Confession: I have a lot to learn about rest.
I know that on the surface, it appears to be a simple concept. To many people, rest means to, sit down and “rest a spell,” as they would say in the South. Put your feet up. Take a load off. But it’s not that simple. I have learned I can do rest all wrong, without even trying to.
Did you ever return from a vacation and say to someone, “I need a vacation from my vacation”? Yep, I’ve done it a lot of times. We can “rest” and be more tired than when we started out. I’ve also learned that all sleep is not good sleep. There are times I am exhausted, and I go to put my head on the pillow and BAM, all my worries come into my head. I pray myself to sleep most nights and the majority of the time it works but sometimes it does not. I know I am not alone. I want to have true rest but sometimes I feel powerless to do so.
This week Larry and I are away on vacation. If you have followed me for very long, you see that I go on a lot of vacations. You may wonder why we do this so much, and even think it a bit odd or excessive. Although I don’t owe anyone an explanation, I’m going to explain and then I’m going to give you some tips on what I have found helpful in chasing true rest.
I used to hate vacation. I was a workaholic. I was in counseling for this for a long time. I saw a therapist at Emerge for this. (If you are AG, you know exactly what that is.) I wanted desperately to get off the merry-go-round I was on, but I didn’t know how. My entire worth was tied up in my work. I am ashamed to say I worked 60-90 hours on some weeks. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. And somehow I stayed married and didn’t have a heart attack. I hated vacation. My husband would insist we go away, and I loathed every time he would drag me out the door and insist I take a break and we travel somewhere. I snuck in work whenever I could. Yes, it made my family mad. I regret it now. I felt powerless over it at the time. The Holy Spirit had to do a ton of work on me about this. Not only did I see that Emerge Counselor but I went to therapy for it again later on and my therapist told me I was the first client she never gave “homework” to. She said, “You’ve got enough on your plate and you’re addicted to work. No homework for you.” The only thing she told me to do for quite a while was “sit in the sadness and process my losses.” That was it. No books to read, no journals to write in. Just sit and be sad. It felt weird. But it worked.
I realized through these Holy Spirit-led counselors that I needed to break through concerning rest.
My husband is my opposite in every way. He says tomato, and I say tom-AH-to. He says potato, I saw pa-Tah-to. You get the drift. So, he lives for vacation. Always has! When he was growing up he never really went on a real vacation. His family just went to visit family who lived further away. That was the extent of his vacations growing up. He determined when he created a family of his own, he would lead them in taking vacations such as various travel destinations, nature and theme parks staying at hotels, and the like. He made good on that goal, and it has always been a priority in our marriage and family even when we didn’t have two nickels to rub together.
Larry got so passionate about and good at travel planning that many friends asked him to help them arrange their own. He did it for so many years and his friends said, “You are so amazing at this you should get paid for it!” Finally last October he approached our church board to receive their blessing about starting his own side business—to start his own travel agency and become a legit, licensed travel agent. He started last October 5, and within less than a year, he has 167 clients! His business, Best Memories Travel, has boomed. And yes, he is still a full-time pastor! At some point, he will hire others to help him in his travel business. I am not joking when I tell you, that he is literally anointed to do travel business. In less than a year many of his clients have booked with him multiple times. (By the way, did you know you don’t personally pay a travel agent nor do you lose any money booking with them? A fee is built into every single transaction you make for travel of any kind whether you use them or not. You use it or lose it. And they get you amazing deals that you could not get on your own and take care of a bazillion headaches you don’t need to take care of. Although I digress and will get to my 7 tips in a moment, I do want to say, if you book with my husband, I promise you’ll be back again and again because he’s THAT GOOD. Book with him HERE.) I don’t ever compliment people when it’s not genuine and I’m tellin’ ya, my husband slays at this.
So, Larry used to drag me on vacation but that changed years ago. So much so that when I interviewed for my current job, my main negotiation was vacation time and the ability to work from home for at least part of the time. I never negotiated a penny for my salary. I didn’t care. The department was a financial mess at the time, but I knew I’d straighten it out quickly. And I knew they would more than likely compensate me fairly and whatever I was starting with would continue to increase. However, I knew it might be hard to go back later and re-negotiate the other things I find most important, like keeping the five weeks of vacation I had become accustomed to at the time, after serving decades in leadership/ministry. My boss readily agreed to all of that, and I was relieved. So, I go on five weeks’ vacation a year and I am not a bit sheepish about it. If memory serves me correctly, this cruise are on now is our 18th cruise. It’s our favorite way to get away.
With my vacation weeks, there are times I get more rest than other times. Keeping it real as I always do, I’ve had some things weighing on me this week where it’s hard to sleep. I’m exhausted but with a million things on my mind, it’s a challenge to really sleep or rest. I want to share some things I’ve done to help in this regard this week, and I hope it helps you too.
First, I messaged three friends and asked them to pray that I would get true rest and sleep on this vacation. It’s that whole “where two or three are gathered” principle. It works! My friends not only said they would pray but one of them sent a list of scriptures about rest for me to ‘stand on’ and believe as we pray. Reading those scriptures was immediately comforting. Don’t underestimate the power of friends who pray, share the Word of God with you, and speak into your life prophetically.
Second, I’m being super careful of what I think about, read, or watch on my computer or TV before I go to sleep. That tends to affect my ability to fall asleep as well as what I dream about.
Third, as much as I don’t like this, I’m going to ask for decaffeinated coffee with my dinner. I detest decaf and I always enjoy a good cup of coffee with my dessert, especially on a cruise. But I know it’s going to impede my rest. So, a change is in order when I’ve noticed it’s starting to affect me. To be clear, it doesn’t always affect me. Mostly it impacts me when I’m coming into a vacation already worried about too many things.
Fourth, I re-read a lot of scriptures about releasing worry and anxiety and the complete unproductiveness of both those things. Worry and anxiety do nothing for you, they just keep you busy.
Fifth, I read, write, and process. I know some may say, “That’s one of your problems. Stop blogging and get off your computer…that might give you some rest…” But the truth is, vacation weeks are a Sabbath rest for me. Sabbath is not just about laying down and staring at the ceiling. It’s about what brings you JOY. There’s nothing that brings me greater joy than writing, so I don’t stop doing it during rest times. I would honestly just think about it the whole time and wish I was doing it, if I ceased to. In fact, I gave Larry a short list of things that, if I could not ever do them anymore, it’s best to call in Hospice and allow me to die. (LOL) Writing is one of the things on that shortlist. To be clear, I’m not writing things for work. Everything you see online about work is already pre-written or pre-recorded prior to my vacation and scheduled to post. Everything I’m writing on this vacation is purely for pleasure. And I get such joy and release out of it.
As far as reading goes, I am re-reading Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s book, Sacred Rest. It’s SO good and it changed my mind on a lot of things I previously believed about rest. For example…
Did you know you can sleep but not get any rest? Did you know that all sleep is not “good sleep”? Did you know that you can downsize in life, thinking that simplifying is going to make you feel more rested, but it may make little difference in your ability to rest? Did you know you can cut out a bunch of things on your plate and STILL be frazzled? I have discovered the more I think I know about rest the more I have to learn.
You might want to pick up Dalton’s book. It has assisted me a lot in my quest to learn what real rest is.
Sixth, I take a peaceful walk or take a warm shower or bath right before bed. It helps me process and to be in a better physical/emotional place to get a better night’s rest.
Seventh and most important—I keep casting my cares on the Lord. I find it helpful to take any worry that pops into my mind and turn it into a prayer. For example, worries about the upcoming Thrive conference invade my mind. I immediately respond with, “Lord, I thank you that you care about Thrive more than I do. You care about these women being saved, healed, filled, called and changed more than I do. And you are already in the future waiting to show me around. You are already working on these issues—as you have been doing for a long time. And you have sent your ministering angels to take care of things. You are going places I can’t do and doing things I can’t do. You are moving the mountains on our behalf. Thank you, Lord! I trust you!” I know it’s cliché, but it’s true…prayer works!
Pursuing real rest is so critical, that we dare not downplay its importance. Daulton-Smith says:
“Aborting rest empties me of everything holy. It strips me of the ability to treasure life and peels away the value of being. I feel I’m nothing if I’m doing nothing. My worth is wrapped tight around my endless activity. So I keep going round and round, each time becoming more short-tempered, more disgruntled, and more discontented. A life without periods of rest will not endure the daily grind.”
I hope these things help you in your quest for real rest. As you may think of it while I’m gone this week, pray for me for real rest. Larry and I are having a wonderful time…I just have to keep my mind stayed on Christ and not on my challenges back home, and continue to cast my cares and decaf my coffee.