I chose rest today.
Last week was family vacation. Husband and I packed up five kids, plus a friend for the lone teenage boy, and headed out of town. Three adult children, a new son-in-law, and our son’s long-time girlfriend joined us for the last few days.
At the height of togetherness, thirteen individuals ranging from mid-forties to six years old converged with hopes and dreams and expectations of what vacation would entail. Someone was disappointed, let-down, frustrated, or annoyed at all times. Some hid it better than others. Those were the ones not directly related to the family of origin.
Family vacation was not restful.
Re-entry to life after vacation was a chaotic Saturday followed by a too-full Sunday. I knew it would be this way. I did what I could ahead of time to prepare for it, but still there were too many responsibilities and events falling on the same day.
In my mind, vacation marked the end of summer’s lazy days and the beginning of transition to fall’s routines and responsibilities. The now and the not yet.
Vacation Bible School week followed. Sunday afternoon was spent preparing for my role as the preschool (three- minute) movie station leader. It also meant preparing my four Bible-school age children for a week of early rising and getting out the door by 8:30, reminding us all that school days are on the way.
The first morning of VBS was intense. Our church has a large children’s program and community outreach. 545 kids ranging from preschool to fifth grade and a staff of almost 200 converged for five days of learning and adventure. Approximately 160 preschoolers and their many leaders rotated through my station in four shifts throughout the morning. I led the groups in four variations on a basic theme, depending on their abilities and interests.
It takes much energy and enthusiasm to keep forty preschoolers (and their leaders) engaged. I have had the gifting for this since I was a teenager. I am no longer a teenager. My body reminded me of this by 10:30.
At morning’s end, I still had four children of my own to collect. This year marked a milestone. None of my offspring were preschoolers rotating through my station. They were in a different section of the building. This was a far cry from the days when three little girls clung to me as I tried to teach a Bible story.
I gathered my loves from their respective elementary crews and crew leaders, and we made it as far as the lobby before arguing and anger began over who would tell me what about the morning. Words were exchanged in the heat of the moment, resulting in one sibling running off and disappearing into the crowd, while the other three dutifully made their way to the van.
Thankfully, whenever drama like this happens, the children who are cooperating rise to the occasion and become extra helpful until the wayward one is restored. Then someone else takes a turn in the wayward role. They have never all ganged up on me at once.
The wandering child meandered to the vehicle, and we headed home, still bantering about who would share what about the morning, since they had all rotated through similar stations. This kind of elementary conflict is exhausting to me and happens on a regular basis. I want to create rules and regulations rather than ride it out to the other side. It was a wild ride. We survived.
After feeding the troops and settling them down for an afternoon movie, I chose rest. Not a load of laundry or dishes or menu planning or computer time.
This is a milestone for me.
Choosing to care for myself. Choosing rest. Just because I am tired.
I arranged pillows on the bed, grabbed favorite purple throw, and hunkered down on my left side. Settling in, feeling the exhaustion, tears began to flow. Copious tears. Sobbing tears. Resisting the urge to force them back, I let them come and listened to what they were telling me.
You are worth caring for. Just because. It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to need rest. It’s okay to choose rest.
It was my left side. The pillows. That is what started the tears. My body remembering and reminding me of the years spent pregnant (6 total), sleeping on my left side, propped with pillows. Given permission to take a break and rest because I was still being productive. After all, I was growing a baby. And another. And six more.
It was okay to care for myself when I was growing another person simultaneously and caring for a few more who were down for naps themselves. That was the message I absorbed. I believed the lie that I was not worth caring for unless I was giving something back in return. I could rest if there was a greater good at stake but not for myself. That was just being lazy.
Hence the tears.
Tears of relief. Tears of grief.
Fighting to stay in a place of kindness rather than contempt for what was and what never was, I closed my eyes, allowed myself to feel the moment, and drifted off into a delicious sleep.
I chose rest.
Julie McClay lives in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley with her high school sweetheart (and husband of 22 years) and 5 of their 8 children. She is learning that while it can be painful to face the past honestly while living in the moment and looking towards the future, it can be healing and lead to eh the hope of a brighter future. She digs through these thoughts and feelings here.