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For many families, including mine, it’s easy to consider rest as a “someday” item: one of those things that we know we need, but just haven’t quite found time for.
Why is that? Maybe a frenetically busy schedule can be a comfort in an odd way. Maybe we feel important, always having somewhere to go and someplace to be.
There’s this strange dichotomy in our overstimulated world: we are overwhelmed and exhausted by all that is around us, and yet time for rest—true soul rest—isn’t a regular part of our day. As a result, we see stressed and angry people everywhere—rushing themselves and their kids to and fro.
So many of us are moving faster and faster… towards what? What is the goal of all of this rushing? To say that we did more things? That we provided more experiences for our kids?
I want to ask, “Sure you visited 5 museums last week, and still managed to get ballet, guitar and softball practice in. But what was it like the rest of the days?” I just don’t believe that all that rushing around (and prep work that it takes to get to all those destinations) provides an atmosphere of calm and peace.
I want to ask these stressed-out folks (and sometimes that includes me): “Where are you going?” I mean that question literally and figuratively.
Where? Are? You? Going?
Somehow we’ve determined that calm and peace is found in having lives that are full of experiences and activities. We’ve elevated the people who have the busiest schedules to a god-like status because they somehow seem to have experienced more of life.
But my question is, “More of what?” Is life solely about activities and experiences?
What about the joy of silence? Of being by ourselves, just meditating and thinking about the deeper issues of life? Of unplanned, unhurried time with loved ones where all the aspects of life—sadness, boredom, questioning, laughter—can naturally occur?
Our frenetic pace has left us “experienced” but lacking in the fundamentals of the complete experience of being human.
And oddly enough, the fullness of “being human” is what our society is desperately longing for. We long to relate to each other—to know and to be known on the deepest levels—and yet somehow we expect that to happen in the 20 minutes we have between turning off our electronics and collapsing into bed.
We spend our time “being busy” and rest and relaxation have been relegated to that one week a year when we take a family vacation (which, by the way, I’ve found to not be particularly restful for me since I’m just basically wearing my “mom hat” with different scenery). Replenishment is in very short supply, and we need it perhaps more than we’ve ever had.
Is Simplicity the Answer?
Ironically, “simplicity”—one component of a restful life—has become a buzz word of late. Maybe we’re streamlining our lives somewhat, but it seems that we’re making our lives more efficient so that we can fill in the gaps with more activities.
Honestly, we may have embraced simplicity, but overall, we just haven’t given up the golden goose yet. That “golden goose” would be our love of experiences; our love of stuff; our love of feeling busy and important. We desperately want peace and rest, but we don’t even know how to slow down to make it happen.
The Ultimate Choice
But what if we actually tried it? I mean, really stopped and determined to live differently? To incorporate restful activities as a regular, methodical part of our routines? The fact is that most of us can’t jet off to Tahiti once a month for some peace and quiet. But maybe little doses of peace–like little streams of water to thirsty and dry souls—can over time bring the restoration we’re all so desperate for.
I’m not suggesting that rest become “one more thing” to do. I’m saying we need to carefully examine our involvements and make some hard determinations about our quality of life. There might be things that are enjoyable, but are they taking away from an overall sense of rest and peace in the home? It might be time to let them go (even if it’s just for a season).
Remember the term “opportunity cost?” There is a cost and a value to our time. What we say yes to has incredible value because it requires our most precious resources: our physical time, mental energy, and financial resources. Each family is given differing amount of each of these things.
It’s simply a matter of determining how we want to spend our resources. If we choose to spend them running around and never resting, then we need to be alright with feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at times.
But if we decide that rest and soul replenishment is more important, then we might have to say goodbye to a few things—even if they are “good” things.
It really is as simple as making a choice and accepting the consequences.
If you’ve realized that, yes, it’s time to get off the merry-go-round, here are some ideas for making true, life-giving rest a priority.
7 Steps to True Soul Replenishment
1) Identify what you find restful. This isn’t what allows you to “numb out.” What activities truly bring replenishment to your soul? For me, first and foremost, this is silence. I’ve also found that writing, reading, crafting and having deep conversations with others fuel my tank.
2) Carve out time for mini soul replenishment. I mean it. Make this a non-negotiable for your day. We’re not talking hours and hours here… see what a small break in the critical stress points of the day can bring. Yes, this may mean saying goodbye to other activities (even those that are “good”). Which is why…
3) Ask yourself: Is this activity pushing out our family’s ability to rest? It may not look like one particular activity, of course; it may be a combination of activities. If we truly want rest we need to make choices to allow it to happen, and many times that means saying no to other things. What is the overall best for our family? Consider the opportunity costs.
4) Take small steps. Many of us have existed so long on the merry-go-round that it’s unrealistic (and honestly unnatural) to immediately eject ourselves off the ride. Begin to consider and experiment with small shifts in thinking and activity and notice the changes. As you become comfortable, add more changes little-by-little until you feel as if you’re back in a proper rest-work balance.
5) Ditch the hard-and-fast rules. What may be too many activities to one family may be not enough for another. We have to determine the boundaries and limits for our situation, and gauge that determination on the current mental state of ourselves, our spouse and our kids. No rules and no judgements here.
6) Consider setting aside one day a week to concentrate on rest. On those days, make a concerted effort to remove any distractions to rest. A great place to start is to take a break from technology for the day. It may not feel like it, but that email or Facebook post really can wait. Experiment with turning off the TV either on Saturday or Sunday, and see how that affects the level of family connection and overall feeling of rest.
7) Stop talking about it and just do it! For the longest time I really resisted getting rest and was the queen of lip service in this area. It is still a struggle for me, honestly. But the more I deliberately make space for rest in my life, the more I see its benefits. My life (and that of my family) truly has become so much richer.
Interested in learning more about rest and finding true joy in your homeschooling? Check out Vibrant Homeschooling’s course: “bloom: A Journey to Joy (and Sanity) for Homeschool Moms.”
Here are more posts about being a renewed and refreshed mom from the other iHomeschool Network bloggers!