Getting an Education in Rest & Recovery {aka When Exhaustion is a Bully}

A short while back I wrote about the “Bare Bones” and how they can set you free. For someone who has a long history of chronic multi-tasking, measuring my worth in accordance with accomplishment, and not really knowing the first thing about opportunity cost, embarking on a season of simplicity and rest was and is highly counterintuitive. 

I’m quite certain that the only way someone like me takes up the mantle of rest and minimalism is when it’s forced upon them. 

An older and wiser friend of mine is good to remind me of the Father’s “severe mercies.” Often we see our trials as a curse when they are, in fact, divine acts of sovereign love cloaked in grief, why me’s? and tears aplenty. 

I’m not particularly slow to learn but I am terribly slow to accept. Mercy, however severe, is always good. When I want to argue or shake my fist, I think of Christ and the cross, the severest and most violent of all mercies but oh, for what good!

Sometimes people tell me that they appreciate my transparency in this space where I write and share. But let me be perfectly truthful: I’m not really all that honest. I can’t be, nor do I really want to be. The story I live, day in and day out, it intersects with others’ stories and theirs are not mine to tell. Furthermore, I’m far more comfortable speaking in vagaries and allusions. The real guts of my life are known to a precious few and I like it that way.

All I can really tell you is that life has knocked me down in the last two years. Severely. Because I still look fine and normal on the outside, you may think I’m being dramatic. I can still smile and make small-talk and go through the motions {most days}. But don’t let my superficiality fool you…there has been a whole lot of crazy.

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve been tossed into the fiery kiln in order to be completely melted down and remade. I hope that beauty will shine in the end but in the meantime, the remaking hurts. It is nothing but surrender. 

It has also worn me slap out. Which is really the point of this post. Suffering, emotional upheaval, cumulative stress–it will take its toll on your spirit and your body. Sooner or later, you must reckon with it. 

In January, I named this year the Year of Simplicity. It was to be a time of rest and it has been. Sort of. At the very least, it has been a time of beginning to learn how to rest and accepting that I have to. It’s why I sent my kids to school and why I haven’t said “yes” to a single thing. I’ll probably be saying “no” for quite a while yet. 

For the first time since I became I parent, I’m not a working mother or a homeschool mom. I’ve never been “just” a wife, mom, and homemaker until now. 

I actually have time

And do you know what I do with it? Not much. “Not much” is relative of course. The daily minimum still includes packing lunches, procuring food, washing clothes, fixing meals, loading and unloading dishes, cleaning up, supervising homework, wiping tears {theirs and mine}, cleaning up some more, reading aloud, chauffering, and attempting to keep a family organized-ish. 

But because I have chunks of time for myself at least several days a week, I feel guilty for my lack of accomplishment. Everywhere we look, we can find those who do more. One of my favorite Pinterest signs is this one:

Maybe this is the answer.  : )
{source unknown}

Amen. Maybe the over-achievers should start hiring themselves out to the rest of us. 

In my saner moments, I know it’s ridiculous to think that I should have a cleaner house or a freezer full of meals or a finished book. But my sane moments are few and far between. 

I have allowed myself to be brainwashed by the world of martyr moms {or so they seem}. Therefore, rest feels like I’m disobeying my culture; admitting that I actually rest feels like treachery.

Self-care may look a bit different for each of us but when it’s really a necessary and life-saving endeavor, maybe we should think of it as stewardship instead of selfishness. 

I love this quote I read recently by Parker Palmer:

By surviving passages of doubt and depression on the vocational journey I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act–it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.* {emphasis mine}

I’m still surviving this “passage.” Recovery takes time. Or so my “healers” tell me. I have a doctor, a counselor, a loving family, a dear church, and a couple of godly and wise friends who function as counselors, truth-tellers, and cheerleaders. They also babysit my kids and give me a glass of wine when I need it. 

Though there are many days when my body can do little but rest, my belligerent mind still berates my lazy bones and mixes up a pot of guilt stew for good measure. 

On those days I remind myself that rest is actually faithfulness of a different sort. It’s trusting the Father’s faithfulness to do that which I cannot. And it allows me to be faithful {increasingly so in due time} to those who need me. 

My education on rest is still at such a remedial level. I’m not really one to give advice but I’m going to anyway. 

If you’re hanging by a thread, if you’re margin is in the negative, if you’re so exhausted and frazzled you can hardly see straight…

Don’t look at others and determine how you measure up. Look at yourself and determine how you’re holding up.       

Maybe you need to say no or pull back, resign or rethink. 

The world won’t stop spinning on its axis but you may stop spinning on yours. What may feel selfish at first could actually breathe more life into yourself, your home, and the world you influence.



  1. says

    Hi, there! Could you write a letter to “My Young Mom Self” and include everything you said in this post, please? My children will truly appreciate it . . . in due time.


  2. says

    Oh boy, God has been teaching me about rest too. In fact, I just shared my humbling story on the blog. It’s hard to do what seems so contrary to what everyone else is doing, but you have to walk out what God wants in each season-even when it’s hard, even if no one else is doing it.

  3. says

    We are studying Genesis in BSF this year and just today, before I read this all the way through (it’s been open on my browser for roughly 6 days), a lady spoke so eloquently of God resting on the Sabbath. So, even though we are ordained to work, even in Eden, we should also enjoy rest. Not feel guilty about it. This year is your Sabbath.

  4. says

    I’m tired and over-working myself. I need to consider these words and make some changes in my life. Thank you for sharing. I plan to read more on your blog. Also, I love so many of the books on your sidebar, we might be kindred spirits… :)


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