I’m sitting here on a small balcony in a farming villa in Ephesus, Turkey. Yes, it’s the birthplace of the Ephesians so I am writing you an epistle from the saints who are at Ephesus. I woke up to a rooster crowing and on my morning walk passed tractor loads of villagers going out to the farm. We ate our Turkish breakfast of olives, cheeses, breads, eggs, and some strong sausage in tomatoes in the shade of the walnut trees in the yard, after I gave Rafi his first Hammam or Turkish bath. He sat in the marble bowl while we poured warm water over his chubbs and thought it was all a great delight.
I’ve been thinking about all the rush and frenzie of life and how I have developed routines and habits that have made me a much more joy-filled and restful individual over the years. My Mom likes to remind me how my eyes used to go half mast as I dived severely into every task, working as hard as my body would let me. I had one answer to every problem; work harder. This solution may actually be sufficient when projects can be accomplished and when you’re working on paperwork or physical tasks but when God calls you to go straight into the tombs of another’s pain you find out people are not projects waiting to be fixed in two hours. We can develop all the models in the world and work as hard as possible on people, and end up impossibly frustrated. This is true of any calling God may have placed on your life, whether that is mothering, cross cultural work, or church leadership.
God calls all of us in our varied giftings to be very close with people in pain or need. When we answer this call we all have ways of coping with the disappointment we will undoubtedly face. For many years I read more books, went to more conferences, and reasoned about wonderful ways to change people. My own specific calling is to disciple women who have come from very challenging backgrounds. The pain they have suffered cannot be described with paper and ink. Around five years ago I started asking the question, “If this is what God has called me to, how can I stay thriving and joy-filled after 10 years of listening to this every day?”
I want to share my experiences with you to glorify Jesus by the word of my testimony, and maybe shed a little hope of rest into your specific exhaustions today. Here are five things I implemented that transformed my health holistically.
- I started asking what I really believed about the goodness of God in relation to suffering. When we are listening to the works of the enemy every day, and choosing to walk into the dark experiences of others, we must have a very strong faith in the absolute goodness of God. When we have not developed this faith and have slowly lost our hope in the gospel, we will become spiritually depleted. I listened to all the traumatic stories through the years and wept with my friends who suffered through them, and ended up believing more in the impact of evil than the overcoming goodness of God. This translated into me with a furrowed brow anxiously working harder to dissuade the tide of evil around me instead of being grounded firmly in what is good. I asked the Holy Spirit what I was believing that was a lie, and then intentionally chose a truth to renew my mind seven times a day. This requires spiritual exercise! Dr. Caroline Leaf says after 21 days of this you can SEE healthier brain tissue develop. I definitely felt the healthier brain and body after some months of doing this, so I made it a habit and was “transformed by the renewing of my mind” and could much easier “discern the will of God.” (Romans 12)
- I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Although this is a very controversial doctrine, for me it was simple and beautiful. I knew I needed more power in my life but I also knew I had the Holy Spirit working in my life and the fruit of the Holy Spirit as a natural result. While kneeling in prayer by my window one morning, God granted me the gift of praying in the spirit and is teaching me ever since how to exercise the gifts that came at pentecost that were promised to “clothe us with power from on high.” This has resulted in much hope in the gospel as I see tangibly the work and power of the Holy Spirit in my own life and those around me.
- I stopped trying to make everything right, and asked the Holy Spirit what I am called to make right. I prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and found that when we align ourselves with what the Holy Spirit is doing we will see transformation and with that transformation comes hope! Know what and who you are called to and stay within those boundaries. Know your strengths and weaknesses and operate with them in mind. For me, this means I spend most of my time with a few key women instead of rushing around trying to fix everyone’s problems.
- I began focusing on the work of Christ in me, instead of the work of the devil around me. What God is doing IN US is wonderfully full of hope, even if others around us are not sharing in that hope. Our anchor is this hope. The problem around us is not so much that God is not working beautifully, but that His disciples get too distracted to work with Him.
- I starting valuing my physical body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our physical bodies are the house of the spirit of God. When we stop being led by that spirit we are left to be swayed and tormented by 1,000 other pressures daily that will exhaust us mentally, spiritually, and physically. When we are led by the pressures of people instead of the voice of the spirit, we will always overwork our physical bodies and feel tense and exhausted much of the time. There is no better joy-stealer then the voices of culture and people telling us when and how to do everything. There is no better joy-filler then staying centered on what the Holy Spirit is guiding us to do.
All of us face challenges and setbacks that have the capacity to exhaust every part of us. Some of us don’t cave to the pressures by retreating, but by working harder. Others hibernate and withdraw from people and develop unhealthy and selfish routines to stay afloat. Have you ever heard more about how to stop burnout, practice self-care, and develop healthy routines? It’s because we are a tired generation. We are pressured to enter the hussle and when we wind up as overworked as a spinning hamster, we naturally conclude that the alternative answer is to stop working.
Hard work is not the enemy, our thought patterns are.
What we believe about God, what we believe about ourselves, and what we believe is our responsibility to others has much more capacity to burn us out then some good long days of hard work. Hard work is not the enemy, what DRIVES that hard work is. If we’re driven by the need of accomplishment, the fear of failure, or the pressure to succeed we will certainly fail, but God has given us strong and efficient bodies so we can enter into life and get things done. We all feel a little restless when we don’t get that thing that God has called us to done.
So if you’re exhausted today, here are a few tips to hydrate your spirit, soul, and body with some simple routines that have changed my life. Especially if you live in an environment that is constantly changing and full of pressure, remind yourself daily of the God who is in control by incorporating these healthy spiritual disciplines. Our body is the house of the Holy Spirit, and to care for it is to further kingdom advancement!
- Get sufficient sleep. Healthy sleep is often spiritual because when we trust well, we often sleep well. Of course there are also physical issues that impede sleep, but I think a good number of us struggle with insomnia because of anxious thought. I remember a particular day when I was pacing in the park crying out to God about my problems and His answer was, “Go sleep.” Sometimes it’s really that simple. When we’re exhausted and not exercising healthy routines everything else will become complicated. I developed healthy sleep patterns by going to bed when people were still in my home (this is very important if you practice an open house of welcome), and by incorporating a nightly routine that I can practice at any hour. For me, this includes a hot shower, lotion on my feet, and a mug of fresh mint tea with honey even if it’s 12 am and I am exhausted. I have a small bamboo tray for our bedroom that holds a small glass teapot, two pottery mugs, and two little wooden spoons. It sits right between Eric and I as we debrief on the day. This helps my body physically let go of the days pressures and reminds me of what is pure (water) and good (hot tea with honey). I then often consciously remember the main stressors in my day, and release them to the Lord like a helium balloon, “She’s yours now Lord, I’m going to sleep.”
- Eat healthy food. I know the pressure out there to be a grainy, crunchy, chia-soaking, goat lover who ferments everything she eats and never touches sugar. I’m not like that. But I do watch what I eat and I know what it takes for me to feel really good. I don’t eat a lot of sugar and processed flours because it makes me more tired and affects my digestion. I do ferment kombucha for the probiotics because it’s cheaper and more delicious then buying them. I also use one kind of vitamin by Sprout that gave me wonderful energy even in my third trimester. Once in a while I cheat on a really good croissant downtown, at a cafe that bakes them fresh every morning and stuffs them with fresh berries, pistachio, chocolate and basically whatever deliciousness you can dream up and I don’t feel guilty at all because my normal routine is disciplined.
- Exercise at least 10 minutes a day. This is very important to release tension in your body. If you are not doing physical work, and most of your stress is mental this becomes even more important. I used to run more, but frankly our part of town is not nice and when it’s so hot you feel your sweat crackle there’s not too much incentive. I also hate working out, but I love biking. I found a wonderful exercise bike still in its box on marketplace, and now I sit out there cheerily every morning after I hang the laundry in the sun and listen to Farsi vocabulary words while I peddle for miles.
- Practice a weekly Sabbath. If you ask my husband, he would tell you how I used to whine years ago about resting once a week. I was pressured mentally to go back into camp and work. I thought the world couldn’t survive without my work. Proud, I know, but that was me. Fortunately, I knew I needed the physical rest so I forced myself to rest but realized I couldn’t because I was mentally disturbed. If you want to find out what your mental hindrances to rest are, try practicing a day of rest every week, particularly focusing on silence, solitude, and the cessation of normal hussle. Eric and I practice this every Monday after the scurry of the weekend is over. We often have coffee in bed, make a hot and nutritious breakfast, play with Rafi for hours, and pray and read. It is now the highlight of my week and I cannot imagine surviving well without it.
- Remind yourself of what is still beautiful. We live in an area of town that is not very pleasant for this country girl. I don’t spot a lot of reminders of Eden on the sidewalks. I love living here because I find ways to bring what speaks to my heart into my home. I often buy a three euro stem of lilies at a small local garden shop because they last a week and smell fantastic. We planted some olive trees in big pots on the balcony. We also bought a big IKEA table that seats a lot of people at dinner time. I often serve the tea there, and invite people to sit down and watch a candle flicker. We have reminders all around us of how bad the world is and how wrong it all went, so make sure you are daily reminding yourself of what is still beautiful. Very small things like lighting a candle and steeping a pot of tea are daily reminders to me that goodness still overcomes. I also love baking and cooking and feeding people. I make time each week to go enjoy the Farmer’s Market and bring home enough fresh food for the week. My countertop and fridge overflow with bright colors and juicy goodness as I cook pots of food or juice oranges. Eric has a wonderful habit of steeping mint, hibiscus flowers, and ginger overnight in a teapot. In the morning we add a squeezed lime and a little stevia and ice it for the day. Everyone is happier when there are pretty drinks and fresh bread on the table. It’s all a reminder of Eden, and the coming hope of a new heaven and earth.
God threw the world into existence in one week with a few words, because He’s God. Then He stopped for a day to rest, even if He was God. The same love of creating and accomplishing that He has is in us, and He showed us a very healthy way to do that. Work hard, rest hard. Jesus came straight into our hustle and gave us really great reminders on how to stay healthy. He basically entered into a storm on a boat and fell asleep in the back with a host of panicked disciples judging Him for sleeping! Sometimes those around you will judge you for sleeping too. Spiritual rest will keep you in the back of the boat quiet, even in the middle of very troubling and complex circumstances. Some might come tug at your sleeve and tell you to wake up and figure out your life, but you can sleep because you know with one word the storm will calm and it’s not up to you to do it.
Jesus left us then, but He said “I am sending someone to be with you.” A lot of our panic in life stems from the fear of being left alone and isolated. We want to be connected to good people and good ministries and good churches and good businesses. This is not wrong at all, but if God takes away props in your life and you panic, it’s a very good indication that your soul is not at rest and you’re trying to calm the storm in all the ridiculous human ways we try. The Holy Spirit is our promised comforter, and will guide us into all truth. We don’t need to figure it all out or make it all perfect, He’s already working on it and He does a very good job.
Those surrounding Jesus asked Him one day, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Our work is to believe. Jesus knew how hard it would be for us to stop believing in our own capabilities or the next conference or model of care. When we start believing what is true about a sovereign God, what is true about Jesus, and what is true about the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we will abound in hope.
I will end my epistle from Ephesus to you with a beautiful prayer I read this morning that Paul prayed for the Ephesians.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
We can enter into rest because Christ has finished the big work. What is left for us to do is simply to align ourselves with His purposes by believing. The natural display of this habitual belief in Him is a beautiful rest and trust that overflows in our daily routines. We can be busy and peaceful Christians living in harsh environments with gentle hearts. We can even do this more efficiently if we join Jesus in the back of the boat once in a while and go to sleep in the eye of the storm.
11 thoughts on “How to Sleep in a Storm”
Absolutely beautiful and life giving. Love you, sister!
Beautiful and life giving! Love you, sister.
Luv this so much!
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This is so, so beautiful, Kate…
And I’m just over hear trying to figure out how I can practically implement more of this in my helter-skelter life that stays up waaaay too late canning tomatoes because, homeschooling, and cello lessons, and people dropping in, and a million other things that both bless and interrupt my day. 😆😅
And while I still have no idea how to find time to be more kindly inclined toward my body, I also know the mental clarity that energizes the mind of one who truly believes the goodness of God in ALL circumstances.
It is a soul rest that supersedes physical rest. It is peace so tangible it feels physical.
Now, off I go to fry eggs for hungry people, while I internalize more of this timely epistle from Ephesus! 😉
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This puts into words the struggles I’ve been facing as a fixer who feels responsible for everyone else and then bases my value on what other people think of me. I want this rest in my soul.
I read this eagerly, hoping to find a nugget I didn’t already know. Instead I found a reminder of what I already know, and a beautiful challenge to deeper trust. Thank you Kate.
I think about these things a lot and some of these I’m doing well in but not others. Thank you for the timely reminder♥️
This is life giving, and so very true. Just what I needed to hear this morning from my little corner of Africa.
How delightful you shared this. Such Lovely words of encouragement💖.
Thank you Kate. This was very Encouraging, just within the last month we started a weekly Sabbath rest. And per your suggestion Leo and I have been having tea most evenings.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing with us what God has taught and is teaching you. Just what I needed!