30 Days of Celebration: Rest is Okay

30 Days of Celebration: Rest is Okay

I’m thankful today, on Thanksgiving, after 6 months of absolute insanity in my life, that I don’t have to be anything I’m not.

My mind has literally not been able to keep up with it all, but I’m learning that that’s ok. I didn’t realize, growing up, how much pressure I put on myself all of the time to be a certain version of myself, one that’s capable and goal-driven and gets things done on the daily. These days, I just can’t. It takes all of my energy to transition my entire life to South Carolina, and in the moments of rest I’m just tired. 

But of course I’m tired! I slave-drive myself into thinking that tiring things shouldn’t make me tired, but they do, and that’s ok.

And today I’m thankful that’s it’s ok. It’s ok to need to rest, and it’s ok to rest.

It’s a bit of an act of humility, I’m learning. The world will keep spinning if I take a day to read a novel for fun. Why do I think I can’t?

 

So today I celebrate because I don’t have to take myself too seriously. God just doesn’t require from me what I require from myself. So I can rest, and breathe, and be thankful for the woman I am today, even if she’s not always the person I would choose to be

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Micah 6:8

30 Days of Celebration: Grace for the Exhausted

30 Days of Celebration: Grace for the Exhausted

It’s the day before I head home for Thanksgiving and I am exhausted. 

Actually, I’m not sure that exhausted even covers it. I feel like I “wake up” but a very heavy sheet of rock has covered me and actually I can’t move and it seems all but impossible to get out of bed.

These last three months have been many things. Exciting, new, memorable, challenging. Overwhelming, scary, stretching. But restful has not been one of them.

Rest for my body, sure. But more than anything, rest for my mind. It took me several months to realize just how badly I allowed anxiety and worry to rule my mind, and when they are on the throne there is just no rest. There can’t be. There’s always something to freak out about, to be uneasy about, to work through over and over until it feels like poison and stings to the touch.

Possibly the most interesting discovery of this season has been how critical I am of myself, how I won’t let myself be who I have to be. It took me a while to realize that the constant criticism about how I was adjusting and feeling was coming from no one but me. I became a slave driver with myself, never satisfied by my rate of adjustment.

But today I’m thankful that God doesn’t treat me that way.

The Bible describes me as a sheep, which for a while I took offense to. But on my most sheep-worthy days (AKA, every day lately), I find rest in it. I’m not expected to be anything more than a sheep. Sheep are like the dumbest and least productive animals ever, so if I’m nothing but dumb and unproductive, I’m actually right on track. Which kind of rocks, actually.

Without the faith in a loving God, being a sheep means you’re eaten alive. In a “survival of the fittest” world, being a sheep is deadly. So you have to be a slave driver, you have to strive, you have to somehow be more than you know that you are.

But I woke up this morning, and I literally sat on my bedroom floor with a blanket wrapped around me absolutely certain I could be nothing more than a ridiculously exhausted version of myself. But I’m a sheep, remember? What do you expect?

And I am thankful beyond measure that I have a good Shepherd, one who lays down His life for me, who will fight off the bears and save me. One who came so that I could have life abundantly, so that I can go in and come out and find pasture.

I’ve always loved John 10, but it has taken on an entirely new meaning these days, when my sheep-iness is blindingly obvious. Thank you, Jesus, for being the good Shepherd. I know I need one.

 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 

John 10

30 Days of Celebration: Under-thinking

30 Days of Celebration: Under-thinking

I’m an over-thinker.

Or, perhaps a better way to put it, I’m a person who over-thinks. It’s not my identity, but for whatever reason it’s a thing I do.

The mind is a funny thing. It races and flies way faster than my legs can, and way too often I can’t make it stop. And so it thinks, and thinks, and over-thinks. And, like a runner at the end of a race, it falls exhausted sometimes, crashing and burning.

I think often about the words that Jesus spoke, ones I desperately cling to.

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

I know Jesus watches me trying to figure out things I will never understand, or running and re-running harsh words over in my mind, or worrying about everything under the sun, and just wishes I wouldn’t.

Do you know what those verses say to me? They tell me that I have full permission to under-think.

I think back to an earlier post I wrote, and I celebrate that it’s not my job to understand the details of it all. Life is not a gift meant to be over-analyzed, but lived.

 

So I live, in this moment. I’m sitting in a cute corner shop in a town that I love, Bibles open with a new friend. My mustard-colored journal sits on my right, full of musings and prayers. My half-drunk cup of water stares me down, begging me to hydrate to dominate.

I think of the run I’ll take later, 6 miles if I can. I think of the brother who lives down the road and opens up his house to me simply because he loves me. I think of his new dog. I think of the show I’ve recently gotten into and anticipate the plot twists that will surely send me reeling.

I think about the nap I’ll probably take later.

I find it strange that I let myself sleep every night, don’t think twice about sitting down to rest my weary muscles, but feel no freedom to rest my mind, even for a moment. Surely, there is something I need to worry about. Surely, there is something to fear.

But the freedom of faith is that I really don’t have to fear. I really can rest. I really don’t have to overthink. I have full freedom to sit down on the side of the road and let things be, rest my legs and mind that have run so hard and fast for so long.

The thing about this life-transition is that it is kind of scary. I really don’t know what I’m doing. I really am in a new place, with new people, and new daily routines. And, apart from faith, there really is a lot to worry about. Where will I be 7 months from now? Where will I live? Where will I work?

But then I remember my story. How God has provided everything I need, always. How today I live in a home provided by God, have a job provided by God, surrounded by people provided by God. So I’m going to under-think and trust instead, because that faith has never let me down before.

Today I celebrate the freedom to think 1,000 less thoughts, and letting the faith and rest make its way through my weary mind.

 

Trading Religion for Relationship

Trading Religion for Relationship

I’ve heard it said that noise is the enemy of our generation.

Maybe every generation. Probably. But I know that it’s a prison guard in my life.

As I type this, I sit alone. And it’s quiet. And I have spent the entire day in solitude. And I am extremely,

deeply

uncomfortable.

I don’t know exactly when I lost the art of solitude and silence with God. Maybe I never really had it. All I know is that my relationship with God has always functioned more like athlete-coach than father-daughter. I approach God like a soccer player on the sidelines. My “quiet” times are like drills and pep talks, and then I hit the field as I drive to work and go through my day.

Which works fine. Until I’m sick. Or injured. Benched.

And when God the Father wants only for me to come to Him, curl up with Him, I don’t because I see Him as God the Coach. I’ve failed Him. I’m weak.

I think this is why I fear solitude. I see it as myself on the end of the bench, my coach a million miles away, focused on the other players. So solitude is a dreaded time, a punishment, a time for me to focus on how to get back in the game.

A lonely time.

A time when I realize how much of my value I put into being an athlete. Because if God is a Coach, then that’s what I am to Him: an athlete. My injuries symbolize a loss of identity. No space for weakness, no room for rest. No value in stillness. Life becomes a game I can’t keep up with, and God becomes a Coach I don’t talk to. Because I don’t want Him to see me like this.

 

I came to South Carolina 2 months ago injured.

Not with a broken leg necessarily, or an open wound. More like unable to hit the field due to utter exhaustion. My mind was exhausted, my spirit was exhausted. The season after graduation had run me dry because every morning I woke up expecting to be an athlete and every morning I saw a weary face in the mirror. Dreams were dashed, loneliness was real, anxiety was present. The pressure of knowing where to go bore down on me as I got rejected from internships and confused about what to do.

I couldn’t be an athlete. I just didn’t have it in me. So who was I? My whole life I have focused, full of energy, on what I did for my Coach. But I never spent time learning who I was to my Father, off the field, off the bench. Who am I when I’m not accomplishing anything? Who am I when all things familiar are stripped from me, and I find myself forced to learn solitude?

 

I’m a daughter. That’s who I am. I’m a child of God.

Jesus did not call me here to South Carolina to train me up for the field. He called me here to give me Himself. He doesn’t base our relationship off of what I can do for Him. He just loves me for who I am because He made me who I am. Performance anxiety has no place in the Christian life.

Let me say that one more time, if even just for myself.

Performance anxiety has no place in the Christian life.

I have spent my whole life being a stage Christian, and I am weary for it. I am a Pharisee, but I scream for relationship. Religion leads to burnout, but intimacy leads to vibrancy, because there is no performance needed.

Today I did nothing of value. I saw no one, influenced no one. Accomplished nothing. Walked around deeply uncomfortable being only with my Heavenly Father. But what do you expect? I can only be who I am made to be. That is, a daughter. A child.

I don’t want to be religious anymore. I don’t want to come to God as an obligation, and I don’t want to view Him as a drill sergeant. I don’t want to place my identity into what I do or what team I’m on, because those things can be ripped from me in an instant.

I think that is why God is great to show us our weaknesses, to bench us. Because He knows we can’t keep up the athleticism forever. God isn’t the coach who drills us but the Father who scoops us up and takes us home in His minivan, buying us ice cream on the way home because He is so proud of all that we are, even when we fall. Especially when we fall.

And that is why solitude is vital. Because all God wants is to know me, and to know you. But we fill our lives with so much noise. He wants our severe honesty. He wants our love, and has poured out His love by the bucketload. I feel today as if I know very little about being in a relationship with God, but I’m learning.

I’m getting a taste of daughterhood, little by little.

 

Dealing With Mind-Fatigue

Dealing With Mind-Fatigue

My mind does this thing when I’m overwhelmed: it shuts off.

I’m not brain dead, of course. I can still brush my teeth and make a pb&j. But it becomes numb, in light of the stress and anxiety, to the point where I walk through my day and don’t remember much of it when I lay my head down at night.

It’s a coping mechanism, really. Have you been there? When the fear and anxiety are just too much and so you opt to shut your mind and emotions off instead of feeling them. I didn’t realize I was doing it until it had become a habit in my life, and by that point the mind fatigue and emptiness were almost as painful as the anxiety itself.

I don’t have much wisdom on this topic, to be honest. But I do have thoughts. Thoughts on my fellow over-thinkers and feelers, and maybe a few tips on how to live within a mind that works overtime for no pay.

 

I’ve always been a feeler. I cry during movie trailers and get sucked into hilarious YouTube videos because I’m laughing like a maniac. It’s up or down for me. Not a lot of grey.

So my ups are great, but my downs… they can be pretty painful. My thoughts and emotions can be so difficult to deal with that, without realizing it, my mind goes into survival mode and learns how to feel nothing at all. Which, in the midst of crippling anxiety, is reasonable, but what about when the anxiety is over? Where is life when your mind is numb?

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re ready for something else. Mind fatigue is a pain, but it is not unbeatable. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along my journey that help me be present, in the moment, and clear-headed.

  1. Give yourself grace. This one’s important. If you are dealing with mind-fatigue, it is because your mind is fatigued. It’s tired. It’s had a long go. Whatever it is for you, your journey put your mind under a lot of strain and it had to fight hard in the moment, and now it’s simply pooped. Allow yourself to be human and give yourself some grace. It’s ok. What your mind is doing is simply its own way to get you through your current season.
  2. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. After my season of deep anxiety, I was so frustrated that I couldn’t just use my mind the way I used to. It would zone out if I tried to read too much or do too many things. The more busy my planner was, the more “out of it” my mind was. So I have learned: skinny down your schedule. What is most important to you? Do it. Then add one more thing to your schedule (to keep life interesting), and be done. Don’t try to do everything you used to do before your mind was so tired. You won’t be able to, and it will only frustrate you. Prioritize what is most important, and do only that.
  3. Focus on physical health. It is incredible what exercise can do for a tired mind. It brings it back to life, breathes vibrancy into it. If you’re not an exerciser, I challenge you to learn to get a sweat on during this time. Exercising releases endorphins, which literally gives your mind and emotions a little “happy kick”. Even if you don’t have much time, and have to sit down and write a paper, do jumping jacks for a minute first or hold a wall-handstand for as long as you can. Just that little amount of exercise can go a long way in clearing your head. And to go along with exercise, eating well can do wonders to your mind. You feel good, and real food gives your mind the ability to work better.
  4. Schedule it out. Something that really helped me rest my mind was writing out a detailed schedule of my day, focusing on what has to get done first, and then actually writing in rest times, or “free-time”, so that I am guaranteed some rest for my mind, which is such a crucial element to overcoming mind-fog. It may sound a little silly, and you won’t have to keep the schedule forever, but for a short amount of time it is great because you don’t have to waste your precious mind-juice on figuring out what you’re going to do next. You can just focus on what you’re doing, in the moment.
  5. Let yourself rest. This one is so crucial. Your mind is tired, so give it the rest it needs. Don’t feel like a failure for shutting your eyes and allowing your mind to get some much needed R&R. This doesn’t have to include sleeping, but instead can be “mind-naps”. I have learned to love audio-books because I am able to lay down and close my eyes and listen to a story without the strain of reading it, which usually makes my brain pretty tired. Another great “mind-nap” is yoga, which gets a good stretch and allows you to be quiet. Mind-naps are a time to simply purposefully give your mind less stimuli to deal with and let it heal up a bit.

 

If you are dealing with mind fatigue, remember that it is ok. Your mind is just telling you that you’re doing too much and telling it to do too much. Slim down your schedule. Get some rest. Think a little bit less. Exercise more.

And be patient with yourself. Over time, it will heal.

Fighting for “No”

Fighting for “No”

We are a nation of exhausted people.

Celebrating exhaustion, sympathizing with exhaustion. It’s almost a game: who can fit the most into their day? Ask someone how they’re doing: “Tired.” As a college student, it’s standard for classmates to be asleep at their desk, zombie-ing their way through the day.

It’s a culture.

As I write this, lounging out on my lumpy dorm-room futon, I feel sleep itch the corners of my eyes. Sunday afternoon, time for a nap. Standard. Because I just have so much to do: not only classwork, but fundraising for an upcoming trip, a bible study to lead, a blog post to write (ha). Sleep comes in the wake of all that lies ahead, collapsed on the most convenient plush surface, not in the dead of night, when it is meant to.

It’s backward.

And I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of identifying myself by what I do, elevating my humanity with every stroke on my planner.

Go, go, go.

It’s what we do, at least in the university realm. The more work you have, the more you talk about it. The more you talk about it, the more you identify with it. Who are you apart from what you accomplish in your studies? Or accomplish on the soccer field? What time could you possibly give to stillness and rest when there is simply so much to do?

It’s a message in priorities. When I began college, I prioritized friendship, involvement, adventure. So I never said no to a social outing, joined as many clubs and activities as I could. As each year went by, something new painted my calendar, weekly meetings and intramural sports and hall bible studies. One on one lunches, hanging out with kids on weeknights at church. Spontaneity died, for I could not afford it. I walked the thin line between juggling and dropping the life I had created for myself.

Health forbid. I was shocked into reality this year when I began to schedule my cries. Every Wednesday, before heading off to be a small group leader at kids church, I would spend my hour break beforehand on my knees, tears parading out of my tired, baggy eyes.

“I don’t understand.” I would say to God. “I love these kids so much, so why is it tearing me apart?” 

I don’t like to admit that I’m human. I don’t like being limited, don’t like saying “No”.

Scratch that, I don’t know how to say “No”.

Why aren’t we taught? Every time we say “Yes” to one thing, we say “No” to another. There is only so much every one of us can do until we work ourselves into an exhaustion-induced coma. Breathing, checking boxes, but where is the life?

I suppose this post is a plea, on your behalf, for the rest you so desperately need. I wish somebody had told me that more, more, more actually meant being so much less than who I actually am. I get so rushed and busy that I stop being the essential parts of myself. I become anxious and spacey and sarcastic, when I know that just beneath the exhaustion there is the real me, the fun and understanding and present me, just trying to find a way out of the life I created.

I’ve begun to practice saying “No”. I’m no expert, but let me say: It’s not as scary as we think. In general, people are actually understanding. People tend to respect a person with priorities.

So what are yours? I was challenged this year to think through mine, and was shocked to realize that they didn’t line up with the life I was living at all. I prioritized intimacy with God, and health, and yet both of those things were being pushed aside for all of the billion things I had to do.

When our priorities are imbalanced, so are we.

The Bible is chalk-full of God pleading with us to just be quiet already. I think my favorite example is one of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He had just come from a mountain-top experience, praying to God for fire to rain down from Heaven. Challenging the prophets of Baal, living to the full his faith in the God of Israel.

But it was not enough.

Just following this time of extreme faith, Elijah walks out into the desert and lies alone and literally falls into a deep depression, asking God to take him away. He fell asleep, and God sent angels to feed him and let him rest.

Then they fed him again, and then let him rest.

And then finally God began to speak to him, but His words were not in the the wind.

And His words were not in the earthquake.

Nor the fire.

But in the whisper, soft, only heard by those who were listening.

I want to live a life that hears God in the whisper. I want to live a life where, everyday, I can breathe and think and just be. I am learning that just because something is good, and I would like to do it, and I would be good at it, doesn’t mean it should be a part of my life. Our commitments should never steal away our lives.

A friend of mine recently shared her fear that, without all of the things that she does, she will miss out on life. And I told her: those things aren’t where you find it.

Life is found in the quiet morning hours, coffee in hand, fog settling over the ground outside, bible on the kitchen table. It is found when you just go for a walk, with no destination. Found when you sit on your favorite bench and allow yourself to just be a human being, watching others human beings go about their day. It is found when you read a really good book. Or eat dinner with friends and laugh the whole time.

It is found when you let yourself cry. Or laugh really loud. When you eat a mouth-watering meal, or just a perfectly ripe apple.

And that’s what I’m fighting for, one “No” at a time.