Sometimes we need to keep going no matter what, to sit and do the work no matter the distractions, the time constraints, the resistance standing strong with his arms crossed in the corner of the kitchen. I’ve worked with him breathing hot down my neck, and I’ve met deadlines early and spit in his face. I’ve been doing that for some time now.
For nearly three years, I have been writing books in some form. I’ve only cranked out two in that time where many authors would have twice that many in the same amount of months. With all these hours of work, I’m learning the difference between procrastinating (avoiding the work because I’m afraid, lazy, or distracted) and rest (setting the work aside on purpose with the intent of re-focusing).
Back in January, I wrote a post on 5 Ways to Know if the Art has to Wait. Mostly, I encouraged you to move ahead, to make art anyway, to sort through the procrastinating excuses and create. But if you find yourself in a season where you feel pulled and directionless, here are 8 ways to know if it’s time to take a break:
1. More time is spent in reaction than intention. Do you feel like your days are filled mostly with moving from one fire to the next? That all you do is turn around and react to the people and circumstances around you? Surviving says just make it through. True living says let’s make this count.
2. Sitting still and doing nothing brings anxiety. When God said for us to be still and know that he is God, I think he meant it as a gift to us. When the voice of the shame of inactivity becomes louder than the voice of grace, let that be a red flag of warning. Allow yourself to sit long enough so the anxiety gives way to rest.
3. The idea of taking a break is terrifying. You have become very big and the world cannot rotate without you in charge. You wonder how to embrace rest without everything crumbling at your feet. Oh, to learn what it means to release the management of life out of our small hands and into the hands of God.
4. Your spouse asks you to. They see things we can’t see. When my husband goes too fast and I ask him to slow, I feel loved when he listens. Our family can be our most accurate mirror. Don’t be afraid to look into them and discover more of yourself.
5. It feels like there’s a motor in your chest that won’t stop. Your breathing is shallow. Your mind is foggy. Your hands are unsteady as you push them to produce. Embrace the unveiling of this anxiety. Allow those things that hum under the surface of your everyday activity to rise up from within and offer them to the Holy, Heavenly keeper of all your anxieties. In him is the only safe place.
6. Everything feels like an interruption. Ann’s words come back to me here, that life is not an emergency.
“Stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one’s own or real life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”
7. Your yes weighs more than your no. Are you coming up with lists for all the reasons you can’t say no to things? Is your head incapable of shaking from left to right? Are you dragging your bag of yes’s behind you while your bag of no’s hangs empty from your shoulder? Take time to sit with those bags and unload a heavy yes or two. (or ten).
8. You can’t shake the feeling that you’re trying to catch up to something. But you aren’t sure what it is. You spin and you worry and you are swept away in the current of activity. We are tricked into believing that the only relief from feeling behind is to catch up. But this is war, and the enemy is an illusive and foggy expectation.
If any of these resonate with you, perhaps it’s time to take a break from something. As I’ve been working and writing and making my art, I’m thankful for the courage I found under layers of good girl over the past few years; for the calling I’ve discovered after lots of stops and starts; for the book I now hold in my thankful hands, the book that works like a period at the end of a very long sentence. Here, she says, you finished something. I want to grab a permanent marker and make that period loud and strong, to make it stick, to make it finished. But the truth is, it will never really be finished. As long as I’m living, the work will never stop. I will always find something more to do, to write, to say, to act on.
But I need a little time to enjoy the period. The next book is fully in the works, the one that beats close to my heart in a different way because of who it’s for. I will be finishing up some things for that book as well as a few other things. So for the next two weeks, I will be quiet here on the blog.
When I come back, I’m excited to host Tuesdays Unwrapped again for just the month of December. That project helps me see. I would love for you to join me here then.
May these next few weeks be filled with grace, and may your thanks line the path for your giving. May you become well acquainted with your own belovedness as you take deep soul breaths of the mystery of Christ.
9 posts on finding space for your soul to breathe:
For When You Feel Behind
Change the World :: Say No
When Life Demands Performance
Six Things About Soul Space
Make Room for Space
On Being Stubborn
Love in the Morning
Slowing for Thankful
The Secret to Keeping the Wonder