When Rest is Disguised as Work

Since I've had 3 little ones at home, I've found it more important than ever to strike a healthy balance between rest and work.  No matter how much I strive, there are always more crumbs under a high chair, more dirty clothes, and more unexpected spills.  The tasks never stop, and giving into the temptation to beat it once and for all can leave me drained and disappointed.  In the moments where I feel overwhelmed by having a toddler attached to my knees and babies on my hips, I sense God's word beckoning me to experience the blessing and command of sabbath rest.  Regardless of your season of life, you need to rest, or eventually you will experience negative consequences of trying to be all things to all people at all times.  

One of the more interesting things I've discovered about rest, is that it often comes disguised as work and things that might appear 'restful' sometimes end up being meaningless or even burdensome.  I've spent many rest times frustrated by this, and I wanted to share the way I've experienced this play out in my life.  (Maybe you can relate to some of them, and have a few to add to the list!)

*For the sake of this post, I'm defining 'rest' as: taking a break from our normal labor in order to re-gain strength, mentally, physically, and spiritually. 

Things that look restful (but really aren't)
1.  Browsing blogs, social media, and Pinterest.
This is one of my go-to 'restful' activities.  It tricks me nearly everyday.  I get a few minutes to myself and my immediate reaction is to pull out my computer or smartphone.  I figure it must be restful because I'm sitting down and I'm not having to think critically about anything.  However, 1 hour later, I usually find my heart in knots.  I've read a handful of controversial and divisive Christian blog posts (which have left me doubting all of my own biblical convictions), I've seen a massive array of home decor items I didn't know I was missing, and I've realized I forgot to Instagram my afternoon tea.  I usually end this time feeling let down and frustrated that I didn't do something more productive, because nap time is over and all I've done is scroll and click.

2.  Retail therapy.  (namely, walking around at Target)
If blogs, social media, and Pinterest are my go-to inside of the house 'rest' activities, then I would call retail therapy my go-to outside of the house activity.  When someone else is watching my kids for a few minutes, a trip to browse the aisles at Target with no one rushing me sounds like bliss.  I picture trying on flats, admiring the new throw pillows, and even digging through clearance items without the threat of anyone's temper tantrums.  But let's face it, when I leave Target with a cart full of items I didn't even know I needed, I don't exactly feel awesome.  I come down from that Target high, and I'm not even sure why I purchased more blue aztec print napkins.  Rest has slipped between my fingers once again, and now I'm wondering what to do with this new stuff I need to manage.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things.  Trips to Target alone are nice, and it is fun to get new ideas on Pinterest.  I'm only saying that in my personal experience, these things aren't good substitutes for REST.  They might provide a entertainment and recreation, but I'm usually not returning to real life feeling energized and ready to go. 

Things that look like work (but can really provide rest)
1.  Exercise
Over 4 months ago, I started training for my first 5K.  Before that, I had not 'sweat' exercised consistently in almost a decade.  Sure, I live a fairly active lifestyle, but I was not a person who really pushed hard at physical exercise.  Running a 5K in July (albeit, slowly) really changed my mindset on these things.  What I've learned is that exercising (to the point where I'm breathing heavy and sweating for 30 minutes or more 3-5 days a week) significantly boosts my mood and energy levels.  Did I mention the word, significantly?  This was shocking to me.  When I take 30 minutes out of my evening or morning to exercise, it sounds like it's going to be a ton of work, but instead it leaves me energized to take on the day.  I never regret exercise (once it's over), and I can often use that time to listen to a sermon or reflect quietly on the things God is teaching me...which is extremely helpful!

2.  Studying scripture
When the kids go down for a nap, I often knee jerk to pull out the laptop, but I love it when I get out my study books instead.  It sounds a little like school work to voluntarily study a biblical doctrine or a few verses of the bible, but I find it to be extremely rewarding.  Getting my mind of off myself is crucial to good rest, and studying God's word gets my perspective right every time.  Worshipping God with my mind is very relaxing to me, and so is writing about what God is teaching me.  I can usually end this time by praying for God to help me re-align my heart and do the tasks at hand for his glory...which is exactly what rest is about!  

3.  Meeting with friends
Once again, it sounds like a lot of work (especially if you are a busy wife and / or mom) to find time to be with friends.  And for introverts, this might not be relaxing at all.  But I am really energized by good conversation over coffee.  In fact, if I'm in a funk and feeling a little isolated, I can usually trace it back to a lack of community and time with women who encourage me in my faith.  I've never left a time with girlfriends feeling more exhausted thinking, "that was draining and not worth it."  No!  I always leave encouraged to pursue Christ and tackle the callings God has laid before me.

4.  Keeping a tidy house
This one is a little tricky, because it requires work before rest (and sometimes if you work more, rest never comes).  But all I know is that when I've managed my house well and kept things tidy, I have a much more restful 'rest time' than if the place looks like a pit of destruction.  I've found that if I leave my cleaning for later, I'll often spend my time resting feeling slightly guilty (so it's hard to fully enjoy).  Also, I have to keep tabs on the clock for my rest if I don't clean ahead of time, because I know that I still need to get up and keep working (versus getting my work done and using the rest of the time for relaxation).  Just a thought!

5.  Crafting, creativity, and baking
Does anyone else feel like working with their hands is therapeutic?  Getting out the craft supplies or the sewing machine makes a huge mess (and one that does take more effort to clean up later), but it's almost always worth it.  Having an hour or two to sew quietly can do wonders for my mood and excitement to be with my kids later in the day.  I'm not sure what it is exactly, but a little creativity and using my brain for other things I can focus on the joy of completing a project for fun...not because I have to, but because I like it.  The same is true for un-obligatory baking!

Of course, there are always obvious things that are restful no matter what...like taking naps and having a quiet time reading and meditating on scripture.  And I don't think it's less spiritual to choose the nap - because God created us to need sleep and we are being prideful if we think we are that one superhuman who can survive well without it.  

What do you do for rest?

...and if you are struggling with resting a little too much, you might like this post on being a "Sluggish Woman" or my sister-in-law's thoughts on being a hard-working wife and mom.

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