Return to Your Rest, My Soul

Sunday was my last official day as a part of our church staff.  It was also the kick-off of our new ministry year, so it was strange mix of beginnings and ends.  All week long last week, my feelings about stepping down seemed to change almost hourly.  One moment, I would be filled with nostalgia and sappiness, and the next I would be so ready for all that is coming next.  By the time I locked up my office on Sunday, though, all I felt was peace.

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Since then, I’ve found myself in a very unique time of life – no kids, but no work either.  I guess that makes me a housewife in the truest sense of the word, as the only two responsibilities I currently have are maintaining my house and being a wife.  Oh, and reading Harry Potter and loitering at Coffeesmiths.

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Waking up in the morning and realizing that I have no particular schedule to follow is an incredibly weird, freeing feeling.  I tried to remember the last time this was true of my life, and the closest thing I can think of is probably being a junior high kid on summer break – no school, and too young for a real summer job.  Stay tuned – by next week I’ll probably be creek-stompin’ barefoot and biking home from the grocery store with a rotisserie chicken in my basket for dinner (What? Junior high kids don’t run those kinds of errands for their mothers anymore?).

It is not lost on me that it will probably be a long, long time before I ever have a season like this again.  Decades, likely.  Because of that, in the midst of the craziness leading up to this, I put a lot of thought into how I wanted to spend this time.  My whole life is changing right now.  In the span of mere months, I will go from working in full-time ministry to being a first-time, stay-at-home, adoptive mama to a toddler who will be wrestling through the greatest grief of his life.

I decided I wanted to be extremely intentional about this season of life.  As much as I would love to be getting on a plane two months ago tomorrow, I feel that God has given me this rare time as a gift from a Father who knows me well.  The last time I went through a season of one major life change after another, it sent me into a downward spiral of debilitating anxiety and panic attacks that took an annoyingly long time to recover from.

In that last season of change, I learned that taking time to rest and reflect and seek God is absolutely necessary for me to transition without losing my mind gracefully.  I also learned that some people (me) just aren’t hardwired to process change/stress well, and need some help from their (my) friendly neighborhood doctor to help balance out the chemical levels sloshing around in their (my) brain when high-stress times come.  I decided that the wisest thing for me to do was to learn from that time of life and do this season of change better.

I have a beautiful friend who is an overseas missionary, and recently I was chatting with her about the importance of Sabbath-ing, of taking intentional, dedicated time away from the busyness of life to rest and be with God, especially in times of life change.  As she is someone who is dealing with the type of culture shock that comes from belonging in two drastically different worlds, I figured she probably knew what she was talking about.  At the time of our conversation, I was overwhelmed with adoption stress, weeks away from my final day at the church, and was struggling to see how I was going to survive the next month.  Even as the type of extrovert who typically loathes too much alone time, the thought of escaping away into a place of quiet rest and prayer sounded absolutely heavenly.  I knew that was what I needed to start this season well.

As it turns out, a family in our church has a small house/cabin that they created for this very purpose, and were gracious enough to joyfully grant me use of it.  I scheduled my retreat for the week after my final Sunday – this week.  I leave tomorrow.  Three days of beautiful quiet and solitude (the fact that I am craving solitude for probably the first time in my life is a testament to how insane my life has been this past year) followed by two days of rest and refreshment with Alex, when he joins me for the weekend.

I decided to only set a few specific goals for this retreat, all centered around the things that help me connect with God and find peace.  Music, nature, reading.  One goal is to soak up as much of those three things as I possibly can.  The other goal I set is to spend time intentionally processing, praying, and thinking through the current and upcoming changes in my life.  Around the time I scheduled my retreat, I came across this article by Relevant Magazine called “6 Questions to Ask When Your Life is About to Change”.  It gave structure to the avalanche of thoughts rushing around in my mind about how to process this stage of life.  I saved it on my computer and decided to use it as a sort of rough guide to thinking through all this craziness on my retreat:

  • Where am I?
  • What do I need to leave behind?
  • Who do I want to be and how am I going to get there?
  • Where is their room for growth?
  • Who do I want by my side?
  • What are my motivations?

Hopefully, I will come back refreshed, renewed, and with a clear picture of how to walk through this time of preparation and transition.  And whether you are in a crazy time of change or just going through the motions of a usual week, I challenge you to find make some Sabbath-ing time this week as well!  I am quite certain neither of us will regret it.

Psalm 116:7 “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

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