For the past week, every time I read the news from any part of the world, I can feel fear wrap around me like a blanket. Strong, heavy, unbearable. I can hear the stories from my history classes in university and high school, stories of people turning against each other, of wars and raids, of the destruction of people, of corruption and power, and it seems like we are running toward our destruction.

We are not nearly as good as we thought we were.

Whatever corner of the world you are in when you read this, it doesn’t matter. I sense that you want your life to matter, and you want to live beyond the seemingly hopeless realities in the news. You feel a call to do something, but what? How? When? You feel helpless. I know I do. This is for you – the one who wants to fight, the one who wants to create and not consume, the one who knows you have something you want to do but isn’t sure how to do it.

Rest

I’m convinced that rest is the solid foundation from which a life of impact grows. Our brains, emotions and bodies were not made for daily and constant information. Turn off the news. Get off social media. When you start to feel hysterical, discouraged or depressed, you need to rest.

The place of rest – daily, weekly, yearly rest – is where I surrender and acknowledge that I cannot do anything on my own. Practicing rest builds a humility deep into my life because it is a regular acknowledgment of reality: I need help. Humility is an armour for us in these turbulent times, we need it to protect us from the belief that we know everything and can do everything. 

Our action step – plan to find daily moments of rest from the news and information, set aside a day week when work stops completely.

Find the margins.

There is always work to be done in the margins. There are people in all of our communities who are forgotten, and who believe that their lives are worthless and disposable. Two weeks ago I was in the library and witnessed a young person mistreating a child. A few days later, I saw the same person again in Kmart. I don’t think this was a coincidence. Both times I was faced with someone in the margin, a bewildered, hurting child and a lost, broken parent. I had no idea what to do then, but I know that this was not a coincidence. It was an invitation. To do something. To ask questions. To provide wisdom and truth. To be present. Your margins are different from my margins – be present in your community and find the people who are afraid and pushed to a corner. Who could you connect with in your community? What are the needs of your schools, government and neighbourhoods? Where do your gifts connect with the needs around you?

Our action step – read your local newspaper or website, go to a part of your town that you haven’t been to, maybe a part that is unsafe, listen to members of your community who are involved and find out what needs to be done.

Pick one thing

Choose one issue to which you can devote whatever time and resources you have. It is impossible to do everything, and in this age of information I can get passionate about everything. But I wonder if everything is distracting me from the one thing that I can do. Find your one thing. Learn about it. Research it. Do what you can. The one thing will also lead you to the people you need to work with.

Our action step – what is one issue to which you want to devote your time and resources? Is there an organisation or team you can partner with? Who can you contact? What can you do?

You are not just a witness to history today. You get to play a part in creating it. Let’s reject helplessness together, let us embrace the small ways we can lend our life toward the needs around us.

Now it’s your turn: What are you going to do today? How can you rest from the anxieties of daily life? What are the margins in your world? What is the one thing you can do?

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Rest. You’ve seen this word come up in my writing week after week. It was almost two years ago when I first realized I need to celebrate a Sabbath weekly, meaning we chose as a family to set apart one day a week when we we not work. We did it regularly for a while, but then it faded, life piled on. I put no boundaries on my work, so it seeped into everything. But I kept circling back to rest. I longed for my heart to find a space of silence, I hungered for rest for my mind.

You, too? Every corner of our world is shouting at us, telling us to work harder, be more, get more, buy more. If you take a moment to catch your breath, you can feel you need to try harder while failing at the same time. Work, busyness, creation is celebrated as the answer, but maybe what you’re looking for is rest, permission to stop, permission to say, “I can’t do it all.” 

In the middle of all of this, I “met” Shelly Miller online, and I found a home in her beautiful blog. She’s passionate about Sabbath celebrations, and her weekly Sabbath Society emails started arriving in my inbox. Week after week I read gracious, gentle words about Sabbath, why it mattered, why rest is beautiful and how to honour it (you can sign up for the emails here and pre-order Shelly’s book about Sabbath keeping, Rhythms of Rest here and here). Even in the many weeks when I was busy all days of the week, the minutes I took to read the email gave me moments of rest. Now it is the fuel I need to keep going.

We have slowly been working our way back to a weekly Sabbath celebration from Saturday evening to Sunday evening – I don’t believe it matters what day of the week is set aside for rest, but I think it is necessary to set aside a specific day or amount of time. Here are four small, weekly lifestyle changes that have made a big difference for us.

1 Work hard. Maybe this has been the most ironic thing about disciplining myself to rest. Rest requires hard work. It means that Saturday is no longer a sit around and relax day, Friday is often busy as well. I make sure the laundry is washed and hung up somewhere where I can’t see it, or folded and put away. Dishes are washed. Food is bought, put away or cooked. We bring our home to a state of order. Often I get snack bags ready for Sunday. In the middle of this work, when I’m tempted to leave things undone, Sabbath is my motivation. I get to not do anything tomorrow, so get this done now. 

2 Simplify. We’ve started eating the same dinner on Saturday and Sunday nights – the abend brod, German for evening bread. In Husband’s home in Germany every night the dinner is always the same: bread, butter, a selection of cold meats, cheeses, pickles and cherry tomatoes. I never understood cold food that isn’t a salad until I found weekends even more exhausting than the week because I was cooking all the time. German women are smart, the abend brod saves time and energy, and it’s easily repeated week after week (as a meal, as an item on a grocery list, as food my children will eat with joy and zero whining).

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3  Find daily pockets of rest. Yesterday I had a rare nap from one of my children, and suddenly had an hour of silence. I instinctively reached for my laptop for no reason, and I felt nausea wash over me. I’ve learned to listen to my body. I set it down, and picked up The Year of Cozy instead. I thumbed through it, and let the photos and the beauty minister to my soul. It was only 15 minutes but a solid soul exhale. Even in the middle of the hard work, it has given me so much to take 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there of soul rest. For me it usually means listening to a few songs that bring rest, reading a book, looking at something beautiful, the scent of something I love. It reminds me daily that rest matters, and it gives me even more reason to crave and work for the full day of rest.

4 Light candles. I learned this in Sweden: Everything looks better, feels better, is better by candlelight. Our boys are easily quieted by the flickering lights, and the promise that they can blow it out when the meal is finished. It’s a gentle, beautiful touch that sets this day apart. Bonus? It’s easy and cheap.

Now it’s your turn: How’s your resting life? What small changes can you do to bring more rest to your life? 

Maybe you’re frustrated by the list of big goals but wanting to seize your life and change? Small changes are for the rest of us, the ones whose dreams mock us from the sidelines, the ones who yearn for change but know they can’t just shove everything to one side. We do it bit by bit, piece by piece, and we believe that each piece is making a difference. If you want to read more about small changes, you can start here 3 Small Things That Make a Big Difference.

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One year ago in May we were in Melbourne for my sister’s wedding. It was the trip that led us to move here, so this one year anniversary comes with a mixed bag of emotions. We’ve been in Australia seven months now, and it is familiar and strange all at once. Thank goodness for the fabulous weather. It’s a winter day today, bright sun is shining and a high of 15 degrees. I can survive bright winter days. I’m not even wearing a coat.

Here’s what I learned in May.

Ed Sheeran, in keeping with the theme of me discovering musicians years after everyone else does, I listened to Photograph for the first time in May. It’s my new favourite song.

Rest is the key to my sanity, you’ll be hearing more about this in the weeks to come, but for now I’ll say that the first few weekends in May were jammed with events, and I could feel myself wilting day after day. It wasn’t until we scheduled in a Sabbath for two weekends running that it hit me – again – I was not made to go, go, go. I need a hard stop, I need regular, refreshing rest. And rest is not the absence of things to do. Rest is the choice to set aside the things that need to be done, and it is so worth it.

Small changes work, some of the small changes continue to make a big impact on my day-to-day life, and I wrote about a few of them here (a new alarm clock, keeping my bedroom neat, and a simple meal plan).

Red sauce + meat does not work says MasterChef, Husband and I are obsessed with this Australian show, and several weeks ago a contestant cooked duck with a caramelised beetroot broth, which was bright red. Matt Preston remarked that the delicious sauce looked like blood and was quite unappetising to look at.

Thanks as always to those of you who subscribe (scroll down to do that), read, comment and share. I appreciate it so much. Now tell me, what did you learn in May?

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman today and lots of others who are sharing what they learned in May. It’s a wonderful way to chronicle the small and big ways we grow, change and learn, and I love it. Right now, I’m trying to capture moments of beauty and change over on Instagram, so head over there and follow me if you want to see more.

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Just a few weeks ago I was writing about sacred stops, the need for quietness of soul and the blessing of a restful summer, but in a matter of weeks, I found myself stressed, burdened, noise blaring in my ears.

Life happened. Husband went back to work, the mornings I had to myself were gone, I stayed up late, the kids woke up early. It seemed to come out of nowhere, the same old feelings of hopelessness and despair, but the truth is it grew in soil fertilised by worry, media, frenzied living. These things are my “noise.”

Noise looks different for everyone. Yours might be literal: Television, cars, music, too many people talking. For me it is often the noise that isn’t making a sound: Words on a screen, thought patterns in my mind, how I use my time.

Two nights ago I went to sleep desperate for a quiet mind, a still soul, and I prayed, God, wake me up at 4am tomorrow. It’s the only way I can get even a tiny amount of time to myself. I woke at 3:40am to the sound of my two sons talking to each other. Big Boy woke up to use the potty, and Little Bear woke up in the process. By the time I helped one with the toilet and put them both back to sleep, I looked at the time: 3:58am.

So there was my answer. I made my way downstairs, and into the arms of our IKEA love seat, the pages of my journal, and the words came out. I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m stressed. 

It doesn’t matter what the words are. It matters that they come out. That we see ourselves for who we are. That we regard our condition. That we don’t lie to ourselves, to the people in our lives. I poured my heart out to God, I read the Bible, I swished coconut oil around in my mouth. These are the ways I tell myself, I love you, I care about you, you matter. The kids were still asleep at 6am, so I kept going. I made breakfast, unloaded the dishwasher, and then in an act of extreme faith, I took a shower. I washed my hair, changed my clothes and I even dried my hair. I’m not kidding when I say that it’s the first time since our second son was born that I washed and dried my hair on a weekday.

Finally around 7am, Little Bear woke up (formerly known as our Baby). I had three blissful hours of quiet, and it was a gift to my soul. It did not come in the package of three days in a hotel. I had to fight for it. But it was sweet. And necessary.

There’s a lot of noise in the world, friends. What’s yours? How is it making day-to-day life unbearable? Isn’t it time you made it stop? 

I’m trying to keep the computer off, less time on my phone, less time social media gazing, less time running from here to there. More time encouraging. More time creating. More time playing. More time here, where I am, soaking up my now.

I suspect it might involve more wake ups at 4am.

confessions graphic FINALbaby

Dear Devi,

I see you there with your crumpled feeding chart on one side, black ink pen bleeding through the small boxes as you colour, check and cross. Mind spinning moment to moment as you wonder if he will eat, wake or sleep. You’re tired but so on top of things, you can’t sleep during the day. Your mind is busy, wandering from one thing to another, muscles pulled taught at all times, and in the moments you have to sit down and rest, your eyes are like a mirror into the world of Facebook, glazing over, one click at a time.

And I want to tell you, you don’t have to be so in control. 

Yes, I know everything changed and nothing in your life feels the same anymore. The people you want to be around right now are continents away, the body you depended on is doing some strange things, the time and space you had in marriage disappeared.

You feel like he’s the only thing you can control, be in charge of, the only one you can boss around, you want so badly to be in charge of anything because your own life feels like it is out of your hands.  It’s ok for you to tell someone you wish you were somewhere else, that you wish for sisters, friends, people who would just come over and bring you food, clean your kitchen.

You don’t have to be so in charge, you can let down your guard, let people in. Tell someone you’re tired, tell someone you’re juggling so many balls that you feel dizzy. 

I see you making complicated meals, rushing around chopping bread and parsley, moulding dumpling balls and wondering if it will cook properly all while feeding a baby, laying him down to look at animals, rocking him to sleep and repeat. You’re trying to live your old life and making your son fit around it.

I see you trying to be a good wife, always listening to your husband, trying to do the things that people told you a good wife does after a baby has been born.  He’s not like that, you know. He wants you to be well, when he asks, How are you? at dinner, it’s because he wants to know, not the edited version, but all of it, the tears, the fears, the questions, the frustrations. He wants to help you.

If you would just talk to him, he would tell you to stop doing everything, he would tell you not to have it all together, he would tell you to just rest, live in the season. If you let him in, he would have been grace and freedom to you. Vulnerability is a door that opens to grace, and grace is the door that opens to freedom. You need all of it right now.

You don’t have to be such a grown up. 

People tell you how “together” you seem, like everything is normal, like you just picked up from birth on and kept moving, You seem so natural at this, they say, and you smile back. But you’re wondering every day, Am I doing the right thing? Am I succeeding at this? Am I loving him enough, spending enough time with him? Learning to love your son is opening a new space in your heart, and you feel like a child again, desperately in need of parenting yourself.

You miss your parents, badly, even though they have changed, you have changed, you still want to go back to that  place where you have a pink, polka-dotted layer skirt and pig tails. You’re in Lipa City, wearing flip flops and dusty, walking to a sari sari store for Royal Tru Orange in a plastic bag with a straw. Someone else was taking care of you. Someone else was making all the decisions.

The early days are crazy days, kiddo. You feel at once a child and a mother, navigating heart changes and nappy changes. Slow down a bit. Drop a few balls or all of them. Put down the feeding chart.

Eat chocolate. Pray. Sleep. Take a shower. Repeat. 

Love,
Devi

This post is Day 7 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. (New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)