the park bench dream.

It was a short walk to a park bench only a few blocks away. It was April and we were only weeks away from the transition going fully into motion. There had been the start of good-byes and closure, but it was all really ending soon. We’d be moving away from our first home together, in a matter of days that I had a number for. I knew I needed something to hold onto.

I asked for dreams. I asked for hope. I asked for this together.

So, we went on a walk, to dream and hope together.

We brought paper and our dreams. And by our dreams, I really mean, that I hoped I’d have dreams by the time we actually sat down on that park bench and talked about what we hoped for in the next season. I didn’t have any dreams yet. I was still in survival mode, doing the next thing, longing for dreams when I could spare a moment to remember I wanted more than this busy exhaustion.

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The path curved, and in the shadow of some tall trees on this quiet pavement, we sat on our park bench. We talked about a garden, dinners with friends, having fun together and a job for him. A butterfly landed on my daughter’s back. We talked about teaching our daughter about service and work and age-appropriate chores. We dreamed about carpentry for him, the joy of working with his hands, and growing with people. My daughter fell over and hit her head, her first injury to draw blood, yet an impressively quick recovery time. We refocused after comforting her and celebrating her baby bravery and resilience. We made a mission statement for our family, desiring to recklessly follow Jesus in our work, worship and play.

And then, I asked him if he had any thoughts or hopes for me. I think I held my breath a little.

I imagined him saying something to do, something to offer.

All I could imagine for myself was more of this: this striving, this endless pouring out, this surviving.

I imagined his heart demanding the same things that I was demanding of myself.

But I was undone by the words he said.

“I hope you get to rest in this next season. That’s my dream for you. That you get to rest.”

Not more work or something else to do, but rest. Not more striving or serving, but rest. Not more demands, but rest. Rest was his dream for me. 

I couldn’t help it.

Tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t speak as I sniffled and sobbed on that park bench, overcome with gratitude and relief.

It was the permission I had been craving, without even knowing it. In a season that felt so full that it was bursting at the seams for me, I felt utterly spent. I had little margin and was exhausted. Pregnancy and maternity leave had left my emotional tank with little reserve, and I was thrust from that straight into motherhood and working full time. I was still in the fullness of that and didn’t feel like I had much space to even hope or dream for something different, something slower, something with margin to breathe.

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I know it was my husband speaking, but it also felt like the familiar whisper of the Holy Spirit.

I see you.

I see your heart, weary and striving.

I asked you to leave this job, these people, these things you hold dear, not to punish you, but because I love you.

I have rest for you. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to do anything for it.

Rest is my gift for you, daughter.

Almost a year later, I am grateful for this gift of rest. I find myself hoping and dreaming more than this time last year. I find myself breathing easier and resting more. There is less surviving and more living. 

Yet, the same desire to earn and prove I deserve rest, lingers. I find myself tired, and think that I haven’t done enough to rest yet. I hear people’s assumptions and my assumptions about their assumptions echoing in my head. I want to prove them wrong. I want to break out of my ideas of stereotypes for stay-at-home moms, the shame in my own head, and prove that I have earned my tiredness, and therefore my rest. 

I’m doing so much less than my last season, and yet, when I’m honest, I feel like I still need to subtract in order to be doing the best things. I feel guilty and shamed by this truth. I want to wear the badge of productivity and proving I’m someone worth knowing and loving on my chest, and instead, I am being called to take it off, to come away to a quiet place, to rest.

Heather Holleman talks about what it looks like to live life simply and with energy. She shares about a conversation she had with a friend and neighbor, Alice about seeking after a life that isn’t tired or moody, where there is space to reflect and dance, cook and blog without feeling completely spent.

She told me her secret for sanity in the midst of pursuing a PhD, raising young children, maintaining a great marriage, and hosting neighborhood events.

“I live at 60 percent.”

“What do you mean?” I turned to her, curious and confused.

“Some women live their lives at 90 percent capacity. They are already nearly at their energy expenditure limit each day. So when a new stressor adds to the mix, they explode. They go ballistic. They’re atomic bombs that go off in their own homes.”

“That was me last night,” I confessed. The tiniest comment from a child set me off into tears.

“But if you live at 60 percent of your energy capacity, you’re ensuring you have a buffer for emergencies and any changes. You’re able to deal with life as it happens. You have reserves.”

She walks on, smooth and carefree, while I’m chasing after her to learn more.

“How do you live at 60 percent? What’s the secret?”

“Well, I was chronically ill for six years, so I know how to ask myself what I have to offer energy-wise each day. Then, I do even less to protect myself from what might come. I say no a lot. And I know when I need to reenergize.”

April reminds me that this 60 percent rule applies not only to time and energy, but also our emotional and financial resources. She further adds that this way of living changes everything. She says, “It forces me to focus on what I feel is most important, what I truly value in life, rather than running around trying to do everything.”

(Seated with Christ, 151-152)

Despite my best protective measures to rest in this season, I’m finding that I’m closer to 90% than 60% these days. And as much as I want to ignore it or pretend that I can do it, comparing myself to others who do so much more, I can’t. I’m not them. I’m me. And my 60% in this season feels like a small cup. A tiny cup in fact. But desiring or hoping for a big mug does not turn me into one. Instead, I end up frustrated and upset every time I spill over, demanding myself to be something I’m not.

But I keep thinking of my husband’s words as he dreamed for me.

“I hope you get to rest in this next season. That’s my dream for you. That you get to rest.”

No pressure. No expectations. No demands. No comparisons.

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Just an invitation to be me and rest.

The grace to be me at 60%, whatever that might mean. Even if it is the tiniest cup.

The permission to quit things that are pushing me over towards 90% or aren’t the best fit in this season.

A hope to stop proving and earning, and start receiving the gift of rest with gratitude.

Today, I asking for the courage to stop comparing my 60% to someone else’s. I’m asking for the courage to appreciate my tiny cup that Jesus has given me. I’m asking for the courage to live at 60%. I’m asking for the courage to receive the grace of rest that isn’t earned.

And I think that is his dream for me.

When I stop comparing and striving, stop proving and earning, I realize that I’m already loved. And rest is his gift to me. I’m already loved, with nothing to prove.

Rest is his dream for me.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. This is so beautiful! I love you!!!

    Like

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