The Importance of True Rest

Raise your hand if you need a vacation. I know I would love one! I was lucky to have a week off between Christmas and New Years last month– 10 whole days in a row where I didn’t have to go to work. But, to my dismay, I didn’t feel like I actually got to take a break until the last two days. That got me thinking about how I need to relax more often, and how much stress it causes when I don’t set time aside to rest. Even when I do set aside time to just “do nothing,” it doesn’t always end up being restful. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one with these problems; we live in a society that makes us feel like we need to be constantly on the move. But I’m convinced that true rest is out there, and that it really is possible to feel refreshed and renewed even in the midst of a busy life. But how do we get there? To figure out how to find true rest, I looked at what God has to say about rest in His Word. 

I recently read through the book of Exodus in the Bible, and it has some great lessons on rest. If you’re not familiar with the story, the ancient nation of Israel, God’s chosen nation, was stuck in slavery in Egypt for 400 years before God rescued them, parted the Red Sea, and led them out of Egypt toward the Promised Land. One of the first instructions God gave the newly freed Israelites was to take a Sabbath, or a full day of rest, once a week. They are commanded to not work on that day, and God provides extra food for them so they don’t even have to gather food on that day. To understand why this Sabbath command is so significant, we have to realize that just days earlier, the Israelites were slaves, working long hours, seven days a week. They couldn’t imagine going an entire day without working. God knew that, so He instituted the Sabbath to force them to learn to rest. 

But why did God do that in the first place? Why is it so important to learn to rest? Because we were created for it! The book of Genesis tells us that before the Fall, humanity existed in a state of perfect rest, their needs perfectly provided for, in the Garden of Eden. In the above story about the Exodus from Egypt, God is trying to restore that rest to the Israelites. In fact, the “Promised Land” God is leading them toward is actually referred to as “God’s rest” (Hebrews 3-4), a place where they would no longer have to struggle just to survive. We were created to be in relationship with God and to worship God, and God knows we can’t do that if we are consumed with work 24/7. So He made a way for us to live as He intended by giving us the rest we need to enjoy life with Him. 

One of the most important things we need to realize in order to enjoy true rest is that because God is the one that gives us rest, we can’t find it anywhere else– the world isn’t going to give us a break, and neither is the devil. The good news is that God PROMISES us that rest, so we can count on it. We often think that we need to work ourselves to the bone to provide for ourselves and our families, but ultimately, God is the one who does the providing. I heard a pastor say once that if you choose not to take a Sabbath rest, you are saying that you are a slave to something other than God. We may not be slaves in a foreign nation, but we are often slaves to things like money, success, and productivity. But when we are able to trust God to provide even when we take time off to be with Him and rest, we can stop being stressed out by the idea of ceasing to be productive. And I always find that I’m better able to get work done after I’ve spent time resting for a while. 

So, now that we know where rest comes from and why it’s important, how do we get there? It starts by making time each day to rest in God’s presence, which we do by praying and reading the Bible. It also looks like keeping the Sabbath command by setting aside one day a week (it doesn’t have to be Sunday) to stop working. It can be a challenge to plan for at first, but it’s worth it. The key to truly resting once you set aside these times is to not only seek the kind of rest your body needs, but the kind of rest your soul needs– and your soul doesn’t need to binge Netflix or spend hours on Instagram. Your soul needs time with its Maker, to get to know Him better, to seek His will, to worship Him, and to remember that He is really all that matters.

So this year, make it a priority to slow down and truly rest. Set the to-do list aside and open your Bible instead. Try meditating on the verse below, and remember that God never intended you to work yourself to the bone; He intended you to live with a healthy rhythm of both meaningful work and resting in His presence. It’s time we take it seriously and start living fulfilled instead of depleted.

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord for all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

It’s Not Too Late

Does anyone else feel like they didn’t accomplish any of their goals in 2021? Like you’re in the same spot as you were 365 days ago? As I’ve been reflecting on the past year, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that a lot of what I said I wanted to do in the beginning of 2021 has been left undone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a great year– some of the highlights for me include participating in a one-year women’s Bible study/mentoring group that taught me a lot about living a Godly life, and getting engaged to my best friend (wedding coming in Fall 2022!) I also met one goal in starting this blog, though it hasn’t been as consistent as I’d hoped. But as I turned back in my journal to the start of 2021, where I wrote that this year I wanted to slow down, prioritize my relationship with God as well as relationships with friends, and feel content with where I am in God’s calling on my life, I realized that I still want all those things. I don’t feel like I made much progress in those areas. 

I think a lot of goals got placed on the back burner this year because Covid challenges got people stuck in survival mode. It has been a difficult year for sure, and it’s easy to feel stuck. But be encouraged; as we go into 2022, know that it is not too late to meet your goals, pursue your passions, and follow the calls God has placed on your life. 

In Isaiah 55:11, God says “[my word] will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” God’s words do not return to Him empty, which means that when He says something, it will come to pass. He does not take back the words He speaks. This means:

  • If you, like me, went into 2021 (or even 2020!) wanting to claim God’s promise of new life, if you needed to claim His promise of peace, if you intended to seek God’s guidance through prayer or read the Bible more, it’s not too late. God’s promises do not have expiration dates. As long as you are still breathing, it is not too late to claim God’s promises on your life and turn over a new leaf. 
  • If you sensed a call that God placed on your life, but you haven’t answered the call, it’s not too late to obey. It may look a little different if it’s been some time– I am not God, and I can’t guarantee that the same doors will be open for you now as there were when you first heard Him. But if it was God’s voice you heard, the call is still yours to answer. 
  • And if you are overwhelmed by the divisions and chaos in our world today, this verse means that God’s promises to bring Heaven to earth and eliminate sin for good are still true. God’s purpose has not changed, and Covid has not changed His plans. He will still overcome the world (John 16:33).

So as we go into 2022, take heart; it is not too late to start over. It’s not too late to get yourself out of survival mode and start thriving again. It’s not too late to claim the promises God gives us in His word, and to follow the dreams He has placed in your heart. I’ll be right there with you.

P.S. If you read this, I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment with some goals you have for 2022!

Love that Drives Out Fear

The past year and a half has been filled with a lot of fear and uncertainty. Things we once took for granted were taken away, and we were left questioning whether we’d ever get back to “normal.” Jobs were lost, families were divided over politics, and weddings were postponed. And if we’re honest, we’ve all fallen prey to the fear that can grasp our hearts in these uncertain times. Will I get another job? Will I be able to provide for my family? Will my family stay healthy?

Fear is a natural emotion, but if we want to live a fulfilling life, we can’t let it rule us. It’s ok to feel the fear and to acknowledge the fear, but we can’t allow ourselves to wallow in it. How do we manage this? As I was wrestling with some uncertainties of my own recently, I came across this Bible verse about fear:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” 

–1 John 4:18

Many of us have heard this verse from 1 John, often listed among all the other verses in the Bible that tell us to not be afraid. Verses like “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). But this verse is different; it tells us WHY we should not be afraid. It explains that God is able to conquer our fear because there is no fear in love. 

Let’s unpack this verse a bit more. “There is no fear in love” is a strong statement; there is NO fear. Not even a little bit. This doesn’t seem realistic in today’s society, because we have a lot of fears when it comes to love: we are afraid that our significant other will get mad and leave us if they find out about our flaws (exactly what John is talking about when he says “fear has to do with punishment”). We worry that our spouses will someday stop loving us. We worry that we’ll never find love. There is a reason that we have these fears about love– we only know human love, and human love is imperfect. What we really fear is not love itself, but the lack of love that we experience when an imperfect person fails us. But God’s love isn’t like that. Let’s continue reading: 

“There is no fear in love…but perfect love drives out fear.” 

The difference between human love and God’s love is that God’s love is perfect. It will never run out, or get bored of us, or find someone else better. It loves every imperfection we have without judgement. It forgives any mistake we make. It is always patient and gives grace when we need it, every time. Perfect love means that we don’t have to be afraid of rejection, because God will never leave us (Deut. 31:8). We don’t have to worry about the future, because God in His love has a plan for us that is to prosper and not harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). We don’t even have to worry about being good enough to be loved, because perfect love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5). And if the God who knows exactly what the future holds loves us that much, we can trust Him to work things out for our good, because He wants the best for us.

All that is great, but my favorite part is actually the end of the verse, the part that says perfect love DRIVES OUT fear. This doesn’t just imply that when we are loved, it’s a little easier to not be anxious. It means that when we allow the perfect love of God to invade us, there is NO ROOM left for fear. Fear and love cannot both be present in us at the same time. Some versions of the text say that perfect love “casts out” fear; this picture is still the same. When God’s love comes to dwell in us, it casts out all of the fear that resides in us. This is reflected in the end of verse 18: “The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We cannot be fully loved by God and be continually afraid.

Again, I’m not saying that we will never feel fear. But fear doesn’t have to stay in our hearts if we remind ourselves that we are perfectly loved and cared for by a God who knows the future– and is not afraid of it. So as we continue to navigate this pandemic (and life in general), let’s make room in our hearts for God’s love and let it drive out the fear and uncertainty that’s hiding there. When we start to feel anxious, let’s reach for our Bibles rather than letting our minds focus on what we’re worried about. I promise that there is rest for every anxious heart in the hands of our loving Father.

Living a Fulfilled Life

Most of us live very busy lives. No matter what stage of life we’re in, it seems like there’s always way too many things on our plate. When you’re a student, it’s homework and extracurriculars and part-time jobs. If you’re a parent, there’s always cleaning to do and dinner to prepare and someplace the kids need to be. Many of us work more than 40 hours a week, and when we get to do fun things after work, we’re almost too tired to enjoy them. Yet we are all still chasing a “full life,” as if something is missing. 

The last year has gotten me thinking about this a lot, since for many months covid shut the world down and we were forced to stop. I personally took the time to evaluate what things were taking up my time and whether or not I wanted to keep doing them “after covid.” One of the biggest things I learned was that a full life is not the same as a full schedule. Satisfaction and fulfillment are not necessarily found in more activities, even if those activities are good. We can only do so much without becoming stressed trying to manage it all. And the things we choose to be involved in can change with the seasons of our life. 

So what does a full life look like? First of all, I think the pursuit of a “full” life is missing the target. We shouldn’t be after a full life, but a fulfilled life. In John 10:10 when Jesus says that he “came that we may have life, and have it to the full,” he meant that he wanted us to live a fulfilled life. A fulfilled life is life as God designed it. Think about it; we say that something is fulfilling its purpose when it is doing what it was intended to do. A chair was made for sitting; it fulfills its purpose when someone sits in it. A shoe was made to protect our feet; you wouldn’t wear it on your hand. It’s the same with people; God created us for a specific purpose, so we are most fulfilled when we are living into that purpose. 

What is life as God designed it, then? What is our purpose? For that answer, I’m going to go back to page 1 of the Bible. In chapter 2 of Genesis, God creates the first humans, and they enjoy a worry-free life in the Garden of Eden, walking with God. This is a picture of relationship, of humanity resting in the presence of God and relying on Him. But they aren’t just doing nothing; they’re actually working. Genesis 2:15 says that God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden “to farm it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:18 also says “it is not good for man to be alone,” which tells us that we are meant to live life in community with other people. So from the first two chapters of the Bible, when humanity was living as God intended before the Fall, we can see that we are created to:

1) Enjoy a relationship with God

2) Enjoy relationships with each other 

3) Do some sort of work in cooperation with God. 

Some more insight can be found in the life of Jesus. Jesus’ typical activities included waking up early to spend time with his Father, spending time with his disciples (who were his best friends), doing the work of ministry, and serving those around him in love. I don’t think we’ll live a truly fulfilled life until some of our time and effort is spent serving others as Jesus did. This looks different for different people– some are in vocational ministry, others volunteer on the weekends, and others are in the full-time ministry of parenthood. 

Today, I think living life as God intended looks like daily nurturing our relationship with God, living in peace with those around us, intentionally spending time in community, doing the work we have been given well, obeying God without delay, and giving ourselves freedom to enjoy the good gifts God has given us on this earth. Finally, I believe it includes regular REST. It’s clear that God intended us to rest on a regular basis– in fact, it was a commandment for the Israelites to take a weekly Sabbath. If we don’t rest, the work we do for the rest of the week will wear us down, and it won’t be fulfilling anymore. 

So give yourself permission to take a break. Cut out responsibilities that aren’t a priority right now. Surround yourself with people you love on a regular basis. Meet with God every day. And I think you’ll find that the work and ministry God has for you become less of a burden and more of a joy– a life of fulfillment.

5 Reasons it’s OK to Move Home After Graduation

You finally did it– you walked across that stage, received your diploma, and took pictures in your cap and gown. You’ve said goodbyes to classmates who have become close friends and roommates that have become sisters. You’re preparing to move out of the place that has become your home for four (or more) years. 

I’m going to be completely honest, I had a lot of plans for what would come after graduation, and NONE of them included moving back in with my parents. But a week after the ceremony, I landed a job at a company in my hometown. And just like that, I had a week to pack up my college life and bring it back home. 

I didn’t expect it to be good or easy. I actually expected to stay with my parents for a maximum of three months before I moved out on my own (it’s been a year now). But I learned pretty quickly that not only was living with my parents not that bad, I actually kinda liked it. And, it turns out, a lot of my friends still live with their parents too! It is completely OK to move back home after graduation; in fact, it might be a really good decision for a period of time. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Saving $$$

Perhaps the most obvious, but a really important one: in most cases, your parents will let you live rent-free (or with pretty low rent compared to most apartments). This means saving some serious money that you can put toward paying off student loans, buying a car, or saving for a wedding or house. This is especially important if you don’t have a job and an income quite yet. 

  1. You can ease the transition into adulthood 

Depending whether you lived in an apartment in college or not, you may or may not have superb life skills at age 22 (I know I didn’t). Living at home gives you a chance to ease that transition into adulthood and gain confidence in a place that’s familiar to you. You can learn to grocery shop, cook something other than pasta and frozen pizza, budget your money, and navigate the job application process. And you can learn all this with your parents as free life coaches!

  1. You’re not bound by leases or timelines

Moving into an apartment usually means you have to sign a lease for a specified amount of time. If you don’t know what you’re doing after graduation, you don’t want to be bound to someone else’s timeline for when you can start a job or move to a new location. Plus, the flexible timeline allows you to move out whenever you’re ready to be on your own, whether that’s a month or two years after you moved home.

  1. You already have connections in your hometown

Going back to your hometown means you can use relationships you already have to get a job. Chances are you have siblings or friends that can get you connected, even if it’s just for a temporary job at McDonalds. These connections also make it easier to adjust socially; you can join a sports team, get a group of old friends together for trivia at a bar once a week, or join a church where you can get plugged in. The phase of life where all your friends live in the same building is ending, and now you have to put more effort into your social life. It’s easier when you’re not starting from scratch. 

  1. Family time

Your relationship with your parents is about to change drastically. You’re growing up and becoming independent, maybe getting married soon, and eventually you might not live in the same city or state as your family. A little more time at home before that transition is precious. It’s also a chance to learn how to communicate with them in a healthy way as adults, because that’s what your relationship is going to look like from now on.

Moving home isn’t for everyone, but it also isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. It doesn’t mean you failed at growing up, and it doesn’t have to mean your social life is compromised. If you find yourself at home after graduation, take advantage of it; there’s a lot of good to be found there. 

From Heartache to Hope: A Reflection on 2020

This year has brought a lot of unexpected heartache. Maybe you, like me, went into 2020 saying “this is going to be my year!” only to be blindsided in March by the Covid-19 virus. And just when summer seemed to bring some relief from the lockdowns and restrictions, the death of George Floyd and the following movements and protests brought more heartache for those in our nation who are fighting battles on the civil rights front. On top of all that, a monumental and divisive election has left our nation in disarray. And perhaps the most difficult part of the Covid-19 crisis is that we don’t know when this will end; we don’t know how long businesses will be closed, when we’ll be able to see people’s faces instead of masks, or when we will be able to visit friends and family without the risk of someone getting sick. 

But through the heartache of this year, I’ve experienced something surprising: hope. Our reaction to heartache is not normally hope; we usually ask why, we feel like we don’t deserve it, and we get angry. Especially as Christians, we wonder why God would allow so many difficult things in just a single year. But we also know that we’re supposed to have living hope in Jesus, even in trials (1 Peter 1:3-7). So how do we move on from heartache into a place of hope again? 2020 has taught me a lot about this process, and I hope some of what I’ve learned can be helpful.

First of all, I want you to know that it’s OKAY to feel heartache as 2020 wraps up. Society places pressure on us to look like we have it all together even when things are falling apart around us. But we have to be honest and allow ourselves to feel all of our feelings, because the first step to healing is feeling. The Bible says there is a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time for mourning and a time for dancing (Ecclesiastes 3:4). It’s ok to take time to mourn. After all, much of what has happened this year breaks God’s heart, too. But the grieving process is meant to eventually bring us back to the hope and faith that God will see us through. 

The biggest thing that will bring us back to hope is knowing and believing the truths that God has spoken to us in the Bible. The truth is that we are going to experience heartache in this life, but that’s not where the story ends. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We will have trouble, but we know that every battle we fight ends in victory, because God has already won. The Christmas season reminds us that our God is committed to redeeming our trials; when Jesus was born, Israel had been waiting– hoping– for GENERATIONS for the Savior the prophets had spoken of years ago. And finally, on the first Christmas, God revealed His plan for redemption with the gift of His Son, who paved the way for us all to find salvation and new life in Christ. God redeemed the Israelites’ suffering and restored their hope, and he does the same for us today. His presence is all the comfort we need in suffering. We might not see the story God is writing when we’re in the middle of heartache, but there is always hope, because every story God writes is a redemption story. 

So what does this look like practically? It’s one thing to believe the truth that God will bring us through this trial, but it’s another to live like that is true. We need to re-orient our perspective to that truth. God doesn’t “give” us trials, but Romans 5:3-4 tells us that He does use them to produce endurance, character, and hope in us. Look for the good that has happened this year, even if you have to dig deep to find it. Suffering and hope always exist together, as two sides to the same story. But you get to choose which one will have the last word for you. Know that you will emerge from this battle stronger if you let God use it. Remind yourself of times in your own life and in the Bible when God was faithful, and worship Him in the battle, because He has already won. 

January 1, 2021 is not going to bring a magical end to Covid or political tension or any other trial we are facing on December 31. But it can be a new beginning for our hearts. We still don’t know when the heartache will end, but we don’t need deliverance FROM the pain– that would mean we wouldn’t grow. We need hope IN and THROUGH it. And that hope is already here, in a baby named Jesus. So let’s go into 2021 with an attitude of confident hope in the redemption of all that has happened in 2020 and gratitude that God’s presence is with us as we navigate the journey from heartache to hope.