Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Longing for Rest. . . and Finding it

Life is busy and crazy and full of life and joy and opportunity.  I have two young kids that I love to spend time with.  I work full time as a nurse in a busy NICU.  I love to fill my days ministering to those in my circle of friends and family.  Every opportunity I have to spend with others that have a need of friendship or support or encouragement, I take.  I love these people and they fill me with purpose and I am blessed when I am with them.

But lately it seems that the chronic business isn't allowing time for me to rest. . . to draw near to God and be still.  I go, go, go and am there for all who need me.  But I rarely just have time to really sit and allow God to speak to me and work in my heart.  Little by little I have been recognizing that something was missing.  

It started at our churches family camp.  We look forward each year to several days to just get away up in the mountains.  There we are surrounded by trees and sky and little ones laughing and playing.  This place has always been my place of peace and rest in a life filled with too much living.  It allows me a place where I can steal away for a quiet walk alone or just a hammock to read in.  Gone are the lists that fill my hands and my head.  There are no closets to organize or things to build or menus to create.  Just time with family and friends.  It is a place of rest and time with God.  I love that time with my heavenly Father where I can sit at His feet and study the letter He gave us.  

This year, we heard about an opening for a family to minister at Hartstone.  As I prayed about this position,  God opened my heart and mind to consider moving our family there.  After much prayer and discussion, we decided as a family to step out in faith and apply for the job.  My head filled with dreams of being able to walk out onto the beautiful campus and find quiet places every where to be still before God.  I knew that if I lived at Hartstone, I would take the time to walk the wooded paths and take time to rest and be still and find peace.  I was also excited about being able to serve others and minister to all who came to camp.  But overall, my heart was longing to be in a place that had brought me so much rest.  We waited for many long weeks to find out if this was where we were to live and serve for the next couple of years.  I spent so much time with God asking Him to place us exactly where He wanted us, and to bring me joy where ever He put us.  This was a time of dreaming and longing and closeness to Gods heart.  Then God closed the door to this opportunity.  

I was sad.  I won't lie.  For a few days I cried and slowly let go of my dreams for living in this beautiful place of rest and tranquility.  I accepted God's decision and was not upset or angry.  I knew He was keeping us right where He wanted us to be.  But the longing in my heart did not cease.  I continued to have this desperate longing for rest and a place to find it.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading a blog post on A Holy Experience entitled When Wasting Your Time is the Most Productive Thing You Can Do.   As I read through this blog post I was convicted and inspired all at the same time.
I ordered the book Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World.  It seemed like something that might help me slow down and help me to rest.  As I started reading it, God started to speak to my heart and show me that this is what He wants for me. . . for all of us.  I'm going to share a bit about what I have been learning and what God has been teaching me.  Her book describes it so much better than I ever could, but I'm going to share anyway.  

The author, Shelly Miller, was convicted about not resting on the Sabbath.  Every day was busy and life was taking over.  God created a whole day of rest every week.  He practiced it to show us that it was important.  "Sabbath reminds us that we belong because we are already accepted.  Rest requires that we be who we are and nothing else.  A life built upon Sabbath is contented because in rhythms of rest we discover our time is full of the holiness of God."  pg26  

I am always busy.  But "business can be avoidance instead of preparation.  Everything might be ready, but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, we are not.  Ironically, busyness in the wrong things ultimately leaves us completely unprepared fro what is most important.  Choosing to leave practical things undone is a brave act of trust and relinquishment.  And relinquishment often precedes the miracle." "Sabbath is weekly preparation and anticipation for making space in our lives for Christ to come.  Sabbath rhythms are generous gifts: they are not about guilt.  Busyness can also be a sign that trust is faltering and the fear of scarcity is taking over.  Fear that there won't be enough time to get everything done if we take a day off to rest."  As I read this, I was convicted that I struggle with rest because I think I have to do it all now.  Am I trusting that God will provide and allow the necessary things to get done?  Nope.  I haven't been.  But that is going to change.

I work every other weekend.  Often my Sundays are spent in a busy intensive care unit and I come home exhausted, barely even recognizing that it was the Sabbath.  But I loved what Shelly said, "Perhaps Sunday obligations make rest difficult.  Find a window of time on another day of the week.  You may not have time for a whole day to rest, but a a small window of time here and there cultivates a Sabbath heart.  Pausing for prayerful listening, even for a few minutes, brings everything that is important back into focus."  She described taking time to go on a quiet walk or have lunch alone in a secluded spot at work.  Starting with baby steps is ok.  Finding what brings me joy and peace and closer to the heart of God.  I can do that!  I may not have a whole day to set aside, but surely I can cancel plans and set aside a few hours every week to spend before God.  I can't remember the last time I really took time for me.  Time to stop and rest.  Time to stop making lists and cleaning and planning and just rest.   So today, I blocked out time to do that.  I dropped the kids off at school, a book off at my friends house and then I went to Starbucks with my Bible and study book.  It was amazing to spend a few hours reading and praying in a quiet place.  No housework to distract me.  Just time for God to fill me with His presence and peace.  Then off home to sit in front of my fire, in my favorite chair, listen to the rain pouring down and take time to figure out what God wants to show me.  This is good!   

Shelly said, "Rest is ill-defined when we value time and our worth based on productivity.  If we are created with intention by God for a specific purpose, an the way of discovering that purpose is through relationship with Him, then the way of discovering what we are missing in life is through abiding with him on Sabbath.  Wasting time is actually the most productive action you may take this week."  I had never though about rest like this before.  It's true though.  I have a very difficult time resting because I do value my time and how much I can get done.  I kept thinking that  this is what makes who I am and what makes me valuable.  But it isn't.  He wants us to trust Him to provide for our needs and to take care of all that isn't being done when we rest.  Choosing Sabbath requires faith and trust that we can rest and abide in Him and that all will be taken care of.  "He longs for us to trust Him with rest as much as the other parts of Life."  I trust that He will take care of my family and all that I worry about.  But will I trust Him enough to allow me to fully rest?  I am going  to start choosing to do so.  I want rest and time to allow God to fill me up.  "Sabbath provides space from our problems and allows us to see from God's perspective"  "Sabbath is an awakening-a space of time containing reminders about what is most valuable."  He wants to speak to us and in our busyness of life we can't listen.  I want to choose to take this time to rest and sit at His feet and listen.  

God desires a closeness with each of us.  He created us for a relationship with Him.  He invites us to come and rest and deepen our knowledge of who He is and what He has done.  He is always there, waiting for us to put aside our busyness and hurried thoughts and lives.  We have to make the choice to stop and rest and to be with Him.  As I am on this journey to discovering what it means to find my Sabbath, God opened my heart to the thought that I can find Him and find rest no matter where I am.  My heart was longing for Hartstone, but mainly because I longed for the peace and rest I thought I could find there.  But God is here, in Santa Rosa, in my home, in my heart.  I don't have to live surrounded by woods and streams and quiet places for me to find my rest in God.  I can create a Sabbath here in my home, at Starbucks, in a local park.  I just need to make the choice to stop the business and set aside that time to listen to my creator and rest.  I hope and pray that maybe you will join me in finding the joy and peace in rest.