Refresh, Recalibrate

I had to chuckle at the timing of this post. You see, I just hit the tail end of my Master’s program and submitted my thesis last week—all 49,431 words. Prior to pressing “send” I was pretty much brain-dead, bleary-eyed, over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, and hyper-sensitive. I was full of self-doubt and second guessed every word of every sentence I wrote. I was exhausted.

Exhausted.

We’ve all been there, goodness, you might be there right now! You get to the end of a work project, a school year, an outreach or busy season of ministry, and you are just done. Or maybe you feel like you’re done, but you can’t be done—life keeps going, needs keep knocking at your door. Children, partners, teammates, ministry, and work all demand your attention. You can’t seem to get a break.

There was a time in my life, where I didn’t feel I had the choice to stop and refresh; taking a breather came in the form of rushed morning devotions and a quick evening check-in with my husband. I didn’t make time to exercise, read for fun, go for a leisurely walk, or write. So I came “undone.” You can read about that here.

That was almost seven years ago now. After an extensive Sabbatical, I made a point of learning rhythms of grace that encouraged regular times of refreshment, where I “check out” and recalibrate my inner busy-body to the steady and constant beat of my Father’s heart. Choosing to “take a break” may come easily to some but is harder for others (like me). As a nurse, I have that typical mindset of taking care of everyone else around me, while ignoring my own vital signs.

But I don’t want to wait until I’m on the brink of exhaustion to take a “time out.” Now I know the importance of building in times of refreshment as best as I can—whether it’s scheduling in my workouts, meeting with a friend, taking a walk with my husband, playing the piano for 15 minutes, or curling up on the couch with a good book. My heart’s desire is to “Keep company with God in order to live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:28-30 MSG).

What did I do after I prayed over my thesis and hit “send?” I took a few days off to get away and rest. No agenda, no screens, no work calls. I did a few of my favorite things: went on some long bike rides, took walks with each of my kids (one at a time), re-read a C.S. Lewis book, and tried out some new recipes. I also spent quiet time with the One who ultimately refreshes my soul: my Shepherd, Jesus Christ (Psalm 23:1-2).

I realize we can’t always take a few days off. And I know we can’t always plan ahead or avoid interruptions that demand our immediate attention. A life overseas, or anywhere for that matter, is full of unexpected demands and stressors, yet we can’t operate on empty for long. Finding moments, hours, or days to recalibrate—in whatever form that may be—is so good for our soul.

You are probably the best judge of what refreshes you, but if you are looking for ideas on quick ways to refresh, here are some suggestions:

  • Stretching break (morning, noon, night)
  • Take a nap, or at least lie down for 15 minutes with your eyes closed
  • Go for a nature walk (if you live somewhere where a walk outside creates stress, then try to find a place “out of the way.” When I lived in Asia, I had to take a taxi to get to the edge of town where I could go on a forest walk without running into people I knew.)
  • Meditate on Scripture
  • Listen to music that lifts your spirits, gets you pumped up, or helps you calm down
  • Doodle or write for 10-15 minutes about anything
  • Call or Zoom an old friend
  • Listen to an inspirational podcast
  • Do some deep breathing
  • Explore somewhere “new” wherever you live
  • Hug someone!
  • Practice deep breathing
  • Journal a conversation with God (like a Psalm)
  • Take a “mindfulness break”—stare out the window, evaluate your self-talk, pray
  • Tea time—make some tea, sit down, and just be. (put away your phone!)

So how about you? How do you refresh? Is it a planned vacation out of country? Is it connecting with friends or going on a silent retreat? Is it treating yourself to that special cup of coffee at a café or taking a dance class? Share in the comments below!

Photo by Timur Romanov on Unsplash

6 Comments

  1. Jenny June 21, 2021

    Thank you Monica. This post, and your past ones, remind me that I have permission to recalibrate and “live light”.

    1. Monica F June 21, 2021

      Thank you so much Jenny! I’m glad we can all encourage and remind one another that our Father delights in our choice to rest! May you live lightly today!

  2. Theresa June 23, 2021

    Love this list. A year ago, we had zero answers about what we did to be refreshed. Now, we’ve learned a bit more about ourselves and are much better off as a result!

    1. Monica F July 11, 2021

      That’s great to hear Theresa!

  3. Suzanne June 27, 2021

    Thanks for this post. I am considering taking a Sabbatical and curious if there are any posts from those who have done this explaining how they did it and what they would recommend?

    1. Monica F July 11, 2021

      Hi Suzanne, yes! On the Velvet Ashes website do a search for: Sabbatical. I have two great books I can recommend as a guide as well: Wildnerness Time, A Guide for Spiritual Retreat, by Emilie Griffin and Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton. My family and I took a nine month sabbatical after 14 years of overseas life and work (including very busy furloughs). We decided not to do our sabbatical at either of our “home bases,” and opted for a more remote location in Northern California with access to nature and counseling services in a city just 50 minutes away. We were blessed with a home through the generosity of one of our supporters, where we could stay and truly rest. The Sabbatical was an agreed upon decision between us, our organization’s leadership and our two main sending churches. We had the full support of our team, leaders, and supporters to literally stop and slow down, to basically regain our lives. My husband was also working on his PhD so it was necessary for him to step away from his work role overseas and focus on his dissertation. We designed our days, weeks, and months in such a way that we could enjoy the outdoors and engage with people at a lighter pace as well. I’m not sure if this is helpful, but we found our Sabbatical to be incredibly healing and nourishing. All the best as you consider taking a Sabbatical!

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