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How I’ve Been Changed By Rest

Life feels really busy. In fact, one of the reasons why I started this blog was so that I had a way to document life as it sometimes seems to move at a dizzying pace.

You likely feel it too. When asked how we’ve been lately, the answer so frequently starts with, “Busy!” (A habit I’ve worked hard to correct in the past year.) Our schedules are crammed with work obligations and studying and birthday parties and doctors’ appointments and family commitments and full email inboxes and volunteer opportunities — to name a few. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. To feel like there are never enough hours in the day. To feel like we’ll never cross everything off the list. To wish we could somehow hit the pause button and take a quick vacation from life.

While I’m prone to feel overburdened and weary just like anyone else, there is one practice that has worked wonders in helping me maintain my sanity and joy even as I navigate a really hectic world. And that thing is a regular practice of rest, also known as sabbath.

Three years ago, Jordan and I were living in one of the busiest seasons of our lives. We had just started our church (which brought on a range of pressures/responsibilities), we were in the middle of renovating our apartment, and we were expecting a baby. We were overworked, anxious, and tired.

But thankfully for us, during that same time, we also read a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, which includes a chapter encouraging people to practice a sabbath — a 24-hour period of rest where we embrace our God-given limitations.

At first, I was pretty skeptical. How could the answer to navigating my busy schedule be to take an entire day off, from both paid and unpaid work? Surely that was a recipe for falling more and more behind.

But then I considered that even God, himself, worked to create the world and then took time to stop, rest, and reflect on His creation. And my intellectual mind considered the numerous scientific studies that support the idea that regular rhythms of rest lead to greater productivity. (Seems like God and science agree on more than people like to let on.)

And I took a hard look at what my reluctancy to rest really said about what I believed:

  • God isn’t big enough to take care of this person, that problem, or me if I’m not constantly at work.
  • Slowing down means saying no to some people and opportunities, and I can’t bear to disappoint others, be left out, or risk not being liked.
  • My identity is intimately tied to the work I do; if I’m not working/producing, who am I?
  • If I have an ambition, it must be completely up to me to achieve it, with little help from God or others along the way.
  • Busyness is a badge of honor/cultural currency, and I might be judged if I set it aside.

Realizing my fears, I decided to trust God with my time and limitations instead. And so every Friday, Jordan and I do our very best to take a sabbath rest.

And it’s been really transformational for both of us. It’s kept us from burnout, it’s kept us loving each other and others well, it’s kept us more present for our son, and it’s kept us from having an inflated sense of self. I’m hooked, and I think everyone should be too.

Here’s what it looks like, (h/t to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality):

1. Stop.
We make a concerted effort to get all of our work done between Sunday and Thursday. When Friday comes along, we stop all work–both paid and unpaid–which means we do laundry, food shopping, and other home maintenance tasks during the week. We embrace our limits and let go of the illusion that we are indispensable to the running of the world.

2. Rest.
We engage in activities that restore and replenish us, which for us can look like napping, watching a movie, reading our favorite magazines, or exploring our city. It also often means turning off our push notifications on our phones/email, and that we stay away from social media, which can so easily drag us back to things on the phone.

3. Delight.
This is an opportunity to enjoy and delight in God’s creation all around us and the gifts he offers us in it. These gifts come in the form of people, places, and things. And this time of delight will differ for each person. Jordan and I are foodies, so we often take time during our sabbath to savor really delicious food. I love how photographs can capture the beauty in everything, so I often bring my camera along as we explore. I might also spend time baking or delighting in nature or the architecture around the city. And we delight in a “Pizza Fridays” dinner with Jameson to soak up the blessing that he is, while not having the pressure of cooking something or cleaning up dirty dishes.

4. Contemplate.
Finally, we spend time reflecting on God and his care for us. We focus on how we can see God at work in our lives. We don’t spend the entire day in prayer or reading scripture, but we do try to take our eyes away from the busyness of life and focus on God’s centering love instead. We also look inward to assess how we’re feeling about life — both the highs and the lows.

The result is not that everything on the list has been checked off. But we do head into the new week feeling recharged, centered, and able to approach our work with more joy.

What’s your favorite way to practice rest? 

If you’re wanting to learn more about the power of rest, Jordan preached a sermon about it last week, which is worth a listen.

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19 Comments

  • Reply Erinn D November 7, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Great post, I think I need to employ this practice as well. As of now, the way I relax is to veg out on the sofa or on my bed watching TV.

    • Reply Jessica Rice November 9, 2017 at 12:30 am

      I think you’ll find it really life-giving!

  • Reply LaTeasa November 7, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you!!!! I need to incorporate this into my life.

  • Reply Shari Thomas November 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    I enjoyed your emphasis on paid and unpaid work. It’s too easy to think I’m resting when I’ve only shifted my focus from paid work to the work of survival. John and I enjoy cooking together for our sabbath rest and sharing it with others. There’s no entertaining allowed so we don’t clean up the house or do anything extra. Anyone who joins us gets in the kitchen with us. We all shop, chop, talk, cook and clean up together, talk, laugh, eat and sometimes nap. There isn’t a beginning or ending per se so it really feels like a day of sabbath where there is a focus on delight, beauty and relationships.

    • Reply Jessica Rice November 9, 2017 at 12:33 am

      Yes, stopping the unpaid work has been one of the hardest things for me. I love the idea of having people come over to cook with y’all! There’s something really fun and special about cooking with friends.

  • Reply Stephanie King November 8, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    This post was so refreshing. I’m a teacher who worded on her birthday and just as my students were spilling out of class at the end of the day, reading this post was the first thing I really did for me in this new year of life. Thanks for this. Such a sobering reminder. Much love sis. Keep writing.

    • Reply Jessica Rice November 9, 2017 at 12:33 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Stephanie, and I’m so glad you found it helpful. Sending love and happy birthday wishes your way! xoxo

  • Reply Stephanie King November 8, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    worked* on her birthday

  • Reply Sherita November 9, 2017 at 10:41 am

    You’re so inspiring Jessica. I’m going to purchased this book! My kids are grown but you can still get involved in doing to many things and not resting.

    • Reply Jessica Rice November 13, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Sherita! I agree, it’s so easy to get involved in so many things. Hope you enjoy the book!

  • Reply Ena Logan November 9, 2017 at 11:49 am

    This was beautiful! We are so overwhelmed with grad school and running our businesses that we struggle to make time for rest. “I’ll rest when I’m dead” is so overrated and unhealthy lol. I am trying to be more intentional of implementing mindfulness into my daily routine. It is challenging to take time to cut everything off because we feel pulled by so many people at all times. Thank you for your transparency and I look forward to reading the book that you suggested.

    • Reply Jessica Rice November 13, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Everything you’ve said is so real, Ena. It’s hard to find time for rest when it feels like there’s so many things to do. I hope you’re able to trust God in your limitations and feel peace to take rest regularly. xoxo

  • Reply Jeanine November 9, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you sis for sharing! That was a great post.

    • Reply Jessica Rice November 13, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      So glad you found it helpful, Jeanine!

  • Reply Liselle November 12, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    I’m trying this this weekends, and I must say that I feel more positive already!

  • Reply Ebony November 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I love this! I actually have all of my iphone notifications turned off except one, and it’s the Allo app that my husband texts me on. Other than that I don’t receive any notifications. I check my phone when I feel like checking it. Turning off notifications is probably tough to do though if you have kids! xx
    ebonyknowles.com

    • Reply Jessica Rice November 13, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      Great idea to turn off all notifications (or as many as possible)!

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