John Fuller: You’ve got deadlines at work you will not meet, and the kids’ ball games and activities take up most of the weekends, and you feel obligated to help with that silent auction at the school, and then on top of everything else, you’re wondering when is it gonna slow down? When do I have some time for me? This is “Focus on the Family,” and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and we’re gonna tackle that today.
Jim Daly: John, there is no doubt that we love our children. I know that’s true. That’s why many people will listen to “Focus;” they want to be better parents. But as a result, we become involved in their lives and activities, often at our own peril. And it’s a struggle to figure out what that balance is. I love the reference in Scripture in Matthew 11 where it says, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” And I think most of us, as parents, think, well, that’s true, except in this parenting role, Lord. I don’t think I can rest there.” And we want to talk about that today.
There are so many good things to invest our time in that we have to kind of lop off the maybe not so good, and we’ve got to identify those things. But how do you go about doing that? How do you take time to recharge yourself? And you know, it’s an important topic.
I read something from our guest today that she observed, Vicki Courtney. She noted in her latest book, Rest Assured, that 40 percent of American workers say they can’t even pull themselves away from work to use their accumulated paid vacation time. That’s true. I try here at Focus to make sure everybody’s taking vacation. And you know that, John.
John: I appreciate that.
Jim: I’ll be in meetings and say, “Has everybody taken summer vacation?” and hopefully most hands go up, because I believe in it. But to see that 40 percent of Americans don’t take their allotted vacation time because they are gonna keep working, that’s terrible.
John: Well, we have, as you said, Vicki Courtney here to talk about her book, Rest Assured. And Vicki has been with us a number of times, always a popular guest. And Vicki is a speaker and a writer and she now has a couple of young grandchildren as well.
Jim: Well, you sound busy, Vicki. Welcome back to “Focus.” Thanks for making the time to be here.
Vicki Courtney: Well, thank you for having me.
Jim: How do you find rest? I mean when you’re described in the way John just described you—speaker, author, running around the country, and then you’ve got your grown kids and your grandkids.
Vicki: I share, actually, in the introduction, that this book was birthed in the aftermath of a huge burnout and so, it was written from that place of, you know, I was discovering or I should say rediscovering rest for the first time in a long while, and I kept hearing from other women that, you know, that this is a common problem. And so, so much of what I wrote in the book are things that I wish I had abided by in those years when I was just burning the candle at both ends.
And so, I divided the book into two parts. The first part is it identified four enemies of rest, and I think most women will be able to relate to the majority, if not all, of them. And then the second part is really I call it “the intervention.” You know this is where we are all gonna get help, right? Group therapy, if you will. And, you know, taking a closer look on how can we find recovery from the exhausted pace that we seem to all adopt.
Jim: And we’ll get to those four, hopefully, or at least a couple of them. But let me ask you this question, because I think this will be the question. And that is, is the root cause of our busyness to make ourselves feel wanted, needed, or valued by someone? And why can we not see that God values us just for being who we are? And why do we as human beings struggle, and why do women particularly struggle with that?
Vicki: Well again, I mean I think it goes back to this whole idea of, you know, comparing yourselves with one another and living up to expectations, or maybe perceived expectations that are around us. And we adopt the pace that everyone else is going, and so if you slow down and you really, you know, you’re … you look at God’s Word and you see, you know, where He in the creative order, He models the Sabbath rest for us and things like that; when you begin to practice it, you almost feel lazy because you’re looking at everybody else, and we’re all just going 90 miles an hour, trying to accomplish so much. And so, a lot of it is the culture we live in that has rubbed off on us.
Jim: But it’s reinforcing that whole idea that we are more worthy or more acceptable if we are busy like that. That’s what I mean by that feel wanted or needed. And I see that in Jean. I mean she will run herself ragged, saying “yes” to so many things, and it’s epidemic, I think.
Vicki: It is. You know the world sends us this message that our worth is defined by what we do or what other people think of us, and you take either or both of those and that is the perfect storm for a full calendar right there—
Vicki: –because we want to feel important. We want other people to approve us. And yet, you know, God lays out a different standard here. I mean I look at what He models for us in the 23rd Psalm and that picture of rest and what that looks like. And yet, that’s foreign to us because we’re always going for the dangling carrot, you know, whatever that is. And so, I did talk a lot in the first part of the book about the, you know, that busyness, and how really today we wear it as a badge. Everywhere you go—
Vicki: –I mean, you hear people, “Well, I have this going on and that going on and duh, duh, duh. I’d give anything to be bored.” Or “If only there were more hours in the day.” We’ve all said these things, these clichés, right? And yet, underneath it all there’s almost a ring of pride when we’re sharing these things, because again, like you said, Jim, it goes back to that, well, I must be something. If my calendar is full, it says that I’m important. Or it says that other people need me.
Jim: Well, I think, too, that high achievement attitude, if you were an A student and you’ve got a busy schedule, you’ve got to get an A, so you’ve got to make it even busier—
Jim: –because that’s the measure of who I am. You, in fact, you talk about a story where you’re pushing your 2-year-old grandson, I think, in a stroller one afternoon, and I guess the events kind of caught you. What happened on that day?
Vicki: Well, I remember, you know, he’s at that age. First of all, I babysit him once or twice a week, and I love it. It’s such (Laughter) an amazing chapter of life.
Jim: Look at Grandma smile.
Vicki: If I had known that it was this great to be a grandmother, I would have just started with the grandkids, honestly. (Laughter) But I was pushing him in the stroller and it was spring and you know, there were some wildflowers coming up along the route we took. And he said, you know, “Mimi, I smell the fowders.”
Jim: The fowders.
Vicki: And so, I picked him up out of the stroller, and we, you know, picked wildflowers for his mom and then for Mimi and then for his aunts and you know everyone in the family he wanted to pick flowers for. And as I was pushing him back home, I thought to myself, you know, did I miss those moments with my own children because I always felt that sense of urgency that there is so much going on in the day? I don’t have time to pull you out of your stroller and let you pick these flowers.
And there was almost a sadness that, you know, came over me like if I could go back, I would definitely adopt a slower pace or I should say more margin in my days to where I’m not saying “yes” to so much that it doesn’t allow for a block of time or some time where you wouldn’t feel guilty about picking wildflowers.
Jim: Well, and Vicki, I think what you’re describing there are the choices we need to make, because there’s always trade-offs. And what I’m hearing you say is say “yes” more to those things that in the temporal may not sound like the most advantageous things to say “yes” to because it’s not adult stuff. But with your kids or your grandkids in your case, saying “yes” more to them. Is that …
Vicki: Absolutely. And I think for moms, too, it’s sort of this we have to get past that pressure we feel to fill every blank void in our day, and not see it as something that is lazy or–
Jim: Feel guilty.
Vicki: Right. And so I know when I speak to moms, we feel a lot of guilt even over relaxing and flipping through a magazine or watching several back-to-back episodes of House Hunters, or you know, (Laughter) whatever it is that is just gonna help you kind of breathe easier or spending time with family members and people who are important to you.
Jim: Well, I’m sure there’s that other side of the boundary line that you could become intoxicated with that relaxation.
Vicki: You can. I don’t meet many; maybe because I’m so busy.
Jim: Right, but let’s talk about that sense of guilt. Talk to that overwhelmed mom who is identifying with what you’re saying, but she’s going, “Wow, where do I go? I’ve got 1,400 things to do in the day, and I’ve only got so much time, probably enough time to do 100. What do I do with the other 1,300 things?”
Vicki: Well, I think first of all she needs to take a deeper look at, you know, her motivation. And just as you touched on, is she packing out, you know, every block of time in her calendar because of the fact that she’s “mis-defined” her worth? And so, you know a lot of times I think we put Band-Aids on problems and we read a book like this and we’re like, “Okay, I’m going to make some minor adjustments,” and then lo and behold, six months later we have relapsed back into the same pace that we were before.
And so, that’s why at the front of the book I really wanted to [say], it’s painful. I’m gonna be honest with you, it’s a painful read, because it goes over motivations that a lot of us as women have. Deep down inside we’re looking for validation; we’re looking for our worth in the wrong places. But once we identify if that’s the problem for us, are we looking for approval? And the only way we can get approval is to sign up for 1,000 different activities? The same thing even for our kids, we do this to our children, don’t we?
Vicki: And so, we imagine that if I’m a good mother, well, good mothers sign their kids up for every activity under the sun. And yet, we rob our kids of this idea of what rest is as well, and then they’re left with what? A frazzled mother who’s snapping at them, snapping at her husband.
Jim: Well, let me play out of a not a hypothetical, a good friend of mine (Laughing), but I could see like at school when the kids start that phase and you’re in a school that invites parental involvement, what I have noticed is that there’s a handful of moms. It’s the 80/20 rule or maybe the 99/1 rule, where just a handful of moms end up doing all the work. They are the homeroom moms. They’re the birthday party moms.
Jim: They are the teacher appreciation moms. And you know, my observation is that, there’s like three moms in each of my kids’ classes, three to four that end up doing the bulk of the work. And I guess the question that I’ve got, are the other moms being wise and saying, “Okay, you got some eager women that want to go do it.”
John: They just wanted that.
Jim: They go do it.
Vicki: Well, it’s the same principle as tithing, isn’t it? It’s like after a while, people of the church go, “Well, those same people keep giving, so I don’t have to give.”
Jim: I guess.
Vicki: Yeah, I’ve been that mom in the smaller percentile in the group, but then I’ve also been the mom who’s come around and said, “You know what? I’m tired, and it’s somebody else’s turn.” That happens on the last child, I think—
Jim: (Laughing) Right.
Vicki: –where you’re like, “Well, I did my time and now it’s (Laughing) time for these other mothers to step up to the plate.” But I share, you know, in the book that we need to be aware of the problem, because when you walk into things like Back to School Night, where you know you’re going to have all these volunteer sign-up sheets, if this is your tendency, it’s the same tendency that, you know, an alcoholic has to stay away from the bars. So, Back to School Night may not be your friend. (Laughter)
Jim: Oh, wow.
Vicki: You know, I’m not saying you skip out on it entirely, but you are aware that this may be a problem, a junkie of sorts in the sense of signing up for things. And so, you give yourself a limit. Or what I share in the book is you think back to how did this play out the last time I over-committed? Well, we ended up feeling really frazzled all the time. I was excited to sign upon the front end, but when I got into it, I was bitter; I was resentful. I was angry that I’d done it. I was sad that I was missing in other important things.
And so, by reflecting back on how it actually played out, and you know, and really again, reminding the moms, think about, you know, if you already are experiencing guilt over going to lunch with a friend and yet, in the back of your mind you’re thinking of that to-do list that awaits, and you can’t even relax and enjoy yourself; you feel guilty for flipping through a magazineor reading a book or doing any sort of leisure activity, you never really can fully rest and relax, and that’s a sign that you’ve got a problem here.
Jim: Technology also plays into this, you know, the idea that, that comparison factor rises. You can see—
Jim: –what other women and moms are tweeting about and posting and you can get really caught up in that comparison battle. What advice do you have there for the, you know, young mom that thinks she’s not measuring up?
Vicki: That is probably the biggest enemy of rest that I hear from younger mothers is not just the comparison factor that they encounter with social media being so prevalent, but just the being over-connected in general, and almost this compulsion, if you will, to be engaged all throughout the day, and taking pictures of their kids at the park and making sure that it’s got the perfect filter and a clever caption to go with it, and are getting distracted by, you know, reading through the newsfeed and seeing what everybody else is up to.
And this is a problem not just for the younger mothers. I ran into, you know, where I realized that I would log onto Facebook just for, you know, five or 10 minutes to catch up, see what everybody’s up to, and 45 minutes later I have, you know, I can’t even tell you where all I’ve been, but ridiculous bunny trails, you know, and linking to an article that is now extolling the dangers of some food that I’ve been eating my entire life and—
Vicki: –that’s gonna shorten my lifespan, or you know, and so, working me up into a frenzy over not just the distractions there, but then that leads to yet another enemy of rest, which is worry, right? And so …
Jim: Do you encourage moms to take an inventory of their time usage?
Vicki: Absolutely and this is where I ask an important question at the front of the book, you know, that we all need to learn to ask ourselves, especially when it comes to technology or really even overcommitting to activities and signing up for, you know, obligations at school. But I encourage women to ask themselves: Is this good for my soul? Is this good for my soul? And if they can honestly say, you know, this would not interfere with my time that I spend with the Lord and building my relationship with Him, that it still allows me enough margin in my day that I can relax and enjoy my family, I can enjoy doing things on my own and helping other people, then go for it.
John: Well, if you’re having a hard time even getting to the point of asking, is it good for my soul, if you’re a weary soul, you’ll find more encouragement as we continue the conversation today on “Focus on the Family” with Vicki Courtney, and in her book Rest Assured. And we’ve got that book and a CD as well, or a download of this conversation, at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call 1-800, the letter A and the word, FAMILY and we’ll tell you how you can get those..
And by the way, if you can make a generous gift of any amount to the work of Focus on the Family, to come alongside and encourage folks like you in the faith, then please make that and know that we’ll send this book to you as our thank-you gift for joining our support team.
End of Program Note
Jim: Vicki, I love looking at Scripture and the characters in Scripture to kind of see where I’m at in my own life, and I think a lot of women do that, as well. I hear from women who say, “Yeah, Proverbs 31, we know that woman, and I can’t measure up to that woman.” But also Mary and Martha, which is a common references in Christian circles about these two women that responded differently to the party and honoring Jesus in two different ways. And we often are negative about Martha, that she was so consumed with taking care of the dishes and doing all (Chuckling) of the other things, that she missed being with the Lord. What is your take on that scene? And paint that scene for us.
Vicki: Well, first of all, that is probably one of the most foundational passages in my life personally that I continue to go back to over the years, because I’m a Mary wannabe; I’ll confess that to you. I tend, my tendency is to lapse into the Martha mind-set, and not necessarily the cooking and the kitchen part. You know in different translations I think paint her in a different light, and one translation, I think New Living, says she was busy preparing a big dinner, and others, you know, she was distracted with much serving.
And so, you’re right; we tend to look at Martha and she gets a sort of bum rap. But yet, many of us can identify with that sort of attitude that she must have had of, well, if not me, then who? If I am not going to prepare this meal for this very important houseguest, Jesus, then who is going to do this, right?
Now never mind that just, you know, a chapter prior He was feeding 5,000-plus on a hillside with very little to go from on that meal and performing miracles. But yet, this is her tendency, and we’ve all had that tendency that it falls to us and so, we need to get this done.
But another thing I love about that passage is that verse where it does talk about she was distracted with much serving. And that actual Greek word is a Greek word perispaoma [sp?], and if you look it up it means “to drag all around.”
Vicki: And I love that, because it just opened up the whole verse to me. You know, and I had to ask myself and I would encourage your listeners to ask themselves, what is it that drags me all around and hinders me from the one thing needed? Which is what we know Jesus basically tells Martha, that Mary, as she is sitting at His feet, listening to His teaching, that He basically tells her that she has found the one thing needed, and “I will not take that away from her.”
And so for, you know, for each of us it may be something different that drags us around, but is it necessary? Because I think we go over the top in a lot of these areas, and in fact, that word “much,” much serving, that is a Greek word, polys, and it means almost like superabundant, over the top. Not necessarily like one commentary said, what Jesus was really saying here is one dish is sufficient.
John: Vicki, I appreciated what you said early on about the book coming out of a time of burnout, and I think a lot of our listeners are there. Jim, we hear from so many who have some extenuating circumstances. It’s not because they’re spending a lot of time on social media; it’s because they have a chronically sick child–
Vicki: That’s right.
John: –or a family member who passed away and now they’ve got a lot of extra work. Or financial pressures and so, they have a couple of jobs they’ve got to work, or it’s a single parent. Where were you in that burnout process, and how do you start that step of saying, “Okay, I will spend time with God. I will try and bring some rest to my soul, even though it seems impossible right now”?
Vicki: Well, and that’s exactly what I was feeling at the time is that it seems impossible. I mean as a speaker, you book out typically, you know, a year in advance and so, it’s hard to take things off the plate when all of a sudden you realize I’m hitting a time of burnout. You have deadlines for books. And then I have, of course, should be above all that, the needs of my family at that time, and then growing my relationship with the Lord, which is of the utmost importance.
And I think for, you know, for me it was, some of it was in my control and some of it was out of my control. And I know that, you know, among your group of listeners, they can relate to one or one or the other or both, a combination of the two. And so, if it’s within your control, that’s when we need to take an inventory and look at what can I change here? What can I immediately take off my plate? What can I possibly, you know, fix in the months or the year to come? Work on, you know, doing a better job at saying “no” or not saying “yes” again if it’s homeroom mother or writing another book or whatever it is.
And then the things that are outside of our control, when we begin to pay attention to the time that we can redeem and have whatever margin, then we are able to feel less frazzled when we are having to turn our attention to those things that we really have no choice in the matter.
Vicki: But sometimes you’re right. It’s just absolutely it’s seasons of busyness, you know, and I do want to make a distinction. And I do that in the first chapter of the book, I believe, between the person who is more has a pattern of chronic busyness where they voluntarily overcommit, and the person who, by no fault of their own, finds themselves in this, you know, chapter of life where they have to care for others because they are desperately dependent on them.
And so, you know, there’s two distinctions there, but even with that person, whatever they have to do to make sure that they have time to sit at the feet of the Lord and to get away. Find some solitude, have some things that they do, you know, leisure-wise, if they can. Learn to breathe and to be still again.
Jim: Vicki, I’m hearing you say three priorities, and I think all of us struggle with staying within the boundaries of this, but the Lord first. Make sure that relationship is healthy, that you are doing what needs to be done to maintain a healthy relationship in God’s Word, prayer. And for some people that could be 15 minutes a day or it could be a half hour or an hour; whatever it requires of you. Secondly, your spouse and this is where I can hear women go, “Ugh.”
Because in the middle of child-rearing, it’s a child-centric home. Should it be that way? No. But it is by default the activity of the home is all around the kids, and you can lose yourself in that. You can lose your identity as a wife in that, and husbands can become very bitter with the fact that you don’t really pay attention to me anymore. We don’t do the date nights that we keep saying we’re gonna go do, because things with the kids keep popping up. And they just struggle for maybe five, 10, 15 years in that space.
And then finally, you know what happens is the graying of divorce. Empty nesters, it’s the highest category of divorcing couples right now, ’cause the kids leave and mom looks around and says, “Who am I? I no longer have identity in us as a couple.” And then thirdly, that priority should be the kids. But talk about that difficulty between priority No. 2, your spouse, and priority No. 3, your kids.
Vicki: I love that you mention that, and it’s something I constantly speak and write about. And then, if I’m invited to speak to, you know, a group of young mothers, that’s at the top of my list to address, because here I am, I’m on the other side of it now. I am the empty nester, and you know, I usually share with these women when I’m there that these kids will leave the nest. Rest assured, they will leave the nest someday, and if you have defined yourself as primarily their mother, you will be in a world of hurt on that day that the last one leaves, because you will struggle to know who am I in the midst of all this?
And your relationship with your husband will be somewhat distant, and you know, really to encourage them to remember exactly what you said, Jim, that our relationship with our husbands has got to take a priority over our being a mother to our children. And I know it’s easier said than done.
Jim: Boy, you can feel it goes against the grain, I’m telling you. I can feel it.
Vicki: It does.
Jim: I can feel it.
Vicki: It does and you know, I look at the women in my Sunday school class. My husband and I teach a class of younger parents and they’re, you know, they talk about this, that it’s hard to get away with their husbands. They’re exhausted. They are doing everything they can with their kids. And I continue to encourage these women: Come up with regular date nights. My husband and I had a regular date night starting at about the five-year mark into marriage, because we were struggling in our marriage because of this very issue, where he realized I was becoming all about being a mom and he was kind of left on the sidelines. And he said, “We’re not gonna let two weeks go by that we don’t do a date.”
Jim: Oh, that’s good.
Vicki: And here we are, 29 years later. He is my very best friend. I love spending the empty-nest years with him. But I can’t say that’s true for other couples I know that have entered the empty nest years and they’ve, in a sense, they’re more like roommates at that point.
Jim: Well, that’s a good caution. And if you’re that mom who is trying to find rest and you feel overburdened with so many things to do, you want to be maybe not the perfect mom, but a great mom, or you want to be that great wife and you just don’t know how to balance it all, this is a resource for you–Rest Assured: A Recovery Plan for Weary Souls. Vicki, thank you so much for being with us.
Vicki: Well, thank you so much for having me.
Closing Voice Track:
John: Now if you’d like to go deeper, we do have Vicki’s book available. It’s called Rest Assured and it’s full of personal stories and Scripture to help you really take this concept to heart. And Vicki offers an intervention of sorts to break you out of your busyness and a recovery plan is also in the book. You’ll find it and a download or a CD of this program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we’d be happy to tell you more, 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
And when you contribute generously today to Focus on the Family, a gift of any amount, we’ll send a complimentary copy of Vicki’s book to you as our way of saying thank you and maybe helping you find that place of rest.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. Dr. Gary Chapman joins us with some ways to make sure your marriage lasts a lifetime.
Dr. Gary Chapman: Only God can change the human heart. By nature, all of us are selfish, but when a husband starts serving a wife in an effective way, she’s drawn to him. That’s what she longs for and then she realizes her responsibility and then she begins to reciprocate.
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John: That’s Dr. Gary Chapman, helping you make the most of the second half of your marriage on the next “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.