You know the dream. Quiet sandy beaches and blue skies. You're walking on the crunchy sand while warm water dances on your toes. Your burdens have been swept away with the light breeze. You're on vacation! Just you and your spouse, or maybe just you and a friend. No kids, no responsibilities.
This has definitely been my dream for many years. But it had only been a dream until last week when Russ and I had the opportunity to spend a dreamy week in Maui. The photo I took was the view just steps from our room. Gazing upon this seaside beauty drenched my spirit in rest. Because we have not taken a vacation together for many years, we are foreigners to extended relaxation.
Many studies have been conducted over the last several decades to help us understand the effects of rest on brain function. From 10 minute power naps to a relaxing vacation, the conclusion is that we become more productive and creative in our endeavors. But the interesting note is that the benefit from refreshment doesn't last! Regular rest or respite is necessary to keep our brains healthy. Families with special needs kids/adults need to immerse their bodies and souls in rest daily to remain patient, loving and productive.
Like the Israelites' forty-year journey in the desert, God provided for their needs on a daily basis. Provision was made new each day. Just as our bodies need food every day, our souls need daily refreshment. The wisdom from our Creator has been "discovered" by neurologists confirming this need for daily provision.
I discovered this spiritual secret at age 40. I had just undergone major surgery. I was very limited with physical activity, and this led to boredom and depression. We were still in the waiting stage for adoption. All joy seemed unattainable. My cries to God were simply, "Help me!"
Before long, I felt a tug in my heart to start reading my Bible. I had rededicated my life to Christ ten years prior. Russ and I were attending a Bible-believing church. But my spirit felt dry and empty. Why? Because I wasn't nourishing it every day. The first time I laid my Bible before me I wondered, "Now what?" In my search for a longing I didn't understand, I blindly opened my Bible and started reading. I had "randomly" turned to Psalm 63. After reading the first 8 verses, I began to cry. The Words pierced my heart. I knew God was speaking directly to me! I felt a deep joy and satisfaction that were foreign to me. All I knew is that I wanted more.
I wanted to have the Divine touch of the Author of Love talk to me personally again. That was the first day of my journey toward daily nourishment. It was a process. I didn't learn to "cook a feast" overnight. But now twenty-five years later, I can see how a relationship, a bond was formed between my earthly heart and the God of this universe. How amazing! It's still a mystery to me how God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit desire this relationship with me. Our brains were created for loving relationships in order to thrive (see www.drleaf.com). So when I'm connecting with my Creator, a strong bond of love is formed. Now I can dip into the well of Living Water and drink in refreshment for my soul, spirit and body. This is true rest.
Although I invested in this spiritual nourishment daily, Russ and I neglected to plan for vacations. With the constant medical, psychiatric and behavioral needs of special needs looming on a daily basis, stress was our constant companion. Of course we took the kids to various places, but Russ and I went no where alone. But now that the "kids" are adults, vacations are more doable. I do suggest that you search for a support team if you don't have family members who can watch your kids for date nights and vacations. We were fortunate that the Regional Center (local by counties) provided money for us to hire sitters so we could go out once a month. Check out my Resource page for UCP-OC (Orange County, CA, USA). They provide respite for families with special needs kids. Once you subscribe to this website, you will be provided a free download for how to take a regular "mini" respites on the last page.
The memory of the blue skies, sparkling aquamarine water and singing birds will nourish my soul for now. I pray it's not decades until we can have another beautiful respite. But until then, I continue to invest in my daily spiritual feast. My reward from this respite is a renewed sense of joy and hope!