~ by Kelly Pittman
Last week my family and I headed for the mountains in North Carolina for a worship and music conference. It’s our third time attending this conference and, truth be told, although I take a class here and there, I really don’t go for the seminars. I go for the scenery.
This year, our retreat week fell at the end of a 2 week marathon at home: the last week of school, followed by a week of VBS, with a smattering of unforeseen glitches resulting in a hefty bill at the auto repair shop. After leaving at the crack of dawn and driving for 2 days to our mountain destination, I was tired…ok I was cranky…my legs and back were stiff, I was nursing cracked heels on my feet, and…may as well let it all hang out…my face was breaking out in pimples like an adolescent. I felt old and run down.
H.A.L.T. It’s an acronym I learned from my wise mama and it translates like this: If you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired, then you need to HALT.
These are the symptoms that rear their heads when we are on a fast track to coming unglued. And often, it’s when we’re most stressed, that we’re least likely to heed the warnings. We ignore the hunger, stuff the anger, resist the loneliness and push through the fatigue. This usually doesn’t end well. Ignoring the wisdom to HALT generally results in some kind of blow-up or meltdown, and it’s usually aimed at the ones we love the most: spouses and kids.
What finally brought me to a complete standstill was my feet.
Days before, my heels had begun to crack. I had ignored the gnawing pain at the back of my heels until it was becoming too painful to walk without limping and I finally listened to my feet and gave them some lotion! Days later, as I sat outside rocking in a big white rocker on the porch of our retreat house, I considered that the state of my soles were a pretty good indicator of the state of my soul. I was feeling spiritually dry, physically worn out, emotionally cracked. And my whole body was wearing signs of distress.
As parents we are constantly encouraging our kids to listen to their bodies. From potty-training to knowing when to rest, to sensing danger and knowing right from wrong, our bodies communicate the deeper needs if we listen. That encouragement needs to continue into adulthood. Parents need to listen to their bodies too!
My cracked feet, aching back and inflamed skin were all outward manifestations of the ways that I had been neglecting my health.
Thanks be to God, our trip to the mountains offered halting opportunities that I couldn’t ignore. Seeing lush green mountains stopped me in my tracks to take in the beauty of God’s creation all around me. Watching my family build a rock wall in the creek for the mountain water to make a pool, reminded me to slow down and be fully present to the simple joys of life. Listening to the wind through the trees on a long walk, and afternoons spent in a rocking chair reading silently next to my husband, offered healing balm to both my tired soles and my wearied soul.
Perhaps you are wearing the signs of distress, loneliness, anger, soul-fatigue. Parenting can drain our reserves pretty quickly. It’s hard to HALT when we’re in the season of 2am feedings, or toddler meltdowns or adolescent backtalk or general extracurricular busyness, or the myriad of stresses that are a part of life.
I think of Psalm 46, firmly and imperatively jolting God’s people to a sudden HALT. Be still! And know that God is God.
This is your invitation today: to consider the state of your soul…or maybe the state of your soles! Are they bone tired, cracked, weary? Perhaps it’s time to HALT.
Leave the work pile.
Step over the laundry.
Ignore the dishes in the sink.
Just. Be. Still.
And know that the Lover of your soul, the One who tends and cares for you completely — from the hairs on your head to the soles of your feet — is God.
Rest there. In the presence of God. And find rest for your weary…everything.