So I am going to post something I wrote out that may go on a different blog for the church down the road. It's a life lesson I have been learning the last few months. After talking with a few friends about it last weekend, I wanted to share it on my blog too. I wrote it a month and a half ago, but here it is. The lesson I have learned on how important it is for me to take time for rest.
It all started when Lena and Mallory were born. They were my third and fourth children. I had wanted them desperately. My husband and I have never been able to conceive on our own, and God had blessed us with two amazing children through adoption. Shortly after we adopted our second child Ava, my husband’s insurance benefits changed for the better and we began to talk about options again for the possibility of pursuing pregnancy. We prayed about it and when my son Josiah was almost 4 and my daughter Ava was 18 months old, we decided to pursue medical help to try to get pregnant one last time. Nick and I felt it would be something we would have regrets if we didn’t pursue. We started treatment, and four months later we found ourselves expecting twins.
The news was so exciting to Nick and I, along with all those around us who had been praying for us. As the time came closer, the reality of what life was going to become after the twins became very apparent. So I began to brace myself to become a sacrifice for my family. When the girls arrived, and after two weeks of being at home with help, the day came for me to take up the responsibility of four children on my own. I was terrified, but I jumped in with both feet and that became my life, my identity.
I loved my children more than words could express. And I was grateful every day to God for the blessings He had given us in our family. But gone were the days of play dates and girls nights every week… I remember thinking to myself in the midst of the chaos, “I wonder if I will actually ever sit down to read a good fiction book again?” My life turned into a routine of schedule and order. Each day was a checklist of what needed to get done – Read my Bible, Exercise, dress my kids, read the Bible to my kids and feed them, take kids to school, laundry, grocery shop, feed my kids, feed myself, clean house, cook, feed my kids, run upstairs to fold some more clothes, come back down to clean up dinner, teeth brushing, jammies, bedtime. Then I was done. I had a few golden hours left in my day before it all began again, but with barely any energy left to muster in me, I found myself eating a late dinner on the couch with Nick, and turning into bed and starting again.
I didn’t want to think about going out during the evenings. I just wanted to be home. It was too much work to think about doing that. I LOVED what I was doing. But little by little my love bucket was slowly emptying… and I didn’t notice. I almost thrived on the martyr like role I was becoming in my family. The idea of doing anything for myself didn’t seem “Christ like.” At least in my mind. I struggled with feeling guilty, thinking that leaving my kids to do something by myself was being selfish. After all I was the one that wanted four children. But this guilt was not from God. Numerous times in the Bible you see Jesus go off by Himself for a bit. Often it was after He met the pressing needs in front of Him. But He did take time to be alone.
Last year, we had some really hard stuff happen in our life that rocked our home to the core. It shook me up like nothing has before, and when it was all over, I found myself in a place of survival mode. This mom that felt like she could do anything had nothing left. I was empty. But I didn’t see it in the midst of it all. Every time I tried to pick myself back up I would crash back down. It was getting worse by the day. Thoughts from my past struggles of depression and life being meaningless and hopeless began to creep back in, and get to me when I was at my lowest. I would have times that I felt like I could handle everything, but the few weeks that followed, when my hormones were at my “Not Nice” levels, I was barely making it, and my kids and my husband were suffering because of it. I would say hurtful things that I didn’t mean to my children, and Nick was afraid to make any mistakes, for fear it would send me back into the deep. A deep I didn’t know if I was ever going to climb out of.
I was trying to do all the right things still. I was reading my Bible every day and praying. But it came to a point this June that I couldn’t keep living like that anymore. I knew I needed someone to give me some godly counsel and pray with me about everything. So I met with Diane, and after patiently listening to my story, she pointed out the obvious.
I had nothing left in me. I was completely drained. And those weeks that I thought I was doing okay, I actually was just surviving. I remember once when our church first started, being at a Bible Study, and Diane had a tea cup and saucer that she used as an illustration to us women. She took a teapot and poured water into the empty tea cup. And as it filled up it began to overflow onto the saucer. The water represented the Holy Spirit pouring into our lives, and as we were filled up to our brim, then what came splashing over was what we gave to those around us: our husbands, our children, our family, our friends, people we serve, our ministries.
I was an empty tea cup. And it was time to fix that. She shared some wisdom with me, and after our time together I left with a plan to talk to Nick about. First thing on the list, I needed to take some time away to sort through everything that had broken our home, and work through all of it with the Lord. Just me and Him. Second, I needed to figure out a time each week to Sabbath. Right now for where I am at, my Sabbath needed to be a break from the responsibilities of my children, and just go take time to find things that would be life giving to me – think of them as dates with Jesus.
As I ran through all of this with Nick, he was extremely supportive and we booked a hotel for me to get away for a night. When that day came, Nick confidently said he had the kids, and told me to leave whenever I wanted. So I grabbed my stuff, and drove to the beach. On the beach under the summer sun, I laid out on a blanket with a notebook. Some of the time I rested and just listened to God and His truth wash over me. Then I would grab my notebook, and begin writing out everything I needed to give to Him. Things I needed to forgive others of, things I needed to repent of. I repeated this several times. I also started writing out subjects I wanted to hunt for verses on in the Bible, to replace the things I was surrendering to Him, with His truth.
After a few hours, I knew it was time to go. I picked up my blanket and as I walked to the car I knew what God wanted me to do next. I drove down the road to a more private beach, and I parked the car. I tore out all those pages of repents and things I had forgiven. I tore them in shreds and bundled them up tightly in my hands. I walked out to the ocean and looked out at the waves. At first I thought of throwing those tiny pieces into the waves, but it was a windy day and a picture of those pieces landing all over the sandy shore entered my mind, so I chose option B. I got my feet wet, and as a wave came I put my hands deep in the water, and released all those papers. The wave took it back out to the ocean, and then another wave took it further out, and before I watched anymore, I turned around and walked away. God had taken all those things and I didn’t need to go back to them and keep living in them anymore. I felt free and fresh and light.
I spent the rest of my time back at the hotel I rented just looking up verses, meeting up with a supportive friend for dinner, wandering through Barnes and Noble looking into different books I wanted to read, waking up the next morning to a quiet time, and then a run outside. I tried a Starbucks Refresher Valencia Orange Coffee drink, and then I went and got my hair done. Honestly though, the time on the beach with God was really what I had been thirsty for.
The next step for me has been trying to figure out how to take a Sabbath each week. Obviously I can’t have a weekend like that every week. That would be very expensive and really impractical for my family. The best way I can try to explain my ultimate goal in the Sabbath time is this: Taking time each week without interruption from my littles, to read my Bible and pray and be silent to listen to the Holy Spirit, to address things with me. Not time to be praying for my kids and my husband and the rest of the world. But times where if there is anything during the week that maybe I didn’t handle quite right, or I need to forgive, that I spend that time with the Lord processing through all of that. He is my personal Counselor during it and slowly has been bringing to light little things that I can be growing and changing in my life. I read in a book something that explained it so clearly my fail over the last few years: I wasn’t giving God time to speak to me personally. I was so busy doing all the right things that I missed out on what is best, and I had become a Martha instead of a Mary. But this season I am now walking into He is inviting me to be a Mary once again. He is taking my dry bones and breathing new life into me during these times. It is a beautiful gift to be experiencing.
I would like to add, Nick and I have stumbled through this, figuring out how to create time for a Sabbath for me. I have to think about when works best for him, and where I need to be(for example am I going to hole up in our room, or will I head out to a park for a morning), and what he is going to be doing with our children during that time. It takes a little flexibility and communication. We actually faced a bit of spiritual warfare in the midst of figuring this out. I don’t think Satan likes the idea of having a mom taking time to listen to Jesus and be refreshed and filled by the Holy Spirit so she can begin to pour into those around her again. But I think it is extremely important to make sure we fight that battle and make it a higher priority. Cover the time in prayer. It is a weekly thing that we discuss of where it will fit in our schedule. We’ve talked about once all of our children are in full time school it will be easier to orchestrate that in our life, but for now, while I still have two littles mostly at home, it’s a sacrifice Nick is willing to make for our family. It takes creativity to make it work and it won’t look exactly the same for every family.
This is my year to focus on being a Mary. To start smiling at my future once again, to sit at Jesus’ feet. To love Him and listen to Him. To allow Him to work in me, and then as I continue to be filled once more, I am excited to see His Spirit splash out of my cup and onto the lives of those around me once more. I am going to leave you with the verses He gave me on my name card at the Women’s Night in Prayer. I received the card: “Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 48:7 “…your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel (says): ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.’”
Isaiah 43:1-3 “But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you, O Israel, the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”
He is calling your name too! Will you come?