What is rest? My husband asked me the other day as we unloaded dishwashers and made the coffee early in the morning. Our to-do lists that day were longer than the hours available to complete half of the tasks listed and my text messages were incoming with more requests. The day was overwhelming before the sun had risen. Where can we find peace? I wondered.

Have you ever felt this way? The scales that balance the gift and tasks of mothering, working and being the daughter of Christ that our hearts long to be can often seem tipped to the wrong side with the busy overtaking the good. Social media shows us hacks, tips, glimpses of the perfect or of a moment where the puzzle pieces were found, and everything fit. That is not the reality for most of us. We wake up too busy and we close our eyes with hearts and bodies exhausted from the weight of trying to do it all.  

I am in a season of life where I am starting to ask myself what if you could? What if you prayed first? What if you prepped the meals and snacks that worked for your body ahead of other tasks? What if you took that walk? What if you grabbed that daily Mass once a week? At times, these seem like luxuries I shouldn’t take. They put me above the others in my misguided conscience. The truth is that when I do plan my days in this way, I have more to give to those I love and, surprisingly, to myself as well. My eyes are lifted from the doing to the grateful act of praising. Thank you, Jesus, for this day. Thank you, Father, for fresh food and healthy choices. When the schedule picks up, thank you, Lord, for the snacks I packed, the meal I prepared ahead of time, and the grace that attending Mass gives me. 

There are seasons to parenting. Twenty-two years into this, I recognize them. This recognition needs to be like the rumble strips on the side of the road, reminding us to hold tight to what keeps us in a state of grace.

The feeling of being overwhelmed, the lack of rest, the tendency to just keep doing and going is putting our own desires above God’s. God’s creation has a natural rhythm of rest. The trees outside my window have a season of rest. The bees and squirrels harvest in specific times and bears hibernate. They recognize their seasons. The free will God gives us as humans allows us to push past our limits. (How many of us have felt that tug to just go to bed at night but push to do one more thing, and then we cannot fall asleep because we have pushed past that natural melatonin given to our bodies to settle and rest?) And yet God calls us back.

The Lord created the Sabbath for us, but he also created us with breath. I’m all about the practical. The Sabbath is a goal for me, and I am working toward preparing for rest on that day because it will take some prep to pause, but I know it is worth it. But it is not just a day of doing less that I need. It is a spirit of rest. I need a heart so attuned to the Lord’s presence that with my breath comes rest. When I stay in conversation with the Lord, I see His presence more fully in the daily moments of mothering. I lift my eyes and breath. Gratitude fills my heart and grace fills my lungs and I begin again. In the book of Exodus, (Chapter 33:12-14) we see Moses overwhelmed. 

“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, “Lead these people,” but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favor with me. If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. And the Lord replied, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” 

When faced with our to-do lists that threaten to steal our peace, let us turn to the Lord and ask what is the next thing You wish me to do? I think this is what Jesus was speaking of in the story of Mary and Martha. Found in Luke 10:38-42, Martha is overwhelmed with tasks and Mary is attuned to what Jesus is saying. Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” In keeping that conversation open, the Lord guides us and gives us His peace, manna enough for today. May we find the rest He gives in this. 

This article also appeared at The Catholic Times.

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