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sleeping woman

For many of us it seems the more rest we need, the less we get. Between taking care of my family, actively seeking the Lord, and trying to launch a writing career, (plus all my other projects and obligations) getting sufficient rest can be as far-fetched as finding out that book I’ve never pitched has been miraculously contracted for a movie deal. (Who says you can’t dream wide awake?)

But I know I need to rest well if I’m to accomplish my goals and take care of my responsibilities with excellence. Resting well is not just sleeping, but a series of decisions that affect sleep and the quality of our days while we’re awake. Fortunately, the word for what we all need and almost never get, serves as an acronym for how to get it:

Resist the urge to take on more than you can accomplish. I’ve been known to say yes to things I didn’t have the time, the resources–and sometimes the desire–to do. Even when I did say no, my hesitation would be pounced upon and a yes wrestled out of me. I’ve learned (and am still learning) to be firm in declining requests that I just don’t have the capacity to meet. It frees me to focus on the more important tasks, and saves me the embarrassment of having my husband follow right behind me to scratch my name off a volunteer list I just signed. (That has happened.)

Expect setbacks. Ever heard of a backup plan, plan B, or the alternate route? Those phrases exist because plans–no matter how meticulous we are in making them–get interrupted. When I went to the ACFW conference last month I had hoped to return home with a couple of proposal requests to work on. Instead I came home with a request for a proposal and a request for a full manuscript. Great deviation from the plan, right? Amazing. Only I came home to a son with pneumonia. I couldn’t take care of him the way I needed to without setting some healthy expectations for how soon I could submit my materials. It’s tempting to forego rest when there’s a hitch in the agenda. And if it’s for a night or two, I don’t think there’s any harm in that. But when we find ourselves getting just three to four hours of sleep on average, it’s time to make some schedule changes. Exhaustion breeds sloppiness. Consistent exhaustion is a health hazard.

Set aside quiet time. Again, rest is not all about sleep. It’s also about peace of mind and a restoring of the soul. For me this means prayer, or just stealing away to the place where I pray most often. I know when I go there, I’ll get some uninterrupted time to myself (except for the time when my youngest came in, misread my humble posture and hopped on my back with the command to “Giddyup!”)

Trust in the Lord. God doesn’t call us to sleep our days away, but He does call us to rest in Him, and to leave room for Him to show up in our endeavors. When we cram our days with activity, obligation, and busyness–and never give our bodies and minds the time to recoup energy spent, or our spirits the means to refuel in God’s presence or through His word–we are in a sense putting trust in our own efforts.

And God, who alone never sleeps, commands us to take time to be still.

Your turn: How do you manage getting the rest you need in the midst of all your obligations?