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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When desolate means beauty is on its way

He’s met me in dark places; places that were unplanned, but necessary. His hand reached out to comfort, bring hope. And breathe life through His grip. I’ve had dark places in life – my early 20’s when I didn’t know what path to take, but my emotions ruled me. After heartache, when everything felt unbearable. Upon great change in life when newness was everywhere, and my emotions felt raw. And as a new mamma, desolate places can be as simple (and as deceiving) as the distraction of the things we feel we must do to keep up, portray an image, but no one has actually asked us to do. No matter how hard I try, I am desolate without Jesus. I am not enough. I am not perfect. But. He is.

I’ll be honest, I have this tick-tock dilemma where I want to make everything have a purpose. At our mom’s group at church last week we were talking about personalities. Our table laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants, no joke. I went home with sore cheeks and a full soul! (TMI, but I just don’t care!) I went online after the fact to try this quiz, and lo-and-behold, I’m the rarest personality, 1% of the population. Funny enough, that didn’t surprise my husband. 😉  And in this frame of a personality, I want everything to be romantic and have a purpose, and sometimes, well, that’s just exhausting. And I try so hard to keep up, to a lot of expectations I set up, that at the end of the day I wonder sometimes what I really accomplished that had eternal value.

As we approach Easter, I felt the pressure to add my voice to the myriad of blogs and worthy posts by fellow writers of how much we love Jesus. I wanted to write something New York Times worthy. I want so desperately to tell you how Jesus has changed my life, and continues to redeem me. But this week, I just can’t find the words. I laid on myself the expectation to have something beautifully written… and I’m speechless. Sometimes, even making a difference can become an idol.

I read this morning in some prayers of Jesus where the word “desolate” was a common theme. Desolate means barren or laid waste, deprived or destitute of inhabitants, solitary, lonely. Sounds awful! But Jesus pursued those places.

Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16 are two of the verses, among many, where it says that Jesus went or withdrew to a desolate place. He seemed to do that a lot. Go to places where no one else would go, and He would change them. Bring life. Have you ever noticed that He never left a place, or person, the same after meeting them? Whether He taught them a truth, healed them, restored sight or brought children back to life – people were changed after Jesus met them in desolation.

So in this self-induced dance of expectations and trying to make everything purposeful, I choose to let the King I love meet me in that place, that desolate place of expectations, disappointment, exhaustion of perfection… and bring His life. I choose to let His life be enough, and know that I don’t have to prove anything here, but share my heart, and hope that it rings true for someone else. That is my desire.

As we celebrate Jesus this weekend, I hope that you let Him pursue you in your desolate place, whatever it may look like. That you quiet your heart, and mind, long enough to hear Him running to You, full of life and newness. Whatever that looks like for you, in what season you are in. Throw open the door of your desolation, and let Him pursue it.

And wait and see what He does. Because in my mind, desolate places also mean something is about to happen. They are quietly waiting for beauty to be restored.

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.

First things first: Getting rooted

 

I remember the moment very clearly, when I met my husband, Troy. We met online, and communicated for about 10 days before we met. I was standing in the middle of the gardens of a downtown park, at 9:30 on a hot summer morning. I was so nervous that my first words, other than “nice to meet you”, were “I have to pee!” We had never talked on the phone, so I wondered what his voice would be like. Thankfully, it was instant ease for both of us. We spent every free moment of the next five days together as I showed him my favourite places around the city, went to a Latino market, took him to church, and even met his mom and step-dad. Love grew as we spent time together, and it wasn’t long before we both knew we never wanted to say good-bye.

As my love for Troy grew, as I learned his character and heart, my trust in Him grew too. I knew he’d be a man that would protect, provide, and cherish me. I could see how he’d be a great Dad, and a man who would challenge and support me. As I spent time with him, the roots of love grew deeper, and my trust grew alongside that.

Trust grows as love deepens.

The greatest commandment that Jesus gave us was to love the “Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength (Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31, Deuteronomy 6:5).

For much of my life, I think I’ve tried to put trust before love. I tried to do and obey and be the good Christian girl I wanted and needed to be. I truly wanted Him, but something still felt missing. I’d ask myself, “Do I reaaaallly love Him? Like I want to?” When you live out of a ‘do-er’ heart, rather than a simple and beautiful love for Jesus, you can easily get swept up in religiosity, anxiety, comparison, and all things that are works and striving motivated.

Then enters grace.

As my prayer has turned more to, “Reveal Yourself to me, Lord” and asking Him to help me to love Him for Him, and not what He can do for me, I find that my heart is changing to, “But I WANT to obey and trust Him, BECAUSE I love Him so much.” He is changing my heart to love Him, on the good days and the hard days. And in the meantime, he is removing the weight of all the things that I often add to our relationship 😉

In Ephesians 3:17-19 we read, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

That phrase “rooted and grounded” refers to building a house. If you look at the cross-reference for grounded (BlueLetterBible.org is a great resource!), it refers to where Jesus was talking about building our house on a rock – Jesus! (Matthew 7:24-25, Luke 6:48)

I planted some parsley and some pansies this week. We went to this beautiful greenhouse and café for Family Day, and I was just itching to buy some seeds and plant something. When we got home, I was ready to dive in to the dirt, and just get it done. But I chose to research how to grow parsley inside, and it suggested to soak the seeds overnight, thus speeding up the normally slow germinating process. I decided to go the route that would give me the best seeds, rather than what was quick. It sounds small, but for me to wait, to take the time to do it right, is evidence of God working in my heart to submit to processes so that roots can go down deep! Small progress, right?!

We were created to love and enjoy Jesus. There will be so many things in this life that vie for that attention, but we must start here, or everything else is a struggle.

Jesus wants us to know Him, to love Him, AND to trust Him. But let’s start by letting Him reveal Himself. Start by waiting in His presence, getting rooted. Start by studying His character, His heart. Put aside everything we think we need to do to become who He wants us to be. And let Him change our hearts first, to ground us in Him. And watch trust flow naturally out of that changed and rooted heart.