When I had three children, 2 more miscarriages, and then Joy just shy of 42, I found myself almost constantly in a state of exhaustion. She was my third child who had nocturnal asthma, and I was up with her most nights as she gasped for breath and I was full into homeschooling my older children, and having a ministry, and busy, busy, busy all the time. I suddenly came to a point where I was gaining weight, trying to avoid depression and burn out and didn't know exactly how to get off the merry-go-round. When I went to a doctor, he said, "You can kill yourself of die early if you want to, or go downhill in your health continually, but if you don't figure out how to get some rest, you will surely have consequences in your life. You have got to manage your own life, stress, rest and health--no one else will do that for you. If you don't you are headed toward serious consequences."
It was a wake-up call for me. I could see that often I was short with my children and impatient with Clay and stress eating and fighting feelings of depression. It was not how I wanted to live. God got a hold of my heart and I began to look at scripture and come up with a plan. I realized that I needed to take hold of my life and make a plan.
God made our bodies to need sleep every night--our health depends on it. We cannot think without proper sleep. It creates problems with cortisol and adrenalin and increases the tendency to gain weight and can be one of the sources of depression. Here and here are articles concerning sleep deprivation and its results on the body.
I began to realize that I needed to be a steward of my body. If I was the key to my family's happiness and feeling of well being, then I needed to stay healthy, have a sense of balance in my life to be able to pass it on to them.
As I looked at scripture, I found plenty of places that encouraged me to re-look at my life.
"it is vain for you to rise up early or to retire late,
to eat the bread of painful labors.
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Psalm 127: 2
I began to ask myself the question, what things am I doing that are vain--creating too much work and stress and "painful labor" that I can eliminate? Which activities are really not necessary or beneficial and drain our whole family and especially me! How can I eliminate some of the "hurry up and get in the car so we won't be late," times that really added stress to all of us.
I began to realize that God had not given me more to do than I could do, so I needed to rest within the limitations of my season of life at that time. I began to say no to the expectations of other people that stole my energy and attention, but did not build my core priorities. (stealers of time like phone calls, emails, activities that robbed us from peace in our home, too much time with other people and not as much time of quietness in my home. I had to change my expectations from all the voices in my head that told me what I should do to what was my desire and what was best for me and for my children.
"By the seventh day, God completed His work which He had done and He rested on the 7th day from all His work." Genesis 2:2
I recognized that God valued and modeled rest to us, and that I needed to begin putting it into my mind as a grid from which I viewed life--that rest was strategic and necessary. I had to look for ways to simplify life, to rest, to put aside my own work--not as an option but as a command.
"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8
God instituted these mandates because they would bring health and well-being to our lives.
Not only did we establish our own Sabbath rest day and applied the spirit of sabbath to our own personalities and needs, but I instituted rest in the midst of every day at home.
Sunday, Sabbath Rest
On Sundays, we put away the work of the house or Monday-Friday tasks. We established an afternoon tea time--I would make something wonderful on Saturday or buy something of a snack. Around 3, on Sunday afternoon, after I had taken a nap or everyone had had a chance to rest or play outside, we would have a cup of tea and delectable snack and read grand story or picture books, or Clay and I would just sit and talk to the kids or go for a walk as a family in the mountains or watch a fun afternoon movie or just rest and play. We still do this every Sunday we are home. It became a beloved tradition of all of us that my far away children still love to come home to--it was an anchor of time we all looked forward to spend together in peace and fun each week.
The work was always there on Monday, but our goal was to give ourselves and family a time to stop, to enjoy the fellowship of church, and then to play and have fun and put aside the duties of the week.
I established a rest time every day in my home. Everyone would go to their rooms or places around 2 and have an hour quiet time--I piled baskets of books and magazines in their rooms, they could take a little snack and all would read or nap during that hour. I would usually manage a cup of tea and 30 minutes or so by myself--when you establish this early, and everyone does it, it becomes a habit and all cooperate. Especially when you have several children and the younger ones tend to do what the whole group does.
This became a parenthesis in my day--a breath away--a time to sit just for a few minutes to regroup and to rest my mind, my emotions, my body. Of course no family is perfect and there are always exceptions and interruptions, but it was a goal, a discipline and it created space in my day and made my children into readers.
There are seasons when a mom does not get as much sleep--when she has babies, when there is illness. But in these times, a mom should just understand that these seasons are common and they should adjust their expectations and body to the limitations of this season. Have simpler meals--fruit, bread, cheese, popcorn, raw veggies, salads, simple sandwiches, make life as simple as possible during times of stress--plan your life so as to make your work load easier--eat off of paper plates if it helps. A mother's strength is essential to the well-being of her whole family.