Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the blog!
It can be hard to truly rest. Sometimes it seems like our lives are nothing but running here and there, accomplishing some tasks and never having enough time to accomplish everything. It’s important to remember that, while God has plans and purposes for us (see Ephesians 2:10), He is also in the business of caring for us and tending to our weary souls.
Back in July, I was blessed with a long weekend for Independence Day. I had just come through some very stressful work weeks and was thrilled to have a chance to relax. Even during my “off” hours, I’m often working in some way: writing, cleaning, running errands, and so on. So when my long weekend arrived, I told myself that I was not going to force myself to work. I would use the time to relax and refresh.
Yet once my mini stay-cation began, I felt listless and frustrated. I didn’t feel like working on any of my hobbies—even though I’m always wishing I had more time for them—but when I did nothing, I quickly got bored.
This is somewhat typical if you’ve gotten burned out and suddenly find yourself with some time off. You’ve been so busy that you’ve forgotten how to be on vacation. But during this time, God taught me a few important things about slowing down and appreciating the simple things.
First, God showed me that I need to stop having an agenda and a to-do list all the time. I’m a planner by nature, and even when I’m on vacation, I subconsciously have a to-do list of things I’ve been wanting to do. But then I get stressed out because I can’t possibly do them all, and when I finally pick one to focus on, I don’t enjoy it because I feel stressed about the other fun things I’m NOT doing.
God gently taught me that it’s okay to not do everything. Sometimes it’s okay to just let the day flow, to enjoy what you CAN do without worrying about what didn’t “fit” in the hours you had. And it’s also okay to be spontaneous and do something you didn’t expect. During my days off, I don’t think I did any of the crafts I’d planned to do—but I did do some that I hadn’t planned on, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Secondly, God reminded me to appreciate the simple things. I tend to be driven by the feeling that my time and actions need to count for something, that I need to be accomplishing a goal at all times. But not everything we do has to “count” toward something or check an item off a list. Sometimes, it really is okay to just take a nap. Or make some tea and linger over drinking it. Or take off your shoes and walk barefoot through some grass. Life tends to be so fast-paced, but when it comes to resting and refreshing, the moments that “don’t count” can be the ones that our souls need most.
Lastly, God showed me the importance of escaping from four walls periodically and getting into a more natural space. Depending on your environment, this may not be super easy, especially if you live in an urban area. I don’t have access to amazing mountain trails or quiet forests with soothing streams, but even so, some of my best “soul health” moments are the times when I step outside for a few minutes.
During one of my days off in July, I heard a rain shower start up outside my house. Feeling suddenly reckless and spontaneous, I went outside and ran around in the rain just for the pure freedom of it. I laughed. I squelched barefoot in the wet grass. I hadn’t felt pure, innocent abandonment like that in a long time, and when I came back inside, I was soaked and smiling.
All that to say: your environment may not be ideal for getting outside, but seize the options you do have. Don’t plan it or make it complicated. Just take the simple moments that are already there, but that you’ve been too busy to enjoy. When is the last time you just watched a sunset from beginning to end? When did you last visit a park and sit on a swing?
If you really can’t go outside, try switching up your environment in other ways. Take your laptop or phone in a different room when you sit down to answer your emails. Drive a different route home. Rearrange the decorations (or even furniture) in your bedroom.
As we head toward the end of the year and the holidays that accompany it, I’d encourage you to let God lead you through whatever vacation time you have. Holidays are often hectic and busy, even though they’re fun. Don’t feel stressed by all the things you can’t do, and don’t let your vacation become yet another to-do list. Just take what God gives you and enjoy the moments you do have. Your soul will feel better for it.
“He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3)