God seems to take rest pretty seriously.
And as we sit in this limbo time between Christmas and the New Year, you might be more aware than usual of your need for deep rest. Perhaps you don't just feel "body tired," but tired in your soul. That's more than a good night of sleep will fix.
Have you ever delineated the different kinds of rest you need? Consider this concrete example. Good employers give their employees breaks in the middle of their shifts, time off each day, two days off each week, and vacation time each year. I would never say to a Sonlight employee, "Well, you've had every weekend off this year, why in the world do you also want to take a vacation week with your family?" In fact, I regularly check in with the staff at Sonlight to ensure they're taking time off to rejuvenate.
As a stay-at-home parent, do you respect yourself in the same way? Do you honor the different types of rest your body and soul need? I know it's not always possible, and that certain seasons require different sacrifices. But simply being aware of this concept can help you care for yourself so that you can keep caring well for others.
Consider these four levels of rest. As we prepare for the New Year, see if you'd like to be more intentional with one or more of them.
Daily Rest: A good night's sleep feels elusive to many moms. I know you don't choose to get up in the middle of the night just for the fun of it. But wherever you can, prioritizing a good night's sleep helps you feel your best. You can be more present to your family and more productive throughout the day if you consistently do what you can to get the sleep you need.
Weekly Rest: Jesus made it clear that we are not bound to the Old Testament law regarding the Sabbath. But that doesn't mean we should throw the whole concept out the window. John and I almost always take a Sabbath rest. When I do, I feel ready to take on the world the following week. When I don't, I feel disoriented and behind all week long. It's an act of trust to rest on the Sabbath and know that the world will not end. Of course, you'll still need to feed your family and be present for your children, but could you experiment with making one day of the week more of a day of rest for you and your family?
Yearly Rest: I need a vacation each year. I actually take two – one with my family and one just with John where we visit ministry partners around the world. Our annual Family Fun Week means that we set aside our ordinary schedules and take up the primary goal of reconnecting as family. It is a true gift to us all.
I know that especially with young children, vacations may not be "relaxing," but perhaps there are ways to cut down on the stress and make them more meaningful. (Maybe you could all go tech-free for 3 days, or just spend more time relaxing out in nature.) When the kids were little, we'd all go camping a few times a year. When we'd leave, you could just see John setting aside his burdens as we climbed in the car with tent and supplies. It was restorative and life-giving for our family.
Long-term Rest: Did you know that in the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to let the land rest completely every seventh year? No planting, no harvesting. That's a radical leap of trust for an agricultural society. And every 50th year was to be a Jubilee Year – an extraordinary year of rest for the land, forgiveness of debts, a time to free slaves, and reconciliation. We don't think either of these special times were ever practiced much, but the concept should tell us something. Every year of our lives was not meant to be the same. There are occasions for exceptional years or seasons.
I know this sounds too impractical for most people to ever pull off. But this could maybe be an aspirational goal for your family. Could you ever take a semester, a summer or even a year somewhere else? Maybe an opportunity will arise for your spouse to work in a new location for a semester. Maybe you've saved up to road trip out West for a few months. Maybe you could finally take Grandma up on her offer to spend the summer at her cabin at the lake. Or maybe you could just keep this in mind for a future season of your life. Perhaps when you're done homeschooling, you could do something extraordinary to reconnect and refocus for the new season ahead. It could be a gift to yourself and your family that would have benefits for the rest of your lives.
So what do you think? Does one or two of these suggestions stir something in you? Is there something you could do to make them happen?
The world will not fall apart if you plan rest into your life. Your spouse and children will be better for it. And truly, I believe we are in a better place to receive God's love for us and others when we are choosing to regularly step back and rest in the midst of the chaos.
I pray that this coming year is full of love, growth and some true rest for you and your family. It is an honor to support you in the journey.
Blessings to you and yours in 2017,