I thought when I quit work, I quit work.
My home, once a respite, is now the hamster wheel.
God has really been working on me lately. Telling me to sit down Jillian! For goodness sake.
But this is how that goes:
"If I don't clean it, pick it up, cook it, make it, read it, organize it, dust it, vacuum it, bleach it, fold it, hang it, (etc etc etc) NO ONE ELSE WILL." And all the "its" get way too heavy and time consuming and some days I feel like all I've done is meaningless things that no one but me really cares about. I feel caged in by my own house. I wonder if I'm making a difference in the world. And over the past two years, I've grown to see such significance in the mundane, the solitude, the small moments. But sometimes I struggle with seeing it for the beauty that it is.
Now that I work for a nonprofit, I also find the "cracks," the naps and evenings, filled with work, God given, life-giving work to be sure, but still work.
With both children, I've lost the baby weight quickly. Not because I'm trying. Not because I'm counting calories. In fact, I've been the least intentional about my weight and exercise than I ever have in my entire life and that is a HUGE BLESSING for those who know my story. When other people comment, I usually joke, "Breastfeeding! Crazy, right?" But I know that isn't the whole story.
No, it's because I'm worn thin. Remember in the Lord of the Rings when Sam was talking to Frodo about a thin layer of butter spread over too much bread? That's me! I don't sit down. I forget to eat until I'm dizzy and shaky from the fifth cup of coffee on an empty stomach that I'm drinking because I didn't go to bed when I was tired but when that last load of laundry was folded and put away.
Anybody else there?
God has been gentle with me in whispering over a period of time, "This is not okay, my daughter." He's been taking my hand and leading me to a peaceful surrender of my striving life. And in writing on the blog, I am recognizing it and calling it out and hoping to encourage some of you readers who find yourself here too. No one is requiring such a hustle from me, from us. Truthfully, if I don't submit my strengths of determination, organization, energy, and good old fashion hard work to the Lord, they become weaknesses, obsessions, sucking life from my body and soul.
My husband, Timothy, and I balance each other out in so many ways, but when we talked about this subject a few weeks ago, we've realized we are not so good at balancing each other here! We are both go-getters, ambitious to a fault. Currently, though not yet 30, he is almost finished with a PhD, which he is working on with two small children and a full-time job. Let me tell you, he is ROCKING it! I'm so proud of him! But can you tell that Tim and I might not be so good for each other in this regard? Some days, we love being a "power couple" and more days than not we wonder, "what did we get ourselves into?'
If you have been following my blog, you have heard these sentiments before, "I am limited, but God is limitless." And. "Unless the Lord builds this house, those who build labor in vain. He gives to his beloved sleep." Today God is reminding me that he "leads me to still waters. He restoreth my soul."
I've been listening. I've been repenting. I've been waving the white flag. I've been changing.
I've attempted to practice Sabbath, follow God's example of resting from work, many times in the past two years. Since I've become a stay at home mom, or now I suppose a work at home mom, I haven't been able to escape the work that is just waiting for me everywhere I look. The dishes, the clothes, the diapers, the toys, the beautiful mess of this beautiful life is ever present. I've been asking God, "How, as a mom, do I rest? I can't take a break from being a mom!"
I can no longer say, "when the work is done, I will rest." Because the work is never done. It will never be enough. And I think God works in that admission, and in giving us too much sometimes so we recognize it's okay to give him back what He has given us, instead of trying to be God ourselves. My friend Sami likes to remind me often, "God is enough."
So here are some things that have been practically helping me confront my workaholism and embrace a "work from rest" lifestyle. The ways I'm trying to exemplify in my heart and life that God is truly enough:
1. I've asked for help. I've been talking about this with Tim and with my quad, the ladies that I walk through life with on a more vulnerable level. They've been asking me how things have been going and encouraging me to rest. They tell me to put the oxygen mask on myself first. They've been cheering when I choose to rest and gently reminding me that it is okay to say no. And sometimes I sheepishly ask if somebody would help me clean something, even though I know that is not the real issue, it helps me anyway.
2. I've been looking at those who do this well and trying to follow their example. My friend Natalie sets her alarm to remind her to go to bed at a certain time. I've done the same thing. Last night I went to be at 9 PM YOU GUYS! 9 PM! And I wasn't asleep but I was in my bed, reading, and dozing. I woke up this morning before 6 AM, ready for the day, joyful for the energy to meet with the Lord first in my day. I got a beautiful hour of quiet with my husband before the kids woke up. I can't even tell you how grateful I am for that unexpected time and for how it set the tone for my day.
3. I've been stopping midday to get on my knees. After I put my kids to bed for naps, I usually make tea and stress eat chocolate. I still do that. But I've added a "stop drop and pray" to my ritual. I check in with the Lord, thank him for his provision so far in the day, and surrender the rest of the day and the works of my hands once again to him. I've been meditating on Isaiah 26:3 with this practice, "You keep him (her) in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he (she) trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock."
4. I've been releasing my to-do lists, both written and mental, to the Lord. I admit to him that I know it is too much, so I'd like for him to show me what is the real priority for that day. With true joy, I tell him I know that if nothing gets done that day, but my life still glorifies him, that this is all I really need. And then I thank him at the end of the day for what He allowed me to do, instead of stressing over what didn't get done.
5. I've been keeping our bedroom, our place of rest, sacred. No toys allowed. No laundry, either. And no kids if we can help it. I need one place that I can shut the door to the work that is tempting me, and I'm grateful God has given me this haven to protect me, to protect us. Unfortunately, with moving around our boys rooms, we eliminated our office, and our computer has made its way into our bedroom. I'm not happy about it, but I know it's just a season. It doesn't have to undo the good God has done. Computers do turn off!
6. On Sunday, I Sabbath. I do very little housework. I don't work on Dayton Women in the Word. If I have to cook, I always listen to an audiobook. I don't worry about my fitbit steps. I lay on my bed and READ while my kids nap. I drink coffee because I enjoy it, not because I need it. I light a candle. I say no to most social engagements. It is all very indulgent, yes? But this is God's love, his beautiful design. He restoreth my soul!
God isn't done with me here, probably won't be until I'm dead, truthfully. I know He wants me to remember to take my prenatal vitamins. I will always need more sleep and less coffee. I admit that I say yes more times than no. (I just noticed this paragraph has started to become a to-do list for how to rest better. The irony! The hustle is laughable, you guys!)
So here I will end, with gentleness for all of you moms that have trouble turning it off, whether you stay-at-home, work-from-home, or are working outside the home. My prayer for us is that we would really trust God to do all the things and release the work He has given us back to him. I pray for less guilt and more rest, in our bodies and in our souls. I believe truly this is what God wants for us, and maybe for the first time in my life, what He wants for me.
Tears, always, when I write this blog and realize He is tenderly writing to me.