Glimpses of Rest

Karen Culver and Faye Miller share with us today about how they have viewed work and rest over the years and how God is teaching them about His good gift of sabbath rest.

Karen Culver

Karen Culver and her high school sweetheart Lyle have been married for 59 years. They have four children and eight grandchildren. Over the years, they have relocated from sunny southern California to the rainy Northwest, a fact Karen grossly under estimated.

How has it been hard for you to embrace God’s rest in different seasons of your life? 

I was raised in a home where there was a very high work ethic. My parents were always working. I don’t remember them sitting and not working. From middle school on my mantra has been WORK. When I was not doing chores, homework, or school, I worked for the neighbors, babysitting, cleaning house, or ironing. That was the era of starched, long-sleeved white shirts. One of my families had six little boys who wore starched white shirts every Sunday and dad wore white shirts five days a week. Work was always there. It didn’t matter how old you were. 

I am guilty of NOT embracing God’s rest in different seasons of my life. I don’t think I ever thought this was something I should do or that I would benefit from. The Sabbath has always been, yes, go to church and then do whatever work that needs to be done. My Sabbath rest looks like the overflow of the prior six days. 

In Psalm 23, the psalmist says that God sometimes has to “make” us lie down in green pastures. When has God had to force you to rest? 

God forcing me to rest would mean I am sick and need to be in bed. Or, so emotionally stressed that I have been driven to my bed. In September 1975, I was six months pregnant and exhausted to the bone. I absolutely could not move myself from the bed. Company came knocking at the door. We had three sets of houseguests just prior to that, and I worked six days a week. “Oh, no I can’t do this,” I moaned. But this company did everything for me and my family. My aunt even canned applesauce for us. 

What did you learn about God during this season? 

I don’t know that I processed that thought at that time. Ask me now, I can tell you in the midst of that God showed Himself faithful and good. He knew what I needed and provided without a word from me. 

How are you practicing Sabbath rest in your life today? 

I’m not, but I want to. In another season of my life if we were talking about a Sabbath rest, I would have said, “There is too much work to consider a Sabbath rest.” Now I don’t have the excuse of too much work to do. Procrastinating and distraction are probably the culprits accounting for the prior six days of work overflowing into my Sabbath rest. A Sabbath rest will look different for each person and family. I don’t know what a Sabbath rest will look like for me; however, I am looking forward to finding out. 

I did make the following notes to help me embark on this journey:

  • Stop putting off things that either need to be done or can be done today. 
  • Plan and prep food for our Sabbath on Saturday or before.
  • Practice opening my eyes to see and delight in God’s creation.
  • Take time to delight in the wonder of who Almighty God is. 

That’s the beginning for the first two months. I welcome you to ask me how it is going.

What is your favorite way to cease from toil and find refreshment.

I enjoy reading historical novels. I have begun knitting again, which has been a dormant pastime. If the day is beautiful, it would be lovely to go on a leisurely bike ride; otherwise, I try to refrain from riding one day a week to give my body an opportunity to rest. 

When pondering Sabbath rest I wondered, “Why did God say six days work and on the seventh day rest?” I guess one of the reasons I answered that I’d refrain from riding one day a week to give my body an opportunity to rest is that rest brings healing to the body. It regenerates the body, restores strength, revives energy, and renews the mind.

God even gives a lesson in rest. In God’s creation, plants go into dormancy in the winter, and then in the spring, they wake up. The dormant period is a time for the plants to stop growing, conserve their energy, and then in the spring, they can begin growing and producing new leaves and bearing more fruit.

After Sabbath rest, the next six days we should feel re-energized, ready to tackle the days ahead. Ask me. I will let you know if this is true. The first few Sabbaths I may find this practice difficult, but I am thinking that when I get the rhythm I will like it. Will you take the plunge and consider the opportunity with me?

Faye Miller

Faye Miller and her husband Sam have been married for 26 years and have four children, Connor (23), Avery (20), Jillian (17), and Tate (13). She is a homeschooling mama who enjoys anything outside, time spent one-on-one with family and friends, gardening, and cycling.

How has it been hard for you to embrace God’s rest in different seasons of your life? 

I was raised by a “doing” mom and learned early on that not being productive was looked down upon. Therefore, rest, even at a young age, seemed wrong. I carried that into adulthood and have struggled during many seasons of my life to truly rest. 

In Psalm 23, the psalmist says that God sometimes has to “make” us lie down in green pastures. When has God had to force you to rest? 

About two and a half years ago, I started experiencing some nagging health issues. Since they weren’t debilitating, I just pressed through with little to no true rest. I kept saying “yes” to people and “no” to God and myself. Our daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease after a long period of illness and had some very difficult times of treatment, and I was very invested in getting her back to good health. During her treatment, I was experiencing more intense health issues and was diagnosed with Lyme disease as well.

Coupled with other issues that led to a major surgery in March of 2020, I realized I was unable to “boot strap” myself into being strong. My illusion of having control crumbled, and I was left realizing that all my doing was very unhelpful. It was a very hard time emotionally. In January 2020 when my daughter and I were out of the country for her Lyme treatment, I began reading through the Psalms in a way I never had before. I began praying the psalms and taking comfort in the psalms of lament because they gave me a voice for feelings that I couldn’t seem to express even to God. A favorite was actually Psalm 23. I would insert my daughter’s name or my own and recite the psalm as I walked. It was incredibly calming and helped my frantic soul, which had been trying to fix everything, to just rest in His truth and love. This past year has been an intense lesson in what it means to have been made to lie down in green pastures. 

What did you learn about Him during this season? 

God showed me that slowing down and giving my concerns to Him instead of racing to fix them myself either physically or mentally was actually more sustainable than the way I had been living. He proved to me that He could put both my daughter and me on a path toward healing. He showed me He was trustworthy and will give me the rest I need when I will say “yes” to it, and even if I say “no,” He will still lovingly put me in those green pastures. He helped me realize I could share any emotion with Him. Thank you, psalmist, for showing me how! God also showed me that He loves me, even if I am not being what I considered “productive.” 

How are you practicing sabbath rest in your life today?

Our family isn’t formal about a sabbath day, but Sundays do generally tend to be rest days for us. Our mornings for many years have been devoted to meeting with our church community (in person or virtually) and our afternoons generally involve a bike ride and then some kind of family activity like a walk, game, favorite movie, and a shared meal, even with the kids who no longer live at home. 

Due to the toll that stress and my health issues have taken on me, I also choose to sabbath daily in small ways. I have learned to recognize the physical effects of stress on my body and the need to rest. Sometimes, depending on how I am feeling, I just sit or lie down for a while. That may sound simple, but I once believed I was being lazy if I did that in the middle of the day! If I only have a few minutes and feel the need for rest, I will practice some brief breathing techniques. One of my favorites is 4-7-8 box breathing. I breathe in for 4 seconds, hold that breath for 7 seconds and release the breath for 8 seconds. Deliberate deep breathing has been shown to lower heart rate, which in turn correlates with a lower stress response in the body, and it also helps cognition and anxiety. 

Sometimes I need rest for my mind. Another technique I use daily is from the One Minute Pause app based on the book Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge. This app gently guides me through breathing and the prayer of letting go of anxiety all with a focus on union with God. It has been very grounding, reminding me who is in control and how I don’t have to do anything to earn my love from Him. 

There are times throughout the week that I just need rest for my soul. Silence is another way I can sabbath during my day. The time I take for silence can be 30 seconds, 5 minutes or longer. In this time, I practice being still with God with the only caveat that I am not to “do” anything. I am not to pray for loved ones or even myself. I am just to sit and be silent and allow God to fill me. It is a new practice for me, and I am learning a lot about it from various books I have been reading. It is hard to quantify because there is no “doing” to report, but somehow being still before God in my body and mind really gives me rest at a deep soul level. 

What is your favorite way to cease from toil and find refreshment? 

I love God’s creation and find my worship is at its deepest and most intense when I am with Him in His creation. I can begin to feel myself rest and refresh on even the shortest of walks, hikes, bike rides, or times in my garden, even sitting and looking out the window and focusing on creation can give me that refreshment that I need.

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