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 has written for the Change, Rest, Even in the Deep & Bloom issues of iola
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/
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 NIV
When sharp words dart from my mouth before I’m even aware that they’ve formed on my tongue. When the muscles in my shoulders grow tense and ache as though I’ve just finished lifting with a heavy set of weights. When a thick fog fills my mind with a swelling effect that throbs and causes my thoughts to lose clarity. When I suddenly realized that it’s been awhile since I’d last taken a breath. I now see these moments as hazard lights flashing neon yellow to warn me about the dangerous territory I’m expecting my mind, body, and spirit to function in. I focus in on the issue at hand: an absence of rest.
I know I must get away and rest. Not only does my body demand attention to this that I can no longer ignore, but Scripture tells me. It appears in Mark 6:31 and in Matthew 11:28 where Jesus tells me to come to Him and He will give me rest. I know that rest is so important that God commands His people to carve out a ritual of rest (Exodus 20:8-11). But when is the last time I truly observed the Sabbath in my life?
Based on the neon yellow warning signs flashing around me, it’s been far too long.
I used to imagine the type of rest God talks about as a picturesque escape to a cabin in the words or at a vineyard in Italy on vacation.
Near impossible, right? How do I find rest in my real, everyday, ordinary life when the schedule is unforgiving and responsibilities pile up faster than the laundry?
I must find a rhythm of rest for my soul to be well. I’ve learned to think intentionally and creatively about rest.
Now rest might come as I deepen my inhalation and lengthen my exhalation wherever I am. Sometimes I close my eyes as I breathe and visualize my breath. I mentally watch as stress and angst leave my mouth slowly and controlled. As I inhale through my nose, I breathe in a prayer, sometimes even using this verse from Mark as a breath payer. In a matter of 60 seconds, I have found a moment of rest.
Some days I carve out 5 minutes from my schedule and find rest as I step outside. I plant my feet in the earth and lift my gaze to the vast sky above me. Maybe I’m not surrounded by the peaceful rolling hills in the Tuscan countryside. Maybe I’m standing in my driveway in middle Tennessee. But it doesn’t matter because I’m outdoors finding spiritual whitespace (as Christian author Bonnie Gray likes to call it) and breathing in the fresh crisp air. I’m away from screens and walls and all things confining and in the open expanse of creation, near nature, near God. Or maybe I walk around the block or sit on the concrete steps of my front porch or lay down on the lush green grass. Exactly how I spend my 5 minutes outside doesn’t matter, what matters is I’ve disconnected from all that pulls at me, and I’m communing with God in His creation. And here I find my rest.
Maybe I say no more in order to protect areas of rest in my schedule. Maybe I take a 15-minute power nap on the days I find myself home despite the to-do list knocking on the door. Maybe I set limits on my screen time (and there are plenty of apps to help me do that).
Whether it’s 60 seconds, 60 minutes, or 6 whole days, I find ways to tuck myself into God’s presence where I focus on His promises. And when I do, I am at rest wherever I am. It is well with my soul. I’m refreshed, refocused, restored, and renewed. I’m ready to serve and love and live well.
How can you establish a rhythm of rest in your life? Did any ideas come to your mind as you were reading? Grab a pen and spend a minute brainstorming what rest can look like in your life right now. If you’re unsure, maybe come return here after you’ve spent some time in prayer.
In the limitations and frailty of our humanity, we grow weary and long for relief from the busyness, the burdens, the demands, and all that pulls on us in our lives. You know this, which is why You Yourself provide the rest we long for and why You don’t just suggest we rest, You give it as a command for us to follow. Yet, we don’t always obey here. Forgive us. May You be with us now as we pause and still our minds and hearts before you. In this moment, as we quiet ourselves momentarily in prayer, let us be aware of You and rest in Your presence. [Pause here in the silence and stillness and take 5 or 6 deep breaths]. Lord, we come to You expectant for the rest You give. Guide us into establishing daily rhythms of rest with You. Thank You for replenishing us and strengthening us as we do. Amen.
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.
In the shadows of the confined closet, with my face wet from tears and my heart broken open, I awkwardly braced my body against the palms of my hands as I collapsed onto the ground. My crumpled body found a home amongst the crumpled clothes pile that hadn’t yet made its way to the laundry. A sweatshirt that my head had found its rest upon soaked up my tears. The chaos of pain and sorrow running deep and rampant through me had reached a point of paralysis. I felt stuck, glued to the carpet, lost in the darkness.
Unfortunately, unexpected suffering and grief and betrayal and other events caused this scene to become a familiar one in my life over the years. Each time old pain was triggered or new trauma occurred, the pain ran so deep through my being that it felt like a toxin coursing through my veins. And each time, as my soul felt trapped and darkness abounded in the depths, I sought out spaces with the same characteristics, dark and confining, like my bedroom closet.
As I struggled with deep emotional pain, I wrestled, lamented, and prayed to God for rescue. I proclaimed the Scripture promises I knew to be true. But there was never a swift and miraculous rescue like I wanted. What I discovered was an invitation into the Lord’s loving presence and to join Him in the work of transformation and healing.
The ugly truth is that suffering is part of the human condition, and at times, the pain runs deep through all of us. The beautiful truth is that this invitation of the Lord’s that I mentioned is for all of us as well. And, as Corrie Ten Boom famously wrote, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Wherever we are, whatever our struggle, when we encounter a pain that runs deep, God’s love is deeper still. And it’s here, in the depths of pain, when the rescue hasn’t come yet, when silence fills our ears and the darkness blinds our eyes, where we especially need to hold tight to the Lord and live in expectation of His Promises.
And we need not wait idly by. We fight back and find our way through the depths and the darkness. We can use practical tools to do this and take care of our souls.
The following is a list of 10 self-care practices that can nourish our spirits and help bring us out of the depths:
1. Visualize a Screen Door
Whenever I begin to feel “stuck” or “caught” by pain that runs deep, it helps me to imagine myself as a screen door instead of a sticky fly trap. I visualize emotions and thoughts passing through me. I also tend to do this with the next activity.
2. Breathe Deep
When we’re in deep with our pain, we often forget to breathe. Inhaling and exhaling deeply is one the simplest yet most profoundly helpful practices I have discovered. Breathing intentionally (i.e.: a certain number of breaths over a specific length of time or a specific meditative practice) has all sorts of emotional, mental, and physical benefits and is truly one of the best ways I have found to calm my soul and take back control of what seems to be out of control in me.
3. Preach to Yourself
Read and speak affirmations and truth. Remind yourself of what you know to be true because emotions can disorient us and lies like to attack us in the dark and lonely places of pain. Bring light to the darkness. Turn to God’s Word to remember the truths that God says about you. Make a list of your positive qualities or write a letter to yourself. Have “I am” statements at the ready when the battle in the depths comes to remind yourself the truth of who you are.
4. Breath Prayers
This practice combines ideas #2 and #3. This essentially involves choosing a truth from #3 (a short scripture or phrase), using deep breathing from #2, and joining them in a prayer. As you inhale, begin your short prayer, as you exhale complete it, repeat. Maybe start by trying this for a minute, work your way to five, maybe even use this form of prayer for 20 minutes. You can use Google to search for samples of breath prayers if you’re looking for a place to start.
5. Get Outside
Inside, in physically confining and dark spaces, we’re stuck in an environment much like where we’re stuck in our pain. But when we step outside, literally, we also begin to step outside of our pain. Get outside. Breathe in cool fresh air and fill your lungs. Notice the vast blue sky and the world around you. Be mindful of the smells, the sights, the sounds, etc. you observe. For me, when the weather cooperates, I like to walk barefoot on the cement sidewalk in front of my house and then step onto the cool earth feeling the damp, scratchy grass against the soles of my feet. Feeling the hard ground under me makes me feel grounded and strong when I had felt lost and weak.
6. Move Your Body
Find a way to move. Maybe while you’re outside using tip #5, you can take a walk or ride a bike. Physical activity and moving our bodies is another great way to help us move through our emotions and thoughts and get unstuck. Yoga is one of my favorite ways to move that I incorporate regularly into my life for this reason. The data behind the mental and emotional and psychological healing benefits of yoga (especially in trauma survivors) is fascinating. Find what works for you and get your body moving.
7. Have a Cup of Tea
I have always been a tea lover, but as I drank a cup of hot tea in the throes of deep emotions once, I unexpectedly discovered relief for my soul. The aroma stimulates a calming effect within me. The warmth of the liquid fills my body and spirit in all the aching places. I continue to be amazed by the soothing affects a simple cup of hot tea with a touch of honey has on me, but it works. If you’re not a fan of tea, maybe try a cup of warm milk, but steer clear of anything caffeinated or alcoholic which can exasperate your emotions more.
Writing is a wonderful and proven therapeutic practice. Take your deep emotions and write them onto paper—get them outside of yourself. Write it all out. Everything. Imperfect and uncensored. As the words flow out of you, some of the pain will follow.
Whether it’s grabbing your Crayola markers and coloring in an adult coloring book, chopping fresh veggies for soup or kneading dough in the kitchen, or something else like knitting, – engage in a creative practice. The act of creating can be extremely calming and beneficial as it provides another opportunity for processing, releasing, distracting, and cultivating positive thoughts and feelings of peace, productiveness, joy, and more.
10. Phone a Friend
Have someone in your life who is a safe place and who can hold space for you. And then, when you’re struggling with hurt that runs deep, reach out to this friend. Simply speaking our struggles out loud to someone who knows how to listen and walk alongside of us can disarm the power of the pain. There will be times when they will simply listen and other times when they will speak those truths and affirmations in love mentioned in tip #3—we need both. Find that friend who will get down on the floor with you and give you time there, but who will lift you up when it’s been long enough. Make a list of 1-3 people you can go to when needed.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health care professional. If you’re struggling with emotional or mental health issues, first seek advice from your medical doctor and/or a licensed therapist. I have done both and many of my self-care tips have come from what the professionals have taught me. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Line (U.S.) 1-800-273-8255. UK Samaritans: 116 123
Kristin Vanderlip is an Army wife, a bereaved mom to her little girl in heaven, and a stay-at-home mom to her two rainbow boys (ages 3 and 6). A decade ago you could find Kristin teaching English in a middle school classroom, now she is a writer and freelance editor. Kristin follows Jesus with an expectant heart as she navigates both the ordinary moments and the unexpected trials of life. She is passionate about seeking God and holding onto hope, especially when it’s hard, and encouraging other women to do the same & cultivate their own expectant hearts. You can find Kristin at:www.anexpectantheart.com.