A Call to Rest, Part 1

{So tired, he couldn’t even make it to the bed.}


I’m writing this on the heels of a 3-day practicum with some of my fellow homeschooling mamas. It’s always encouraging and energizing to learn and share and laugh with these other crazy, likeminded souls. We homeschoolers all tend a bit towards over-thinking and stressing about curriculum choices and a million other things.

But we’re really not different from the rest of the moms on the planet in that we simply fret. A lot. About our kids, our husbands, our laundry.

A couple of my friends talked honestly and openly with me about how they can’t just sit down and relax until the house is tidy and the laundry is caught up. They feel the need to have all their ducks in a row before they allow themselves any rest or creativity or fun.

Their husbands want them to relax. Their kids don’t care so much about the state of the house. Their own moms tell them to enjoy the fingerprints on the patio doors because one day they won’t be there. And they know their mamas are right…

But they just can’t seem to give themselves permission to rest. And honestly, I could relate to every word of their lament. Not all of us have Type A, perfectionistic tendencies. Some of us may feel inadequate because we don’t. But I think most of us as wives and moms and women struggle with inadequacy and guilt and control regarding what we do or don’t do, how we task or fail to task.

So what’s the deal? Why do we spin our wheels like crazy and make so many {unnecessary} demands of ourselves? Why can’t we relax, much less rest?

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these conversations and naturally, I have some thoughts on the matter. As is the case with everything I write, the thoughts are for me most of all.

If God doesn’t call us to a clean house or finished laundry, why do we obsess toward these ends? There are no scriptural laws about housekeeping, are there? {Please tell me there aren’t.}

For those living on this side of the cross, God has written his law on our hearts and given us his Spirit, but we override his Spirit-penned laws with our own laws and requirements. We tune out the Spirit with our endless toil. And in so doing, we neglect an important thing he does call us to: rest.

In her devotional book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes this:

Glorifying and enjoying Me {Jesus} is a higher priority than maintaining a tidy, structured life. Give up your striving to keep everything under control–an impossible task and a waste of precious energy.

We trade God-peace for visual peace. We attempt to find rest in clean-house righteousness instead of in Christ’s righteousness.

Believe me, Jesus does not judge you for dusty baseboards and popcorn kernels in your couch cushions. Why should you judge yourself?

In fact, when Jesus was given the choice between the hostess slaving away in the kitchen and getting everything just right {Martha} and the supposed slacker who simply “sat at the Lord’s feet” {Mary,} He affirmed the latter. “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.'” {Luke 10:29-32}

I would never claim to know more than Jesus but functionally, I live as if I do.

And believe me sisters, I do feel the tension. I can see and touch and bask in the loveliness of a “tidy and well-structured” existence. I am positively giddy over a clean kitchen and neatly-folded stacks of laundry. These are tangible things that make me feel better and in control of my environment.

But like Martha, I become consumed and “distracted by all the preparations.” Jesus calls me to rest at His feet.

I get that it’s unnatural to live by faith and not by sight. Faith feels vulnerable and dependent and scary, like driving a car without a steering wheel. To rest in someone else’s sufficiency instead of our own? That just seems plain weird, foolish even.

We love to quote Matthew 11:28-30, the verse about Jesus inviting those of us who are “weary and heavy-laden” to come to Him for rest, that He wants to take on our burdens.

But really, is Jesus going to actually show up and clean your house because you’re “resting in Him?” Is He going to physically do your work for you? Probably not. But it did happen to me one day about a month ago.

It was a grueling day among a string of grueling days. I was emotionally drained and spiritually clueless. I had nothing left. Nothing. It was 5:00 and I literally peeled my tantrumming 3-year-old from my front lawn, placed him in his bed, and shut the door. And then I flung myself across my own bed, crying and heaving and praying, “Jesus, I don’t know what resting in you looks like but this is my attempt. I’ve got nothing. This is me giving up. You’re going to have to take over.”

A friend was coming at 6:30 to take me to dinner and she was bringing a sitter with her. I desperately needed to get out and step away from my own mess. I was walking through a trial of real consequence and my crazy house just seemed to mirror that mess and chaos.

Though it was the end of May, I still had winter clothes in my kids’ drawers. The bins of summer-wear lined the hall and every size and season was strewn about the place. I mean, I really needed to get it together. But there I was, limp as a dishrag across the bed, unshowered and undone and unable to do much of anything.

My dishwasher was broken and stacks of dishes were teetering on dirty countertops and I still needed to get supper ready for the kids. At that moment, dishes and supper and showering and parenting felt like climbing Mt. Everest. And then the phone rang. “Maybe this will be good news,” I thought, “something supernatural and divine.” {Seriously, I was grasping for anything.}

It was the student loan people telling me I had not paid the right amount on that month’s bill and asking me for money. “Really God? This is how you answer me? Showing me I can’t even pay a bill right that is the same amount every. single. month?”

And then the phone rang again. Begrudgingly, I picked it up. It was my friend and neighbor, calling about something I can’t even remember. And then she asked me how I was doing. I blubbered and sputtered and probably sounded like a lunatic.

“I’m coming to wash your dishes,” she declared.

Five minutes later she was standing at my suds-filled sink, a bundle of energy, speaking Truth into my empty soul.

As she cleaned my kitchen and talked some God-sense into me, my heavy spirit lifted and I felt a bit of energy return. I cleaned myself up, put a frozen pizza in the oven, and spent the evening eating Mexican food and catching up with my dear friend {not to be confused with my dishwashing friend.} My kids had a ball with the babysitter and were safely tucked into bed when I returned.

And what had I done to accomplish all of that? Nothing. I simply received what was offered.

And because this particular friend loves to help in tangible ways, she convinced me to let her help me with a project I was just too tired to conquer. Three days later we put away the aforementioned winter clothes and I breathed a sigh of relief and thanksgiving.

So yeah, sometimes Jesus does show up and clean your house. He calls others to be His hands and feet and dishwashers.

I know that none of this changes the world. And it may all seem ridiculously inconsequential to you. But God, creator of the universe, is teaching me so much about rest and trust and broken appliances here in my own little corner of the world.

Here’s the thing. I could have just soldiered on alone. That’s what I normally do. But in giving up and falling backwards into His arms, He showed me that resting in Him is actually the most productive thing I can do.

I gave up. He came in. I received. Stuff got done. I found rest.

I could tell other stories of the ways in which He’s provided at just the right moment. But for every one of those there are countless moments far less dramatic. Moments when I rest and trust and call out to Him…but I still have to wash the dishes and take care of my children.

Sometimes He provides me with strength to complete the tasks I need to do. These days, He often shows me that rest and trust simply lead to acceptance.

Accepting imperfection in the form of toothpaste globs, smeary mirrors, dust bunnies, and dirty dishes.

Accepting that even though I function best in an environment of visual peace, God is teaching me how to experience His peace in the midst of chaos.

I don’t have a pat answer for my fellow friends who are tired of striving and aware of their perfectionistic ways, yet feel unable to be any other way. I can simply tell you what I know best and that’s my own story, what I’m learning on this unpredictable journey towards rest and imperfection and hard-fought surrender.

Hopefully we can glean from and encourage one another. And sometimes wash each other’s dishes.

My next post will pick up where this leaves off. It’s about yes and no and opportunity cost. Make sense? Probably not. Join me anyway?


  1. says

    Your next post? When?? I’m here, girl. I’m so here. Because your story touches my soul way down deep in the places that need touching. I’m not quite in the same stage of life as you, but our struggles are still very similar, I think.

    Thank God for neighbors who do dishes and friends who take us out to dinner and a God who asks us to trust him. . . and then shows us why we should.

    Love you!

  2. says

    Whenever one of your blog posts appears in my Reader I am always excited to see it. This one is certainly no exception. You are a gifted writer and once again, timely.

    Sister, I am so proud of you for accepting His gifts when he offers a friend to wash dishes, watch your children or stop to hear His voice. You could have isolated yourself and said “I can do it myself”, or whatever other words you were thinking. I have been on both sides of that equation when I needed to accept a gift or to be the giver and have been blessed by His caring for the little things, like dirty dishes.

    I continue to look for your postings, but more importantly continue to pray for you.
    in love,

  3. says

    Coming home from vacation smacks me back into reality. School next year? Homeschool curriculum? Looking for a house…..
    I have some of the same questions. Where God? When God?
    And then again…I am called to rest. I am called to wait. Read Isaiah 30:15
    I love you

  4. says

    Hey, I had a friend link to this on FaceBook, and I’m so glad I stopped to read it. Such sincere words ring true to me and every other tired momma. And it really is hard sometimes to ask God for peace instead of fighting for it in tangible things. Thanks for your words!

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