Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest for our souls. God prescribes a rhythm of work and rest to help us find balance and blessing in our lives. There’s another type of rest found in the Bible different from the ceasing work, relaxing and refreshing type.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
The “rest” in Exodus 33:14 refers to a promise of an everlasting possession of land God made to his people. A promise that came with a long, faith testing, faith building, perseverance producing kind of journey. A journey God promised to go with and lead his people through by his “presence” (or his “face.”)
Although God’s promise in this verse was for a specific group of people, there are other promises God has pledged to us. Promises of love, redemption, salvation, and impossible, good things forged from difficulty and even suffering.
Sometimes we need a reminder to rest in a physical sense. Sometimes we need a reminder to rest in an emotional and spiritual sense. And sometimes we need a reminder of the Exodus 33:14 type of rest- the truth of God’s promises and His faithful presence to help us be strong, courageous, and keep persevering through the journey of life.
Seeking God’s presence often means discovering His promises. Finding God’s face often moves us forward in faith. Trusting God’s rest and presence leads to us to new territories of love and dwellings of freedom.
This picture is a good representation of my “homeschooling mom
brain” in May. Each rock stands for little bits of information, events to
remember, things to get done, material that still needs to be taught,
connections that still need to be made, library books that need to be returned,
summer scheduling that still needs to happen. And let’s not forget the recitals,
costumes, award ceremonies, and planning for next year. I think there are a lot
of other teachers and parents who can relate to this post as well.
May is like August, but in reverse. It’s gearing down instead of gearing up. Time to get things finished rather than started. It’s a major month of transition and anticipation. As the kids get older, time flies by faster, and the quicker the month of May comes and goes. If your brain is feeling overwhelmed, fragmented and “May-bilized,” here are a few suggestions that may help:
This may seem like the worst advice with all the things that need to get done, but it’s actually good advice and will help you get more things done in the end. Often in the franticness and hurry, we forget (or more truthfully, we make excuses not to stop) to take breaks and rest. We wear ourselves down to nothing and expect to be able to keep up the ridiculous pace we set. That’s silly! Rest renews energy and refines clarity. Your to-do list, tasks and text replies can wait. It’s about priorities, and priority should be given to rest. So, shut off your phone, find some time to stop, and give yourself permission to be still.
Take a hike!
There are constant reminders around my house of the things I have to do or should be doing- schoolwork, cooking, cleaning, laundry. Very often I need a change of view- literally and emotionally. Sometimes, others realize I need some new scenery before I do. My husband is great at gently suggesting I would enjoy a walk to get out of the house and get some fresh air. A fifteen minute walk, by myself, can be rejuvenating. Switch up the scenery, get some exercise, and I think you may see the things you could be doing and the privilege of the things you get to do with more clarity.
Do something scary!
Gaining confidence through conquered fear is great for personal growth and productivity. Fear is a chain that keeps us in familiar territory and wants us to function in the same old patterns. It also adds a level of stress that gives unnecessary weight to things we need to do. Often fear of inadequacy, failure, uncertainty, and change come with times of transitions. Doing something scary can break through chains of fear and set you free in confidence. The more fear broken, the more confidence gained, the more freedom acquired. Freedom opens up opportunities and new ways of doing things.
Find new people.
Sometimes we are around our people so often we take them for granted. When we meet new people, we increase our sense of belonging and can be reminded of our purpose. Spending time with new people bring different perspectives, refreshment, and make us appreciate our “family tribe” with greater gratitude and satisfaction!
There’s a place for fun on everyone’s to-do list. Add some fun back into your days with silly songs, funny YouTube videos, a good knock-knock joke, play with the kids. Learn to take yourself less seriously. And laugh often! Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you release anger and forgive sooner. 1
Now for the truth disclaimer! Resting, stopping, and taking breaks is very hard for me to do, and it may be hard for you too. BUT I know it’s the best thing for me (and you) and it’s especially important during a busy time. I often have to coach myself to ignore my to-do list, give myself permission to sit down, and focus on quieting down.
I was reminded of these things this week when our family went away to family homeschool camp. I went to camp with an overwhelmed mind and it took time to wind down. But once I was able to unwind, we did nothing but rest, took hikes, did scary things, meet new people, and had fun! I left camp relaxed and my mind was free to think clearly.
Stepping away from everything gave me the perspective that some of those “rocks” I was dwelling on were not as important as I thought. And some of the “rocks” were things to be appreciated because we are blessed we get to do them. I realize not everyone has the luxury of taking a few days away, but just trying one of two of the suggestions above can really make a difference to be more relaxed, rested and ready to enjoy May and what’s to come.
Like so many other families, our family has a busy schedule. Our days are packed with schooling, activities, and ministry. We often have the next activity on our minds before we finish the task at hand. As the kids get older, it seems we only getting busier. And if we are not careful (and intentional), our family can easily become like ships passing in the night, each going his or her own way.
You may be thinking, “I know exactly what you mean! This is our family too!” Or maybe you are thinking, “Shanna, how is it possible for you to miss connection in your family when you live, school, and work at home? You see each other everyday, for like every minute of everyday!”
Well, it’s very possible, maybe even more possible. There is big a difference between being with people in a physical space versus connecting with people in a heart and mind space. When you see people often, there is a danger in taking their presence and their unique person for granted. Extra effort and intentionality are necessary to continue growing connections and relationships. Time is invaluable to check-in with each other to bust apart assumptions of how and what the other person may/may not have been feeling and the way they are experiencing life.
This is one of the reasons why I love Poetry Teatime. Teatime is an intentional, weekly break in our busy week to rest and reconnect with each other. It is a time to come to the table to enjoy. We set the table beautiful with “proper” tea cups and bring books to sit at our sides. We wait while the tea steeps and others speak, taking turns reading and listening to poems and plays. We slowly sip, nibble special treats, and relish the images that words and conversations bring to our minds.
It might seem very “Mary Poppins-like,” it kind of is. In a world that is increasingly becoming more confusing, dark and scary, these “Mary Poppins-like” moments are increasingly more precious to help celebrate the good and keep cheerful and magical moments alive. There are plenty of other moments in our week when the reality of the world comes crushing through our door with hard to answer questions. We don’t shy away from these things or from topics of current world issues. When these discussions and questions come, I often find myself leading a quick ground training of how to react and respond to these issues in love and according to our beliefs. Poetry Tea Time is a chance to for all of us to take a break, to refreshed and revived from our schedule and these heavy things.
So how? How does Teatime work? How can you start a time like this in your home? Teatime in your family doesn’t have to look exactly like ours. You can find some helpful tips from Julie Bogart, the creator of Poetry Tea Time here, http://poetryteatime.com. There are several components that make teatime special and enjoyable.
On our table is always set with a table cloth and ceramic cups. I like to use my grandmother’s blue and white set, but we use other sets too. The Goodwill and Salvation Army are great places to find and purchase tea sets and cups. I always add fresh flowers or plants to the table. It is especially special to use something we found in our backyard- like pine boughs in the winter or daffodils in the spring. We always have at least one candle lit and sometimes my daughters will make a special table place card for each setting.
Sometimes we bake our treats (or more accurately my daughter bakes them.) Sometimes we buy them. It’s fun to try cookies and treats we haven’t tried before. Then there are sometimes we use what we have in our pantry- like granola bars or crackers with peanut butter. Everything can be special and look differently when plated creatively. 🙂
I keep a collection of herbal and caffeine-free teas on hand and set them out on the table with sugar, milk and honey in ceramics. Sugar cubes are always fun to have. I buy them on Amazon as I haven’t had much luck finding them in my local grocery store.
There are several books that always seem to make their way to the table. I encourage my kids to bring a poem, verse or short story they like to share. Sometimes the poems comes from our specific poetry books, and sometimes from unexpected places (like finding a poem in my daughter’s weekly reading assignment.) I’ve recently been encouraging all of us write our own poetry, but we are still working on that.
Sometimes, we have a Readers Theater during Teatime. We ALL love that! Here are some scripts we have used and enjoyed.
And sometimes, I bring our current read alouds to the table. Here are some suggestions:
During readings, we listen to the reader and usually clap when he/she is finished. Sometimes we ask questions. Sometimes we share why we picked the poem. Sometimes we share our favorite parts. Sometimes the poem leads us into other conversations. Our Teatime lasts an hour long, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. There is a lot of “sometimes” in all of it because I feel like this is a time to just flow without an agenda.
There are many ways to set aside time and connect with family. Poetry Tea Time is just one way we do it in our family. There are other ways we connect that have nothing to do with tea or books. The important thing is making sure we are using our time wisely and and be intentional about creating spaces of connection.
How about you? How are you intentional in creating spaces to rest and reconnect as a family?
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Our days are filled with urgent and important things vying for our attention. Within the day’s whirlwind of busyness, it’s easy to focus on the urgent and lose sight of the important. It can be a struggle to favor crossing items off our to-do lists to spending unscheduled amounts of quality time with people. It can be difficult, feel uncomfortable, and might seem plain impossible to stop and rest. We have become tightly scheduled and overbooked. White spaces on our calendars are a rare find.
And I can be the worst culprit. If I am not intentional, my pace of life can be all consuming and exhausting. I can easily fall into the race of rushing from task to task, place to place, activity to activity. Instead, I want my life to be one of making time for others, resting in my surroundings, finding beauty in the quietest places, and tuning out the voices of the world to focus on hearing His voice. I want my legacy to include, “She made time for others and she loved well.”
It’s true, tasks, meetings, errands and chores need to get done but not at the expense of the quiet, more meaningful, and important things in life. There needs to be a balance.
This is a real, age-old struggle. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus enters the home of a woman named Martha. “Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Just replace, “Martha, Martha” with your name and read it again- “Shanna, Shanna, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
It grabs your attention, doesn’t it? If that one thing Mary was doing was stopping, listening, and resting at the feet of Jesus, I think following her example would be the best thing we can do today. I want to challenge you to take a few minutes to reevaluate today’s activities and give more attention and focus to the quiet, important things in your life. Relationships, people, listening, cheerfully helping, joyfully serving, answering with kindness- those types of things. I think we will find the urgent things are not as urgent as we thought they would be and the important things are more important and needed than what we thought. Have a great day! ❤
July’s Scripture Writing Plan focused on God’s movement in our lives. The idea was to set aside ten minutes a day, copy the scripture and circle the verbs found within the passage. Using the daily word as a prayer focus, I hoped we would ask God to help us recognize His activity in our lives and journal our reflections.
Each morning, I tried to slip away to a quiet place to open the Word of God. This worked best when the kids seemed occupied or when I turned on the TV to occupy them (just keeping it real…sometimes you got to do what you got to do.) Some days I was more successful at this than others, but on the days when I was able to give my complete attention to God, His Word and His voice, I felt the time spent prepared my heart and mind for the day’s constant barrage of requests and demands thrown at me. I noticed my reactions to other people seemed more gracious. I said “yes” more than “no.” I was less distracted with social media and more aware of relationships. Heavenly, eternal things seemed way more important than the earthly, fleeting things. I was filled with peace and joy. Don’t get me wrong, life was not perfect, easy or without challenges. There were still trials and life to work through but how I approached those challenges was different. I found myself prompted to rely on the LORD’s strength and reflecting on the words I was hiding in my heart and mind.
Growing up, my dad always said, “Garbage in, garbage out.” I have always remembered that phrase (see Dad, I was listening.) I do not think we give enough thought to what we are filling our ears, eyes, heart, mind and even our mouths with. What we allow in our lives will shape and mold us and eventually those things will impact the way we think, speak, act and respond. This month (and every month), I am choosing “Truth in, Good out.”
The August Scripture Reading and Writing Calendar contains scriptures that refer to our reactions to God. For deeper reflection, I have included question for each passage. My hope and prayer is for you to join me as we dig into the scriptures and ask God to align our reactions to His word.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8
This has been a busy week and I am feeling tired, cranky and filled with dissatisfaction. My priorities are off and my time has been misplaced. My week’s “to-do” list contains many items that still need to be completed and checked off. I am ashamed to admit this, but the amount of time that I have spent looking at screens might be more than the time I have spent looking into the faces of the people right in front of me. In boredom, I have reached for my phone and mindlessly scrolled through newsfeeds and viewed gorgeous square pictures. In avoidance, I have opened my laptop and pinned pins of inspirational quotes and organized homes, all while my house is left in disorder and a depressed state. Comparison and discontentment have weaseled their way into my heart leaving me to struggle to find joy. I have not spent enough time with Jesus.
Something has to change! Time to hit the reset button! This weekend, I am unplugging from social media. I am eliminating the distractions and quieting the noise so I can hear more clearly and reevaluate my priorities. Time to look at boundaries and commitments AGAIN! It’s time to rediscover who is right in front of me and enjoy their company.
I am looking forward to being present and to listening intently. Listen to my kids share their ideas and dreams. Listen to my husband and hear what has been on his heart. I am going to be aware of my surroundings and look for strangers who may need someone to talk to. Most importantly, I am pausing to listen to God, hear His voice and the divine guidance He wants to give.
If you need me, you will have to find me the old-fashioned way. Pick up the telephone or come on by. I will be happy to see your face and ready to listen.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
All snowflakes begin the same way. High in the sky, a tiny piece of dust collides with a cold droplet of water creating an ice crystal. As the ice crystal descends to earth, it moves through changing atmospheric conditions and responds in the creation of a snowflake. A beautiful and uniquely formed snowflake complete with exquisite patterns and plates. Not one snowflake is the same.
Children are like snowflakes. They start as a miracle, grow and form in the belly of a woman, and then are birthed into this world. Each child enters the world unique and beautifully made. Innocent and new, they do not know who they are or how to navigate the unfamiliar world they have come into.
Children depend on their parents for love and their basic needs. As children grow, parents help guide their children on the path of discovering their gifts, talents, and passions. We want our children to thrive physically, mentally, and spiritually as they grow into the exquisitely designed, healthy adults who they were created to be.
Sometimes, in our zeal to “help” our children discover who they are we often over look important things. Things like our children’s different personalities, priorities, hectic schedules, and most importantly the basic human need of rest. We are an overcommitted society. With good intentions, we end up creating and modeling a hurried, busy lifestyle rather than an atmosphere of rest and value on relationships. If we want our children to flourish in their unique person, we must learn to reevaluate our priorities and work to add rest back into our family’s schedule.
The following are ideas to implement rest back into everyday life. Some might be easier to add into your lifestyle than others. Some might require work, priority, scheduling, and practice. The work will pay off with positive results for all family members. Just as a snowflake is formed by the atmosphere around them, so will your children be formed by the environment you foster around them. Make their ascent into adulthood an atmosphere focused on relationships and with a priority to rest.
Be “interruptible.” Life happens at unpredictable moments. Be mentally prepared to be interrupted when your kids need to talk or want to show you something. Listening to them now will create a habit and desire to talk to you later as young adults.
Schedule downtime on your family’s calendar! Include your children in scheduling activities on the calendar. Schedule “rest” first and then everything else next. This will show your children that your family makes rest an important priority.
Make it a date! Give each of your children the gift of quality time with just you. Find care for your other children so that you can focus on one child at a time. You might be surprise at what you learn during your time together.
Share a family meal together! Research shows that sharing a meal is good for a family’s health and member’s self esteem. Check out the Family Dinner Project for recipes and conversation starters
Get into a good book! Cuddle on the couch and read together. Reading aloud has many benefits including increasing attention span, building vocabulary and creating lifelong readers. Reading aloud also opens the doors for discussion about life and difficult issues.
Go take a hike! Get outside and get moving. You may not think of exercise as rest but the benefits of exercise promotes good health, boost energy levels, improve moods, and helps with sleep. It is a great way to spend time together.
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