Finding Rest: The Brave Practice of "No, Thank You."
You could say it's been an intense season around here. I have officially been back to life in Washington for a year and have experienced more transition than ever before. After relocating from Alaska to Washington, via a five week stint in California (more on that in a future blog), I was starving for routine and simplicity.
My previous job role was based on six month "school year" cycles, which meant I could work remotely for part of the year. Although challenging in some respects, that cycle allowed me to push hard, working alongside our students, then work out my own schedule from anywhere in the country thereafter. Those several years taught me to hone in on the gift of self-motivation and afforded me the freedom to serve people I love and experience glimpses of life all over the world.
Now that I find myself in Dolly Parton's nightmare (workin' 9-5, what a way to make a livin'...) and have a "desk-job" for the first time in my adult life, I'm realizing there are new roads that require navigation. It's easy to get caught up in the routine of the Monday - Friday and suddenly, a month has gone by. What I've found is it's really easy to load up on so many sweet things throughout the week, that I wind up just as tired as I was when I traveled regularly.
My quest for rest began out of necessity, enveloped in the newness of a job I've begun from scratch and transition's best friend: the unknown. But this quest has become a beautiful journey, revealing my motivations and values.
There are days when grief lands and it's simply easier to busy myself than to stop and feel my feelings. There are weeks that pass, full of work and ministry and social events, but devoid of time to experience or process anything happening in or around me. While being busy isn't always a problem, busying myself to avoid most certainly is.
Thus, the rest practice that's changing it all: bravely answering "no, but thank you very much."
Saying 'no' is odd in the West. Instead of just declining, we pad our answer with excuses to make the person doing the inviting feel better. I've come to realize that an invitation is simply that. And just because something is being offered to me doesn't require my affirmative response. When I say 'no' (for any reason), I'm creating space for my "YES!" to carry more weight. I don't know about you but my life is chock full of opportunities to be with people, serve, work hard, shift priorities, venture out and experience life. But if I say yes to everything, nothing gets to feel special. I'm learning that too much of a good thing can be draining. I bet Jesus understood that when He graciously commanded that we take a dang Sabbath (my emphasis, not His).
I've learned that I have to prioritize time to make my life work so I can be intentional. For me, these priorities are time with the Lord each day, meal prep, laundry/home organization, budgeting/bill pay, weekly counseling appointments, worship services/teaching, some margin in case of long work days, exercise, time for texting/phone communication, prep for worship-leading and time for the few ministry/community commitments I've made. I also need time on my own. I require time away from people to recharge my batteries so whether I take time out on my Sabbath day to be away from people (and phone free) or plan to take a night away a couple of times a year, I've learned I need to schedule this time in order to ensure I don't get too busy. If I take all of these pieces into account, I generally have two evenings and a morning or afternoon available for time with friends either in person or on the phone. Often, this does not feel like enough time, but the brave part is recognizing that being intentional in my relationships is the best way to keep them solid!
Ready to be brave? Consider these factors to understand where you could use some more margin in your life:
What would an ideal week look like in your world? Don't forget to include space for any of the above that apply to you too.
How do you recharge? Generally, people get filled up with people, away from people or some combination. Schedule in some time that specifically targets replenishment.
Determine your motivation. Ask yourself why you're doing everything you've got scheduled for the next week. Oftentimes, determining the motivation behind our actions is enough to help us make a different choice (for example, if you're only volunteering for something because you feel pressured).
Consider what a simple "no, thank you" would feel like to you. Is it acceptable to say no just because you know you're nearing capacity?
Although my weeks don't always go as planned and I often still feel as though I have too much going on, I'm moving in the right direction. I long to make the people in my life feel truly loved, valued and giving them the power of my 'yes' is the best way I know how to do that. When I commit to something, my people know they can count on me to show up with bells on. I'm not going to come to your house for dinner and shove my face in my phone because I have 16 things going on. I'll be present and engaged. I'll be tracking with you, free from the distraction of my to-do list. I'll do my best to love you intentionally. This kind of love is only possible if I take the time I need to rest. And so I journey on... resting intentionally so I can love more intentionally.
Last weekend, I was gifted with a night in the beautiful little cabin pictured above. Located on Puget Sound and even cuter inside than it is outside, this place was a sight for sore eyes in the middle of a couple of extra full and wonderful weeks. It's amazing what a night away and some time set aside specifically for rest and time with Jesus did for me. I felt alive in a way I can hardly express after decompressing a little bit and have felt myself engaging more deeply ever since. I believe rest and Sabbath are a gift and if we choose to receive them, we get to experience life as it's meant to be enjoyed. I hope you'll take time to consider how the gift of rest could be just what you're needing.