You may have seen it, the Geico commercial where the man says, “Words can hurt you,” and the scene cuts away to a Western, with a cowboy riding off toward the mountains until he rides into the big words “The End” and is knocked off his horse.

This morning, I kind of got knocked off my horse by a few words.  Actually, the first thought that came to my mind was that I had been kicked in the teeth.

Stop doing. Stop striving. Stop.

I read the lines in Preston Yancey’s forthcoming book Tables in the Wilderness.  They were spoken to him by his spiritual director, and it felt like lightening when they hit my eyes.

Brilliant, blinding, knock-you-to-the-ground lightening.

And apparently, the ground is exactly where I need to be.

***

I am living the life I want – hours of words and a kitchen window chock full of tomatoes, goats bleating outside the farmhouse windows and conversations with writers every day, books pouring into me like honey and chickens who compost all our scraps with glee.

Yet, we still struggle – with bills and with time.  Right now, my business is quite slow – blame it on summer, blame it on my lack of business prowess, blame it on a cultural apathy toward the written word.  Whatever the reason, I am struggling to bring in the income we need for our bills, and well, yeah, I’m struggling with that reality.

My response to crisis is almost always to DO.  Find another revenue stream. Try to recruit more clients.  Take out another ad.  Sell my books.  DO. DO. DO.

But the truth is I DO a lot, and I really can’t do anymore and be healthy.  It’s time to stop striving.  To take rest.  To trust.  To as Preston’s book says, “Go have a look around” at where I am now.

Yet, even as I write that, I hear a voice that says, “You must do more. Find a way. Make a way.  Cut back. Earn more.”  And of course, we cut back, and of course, I look for ways to earn more.  But sometimes there is no “way” that I am going to make for myself.  Sometimes, all there is to do is have a good look around and rest. 

I expect you know what I mean.

***

I have before me today hours of beautiful time and tomatoes to turn into the best sauce I’ve ever made.  I have homemade bread to slather with local butter for lunch, and I have yarn – gifted from my mother – to turn into soft, comforting things.  I have comments to share on a friend’s manuscript, and my second Tana French mystery to listen to as the tomatoes simmer.

There is so much goodness to do; I need not manufacture more. 

Plus, just keeping myself from striving is enough work for my psyche today.  Training myself to sink back into a space where contentment buoys me – that will keep me busy.  And that, too, is good work.

The rest – the income and the planning – the next steps in a business or away from it.  Where I place my foot next will have to become clear without my striving because I’m taking to the ground for a rest.  The message has been received.  Stop. Rest. Watch.

What is your response when challenges arise? Do you try to do more? Do you sit back and disengage?  Or do you find a way to wait and rest and just stop right where you are?  If you’ve achieved a balance, can you teach me?

I keep having to learn this lesson over and over – and isn’t that just life, cycle on cycle of learning.  In May of 2009, I wrote this – To Not Strive But To Rest.