It has been an intense summer and fall. We have had a variety of challenging circumstances. Writing in my journal helped me process these overwhelming times. I wrote out specific blessings and losses. It was helpful to see the blessings even amidst the losses.
For Thanksgiving, I gave myself permission to rest. I didn't cook, clean, set the table, wash any dishes, or pack up leftovers. I brought a gallon of apple cider to a family gathering at my sister and brother-in-law's house. It felt a little strange for me. I noticed that I focused more on thankfulness. Everyone there seemed to survive my slacking this year. I don't know yet if they noticed. We had a delicious meal to which family members contributed dishes. (I love my sister's practicality including paper plates.) We had good conversations and people had opportunities to share gratitude as well as losses. Some family members were not able to attend. It is a blessing to me that family members gave themselves permission to rest from some pressures, uncertainties, and stresses.
Here is a recent painting I made using a different medium (acrylic) than my usual (watercolor). Not thinking of rest when I painted it, I can see it is peaceful and maybe restful. It is evidence of me letting go, changing it up, and having gentle expectations on myself and others. For Christmas I am a little foggy as to what I am doing. I am certainly not in any pushing gear. I am being gentle one day at a time.
-Linda T. Hurd
The topic of rest continues to challenge me. I want to move on, but I also want to give "rest" more time and see if there's more for me to learn. I have some time off from some volunteer service that I do. It feels strange-- and good. I am tired. Exhausted really. I get overwhelmed easily. That is a flag for me to notice that I need some rest. No one is going to make me rest--they can't and they won't. Also, expecting others to do something in order for me to be able rest is a recipe for resentment, which is not restful. I am responsible to ask for time and space to rest and actually rest. I appreciate that I have friends that gently remind me that rest is good and encourage me to do so.
I can tend to get in survival mode trying to manage the many aspects of my life. I forget to save time and energy for the creativity that nourishes me (and also seems to sometimes nourish other people with whom I share it). I understand that survival mode could eventually lead to a physical or psychological collapse that would halt everything. I do not want that.
I want to choose ways to rest. Are there things I can let go of? Even temporarily? Are there moments I can pause and allow rest to enter my body and mind? Giving time to creativity, as I am doing here, is refreshing in some ways. I try to be gentle in my expectations of myself. I need to balance responsibilities and rest. One day at a time I will seek that balance.
-Linda T. Hurd
No. A complete sentence. Only two letters: N-O. "No" can be hard to say. We live in a needy world where requests for help come by mail, phone, email, advertising, word of mouth, at the red light, at the train station, at the door, and at the church. How can I say "no"? I learned to show kindness and compassion. I heard it pleases God to give.
I think I said "no" when I was very young. Later I think I said "yes," but meant and acted out "no". Then "no" was hard to say. Lately, I am welcoming the possibility and experience of "no". It is not easy. I can pause, pray, seek clarity on what I am able to do and on what is my motivation. I recognize "no" is an option.
I am reading and learning more about trusting God. Trusting God means I am willing to admit I do not have the answers. I do not know how best to help someone. Saying "yes" to their request may not help them. Maybe saying "yes" helps alleviate my own discomfort and guilt. Lately, I have been welcoming the "no". When I say "no" I am letting go of over-responsibility. I can listen and wait for God's provisions. I am not the great provider. God is. "No" is necessary to rest.
A Christian counselor once told me a definition of what "no" means. "I am unable to grant your current request. I love you and care about you and am open to future requests." That is a gentle, yet firm way to say "no".
I wondered how to make an awesome illustration of "no". Thankfully, I did it loosely with some ideas, but I said "no" to my own overthinking. An imperfect, good enough "no" is helping me post this blog entry and also rest.
-Linda T. Hurd
Is an electronic device inhibiting your rest? Scrolling through texts, emails, photos, news, commentaries, history, videos of animals, music, kids, events, fails, successes, movies, trailers, comedy, quizzes, surveys, recipes, advertisements and on and on. They keep coming. Conducting an online search is like looking for a needle in a mega-digital-haystack. Shopping online brings options galore: not only new, used, free, or from where, but also, brands, ratings, and reviews. When I do searches on line, it seems the algorithms will keep steering me for weeks to come. If I decide to buy online, I may have to make an account, login and check that I agree to terms and conditions that I do not fully understand. I think I let the algorithms follow my shopping and send me suggestions that I don't want. And there are also scams and phishing looming? Ugh.
I don't think the companies who create the algorithms to keep me scrolling care one bit about my rest. I care about my rest. I have noticed that when I am on an electronic device into the later evening, I have more trouble falling asleep. I think I read about that--online.
I often don't read the things I wanted to read when I first sat down at the computer, because I get distracted and find a virtual rabbit hole to go into. I have things I want to do using my electronic device, including communicate with friends and family, maintain a website and blog, write and edit, and keep up with finances, health, and other responsibilities.
I am going to post this on my digital blog and promote it through digital social media and emails. To be honest I don't do marketing or sales well. I don't like it. My hope is that we all get rest from scrolling and endless digital attention grabbers. -Linda T. Hurd
As I contemplate rest, I wanted to consider getting up from rest. This painting is from a photo I took of one of my sons when he was not getting up very well. Do teenagers have massive growth spurts or lots of stress requiring so much rest? Are they asserting independence, staking out their own schedules? Whatever is going on, it is something to behold. Taking the photo, I admit, was intrusive, but I'm grateful for the documentation. At some point during his teen years, I determined not to be his alarm clock anymore. My sons are adults now and have had to get up at all hours to attend to their own parental and work responsibilities. Waking up and getting up are amazing gifts with a wide variety of challenges at every phase of our lives. I like to get up especially after some good rest.
Rest can be challenging at times. This man is looking at a newspaper's job postings. Looking for a job is stressful. As I painted this picture (from a photo I took a long time ago), I thought that he could have been looking at the obituaries, or current events, or the opinion page. Each section could carry personal stress for him. Stress can disturb rest. Stress and disturbances are part of life. Sometimes there's a lot.
I have to experience life with its griefs, needs, and conflicts. Sometimes my sleep is disturbed. I hope I can have compassion and patience as I walk through those times. Talking, listening, writing, painting, praying, doodling, walking, moving my body and listening to music can help me gain perspective and de-stress. I may have to wait through the disturbance to be able to rest well again. I may have to search my heart and ask if there's anything I can do. I can meditate on the serenity prayer, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
Sleep is amazing. We say we fall asleep; we don't know how or when it happens. It comes to us. When I had young children, I observed the process of fighting it and also surrendering to it. Sleep is a necessary way we rest.
My husband was diagnosed with sleep apnea about six years ago. They said he could go home early after his sleep study showed he stopped breathing well over 300 times. Since the diagnosis and various fittings of face masks, he has used a CPAP machine to help him get the benefits of sleep. Recently I photographed him before he got up, because I wanted to include this phenomenon in my investigation of rest. I had to take quite a few photos with flashes to get the frame I wanted. To note: he is faking sleep here. I am glad he is getting better sleep, and the hum of the machine is much better than snores and snorts and jolts.
I want to get the benefits of good sleep. Sleep apnea, stress, lack of exercise, too much screen time, intake of certain foods or drinks, and environmental and health issues can interfere with sleep. I hope to do what I can to sleep well and let my body and brain enjoy the benefits. Am I willing to work on ways to improve the possibilites of sleeping well?
Contemplating rest, I thought about how we use the word "rest" for another meaning. The rest of the story, the rest of the song, the rest of the pie. I painted the rest of this lemon pie a long time ago. Just to note: For me the rest of the pie includes every last delicious crumb.
Consider "rest" and "the rest." We can stop eating, or singing, or reading, or listening; and rest. Then as we rest, we may think about when we might eat, sing, read, or hear, the rest. May I have the rest of the pie? I'm going to sing the rest of the song. Please read the rest of the story. What, exactly, is "the rest?" If only one piece of pie were eaten, the remaining part would still be the rest. So, I conclude that "the rest" doesn't seem to be about quantity. It seems to be more about timing or where one pauses and then proceeds with the rest. I would like to consider that our rest is also about quality and not quantity. We can savor some delicious rest.
I caught this picture a few years ago while traveling to Europe with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson for a big family reunion. I wanted to paint it and include it in my study on "rest." Traveling across time zones with a one-year-old made for little rest for them. With delays and a tight itinerary, we missed our flight from London to Geneva, so thankfully the airline let us go to a lounge in the airport, where it was quieter and more comfortable, for a few hours to wait. We were able to catch a few zzzz's, which helped. Arriving at our destination, renting a car, getting to our cousin's house, and waiting for a reasonable time to go to bed, we pushed through until we could finally have horizontal rest. I think of moments when my body just has to rest. When I concede and relax I feel my body's response of thank you, thank you, thank you.
Trees have gotten my attention as I contemplate rest. In New England the hours of sunlight decrease as we get closer to winter. The chemical processes in the trees' leaves using carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water slow down and stop. Cellular changes seal in the nutrients to prepare the tree for winter rest. The preparation is evident in the leaves changing color and falling off. I observe that trees can have different colors and timing to change and drop their leaves. Trees have a time of dormancy or rest in the winter. Tree roots continue to be active all year long. Humans benefit from the cycle the trees follow. For example, empty branches allow sunshine to go through during winter and the leaves return in time for when we want shade. Empty trees endure less stress from snow and high winds without their foliage.
What can I learn from trees? Maybe I would do well to shed some things to prepare for rest. My roots can stay active. I want my roots to go deeper into my relationship with God who seems to help me rest. It may not be possible to rest for an entire season, but perhaps a shorter time-- days, hours, or even minutes. Shed some stuff, rest some parts, then when the time comes, restart activities. It sounds good to me.
LeTtiNg iT gO BLoG
Linda T. Hurd.