldest son searching for answers to my questions: Are these budding bushes rhododendron or azaleas? What are the dozens of new shoots pushing up through the soil around our deck? Is this straggly little Charlie Brown tree actually something special?
For years I believed I could write about and photograph plants but not grow them. I joked about how I couldn’t keep plants alive. Inspired by the Spring chapter in Myquillyn Smith’s book Welcome Home and the way my oldest daughter found comfort through tending plants while isolating last year, I’m filling our home and yard with new life: trailing ivy, shade-loving hostas, fragrant rosemary, vibrant purple hydrangeas, an eye-catching variety commonly called a hope plant, and a quirky little ponytail palm that reminds me of home. I’ve catalogued them in an app that tells me where to place them and when to water them. I don’t want to kill my plants from either too much or too little love.
Appreciating and tending to God’s creation requires me to slow down and engage my sense of sight, smell, and touch. This is rest for my body.
Second, I’m embracing rest for my spirit through reading. I used to end every day with at least thirty minutes of quiet time with a book; it was the perfect wind-down to my day. Over the years, I’m sad to say I’ve allowed catching up on email and social media accounts to edge out that special time.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I bought my first Kindle. It’s one of my favorite COVID purchases. Most nights I prop extra pillows behind me in bed and escape into occupied France during WWII, the heart of the Russian Revolution, sleuthing along with the detective in a whodunit or an occasional romantic comedy.
I pair my Bible study and devotional time with breakfast, so I bookend my day with the written word. I believe reading builds empathy, and we all could use more of that. Through reading, I’m finding rest for my spirit.
Last, I’m embracing rest for my soul as I pray and release. I used to say yes too often until I was buried by all the tasks I’d agreed to perform. When I learned to delegate, it allowed me to release responsibilities I didn’t need to carry and invited others to share the burden with me.
Worries will weigh you down, but prayer will provide life-changing peace if you unshackle your troubles and hand them over to God. Then, trust Him to handle the outcome. Pray and release: this is rest for our souls.
As Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”