The verse glared at me from the page as if it was mocking me: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Those were the days when… My four-month-old screamed in pain and struggled to nurse because of his acid reflux. My two-year-old was precious and tried to help but, well, she was two. My husband was a minister at a growing church. AND Christmas was breathing down my neck. “Rest” felt like some kind of enigma in the desert of my daily life.
What I Wanted v/s What I Was
I wanted to be that woman who rose before the sun (Proverbs 31:15) to pray and study the Bible so I could meet my family with a smile and a fresh batch of muffins every morning. But let’s be realistic. When you get up twice every night to nurse your struggling child then still have to be awake by the time your toddler climbs out of bed, muffins might as well be hand-crafted diamond rings!
I filleted my heart before the Lord. In summary, my prayer went something like this: “I want to spend time in Your Word, Lord. I want to grow spiritually. But I’m buried here, overwhelmed by everyday life.” Through the weeks that followed, He affirmed me in my spirit. There were no audible words, not even from another mother, but I came to understand that wanting to be with Him was enough for this season in my life.
Classic verses rose to mind.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). God met me in my mess.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). My knowledge of His Presence was enough to glorify Him through those days. (Check my blog post about this verse, if you’re interested.)
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). Those rare moments of quietness with Him, my trust in His unchanging salvation…these were the elements of rest that sustained me.
“Snack” on Rest
Snacks can assuage your hunger as much as a big meal, it just takes longer. Snacks can be eaten standing up, usually with your fingers, often while doing something else. As my perspective shifted to line up with God’s, I found rest in small bites, like we find satisfaction in snacking.
Consider these four snack-sized ways to rest in the middle of parenting:
- Give yourself a break on your least-favorite chore. The laundry will still be there tomorrow. So will the dust. So will the e-mails that need responses. Permission to overlook one of these things—even for a few hours—is liberating.
- Bathe. A hot shower or a warm bath, along with a good teeth-brushing session, provide mental rest that refreshes your soul as much as your skin…and breath. Bonus: Your spouse will appreciate the improved smell!
- Buy yourself a half-hour of quiet time. During those difficult months, my time in the Word was often accompanied by Elmo. When the younger child took a nap, the older child had a snack and a short video. At first I felt guilty for letting the TV ‘babysit,’ but those few minutes of Bible study and prayer—even though they weren’t first thing in the morning—grounded my days in Him, making me a better parent (not a slacker mom) and a stronger believer! I had to treat that time as super-valuable, though. It was easy to think I could throw in a load of laundry or start the dishwasher first, but if I digressed, I ended up losing the whole thirty minutes! That’s why I say “buy yourself” that time.
- Take a breath. There are these beautiful, irreplaceable moments when you have a baby in the house. Choose to put down the phone/TV remote/whatever while you feed your baby. Spontaneously read a book with your toddler while she snuggles on your lap. Those quiet moments not only give rest to your soul but model a quiet life for your child.
As I released my to-do list, I began to recognize the moments of rest already present in my busy life and to make room for others. In these small things, He redeemed my time so that, even though my body was still exhausted, my soul found rest. Ten years later, we don’t watch Elmo any more, but I still have days where I need those intentional bits of rest.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” (Psalm 62:1)
Christmas came sooner than I would have liked that year. I don’t remember much about it, except this: We played Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in our church pageant. Up there in front of the entire community, my child laid in the make-shift manger and reached for the dust floating in the spotlight. He giggled at the shepherds and fell asleep during one of the songs. Despite the costume, the awkward staging, the bright lights and loud music, I focused on the peace of that moment, and in it, I found rest.
Carole and her husband twice found themselves “walking Jesus” in coastal African cities—the second time with two small children. Now, they are watching God work in a southern US city (no coast, sadly) and helping others passionately follow Him. Connect with Carole through her website, http://carolesparks.com or her parenting blog,http://notaboutme1151parenting.wordpress.com.