Once upon a time I looked at the empty picnic tables at interstate rest areas and wondered Who uses those? I never saw them in use and our stops were always quick and utilitarian.
Then J and I had kids.
Each of our three children was less than a year before we carted them off on their first thousand-mile-one-way road trip. With the combination of little ones and that kind of mileage, I learned to see rest areas with new eyes.
Beyond the continual requests for potty breaks, our kids needed to move, to get the wiggles out. At rest areas they ran. Down the sidewalks. Over the grass. On the playground equipment.
Now they’re growing up. They’re happy to read or sleep in the car. But they’re still willing to stop and wander through a rest area.
Some rest areas are efficient affairs, with straight sidewalks, grey cement picnic pads, and a pet exercise area off to one side. Others are wooded, wound about with sun-dappled paths that curve through the trees. It’s here where we’ll stroll down a shady sidewalk for a much-needed stretch when we find ourselves somewhere between where we’ve been and where we want to be.
Sometimes we want to be home, to sleep in our own beds, to return to the rhythm of the familiar. Other times we want to get on with the adventure, to arrive somewhere magnificent, to be done with the long drive already. Whether the destination is mundane or momentous, we still need to rest.
Because the kids are beyond the stage of potty-breaks and wiggles, it’s easy to forget that we all still need a break from the car. Because they’re growing up, we’re continually finding ourselves somewhere between where we’ve been and where we want to be. And because none of them are in the single digits anymore, it’s easy to ignore the fact that every one of us still needs occasional respite from life’s road.
Without regular naps or early bedtimes to anchor the rhythms of life, we got a little lazy. Not lazy as in all we lounged around and eat bonbons, but lazy as in we ceased to pay attention, quit tending to important things. We ignored the reality that we all need pauses, pauses that allow for more than minimal sleep and sustenance. We need the kind that makes space for conversation and connection, for worship, for the strengthening of the body, refreshment of the soul, and reorganization of the heart and the mind.
Stopping isn’t natural for me. It’s something I’m learning because I believe in the importance of the things that don’t happen when the hustle of life outstrips the pace of the heart. And it’s the heart–and those things near to it–that suffer first when I forget about rest.
Outdoors, I notice sunny spots and inviting paths that remind me to remember what’s important and to pause, to stop if necessary. I’m learning to look for those same places within the moments that make up my days and the days that make up my life, because it’s there I most need the reminder to pause, to stop if that is what’s called for, to embrace and be fully present in those moments–whether it’s the night’s rest or the morning’s breakfast, worship or conversation.
Sunny spots and inviting paths are less obvious in the moments and days of life than they are outdoors. Sometimes they come disguised as Will you play a game with me? from a little one or an unconvincing Okay to the standard How are you today? asked of a friend. Other times they appear as a sick child or post-operative parent. And still others it’s a weary look in my child’s eyes or the nagging fatigue in my soul.
Even short pauses don’t always come easily. In fact, they sometimes come at a cost. Sometimes they cost me my time. Other times they cost me pride.
Rest areas remind of my mortality, that–no matter how my life and lists tempt me to believe otherwise–I’m not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. I am human, limited and fallible, in need of grace and mercy, and grateful that, in rest, I learn to receive.
And you? What reminds you that you need to rest?
Something to think about: Shelly Miller is a writer who encourages me to remember the importance of rest, specifically Sabbath rest. She writes this: …Sabbath isn’t about resting so I can be more productive. It isn’t about me at all. And this: Sabbath is a weekly inward commute from a loud world to a still small voice; a rhythm of familiar conversation in a language that speaks deeply of belonging. It is a reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around me.
The sad reality is that I so much like things to be about me. But slowly, slowly, I am learning about the connections between rest and God’s grace and mercy and that it isn’t about what I bring to the table at all. If you’d like to read more of what she has to say, click on over here or on the link above.
Sharing Because Sometimes We Forget at Small Wonders.
“…we still need to rest.” Yes! I need this reminder often, because, yes, sometimes we do forget. Rest can take different forms in different seasons, but its necessity never goes away. Thanks for giving me permission today to rest a little more, Natalie. 🙂
Oh – yes! This: “Sabbath is a weekly inward commute from a loud world to a still small voice” – that is it! Sometimes, really often – not just a loud world – but the loudness of my world.
The noise of our own lives is a little difficult to get away from sometimes, isn’t it? Difficult, but worth it.
A rest stop with a playground sounds amazing! I’ve never seen one. I realized Sunday I felt like I was always working, so I’m trying to slow down this week – make more room for rest. Thank you for linking!
Creating room for rest is hard but necessary work. I hope carving out some moments goes well for you.
A wonderful reminder Natalie! Even in retirement it is the busy, busy mind that keeps me from resting. It is the slowing down and looking around at moments when the mind is most busy, scattered, fretting, etc. that gives God the opening to remind you He wanted better for you. That 30 second prayer, Thank you Lord for who you are, what you promised, the the love and grace that’s mine to have and share–You are amazing! Suddenly the peace returns and my heart has a moment to rest in His grace. Retirement isn’t for sissies–with more time for reflection on aging, how you spent your life, what’s next–rest still has to be purposefully chosen and no matter what stage of life, resting in the arms of the Lord offers the joy and peace that truly is rest. Thanks Natalie!
Beautiful reflections on rest and walking in truth in every season, Joy. Thank you for sharing. It’s tempting to think that things will be better later, easier maybe. Truth is,they are often just different. The spiritual muscles we build along the way come into play in the next season, don’t they?
<3 this 🙂