On Rest, Part II

Life has settled down so, so much over the last few months, and I am so, so grateful.

Day-to-day, I have a good rhythm going between my work, children, husband, friends, ministry, and personal interests. I’ve had to drop some expectations to get here—for example, I won’t win friend, housecleaner, or blogger of the year anytime soon—but most days, I feel a sense of balance, peace, and calm.

For most of my life, I have resisted being “at rest” because it felt like giving up. Resting felt like surrendering to stagnancy and a life of limited accomplishments.  I felt like I had to stay in motion or I’d lose my significance.

But it turns out that occasionally being “at rest” is the key to actually going somewhere with all my motions.

IMG_4741One of the biggest lessons that I learned this fall was what resting looks like for me.

I already knew that I was not a very good “rester” in the traditional, kick-your-feet-up-on-the-couch or take-a-nap kind of way. Trying to “relax” that way is actually way more frustrating than energizing for me.

I also knew that chasing and nurturing two energetic toddlers, being a ministry spouse, and running a part-time business don’t really set the stage for rest—but I enjoy all of these aspects of my life, and felt called to embrace them rather than to shut them all down.

So I prayed—that God would show up and help me learn what resting looked like for me, in this life, with this personality, with this inability to nap.  And He did.

It turns out that, for me, the most therapeutic and restorative “rest” comes from short pauses—the ones where I ask, what are my goals? What are my values? Does making this decision help me live into those, or take me further from those? Why am I doing this particular thing? Is this my assignment? Whose expectations truly matter most here? Who will I gently and peacefully disappoint? What is the bigger picture of my week? What is the bigger picture of this month? What do I want to move towards for the next season, and what does that mean for today? What goal won’t I meet today because I’m choosing something better?  

Asking and carefully answering those questions makes it so that I don’t really NEED to collapse on a couch, because I’m not overwhelmed and run down and exhausted—I’m living purposefully and using my energy wisely.

It means I go to bed a little earlier.

It means I say yes to one assignment and no to another.

It means that I push past the pressure I feel to have the house clean for the dishwasher repairman who will be here soon (because what will he think of us?!!) and choose to do the messy art project with my daughter (because making a mess is how she learns…and who cares what the dishwasher repairman thinks?!) 

It means that I choose my marriage, every night, instead of advancing “just one more” item on a to-do list that I have learned will be there tomorrow.

IMG_4739Taking these pauses to consider my choices has made every day so much more enjoyable. And when unexpected events occur, I have enough margin and physical and emotional reserves to get through the events without completely losing it.

There are still the moments when everyone needs me all at once and I think, “This is just TOO MUCH for one person!”

And in those moments, too, I pause.

And then, full of awe and joyful realization, I repeat myself: yes, this IS too much for any one person. No one person deserves all of these blessings! Why has God been so gracious to me?! 

And like Lysa TerKeurst says, I remind myself that I’m managing blessings.

And this manager can take a quick rest.

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My Goals for 2016

December was full of fun, laughter, and joy.  I wish I had time to recap all of it for you, but I wanted to share my annual goals with you, and I don’t have time to do both. 🙂

This year, I have 6 goals.

1 – To passionately pursue my marriage–pursuing intimacy and a relationship that is separate from our parenting relationship.  

WHY: My marriage deserves this attention.  I want to experience the joy of a thriving marriage and to share this joy with my husband and our children as well.  This goal involves a lot of “laying down of self” and intentionally choosing to pursue someone else’s needs over my own, which sometimes feels costly in the moment, but I want an amazing marriage–not just a good one.

2 –  To transition well from youth ministry to new ways of serving in summer 2016, keeping in mind that I won’t be “done” with existing mentoring relationships.  

WHY: The girls that I have been loving and serving since they were in 6th grade are graduating and moving onto college.  I have learned (much to my surprise) that youth ministry does not end when the students graduate; instead, you begin doing college ministry.  Right now, I mentor a few girls who have moved on to college and a group of girls who are seniors in high school.

When I started youth ministry, I had a dog and a youth pastor husband.  Now, I have two children with perpetual needs and an associate pastor husband.  It’s become a lot more difficult to do what I really want to do as a mentor.

For this reason, I have spent the last two years focusing on getting “my” girls through their seasons and not on building any new relationships.  This summer, all of “my” girls will be heading off to college, in college, or freshly out of college.

It’s a chance for me to switch gears.

This spring, I want to prayerfully consider what ministry will look like for me moving forward, keeping in mind that I’ll still be doing some long-distance and college-break mentoring.

I want to serve my church and world. I also want to be mindful of the constraints of my existing responsibilities, at the same time that I remember that I serve a God who turns a simple offering of loaves and fishes into food for thousands.

I’ve been thinking about how I could assist a ministry at our church by donating some grant writing services.  I am also open to other new ideas that God may share with me.

3 – Attend Jazzercise 3x week + do other frequent physical activity.  

WHY: The investment of my time into physical activity pays huge dividends for my ability to perform all of my other roles.  I am a better mom and wife and a happier Sarah when I take this time for myself.  I don’t exercise for vanity; I exercise for sanity!

Although in my dream world I would exercise most days of the week, 3x a week is the perfect amount of time for my kiddos to be in the childcare program and still look forward to going, and it will keep me in reasonable shape.

4 – Continue morning devotion time and begin doing devotions with Zoe. 

WHY: I love this time with the Lord and want to continue to grow in His image and gain His wisdom and strength as I seek Him. “What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45) and I want to put good things in my heart. I want to see the cumulative effect of patient study of God’s word.  I want to build Zoe’s awareness of God and His love for her and her ability to have a relationship with Him.  (Mini update: I’ve already started the devotion book with Zoe and she loves it!)

5 – Make $X amount this year, maintain a minimum of 3 income streams, and prayerfully and sacrificially give from my earnings to our friends’ YoungLives ministry.  

WHY: “Change a teen mom and change a baby.”  In 2015, I wound up exceeding my income goal by 11%.  In 2016, I want to continue incrementally growing my business, but I don’t want growth to simply benefit my family.  God is the source of any business that I get and I want to offer what I make back to Him.  Our friends in Washington are looking for support for their YoungLives ministry (Young Life’s ministry for teen moms) and I feel called to take a painful and scary leap of faith to commit to giving up some of the comfort and cushiness of my money habits to help teen moms get the mentoring and support that I benefit from as an adult mom plugged into a great family and church.

I still haven’t decided whether I will give a percentage monthly or quarterly or a one-time gift at the end of the year, but giving an amount that mildly scares me is a goal of mine.  Hold me to it.  🙂

6 – Spend one-on-one time with Zoe each week.  

WHY: Some of my silence on this blog this spring and fall can be attributed to the fact that knowing how to parent one of my children is a perpetual challenge for me (and that actually parenting her is exhausting).    I don’t think it is fair to share much online about my children’s struggles, which is why I have been pretty quiet, but behind the scenes I have been learning how to best support the needs of a child with a temperament that is very different than my own and a set of needs that is more intense than many of my friends’ same-age children seem to have.  We have had some professional evaluation as part of this process and apparently, I am doing everything “right”—it is just exhausting.

I notice that I feel a lot less frustration with her when I spend special time with her—time dedicated solely to studying and appreciating her unique personality and to having fun together.  I want to love and know my child the way she deserves to be loved and known, and I want to enjoy and appreciate her personality—not just patiently endure it.  I feel convinced that one-on-one time together is a critical part of this.  This week, we start an 8-week parent/child gymnastics class that we will attend together—just the two of us.  My goal is to keep some special time each week (whether it’s a class, park date, cookie date, or simply running errands) to invest in our relationship this way.

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Well, I hear some naptime-ending-noises, so I’m going to pop this up without proofreading and hope for the best.  I’d love to hear your goals if you feel like sharing any of them with me!