When Waiting Wears You Down and Out

This is my newest piece for Proverbs 31 Ministries.
You can read the full article here!

When Waiting Wears You Down at annswindell.com

 

I sat on the bed and unclenched my hands, trying to pray. From my perspective, the past season had gone painfully wrong.

My work was overwhelming, with deadlines that came too fast and too often. My womb had filled with life and then emptied twice in a handful of months, as we suffered two miscarriages back-to-back. Our daughter visited the ER for a sickness that lingered and broke up our sleep like shattered chalk, and I was wrestling with a physical condition that wore me down every day.

Then, unexpectedly, we found ourselves moving a week before Christmas, which meant a broken lease and high fines, as well as transitioning to a city where friendships would have to be built afresh.

Externally, I was busier than I’d ever been, but on the inside, my soul was barely limping along.

The more I tried to fix things, the more they fell apart. But God meets us in our struggle... Click To Tweet

So I did what I always do — I tried to figure out how to fix everything. Maybe if I rearranged my work calendar, or if we saw a specialist or made more money or could get my daughter healthy — maybe then, things would get better. Easier. More hopeful.

But the more I tried to figure things out, the more overwhelmed I became. I started crying out to the Lord, asking the unanswerable question of why: Why were things so hard? Why was there such loss? Why did I feel so stuck?

Read the rest of the article here, at Proverbs 31 Ministries!

 

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

 

Saying No to Being Busy, Saying Yes to Resting in God

The river here is humming. Steady, even, strong. We are in the mountains of Colorado on a family vacation, and in my hours on the back deck, I am attending to that hum. I am not just hearing, I am listening. And in the quiet of listening to the river, I am tuning in again to my heart. There is a lot going on there–many thoughts and things that have not had time to surface because of the constant pace of work and doing that fill my days.

Saying No to Being Busy, Saying Yes to Trusting God.  www.annswindell.com

We’re busy, aren’t we? We are a culture that values busyness, even if it’s not necessarily productive. I wear it as a badge of pride sometimes–I’m busy. The insinuation is that I’m busy doing important things. Really, a lot of times I’m so busy that instead of doing the important things in life I’m missing the important things.

I'm so busy that instead of doing the important things in life I'm missing the important things. Click To Tweet

But here in the mountains, where the internet connection is spotty and the schedule is loose (our big daily items: hiking and napping), I’m slowing down. And I’m reflecting on how I’ve been living.

It’s been a long time since I’ve really taken time off. I don’t say that in pitying tone; I have loved my work for the last years and I have loved the writing projects that have filled up the margin that I’ve had. But this month, I’ve stepped back from working and deadline-based writing. I’ve been re-learning how to rest.

I’ll be honest; it’s not easy for me to really slow down and rest. I like feeling busy and I like having projects to work on. But this past month has been full of huge transitions for our family, and my soul has needed the time to reflect. I have needed to pull back and soak in the relationships and the days that are right in front of me. Everything is changing. These are good changes for our family, but I won’t get these days back. I want to live them fully. I want to be attentive to the live I am living right now.

I don’t want to spend my life busy with things that aren’t the most important. I don’t want to attend to the vibrations of my phone and my email and miss my daughter’s fascination with Legos or the passing whistle of hummingbirds mere feet from my eyes.

And so: God is using my time on the deck to remind me to slow down and tune in to His heart above all.

It’s the swell of summer: the river below the deck is high and full and fast. I have spent the mornings on the deck, praying and reading Scripture and marveling at how quickly the river passes me by. The water stops for no one and for nothing. It passes over and around rock, carries fish in its ribboning swirl, and stops for no man. It is a powerful force.

And I can’t do anything to change that river. No matter how much I do, my own strength could never stop that river or slow it’s flowing down, down to an end I cannot see. From above, on the deck, it’s so clear to me that that river is unstoppable, except by One much greater than me. He can stop those waves instantly, if he chooses. I cannot.

Busyness keeps my head down and keeps me from getting a perspective where I can really see the state of things. It keeps me mired in the tyranny of the urgent rather than living for what is truly important. It keeps me from seeing the unchanging current of the river, and it gives me the fleeting illusion that I can change things if I just work harder or longer or do something else.

The river reminds me: there is only One–Christ himself–who can change the course of things. My responsibility is to stay close to him, to follow him, to obey him. When I do that, he will guide and lead the river of my life. I don’t have to try to force the stream somewhere new. All of my busyness cannot change anything; one word from His mouth can.

All of my busyness cannot change anything; one word from Christ's mouth can. Click To Tweet

So. I trust in him. I let him be in control. I stay faithful. If that leads to busyness, ok. But I’m going to seek to stay away from being busy just for the sake of trying to feel like what I’m doing is important. He already gave my life the highest value. He did the same for you. We don’t have to stay busy to be living a purposeful, important life. We are important because of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.

Tomorrow, we’re going whitewater rafting. I’m excited to see where the river takes me. I won’t be in control, but I’ll be riding in the waves who are controlled by the One who is.

Squeezed for Time and Resting in God

Daily Ways to Rest So We Don't Burn Out

When you’re juggling a lot of roles–wife, employee, mom, student, friend, sister–or any other number of roles–it can feel like there’s no margin in our lives. We feel tired, exhausted, maybe even worn-down. And in that mental state, it can seem harder and harder to believe that there’s some sort of dim light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I have days where it feels like my season will never change–that I’ll always feel tired, or that I’ll always be pressed for time.

And you know what I’m having to come to terms with? That might actually be the case. From now until I die, I might always feel hard-pressed, squeezed, even, for time. In his book, The Sacred Journey, Frederick Buechner writes about how children are the ones who live “below time;” they do not experience time in the same way as adults do because they do not yet have a sense of its earthly finiteness, nor do they carry the responsibilities that we do once we grow up. At some point, though, all of us open the door unto time and find ourselves living within the reality of limited days. Most of us are always a bit wistful for the days of carefree timelessness. But we cannot go back.

And so, yes I have lost that sense of timelessness, of freedom away from the clock. I have roles and responsibilities that will forever keep me from being free of the constraints of time. But I would not trade those good things for unhindered freedom. Every thing that truly matters requires tethering, especially love. 

Every thing that truly matters requires tethering, especially love. Click To Tweet

And so I am tethered to these roles and responsibilities, and sometimes I feel like I might break under the weight of them. But then I find that I am able to bend a bit more, and I find that I’m living in the grace of Christ, who does not break those who are already bending. He upholds us. He strengthens us. He fights on our behalf.

So, then, how can I live peacefully when time always feels thin? Well, in the midst of unending demands and requirements on our time, it is important–even necessary–to give ourselves time to rest. I’ve already written about why I believe the Sabbath is so central to our rhythms of weekly life, but on the smaller scale of day-to-day life, how can we rest? How can we allow ourselves to take short breaks in the midst of our days so that we don’t break under the weight of our responsibilities?

There are many ways to do this, but here are five of my favorite, simple ways to rest daily:

1. Connecting with Christ. This is so important for me–I’ve written more about it here, but the fact is that unless I’m staying close to Jesus, everything else feels overwhelming and stressful. Half an hour with him in the morning shifts my mindset toward His priorities and gives me the grace I need to do all that I’m called to do. This can look different for all of us, but my time with God in the morning includes reading the Word, praying, and journaling.

2. Choosing Gratitude. It’s amazing how quickly thankfulness can change my attitude and my perspective. If I can make the choice to say–out loud–three things that I’m thankful for, I’m usually humbled to bits–in the best sense. I have been given so much, and God is with me through it all.

3. A long(ish) shower. I’m not joking. When you can close (and lock!) the door, a shower offers a little time to let my brain rest, let my body rest, and let my senses rest. If you have time for a long soak, even better!

4. Five minutes in silence. Put down the phone, the remote, the headphones. Sit, quietly, and try to let all of the tension seep out of your body. Ask God for a fresh dose of His peace in your heart, mind, and bones.

5. A hot drink in the wintertime, a cold drink in the summertime. The sensory power of being refreshed or warmed is something that often brings me a few moments of pleasure, gratefulness, and peace–if I attend to my senses and allow myself to slow down.

Even in the busy days that most of us find ourselves in, there is grace from Christ to live peacefully. Small steps like these can help us slow down and be present in the life that we are living–they can even help us meet God in the midst of the busyness.