Finding Joy in Creative Rest
When you consider rest, what comes to mind?
Sleep. I think of sleep. As my life turned toward regular creative pursuits in my 40s, and our foster baby Ella became legally ours, exhaustion ruled my life more than ever. I suffered from a spiritually dry well, lacked joy, and daydreamed about sleep—a lot.
During that season of life, at midday, I saw my oh-so-comfy bed clear as day in my mind. I wanted to go there sooooo bad. There were kids to drive around, messes to tidy up, multiple Bible studies to attend, worship music to be practiced, and words to be written on a page. I was typically running on empty by 10 am. Ultimately, my joy meter was parched.
Then, my definition of rest got redefined when the Covid pandemic swept in and brought our crazy schedules to a screeching halt. My family grieved over our social, financial, and health-related losses.
However, with time on my hands, I drifted towards creativity. I played piano for hours a day. We baked all the goodies. Our dogs received a level of time and affection they were unaccustomed to. Slowly but surely, a school-at-home routine established itself. I picked up the rough draft of my manuscript and began the final steps toward publication. A new restful rhythm began to develop. Living water refilled me.
“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, ESV).
Two years later, with the world returning to “normal,” will striving push out rest again? As often as I prayed during the pandemic for my old life to come back, I’m discovering I don’t want it. I’m unwilling to relinquish the renewed joy and rest I’ve found.
How do you define rest?
The Joy of Creative Rest
In her book, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD gave words to my need for rest by defining it into seven categories. The chapter on Creative Rest turned a lightbulb on in my soul.
According to Dr. Dalton-Smith, sleep is not rest but a biological function. She wrote, “Sleep is solely a physical activity. Rest, however, penetrates into the spiritual. Rest speaks peace into the daily storm your mind, body and spirit encounter. Rest is what makes sleep sweet.” Her words resonated deeply in my parched soul. With rapt attention, I began to redefine rest.
After reading those golden nuggets of truth, I skipped ahead to the chapter about creative rest. As much as I discovered about rest during the pandemic lockdown season, I was still striving and overworking while creating a new ministry. After a wonderful but exhausting season of intense, creative work to publish and market my first book, my entire being craved living water to flood my parched heart and mind.
Dr. Dalton-Smith describes creative rest as “soaking in beauty and light.” As creatives we long for this, right? I want to soak in all the living water goodness God designed for me and pour it out on the people around me. Yet, I find it very easy to skip the quiet rest that God longs to give us. Instead, I simply create while pouring out, then wonder when I run empty.
Are you experiencing creative fatigue? Rest, the deeply restorative gift of God, may be what you need.
God’s Instruction to Rest
Before we discuss how to experience creative rest, why is important? If reflecting the characteristics of our creator God is what we aspire to, following His rhythm of rest established in the Word is necessary. We see in Genesis 2, that right after God spent six days creating the entire universe, he demonstrated a pattern of rest woven into the fabric of creation. He blessed and called an entire day of rest “holy.” God spent an entire day marveling over and enjoying His glorious creation. At the very beginning, we see a pattern of creating and resting.
“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation” (Genesis 2:2-3, NLT).
So, why do we fail so often to partake in His rhythm of rest? Western society lifts up and praises striving productivity and villainizes rest, labeling it laziness. As people who regularly create and craft messages God downloads to our hearts, it would be easy to press forward into endless producing. Yet, God has called us to a different pattern than the world. Instead, He says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
Striving is the antithesis of what true rest exemplifies, and striving steals our joy. As I’ve wrestled with this over the past several months, God inspired me to form new habits. My work routine now has refreshment woven into each day.
Would you like to try new rhythms of creative rest?
Four Ways to Boost Joy and Creatively Rest in Christ
1. Refresh with prayer and the Word before work begins.
For me, this looks different every day. Sometimes when a deadline looms, I spend a few minutes in prayer and listen to a Psalm on the Dwell App before diving in. More days than not, I refresh for a longer time by spending time absorbing Biblical passages. Filling up regularly with living water gives us reserves to unleash creativity in a world that is thirsty.
2. Take regular productivity breaks to appreciate the beauty of nature.
When I experienced the throes of a massive workload in the past few years, I felt like grinding away was the only way. Hint: It’s not. During my work blocks, I take regular short breaks to move and notice beauty. This can look like walking my dog down the driveway, observing her beautiful strength and loving disposition. Or perhaps I walk to our picture window for a few minutes, a cup of coffee or tea in hand, to notice the leaves on the trees. Taking in beauty and allowing God to pour in the living water fills my cup with overflowing joy and boosts my creativity.
3. Observe a period of Sabbath rest once a week that includes unplugging.
I am far from perfect at this, but I’ve found that when I keep away from my phone and computer on Sunday, it makes space for creativity. On Sabbath days, I pull out Scripture-based coloring books, enjoy playing games with the kids on the floor, and spend longer periods of time enjoying nature. Untying from technology carves out time for creative rest and allows mental, emotional, and social rest as well.
4. Plan restful activities in tandem with your work schedule to counterbalance exhaustion.
On the weekend, I take a mind/body scan asking the Lord to bring to mind areas where I need rest. This past Sunday, I didn’t unplug. The end of the school year is driving my schedule. I’m tired and recognize the need to counterbalance my busyness. I’m putting restful activities on my calendar—today!
Friends, I hope you find these ideas a welcome refreshment. Jesus is calling us to come to Him, find rest, and fill up with the joy of living water before we pour it out. It is my prayer that as you pursue a creative life, you will find joy and refuge in His rest.
Creator God, we praise You for in beauty we can rest and find joy. We are thankful for Your rhythm of rest that you’re whispering in a still, small voice to us today. Please fill our cups with living water and help us feel you close as we create. Help us to remember to seek Your joy and refreshment each and every day. In Your precious Son’s Name, Amen
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