The Perks of Huge Tonsils

I wasn’t excited when it started in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.

I was even less excited when it was worse the next morning. The tight collar of pain behind my swollen tonsils. A sore throat so debilitating I couldn’t even speak.

Not now,  I thought. I have so much to do.

With book publication just a few weeks away, deadlines are rushing toward me and the workload is piling up. Now is when I have to get sick?

I got home from the doctor’s office, diagnosed with a vague viral infection, and plunked down on the swing in the backyard. Drained. Weary. The medical advice sheet read: “Your body needs plenty of rest and quiet time.”

Rock back, forth. No energy even to get up and go to bed. Back, forth. The sun shone warm on my face, relaxing my skin, closing my eyes.

Clouds

Rest. 

Sickness has a way of calling off life. Suddenly all responsibilities are shuffled down in importance, secondary to regaining health and energy. It reminds you, forces you, to stop and notice.

Notice the puff of a dandelion suffused with autumn sun.

Dandelion

Notice the falling leaves, yellow as summer peaches.

Notice the “breath of heaven” heather, and remember why it’s called that.

Book publishing is full of deadlines–exciting, rewarding, stimulating deadlines, but sometimes I’ve gotten so caught up in the to-do list that I’ve forgotten to take time to just stop and notice.

And noticing is the foundation stone of so many things: thankfulness (particularly in focus this month), rest, and writing–what book publishing is really about. Writing comes from words, and words come from noticing. 

Fall leaves

And so having huge tonsils, which felt like a frustrating setback, led to some forcible, sweet rest. Time to sit still. To let the sunshine play over my hands and enjoy the warmth. To hear a tiny bird sing, close enough to touch. To keep the doctor’s orders, true whether we’re sick or well: your body needs plenty of rest and quiet time.

So, perhaps, does your soul.   

 

Rest along the Road

What’s the purpose of your life?

The thing that’s bigger than yourself–your mission, dream, calling, purpose, the something that you alone feel uniquely designed to do.

Maybe it’s writing a book (harrumph). Maybe it’s spiritual growth. Maybe it’s investing in a relationship. Maybe it’s leading a ministry. Maybe it’s raising a child (or a few). Maybe it’s spending a year backpacking across the country, like my friend David. Maybe you don’t have a clue, but you’re seeking it. Something you were born to do. Something you believe in, that gives you purpose, that makes you feel alive.

Purpose is a great thing. Without it, we constantly ask ourselves, “What am I here for?”

But journeys of purpose are big. And big journeys take time. Lots of time.

As time passes, energy drains away. We lose sight of the distant, big-picture goal because our myopic vision gets crowded with small failures, hiccups, hardships, naysayers…and tiredness. Just plain road-weariness.

Photo credit: Chaz Harding

I read this story about the Biblical prophet Elijah today. Talk about someone with a big life purpose. But at one point he said to God, “I have had enough, Lord” (1 Kings 19).

Had. Enough. 

Photo credit: Soon

The long road of pursuing purpose can leave us feeling burned out like fire-gutted stumps. Elijah was so fed up with chasing purpose and feeling like a failure that he wanted to die.

God’s advice, delivered by angelic messenger?

“Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”

God even sent Elijah an ancient Hebrew Happy Meal to get him started.

Photo credit: Stefan

Before God urged Elijah forward in his journey of purpose, the prophet’s immediate needs had to have some attention. He ate some food. Took two long naps. Went away to Mount Horeb for some refreshing alone time. Spent time in the presence of God. Found a helper.

And THEN he was able to go back to full time prophet-ness. Proclaimed God’s words to difficult people. Did miracles. Made history.

There’s a lot on my plate right now, especially as I look to move forward with my writing career. Maybe there’s a lot on your plate, too. But Elijah’s story encourages me.

The strength to carry on, to continue down that long and worthwhile road, may be closer than you think:

Eat food. Get sleep. Take some time away to refresh. Be in the presence of God. Get a helper.

Or, in the sweet and simple words of my friend and fellow blogger Anna Taylor: Peace, darling.

Purpose is a long road. So pace yourself. Rest along the way. You’ll make it in time.

How do you find rest along the way of purpose? 


Running

I don’t love running. Really, exercise in general doesn’t thrill me, with the exceptions of hiking and ballroom dancing.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and sundesigns

But I do it, at least sometimes, because I know it’s good for me.

And ironically, it’s taught me some things about life.

Pace 

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and iwanbeijes

You run differently for a 100-meter dash than you do for a 2-mile loop. A 26-mile marathon is a different skill entirely. You have to know in advance how far you’re planning to go, then pace yourself accordingly. At the Olympics, the long-distance “run-walk” stride may look slow, but you know those runners are going to last til the end. Some efforts in life are short-term and you give your utmost for a few hours, days, or weeks, knowing you can then flop down, exhausted. But if you’re going to last and continue having resources to give over the long-term, sometimes that means curbing your pace, conserving your energy.

Rest

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and wordvt

When I first started my running route through my neighborhood, I made it my goal to jog to the top of the hill without stopping. I made it, but then I stood at the top, bent over and gasping for breath, for at least five minutes. My lungs burned, my calves burned, and by no means did I want to run anywhere else after that. But a few weeks ago, as I started getting tired and sore halfway up the hill, I…stopped. Realized I didn’t have to achieve high marks on my imaginary goal. I listened to my pain, stopped to catch my breath, then ran on to the top feeling good and ready to continue (like pacing, rest is an element of long-term survival ). I realized that I didn’t have to wait until I was completely exhausted and feeling horrible to take a long rest. I could take a short one when I just felt tired. And then I could continue on with energy and a good attitude.

Thanks

Image courtesy of stock.xchng and MeiTeng

When running, there are two possible things to think about: the pain, or everything else. I can focus my mind on my screaming calves and how hard my heart is hammering, or I can enjoy the blue sky and the quiet places my routes take me. Sometimes even my body’s exertion is a cause for thanksgiving–legs that can move, lungs that can fill with clean air, eyes that can see the beauty around me. The act gives me a rush of adrenaline, helps me find the good even in an activity I don’t love.

Have you learned any life lessons from running? From any form of exercise? 


Turning Down the Heat

You may wonder where I’ve been this week.

I’ve been learning to rest. 
Workaholism, I read somewhere, is a drug just like nicotine or caffeine. It’s a stimulant we use to hide our exhaustion, our depression, our frustration. It keeps us busy so that we don’t have to think about what’s going on below the surface, what’s wrong with our pace of life. 
But it’s only a temporary fix. The busyness only keeps a lid on life to a certain pressure point. After that, all the junk we’ve been sitting on–anxiety, estrangement, dissatisfaction, disappointment, uncertainty–overflows like a boiling pot of spaghetti that explodes in a sizzling deluge all over the stove. 
So if overworking, outrunning our problems is only a mask, how do we deal with them? How do we keep our internal pots from boiling over? 
I still have a lot to learn on this topic, but I took a few days this week to intensively focus on these things. Unlearning old habits is hard, but impending burnout is good motivation. These tips might seem obvious from the outside, but it’s amazing how effective they are when you really put them into practice!
1. Don’t turn on your computer and cell phone until you’re ready to make contact with the world in the morning. You can’t control the volume of calls and e-mails you receive in a day, but you can set some times that are technology-free. It relieves stress and restores some quiet times of focus.
2.  Make a new to-do list every day on a separate post-it or paper. Make it detailed, including all the tasks you expect of yourself in one day: Get up. Eat breakfast. Fold laundry. Then enjoy the satisfaction of checking items off and throwing away the list at the end of the day. If you didn’t finish every last thing, it’s OK: you’ll have a fresh one tomorrow. This kept me from feeling disappointed about what I didn’t accomplish during the day and helped me to realize all that I did. (It also kept me from committing to more things than I could fit on one page.) 
3. Include time for rest in the day. Spend a half-hour or an hour curled up with a book, watching your favorite TV show, taking a nap, or cuddling with pets. I found myself working more energetically, cheerfully, and efficiently during the day when I took a break somewhere in the middle. 
4.  Don’t sign up for too many things. It’s better to do each activity of your day with enjoyment, margin time, and time to stop and appreciate people than to try and cram 50,000 things into 24 hours. Say no when too many tasks threaten to overwhelm you. 
5. Surprise your family (or whoever you live with) with little, spontaneous acts of love, affection, and service. Empty the dishwasher. Bring in the garbage cans. Leave encouraging notes. When you have fewer things crammed into your day, it’s easier to find time for this, and it helps reduce your loved ones’ stress load, lifting the overall mood of home. (You’d be surprised how this comes back around, too!)
What are your secrets for setting boundaries in your life? How have you learned to pace yourself and rest? 
I’ll be out of town this coming week, so look for my next post on August 6!