Transition and exhaustion are two things Josh and Jill Felix can relate to.
After living overseas for 4 years, they returned to the states. Death and illness had struck their extended families and they wanted to be close. “We felt beat up,” Jill recalls. “Tired. God had sustained us, but we were really glad to be home.”
The Felix’s felt like coming home to America would make things better. Their time overseas had been difficult and they were looking for rest.
But returning home wasn’t all they hoped. “We were like a train wreck,” Jill remembers. “Picture a train, derailed, on it’s side. That’s how we felt.”
Much of Jill’s feelings were being wrecked by her father’s diagnosis of dementia and the changes that ensued because of his sickness. “My dad is in his early 70’s,” she says, “he’s always been this athletic, intelligent, special person, a chemical engineer… but then he got dementia. And he can’t work anymore.” And in the midst of these changes, other family members and friends were experiencing, greater than normal difficulty and loss, including deaths.
“I was in survival mode for about a year, just helping everyone,” Jill says. “I didn’t realize the deficit I was in.”
Somewhere during this time, Jill remembered a story from the book, Soul Custody.
“There’s an old story told by the Cherokee Indians,” Jill says. “The US Government decided to move the Cherokee nation from North Carolina to the area now known as Oklahoma. A relentless march led by the U.S. Calvary preceded across rugged mountains and challenging terrain. The colonel in charge was harsh in his treatment, forcing nursing mothers and infants to walk miles and miles every day. The Cherokee chief pleaded with the colonel, asking him to let his people stop and rest. He said, “You must let us stop. Our souls need to catch up with our bodies.”
Jill needed to stop. “I remember sitting at my kitchen table,” she says, “I didn’t feel like it was helpful to talk to a counselor, didn’t feel like I needed to go running, or needed to do another Bible study. Something was wrong in my soul.” Jill felt like she needed to get away for one week to rest and process.
Photo courtesy of Jill Felix
Soon after, she and Josh were able to go to a retreat center in Colorado for one week that is specially designed for ministry workers and missionaries.
“It was the most beautiful retreat center you can imagine,” Jill explains, “The care of the staff and the beauty of the place penetrated through all the pain. I felt like the most loved person in the world.”
For one week, all they did was spend time with the Lord. “We went on walks, played in the snow, and enjoyed the company of two dogs that ministered to my soul,” Jill says. They had the opportunity to pray and process the things that were eroding in their life.
“I was able to give over my family,” Jill says, with great tenderness. “I have this amazing family and now many of them are gone [because of death and illness] and I have to grieve that.”
“I was anxious and upset before I left,” Jill recalls, “dizzy a lot, sick, depressed for a few weeks. I was struggling to love my kids well. But when I came back I was a different person. I can’t explain it, but no human being could heal my hurt. Only Jesus Christ could heal that.”
And once Jill’s broken-heartedness began healing, her spirit healed, and she felt normal again. “I genuinely felt happy,” she says. “It was amazing to watch God use only a week to change me. It wasn’t perfect, but it was like, Wow, that’s a big change. I was able to give to my husband, my kids and others again.”
Sometimes you just need to stop.
The Felix’s have started choosing one weekend day as a Sabbath. “We’re not legalistic about it,” Jill says, “but we just choose a day to rest. We’re learning that the Lord is powerful. He speaks to us when we stop. American’s are really busy and I don’t always know how to function here. The goal is to rest – we don’t have to be busy. We don’t check email. We do things that are fun and life giving.”
Jill knows it will be a continual practice of stopping. When we stop, God will fill us up. “If we don't spend time with Him,” she reminds, “it’s really easy to get sucked into this fast-paced world we live in. There is a cultural norm here of busyness and we really have to go against the norm to function as Christ calls us to.”
Here are some ways the Felix’s enjoy their Sabbath:
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I don’t know how to respond as a white American Christian who is part of the majority culture. I can’t fully understand the pain or the depth of the wounds. But I’m still hurting.
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