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“Circumstances of life she couldn’t change” – Linda Berkery

The circumstances of her life she could not change, but she took them to the Lord, and handed them over into His management…and the result was that although the circumstances remained unchanged, her soul was kept in perfect peace in the midst of them. Mrs. H. W. S. pub.1875

What changed?

She changed her life insurance policy and her address when she changed her name.
She changed diapers, bed sheets, and TV channels.
She changed the color of polish on her toes as often as the seasons changed —
Just for a change of pace.
And every year she looked for a change for the better.

changed

She changed her mind and exchanged the blue party dress.
She changed socks, clocks (spring forward/fall back), locks on the bathroom door.
The size of her family changed, but she kept her rituals.
She changed towels, oil in her car, the furnace filter.
She raised couch cushions, to find small change — she always needed small change.
But the circumstances of her life she couldn’t change, so she took them to the Lord.

Her heart never changed, but her prayers changed when her husband’s heart had trouble.
The surgery made a lasting change. A good change.
It changed his life.
He exchanged the leaky valve. His heart ticks with unchangeable rhythm.
She wouldn’t change a thing.

They both changed doctors, but never bothered to change the dentist.
She changed jobs, and parishes, and the title of her book.
On Epiphany, to honor the Wise Men, she returned home by a different route —
It was a nice change of scenery.

Her weight changed, her height changed.
Her bedtime changed. Did her memory change?
She seemed to have changed places with her mother.
And she was tired of changes unfolding from her body.
She experienced the change. And changed the subject.
(But always remembered to bring a change of clothes.)

Wedding bells rang. She saw children grow and change.
The old crib welcomed grandbaby guests — more diapers to change.
Some things never change.
Her daughter gave her a makeover-changeover for a 50th reunion.
Yet her classmates exclaimed, You haven’t changed a bit!
That was not true.
Her hair color shifted to grey and more than once she changed her attitude.

2020 — The Decade Changed.

In March, the weather and the world changed. It was unexpected.
It wasn’t a nice change or a welcome change, or even the proper time for a change.
In the exchange of air and the shake of hands, was an unseen change.
A changeup pitch coming right at us.

Her days changed and didn’t seem to change at all.
She walked after breakfast and after supper — the path unchanged.
She still changed sheets, towels, passwords.
As if that could change reality.
She ordered groceries and carefully changed the roll of paper.
Scarves changed to masks.
Grandson’s voice began to change.

Some habits had to change. And they were hard to change.
Grandchildren couldn’t or wouldn’t come to visit.
Facetime replaced hugs and infant snuggles. Such a terrible change.
Easter came and left, so did an empty Mother’s Day, and the months of summer.
June, July, August. No change. Not with the heat.
The virus didn’t change.

But she was not alone. A collective we began to change.
She sang again like she did in the sixties.
For the times they are a-changin;…
Although the virus didn’t change, we changed.
And became a force for change.

She remains in hope, but lives with questions —
When autumn comes and the trees change colors, what else will change?
And if the circumstances remain unchanged, will we have peace in the midst of them?
Will we remember to bring the circumstances of our lives to the Lord?
For — this — changes — everything.

Linda Berkery

Linda Styles Berkery grew up in the family funeral home in upstate NY. Linda loves to practice contemplative photography as part of her prayer. Her writings on faith/life have been published in various magazines, and blogs. Her faith memoir, Reflections: A Wardrobe of Life Lessons, was well received in 2019. She has been married to Jack for over fifty years. Linda loves dark chocolate, makes cinnamon bread when it snows, and still mails handwritten letters to family and friends. Reach Linda on Facebook at Reflections: A Wardrobe of Life Lessons or email Lindastylesberkery@nycap.rr.com.

iola bookazine change issue

This article is from the change issue of iola. You can get your own high-quality bookazine for a moment of peace here.

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Embracing change with the help of seasons – Daniela Perez

When I moved to Minnesota in 2010, I was not sure what to expect. I decided to move on a whim when I found a job in my field of Spanish Immersion education. Discovering new places has always been fascinating to me; at that time, I had already lived in four states and three countries, so moving to a new city was embraced with optimism and a high level of adventure. 

embracing change

Fall

Months later, after a gorgeous colorful fall, the orangey pumpkin and delicious apple season was over. Brutal winter told me that my love for Minnesota was also over. For this Chilean girl, the first snowstorm was beautiful, but the constant 10°F/-12°C temperatures were not welcome. I keep telling myself that I was not born to live in this weather. I kept asking God to take me away from here. 

Winter

During that long, unpleasant winter, I concentrated my energy and time on my students’ learning and my professional growth as a language teacher. Through his Word, my connection with God became deeper as I realized that I needed him more than ever to adapt to this inhumane weather. Eventually, I learned to have the confidence to drive in the snow and recognize black ice; this second one, I am still pretending to know how to do. 

As icicles and snow started to melt, spring began to give me hope. Days started to get more light, and five o’clock was not dark anymore. The sun was shining again and bringing with him colorful flowers telling me that everything was going to be ok. People started to be friendly again, and we all welcomed the chance to be outside enjoying nature once more. 

Summer

Summer taught me not to take things for granted, and to enjoy God’s creation to the maximum by enjoying lake season and the delicious seasonal products. I also discovered beautiful hiking trails and cascades around the state. The back of my mind reminded me that brutal winter would come back again, and I would need good memories of better days to keep me going.

Spring

Learning to embrace change in our lives is not an easy task. However, I have learned to face it graciously, knowing that spring will eventually show up. It gives me joy to know that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) I know my Father is with me through every season, through every change in my life.

Just in case you wonder, eleven years later, I still call Minneapolis, Minnesota, my home. Winter still does make me think of moving. Only now each time around, I have enough memories of spring, summer, and fall to remind me that better days will come. I have to keep pressing on. 

Daniela was born and raised in Chile, studied in the United States, and considers herself a global citizen. An avid traveller who has visited fascinating people and places in 32 countries, she writes about them for diverse travel publications and blogs. She enjoys reading and shares her passion for travelling and books with her fourth-grade Spanish immersion class and with Instagram at @danielatravels. Her home is by the gorgeous Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can discover more about her latest projects and travels at www.danielatravels.com or www.exploramag.com, where she writes for Spanish speaking kids. 

This article is just one from the collection in iola the change issue. The beautiful print bookazine is soul food for your moment of peace. Get your issue here.

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Hiding under all that is charred – Shelby Hughes

Smoke fills my lungs as I near a fire that towers seven feet above me. I watch in terror as the wind shifts, and that fire takes on its own embodiment, turning itself toward our cabin. Mom springs into action, grabbing a nearby towel and wild with rage and fierceness, she beats the fire in front of her. She yells for my brother and sister to do the same and for me to get more water and towels.

Throwing the remaining water on the fire, I race back inside to fill the buckets. I heave oxygen into my lungs in the pause of impatience. Oxygen I desperately need. Pause I desperately need. But I can only think about getting back outside to put out the fire.

charred trees

I don’t see the benefit of waiting. I feel useless. 

Buckets filled, I race back outside, eager. But the fire can’t be extinguished by me and my family alone. Mom races inside and calls 911. She rushes back out and continues where she left off. 

My body moves despite its exhaustion and my thoughts race, questions taking over, scared prayers whispered while looking beyond flame and smoke to deep blue sky where great grandma had told me Jesus was. But he feels much further away. 

I race inside, and it is there while waiting for buckets to fill with water that I yell angry, despair-filled, pleading prayers to him somewhere way beyond the blue. 

The phone rings, hushing my frustration. I answer in case it’s Dad who’s speeding home from work. But it isn’t him. It’s someone from our church. I fumble over words, speaking in fragments.

“hello…yes…it’s us…out of control…I gotta go…”

I grab the buckets that finally finished filling and run back outside.

The cycle continues. I rush outside with water. Race inside, filling buckets. I answer a ringing phone or yell at God to answer me.

The fire moves away from the house and deep into the woods. Dad arrives. Firetrucks come. Everyone disperses into the woods to find and fight the flame. 

Mom instructs me to stay at the house, so I answer phone calls. Neighbors call. Folks from church call. They each ask how they can help. I am near 12. Uncertain.

“However you can, like, now” I answer.

It’s an invitation to show up, to be present. And each arrive, some go into the woods to help put out the fire, and others stand in a circle of prayer and concern. One woman brings towels. I don’t recall mentioning towels, but she brings fresh, clean towels that aren’t tattered and filthy.

Hours later, my parents come out of the woods soaked in sweat and soot, and upon seeing nearly half the church waiting to help, tears of gratitude wash away grime from their cheeks. 

The fire is over. 

But the months that follow yield still smoldering trees that sizzle at the touch of rain. The months that follow are bleak—no beauty in charred land. Summer feels dead. The fall and winter cold and dark. Lifeless.

It’s hard to wait for newness, for normalcy. And in the waiting, we sometimes forget to forge on with faith. We look at charred, empty land and cast our eyes downward. And they stay down for so long that we almost miss it. And we must navigate the heartache of it all, our senses attune to the black, the soot, the brokenness.

After months of smoldering darkness, Dad takes me into the woods, kneels, and pushes away soot with calloused, work-worn hands. He’s lived through more—seen more. And I kneel with him, uncertain yet again, but hopeful. 

And there, sprigs of life. Gentle. Tender. Bright green, tiny buds.

I take my smaller hands and search the ground, my eyes wide with wonder. Hiding under all this is something brand new and beautiful.

I push away the soot, revealing the bright green buds, and see beauty and life. But beauty and life couldn’t be seen right away, because we had to wait for spring. 

We stand back up, and my Daddy speaks words that I speak now into present, metaphorical darkness. “This will all be green again. Slowly. But you’ll see it. Gradual, ‘til one day any remnant of what happened here will be hard to find.”

Hiding under all that’s charred

So, I keep searching, hopeful. Still waiting, because spring is not yet here. It’s not quite time. But the days are growing warmer, and I know I’ll see those sprigs of life. My Father promises a new thing. And though this land will never look the same, I will take the newness in with wide-eyed, child-wonder. Because hiding under all that’s charred is something brand new and beautiful.

hiding under charred

Shelby L. Hughes is wife to Youtuber, @TheAmp4Life, mom of three beautiful daughters, and author of Every Little Life: process your grief at your pace and in one place set to release in November of this year. Every Little Life is an interactive book for women who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility. She also has a 7-day devotional called Conquering Change and is the host of Making The Time podcast. Shelby encourages women, wives and moms to focus on what’s right in front of them over at shelbylhughes.com. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @shelbyhughesauthor.

This article is one from the Change issue of iola. Read more and buy your copy here.

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Through the changes that crescendo – Kristin Vanderlip

Changes that crescendo

We long for the lasting, the known, the constant.
So we paint life as we please, 
With familiarity and predictability surrounding us
To give us an effortless ease.
We find flow and freedom
In the routines and rhythms we arrange and expect.

But change crashes in and crescendos
Into a reverberating noise that ricochets within us.
It rips us from the idols we’ve made, pulling us out to sea,
Where we find ourselves chained to our comforts.
We are stretched, exhausted, and disoriented…
Until we realize the chains shackling us are our choices. 

We have manufactured our own safety. 
We have settled for a facade of freedom.
We let go and set sail through new, uncharted territory.
Our reluctant trust is tested on the waters.
We discover a peace that perseveres through the changes,
As we anchor in on the One who doesn’t.

We don’t drown or dismiss our fears and longings,
But we find them leading us to the Lord—
To the One who is lasting, known, and constant—
The One who is everything we long for.
Tethered, bound, abiding,
We rise in courage, filled with peace, destined for hope,

Through the changes that crescendo. 

Kristin Vanderlip

Kristin has written for the Change, Rest, Even in the Deep & Bloom issues of iola
Changes that crescendo author Kristin Vanderlip

Kristin Vanderlip is an army wife, bereaved mom to her little girl in heaven, and mom to her two rainbow boys. A decade ago you could find Kristin teaching English in a middle school classroom, and now she is a freelance editor and writer. Kristin writes to help women seek the Lord and hold on to hope, especially when life is hard. She is the author of Life Worth Living: A Daily Growth Journal and Living Life Well: A Daily Growth Journal for Kids. You can find Kristin at www.kristinvanderlip.com.
https://kristinvanderlip.com/journal/

This poem is from iola the Change issue. Click here to get your copy, and read more from women like you writing about changes in life.

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Rest in the middle of stress – Charlotte Osborn

The word stress is much used in our 21st century vocabulary. It was first used by Dr. Walter B. Cannon who studied and taught in the Department of Physiology at Harvard University, USA. In 1915 he became interested in the physical reactions of his laboratory animals when they felt they were in danger.  While studying digestion in his animals, Dr. Cannon noticed that physical changes in the function of the stomach would occur when the animal was frightened or scared. The ‘fight-or-flight’ response, also called the ‘acute stress response’, is an automatic reaction to a potentially dangerous situation. Our brains react quickly to keep us safe by preparing the body for action. The result of these natural reactions produce symptoms, which can negatively affect our bodies and minds.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes one of the definitions of stress as;  ‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.’ Whilst the word: ‘stress’, is relatively recent, the realities of its meaning have been part of everyday life since almost the beginning of time. There are many factors  that contribute to the stress of human life; 

  • Painful and difficult physical and mental health conditions, 
  • Loss and pain caused through
  • Traumatic events which shake our world,
  • And at the time of writing: an unexpected global pandemic – Covid-19.

A UK-wide survey in 2018, found that almost three quarters of adults (74%) have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.* Whilst doctors might not have had as much physiological and psychological understanding before 1915, they used different words to describe it. ‘Stress’ isn’t a word that appears in the bible, but we read plenty about its companion – ‘troubles’. 

Jesus said to His followers in John’s gospel, 
“In this world you will have troubles. 
But take heart! 
I have overcome the world.

God’s answer to overcoming human troubles and stress was to send His son Jesus as the Saviour of the world. God promises His Rest that affects our heart, mind and body in our daily lives. Knowing and experiencing God’s REST is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Over recent months we have faced some serious stress and trouble through the Coronavirus. I have found myself crying out to God for His help in the challenges we face both personally and globally. Although we may have found that our daily lives have changed pace during this time, I have realised that physical rest doesn’t always equal rest in my heart or mind. 

The REST that the psalmist writes about in Psalm 62 is different from our human understanding of the word. 
I find rest in God; only he can save me.

The key to finding genuine, and lasting REST, has nothing to do with relaxing on holidays (although they are excellent and important!) True REST is found in God, regardless of what our circumstances may look like at any given moment. 
It is interesting to note that in both the words stress and troubles, we can find letters which spell out the word REST. They are hidden in the middle of S-TRES-S and surrounding our TR-OUBL-ES.

I’ve had to do some ‘de constructing’ of the stress and troubles and let God re-order ’His truth in my heart, mind and body. Like working out an anagram, I needed to see the letters from a different perspective. I had to lose two big ‘S’s’ from my stress mindset! He’s turning my S-tres-S into His Rest

The ‘S’s’ I had to lose from STRESS were my Self and my Striving. I had to surrender my Selfto God again, release my Striving and trust that even in the difficulties and challenges, He was working out His plans and purposes for me. 
This is a daily choice to surrender my ‘Self and Striving’ and receive God’s gift of REST in His grace and love.

The last spoken words that Jesus said to His disciples were that:
He will be with us always, until the very end of the age. Matthew 28;18

Whatever stress or trouble we are facing, He is there with us and His promise of REST can be found. 

*https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year

Charlotte Osborn is an evangelist at heart and she’s passionate about sharing the good news of God’s love & hope with the world. She is a speaker & event facilitator who seeks to encourage others to find creative ways to share their own stories.
As a qualified nurse, she runs her own home care business, supporting people through the many changing seasons of their lives. She has 3 fantastic grown up children who she counts as friends and she lives in the beautiful Cotswolds UK with her equally fantastic husband! www.livemovebe.org.uk

This is just one of the articles from the rest issue. Get your copy here.

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Meander with me – Noreen Sevret

As the early evening sun made it’s way through my back yard by the river, I took a deep breath as I slowly walked with my husband and our two dogs. The day had been full, and my mind was tired. As we walked, I listened to the evening sounds and felt a covering of rest within.

The sounds of the birds drew my eyes upwards toward the blue cloudless sky, and I simply stood there with my face lifted up, glimpsing the blue beyond the treetops above me. I asked God, “Is this what it feels like to rest, Lord? I surrender to the rest this brings to my soul; what I feel inside as I notice what You have made.”

I look out a bit further and see the river flowing gently past the land I have called home for the past 27 years. It is a place of rest I find here under these trees and beside this river. I crouch deeper to get a better view of the many wildflowers growing between the lens of my camera and the large tree that has broken off in the distance.

We found a swarm of honeybees tonight way up in one of the trees and stood watching them work away; probably honeybees from our neighbor’s bee hives. I heard the voices of children playing together in the neighbor’s yard next door, their laughter sweet music to my ears, and the sound of a lawnmower in the distance up river.

The rest I feel in this place gives me a fresh perspective on what it means to find rest. I feel it when I walk away from the work and the many things that tug at the corners of my mind. In my tiredness, I find God is waiting for me. He knows that what He made will refresh me and give me rest that I need. It’s a rest that is a gift for the weariness of my heart. A time to let Him speak to me in the way I need Him to now. It’s a time to surrender the reality of the rush and walk into refreshing rest for my mind.

It is here that my strength is renewed, much like King David refers to in Psalm 23:1-3, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” NLT


I find a refreshment here by the river and in the early evening sun. I know I walk not only with my husband but with God as well. As we meander back toward our home, the evening sounds are restful and are like a sweet hush to quiet the noise of the day and provide strength and rest for my soul.

Noreen Sevret lives on a picturesque river in Upstate New York with her husband and their son. She has a passion for finding beauty in unexpected places from behind the lens of her camera and writing about how God speaks to her heart through that picture. She facilitates journaling classes at her church. Noreen enjoys spending time with family, writing worship songs, playing the piano, reading, participating on book launch teams, going out for coffee with friends, and going to beautiful places in NYS and beaches in NJ with her husband. She also works as an office manager and writes content for her companies FB page.
www.noreensevret.com, IG: @writerbytheriver.

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An exercise in rest – Abi Partridge

Were you ever made to do that trust exercise at in drama lessons at school or perhaps at a youth group or for team building at work? You know the one – where you stand in front of someone and have to fall back and they catch you? I’m sure I’ve done the exercise before but I can’t remember a specific time. I guess I was always caught, otherwise I probably would have remembered falling to the floor, along with my feelings, pride and trust.

Broken trust

I do remember though, a time where my trusting brother had his head cracked open after a boy at primary school pulled his chair out from beneath him when he went to sit. A cruel trick that ended with a bloodied head, a trip to A&E and stitches. I expect my brother remembers it more than I do.

I remember the times when trust was broken more than when it wasn’t. Maybe because I have been lucky to grow and live among trustworthy people. I’ve been realising how it takes trust to rest. When we go to sleep we trust that no one will break into the house. (A little extreme, I know, because you probably don’t think about that before you fall to sleep.) A more mundane example perhaps; when I sit down with a cup of tea and a magazine, I trust that there is nothing that needs to be done right now in that moment. When I take a bath with a book to read, I have to trust that no one will berate me for leaving the washing up till later or even until the next morning. 

Learning to trust

I have to trust that the lounger at the pool side will not break when I sit on it. (Maybe even more so when I’ve eaten nothing but croissants for breakfast all week!) Leaving things undone, taking time to sit and not do means trusting that it is ok to rest. That I myself, and others will give me grace. This is in both small things like when taking time to put my feet up, but also when it comes to big life things.

In big life things like when I believe I can figure it all out and that my ways of work, parenting, paying the bills etc, depend solely on me and what I can do. I am not resting in my trust that God is who he says he is. When I rest in God’s presence, when I listen to what he is calling me to step into next, I am trusting that he will provide, that He knows best and that He is good. 

Rest requires trust

When things go wrong I have to trust that he will make all things right. I have to surrender control in order to rest. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, there is huge freedom in that trust. There is ultimate rest. It’s no longer up to me. I can do the next thing, take the next step knowing that God is right there with me as he prompts and leads. 

As rest requires trust, trust equals rest. Easy to write but a life time to learn. I’m learning to trust by practicing an exercise in rest.

Abi delights in creating places of peace & beauty for others. She loves encouraging women in their creativity. She is a creative at heart, designer by trade and lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with her three children. She writes, designs, and publishes iola and loves it!

After studying English and Publishing in Oxford (UK), she has worked in the publishing arena as a book and communications designer. She writes on creativity and design and has self-published a creative tutorial book and a creative devotional guide; Making for Living and Giving, and Re-create – restore your creative soul.

She drinks coffee in the morning but earl grey tea in the afternoon and takes photos of flowers like they are going out of fashion.
abipartridge.co.uk IG @abilouise_harvey.

This is just one of the articles from the rest issue. Read more and get your copy here.

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How In The World Can We Find Rest For Our Souls? – Tara Dickson

Jobs are lost, pandemics hit, loved ones walk out the door and we are left grasping for rest for our souls. If we have learned anything of late, I think we could say, “Life is not something we can control.” Any measure of peace from thinking we could was false sense.

My oldest daughter was only 2 weeks away from delivering our first grandbaby when her world exploded over night. Details too horrible to share came to light and she would soon become a single mama. A little over a year later we were just about to ring in the New Year when my husband’s words became very confused and he couldn’t walk up the stairs. One trip to the ER later and a mass showed up on the CT scan.

Taking a walk changes my physical perspective and acts as the reminder I need to shift my internal one as well. I move and breathe and rest my eyes on what I pass. I find the beauty in each detail; the line of the roof, the church bell, the date stamped in the side of the building. Or, I catch the eye of a passerby not looking away in discomfort, but smiling directly at them to watch their surprised delight.

One day, I found myself alone, my feet finding the path my daughter and I always walk together. Nearing the end of the walk I paused to snap a picture of “my spot.” It’s this lovely place where the creek wanders, and the water trips across the rocks making its own kind of music. The birds can’t contain their delight and they join in the chorus. It was early evening and the sun was sinking casting shadows beyond the tree trunks while the sunlight shimmered on the leaves in a sort of dance. I sighed.

It was an exhale of all the things, and my Savior brought this truth to my hear: Daughter you do everything to produce something, as if you need to prove your worth to me.

It took a moment for that to sink in. But it was true. Even the moments I chose to rest my eyes were to produce more energy so I could work harder. I couldn’t remember when I did something just for the sheer delight of it. Even my walks had to be a certain length to qualify as “exercise.”

Our Lord doesn’t call us to criticize us but to call us to a higher place. You know it’s so much easier to see the world around us when we are on top of a hill and not stuck in the trenches.

So, I’m sharing that calling with you friend. He is not a respecter of people and the freedom he wants for one daughter is the freedom He wants for all his daughters.

He is calling us to a state of rest! Not the absence of a job, but a place free of striving. It’s a place where we spend time with him because we long to know that the secret to rest is being still, and knowing who is God. It is He and not I.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

Tara Dickson is a recent widow and mother of four. She began her writing journey after her husband went to Heaven in 2016 following a brief battle with brain cancer. What began as a way to testify of God’s goodness during her season of suffering, quickly turned into a passion to equip both children and adults with a hope in Jesus to carry them through hard times.
She makes her home in Franklin, TN where the hills are green and the barns are plenty.
You can find Tara’s words of hope on her, “Seek and Savor” podcast, www.taradickson.com
IG @tara_dickson.
She is also a devotional writer for The Joyful Life magazine and a host for the Widow Mama Collective on FB

This article is one from the rest issue of iola. Read more and purchase your copy here.

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Surrender to His rest – Shay S Mason

Does life ever feel like one big battle? Maybe it’s a health problem or a family issue. Maybe you’ve lost a job or just can’t manage to pay all the bills. Maybe you have so much on your plate that you’re simply overwhelmed. Perhaps you’ve reached the place where you just don’t have any fight left in you.

Some years ago, our family moved from Washington, DC to Oxford, England in order for my husband to pursue a degree in Theology. Our children were four and two, and I was already struggling with autoimmune disease and anxiety. We knew that the move was right. God had removed every perceived obstacle and clearly shown that this was his path for us. But it didn’t make the transition easy.

I was excited about jumping into life in our new home, and I used all my energy (which wasn’t much in those days) becoming involved in our children’s school, our new church, and my husband’s college. I joined the school parents’ committee, I led a Bible study at the college, my husband and I led a church small group, and I even started a two year Theology course. I was determined to experience as much as I could in the three years we were to live in Oxford. But I was miserable.

Every single day was a battle for me. My body never allowed for a day without pain, and it didn’t help that I lacked the physical or emotional strength to manage a strong-willed toddler. I tried my best to appear to have it together; but at home with my cup of tea, there were countless hours of crying out to God. I stood on God’s promises and wielded my sword against the attacks of the enemy day after day, but I had nothing left.

I remember the day I reached the end of my fight. Leaving my cup of tea on the kitchen table, I walked into the dining room, fell first to my knees and then to my face on the greenish-blue rug. In my hand I held a small wooden cross. I ran my thumb over its smooth surface and sobbed. That was all I could do. In that moment, I raised the white flag of surrender. I did not surrender to the disease or the despair, I surrendered to Him. I knew it was the only way.

Eventually, I lifted my head and looked through the glass door that led to garden. A beam of golden light illuminated a single vine growing over the garden wall. I knew in my heart that God was speaking to me. Abide in me. I am your rest.

The truth of John 15 took on new meaning to me that day. I couldn’t expect to do anything on my own strength, which was a good thing as I had none left.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4 ESV)

If we are truly to be his branches, then our very existence and everything we do depends upon the vine to which we are attached – and Jesus is the vine. As 19 th century South African pastor Andrew Murray observed, “The life of the branch is a life of absolute dependence…deep restfulness…much fruitfulness…close communion, [and] absolute surrender.”

It’s not that any of the things I was doing were wrong. Certainly we all have gifts He wants us to use. But He also wasn’t expecting me to prove anything to Him or anyone else through my constant busyness. I wasn’t slowing down long enough for Him to touch my heart, even as I cried out in pain.

Suddenly, I realized I didn’t need to fight any longer. The battle was not mine. It was His. I had His permission, even his mandate, to rest. He wasn’t disappointed in me for not being stronger, and He wasn’t requiring me to sort myself out. All He wanted was my heart. As I watched the sunlight dance upon the dangling vine, I understood that I belonged to Him and in Him, and His comfort flowed through me.

It was still some time before my physical symptoms improved, and I continued to struggle with anxiety, but something changed that day. I no longer had to waste what little strength I had in fighting a battle I couldn’t win. I had discovered the source of true rest. I began to understand that He goes before me and faces my enemies. He is my victory!

I love the words of David in Psalm 68:

“When you, God, went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.” (Psalm 68:7-9 NIV)

You and I are God’s inheritance, and He delights to go before us — fighting our battles, refreshing our weary hearts, and giving us rest.

Shay S. Mason is a Chicago-area native living in North Carolina. An autoimmune disease and OCD/anxiety overcomer, she a firm believer in God’s healing love. Her particular passion is helping people go deeper into God’s heart. In addition to writing, Shay loves travel, music, coffee, quirky indie films, and hiking. Shay and her husband Bruce are the founders of Love Inside Out, Inc. in Raleigh and have spent extensive time ministering in Madagascar. They have two college-aged kids and a spoiled Goldendoodle. Shay is a contributor at She Found Joy and a member of Hope*Writers. www.shaysmason.com

This is one of the articles from iola the rest issue. Read more about it and buy your copy here.

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Finding rest in the storms of Motherhood – Laura Rizakallah

When the word “rest” comes up among a group of mothers I can guarantee I will hear some snarky comments, see a few eye rolls and even sense some animosity among friends if one lucky momma in the group mentions she may have gotten some rare and coveted rest. Many moms just hear the word “rest” and quickly change the topic as they take a swig of coffee to wash down the reality that their heart, soul, mind and body are weary beyond words. There is little understanding of how a woman called to care for the lives of children who depend on her every waking and sleeping minute can even think about caring for herself.

We mamas make time to laugh. Play. Cook. Drive. Prepare. Listen. Schedule. Order. Clean. Organize. Fold. Hug. Wipe. Communicate. We are intentional and serious about this role of motherhood that demands us to be present and delights us with joy. But where is there time for rest?

We schedule nap time and quiet time and time outs for our children because we know without them they are not as healthy and whole as they could be. We know the value of rest for our children, but do we know the value of rest for ourselves? We would love to sit and read a magazine in the sunshine of a breezy afternoon with a cup of coffee; but we find that as soon as we stop the intense movement of motherhood we fall fast asleep and awaken to “Mooooooooooom I NEEEEEEED you” and we are behind schedule, in a puddle of our own drool, with no dinner made and a feeling of guilt for falling asleep. 

Motherhood is intense. But rest is intentional.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

I read this scripture hundreds of times over my life, but as a mom I would read it (with dark circles and blurred vision from not sleeping in 15 years) and be, “YES! Jesus! I want rest! Give me this unattainable gift!” Motherhood reality however, kept this promise too far away from me. I was convinced God was mocking me or that this promise was for the “without children” demographic. How was God going to give me, a mom of six children ages 2-16, this ambiguous gift of REST? Would he miraculously insert an oasis in the middle of my mess (He knows I can’t go anywhere without a babysitter!). Would He remove the heavy load? (That didn’t make sense because I didn’t want him to remove my kids!) Send the merry maids so I can put my feet up? (Honestly, they didn’t even have to be merry….. even miserable maids would work!)”

At the age of 42 I gave birth to our sixth child. I felt like I was caught in a washing machine in a never ending spin cycle. I was in a state of delirium and dysfunction most days. My body hurt. My mind was numb. My spirit was empty. My emotions were fragile. Weary is different than tired. Tired can be fixed with a nap. Weary is an inside tired that manifests in other issues. Weary must be met with intentional rest. The literal meaning of rest as used in this verse our of Matthew is:

I. to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect her strength

II. to give rest, refresh, to give one’s self rest, to TAKE rest

III. to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation

God gives us rest and we must permit ourselves to make space in our motherhood to receive it.

Psalm 46:10 says to, “Be still and know that I am God.”

If we pause our internal posture amidst our crazy, messy and overwhelming lives and allow God to have the heavy load we are carrying daily; we will find Him in a refreshing new way. In that quiet calm we get new expectation and vision for what we have been called to care for as He quietly cares for our soul. He visits us in the stillness and when we are found we are refilled with hope and vision. Vision for motherhood restores us to continue valuing motherhood. We pause. He provides.

Shabatt

God Himself rested on the 7th day of creation. He looked around Him and saw that everything was very good and He paused. He set aside time to be still. I bet he looked around at all He had created and just delighted in it. In our pausing we can see the details and the destiny of all we get to be a part of. Life becomes a duty when don’t pause to look around at the delightful details God is creating in the hard work of motherhood. The Hebrew word for rest is Shabatt. It literally means rest. The Sabbath was given to us as an intentional way to create space to rest in our lives. If God values rest, so should we. 

Motherhood is intense. Rest in intentional. In our family we choose to find ways to stop the regularly scheduled crazy of life and delight in each other. It’s intentional. It’s relational. It’s delightful.

We aren’t loosing anything by setting aside a day to rest. We are gaining peace, joy, calm in the chaos and restored vision and refilled relationships. Rest gives back what we give away. Rest is a practice that keeps us so we can keep on keeping on. Rest is not an event (like a manicure or an afternoon away with friends), it is a way of living. A rhythm. A cadence. Shabatt helps us remember the rhythm so we don’t get lost in the rigor.

Choosing to Shabatt gives us the opportunity to restore, refuel, reflect. Wonder and ponder, dream and remember. Setting aside a day to rest gives us the opportunity to know God, find God and recover our strength.

Storm Stopper

Another way I have learned what rest means to me as a mother of many is to learn how to trust the storm stopper and not look into the storm.

Did you ever read the story of Jesus in the storm found in Matthew 8:23-27? We find Jesus fast asleep in the midst of all the crazy whirring of wind and clatter of thunder while beating rain pounds against the boat. (This kind of noise reminds me of motherhood!)

The kind of rest that Jesus was experiencing was the kind of internal rest that trusted beyond the storm. He knew He had power over the storm and therefore could rest assured knowing the storm was temporary and would not harm him or the disciples with him. We can choose to be still and rest while life is whirling and twirling and clanging and banging around us. We can learn to abide.

Abiding is the active choice to live in God’s presence internally no matter what is happening externally. But, you say, I can’t stop the storms in my life. The chaos of children. The insanity of schedules gone out of control. The furious and crazy rhythm of life and all it brings…. I can’t stop it! How can I rest in it. We learn to trust the one who quiets the storms while we go through them.

In motherhood we must learn to rest in the hope of the storm stopper and not get shaken by the storm. When everything is threatening to sink our soul and flood our life boat with water we want to freak out and jump out! Jesus shows us that we can learn to be at peace in the stormy parts of motherhood because we trust Him to speak to the storm and cause it to stop. AND even if He doesn’t, we can learn to rest in His power and peace as we ride out the storm. Abiding allows our soul to stay connected to the source of peace even when the situation around us has threatened to disconnect us from peace. Abiding in our source of strength, hope and power gives us an internal peace that passes anything we can understand or see in our external chaos.

As mothers we see the storms of life but we stay connected to the power source of peace on the inside so we are not shaken by the power of the storm on the outside. Rest replenishes the soul of our inner girl so we can keep pouring out. Rest was given by God to us to give back what we have given away. Resting is meant to restore our empty places. Motherhood is intense. Resting is intentional. Motherhood is a calling. You are a gift. Rest is how we protect the calling and the gift God has given your family in your powerful role as mother.

Reflect:

Quiet your heart and ask God how you can learn to insert an intentional pause into your daily life. Practice being still and waiting to hear His voice whisper life back in to your weary heart. Intentionally begin to answer the questions below as you wait on the Lord to renew your strength as you rest in His power, presence and peace.

  1. How can you set aside a day you and your family can practice Shabatt? What does that look like practically?
  2. What stormy situations can you stop focusing on and start focusing on the power of the storm stopper?
  3. Where can you intentionally insert a pause (even if it is just 5 minutes a day) so you can intentionally be still and know your God.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Laura Rizakallah is a freelance writer and speaker. Laura lives in upstate NY with her husband and their six children. Laura’s desire is to connect her audience with God. Laura’s speaking and writing has inspired and impacted others to connect with God over the last 15 years. Laura writes bold, beautiful & brave words that stir your heart. Every word, invites you to live the crazy amazing life of love, hope and faith you were born for. Laura believes that a girl and the gospel are a powerful force God uses every day to turn ordinary into extraordinary. Laura believes that every woman can live her purpose, pursue her passion and IGNITE the world with the power and love of Jesus Christ.  www.readysetgogirl.com

This is one of the articles from iola the rest issue. Read more about it and get your copy here.