Monday, September 23, 2019

In Pursuit of Rest

It was miraculous: both of my children lay asleep in naptime. The entire house was still, and the silence burst forth joyously. Exhausted from several days of seemingly unending work, I stretched out in bed for a rare nap. My eyes closed.

A dam burst open and anxieties flooded in: events and worries that were beyond my control and work that needed to be done. I laid there and prayed, trying to relax my body and rest my mind. All of this was to no avail; I could not sleep. As I drug myself out of  bed and back to work, it occurred to me that I hadn't even achieved any real rest. While I got some good prayer time in, my body wasn't rejuvenated, and neither was my mind.

When we are weary, when we are exhausted, and when we are just so done with today, we need to throw ourselves in the arms of Christ. When we're not tired, drained, and worn-out, we still need to fall into God's embrace. Cultivating a life of prayer and deep intimacy with God is vital (does anyone else have Matt 11:28-30 on repeat in their heart some days?)

I need to care for myself spiritually, but I also need to care for myself physically. That fateful afternoon, as I lay on the bed racked with worry and exhaustion, I realized that I had reached a breaking point. While I got good, regular prayer time in, I was failing to care for my physical needs, particularly my need for rest.

It's hard to achieve good rest, isn't it? All day, every day, diapers need to be changed, food needs to be made, children need to be cared for. Motherhood can be downright overwhelming. I make sure to schedule in time to participate in relaxing activities. I read a ridiculous amount of books, I write, I bake "for fun," and I twirl around in the grass outside. Yet, I gradually began to see that even if I set aside time "for relaxation," my mind would often drift to the long list of things I needed to do later that day, that week, or that month. After my chosen activity, I would jump back into the grind of work until the kids were in bed for the night and I collapsed with exhaustion.

One day, I realized something quite Earth-shattering: The world will keep going on, even if I didn't accomplish everything on my "to do" list. Life will happily continue on even if I don't "do all the things." Most importantly, I am not the one who is in control, God is. 

I don't listen to podcasts much, but I happened to stumble across an episode of The Catholic Feminist podcast that was about sleep. Something in the discussion resonated with me, particularly regarding my recent revelation: God will keep watch and care for us as we sleep. Not only that, but denying ourselves sleep can be an act of pride.

As I pondered all of this, I began to see that I need rest. I need rest that isn't merely a collapse from exhaustion, and I need rest that isn't just an escape into a book as I hide in the corner of the kitchen and frantically see how much I can read before my kids find me. I need actual rest that restores and refreshes me, body and soul, mind and heart. 

In the past several weeks, I've made a couple of small changes that have been really helpful. I'm experiencing a lot more peace and some decent rest. These different things will change over time as I enter into various seasons and phases of life, but right now, here's what is working for me: 

An hour before bedtime, my electronics are put away. My phone goes in my closet, so that I won't be tempted to check or respond to messages. My laptop is turned off and stowed away. If my husband wants to watch a movie or play a video game with me, I'll happily participate; I don't want to mess with his routine or with the activities that we want to do together. However, my devices go away. I have been astonished to see just how liberating and restorative this has been for me! On the nights when I've abandoned this discipline and have used my screens and devices later than usual, I have noticed that I am much less relaxed, and it's harder for me to get good rest. 

On weekdays, I'm keeping a regular schedule for bedtime and waking up. I should start off by mentioning that this is only possible because both kids sleep through the night, so unless someone is sick or the baby has a bad diaper and wakes up screaming, I can get uninterrupted sleep. This is a huge gift that I realize a lot of parents don't have, and I know that this will not last forever. I've found that since I can count on getting a solid chunk of sleep each night, it's easy to become lackadaisical about getting a proper bedtime. I've been finding, though, that it has been hugely helpful to discipline myself to getting to bed at/around a specific time each night. Not only is this helping me get good rest (because I'm going to bed at a regularish time, and not because "I'm insanely exhausted because it's so late"), but it's helping me wake up at a specific time. I've found that for me, it's extremely important to be awake before my kids. I am much more at peace if I am awake and have quiet time to pray (and maybe even to squeeze in a little time for projects or reading) before the chaos that comes with children in the morning. 

I'm taking magnesium supplements. Shortly after that fateful summer afternoon, I spoke with a relative of ours who happened to bring up the benefits of magnesium. As we chatted, and as I later researched it on my own, I began to think about how I try to care for myself when I'm pregnant. At the directive of my care provider, during both of my pregnancies, I have supplemented with magnesium-and I've continued this after the birth. In the case of both my kids, I have stopped supplementing with magnesium not because I "needed" to stop, but simply because my supply ran out, and I was too lazy/cheap to get more. I've realized that I shouldn't take good care of myself only when I'm pregnant and have a little baby swimming inside of me. Instead, I should always be taking good care of myself. I need to care for my health so I can love and take care of my family, but also because I-as a woman made in the image and likeness of God-deserve it. So, I've started taking magnesium again, and I do think this has been positively impacting me. 

My "to do" list has shrunk. I love seeing how many things I can accomplish. However, I've been finding that this desire to gratify my pride should not control my life or health. So, I make sure that I do not obsessively fill my "to do" list, and I'm also make a conscious effort to not check my "to do" list as often as I used to. Instead of consulting and adding to it several times a day, I'm now checking it a couple times throughout the day, if that. Not being tethered to my planner has been incredibly freeing! 

These may seem like small things, but it's been really neat to see how these minute changes have been benefiting my life. I still need to get into a good habit of exercise, and I need to lessen my intake of sugar, but I'm trying not to worry about that. I'll get there eventually. For now, little step by little step, I'm just going to keep chugging along as I seek to pursue the ever-elusive rest that I need. 


  1. Really loved this post, so many parts resonated with me! Reading this makes me want to make some changes too, in order to put rest as more of a priority.

    1. Thank you so much, Elisabeth! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this, and you lovely comments brightened my day :) I hope you are able to make some positive changes as well so you can get the rest that you need!

  2. Just wanted to add - I love the way you write, AnneMarie! and the topics you write about are always thought-provoking. XO!

  3. Good points, AnneMarie! Several weeks ago I have the most productive weekend ever, felt amazing, and realized WOW, this is what happens when I get enough sleep. Duh, self. I am just terrible about prioritizing that, but it makes such a difference. Putting away electronics is huge, and I need to do that earlier in the evening for sure. One step at a time, I am going to work on this too! Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. This is so timely, AnneMarie. I guess the struggles that moms of young kids face are similar, so you often write about topics that are relevant to me.
    Anyway, I struggle with getting enough rest. I'm often tired. In the last couple of weeks I've felt very convicted that I'm not taking good care of myself. I need more sleep, I need to eat better (I often do this on the run and I'm eating leftovers off of my kids' plates instead of sitting down and savoring a meal), I'm not getting enough exercise, and I'm not really doing anything relaxing (my "free time" is usually spent working on my blog, so it's not really relaxing). I totally get what you are saying here!
    Thanks for the tips and for being "real" with us!

    1. I'm so glad this was helpful for you, Shannon! Oh my, the struggle is real, isn't it? I think a big struggle for me, besides not exercising, is not savoring my food at lunch. So often, we're getting home from a walk or outing, and the boys are both getting cranky so I'm trying to hurriedly get them food and it can be a stressful situation that results in me just shoveling food down my mouth before I get them off to naptime! I'm trying to do better at consistently having easy lunches ready to pull out for everybody, so that we can all eat and relax at the same time. Who knows if that will happen, but I guess I can try. I hope that you are able to figure out what you can do to get the rest/relaxation that you need!

      Ironically, less than a week after I wrote and published this post, there was one night where my baby only slept for a couple of hours. As he cried on my chest that night, I wanted to forget everything I had written about and dive into electronics and/or try to get things done, since I wasn't sleeping anyway. Thankfully, I was able to follow my resolutions, and even though I had to handle the kids the next day on only a few hours of sleep (and was exhausted), I felt somewhat rested. It was really interesting! I'm guessing that I probably would have been more sluggish if I had opted to do a midnight marathon of a show or a 2 a.m. blogging session ;)