The Capacity to Rest

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Nicole T. Walters -Capacity to Rest3

The world outside the window fits the world inside me in this moment. What started as a light drizzle throughout the morning has become a downpour. Each week I enter this coffee shop while the stars still blanket the world, and I emerge after the sun has started to illuminate my table that acts as a writing desk for my weekly writing office hours. The sun should have emerged an hour ago, but the sky is grey and no light shines through. Folk music plays and the espresso machines whir; friendly chatter becomes the backdrop to my thoughts. Inside all is warm and dimly lit, creating an atmosphere of serenity. Outside the storm rages.

***

I’ve always prided myself on my strength. I come from a long line of strong women who worked hard, carried their families; women who did it all. I equated strength with quantity, with full and busy lives. So I followed suit. I launched myself into every endeavor with passion and gusto. When I travel, I seek to soak in every last moment, saying, “Who knows if I’ll ever be here again? I can sleep when it’s over.” I can do it all. I can have it all. That’s how I’ve lived for 35 years.

A decade ago my body started telling me that I couldn’t keep up the pace and the emotional strain of taking on everything with all of my being. My doctor finally named my chest pains and inability to catch my breath as what it was—anxiety.

Sometimes I have listened to my body, treated it well and found moments of relief; other times I pushed myself to the limit and pushed through the pain. I’ve begged God for relief. I’ve taken medication, diffused oils, stretched through downward dog and pushed my muscles to the limit in the gym. I’ve soaked in suds, played with my kids, escaped into books.

But I never stopped believing I could do all the things. I pretended I was slowing down when I turned down certain commitments. But I replaced those with new ones. I couldn’t let go of the addiction of activity, the rush of busyness. I said I wanted stillness but I didn’t really. When left alone with my thoughts, I was forced to face the realities I didn’t want to. Introspection became the thing I avoided with all of my doing.

***

I watch the gutters gush forth a full load, puddles spilling over like a tiny river that feet splash through on their way to the car. My heart fills like the gutters these days; it’s at capacity, overflowing. Sometimes it is with excitement at all the ways God is moving me, allowing me to be part of such beautiful work of transformation and redemption. Other times the load is too heavy and the weight too much to bear. This week felt like that. I reached my limits and exhaustion brought me low with a meltdown of tears and the need to just sleep and sleep.

In my heart I’ve known for years that I need stillness, and not just moments of no activity. Not brief glimpses of white space in a calendar with overlapping activities. Sabbath.

I soak in words about stillness and rest, make lofty goals to establish rhythms and seek out contemplation and silence. But I can’t grasp onto real rest with a heart still hanging onto works like an addict craving her drug. Activity isn’t the enemy. I know we’re called to good works and life won’t stop. There will always be more to do. The problem is I define myself by my activity; I’m afraid to be still. 

When perspective becomes slanted and days are disoriented; when emotions are out of sorts and your heart feels heavy, rhythms reorient toward what matters most amidst the noise of life,” I read in Shelly Miller’s challenging and soul-feeding words on Sabbath.

I see myself in every page, believing my need to find real rhythms of rest, knowing I can’t live at capacity for long without melting down. I am learning how God made rest holy for a reason, how Jesus broke the rules that bound Sabbath, but honored the quiet place where the Father could be found and His soul could be restored.

I wish I could tie my story up with a bow and say how resting in God’s presence has restored me. Maybe I can one day. Today I am on a journey towards it, seeking unforced rhythms. I am taking baby steps towards quieting my soul and finding the kind of rest that allows a free and light life.

I am trying to leave those dishes in the sink while I lie in the hammock with the kids. As deadlines summon me and my heart quickens at thoughts of all I have left to do in the day, I call out, “Jesus, help me” when no other words will come. I set my alarm for 5am and try again to rise to the quiet morning, the early moments of Sabbath each day.

I dig deep and ask for compassion for myself, the ability to give myself permission to rest. My soul settles a little as I grab tight to my thin sweater, knowing it won’t protect me much from the downpour I am about to run into. I am seeking shelter in my capacity to rest, looking for the places inside where I can find serenity, while the storm rages around me.

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Nicole T Walters
I am a wife, working mom, and writer from metro Atlanta who loves to experience the messy, noisy, beautiful world and cultures not my own. A proud member of the Redbud Writer's Guild, I write about finding God’s voice in all the noise, faith, and culture at A Voice in the Noise.
Nicole T Walters
Nicole T Walters

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Nicole T Walters
  • Helen

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for these words. Just what a weary soul needed to hear.

  • Oh Nicole, tears are welling up as I read this. I resonate
    so much with what you are saying. I too have had chest pain for the past six
    months and these words: “I soak in words about stillness and rest, make lofty
    goals to establish rhythms and seek out contemplation and silence. But I can’t
    grasp onto real rest with a heart still hanging onto works like an addict
    craving her drug.” Oh my! That speaks right into my heart. Shelly Miller is
    actually coming to speak to us in a few weeks about her book and I am so
    excited as I find myself so hungry for those rhythms which reorient to what
    matters, those unforced rhythms of grace. I love the clarity with which you
    write out your story while you are still in-the-midst-of. AndI love that image
    of you in the hammock with your kids – I will hold that image in mind as I pray
    for you today. Thank you so much for your words of balm today xo

    • I am so very happy that it resonated with you. You know, you wonder if you are the only one who feels something. Nothing i love more than those “me too” moments when we realize how very universal our fears and failings are and how very needed His grace is for us all. I am jealous you will get to meet Shelly. I hang on her words and the Sabbath Society is so life giving. Praying for you today as well!!

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  • Sipping my hot tea this morning, I’m hearing ice particles clinking against the windows, and I’m thankful for this forced cessation of activity. Like you, I need to build this kind of oasis into my ordinary days instead of waiting for God to intervene with heavy weather. My prayers are with you and your family in these days of busy transition.

    • Your prayers are felt! It is a busy time and I know there will be ups and downs but being so covered in prayer is what is getting us through it, I know! Thank you so much, sister!

  • Helene Burns

    The visual that you painted for me with these words is so powerful for me…’I watch the gutters gush forth a full load, puddles spilling over like a tiny river that feet splash through on their way to the car. My heart fills like the gutters these days; it’s at capacity, overflowing.’ I will try to remember this as find myself pressing too hard and not resting enough. Perfect… thanks Nicole. xo

  • Melissa Henderson

    Rest….. there are times when rest seems so far away. Thank you for today’s message. Yes, I am seeking shelter and rest with God. He is my comfort and peace. 🙂

    • I am definitely guilty of always thinking, “if I can just get this last thing done, then I can rest.” There are never a lack of things left to accomplish. Such peace in letting it all go and trusting He will renew us! Thank you for the encouragement, Melissa!

  • Julie Ann Dibble

    May He bless you as you seek Him in this season, Nicole. Thank you for your honest account of fooling yourself. These words are hanging above me as I need to write my next blog post on recent revelations.

    • I can’t wait to hear it. Please do share it! It is so hard to find rest in today’s culture, to believe that sometimes it is the most productive thing we can actually do!

  • Amy Hunt

    Me, too. All of this. Every single bit!

  • Mary Gemmill

    I found this post gave me words to describe my own struggles.
    I follow Shelly Miller’s Sabbath Society too, and have just finished Rhythms of Rest, but your words here were very helpful indeed and just what I needed today.
    Thank you! God Bless you. Have subscribed to your blog 🙂

    • Peace and grace, Mary! I am thankful we were able to connect in this space. I look forward to journeying together!

  • Leah Abraham

    Oh beautiful Nicole. This confession/offering is beautiful and so necessary. thank you for your honesty and wisdom. You always point us back North.

    • xoxoxo thank you for your encouragement and prayers. They keep me going!

  • After 6 years working with vulnerable people overseas, next month we are resigning. I have toughed it out and kept toughing it out through some really tough things, and I have made myself sick. I go back with health issues, anxiety, and exhaustion. We are taking a season to rest and to focus on peace and joy. This feels indulgent, and I recognize my privilege in being able to take time off to heal. Your words speak to deeply to me on this day. Thank you.

    • Oh sister, your words are a gift! I would love to talk to you more. I took a quick look at your blog and will be reading more. I lived very near where it sounds like you live (10 years ago for me). And we are in transition right now to South Asia. I’d love to hear from you – nicole@nicoletwalters.com

  • Stephanie Thompson

    Nicole, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts! Your reflection resonates with me so much. I want stillness but I feel guilty if opportunity arises. I define myself by my activity. I follow Shelly Miller also because I love her exhortation to embrace Sabbath and yet, I choose not to make it a priority. Thanks for the reminder to start taking baby steps toward rest in my Creator; who is waiting on me with anticipation.