We can do it all, right?!

I’ve always been a person of extremes. If you ever meet me, I seem pretty grounded. I’ve just gotten really good at pulling it all together and looking put together.

When I was in youth group, I was involved in some activity every night of the week. In college I stretched myself thin, staying up late to study and even later to hang out with my friends. My motto, adopted from one of my favorite professors, was “you can sleep when you die.” After college, I moved across the country to the amazing and ambitious city of Los Angeles. I worked up to four jobs, at times, just to keep myself afloat and still somehow managed to be involved in my community and spend time with the friends who had become family to me. Then I moved to Atlanta and, after a year, started working a wonderful ministry-oriented job in an organization that sends people around the world to join Jesus in his purpose.

Like most of us who haven’t quite gotten the grace vs. works thing down yet, I’ve struggled and strived and worked harder here than I have at any other job. This job became my life, because I was finally doing something that mattered. I answered interns’ skype calls from across the globe at 11pm in bed and took my work home with me (physically, mentally and emotionally) every day.

I loved my job, so how could I complain about being tired, out of shape, stressed and about to fall apart?

Falling apart is an understatement, actually. In the midst of trying to be everything to everyone, I lost myself. Almost two years ago, I started having serious pain all over my body, was exhausted all the time, and couldn’t even make it through most work days. I saw doctors and more doctors, but none of the tests brought any results. Friends and coworkers would pray for me, and I felt no relief. I grew disappointed with myself for becoming this weak, and angry at God for not answering the way I hoped.

After about six months, in January 2013, the pain went away as mysteriously as it began.

The hardest part of the story is that I still don’t have answers. Those six months are a sentence I’ve highlighted in my story, hoping that one day God will show me more about what he was doing during that time. The best part of the story is that I have more questions, and those questions have helped me figure out a different way of living.

In April of last year, I started doing a lot of reading, coaching, and reflection around shaping my life for health and wholeness. The first book I read was Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Hayley Barton.

With tears streaming down my face, I read, “The longing for significance, the longing for love, the longing for deep and fundamental change, the longing for a way of life that works, the longing to connect experientially and even viscerally with Someone beyond ourselves – these longings led me to search out spiritual practice and establish life rhythms that promised something more.”

My longings have led me on a journey over the past year. This journey has required me to be still, to pay attention, and to get rid of “ought to” and “should”. It’s brought me to a place where I allowed myself to say “no” to many things for a time so that I could start saying “yes” to the things that are vital. I’ve had to dig deep to connect to myself and to God again, and to find the things I really enjoy and long for so that I can intentionally incorporate those into my days.

I’ve named these practices my Giving Rhythms, because they have become a way of continual life-giving for me, changing with the seasons, reflecting priorities and goals.

Most of my Giving Rhythms come out of a verse that I’ve focused on for the last year, Isaiah 58:11. “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a well-watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

I want to be that garden, that spring of water that is refreshing to be around. Integrating rhythms into my life has made room, most of all. There is room in my schedule for physical exercise, sleep and eating well, all of which keep me healthy. There is room for rest and reflection. There is room for God to show up in prayer, worship and reading. Most of all, there is room for grace, growth and deep life change.

What are your Giving Rhythms, the practices and habits that give life to your body, mind and heart?

How are you intentionally incorporating them into your days?

8 Comments

  1. Jessica Hoover March 11, 2014

    Kate, this is just covered in real life, in the slog of it all, truth and I relate and I love it. I am there right now. I carry stress in my body in a big time way and as our work has become hard and our faith has had to cling tight I have been struggling physically, emotionally and mentally (not even to mention spiritually!). I have been on a similar journey. Fear fighting has been my journey for two years and this year is my year of “Embrace”. Just like you said, saying “no” to things so that I can say “yes” to other things. Thanks for your words!

    1. Kate March 12, 2014

      Jessica –

      Thanks so much for sharing your story here! I love that this year is about embracing for you, and I hope that you are able to embrace what is life-giving and helps you grow. Funny you should mention your theme for the year – mine is “enjoy” – after a year of saying no to start saying yes, I feel a lot of release to just enjoy what I’m in right now. Very cool!

  2. Kimberly Todd March 12, 2014

    I love this. Really, really love this. What I appreciate the most is the point that cultivating these giving rhythms comes from a place of desperation, of acknowledging that things aren’t working as they are. This is a huge nod to the fact that we are limited, that resolve and trying harder on their own are idols who deal in shame. Things began to shift for me during Chinese language school when I was expecting my second child. I think the first intentional change was making space in our day, every day, to feed ourselves well. I believe in integration, that it matters in my spirit what I put in my body and that nurturing my spirit causes those knots in my shoulders to give a little. It’s been three and a half years since the shift and I feel like the principle “to her who has, more will be given” is real. Giving rhythms make room for cultivating more giving rhythms until we’re just so well-watered. Perhaps the best part though is being able to sense when I am drying up and knowing who/what/when/where/how I need to care for myself.

    1. Kate March 12, 2014

      Thanks, Kimberly! I’m so glad you’re able to recognize where you need some rhythms in your own life. I wholeheartedly agree that everything is integrated – what you eat, how you sleep, where your heart is, what you do, etc.

  3. Elizabeth March 12, 2014

    Thank you for writing this, Kate. I too can confuse grace and works, and I’m so glad to read these words today. And I LOVE that verse from Isaiah. I first heard it from the Message about a year ago, and I’d never heard it in this way before: “I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places.” Something about the Message can sometimes (not all, I know) reframe a verse for me, and to think of God giving us a full life in the emptiest of places, well, wow!

    I’ve never been big on Matthew 11:28-30, a favorite for so many people. But when I read it in the Message not long ago, it also relieved my burdens so much: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” So calming and restful.

    One of my Giving Rhythms is actually worship. I love heartfelt corporate worship, and thankfully get to experience it weekly at our international church. And I love singing hymns by myself too. It is in song that I get lost in God, calm down, trust Him. I cannot survive without worship (private and/or communal) in my life.

  4. Kate March 12, 2014

    Thanks Elizabeth! Worship is a big one for me too! Music in general, but specifically worship, really shapes my day – from how I pray, to how I respond to things that happen, even how I feel about myself.  I love that you’ve recognized this and hope you’ll be intentional about integrating it into your life. 🙂

  5. Brittany March 13, 2014

    I have no answers to this right now.  I’m in the drowning phase.  We’ve been international now for 5 months, our closest teammates are 7 hours away, and I’ve got two kids, a toddler and a preschooler.  Every day, I think, today I’m going to figure out a routine.  I’ll plan.  And inevitably, the kids get sick and throw everything off.  Or I’ll think I’ve found a groove, and someone comes into town and their schedule becomes ours.  I feel like the only rhythms I have right now are sucking the life out of me.  I’m an extremist too.  All or nothing.  So I get bogged down by the feeling that I have to implement a new plan in every area and if one area fails, they all do.  My head knows the truth, and the enemy certainly tries to keep me from believing it!  I so appreciate that Scripture from Isaiah.  What life-giving truth!  Thanks for sharing.  I think I’ll be dwelling on that verse for a little while, and maybe read that book, too.

    1. Kate March 13, 2014

      Brittany –

      Thank you so much for sharing where you are at right now. If you’d like to talk about rhythms or do some coaching around how to incorporate some life-giving ones for you in your crazy busy season right now, I’d love to do that. If so, feel free to email me at [email protected]. Either way I’ll definitely be praying for you as you examine your heart and what you need to live a whole and healthy life with your family overseas!

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