It takes work to rest.

I remember being so weary, so tired. There was so much to do. So much to do, in fact, that it seemed a monumental task just to decide what to do.

My fatigue was compounded by the fact that most of my “so much to do” was made of small, menial, basic tasks.

There were dishes in the sink, crumbs on the floor, laundry everywhere. There were meals to make, which would mean more kitchen clean-up and more dishes – not to mention the decision of what to make and then the making.

Sprinkled throughout the ho-hum hill of tasks were dirty diapers, needy hands, feet that made haste to empty every reachable surface.

There was clearly no hope of a finish line, even if I got up and got busy. So why bother?

It’s a good thing that was before Instagram and Facebook (at least in my life). As it was, I only draped myself limply across the couch and read books.

This was not rest.

This was sloth.

I did not feel better after an afternoon thus spent. I felt worse. I had neglected my duty and indulged my selfish pettiness in lazy indolence.

Eventually, something would motivate me – often my husband’s imminent arrival home from work. I’d let rip with a frenzied tidying and suddenly have a dinner inspiration. Working under pressure seemed to galvanize my resolve and spark my energy.

Somehow, I felt better in this mode, and because I had already slandered and disrespected the work itself, I attributed it to the adrenaline of working to a deadline and trying to squeeze the most productivity out of the least amount of time.

But the truth was that in those moments I was also doing the work I was supposed to be doing. I was doing my duty.

It was the deadline pressure that got me off the couch, but it was the work that lifted my spirits, even though at the time I did not realize or acknowledge it.

“It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.”  — Elisabeth Elliot

Picking up the same book and reclining on the same couch after the laundry was put away, after the dishes were done, after the laundry was folded, was a completely different experience. I looked the same. I was doing the same thing.

Yet one was rest and one was sloth.

The difference was not in the act nor the setting, but in the work.

Too often the rest we take does not refresh us. We don’t feel rested after taking a break, after doing something fun.

Let me suggest, ever so gently, as a lesson learned from my own life: The rest won’t be rest until the work is tackled with a good will.

The rest we want is not actually a physical relief, it is a mental and emotional one. So we turn to a novel or a friend or Instagram or chocolate. Yet these only submerge the underlying stress, and that is not relief. We should not be surprised when we are not refreshed after simply ignoring our stress.

The relief comes in dealing with it.

Put the house in order, even just one corner. See some progress. Fulfill some part of your duty.

Pray and give God your stress and trust His providence. Pray and repent of mismanagement and sloth or of control and anger. Repentance then must turn to virtue, to doing what we ought.

It’s not that we shouldn’t rest until all our work is complete. Most of our work is never completed, never finished. When we’re in discouragement mode we use that as an excuse to never start.

Rather, we use our time for the glory of God and do what we can to serve Him by serving our families and our communities, then we rejoice in the rest He provides: meal times, Sundays, evenings, quiet mornings in prayer or on a walk.

The opportunities for rest are there, but we won’t see them or enjoy them unless we’re digging into our daily work honestly and cheerfully.

Want to use your summer intentionally to build the order needed for real rest? Join us for the Simplified Organization Interval Intensive, starting May 25.

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17 Responses

  1. Kate
    | Reply

    This was beauiful. Thank you.

  2. Lauren Scott
    | Reply

    This was a timely post. I have been finding my 6 year old playing when he should be doing a chore, and I try to tell him he’s missing out on real play time by playing when he should be working. It’s so easy to see in someone else. ;-) But you’re so right–I need to be telling myself the same thing.

    • Lauren Scott
      | Reply

      There’s no guilt if the rest or play is planned and/or earned. :-)

      • Mystie Winckler
        | Reply

        True!

  3. Brittany L
    | Reply

    I think I will print this out and tape it by the kitchen sink so I read it often. You basically summed up my life. I told a friend recently that my hope for turning thirty this year is that I am getting closer to finally growing up. The more kids I have and the more I add into my schedule (with great reluctance because I’m always hesitant to add something I’m not going to follow though with) the more “with it” I have to make my life… Amazing how that responsibility requires self discipline. ;)

  4. Renee Matheny
    | Reply

    ❤️ today’s email. I’ve given in to this temptation towards sloth and felt the same way, while telling myself I’m “resting”. Thank you for calling it out and being transparent. I especially like the point that we are not seeking a physical rest but a mental one, and being slothful definitely does not give us that mental rest. On the contrary, it feels so good to put your feet up when you know you’ve worked hard to earn it!

  5. Samantha H.
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for this post. It puts into words what I was feeling and doing yesterday. I was being a sloth. I asked the Lord for forgiveness and have had a wonderful start to the day. The Lord is so gracious to place conviction in my heart. Thankful for new morning mercies.

  6. Sarah deVries
    | Reply

    Loved this article! I think we’re often fed the message in the media (esp as moms) that “we deserve a break” – not true! We need to do the work that God has called us to do, and that will make us happy. Or we need to pursue joy in the midst of the necessary work, and as you say, “learn to love what must be done.” THEN we get to rest:) Thanks for a wonderful article!

  7. Victoria J.
    | Reply

    Thank you for being so honest. There has been addiction in the home and after years of it and underlying depression on my part in response to all the difficulties that posed to our family, I did give in to discouragement and neglect some house chores. I’m about to get back into doing my duties with renewed focus! God has taken care of the biggest needs of all of our lives through salvation. I will trust Him with the restoration of our family and do what He’s put in front of me to do . . . my responsibililites!

  8. fivebeansfood
    | Reply

    Yes, totally agree, thank you for sharing your self awareness and reflections! Getting in the right frame of mind for work and for rest can (strangely enough) be a big challenge.

  9. Ann H.
    | Reply

    Mystie! You described this tendency so beautifully! I do get to the point where I am so overwhelmed that I do not know where to start. I have finally realized to start anywhere. Just pick up one thing or do one dish. You are right the energy comes from doing. The next thing you know, the whole kitchen is picked up …. even if it is only for one minute! I am glad you reminded me that I wouldn’t appreciate reading if I had all of the time in the world to read ….. well, I’m not sure if I completely buy into that! :)

  10. Jami
    | Reply

    Definitely a timely post! I hope part of it sloth mode is age of children! I have 4 kids, oldest is 6 and in a wheel chair. My husband works a lot (and by that I mean pretty much constantly, that’s another story) and so I am taking care of house and kids myself. When naptime hits, I hit the books, the phone…the couch! I will fold laundry too or dishes, we keep a neat house, but it seems to me as they would age, exhaustion might subside some (not nursing 3x a night!!) or at least evolve into a different form. Again, I hope! In the meantime, I will be thankful to a certain degree to be allowed some much needed sloth time, but also pray that I am accountable to the Lord in my work still. Always a balance! Everythringg in moderation ;). Thanks for the post!!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      For sure, Jami! That is the most exhausting stage! The couch-crashing that comes after a full day – or in the midst of a full day, tackled – is quite different from the couch-draping that happens when everything must be done and we give in to our desire to do nothing. It might sometimes look the same on the outside, but one is legitimate and one is not. Sounds like yours is legitimate!

      You might also enjoy a Scholé Sisters episode we did awhile back called “Amusing Ourselves to Leisure” – turns out even Aristotle thought sometimes we just need mindless entertainment to recuperate after strenuous activity.

  11. Tina
    | Reply

    i love this, and it is so true. But does anyone have help for this momma who feels like there is never the time to rest. That the list is never done, and there is always one more task to finish. So then, I collapse in bed, feeling sad that i never did read any of that book, or sit and do some art, or work on that fun hobby. Am I just unorganized with my time? I am homeschooling 9 kids.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      We definitely can’t wait until all our work is done to rest, because it will never be done. And carving out time for refreshment – real refreshment like reading a book or pursuing a hobby or making something – is completely different from zoning out on the couch. I believe we should reserve time daily for creative/reflective hobbies. I recommend this post: GTD Isn’t GIAD (Getting It All Done) and Entropy: 3 Ways to Deal with It. Plus, the podcast I cohost, Scholé Sisters (http://www.scholesisters.com/) is all about homeschooling moms keeping themselves learning and growing as whole persons alongside their children.

  12. Audra Leevey
    | Reply

    What you wrote is so, so true. I think part of the problem for me is that I rarely set aside intentional rest time. I suppose that I feel like that’s an indulgence rather than a need—especially since the work is NEVER truly done, and there is so much to do, so therefore I ought to always be busy. When I do “rest”, it often ends up being in unintentional moments that I don’t enjoy as much as I could because I’m stealing the moments with a guilty conscience instead of planning for them and having my own mental permission to enjoy the rest freely. It can be tricky not to over-rest and get to feeling entitled or slothful and not to under-rest and get cranky and burned out. It can also be tricky to get your family to recognize and accept that you need moments of rest and to set appropriate boundaries so that there can be that necessary rhythm of rest in a day and in a week.

  13. Rochelle Marshall
    | Reply

    Great post Mystie. I found your live video from Saturday so encouraging and helpful and challenging. Brain dumping was great as always! And yesterday afternoon ran much smoother, as I remembered to put things on my calendar and wait until EHAP to have my kids clean up their stuff. 😊 Thanks so much for all you do! You’re a blessing to so many. Now to tackle organizing that pile of books that needs to live on shelves…

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