Doctor’s Orders

“I have confirmed white coat hypertension,” I said with all seriousness as the young lady slid the blood pressure cuff around my arm.  It’s one of those things, like blushing, where one can see an emotion triggering a physiological response.  I fear that my blood pressure will read high, and so, it obliges me by doing so.  The numbers on the screen cause eyebrows to lift.

One brilliant nurse two weeks ago had lowered her eyebrows and told me to close my eyes.  “Where’s your most relaxing place?”, she asked.  “My family’s cabin in Montana, right down by the Dearborn River.”  “Okay, I want you to hear the water, see the mountains, imagine the trees and just be there.”

I felt silly and couldn’t keep a smirk off my face, but I obeyed.  I looked at the picture in my mind, heard the river’s gurgling song, saw the light catching on the ends of pine needles.  She took my blood pressure then, and the numbers came back perfect.

So this week after the high numbers had alarmed once again they told me to lay on my side and rest, taking the reading again afterwards.  Perfect.  The doctor looked me straight in the eye and said, “You need to rest more.  You are working your body too hard.”

I knew it was true.  I had been overworking my eight months-pregnant body trying to keep up with the demands of life with four littles.  Lots of cleaning, lots of laundry, lots of cooking and baking.  The pre-winter chores of pruning the trees and roses.  Organizing baby clothing up in the attic.  The stuff of life that simply needs doing.

_MG_6397_MG_6350IMG_6369But as the last of the birthdays has been celebrated with gusto (and a cooking class per Reuben’s request), and…

IMG_2707…the bees no longer need me puttering about (and my suit is maxed-out anyhow), it’s time for more of…

_MG_6382 …letting other people help out…

_MG_6346 …and doing more of this:

IMG_2688…doctor’s orders :).

 

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Why It’s Hard to Rest

Henrik does laps around his playpen, swinging his dimpled arms like pendulums, as taking a nap is unthinkable with all this excess energy that compels his little legs to run, his little body to move, move, move.  It’s hard to rest.  There’s so much running to do.  As he winds down a bit, he rolls across the mattress with his blankie, in a wrestling match of sorts with the idea of sleep:  I embrace it (sucks thumb and strokes blankie’s silky edge), no I do not (tucks and rolls and kicks the sides of the playpen).  I think I do the same with the Sabbath.

For six days of the week I start my day by getting the laundry going.  There’s something soothing to me about hearing my trusty appliance sidekicks humming in the background, doing some major work at the touch of a button or two.  It’s probably as close as I’ll come to having some domestic help, and it makes the day seem like it’s acquired some momentum.  Some getting-it-done-ness.

So when the Sabbath comes around, a day to cease from my day-to-day workload and enjoy rest and my Lord, I miss the assuring hum of progress in the laundry room.  I even have “temptations” and rationalizations about why I could/should in fact do laundry anyways.  The quickly piling basket in the laundry room woos me.  I’m serious.  The loudest voice of temptation is Miss Responsible.  She reasons matter-of-factly that it’s as necessary as brushing my teeth and cooking on Sundays; the children do need clothing ready for school the next day.  What would become of Monday if Sunday didn’t do any work?

But, it’s just not true.  Because I do laundry nearly every day, there is no true shortage of clothing for anybody.  And Monday is meant for working, so let it have it’s work.

It’s hard to rest, hard to cease from wreaking productivity all over our weekend-blasted home.  Hard to swallow the crumbed floors, the scattered shoes, and the Sunday paper laid strewn in several reading spots.  Part of me wants it all ordered and shining and fresh and ready for Monday.  But when, then, am I ready for Sunday?

Ready for rest?

This takes some foresight.  I’m slowly learning that.  If I have laundry going Saturday night, I make sure not to put a load in the washer before bed, because it will shout at me to be switched over to the dryer and folded on Sunday morning.  I try to vacuum the floors and tidy things up Saturday night so that my restless I-want-order spirit can find less irritation in my surroundings.  And if all else fails and I awake to a disordered home on Sunday morning, I do as we did last night.  We gathered the children and headed out for a nice walk to the park.  We abandoned ship and sought fresh air, different landscapes, and no visible work to attend to other than pushing a giggling baby on the swings.

Sometimes you have to physically flee from temptations, even seemingly silly ones.

But the Sabbath commandment isn’t silly.  I guess it’s pretty important to God, so it must be awfully important for us as well; for our spiritual wellbeing and connection to Him and others.  We have to hit the pause button on our work, we need to step away from it, we need to remember God and dwell on Him with unscattered minds.  _MG_4776

Why do I put dear Henrik down for a nap?  Not because he wants one.  Oh, no.  He doesn’t even feel sleepy, quite the opposite really.  I put him down because I know what he needs better than he does.  I know he’d run himself ragged and get cranky and destructive and all out of sorts without his rest.  He’d make himself, and all of us, miserable.  It is an act of kindness and love, though to him it can feel so confining and restrictive.  When he finally succumbs to the nap, his cheeks flushed pink and his blankie clasped in his pudgy fingers, his breathing sweet and soft, I am captivated by the sight.  Love sweeps on over me as I see my son relaxing into the gift of rest.IMG_2100

It is humbling that we need the same, eh?  We are all grown up and yet we are still assigned a rest time.  We try to squirrel our way out of it, don’t we?  Because we like to be unrestricted; we like to chart our days as we please.  But God, in His wisdom, knows what we need better than we do.

Let us not, then, resist Him.  Let us accept the gift He kindly offers to us as dearly loved children.

 

Shooting From The Hip

shootingfromthehip2

It was a rambling two week-long drive zig-zagging across the Chilean and Argentinian borders, down, down and over the Strait of Magellan, into Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”), down to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world.  I swear that from there you can smell Antarctica.  We saw penguins, flamingoes, guanacos (like alpacas), flocks of rheas, icebergs, black and white-striped dolphins, and took a boat ride out to see southern right whale mamas with their calves.  We camped in Torres del Paine, one of the most gorgeous national parks in the world.  We took a boat out to a glacier and were awed by all that deep blue.  We did a lot on that trip, and guess what?  We didn’t plan it.

Now, we had sat down with a map and someone who had navigated the southern end of S. America.  He highlighted nice places to visit.  That was it.  No hotel reservations, no itinerary, just, go!

shootingfromthehip1It was the best trip of our lives.  We could stop and linger where we were intrigued, we could push right through the endless Argentine pampa which was a whole lot of brown with a bit of wildlife.  We lived pure spontaneity.  What an adventure.

Some of you read my short story I published last week, “Magda’s Gift”.  Someone asked me how I know what to write next; how does one go about crafting a story?  I smiled.  “Well, I watch what the characters say and do, and then I write what I saw.”  Incredulity.  It’s true.  I have no idea what the end of the story will be when I begin to write.  I have no idea what the point will be (or if there will be one), how the characters will develop, or how it will all fit together.  I write like I live, shooting from the hip.

Contrast this with my beloved parents-in-law.  They have a gift for planning and derive great pleasure from having time nicely chunked-out and labeled.  They love the predictability and they relax into their schedule like it’s an old pair of slippers.  Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve been stuffed into a whale-bone corset.  Can’t.  Breathe.

For the sake of family unity and peace, Dustin and I let them direct the family vacations, which they do a great job at.  A few years back we all went to Colonial Williamsburg.  The days were marked out and we happily donned our corsets (figuratively, you know) and toured Williamsburg and went to a fun theme park and such and such.  Even the meal schedule was marked-out and all went swimmingly according to plan.  There was one day left temporarily flexible according to which site we wished to revisit.  Dustin and I decided that enjoying the pool at the condo sounded perfect, just relax in the sun and let the kids unwind.  The family did not understand; why would we “waste” a day not “doing something”?  We didn’t want to come home from our vacation needing a vacation.  Within the structure of those days, we needed a bit of meandering rest and unhurried relaxing.

To be clear, I’m not holding up “shooting from the hip” as a virtue; our culture needs the type-A planners, indeed, very much!  But I do submit that we also need to recognize that not everyone fits into that category.  Both are gifts; you may not be able to count on me to plan a classroom party, but you can sure bet that I’ll be the one able to bring you some freshly-made chicken soup if you fall ill, and will be free to keep your children should your sitter not show.  My schedule isn’t full on paper, but my life is full of responsive work (living the day, responding to seen/felt needs, letting the Spirit guide my to-do list).  shootingfromthehipSome authors write out a detailed story line.  They know where their characters are headed ahead of time.  Some people plan out their lives. Some just don’t, happily.  Whatever group you fall in, or anywhere in between, may each of us encourage one another to either plan or respond in a way that honors Christ as Lord of our lives, as the most important focus of how our days on this spinning Earth are spent.

While You Rest

God has you.rest“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”  -Isaiah 49:15,16

God desires you, yes you.

rest4

“But now, this is what the LORD says-

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who created you, O Israel:

‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name;

you are mine’.”

Isaiah 43:1

God keeps you.

rest3

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul.”

Psalm 23: 1,2

You are held.

rest2

“The eternal God is your refuge,

and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Deuteronomy 33:27