Creating Rhythms of Rest

Marie Osborne

Marie Osborne
Updated Aug 08, 2023
Creating Rhythms of Rest

We were not built to go non-stop. We were designed to have purpose, to work, but also, to have rhythms of rest.

Looking at my schedule for the coming months, a wave of tension came over my body. I could feel my shoulders tighten, my pulse quicken, my heart rate climb, my stomach turn. With school starting, sports starting, play rehearsal starting, Bible study starting, life group starting, it was all piling up. Plus, my husband is traveling for work, my children all have birthdays, and there are several family trips planned. How on earth am I going to do it all? How am I going to keep going through it all? How will I ever find time to breathe, time to recover, time to rest?

Busier Than We Were Created to Be

This isn’t the way we were built to live. Our God rested on the seventh day. He set aside a day of sabbath. He showed us the need to slow down and be refreshed through prayer and solitude when He walked on this earth. We were not built to go non-stop. We were designed to have purpose, to work, but also, to have rhythms of rest.

I woke up extra early this morning. I took the dog out for his walk an hour earlier than usual, trying to beat the heat. I felt incredibly accomplished coming home before anyone else was up. I had already walked three miles and had breakfast before my husband and kids came into the kitchen to start their day. I sat down and looked at my schedule again, beginning to feel a little more optimistic. Maybe I can find room to breathe? Maybe I can wake up earlier, carve out time here and there in the midst of my over-full calendar?

Busyness Is Contagious

The kids asked about our plans for the day, and I began to list the tasks we need to tackle, the errands I need to run, the chores they need to do, all the items that need to get checked off our list. I felt the mood in the room shift. Everyone was tense and stressed. None of us have room to breathe. We are all choking on the over-commitment, the overextension, the overwhelm of all that is coming up, coming at us, coming for us.

We Don’t Have to Be This Busy

I know there is a better way. I know my days don’t have to be driven by accomplishing as much as possible, doing as much as possible, pushing myself to the very edge. This happened last fall. I was so overwhelmed that I started having panic attacks in the middle of the night. I was exhausted, physically, mentally, and spiritually unwell. Looking at my family’s faces, the memory of that season flooded back. I don’t want to repeat those months of burnout. I don’t want to find myself sobbing and shaking in the middle of the night because I’m doing far too much during the day.

I take a deep breath and reassess. I need to shift my focus from productivity to peace. “Give me a minute, guys. I need to change my plans” I pick up my calendar, my Bible, and my to-do list, and I retreat to my room. I start by praying, asking the Lord for wisdom, for humility, for a new heart, and new eyes: "Lord, set me free from the idol of accomplishment and productivity. Help me to find my worth and identity in You rather than how much I do. Show me what You would have for me, and prompt me to remove everything else."

Facing the Idol of Accomplishment

I start by looking through my to-do list and begin crossing things out that don’t really need to be done. Things that would be nice to do when I have more margin, but not today, not this week, maybe not even this month. Sometimes that means lowering my standards. Our downstairs closet will remain a mess. The trunk of my van isn’t going to get cleaned out and reorganized. The kitchen cabinets are going to have to stay cluttered and crazy for the time being.

I look closer at the to-do list and circle things that can be done later. In a few days, or maybe next week. Pulling my tomato plants out of the garden and preparing them for the fall can wait. The dog can get groomed in a couple of weeks. I can go through the kids’ clothes later this month.

Then I look at the things I can do online instead of in person. Shopping for school supplies. Picking out back-to-school outfits. Ordering gifts for family members. Grocery shopping for the week. I can crank these things out pretty quickly online without stressing myself or my family out needlessly.

Lastly, I decide the items on the list I can delegate to someone else. I can have my husband shop for school supplies and pick out school outfits with the kids online. I can ask my sister-in-law to pick up and drop off a few things for me at our kids’ school. I can have my kids manage their own school supply organization and clothing organization. It might not get done perfectly, but it will get done.

Facing the Idol of Busyness

There is hardly anything left on the to-do list once it’s only the most urgent items that only I can do. And even then, I write the initials of each of my family members next to as many tasks as I can. What can I have my son do? What can I have my daughters do? What can my husband take on? The list is MUCH smaller now.

Then I turn my attention to my calendar. I take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and ask God to reveal what I can cancel: "What can I remove from this overfull calendar, Lord? I want room to breathe, space to live with peace and joy, and trust in you, not in my own abilities or achievements. I want to delight in a slow, simple life with margin to serve and worship. Lord, help me to stop overfilling my days. Show me Your good boundaries."

I make a list of things to cancel, of people I need to call or email to let them know I don’t have the capacity in this season. I look closely and decide on one day this month I can block off completely. A day of absolute rest. I write "REST" in big block letters. I won’t schedule anything that day no matter what. I set aside our Sunday afternoons, after church, to accomplish nothing. I write “Be Present” in that space. 

Freedom to Rest

I sit back and look at my to-do list and my calendar. Our day doesn’t seem so full anymore. I don’t feel so rushed. I go back to the living room to rejoin my family. The kids look at me expectantly. “What do you guys want to do today? Turns out, all we have to do is clean the kitchen and pack for our weekend away. The rest of the day is open.” Everyone heaves a sigh of relief. They ask if they can spend time reading, drawing, maybe we can go to the beach? Sure. I turn on some worship music and peacefully clean the kitchen, knowing God’s wisdom and good boundaries have shown me how to live restfully.

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