The most important reason we need rest

 

Busyness. It can be worn like a badge, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve readily and proudly admitted when my answer to “how have you been?” is “Busy!” It makes us feel productive. Like we are worthily accomplishing something.

Rest is not easily accomplished as a mother, so I am learning. 24/7 you are now caring for the needs of a little one(s), your hubby, and your home. Plus likely balancing volunteering, work, family and friendships. Rest is utterly important, at every stage of life, and I don’t think it’s impossible, or God wouldn’t urge us to do it. We just have to be creative. For me, right now, rest looks like my morning coffee with some time in the Word before Elizabeth wakes up (that length changes daily!). It looks like trying a new recipe and experimenting with food. It looks like reading something other than non-fiction – currently, the story of the little Swiss girl, Heidi, lent to me by a friend.

My husband, Troy, knows this about me – that I have an extremely hard time resting after Elizabeth goes down for bed until clutter is put away, and the kitchen is clean. I rest better without clutter and mess. So the word “rest” has been on my mind as I mull over what God wants me to focus on in this season.

Did you know the word “rest” occurs 308 times (ESV) in the Bible? For a frame of reference, “love” occurs 551 times. So clearly, rest is important. But as I looked up this word, rest, it seemed that sometimes it takes work to rest. Doesn’t that sound funny? But if you think about all the work you put into planning a holiday, it does take effort!

Hebrew 4:9-11 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”

Other places where ‘rest’ is mentioned are when Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Or in Exodus 33:14 where God says, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” This is clearly a gift from His presence.

Psalm 16:8-9 also says, “I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure (ESV).” Some versions say “shall rest in hope”. What is King David saying? Because he has set the Lord before him, he is able to find rest and dwell securely in knowing His Lord has things in hand.

What do I learn from looking up the word rest? Two things:

1) Rest is both a place of peace (noun) where we find relaxation and strength, but it is also a verb, where we intentionally choose to refrain from our own way, trust, and find confident hope in the Lord.

2) Rest comes directly from His presence, from putting the Lord before us, and it keeps us from living a disobedient (unbelieving) life.

So while rest sounds like a passive word, it is actually a very intentional word that we are to seek.

As a new mom, and someone who is learning to be a homemaker all in the same breath, the idea of rest can seem like something far off – like 18 years from now. But God urges us to find rest in Him, and this will keep His presence in our lives and keep us from walking in unbelief in our hearts. Whether this is while you cook with a toddler at your ankles (amen, I have tried to find rest in this new season in this very act!), or while finding a few moments in the bathroom before your little one finds you (amen and amen).

I know there are areas the Lord has wanted to heal me of unbelief, where I don’t fully trust Him, even after all of these years. And that can only be done by coming to Him with my labor, ceasing to do it on my own, and abiding confidently in Him.

As an exercise, I took these verses and paraphrased them into my own words. Perhaps this will help you grasp what is being said…

Psalm 16:8-9 – I continuously run to Him, in my mind and in my heart. I feel His presence throughout my day, and I know He is the one that will keep me anchored. So I can live joyfully and at peace in my whole being; even physically I feel a peace as I choose to confidently abide in Who He is and what He’s done.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – There is still a way of finding total rest when you walk with God, because when you are in relationship with Him, there is a new peace that comes because you cease from doing things your own way, on your own strength. God is our leader, our Father, and even He rested after creating all of this! But it takes intention. You must work hard at resting in Him, in what He has already accomplished, and find confidence in that. This will protect you from falling into deep unbelief.

Matthew 11:28 – Come spend time in my presence, and my presence will calm and quiet your heart, and give you the strength you need.

Why is rest so important? It keeps us in His presence. And that keeps us from unbelief in our hearts, keeps us resting securely in Him.

I can’t think of any more important reason than to find ways to abide and run to Him!

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Fat white bunnies and the changing of seasons

The last time I was home for harvest...far too long ago!

The last time I was home for harvest…far too long ago!

If I close my eyes, I can almost smell it – musty, earthy, with a bit of sweat and dust. I can almost hear the hum of the combine, and hear the wheat being cut and harvested into the hopper. Other than spring, when life was reborn everywhere, harvest was one of my favourite seasons on the farm. It was like you finally got to reap from the months of sowing, spraying, checking on things, and praying for just the right amount of rain.

My Dad has farmed just over 50 crops, dutifully and painstakingly at times, watching and praying as the seasons changed. But what’s the one thing you could always count on? There would be a harvest. Summer heat would eventually cool to the right temperature, allowing you to bring in the crop you’d waited months for.

God has a special affection for farmers, I think. What other job is there that so many elements are out of your control, determining your outcome?

I was reading in Isaiah this morning, using this study guide. It’s thick, long and daunting, but helps me ask questions of the text when I read it, rather than just reading. After prophecies of judgement on the people for how they had disobeyed God and followed their own way, God speaks in Isaiah 28: 23-29 about how the farmer tends to his crops. For dill and cumin and wheat – how there are specifics the farmer knows and is led by God on how to harvest, “For he is rightly instructed, his God teaches him.”

God basically says that you don’t harvest forever. You don’t “thresh it forever” (vs28). But in verse 29 we read the best part, “This also comes from the Lord of hosts, he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”

As I stare out our livingroom window, fat white bunnies hide in the bushes in our backyard, foraging for bits of food. Daylight is starting to take form, and my heart longs for spring. How many more weeks? I am not a fan of winter. But winter forces rest, both on man and the land. And if we had a winter season of only two months, our Alberta land would not have the rest and hibernation it needs to produce the following year.

The seasons are the length they are for a reason, for what is needed to produce in the next.

And I am reminded… God is wonderful in counsel, excellent in wisdom. All seasons change, eventually. Always. And the tilling, and threshing, the sowing and the reaping – are all in his hands. My job? Is to be instructed of the Lord, and rest.

Whatever your season is today, trust that God has you in His hands, and will rightly instruct you.

Bookworm: Books that change and challenge me

I love books that make me dig deeper into my faith and get closer to Jesus. I could probably stand to read more fiction and biographies, but I am just naturally drawn to books that dig deeper into other people’s stories and how they met Jesus along the way. Here are six books I’ve read in the last 6-9 months, a brief synopsis and why they were important to me…

  1. The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines – We’ve loved Fixer Upper, since we discovered the HGTV show a couple years ago. I like to tease Troy that he’s a bit like Chip. This book is a back-and-forth between Chip and Jo, telling the unlikely story of how they met, how they got into flipping houses, their early years as parents and shop owners, and how they’ve stumbled into fame. I love that they don’t mince words about their faith. It’s inspiring because they didn’t go out looking for ‘fame and glory’. They just pursued what they loved, alongside their growing family, and impact and financial blessing found them. An easy read for sure!
  2. Galatians for You, Timothy Keller – Can I say “I heart Timothy Keller”….? Troy and I read a lot by him, as he’s helped unpack years of gospel teaching that we’ve both had, into language that makes sense. And convicts. And challenges. This one is more of a study guide to the book of Galatians. The church in Galatia were trying to live out their faith in their own works, so Galatians’ six chapter book is letters to the church about what Christ has already accomplished and how to live out your faith leaning into the work of the Holy Spirit. As a new mamma, this book has been a good guide to still get some “Word” into me and have some direction when time is a little unpredictable now! I know Timothy Keller has other study guides on books of the Bible, so I’d love to find more!
  3. Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford – This book is Christa’s journey from abuse as a little girl, to working in Christian music industry, to one day losing their baby girl at birth to anencephaly (no skull). She walks through how her heart found years of healing by facing the pain as she allowed God (LOVE) to take residence. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you look at your own heart, and where there are hurts you haven’t faced. It’ll make you want to just sit and talk to God as a Father, more and more.
  4. Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee – This was a book a friend recommended a couple years ago; an old classic. Originally published in 1957, this book walks through Ephesians and how Paul admonishes the church in the process of Christian maturity: that we cannot walk out our faith or stand against the enemy if we are not first SEATED positionally and know who we are in Christ. Sitting is an attitude of ‘rest’ – a word that God has had on my heart, over and over. Learning to REST in Him and His already finished work. In his words, “And here is the gospel: that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of redemption, and that we need do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of His finished work.”
  5. Practicing His PresenceBrother Lawrence & Frank Laubach – This is the testimony of two different gentlemen and their journey to experiencing how to be aware of Christ’s presence moment by moment. Brother Lawrence lived in the 1600’s, and Frank Laubach was born in 1884. The back says, “Other than Pilgrim’s Progress, there is probably no other piece of Christian literature that has stood the test of the centuries so well.”
  6. A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller – This was recently given to our mom’s group leadership team, and looked like an easy read, so I read it over the last month (that’s quick for me!). Written by a shepherd, the man talks about the symbolism between humans and sheep, and why Christ is called our Shepherd. It brings light to every line of Psalm 23 from the biblical meaning of wool, to the need for a ‘rod and a staff’. It brought great comfort to me in a way that I feel I can see Jesus’ devotion to me in a deeper way.

Can you see a trend? Heart work. Digging deeper into knowing God’s presence, just for Him. That’s what I want, so that is what I am reading right now! Pick one up today! 🙂

Little things are big things: what helped me in my first year as a mamma

 

I doubt any new mom would say their first year was a breeze. Would they? If they did, they’re probably lying or in denial in some way. It’s been a greater change to adapt to than getting married, FOR SURE. Between the hormones, time not being your own anymore, trying to understand your baby’s needs when they can’t communicate, and the opinions of everyone … including random coughing Walmart shoppers who decide they can touch your baby – it’s a complete life change. One that I wouldn’t change for anything, Elizabeth is such a gift! But it’s tough work and super rewarding all at the same time. Elizabeth is almost 10 months, and as I reflect on her ‘almost one year’ of life, there have been some definite things that have helped me navigate new waters.

1) Find a tribe – When I was single, I felt like the “mom group” was one I so wanted to be a part of, but had nothing in common with. I wanted to get to know those women better, but what does one talk about? Once I got pregnant, I suddenly understood why.

When mammas get together, all they talk about is their family. What stage your kids are at. What they won’t eat, will eat, how they sleep, won’t sleep. What school to choose. How you and your husband are doing, or not. It literally is what you connect on, and I finally feel like I can relate.

People talk about what matters to them, and for mammas, family matters to us the most. Home matters.

Since we moved shortly before we got pregnant, I’ve been adopted into ‘already set-up’ tribes of mammas, and because of a mom’s group at my church, I am learning to make friends with other moms. Not to say if someone is single or not married I won’t be friends with them, but there is something necessary in being a mother, that you need to have other mom friends. You just do. I don’t know how many times I’ve texted a friend asking for advice, or felt hormones off (especially in the beginning!), wondering if it was normal. You can’t mother alone, you just can’t. It’s something I crave and am having to learn to be vulnerable with, and let the Lord guide our relationships – both for Troy and I as a couple, and for me as a new mom.

2) Healthy lifestyle – I love good food. When I got pregnant, eating healthy took on a whole new meaning! That value has continued and has actually changed my taste buds. For real. I don’t eat half a bag of chips every night (not even kidding, I could before!). I prefer a bowl of yogurt with berries over a bowl of ice cream for dessert. When I grocery shop, I try as best I can to have lots of healthy options on hand. I now prefer making soup over the canned stuff. But I do believe that has served me well as a new mom, as I needed the fuel and the habit was there to help. Don’t get me wrong – I still love my black licorice and cookies. It’s about balance 😉

I TRY to exercise about 3x a week. Now that the weather is cold, that looks like a pilates or yoga video, or jumping on the elliptical while Elizabeth bounces in her jolly jumper. Sometimes it’s simple stretches, and other days it’s a bit longer. Once the weather warms up, we will get out for walks, but for now, this works!

3) Getting out to see people – For me, I like to get out for a coffee/play date once a week, and out of the house daily, if weather will allow. In our recent -25 weather, many days have become PJ days, so I really feel the cabin fever! I count down the minutes to when Troy comes home! On the days when we can’t get out, I try to Skype my parents or talk to someone, as mothering can get very lonely. Every week I try to connect with a friend or have some ‘social outing’ for Elizabeth and I. This kind of goes with #1. Some people may need to see and socialize daily, but for me, as long as I get some friendship/connection time in weekly, I am good. Getting out in general is good for me, but I’m not one that needs fun connection time every single day. I am looking forward to spring, when E and I can take the dog out for walks/runs, have picnics with friends, and explore our community (as she’ll be walking sometime this year, yay!).

4) Quiet time/connecting with Jesus – This really should be #1. It’s staggering to me how we as Christians can think that we can live victoriously, joyfully, peacefully – whatever – without pursuing to know the One who made us and saved us.

Becoming a wife was refining, and so has becoming a mother. You realize the sin in your heart more, and your desperate need for a Savior. I’ve always valued my time with the Word and just soaking up my Father, and now it’s even more precious. Once Elizabeth was on a bit more of a routine, and I could somewhat predict her wake-up time, I started to set my alarm about an hour earlier. I know, WHAT?! Wake up BEFORE the baby even wakes up? Yep. I get my coffee and do my devo or reading, meditate on God’s goodness – whatever I am soaking up at that time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend an hour, but sometimes it’s 20 minutes or 45 of resting my heart in God’s hands before the day begins.

I think you can have your devo’s any time of day that works for you, but there is something about the mornings. Proverbs 8:17 says “…those who seek me diligently find me…” (ESV) Some versions use the word “early” (NKJV) instead of diligently. You can also find this in Psalm 63:1 – early/earnestly David seeks the Lord. Sometimes this time doesn’t happen until nap time, and weekends I find harder, but God shows up for us mothers in a sweet way. In our long hours at home, I believe that we can set the tone and welcome His presence in our seemingly menial and routine tasks. Sometimes I’ll start worshiping and Elizabeth will belt out “ahhahahahaha”, and my heart melts. I want to teach her to love God’s Word and worship Him in every season, so my heart is surrendering to God daily for help with that as the Holy Spirit shows me how.

Currently, I am using Timothy Keller’s study of the book of Galatians as a guide for my devo time. I find I need some sort of anchor to steer me in this season when time is unpredictable.

5) Time with hubby – I am ever grateful that my mother-in-law lives close, as she has enabled us go get out on date nights almost every month. Funny thing, when you do finally get away from baby, all you want to talk about is her 😉 Sometimes time with hubby is us playing a game (we recently bought Trivial Pursuit 2000’s!), snuggling up with a movie and snacks, or going to bed early because that’s what we need. Our favourite is getting out on the weekend, us three, and grabbing a Starbucks for our outing. We have the best conversations when driving, so it feels like quality time for me! Troy and I joke that my love language is all five – quality time, words, touch, service, AND gifts. Seriously, love me in any way and I will soak it up!!

6) Soak it up – People tell you it goes by quickly, and it does. So I’ve been capturing pictures, video, sitting on the floor lots with my girl, and writing down memories and cute things she does. I know that being home with my girl is a gift, heck being a mom is a gift in itself, so I don’t take it for granted. Quieting the world of to-do’s definitely helps me still my heart to what matters – loving my family well in this season with the grace God gives me.

7) Grace, lots of grace – As previously mentioned, I think one of the biggest things I’ve needed to receive and learn this year is how to receive grace from God, when I don’t know what I’m doing. Give myself grace, when I feel guilty about something or think I could or should be doing something better. And give grace to Elizabeth, when she naps 25 minutes instead of the coveted 1.5 hours. You just can’t predict every moment, and for someone who is a planner, I’ve had to learn to “let go and let God” so to speak. Well, still learning that one. 😉 Remembering that becoming a mom is likely one of the biggest life changes you’ll ever experience, will hopefully enable you to cut yourself some slack and give grace on the days you need it!

So there’s my top 7 things that have helped me as a new mamma. Hopefully some of that will ring true for you too!