Can I tell you a story about some favorite friends that turned into a favorite season of my life? I’m sure I’ve shared the story of meeting Kara; we were invited out to dinner by mutual friends when Jason and Kara had just moved to town. My baby boy was brand new; in fact, if I remember correctly, I think this was his first outing. Aaron and I arrived at the restaurant last, and the way everyone had sat down, I ended up next to Jason, which was perfect—Kara was such an extrovert, the life of her end of the table! She totally overwhelmed me even though I was so far down I couldn’t even participate in her conversation. I was content to be next to introverted Jason, who intuitively knew that I was fine not talking much. And as a father of four, he was also super helpful with Von. But then midway through the meal, Kara announced she wanted us all to switch seats—mainly, I had to go sit next to her. She immediately took Von out of my arms and started asking me awkward questions. Sleep deprived and still recovering from NICU isolation, I shrank back in response to Kara’s loud, social, laughy ways of relating.
After dinner, everyone came back to our Bungalove for chocolate cake, and I had a brief respite sneaking away to breastfeed Von and put him to bed. Conversation was more intimate and calm, and I felt comfortable being in my own home. I warmed to Kara and enjoyed her fun stories, inquisitive spirit, and heart for Jesus. By the time folks said goodnight, I knew I had a friend in Kara, and we traded phone numbers. They hadn’t been gone 5 minutes when Kara texted to tell me that she was crying thinking about how much Aaron loved me—she had been watching him look at me all evening, and she loved our love.
That’s when I knew I loved her.
Fast forward several months to when Jason was pursuing Aaron to join the staff of his church plant as the worship leader. As Aaron and I prayed through that huge decision, God made something very clear to me: That after supporting Aaron, my priority at Westside would be to support Kara. I had no idea what that would mean down the road, but the conviction was strong enough in my heart that when Kara asked me to co-lead a women’s Bible study with her, I agreed.
I’m just going to tell y’all how things were: Kara had The Biggest Heart for young mamas. I didn’t. I had a heart for working women. Kara wanted to start a weekday morning study for young mamas and wanted me to co-lead. I couldn’t have been less interested; I wanted to do an evening study for working women! But that conviction by the Holy Spirit reminded me that my calling to support Kara was my priority. So she picked a book and we started a group with a sweet group of mamas.
Soon thereafter, Kara’s treatment started taking a toll on her, and she was able to lead less and less. Which meant I stepped in more and more. And I. was. terrible. Oh, my soul, as Kara would say! I was shocked every week that women would show up! But I knew they weren’t there for the amazing teaching—because they weren’t going to find it—they were there for the community. I limped along teaching that precious group. Once we finished the book, we didn’t continue because we knew by then that Kara’s days were limited.
When I think back to that time, my heart swells with joy. Kara and I were so different--she was such an extrovert, spontaneous and loud. She seemed to remember every detail anyone ever said even though she was so sick, while I frantically scrambled to write prayer requests down so I would remember. I see how God paired us, like night and day, to love the women of Westside. She was my ministry partner for that season, and I counted it pure joy. What a gift!!! I am so grateful that the Lord nudged me to say yes to her request of co-leading that group when all I wanted to do was say, No, thanks! Kara was so incredibly gifted in loving women big, and I got to learn from her, watch her in action, soak in her love--that is priceless to me and worth every uncomfortable moment I experienced. In fact, serving with Kara overwhelmed the silly discomfort. Thank you, Jesus!
After Kara died, my dear friend Elizabeth approached me after church and said that she really missed our group. I almost choked on my coffee. Not only was the teaching horrible, but we scrambled every week finding a place to meet; you see, when you’re a part of a church plant that meets at a school, every activity other than church on Sundays has to be at someone’s house. And once Kara was too sick to teach, she was too sick to host. Everything about that group was a mess! But Elizabeth simply missed the community, which dissipated when Kara went Home to Jesus. And I did, too. So we made a deal—we would start the group up again; she would host every single gathering if I would teach. And Mona—the famous Grandma Mona who loves So Big—organized some of the older ladies from church to help with childcare.
We picked a book and invited any woman who wanted to come, and we worked and worked to build a safe place to share our stories, hearts, lives. And it was beautiful. After Mona moved away, we didn’t have that childcare anymore and the kids ran wild (at one point, we had 24 littles!). But still, the fellowship was precious, and I made friendships I will have for the rest of my life. For those sweet years I drove to Elizabeth’s house every other week to gather in the safety of her love, engage others in the telling of their stories, and pray for these women who became like sisters. It was a season of hard work, sacrifice, reaping, and blessing. And I loved every crazy minute of it.
But, combined with the rest of life, it was exhausting, and last spring Elizabeth and I decided that this fall we would take a break. That was about the time when I was finding answers to my health issues and my doctor and specialist were telling me to cut down on the busyness in my life. So I’ve been studying rest and the theology of rest, I’ve started yoga and meditation and physical therapy and tapping and deep breathing and soul care. I’m learning what it means to rest and why God asks—no, commands—us to rest.
So here I get to the whole point of my post (I just couldn’t resist telling that story about Kara and then sharing about Elizabeth’s heart!): as I sat down to look at the calendar for this fall, I saw something I’ve never seen on my calendar before—space!! My baby boy starts kindergarten NEXT WEEK, and my baby girl starts preschool in September three mornings a week. And for the first time in a ridiculous amount of years, because I always worked full time before having babies, I have time on my calendar that isn’t accounted for. I texted Elizabeth because normally this time of year, I’d be prepping for our women’s study. I texted her all my fears—that God is giving me this huge gift of time and rest, and I’m afraid of squandering it. That I’ve learned that in the past, I’ve called avoidance rest and instead of engaging in soul care, I’ve pretended to rest but have actually withdrawn and escaped. And I am terrified of doing that again all in the name of rest. I’m terrified of saying, I’ll do XYZ to rest but finding myself months down the road not rested at all—simply withdrawn emotionally or spiritually. I’m afraid of a cold, numb, detached heart.
I’m not typically a fearful person, so I’m thanking God for these fears—I think that they signal a desire to move toward Jesus. But how do I trust him in this? How do I trust him with free time when I’m so used to being busy? How do I trust that I won’t squander this gift? And here is the true point of this post. Will you, dear reader friends, share how you have navigated your pursuit of rest? How have you wrestled with learning how to rest, learning not to squander your resting time? How do you rest—truly rest—and not withdraw or escape? How do you move toward Jesus in the vulnerability of pursuing rest? I would love to learn from your wisdom. Or from your struggles, if you’re still on this path like I am. Let’s start a discussion! I’d love to hear your experience and hearts!