One of the lessons I have learnt more about from a broken shoulder is the importance of rest. I knew it was important and would talk about its importance but found with an injury, my body didn’t function without it. That’s probably always true but I am now more mindful of punctuating my day and week with rest so I use my energy in the wisest way possible. Not always practical but as I both age and recover I am much more aware of rhythms and patterns for flourishing.
This poem, Eighth Day by Sonja Rose, which I came across in Ewan Kelly’s excellent book Personhood and Presence, also resonates as I think about rest more broadly:
I declare today The eighth day of the week, Freed of oughts and shoulds and even musts, A holiday, a holy day, A gift without strings, A time-space to savour, To expand into rooms long neglected And linger there, Patiently, Watching for unknown buds to flower – Welcome them, Though they may startle With dark, Unexpected blooms.
I want a day like this, more than a day off, an intentional rest day to reflect more deeply. I wonder when it will get into my diary….
I love Facebook memories for the random things it throws up. I posted this in 2014 and don’t think I have blogged it. Sadly I didn’t give a reference for it but it is possibly from a book on writing…
Sometimes we need a place of refuge. A place to escape those who would do us harm. A place to rest from regular life with its constant tasks and full schedule and people needing us at every turn. Sometimes we need time away for a different look at the gifts and dangers in the life we’ve been given. Sometimes we need to travel unfamiliar paths without knowing where we’ll stop or who we’ll meet. Sometimes we flee to the next town or through a forest or across an ocean. Sometimes, God of the pilgrim, you send us on our way so that we may discover your way. Vinita Hampton Wright
This is the sofa in the summerhouse where we go on holiday – ironically where I was heading when I broke my shoulder! I have needed a place of refuge many times over the years and like this take on why we might need it.
For me a refuge can be a person as well as a place and having a safe somebody to explore with can be so valuable.
On our walk on Monday we kept waiting for the sun to break through to match the promised weather forecast! When it did it was beautiful! The picture doesn’t do justice to the beauty in real life.
There is a lot of writing and research on the benefits of gratitude. Looking for shafts of light is one way to frame this for me. In the past two years or so there have been plenty of times of darkness and listening to the news at the moment I am struggling to see the shafts of light although my mind keeps drifting back to Saturday’s football result which was a shafts of light for Spurs supporters after two poor games.
So where are the shafts of light for you at the moment? Beautiful early spring bulbs flowering are one if mine. Space to rest, read and walk this week is another. I need to be purposeful in looking for shafts of light, being grateful and experiencing joy even on those days when the search is particularly difficult.
In one way this seems to be a funny thing to post at the beginning of a new year when potentially we are energised and raring to go again after a good break!
However, we may also be weary and in need of a rest having had a busy or complex or challenging Christmas. Holidays are sometimes harder work than usual time.
This little glass ornament lives in the spare room of where we spend our holidays, it is a message I value hearing as I sometimes need permission to rest, largely from myself, particularly now I am my own boss and I have got much better at doing it!
I have always been good at having a rest day, a sabbath as without it I know I lose some of my energy and not recharging, restoring or re-creating leaves me weary and tiredness can lead to crabbiness!
What do you need to hear today? Have you got something like this or a card or a note or a reminder of words you need to hear?
For the past week or so I have had shingles and so have had to get used to a new approach to time management as fatigue, deeper than that in lock down, overcomes me. It has been good for me to rest, to feel liberated to rest and to dip into those bits of work that I can. I am grateful to my colleagues who have been willing to take on the bits of work that are time limited that I cannot do. Tortoise time is working for me at the moment and I need to accept and embrace that and not get impatient with what I can’t do but embrace what I can! A short blog with the energy I have got today!
I can only laugh when I look back at my daily plan for lockdown which I put together very early on in. Aspirational is a massive overstatement! I am doing a little tidying of the study weekly and one of the benefits of that is coming across books that I thought were really helpful at the time but didn’t quite give myself the time to bed down some of the ideas in it. One such book is Margin by Richard A Swenson.
His illustration of imagining a book with no margins was really helpful – how hard would that be to read. Occasionally I get a piece of student work with tiny margins and small font, challenging! I imagine perhaps (in the days of submitting on paper) they must not have much paper or ink left! He describes margin as the “space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion… Margin is the opposite of overload. If we are overloaded we have no margin. Most people are not quite sure when they pass from margin to overload. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances” (p69-70).
I once might have thought that endless working from home would give me more margin but that doesn’t seem to be the case on most days, I am more tired than usual and the cumulative impact of all the information about Covid, the uncertainty, the powerlessness and the frustration are often exhausting and online meetings are so much more draining than face to face ones! Swenson suggests there is a formula to work out margin – power – load = margin. I think for me what this season is doing is making me feel relatively powerless (although I realise I am still very privileged) as I cannot do or control much of what I might have been able to do in the past. I have arranged a cream tea to be delivered to Mum for her birthday next week but that is not nearly the same as taking her out for one. It is the little incremental losses like this that are making my margin disappear somehow. When our load is greater than our power we become overloaded which is a negative margin state.
So I am beginning to consider how I add some margin at the moment and that means letting go of the oughts that can constrain me and make me feel overloaded. Wiping off the daily plan that seemed so attractive early on in lockdown while making sure there is some structure to the week. I have guarded my day off so it isn’t like all the other days and that margin has always been vital to me in ministry. I still start the day with God and am dwelling on the Sunday readings over the week which I am appreciating. I am using the time to cook a little more and experiment with some new meals. These are little margins which stop me feeling overloaded but I know that there are days when overloaded and overwhelmed is my experience and I need to learn how to live healthily in this new world.
Richard A Swenson (2004) Margin. Revised edition. Colorado Springs: Nav Press.
As a new term starts I am thinking about energy and how I make the most of it and best use it. I have a body clock which means I am much better in the mornings and I am reasonably aware about what energises me and what drains me. While I cannot control everything there are some things I can choose to do or not do and one of the things we have worked hard on is a rhythm of breaks so there is more than one day free of ministry responsibilities. I posted this article on Facebook last week and it is what in part sparked this reflection. https://blog.dropbox.com/topics/work-culture/build-your-worklife-around-energy
The picture is from an illustrated book called living in community which is an accessible version of Jean Vanier’s classic book Community and Growth.
This was my Christmas day breakfast photo, wonderful Tiptree Christmas jam and I am always excited to see what is written in the lid. This is a time of rest, family and friends and it is the little things which often stand out and build memories for the future that can nurture and sustain. It can also be the little things which feel like the straw which breaks the camel’s back so which ever has been your experience this Christmas I hope you have some times to rest and recharge in whatever way works best for you.
Cormorants dive deep to find food so you often find them drying their wings which get waterlogged. I admire their elegance and this one caught my eye as it was on a lake in the Midlands, not by the coast. I am looking forward to having time to dry my wings this weekend, by which I mean recuperating from some of the challenges I have faced in daily life this week. This is a theme I return to often in this blog, the importance of a Sabbath, a rest, following the example of God who looked at creation and declared it good and rested. The idea of sitting gazing at water and birds like the cormorant is very appealing and hopefully water and birds will feature in my resting!