notes while trying to dismount the hamster wheel

Posted: April 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

We were practicing a specific kind of intercessory prayer, listening to God and waiting to get a word or a picture for one person at a time.  It was my turn – the group was praying over me.  Someone got a picture:  the energizer bunny.

I felt relief as I immediately knew what that was about.  God sees me!  He is talking to me, telling me that He knows me, that I am enough, that I don’t have to keep trying so hard.  He is pleased with my desire to serve, but that doesn’t have to define my every moment.  I can let go of scrambling to do, do, do.  I can slow down.

Then, amidst my relief, another voice.  The person who got the picture for me added their thoughts.  I was going to become more active, more productive.  I was going to be like someone else we both knew, someone who goes, goes, goes all the time.  My activity was going to be ratcheted up.

The idea scratched in my ears like nails on a chalkboard.  It made me more tired than I already was.  I went home and went straight to bed, asking God, “Didn’t I hear you right?”  How could I do MORE?  The idea of needing to do more made me want to quit altogether.

I continued to pray about that over time; when my freak-out was over, I was able to hear Him assuring me.  I had heard Him right.

Still, I didn’t really know how to slow down.  I kind of worked on it, but it continued to be somehow just beyond my grasp in the many months since that prayer session.

One great thing about God is He keeps on talking, when we don’t get it the first time.

I got sick a couple of weeks ago – the kind of sick that presses me down on the bed and holds me there, captive.  I was down for the count for three days; on the fourth, I woke up feeling better and thought the storm was over.  I jumped out of bed at 5 AM and proceeded to hustle around my house, getting stuff done, thrilled with the recovery.  After five hours of hustle, I crashed, landing back in bed and cancelling an important meeting I should have attended, could have attended if I had just not leaped into SuperKaren mode that morning.

That set me back so hard that for the following seven days,  each day I had to stop in the afternoon, quit everything I was doing, and just go home for long naps, sleeping a deep sleep that is a thing from my past, beyond my reach at night anymore.  The naps were not optional.  It was discouraging.  I felt like I was NEVER going to be well and whole again.

In the midst of this struggle, I was emailing with my chiro/functional medicine practitioner.  I told her about feeling so much better and then crashing again.  She had urged me already to slow down.  I confessed that I don’t know how to slow down.  I expressed my surprise at this revelation.

Then she used a word that made me cry.  You are convalescing, she said.  You haven’t been well for two years.  I’ve seen your excitement as you are healing, and it is good, but this isn’t going away in a period of weeks.  It will take months.  You have to slow down.  You have to focus on being, not doing.  I know you can do it.  I read her thoughts, shocked, and wept.  All this time I’ve wanted my MD to pay attention, listen, help me…and now someone is doing that, and in the moment it was kind of devastating.

Convalescing?  That’s what I’m doing?  I’m a vocabulary girl; I was sure I knew what that word meant, but I spent some time studying it around the internet anyway.  It speaks to slowing down, separating oneself from the hurry of the getting-stuff-done world.  Once upon a time, people who were healing were sent away to quiet locations to convalesce, for weeks or months at a time.  Set aside to rest, take walks, create art, sit by bodies of water and do nothing.  I read about this and a great longing stretched out in me.  Oh, how I’d love to be tucked away somewhere like that!

I was still processing this when the next wave of input came from another source.  I’m giving a talk later this month at a women’s event about the importance for Christ-followers of regular study.  I previewed that talk last week in front of a team of about twenty women, sharing my journey with lots of specifics about the various ways I study.  I was/am excited to give this talk, since study is my jam.

Then it was time for them to give me feedback.  Collectively the room liked a lot about what I shared.  Collectively they all also said stuff that boiled down to:  HOLY COW WOMAN, you are overwhelming!  You need to let “normal” people know that they don’t need to do alllll those things that you do!  You’ll scare people into not trying, if they think they have to live up to that much!

Uhhh…oh.  Really?  The funny thing was that when I’d been asked to give this talk, even though study is my jam, I had worried a bit that what I do might not be enough.

My long-time prayer and accountability partner was in that group of ladies.  She took me aside later.  “No wonder you’re tired all the time, if that’s what you’re doing!”  She urged me to slow down, to stop filling every spare second with effort.  To stop doing so much and practice just being.  Maybe this is why I don’t sleep so well, she noted.  Maybe this is the source of my busy “working dreams” that leave me waking up exhausted from all the fruitless “effort” therein.  She has gone on to urge me since then:  rest matters.  You have to rest.  She’s wonderfully relentless – when I say I will try, she reminds me, laughing, that Yoda says, “There is no try, there is only do!”

That same day of the meeting, my daughter Julia let me know that my busyness had shown up in her dream.  My granddaughter was sick and struggling; in her dream, Julia was arranging to keep her home from school to heal.  In her dream, I was gruff.  She’s just a preschooler, but I was adamant:  she’s big enough to be in school.  She doesn’t need time to heal.  Don’t keep her home.  We chuckled together about it, and Julia noted that in real life while I am terribly hard on myself, I always give everyone else permission – rest!  Slow down!  You don’t have to do all that!

Yeah, it was just a dream, but by this point I was clear:  God and I are having a conversation.  I need to be listening.

Aaaaannnnd He’s not done talking yet.  One of my favorite bloggers is Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a psychologist with gentle, brilliant insight whose writing speaks deeply to me.  He released a book in March, and I pounced on it.  It is called “Loveable:  Embracing What Is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life.”  I’m reading it on my lunch breaks at work.

That gets awkward, for this reason:  the book makes me weep.  I open it up, I read his gentle, loving words, and the tears just run down my face.  The basic message is simple – you are enough.  You don’t have to try so hard.  I have had so much healing on this front already that I kind of thought I had arrived; my daily tears when I crack the book open tell me that I’m nowhere near arrived.  I’m drinking in his words like water in a desert, filled with gratitude but also perpetually shocked at my own continued vulnerability on this point.  I haven’t thought that I was trying to “earn” anything with my doing.  But I’ve been wrong on that point.  This much is clear.

I’m breaking a rule of appropriate sharing by opening this all up while I’m in the middle of it.  The problem isn’t solved.  I haven’t yet regained my grasp on rest.  I’m trying to figure it out – trying to let go.  Trying to let God open up the place in me that locked the concept away.  I’m sharing because I’m not the only “getting stuff done” person stuck on the hamster wheel and trying to remember how to rest.  If you’re in the struggle with me:  I’m praying for you.  Pray for me.  We can do this.  God wants us to get it, which means we can, and we will.


  1. Sheina Renée says:

    God forced me to slow down but it goes against my grain. I’m interested in that book. Although I should put myself on a book ban since I have so many unread books already! 😉

  2. […]  Don’t you think that’s the antithesis of what seems to be the purpose of a planner?  I think my functional medicine practitioner would approve, […]

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