One of my favorite places to go on a late summer night is Moravia Winery – just a short drive from our home in Fresno, California. Somehow even when it’s scorching outside, it’s a few degrees cooler out at the winery. My kids love to play wild and free with their friends on the pirate ship play structure. Some of the daddies play bocce ball.
We lounge on picnic blankets and share goodies. They often have a live band playing music and a food truck selling burritos or a vendor serving up fancy cupcakes. As the sun lies down for the evening, ribbons of color dance beyond the rows and rows of vines dripping with grapes.
Of course, if you drive out to this winery during the winter months, you will witness a different scene from the flourishing vines of late summer/early fall. Mysterious fog often seeps in late at night and early in the mornings. The vines are pruned back, standing stark against the winter sky. They have traded green leaves and lush grapes for gnarly and naked vines. This season in the vine’s life is called dormancy, the resting period before new growth.
Rest is necessary not just in the cycle of the grape’s life but also in our human lives. Rest refreshes the mind, body and spirit. And yet, our American culture lies to us about rest. We are led to believe: time is money; those who multitask best are the most productive; and there is no time for rest.
The Bible tells us just the opposite. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus leans in and shares these words with the crowd: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Jesus speaks of a different kind of yoke. His yoke is made with grace, love and forgiveness – so different from the yokes we mamas often hoist up on our tired shoulders. Our yokes are too often marked by guilt, striving, and perfectionism.
I grew up in a house where we were constantly on the go. When I was in elementary school, my evenings were filled with piano lessons, soccer games, ballet and jazz classes, church youth group and more. As I entered junior high and high school, I added activities like newspaper, yearbook, Track & Field, and voice lessons. While I enjoyed all these activities, I remember we were always running, always pushing deadlines, always melting into bed exhausted. I am grateful for the many opportunities my parents gave me but sometimes I wonder if it also was an inadvertent training to chase busyness.
When I left home, I continued on this trajectory – filling my schedule with a myriad of activities and too often shunning rest. The Bible warns in Psalm 127:2 against this kind of pace: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” We are not built to burn the candle at both ends. When we are sleep-deprived, we lash out at our littles; we make rash decisions; we allow negative self-talk to creep into our mind minds and root deeply in our souls.
As mamas, we need to give ourselves permission to rest. Rest is the way we detox from the busyness and rejuvenate our souls. Rest is the place we connect with our Creator, who modeled for us what it means to rest. God didn’t need to create a day for rest. After all, He is the all-powerful God of the universe. He rested on the seventh day to show us the importance of a rhythm of rest.
There was a time when I felt like punching someone if they said the word “nap.” I was a mother of three kids under age 5 and getting them to sleep was my number one mom challenge.
I would find myself in these circles of women, and inevitably someone would offer up her perfect kid sleeping plan. She would talk about this one method, or this one routine, or this special music that would magically make her children nap. I would lower my eyes and exit the conversation, feeling like a failure again.
My husband and I tried all sorts of tricks to get our girls to nap. Just about the only thing that worked was putting them in the jogging stroller or car seat and driving them around town. I was grateful but that didn’t involve mama resting. I endured almost a decade when rest felt like this elusive dream, this thing people talked about that just wasn’t for me. If you’re a mama in that stage of life, hold on. Redemption is coming.
Now that my baby is 5 and my oldest is 10, we are creating new rhythms of rest in our home. This requires intentionality because rest is counter-cultural. We try to say no to more than we say yes to. We try to choose activities we can do as a family instead of driving in different directions every night of the week. We are taking back Sundays for naps, reading and playing outside.
Choosing to rest is challenging with three growing girls who are creative and ambitious. They are wired like their mama, who loves to fill the calendar squares and jump into new opportunities too. Whenever I see our schedule is squeezed too tight or we are running from one activity to the next, I try to remind myself of the grape vines out at the winery in winter. A season of rest is important for growth. It’s a time when God does special work underground. Once the vines have rested, tiny buds of green appear in spring. And eventually, the vines are lush and heavy with fruit once again.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore lives in Fresno, California with her new husband Shawn and three daughters. She is a published children’s author, poet, journalist and blogs about chasing God’s glory through every day at www.DorinaGilmore.com. When she isn’t writing, you can find Dorina running marathons or in the kitchen creating a new recipe. Connect with her on Instagram.