Wrestling with Rest (Weeks 3 – 5)

The third week of July was a travel week. We stayed a few nights at Kenisee Grand River Campground to take a break from driving and enjoy a few more days on the road. It was a very large campsite and much quieter than we expected. The boys spent hours swimming in lakes, while Andrew and I read and relaxed.

Several people were excitedly interested in the skoolie and had lots of questions. The campground owner even stopped by to invite himself through for a tour and then sent a family member to come check it out as well! On the last day, our dogs figured out how to open the unlocked door of the bus and terrorized some nearby dog walkers. Thankfully, the people were good with dogs and helped us get them all under control so we could walk our dogs back to the bus and lock the door. Most everyone was ready to be home at this point, as we all had friends and plans to pursue upon arriving back home after being gone longer than we’d been gone in years.   Andrew and I got things ready to pull away while the boys were still sleeping in their bunks, so they were able to sleep for the first couple hours – a great perk of the bus!

Through correspondence, I was already making plans to connect with people upon my return. I began using a pattern I noticed in my grandmother’s life, one event per day is a sufficiently full schedule, sounded like a good Sabbath principle to try out. I had a block party to plan, work appointments awaiting, and friends to prioritize, and I didn’t want to sprint needlessly in a year that is supposed to be restful. Thursday, I connected with a friend to dig into block party preparations. I made another friend wait until Friday in observance of my new one event a day rule. I think she thought it a little odd, as she is used to us squeezing every second of life out of every day, but she was proud of me for slowing down. On Saturday and Sunday, I took a full weekend off and it felt like a little vacation in and of itself, as I am used to cramming one day of each weekend full to catch up at school and home and then forcing myself to rest the other day of each weekend.  I even hosted a skoolie open house and enjoyed preparing and relaxing with friends!

Upon returning home, I also decided I should follow up on a request for public records I had made surrounding a concerning jail expansion project proposed for Delaware County (the county in which we live). Apparently, my follow-up email stirred some things up, and I was now the topic of conversation amongst officials. Somehow, sending a couple of emails turned into a big project as my activism came to life. I felt the pressure beginning to mount.

I tried to begin a routine, part-time work schedule on week four and found it more treacherous than planned. After prioritizing a relaxing Sunday evening, a full night’s rest, and some outdoor morning exercise, Monday morning was halfway gone. Nonetheless, I fit in a few hours of work, and my one event of the day was taking my son to an appointment. It felt really good not to view the appointment as an interruption to my busy schedule. Parenting and sabbath win!

By Tuesday, I had already broken my one event per day rule. The rest of the week was a combination of Inspire work, conversations and research about the jail proposal, and pulling off the Urban Light Block Party. The block party was a lot of fun and leading it felt like a blast from the past. I enjoyed the week, but while my pace was certainly slower than that of a school leader, calling it a week of rest would be a stretch! I was already jumping into life as a community developer, organizer, and activist – the work that led me to open a school several years ago!

The pressure and activity were rising over the course of week four, and as I drove by a large group of people who were in preparations for an event, I felt a disproportionate amount of anxiety immediately take over my body.  I suddenly realized that the personal healing that needs to take place during this season is deeper than I thought. This was more than me being worn out from one Friday night event; this was a physical response to the spiritual, emotional, and physical taxation of six years of rewarding work that shook me and shaped me anew.  God’s call to Sabbath was God saving me in a Second Corinthians 4:8 kind of way: “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.”

At the beginning of week five, I began to panic. Conflict was building surrounding the jail project, and I knew people were waiting to hear the results of my public records investigation. I had my first interpersonal conflict with someone I hadn’t made much time for during the Inspire years.  I had also visited Inspire for a few small tasks and my emotions were all over the board. A place filled with my beloved colleagues and friends, a place I called home for so many years, now proved to be emotionally taxing in a new and different way, a way I wasn’t prepared for and still can’t describe.

I began to sleep restlessly at night, facing crazy dreams as my brain tried to reorganize for a new daily experience. I began to feel very down around mid-day most days. I would usually be able to sleep some in the afternoon and wake up thinking straight after a nap. But I realized I was clicking through social media way too frequently as a distraction, overusing coping mechanisms because I wasn’t coping very well at all.

Because of realizing all this, I abstained from vices on Monday – no social media, no alcohol, just face the day from start to finish without any props to get me through. And I fell apart. I had to face all the emotions that had been building up since walking away in July…and all the pain of being deep in the struggle of educational reform for six years. Leaving straight for a trip early July helped me transition; it was a beautiful time. But now I was facing how to just exist and rest in my local context.

I knew I had to get the weight of the jail project off me. I knew I had to face my demons and rest like God told me to. So, I sat on the porch crying to avoid my kids seeing me falling apart while I waited for my husband to get home from a meeting. I told him where I was with everything. I told him not to respond, just to listen. I told him I needed to leave again because I wasn’t ready to figure this out at home yet. I told him that I knew we were leaving again after just another day but that another day felt like forever from where I was sitting. I asked him to cover for me on the home front while I finished up the jail project to get that pressure off my plate.   I asked him to go with me to the school grounds to complete a small task for a grant so that I could go when nobody was there. I told him I knew we needed the money, but that I wasn’t sure I was ready to work yet. Of course, he listened and did all I asked in his supportive and pretty patient way.

I was in a much better place after getting it all out, being honest with myself and my spouse, and wrapping up the jail project and letting that pressure go. I now know that I am not ready to take on any new initiatives…yet. God told me to rest, and I need to do so.  We left for Lake Erie in the middle of week five but participated in our Muncie life for the weekend – a seminary graduation with friends and colleagues, an Oldfield and The New Birds performance, church, and prayer over a friend.

“I told you to rest,” He says. That phrase keeps plowing through my head every time I begin to do much of anything. He speaks to me so very clearly in some seasons, not often, just often enough to let me know that He still is and that I am still His. Faith is often a daily struggle for me, but not in these times when He lets me hear His voice. When God speaks clearly, I know I must follow that voice to stay attuned for next time I get a clear directive, however many months or years that may be. At the beginning of this season, the great Healer knew I needed healing and knew I needed rest. During our last sabbatical, I decided I wanted to practice the principle of a seventh year of Sabbath, but I’m not sure I would’ve had the strength if God did not speak directly.

The principle of a seventh year of Sabbath is a principle of letting the land rest (Leviticus 25). In an agrarian society, I imagine this also meant a good bit of rest for the people as well. It sounds crazy in modern society to tell my employer that it’s the seventh year, so I won’t be working much. It sounds crazy to just let the ground be for the seventh year. Imagine the fines and complaints we’d incur about our yards and gardens! I’m not sure what this looks like in a technological, post-industrial, urban society. I just know that God keeps telling me to rest this school year, and so I will engage the struggle of wrestling with rest this year amidst my culture that values production.

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