Can busy people really REST?

Rest is a bit of a touchy subject these days. It’s too easy to roll your eyes or simply change the subject when the “R” word comes up in conversation. Why is that? Why have we traded in this vital discipline for more to-do lists, more work, more activities, and more stuff?

I’ve been in seasons where I believed I “didn’t have time to rest.” Not true. 

I wasn’t willing to prioritize rest. 

This isn’t about working part-time versus full-time. It isn’t about long vacations in the Caribbean. It isn’t even about a long nap. Rest is more about the posture of our hearts than the activities of our days.

I recently sat with a dear friend over ice cream to ask this question, “How do you find rest?” Now, that may sound like a pretty basic question, but you need to understand a little about my friend. She lives with the joys and pressures of being CEO of multiple companies, has dozens of grand children who cannot wait to spend time with her, and she travels extensively. If judged merely by her calendar and bio, you would assume she is stressed out, overworked, and exhausted. But, when you actually sit down with her, you find one of the most peaceful, gracious, joyful people you’ve ever met. 

I wanted to know how she finds so much rest in the middle of so much busyness.

As the sun set over the trees, she matter-of-factly explained she finds rest through simplicity and intention. She’s simplified her life as much as possible. She does what only she can do, and she’s completely opted out of things like social media and Netflix to create space for what’s most important. 

As for being intentional about rest, here are the 10 things she consistently practices to create rest:

  1. Take my thoughts captive and adjust my mindset to enjoy the beauty of the present instead of thinking, “When I get through this…” or “When this is over…”
  2. Pray in the moment to remind myself that “it’s not by my might, but by His spirit.”
  3. Set aside time to listen to worship music.
  4. Spend time reading the Word.
  5. Soak in a bath or sit in a steam room.
  6. Take time for good chats with people I am very close to, like my husband and closest friends.
  7. Find ways to encourage and bless people who are in full-time ministry.
  8. Spend time with my grand children.
  9. Walk on a beach and pick up seashells. 
  10. Treat others to lovely experiences. 

So much of what she shared is about anchoring ourselves in truth and then lifting our gaze beyond what’s right in front of us, beyond the things that otherwise would feel so heavy and tiresome. None of the above is complicated, but she’s right: without being intentional, we will not find rest. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts - please comment below! Which of these practices stand out to you most? How are you creating rest, or which practice are you going to try?

To finish out this post, I thought you might appreciate hearing the story of how I’ve finally started finding rest. This is a tiny excerpt from my new book, IMMOVABLE, specifically from the bonus chapter appropriately titled, “Rest.” I’m not sure if authors are supposed to have a favorite chapter, but I will let you in on a little secret: “Rest” is my favorite chapter, and I think you’d love the whole thing too!

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David and I have been going to the tiny Texas town of Round Top since before we were married. I went alone to pray and strategize the year we decided I would quit my corporate job to start a nonprofit ministry. We’ve gone together for ministry retreats and corporate trainings, and we’ve taken friends there. It’s become our go-to escape for anniversaries and birthdays.

Round Top may only be a two and a half our drive, but it feels worlds apart from home. With a grand population of 90, everything moves slower. You drive through endless fields of green and wild flowers to get anywhere. And if you need snacks or half-and-half for your coffee, there’s no big, shining grocery store chain, only The Mercantile - the most quaint, friendly corner store you’ve ever seen. Cell service is spotty at best and the velvety black sky is the perfect backdrop for thousands of brilliant stars. There’s far less concrete and distraction in Round Top. I’ve wondered from time to time if we should move there, but it seems likely that we’d just bring our busyness, and pretty soon, we’d need a new place to escape. Part of the beauty is that it isn’t home. It’s comfortable and familiar yet refreshing and away. 

As is our custom, we arrived that September weary from ministry and sleepless from kids who were tiny but oh-so-energetic. Looking back, it’s easy to see I was at my worst: grumpy, snappy, teary-eyed, anxious. I felt like a spectator of my own life because I felt disconnected from everyone I loved and everything important to me. 

Rather than shopping or eating or visiting our favorite local hangouts, I started with a three-hour nap and then moved to the rocking chair on the back porch where I read and journaled and asked the Lord to show me how to get my heart and life back. 

That September marked the beginning of a new way of living. 

It’s been almost two years, and I would never claim to be an expert or to have arrived. I fail more times than I would like because old habits die hard. However, with great humility and relief, I can tell you my life and perspective have dramatically changed. My health, my thoughts, and my work have been remade. The process has breathed life back into my friendships, my parenting, my marriage, and in my relationship with God. 

What comes most natural: hard work. To-do lists. Powering through. What’s changing my life: quiet. Rest. Vulnerability.  

For years I believed self-care was for the weak or for the privileged. I would have never confessed that out loud - I actually did the opposite by advocating for friends, family members, and clients to make self-care a priority. But when it came to my own life, my beliefs swung between, “I’m a workhorse and need to power through!” and, “I’m unworthy of really caring for myself.”

Now I know the truth.