Let me tell you about listening.
I woke up in the middle of the night one Thursday night a few months ago, sick to my stomach. Literally.
I've had my fair share of colds, sinus stuff, general allergies - but I hardly ever get sick to my stomach. When I do, I know something must be really wrong with me. Of course, in this particular instance, I chalked it up to eating too much cookie dough (haha) and went about the next couple of days like normal. But Sunday morning, I woke up the same way as I had before.
That same Thursday night that I woke up sick in the middle of the night, I'd spent a chunk of the afternoon crying on the couch with my boyfriend's arm around me while I tried to figure out how I was going to get everything done. Multiple obligations to my department, an overwhelming amount of fresh assignments for my classes the week after spring break, a new to-do list for my fellowship, my suitcase still half-unpacked in a corner and dishes piled in the sink. It was all too much, but that didn't fully explain the tears.
I've been unusually teary the past few months. It frustrates me at first. I don't mind it when I cry in movies (Infinity War just about destroyed me; I'll need waterproof mascara for the sequel) or at videos on Facebook. I do mind it when I start crying over something small and don't know why and can't make it stop. The older I get, the more I think a lot of us feel this way. We like to have complete control of our emotions, even and especially because we know we can't have total control of our lives. When my eyes overflow, I break out the self-deprecating humor and smile like the tears aren't there. I don't listen, but my body is trying to tell me something. I wouldn't listen, so it started crying out to me, and I started crying.
But I hadn't learned this lesson yet. That Sunday morning, I debated for half an hour, curled up in a ball on my bathroom floor wondering if I was strong enough to sing or even stand, before I finally texted our worship pastor an apology and crawled back into bed. I didn't just sleep through setup and rehearsal, I slept through church. I woke up nearly four hours later and laid in bed and wondered how the week before, on spring break, I'd been so much better at holding back the tide of worry that had since swept over me. Breaking commitments, breaking down - this wasn't the me I wanted to be. And on top of everything else, I was sick to my stomach. Hadn't I had enough to deal with that week? What I needed was to get work done. What I needed was to be well.
Some people hear God with pictures; I hear God with words, which is why I write it all down here. That morning, He said it loud and clear. Your body is trying to tell you something. You just wouldn't listen. What you needed was to rest.
The exhaustion I had been feeling, this sense of overwhelm, overextension, over-it-all? It was coming from somewhere - a deep-seated need we were wired with to crave rest. My body was tired, and I wasn't treating it the way it needed, so it stopped working the way it should. The physical symptoms and the tears share the same root - there is something inside me that needs my attention, something in my head and my heart that is heavy and needs me to hold it in my hands, even if I don't know what to do with it yet. My body is begging me to slow down, stop scheduling and sprinting, and start listening.
So that's what I've been doing for the second half of the semester, and that's why this little corner of the Internet - where God so graciously shows up with me and helps me process what He's teaching me, and pin those thoughts to pages that will maybe meet you where you're at, too - has been a little quiet lately. I've been learning what life looks like when I don't make work the center of my world and when I don't hold myself accountable to the expectations of institutions and individuals I may never attain or understand. I've been learning and re-learning that in order to really rest, you have to lay a lot of those obligations down at the foot of the cross and meet yourself with a lot of grace, because that's the way God already sees you. I'm lucky and grateful and constantly amazed that He's put people in my life who see me that way too, and remind me what truth is whenever it starts to feel intangible.
I've been learning a lot more, and that's going to spill out in this space soon. But for today, I just wanted you to know I've been gone so I could learn better to listen to the voices that matter the most to me. And that I'm back because I want you to know what they've said.
My sweet friend Zoe took some gorgeous pictures for me the other day. I absolutely adore her work! If you're ever in need of pictures in the middle Tennessee area, check her out at LifeLikeZoe.com.