A Reminder for the Parched Soul

“So, what are your plans for this weekend?” my friend asked me as we walked out the school door.
“Oh, I have a Skype meeting in an hour, then I need to cook some food for friends who just had a baby, tonight I’ll go to a concert and tomorrow my parents might visit.” “So…you’re basically taking care of everyone else, but can you please also take care of yourself this weekend?”

Boy, am I glad to have friends like that who point me back to what’s really important.

Four years ago, after a major breakdown, I began to be more intentional about the way I work and rest, Which doesn’t mean that everything always goes well. So here is a reminder for myself to rest, and maybe it will speak to you, too.

You need to rest.
It is a great invention and you need to make more use of it.
It is essential for your soul to live, not just survive.

It is okay to rest and let work be work for a while.
What you do does not define who you are.
You’re a human being, not a human doing.

Human beings cover

Rest does not always mean to do nothing. 
The gift of Sabbath can come in many different forms and ways.
Sleep in.
Meet up with friends.
Read a good book.
Shut off social media for a while.
Seek solitude.
Take a walk.
Cook great food.
Look out for beauty in the mundane.

Find the things that replenish your empty soul, heal your sore feet and restore the abundance of life inside of you. 

Whatever it is for you – do it! Often.

If you’re interested in resting and Sabbath, sign up for Shelly Miller’s Sabbath Society – letters that focus your mind and bless your soul.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

When Life Becomes Busy…

It’s been one of those weeks. You know, when you wake up at the end of those long days as if you’d just been on a rollercoaster ride and you wonder, what have I actually done this week?
Despite all my careful planning and my (normally) good organisational skills, I was buried knee deep in school work this week. So many papers to grade at the end of term, so many last minute events to organize, so many talks and meetings… and so little time to do all that.

In the last two weeks, I have spent more time at school than at home.
I haven’t really talked to anyone outside of school.
I don’t even want to talk about my eating habits. My kitchen is a big mess with leftover junk food, but I have no time nor energy to clean it up.

Maybe you’re familiar with such weeks and thoughts.

Time to pause is rare and self-care is not really at the top of our list these days.
How could we sit dow and rest when there’s a stack of work waiting for us?
Why should we put any effort in cooking something nice when we’re the only ones eating it and a sandwich would do just fine?

Because we deserve it.

In weeks like this I realize how much we have to fight for what’s important.
Inner strength and joy won’t just come, we have to be intentional and seek them out in our busy lives. When we value ourselves with what we do, eat and think, we can keep going and also appreciate the people around us.
When we carve out some time to just rest our thoughts and focus on the beauty in the mundane, we can see the abundance that’s already there. 

So today, I decided to let work be work and exchange my desk for a sofa in a coffeeshop. With a giant cup of melange in my hand, I watch people, imagine the stories they have to tell and allow God to breathe life back into me.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

What If Christmas Was Different?

There I was in the middle of the Christmas market.
Lights were shining brightly around the square, from a distance I could hear some kids playing Christmas songs. As I took a deep breath I inhaled the smell of mulled wine, bratwurst and roasted nuts.

I had just come out of a department store where I had braved my way through crowded aisles and stressed out shoppers. Since Christmas is almost here, I couldn’t put it off any longer, I had to buy some presents eventually.

In case you didn’t know, I’m not the biggest fan of shopping. Especially around Christmas time. The shops are crowded, people are unnerved and everyone is stressed out. Christmas seems to be about brighter lights and bigger presents and more, more, more. 

Let’s travel back in time.

There he was in the middle of a simple, cold barn. The savior of the world had just been born, a baby into completely unprepared surroundings.
Instead of a majestic palace he chose a stable.
Instead of sterile cleanliness, he came into dirt, simplicity and helplessness.
Instead of hundreds of visitors and big announcements, he invited the neglected shepherds to meet him first.

Sometimes I’d like to have been in that stable that night.
I imagine it to have been peaceful.
Quiet.
Hopeful.
Joyous.
Holy.

The message of Christmas is so very different from the distorted version we’re bombarded with all around us.
It’s about less than more.
It’s about unpreparedness than perfection.
It’s about peace than noise.
It’s about God coming to break through our illusions, expectations, hindrances. 

What a gift this is.
May you enjoy it this Christmas.


One last Five Minute Friday this year. See you in 2018!

Rest in the Middle of Life

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. There’s just too much to do.
Work first, pleasure later.
I can rest when I’m done with everything.”

Do these statements sound familiar to you?
These battles inside of you between what your soul longs for and what your busy mind tells you to do? Continue reading “Rest in the Middle of Life”

Listen to the Little Things

It starts with the little things.
When I get up in the morning, but my body is still weary from the day before – I know it’s time to rest.
When my hair starts falling out and my wrists starts itching – I know it’s time to rest.
When I snap at people for no obvious reason – I know it’s time to rest.
When I forget about people because I am so focused on the product – I know it’s time to stop. Continue reading “Listen to the Little Things”

The Wonderful Exhausting Pilgrimage of Life

I got off at the airport and picked up my rental car.
And then I started driving.
It had been four years since I had driven on the left side and I was surprised how quickly I got back into the rhythm. It was dark, but with a GPS and a sort of sense of direction I found my friends’ cottage I would be staying at for the next few days.

‘Pilgrims Rest’ said the sign on the door.
How appropriate. Continue reading “The Wonderful Exhausting Pilgrimage of Life”

[#write31days] Day 29 Make Rest a Habit

Welcome to Day 29 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page
———————————–

The last two years I had a really hard time setting boundaries. I worked too much and was involved in xyz projects. When I wasn’t working I was thinking about what to do next. When I wasn’t thinking I worried about all the things I hadn’t done yet and how everything would work out. Before I opened my eyes in the morning my mind was already wide awake and spinning at a hundred kilometers an hour.
It made no difference what day of the week it was, each day I was equally busy, working, worried. Restless. Never at ease or fully relaxed. I just couldn’t.

The constant state of restlessness – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – is detrimental to our entire being. If we want to avoid total collapse we need to set boundaries for ourselves. The next step is equally as important: we need to practice rest, make it a habit.

Sleep Because He Will Take Care
I am so glad for the invention of sleep, it is a physically forced form of rest. Yet, we are not automatically at peace when we close our eyes at night.
Our minds don’t easily go to sleep, they keep us busy with thoughts of the just passed by or the one ahead of us.
We just keep on worrying because we don’t trust.
We don’t trust that we’ll have enough time to finish the work in the morning.
We don’t trust that things will work out even though we don’t worry about it all night.
We don’t trust that the work we do is enough.
We don’t trust that tasks will be completed or perfect unless we slave for it at unusual hours.
We don’t trust the world will continue spinning if we don’t push it forward.

Trust me, these thoughts are real. I’ve entertained them all in my many sleepless nights.

Not only are these thoughts presumptuous in regard to your own status and abilities; they’re also a spit in the face of the One who says of Himself:
I will never sleep.
There’s nothing that happens (or doesn’t happen) that I don’t see.
My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.
I have good intentions for you.
You may rest and I’ll take care of you.

Mark Buchanan writes:

Sleep is a necessity. But it is also a relinquishment. It is self-abandonment: of control, of power, of consciousness, of identity. We direct nothing in our sleep. We master nothing. We lose ourselves and are carried like children. […]
Sleep is also an act of faith. […] We give ourselves, regardless of our unfinished business, into God’s care. We sleep simply because we believe God will look after us. […] If God can take any mess, any mishap, any wastage, any wreckage, any anything, and choreograph beauty and meaning from it, then you can take a day off.
Mark Buchanan. The Rest of God.

400ac-dscn1892Lying down and allowing our minds to really rest is an act of trust. Committing our spinning thoughts to the One who holds the universe is like saying, ‘Okay Dad. Here’s my mess, take care of it please. I’ll take a nap in the meantime.’ And you know what? God will gladly do that. No, he won’t solve all our problems all at once. But if we force ourselves to keep quiet for a while we’ll actually hear Him whisper, ‘Don’t you worry, child, I got this’ as we drift off into sleep.

Honor Sabbath
Even though I was so incredibly busy my life got a little better immediately when I returned to a seemingly normal, and yet often neglected, tradition: honor Sabbath.

At the very beginning of the bible we can read about the invention of Sabbath:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.                                                                                                              Genesis 2:1-3

God himself rested and he made us this great gift of a full day off. Why don’t we take it more often?

I know it’s very tempting to just keep going with life even though it’s Sunday. Luckily in Germany stores are closed on Sundays, so you can’t just go shopping or working. But there’s still so much else you can do at home. Long awaited laundry or cleaning or paperwork or writing emails. It takes way more courage saying no to the work at home and turning your eyes from the piles in front of you and rather towards rest.

The excuse ‘I’ll rest later when everything’s done’ doesn’t make any sense because guess what? Work will never stop, you’ll always find something to do.
Shelley Miller writes:

I have learned that preparation is the key for successful rest. I have conquered organizing my week TOWARDS Sabbath instead of away from it.

If we buy into the lie of resting later, we actually cheat ourselves of a lot of strength. Saying YES to rest does not mean to neglect any important duties. It actually means saying NO to annoying nuisances. It means saying YES to gathering our energy for the really important things.
Living and honoring Sabbath well will make an incredible difference in the rest of your week, this I have learned in the last year!

Explore
So how can we make Sabbath more about God and rest?
Often when we’re tired of life we can also grow tired of God and making an effort in our faith life. So why not explore new ways to find and worship God?
Listen to an audio bible if you’re tired of reading it.
Meet with other Christians when you can’t seem to pray alone.
Write things down when you feel your words are shallow.
Speak plain language instead of ‘Christianese’ for once when you pray.
Leave the church and find God in nature or other people instead. 13bTake a walk and rediscover the physical energy inside of you.
Read fiction and relax your mind while doing it.
Listen to some music and take in the melodies, power of instruments or unsual words.

Often it doesn’t take much to shift your perspective or sharpen your receptive canals. Wherever you are, whatever you do – God is already there and ready to meet you. Right. Where. You. Are.

Active Rest 
We often think that Sabbath is about doing nothing. And yes, sometimes it’s time to stop completely and just sleep.
But rest is far more than just closing our eyes. It’s about finding true peace for our entire being and this can’t be found in one single day once in a while.
Sabbath is an attitude and lifestyle we need to cultivate and nurture carefully throughout the week. 
It’s about getting to know ourselves and what we really need.
It’s about being fully aware of our purpose.
It’s about doing things intentionally and finding joy in it.

15aSabbath as a day is a good start to practice these habits which will then hopefully overflow into the rest of the week.
Take time to cook. Make things yourself and enjoy experimenting with different spices, ingredients, produce.
Take even more time to eat. Don’t just stuff yourself, maybe invite people over and enjoy different tastes and the blessing of community.
Find out what restores you inside, no matter how mundane or strange it may be. And then do it.
Create something. Speak life into something seemingly dead, bring new beauty into this world. Discover the power inside of you, in your mind, your soul, your hands.
Make your life beautiful. Take time to decorate, to take care of your house. Bring in colors or flowers, a bit of life into the workspace.
Give yourself room to breathe. Whatever hinders you from that has to leave.
Turn down the decibles of your problems. While it is often really difficult shutting off our thoughts, we can still quieten them for Sabbath. Write them down so you’ll deal with them tomorrow, but they’re not allowed to bother you today.
Shut off your computer or phone that keep distracting you from quality time with God and friends.

How do you spend Sabbath? Do you live towards it, do you find time to rest during the week? What do you want to change about the way you rest?