Friday, December 15, 2017

Advent 2017 #15: When Rest Isn't Optional And Christmas Has to Wait

Yesterday, I prayed my usual prayer-before-writing-a-blog-post. "What should I write about today, Lord?" 

It might not have been the voice of the Lord, but immediately a topic popped into my head. "You could write about not being well because you won't obey." 

Ouch. That hurt, mainly because it was true.

When Sam's wife died, I became his sole caregiver. Sam was at my house almost constantly. I carried him shopping every week. I cooked all his meals. I worked full-time. I wrote full-time. I slept less and less as time went on.

We moved Sam into my house at the end of July, and I was already tired. Suddenly, those long days became long days and nights. Fatigue became exhaustion. I pressed on. 

Sam went to the Hospice House for respite care the day before I left for the Middle East. It was a great trip in many ways, but I was exhausted from the start. The sign over my bed in Ajloun read, "Be still and know that I am God." I tried to heed the instruction, but I was way behind on being still. 

I came home almost as exhausted as I'd left, and was at Hospice House with Sam within a few hours of returning. For the next five days, I spent most of my time at his bedside. When he died, I was so tired I wasn't sure I could drive myself home.

The time since then has been a blur. Cremation. Memorial service. End-of-life finances and bill paying. Thanksgiving. Return to the office. Newsletters. Christmas cards. Christmas shopping. Speaking. Thank you notes. 

It's been nonstop. 

Somewhere in all that, I got sick. First, it was a sinus infection, then a hip strain from my elliptical, followed by early plantar fasciitis.

I felt terrible. Noting I did helped. I wanted to slow down, but I had a lot I wanted to do, too, so I refused to stop. Suddenly, I couldn't go one more step. A little dab of inadvertent gluten tipped the balance, and my green light turned red. 

I had to stop. Rest was no longer optional if I wanted to get well. I went to bed, stayed until I felt enough better to get going again, and headed out. It was a bad idea and it didn't take long to realize it. I needed to rest until I healed. 

At last, I made the change that was most needed. I slept until I awakened without an alarm, wrote until I was done, went to the office when my morning routine was completed. I stopped rushing. I worked a few hours on the most pressing tasks, then came home. I went to  bed when I was tired, even if it was early. 

Since so much of my work is done online, it's easy for me to clock some serious hours. I limited work to eight hours a day. I lowered my daily expectations to one completed task, rather than several. I said no a few times, and put the unused decorations back in the storage house. Christmas preparations could wait while my body healed. 

An amazing thing began to happen. I felt a little better, and saw slow but steady improvement.

I'm not well yet from all my minor ailments, but I will be because I've finally obeyed the instructions of my Maker. Rest. Honor the Sabbath. I've slowed down and heeded "Be still and know that I am God."

The rush of holiday shopping, decorating, and parties can quickly change fatigue into exhaustion. Our "it's only once a year" mindset can propel us down a path that robs us of joy and wonder. If we're not careful, we can work so hard to prepare the celebration than we don't enjoy any of it. 

Life is not an endless to-do list of drudgery. It's a journey to be enjoyed and savored, but neither enjoying not savoring can be done at break-neck speed. 

Today, let's pause long enough to assess our lives and our schedules. Where can we carve out 20 or 30 minutes to be still today? To what good thing can we say no in order to have God's best? How can we spend time with family or friends simply enjoying their company? What's most important? What's least?

If there was ever a time to know that He is God, it's Christmas. Let's make the change that's needed and be still so we can know. 

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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