When Brothers Live Together; Part III

You can find Part II and a link to Part I HERE. 

Jon, Carla and I are always teasing each other about our different personalities (okay, well, actually it's mostly just Jon and I because that's how we roll). Anyway, they're both visionaries with huge plans and projects and about ten different things going on at once. They're always working on something. Apparently, this makes them happy. I, on the other hand, tend to reason that, well, everyone got fed and there isn't an emergency, so I'm going to sit by the window and write something. I can, and do, work quite hard, but I have absolutely no objection to knocking off work to drink tea and chat. I stop to admire sunsets and write poetry. I am not exactly a driven person. 

I think rest is very important, especially if, like me, you've stepped out of your little introvert comfort zone and into a challenging environment. What I've had to learn is how to maximize my rest times, and how to work around other people's schedules in order to keep a functional ministry/community going. It's a bit tricky, and I am still figuring out how to make it work. But I thought I'd share the checklist that I use to try to keep myself on track and maintain a healthy balance of work and rest.

The Rest Checklist
The 9 Things Janie has Finally Figured out After 22 Years of Trial & Error

1. Is my mind at rest? It might surprise you (as it did me) to discover just how much tension a person can retain, even when they're 'relaxing'. I had to overcome a mindset of guilt that told me that I was weak for needing rest. For a very long time, I struggled with the knowledge that someone else was up, working, while I was sitting here, resting. I felt lazy until I realized that I would be tag-teamed to death if I insisted on working every time I knew that someone, somewhere else in the house, was also working. If I allow myself to feel guilty and stressed about resting, then my rest time isn't going to help me at all. There are times when I need to relax while other people are working. And that is okay.

2. Are my rest activities actually restful? When I'm tired, it's easy for me to squander my free time by scrolling idly through Facebook or those websites with 20 Amazing Photos of Such and Such. That's fine, I guess, but I discovered that I'm usually more rested if I spend my rest time a bit more intentionally. Things like reading or writing actually refresh me, instead of just providing mindless entertainment.

3. But mindless entertainment is okay, too. Has the long, long day finally come to an end? Give me a movie and some popcorn. I don't want to think anymore.

4. Am I scheduling my rest? For me, scheduling in my rest times meant looking at a day's typical activities, and figuring out the best times for rest. This night owl has become a morning person (gasp). I try to get up around 5, in order to have an hour or two of quiet before the kids wake up. Then, when the kids are napping (or at least confined to their beds) in the afternoon, I usually retreat to my room and do computer stuff or other jobs that require concentration for another hour or so. Or I sleep.

5. Do I have a restful environment? When the house is in chaos, I go to my clean room, close the door, and ignore the chaos for a while. This might be called 'denial', but I don't really care. It's what I do to survive. I have also been known to wash all the dishes, then pull up a chair and admire them (with tea in hand, of course). For me, order is fairly essential to rest, and I've gotten a bit creative with different ways to form an orderly environment. Even with the contents of the kitchen cabinets piled on my bed, I discovered that I could still get a sense of order by creating a daily ritual of writing haiku. My physical surroundings were in complete disarray, but my mind was functioning in orderly lines of 5-7-5, and it felt GOOD. This method will probably not work for anyone else on the planet...but I'm sure there's something else out there that will work for you.

6. Am I able to rest while I'm working? I know this is much easier for me than it is for others. I am mistress of focusing on multiple things at the same time, and this ability has stood me in good stead here. Because, despite all careful planning, there are always the days when rest time doesn't fit into the schedule. Those are the days when I sing, when I plot stories in my head, when I listen to music or audiobooks or pray as a way to refresh myself even while I'm busily doing whatever needs to be done. I know this doesn't work for everyone, but those are the tactics that have enabled me to survive, even thrive, in the midst of stress and long, long jobs that I heartily disliked. You might give some of these things a try, too.

7. Am I stopping to enjoy? Do you know how to pause for a second and take in the funny and beautiful things that surround you every day? Sometimes, just a moment of appreciation can transform a dreary, stressful day into a beautiful and rewarding one.

8. Am I getting proper sleep and proper exercise? All the health experts have countless educated things to say about rest and exercise. All I know is this: If I don't get my eight hours of good, sound sleep, I rapidly become an almost-useless and decidedly unpleasant person. Getting all eight of those hours in one long, unbroken stretch is, I've discovered, not entirely necessary. Exercise is also fairly important to maintaining my energy and optimism levels. I don't actually get that much exercise in my day-to-day routine, aside from climbing up and down four flights of stairs every time I leave the house. I'm still trying to figure out a good way to exercise more in my current surroundings. I have a hearty dislike for group exercises, a limited budget, limited time, and limited space. I am currently stumped (also a trifle under-motivated). But if you have any brilliant ideas, do please let me know.

9. Am I prioritizing the things that matter most? This is probably the most important question to ask. My list of relational priorities runs like this:

  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Friends 
  4. Church
I try each day to take care of the highest priorities first and foremost. Obviously, this is much easier said than done, and there are many days when I allow my priorities to run sadly awry. But it's helpful to have the list clearly delineated in my mind, and the closer I'm able to stick to it, the more smoothly my day will go. I also try to create other lists for the things that need to be done day-to-day, like:

  1. Feed all the people
  2. Correspond with potential visitors
  3. Work on newsletter
  4. Post to EM Facebook page
Even if I reach the end of the day having only accomplished the first two of those things, I know that I got the most important stuff done and nobody starved. I've also started prioritizing more of my leisure activities as a way to keep myself out of the pitfall of endless Facebook scrolling:

  1. Let parents know I'm not dead
  2. Sleep
  3. Catch up with friends
  4. Work on novel
  5. Write blog post
You might find that it's easier for to rest if you don't constantly have to remind yourself of what comes next, or stress about which things should be taking priority. Just accomplish as many of the really important things as you can, and let God take care of everything else.

People, I think I'm actually becoming...ORGANIZED. *shock and awe* I guess it took a move to a foreign country and sharing a small, under-construction house with four other people and an almost-constant stream of visitors, but it's happening.

Wonders never cease.
What are your daily priorities?
What are your strategies for maintaining the proper balance between work and rest?