Finding True Rest as a Caregiver
Finding true rest as a caregiver is an elusive quest. Yet, as guest blogger Heather Johnson has discovered, it is also an essential pursuit. Today she describes where she goes when she needs true rest as a caregiver.
A cedar tree trunk, its branches stripped, serves as a railing along the stairs to our master bedroom. I welcome its invitation to help me pull myself up. I am tired. Bone tired. My back and legs ache.
Once in bed, I feel the cotton sheets and the cool night breeze wafting in from the nearby window. I sigh, exhaling this day’s work. I need physical rest.
Though my body begs for sleep, my mind defies the plea. The hamster wheel inside my head spins with thoughts. Not worrisome thoughts. Just thoughts. I toss and turn, praying my mind goes blank. I need mental rest. I need the peace that comes with finding true rest as a caregiver.
As an empty-nest mother of three kids in their twenties with multiple special needs, you’d think my load would be lighter by now. But parents like me know differently. Our parenting work is never done. In some ways, parenting adult children with special needs can be more complicated when they’re not under our roof anymore. There are adult caregivers to secure. There are more meetings to attend. There are attorneys to draft special needs trusts so our kids will have funds for their care that they can’t manage on their own. We get weary. But we press forward because of love and try not to worry. I need soul rest. I think I need soul rest more than any other kind.
I need to know the weight of our kids’ needs doesn’t depend completely on me and my husband or even other human caretakers. I need to know there’s a love so large, so expansive, so perfect, that will hold our kids and help them long after I’m gone.
How do you find rest for your body, mind, and soul? How do you know in your bones that all will be well?
For me, I turn to Genesis—to the beginning—and read about God who created, who called everything he created “good”, and who rested afterward. Why did God rest if God doesn’t get tired? I wonder if God’s rest was time to survey—time and space to say “it is good.” I wonder if “good” in our daily lives can mean “good enough” because we aren’t perfect. Maybe “good enough” is good enough?
In a culture that implies we never do enough, that we never have enough, that we never are enough, that we’re never good enough, our souls are at-risk. These cultural messages, if absorbed, make us weary and worried. Our souls begin to wither. We forget who we are and what we really need—to know we’re never alone, that we’re perfectly loved, that our loved ones will be looked after and loved always. Our soul needs a deep well of refreshing truth to counter our culture. We can take frequent, cool drink from the well of truth that never dries and say until our thirst is quenched:
“Today, I did enough, I have enough, I am enough.”
For me, meditating on particular scriptures is where I find rest for my body, mind and soul. For example:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Will you practice saying to yourself, “good enough”? Will you pursue finding true rest as a caregiver? Will you practice delighting in all you do? Will you find your own soul rest? What would that be?
A walk in the woods or some other nature setting.
Unplugging from screens.
All are scientifically proven to improve physical and mental health. Whatever you choose, true rest revitalizes body, mind, and spirit. And when we’re truly rested in all three ways, we are better able to love our children, whatever their ages and needs, because we will be loving ourselves well first.
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Heather MacLaren Johnson and her husband have three kids, all five and under when adopted from Russia. Now 29, 27, and 22, all need regular help with their multiple, permanent, invisible disabilities stemming from prenatal exposure to alcohol (FASD).
Heather has B.S. in Education and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is the author of Grace, Truth, & Time: Facilitating Small Groups That Thrive and has published personal essays in The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength (Kregel Publications) and Your Story Matters: Finding, Writing, and Living the Truth of Your Life (NavPress). She’s writing a memoir about her family’s journey through hidden disabilities and mental illness to encourage others to greater intimacy with God and each other through times of desolation and lament.
Heather and her husband of 27 years live with two horses, two dogs, two barn cats, and a bunch of silk plants she just dusts. Heather writes and photographs at www.truelifewithgod.com.
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