211 – The Gift of Rest with Guest Kathleen Denly

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The Gift of Rest with Guest Kathleen Denly on Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

One of the most profound, and necessary, gifts we can give ourselves is rest. Not only is it a good idea, but God designed us to rest. Yet too often we just keep going. We don’t want to be lazy, after all. Guest Kathleen Denly shares what happens when our misguided ideas about rest become unhealthy, and how we can ensure this gift is the blessing it’s meant it to be.

About Kathleen Denly

Kathleen Denly writes historical romance to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how he sees us. Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at KathleenDenly.com.

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!

Erin: Welcome, listeners, to the deep. We’re glad that you’re joining us today. We’ve been talking with our guest, Kathleen Denly. If you didn’t catch the first half of this interview, go back and listen, because it’s great. Now we’re going to dive right into part two with Kathleen Denly. 

Kathleen: I am just as valuable in that position and just as loved in that position as I am today. As I was in my mother’s womb. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Kathleen: And that was the biggest thing that pulled me out. 

Erin: Wow. 

Kathleen: That firm belief that God loved me no matter what. 

Erin: I love that. I’m guessing, though, that was a slow journey for you.

Kathleen: Yes.

Erin: With lots of little milestones along the way, things you learned along the way.

What are you doing now? This all happened by you driving yourself, right? You were so driven to do all these things. So how do you let yourself rest now? 

Kathleen: I had to change the way that I view rest. 

Erin: Mmm. 

Kathleen: That came from a couple of things. It came from the physical. The way we were designed, our bodies need rest, and that means more than just sleep. Our brains need rest.

I had been raised with this idea that I need to constantly prove that I wasn’t lazy. And people who rested were lazy. How stupid is that?

But that’s what I believed. Underneath everything, that’s what my actions were saying, that rest was wrong, rest was sinful. But when I actually went back and looked at the scriptures, I realized that even Jesus directed his disciples to rest.

Karen: Right.

Kathleen: God rested on the seventh day. Am I any better than God that I don’t need rest? I mean, come on. It’s just silly.

What I realized is that resting isn’t a symptom of laziness. Instead, it’s just something like eating. You can eat to an extreme. Whether that’s not eating enough or eating too much, you can use that and turn it into sin.

Same thing with rest. If you take it to an extreme, and you’re using it as an excuse to avoid doing things that you’re supposed to be doing, then yeah, it’s probably sinful. But God designed us to need rest.

The truth is that we are the most creative, and we are the most competent, and the most effective when we have taken the time to rest. That’s something that can be really hard to rewire in our brains because our culture rewards busyness.

Erin: Yeah!

Kathleen: I can’t tell you how many times I would have friends be like, “Wow, how do you get all that done? I’m so impressed.”

That’s such a nice thing for them to say, except that in hindsight, they were reinforcing these bad beliefs that I had about myself.

Karen: Yes.

Kathleen: I don’t think I’m the only one who gets that message. 

Karen: No, no. Not by a long shot. 

Erin: Busyness, yeah. Busyness equates to being “productive,” and we then equate productivity with meaning. And it’s not. If we’re busy doing the wrong things, we’re not creating meaning. 

Kathleen: Exactly. 

Karen: That’s why I love the story about Jesus and Mary and Martha so much. Martha’s bustling around and doing everything, and Mary’s just sitting at his feet and soaking in his presence and being with him.

Martha’s like, “Tell Mary to come help me. She’s not working.”

Erin: That would be me saying that, too. I’m sorry!

Karen: And I’d be sitting at his feet!

I love it when Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better way. Like he’s saying, “I will not be here forever. And she has chosen the better way, sitting and resting.”

I think,, too, that a part of the key for dealing with all this is that God created our bodies to give us warnings. The pain and the things that you experienced that you just brushed off and didn’t pay any attention to… We like to think that we are super people.

Erin: Yes.

Karen: That we can keep going and keep doing. But when all that is stripped away, as it was for you, and as it was at a point for me, you sit back and you say, “Sometimes the very best things that I can do are just to go outside and watch the birds.”

There is blessing that comes in that, and there is blessing that comes from that. I can then take what I gained from rest and share it with others, and it gives me the energy to do what God wants me to. 

Erin: I think this just goes back to our problem way back in the Garden of Eden, wanting to be like God. We don’t like to acknowledge our limitations. We don’t like to have them. We want to be superhuman, as you said Karen, and not acknowledge those limitations. I think that’s another reason why God made us rest.

Karen: Yeah.

Erin: He made us need it so that we would have to acknowledge our limitations. When we don’t, bad things happen. Then we have to look at it. Either way, we’d have to look at it. 

Kathleen: The really sneaky thing about the devil is that he will take God’s scripture and try to give it to us with his own spin.

Karen: Twist it.

Kathleen: Yeah. Like, “Oh, I can do anything in God’s strength.”

Weeeeell, but are you supposed to right now? Are you supposed to be doing something in God’s strength? Maybe the thing you’re supposed to be doing in God’s strength is resting. Resting and trusting that he will take care of the things that you’re not working on right now.

Karen: Right! 

Erin: Which makes a very good argument for why we not only need to know our Bible, because Satan does too, but we need to understand it. We need to be meditating on it and thinking about its meaning.

It’s not enough to just know what it says. We have to understand what it means, to the best of our ability. 

Kathleen: Yeah, and some of us are really good about taking spiritual things and using it to justify what we’re doing.

Like, “Oh, well, yeah, it’s the Sabbath, and I know I’m supposed to rest. But I’m gonna do this ministry, and I’m gonna help this person, and these are all spiritual things, so it’s okay to do that on Sunday, right? I don’t actually have to rest because I’m doing all these spiritual things.”

Karen: Yeah. “I’m going to write on Sunday because it’s really my only free day, and God understands that. So it’s okay for me to do that.” 

Kathleen: And, “As a Christian author, my writing is a ministry. So that’s allowed on Sunday.”

There’s a lot of ways that we can trick ourselves into thinking we don’t actually need to rest.

Erin: Yeah. What are some of the ways you’ve incorporated rest, or that you’re working to incorporate rest into your life? 

Kathleen: One of the things that I did was I had to make myself a hard and fast stop to the end of the day. Six o’clock, no matter what.

If I haven’t met my word goal. If the kids were crazy and they interrupted my work time and I didn’t do the things that I wanted to get done today, it doesn’t matter. I stop at six o’clock. Period. End of story.

There’s no negotiation, because if I don’t stop, then what happens is I’m working till eight o’clock, nine o’clock, ten o’clock. I’m supposed to be going to sleep at ten o’clock, so then I’m borrowing energy from the next day, because I’m not getting the sleep that I need.

I’ve found that I have to stop at six in order to give my brain time to shut down and to stop being in work mode. I need the shut down time in order to be able to go to sleep at ten o’clock. If I don’t stop working until eight, that means I’m not really getting to sleep till midnight. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Kathleen: So a hard, hard stop on work is one of the things I’ve needed to incorporate.

Also a hard bedtime, which has been a struggle for me my entire life. My mom said I was nocturnal in the womb. For my entire life, I was the kind of person who wanted to be up till two AM and sleep till noon. My whole life.

I’ve learned that that just is not going to work. I’ve got kids. I’ve got responsibilities. I need to have a more practical sleep schedule, and so I work really hard at making sure that I have all of my screens turned off by nine o’clock, and I am going to sleep by ten. 

Erin: Wow. Good for you!

Kathleen: So those are two things. The other thing is I work really, really, really hard NOT to work on the weekends.

Erin: Mm-Hmm. 

Kathleen: If I have to trade a day, say maybe I spent all day Tuesday running the kids to medical appointments, then I have to talk to my husband and get permission from him.

I ask him, “Can I work on Saturday to make up for that?”

He will help me decide if I’m making a healthy decision, or if I’m letting pressures that are not necessarily healthy push me into making a decision that’s not good. 

Karen: So you’re not making these decisions in a vacuum. You’re getting trusted allies to help you with it.

Kathleen: Exactly.

Karen: That’s very smart. 

Kathleen: Yeah, because as much as I’ve learned all of these truths, I’ve lived forty-plus years with all those lies, and they want to come back. They want to come back all the time.

I’ll be honest, there have still been some days when I’ve been like, “I’ve gotta do this, and I’ve gotta do that, and I can’t do this, and I’m never gonna get all this done!”

My husband’s like, “Breathe. Just breathe. Have you done a grounding exercise? I think you need to do a grounding exercise.”

For those of you who don’t know what this is, one of my favorite grounding exercises is called 5-4-3-2-1. I look around for five things in the room that I can see, four things that I can touch, three things that I can hear, two things I can smell, and one thing I can taste.

What that does is take me out of my brain that is panicking and thinking only about my to-do list. Or when I’m having a flashback that’s trying to take me backwards in time and tell me I’m not actually where I am, this exercise forces me to pay attention to the details of where I am and what’s around me.

There’s something about that that just makes you go, “Yeah. Okay. I can deal with this.”

Erin: Yeah.

Kathleen: Once I’ve done that, then I go, “Okay, time to pray.”

Erin: I actually like that you have a tool before you pray. You have that grounding tool first, and then it helps you focus so your prayer can be more focused. You’re able to hear God, seek God.

Again, it’s this marriage between wisdom from the field of psychology and counseling, which is okay! It’s knowledge that God has given us. But it’s this marriage between that. It’s this marriage between your physical body and what you’re doing, and it’s this spiritual side. It’s all together. I like how it incorporates everything. That makes a lot of sense. 

Kathleen: Yeah. Because without that, my prayers sound a lot like, “God, what am I gonna do? What do I do? God help me. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me!”

God doesn’t ever get a word in edgewise. Being able to use the grounding techniques helps me to listen better.

Karen: How does it feel now? Now that you have changed the way that you see what you need to do, the way that you see the world, and the way that you see yourself? What’s the difference in how you feel as a person, as a believer, as a writer? 

Kathleen: A big difference. The first thing that came to mind when you said that is I feel more relaxed.

Erin: Mmm. 

Kathleen: I feel more at peace. 

Karen: Yeah. 

Kathleen: I feel more trusting. I thought I was trusting God. I really did. But now I FEEL that.

I feel less worried. I feel less anxious. I feel more comfortable in who I am because I see who I am more clearly through him.

That’s the ironic thing. The theme for all of my novels is helping my characters see themselves as God sees them and not how the world sees them. And I’m sitting over here doing what I was doing!

Now I see myself more clearly. 

Erin: What’s interesting, though, is that this peace…you’re a non-anxious presence now. It helps you be a non-anxious presence in the world. That is beyond valuable. It’s one of the greatest lights that we can have as a Christian in this world because there’s anxiety everywhere—in people. All over the place.

Just the fact that our body, mind, and soul is more relaxed, it’s one of the best ways that we can witness for Christ.

I look at your whole journey. It’s hard that these trials make us look at these things. They force us.

Kathleen: Right.

Erin: We don’t want to go there, and they force us, very much like we force our characters in our stories. But look at what’s happened now. Look at where you are now. It’s just astounding 

Kathleen: It is. And I want to be careful not to give the impression that, “Oh, I’m over it now and I’m fine.”

It’s a daily thing that I use those tools. Like I said, I still have flashbacks. I’m still going to therapy for my PTSD, and it’s something I will struggle with.

But God has been good in showing me a lot and helping me change a lot.

Erin: Yeah. Our time is about up here. Do you have any final words of wisdom or encouragement that you would want to leave with our listeners? 

Kathleen: Yeah, I do want to share something that I think a lot of us are nervous about. If we see somebody who is struggling with mental health issues, there are three things that I have found very helpful, because it can be hard to know how to respond, how to help.

The first thing that I would say is validate their feelings.

A lot of people go, “Oh, I don’t wanna agree with them.”

Because if you hear somebody say, “I’m a terrible person,” and you care about them, the first thing you want to do is say, “No, you’re not a terrible person.” But what you’re actually doing by saying that is arguing with them.

We don’t want to agree because we don’t think they’re a terrible person, but we also don’t want to argue with them. Because even if that lie they’re believing isn’t true, the feelings that they’re getting from it are true. They’re real. They feel them.

A better thing to say in response is, “Wow, it must be really painful to feel like you’re a terrible person.”

It’s a very subtle difference, but it’s something that allows them to hear you. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Kathleen: The second thing that I have found helpful is to gently share the truth with them when they’re ready to hear it. You can’t shove truth in their face. You can’t approach it like an argument, but you can gently say something like, “I want you to know that I don’t think you are a terrible person.”

Erin: Yeah. 

Kathleen: You can even add on to that and say, “I think you are a responsible, caring, loving person, and I’m blessed to have you as my friend.” 

You can say things like that because it’s your opinion. You’re not arguing with them. You’re not telling them their feelings aren’t real, because again, even if the lie is false, the feelings are there.

Erin: Yeah. 

Kathleen: The last thing I would say is don’t underestimate the value of just being present. If you don’t know what to say, just stay. Just sit there and listen. Because one of the tricks the devil likes to play is to convince the suffering person to be silent and alone.

Erin: Yeah.

Kathleen: The devil will tell them, “Nobody cares about your suffering. If they knew what you were thinking, they would think you were a terrible person.”

If all you do is sit there and listen in compassion, then you’ve already broken that lie. 

Erin: I love that.   

Karen: Well, I’ve got tell you, this has been an amazing show, and your story is terrifying and inspiring all at the same time. That we can do these things to ourselves and so damage ourselves without even realizing we’re doing it, with thinking that we’re doing the right thing.

Kathleen: Mm-Hmm.

Karen: God help us. Seriously, God help us all. Give us eyes to see when we are mistreating the child that he created, the child that is us.

I’m so glad that he put the right people in place for you to help you. That he put the right voices to offset and replace the voices of the enemy. I firmly believe that he will do that for anyone who reaches out and asks for help, whether they’re asking for help from him or from anybody else.

Mental illness is not something you deal with by yourself. Follow Kathleen’s wisdom. Have people that you can rely on, have people who will speak truth to you.

Remember, just because the clouds are there, just because you can’t see or hear him, doesn’t mean God’s not there. He is. He has you, and he loves you no matter what. Just because he created you, he loves you. And for that, we could all be grateful.

Kathleen: Absolutely.

Do you think resting is just being lazy? You couldn’t be more wrong! Guest Kathleen Denly shares how this God-given gift has been instrumental in bringing her back to mental health! #christianwriter #amwriting Click To Tweet


Do you find it easy or difficult to truly rest? Why?


Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Special thanks to our April sponsor of the month Christy Bass Adams. She’s the author of a devotional titled Learning As I Go: Big Lessons from Little People, and a middle grades novel, The Adventures of Cricket and Kyle: Imagination Checkers. She’s also a speaker and leads women’s conferences and Bible studies, and she’s a monthly contributor to Inspire-a-fire and a newspaper columnist for Greene Publishing.

Many thanks also to the folks at PodcastPS for their fabulous sound editing!


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