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About the Episode

Burnout. It’s real and it’s happening in our churches, our nonprofits, our ministries, and our missional living. We want to do good and make a change in our community, but often, serving others takes more out of us than we’re ready for emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Suddenly, we find ourselves trying to help others from a place of exhaustion. In today’s conversation, Elisa Johnston, a nonprofit founder and director, shares her own journey of burnout, how Sabbath became a necessity in life, and how she now advocates for rhythms of rest for those in serving roles.

​​​​​​​About My Guest

Elisa Johnston empowers ordinary people to be fully alive while making the difference they were born to make at Average Advocate, procrastinates on Instagram, and brings freedom to the exploited through Blackout Trafficking. Whenever and wherever she can, she explores with her three littles and adopted housemate. Thankfully, God, her husband, and other favorite introverts are all particularly grounding, because otherwise her passion to raise-up leaders, live missionally, and start world changing things would compel her into a creative oblivion.



Click for Transcript

Rachel: [00:00:00]

Rest doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. If you feel like you’re about to break from exhaustion. Let me invite you to Simply Sabbath, a podcast for the burnt-out Christian mom, who longs to get back to the core of who she is and to reclaim the deep joy and stabilizing peace Jesus has for her in her every day– without the mom guilt that often accompanies self-care practices.

Hi, my name is Rachel Fahrenbach and I help busy moms just like you add a simple restful family Sabbath to their week. So they can experience a refueling that gives them exactly what they need to live the life that God has called them to. I’m so glad you’ve joined me today. Let’s get to it.

I have shared before how a few years back, I found myself in a particularly hard season. Part of what contributed to that season [00:01:00] was that I had co-founded and was running a nonprofit food pantry. We were serving thousands each month and managing our team, which was comprised of over 70 volunteers, including the directors, which was me and then a few other women.

And while I loved the work that we did and the way in which I got a front row seat to God’s provision in the lives of the families who came into our doors, it was a lot, it was physically demanding. It was full of emotional highs and lows, and it was mentally taxing. The need was always there and the work was never done.

We didn’t practice Sabbath at the time, though God was teaching me much about trusting him as a provider. And I often wonder how that would’ve changed things for me. Would I have ended up crashing and burning as hard as I did, if I had practiced Sabbath.

Today I’ve invited my friend Elisa Johnston to talk to those of us who are involved in roles that en encourage change in our community. Elisa is a coach for change makers. Through her work, she empowers ordinary [00:02:00] people to be fully alive while making the difference they were born to make.

Whenever and wherever she can she explores of her three littles and her adopted housemate. And thankfully God, her husband and other favorite introverts are all particularly grounding for her because otherwise her passion to raise up leaders live missionly and start world changing things would compel her into creative oblivion. Elisa, I am so excited that you’re here today to talk to us.

Um, I really, I think that this is a really important conversation for us to have, um, for those of us who are involved in roles that advocate for others, who, for roles that seek social justice for roles that, um, really focus in on serving others, the idea that we really need to be intentional about taking Sabbath when we’re involved in that, in that kind of work.

And so, um, I’m really glad that you’re here.

Elisa: I’m really glad that you invited me here. Um, when I saw that you were doing a podcast on the Sabbath, I was like, oh, me, me, me. I [00:03:00] have, I have so much to say on the subject. Um, largely because of my own experience, which is very similar to yours. Um, I’ve started two nonprofits.

I’ve worked with others, multiple different ministries. Started other ministries and within all of that, it, um, I definitely experienced my own, uh, season of burnout and actually got closer it again last year. Um, but because of a lot of, uh, steps that I was taking, um, after my first experience burning out, um, I was able to kind of, um, Avoid it fully.

Um, so all to say, this is a subject I am hugely passionate about because, um, working with, um, everyday people who are trying to make a difference in the world, this is like one of the top, uh, problems that I see is that there’s not, um, people don’t have systems in place that will help them avoid. Right. Um, avoid this, avoid burning out and then there, and then a lot of people don’t know how to recover from that.

And it just, it just becomes, so, um, it’s pointless. I don’t think it’s what God [00:04:00] designed for us. And so, um, I’m really excited that you brought me here today to talk about this subject.

Rachel: I’m so excited.. So let’s get into it. I, as you were talk, as you were just talking now, um, the thought came to mind, like we understand the idea of like a sabbatical and oftentimes we encourage our pastors to go on sabbatical to help them avoid burnout, um, or you know, others that are involved in uh, intense work where like you need a sabbatical. We sometimes give sabbaticals to missionaries and, and whatnot. Um, but waiting until you have this large chunk of time, isn’t necessarily the most helpful or beneficial, like you need like every week Sabbath. Um, sabbaticals are good and they have their place and their purpose.

But what we’re talking about here is really making sure your week has that rest time built into it. So particularly for those who are involved in, um, these ministry or social justice [00:05:00] organizations and whatnot, what would you say to them about taking a Sabbath each week from your own experience.

Elisa: Yeah. Um, well going back really quickly to the idea of a sabbatical, I would say that, um, honestly, a lot of pastors I know don’t do that.

Rachel: No, they don’t.

Elisa: and. And I really think that they should. And a lot of people who aren’t just pastors, but who work in ministry, whether it’s a lay position or in any type of, again, any type of organization where you’re serving people, I think it really needs to become a practice that is, that is normalized and not just like, oh yeah, missionaries do that.

Um, but. Right. And, and I guess the reason why is, um, uh, years ago I was introduced to this concept by, um, I think it’s called it’s from 3d M or three dimensional ministries, um, with Mike Green and they called it, um, rhythms of rest. And the idea of rhythms of rest was, was looking at your life through these lenses of, of just [00:06:00] checking to make sure that you were being proactive about.

About what rest was. And they walked us through some exercises and, and some of them were, some of them were very much like, like, okay, how do you define rest? Like that in the first place is a very tricky subject because you, you can talk with people and they’ll be like, oh, rest is binge watching on TV.

And I think like for me, when I would practice rest, I was really actually, um, you know, previously I lived in outside of DC Metro area and I had little kids and was, was tired a lot, like most moms and I was doing ministry work and I was also, um, and I was also starting a, a human trafficking nonprofit in that area.

And in that I was challenged to take this to look at this concept of rest. And I need, I, I, I really wished I had embraced it more mm-hmm um, at the time, but at least it kinda started getting me down that trajectory. So that by the time I realized something was like majorly off, I kind of had a, a way to come back to [00:07:00] myself a little bit.

Mm-hmm um, but in that, that was kind of, one of the challenges is to be like, how are you even defining rest? And, and in in that defining of it, I realized that I was actually really only recovering. I was never actually fully resting and I feel like recovery rest and like a deep spiritual, like filling rest are very different. Mm-hmm and sometimes we need to have that recovery rest, a little bit before we get to a place where we can actually do deep spiritual rest. Like my mom used to always say like, Elisa, why aren’t you trying to like, you know, like read all this stuff in the Bible and you can’t even keep your eyes open. She’s like, you gotta take care of your physical body before you can even, you know, like get to a place. Spiritual body is being cared for. And, and that’s kind of always stood out to me cuz I was like, actually she’s kinda right. Like I actually have to like take care of my physical body and kind of recover. And then once I’ve kind of recovered, then I can get into like this part where I’m like, wow, I actually really need to be filled with, with God and how I’m, [00:08:00] how am I already so not filled with God, right? If that makes any sense.

Rachel: It does. So it.

Elisa: Yeah. Yeah, that was one of the, the ones that really stood out to me was this idea of defining rest for myself and what that looked like. Um, that was really a helpful tool.

Rachel: Yeah, it is interesting cuz I think sometimes we, um, Because we’re going at such a high speed. It’s like, we’re just chronically exhausted. And so we’re, we’re willing to take any kind of rest. Like we’re, we’re like, okay, I need, I need just a nap. I need a nap. I need to veg. I need a whatever.

Um, But that’s really not the abundant life that God has called us to. And that’s not really what he has for us in Sabbath. It’s not just a, a nap. It’s not just a physical, it’s almost like we’re neglecting our self care. And then we are, we are thinking that that is rest. When we take care of our self care needs.

Right. Yes. Like we’re neglecting our, what we’re actually supposed to be just taking care of on a daily basis.

Elisa: Um, yeah. [00:09:00] And that’s like 100% it, I think that, I think the definition or redefining what rest is in the levels of rest is incredibly important for us as we’re making a difference in the world.

And then like, going back to what I was saying about rhythms, like, like looking at your rhythms, being like, do you have annual seasons of rest? Mm-hmm do you have, you know, like. Every 10 years or every five years, are you taking a sabbatical of rest and then breaking it down to like, do you need, you know, do you need time away every, you know, few months, and then even going down to the weekly, like you were saying, like, how am I weekly practicing rest?

And then how am I daily practicing rest? And, um, thinking through that lens of these rhythms, like was, was incredibly empowering to me, um, to get me to a place where I was actually practicing it, rather than just talking about it, knowing I needed it.

Rachel: So how do you, how have you incorporated Sabbath into your week while also be being [00:10:00] involved, running a nonprofit, all those things that you’re involved in, in the, the, um, and we’ll talk a little bit more in depth on that side of things, but like, just tell us what your Sabbath of practice looks like.

Elisa: Right. So right now, um, I started doing something that I call life mapping, which is a, a way I coach people. Um, it’s on, you can look it up on average advocate if you’re interested in it. Um, it came from, uh, two other people.

Rachel: And average advocate is your website, right?

Elisa: Yes. Average advocate is my website and my handle on pretty much every social media, although honestly, I’m really only on Instagram. I mean, I’m everywhere else, but I I’m,

Rachel: you’re active on Instagram.

Elisa: I’m active on Instagram. Yeah. Um, but they, you know, so this idea of life mapping, when I burnt out the first time, um, I ended up, uh, you were. Um, I ended up, we had a rapid move across the country. My husband got a new job and, um, and in that I already knew I was at a season. That was when I was like, I’m, I’m burnt out at this point. Mm-hmm [00:11:00] um, and it, and throughout that trip, this like long cross group. Country road trip. I took with my kids. Um, every friend that I’d stop and see, they were like, you’re burnt out.

You need to take a year off. And I was like, gosh, you’re right. You’re right. You’re right. And you know, like, and once I got across the country, you went from, you know, the east coast to the west coast. Um, I got here and I was like, I have to take a year off. I have to tell people, no, I have to actually work on my stuff.

And it was so hard to just sit with myself. Mm-hmm um, because a lot of times I think people who are trying to make a difference change makers, like, like we’re doers, we’re doers, and our identity is often gets really tied up in it. Mm-hmm . And um, for me to have that piece of my identity really stripped away, um, was very, very humbling and, um, And not just humbling, but it was, it was necessary.

And, you know, and there’s a lot of things like, okay, am I trying to be a savior without realizing it? Am I, yeah. Um, am I trying to, how am I, how am I approaching this? And so it really kind of forced me to look at [00:12:00] the identity piece that I was, you know, like, who am I. and also like, how am I actually serving people?

And am I actually like treating my family okay. Because I’m saying I’m putting them first, but am I putting them first? You know? So it was so taking that year sabbatical when I got, um, to San Diego was really, really important for me. Um, and I knew that I couldn’t go back to doing things the same.

Rachel: I love the fact that you just called it. I love the fact that you just called it a sabbatical. Because I —

Elisa: I called it that, cause we were talking about sabbaticals

Rachel: but you know what, but that’s really what it is. And I wonder if we cause okay, backing up the pickup here, but the reason I got so excited when you said that is because for the first time I realized that cuz I have had conversations where women have gotten to this point where they’re just completely burnt out and, and they pull out of everything. They’re just like, I just have to, I just gotta get a break. I just gotta stop everything. And it feels like they’re abandoning [00:13:00] serving, or they’re abandoning being a part of community or they’re abandoning. Like they’re just retreating and they’re running from it. And I think that in a sense they really are because they’re just so burnt out.

They don’t know what else to do. And they have put a, they need to retreat and they have. They don’t know because they didn’t put proper boundaries in place on their week. Yeah. Because they didn’t have those rhythms of rest. They’ve gotten to this point where they’re so burnt out. They’re, they’re just like, I’ve gotta stop.

I’ve just gotta stop. And I need everything to stop because I can’t even think anymore. And when you just said that, that the idea of a sabbatical. That if we would stop thinking of it as I need a break from serving, I need to stop. I need a break from being involved in these communities. I need to a stop.

I need to take a break from advocating. I need to take a break from social justice, which is not a biblical concept, right. To retreat [00:14:00] away, and to stop doing the things that God has called you to do. Yeah. But what. Biblical is the concept of a sabbatical. Yeah. A momentary pause on the bigger thing that you’re called to, to hunker down with God and allow him to minister to you.

Yeah, right. To let the ground just lie to not till it to not overwork it, to let it just take a break. And if we would just look at that with our ministries, with the things that we’re involved in and look at it as a sabbatical, as a momentary pause, mm-hmm to be rejuvenated and be refreshed. I wonder if it would feel less like retreating or abandoning and more like what it’s supposed to be, which is a refueling.

Elisa: You know, and it’s interesting that you say that, cuz I’ve had a lot of, I’ve had a lot of tension with, um, my pastor about this and we’ll get in these deep conversations and he, and he is like, I don’t think it’s true. People don’t really like. They don’t really burn out like that. I’m like, yeah, they do. I have . [00:15:00] Yeah. You know, and they’ll be like, he’s like, but they don’t need to. And I’m like, well, they don’t need to. Only if they are actually creating these rhythms of rest in advance. Mm-hmm because the idea is if you’re constantly being filled and you have a way of being filled, then you don’t, you won’t need to like, just drop and quit everything.

But I still think like a lot of it is in the language, like. A lot of people that I know, cuz I know a lot of people who have been making a difference and that’s what they did. They, they had to chop everything off and run away and hide and retreat. And uh, I, I wonder if we as a culture we’re able to create, I think we could create a safer way to do that by saying, Hey, this is actually good. We can kind of plan it in advance. Mm-hmm um, we can help you do this because we know that you need this. So that, that way, you know, like it comes before you give, you know, thinking of it as like a precursor to what’s gonna come next rather than a, than a end to everything, because because everything is, you know, [00:16:00] is, is killing us inside.

Rachel: And I’ll. Yeah. And I’ll talk from like personal experience when that has happened as a leader in ministry. And I have had volunteers do that and they just suddenly leave a gaping hole

Elisa: it’s so hard–

Rachel: in the ministry, it is so hard, but if we, as leaders would say, I’m going to help volunteers protect themselves from this burnout by saying you get to volunteer for so long and then you need to take a sabbatical. Yes. What would, how could that revolutionize our ministries? If we did that?

Elisa: We really would. And you know, in that, and speaking of that, that is something that we, in the first nonprofit I started, um, we ended up taking a season of rest just as part of it, because, well, I was kind of in that beginning stages of understanding rhythms, um, of rest.

And so I was like, we’re gonna take like six weeks off here. Um, but then when I started the second, uh, nonprofit, the, um, the one that I’m currently involved with, which is called blackout trafficking, totally giving a shameless plug for it, [00:17:00] go check mouth, do it. Um, so this, that one is a, you know, it’s a international, um, Challenge for people to choose to wear black during the month of March.

And we teach them how to do something about human trafficking and we work with a bunch of partners and encourage them and support them. And so it kind of serves two groups of people. It serves people who don’t know anything about trafficking and need a place to start. And it serves. Partners who are already on the ground doing a lot of really cool stuff.

But in that, you know, when, when, when I started that, I’m like, we are gonna take, um, two months off, like, and we can, because the way that it’s set up is so specifically that we can, and we’ve had people be like, why don’t we do it on other months? Why don’t we do these other things? I’m like, no, we need, we are volunteer run organization. We can’t, we don’t have the bandwidth. And so setting that, that up as part of our culture has. Huge. And we use it as a leveraging point to like teach people about it because when we’re off, we have posts that go through saying, we are off. This is why we are off. This is why we [00:18:00] believe all nonprofits should take time off, you know?

And then, you know, for some reason, one person needs to keep working. Then we make sure they get time another time. And it’s interesting cuz even when we have volunteers that still. You know, it’s still like this constant challenge from us in leadership to, to teach the volunteers. No, you’re doing too much.

Actually. We love it, that you’re doing that because you’re bringing so much to the table, but we see that you’re setting yourself up for burnout and I’ve realized that in that leadership zone, most of our job is to teach our volunteers how to take care of themselves. Yeah. Which is really mind blowing.

And, um, Like fascinating to me because I didn’t, I honestly didn’t think that would end up being our primary job, but most of the time off scenes is like, actually, it might be good for you to see a therapist. Yeah. Um, it might be good for you to, to take some time. Maybe you need a break for a year, you know, like yeah.

And I found that, that is that, that really surprised me to find that a lot of our leadership, once we started [00:19:00] focusing in, on being like, this is one of our huge values is to care for our volunteers, um, and help them know how to rest and teach them that it became so much less about, you know, like we still have that mission and we’re still working on it.

You know, when we’re raising up advocates against trafficking internally within our organization, the leaders who are there and the volunteers, that’s, that’s really most of what I view as like our primary job is to teach those long term advocates how to, to become more sustainable in their approach. And I honestly think so many nonprofits and so many churches would do so much better if their primary objective became to really, um, Honestly, it’s discipling the people that they’re leading rather than trying to create this external mission, which is why they have the volunteers is to work on the external mission. Yes. But the volunteers are also part of it. And if that’s not part of the mission statement, then we’re missing a huge element where we can teach and lead people to learn how to create a Sabbath part of their life. [00:20:00]

Rachel: Um, amen and amen. No, I totally agree with you because that was like when we were leading the nonprofit, that’s exactly how we viewed it.

We’re like our job is to take care of the volunteers and the volunteers take care of our clients. That is how this works. And then. And if we did our job, they could do their job. And, um, I love that idea that you suggest of discipling our volunteers, discipling our staff, discipling the people who are under us to these rhythms of rest.

Elisa: Honestly, like, I mean, I fully believe discipleship happens way before people become Christians and you get this chance to really intervene in their life and be like, this is, this is what matters. Yeah. You know,

Rachel: this is what God’s, this is God’s desire for you is to have this, this, this, um, I say it’s two sides of the same coin, right? Because it’s not just, you’re supposed to rest and it’s not just, you’re supposed to work. It’s you’re supposed to work and then you’re supposed to rest. And both of those are reflecting God’s image, [00:21:00] not one or the other. We reflect God’s image in what we do, when we’re doing the things he’s called us to, and he we’re reflecting when we enjoy and rest in what we’ve done with him.

And so I think it’s really important for us to be discipling our, the people underneath us. And then I also think it’s important that we’re discipling them, but we’re also modeling it for them. And so let’s pull it back to you took your year off of sabbatical. Yes. And then you started implementing a Sabbath after that?

Elisa: Yes, I did. I well, going back to the thing called life mapping, um, it’s a way to kind of realize what matters to you and to really make a plan to help you, um, implement it. And within that was O was obviously I really needed to walk more with God and, um, rest more deeply with him. Um, and there’s this. Uh, this verse that I really love it’s, um, Matthew 11:28.

And I think we’ve heard it a lot as in, um, in a different version, but there’s one version, the T P T, which says I will refresh your life [00:22:00] for, I am your Oasis. And, um, which is a very creative way of, of, of saying it. But, um, for some reason that that way of saying it is like, I need to soak in my Oasis.

Jesus is my Oasis. Like how do I soak in that? And so in that I started, um, creating, you know, those rhythms of rest, including weekly rest, um, and daily rest. And, you know, that ended up and it looks different in each season, which is why I, you know, I regularly redo my life map. Um, but, um, there, yeah. So are you asking for practical things that I do? Or are you,

Rachel: yes. We wanna know all the practical things. So I was just about to ask you, so the life mapping. Can you just quickly explain what that is and then, then go into the details of what your Sabbath looks like.

Elisa: Yes. It’s kinda like a full system coaching method that helps people figure out who they are.

Um, you know, a lot of times people get stuck on what am I supposed to do with my life? How am I supposed to make a difference? What is, what is my calling? What is my direction? What should I do? This really goes into. [00:23:00] It’s to answer that question, but it’s really more about who do you wanna be when you die?

Mm-hmm , um, it really answers the question of like, what does your character look like? Because how you do it can look different in different seasons, but mm-hmm, the character that you have, like that person who, so you get to the end of your life with no regrets, like that can change in different seasons.

So it kind of helps you, you know, at the beginning, really understand your values and think through that and what matters to you. Um, and. And then the second part of it is really about how to create an intentional plan. And I’m not a very, um, I’m a ENFP, which is a very like loose personality, not a very planned one.

I’m engram seven. I’m not like a tip. I’m not like your classic planner who like right. Geeks out on this stuff, you know, but I realized that if I was gonna continue, you know, leading and having a family at the same time, there was no way I could. Sustainably do both of those with, and not just jump around to every new thing and say yes to everything, cuz that’s just what I like to do.

So for [00:24:00] me, that, that system, which required a lot of discipline and accountability, I have, I have somebody else holding me accountable to it too. Um, you know, like that has helped me get into the practice of creating, um, So that, that way I know how to say no. And when I get to my limit and be like, I actually don’t have more time than this.

Like I used, I used to say that was like “I can tag that on, I can tag this on”, but one of the things that, you know, I’m supposed to do in it is create an ideal schedule, which is like, Virtually impossible. It feels like, but it really forces me to sit down and be like, oh my gosh, it takes me half an hour to drive here. And this happens.

And if I have a meeting, I really actually need like 45 minutes after the meeting to do a good job following up with it, you know? And so like looking at it through that lens, I was like, I don’t actually have anymore time.

Rachel: it goes by quick. Doesn’t it?

Elisa: I thought I had so much more time. No wonder. I said yes to everything before.

And for me, somebody who is a recovering people, [00:25:00] pleaser having that and being like, I want to say yes, I promise. But look at my, look at this. Like if you see when I’m driving and going this. Store. And I needed that for a few years to become okay. Feeling confident saying no, because I was like, I’ve already committed to these things.

Like these things are of top priority to me, they’re the most important. So that was a very huge aspect. And in that it was also scheduling rest mm-hmm . And so, you know, um, for me that ends up looking like every single one day a weekend usually. And it’s not only Sunday, often it’s Saturday because honestly, as many Sundays I’d be working all Sunday during church ministry type of stuff, you know? And, um, and as much as I would like that to be restful, it’s not, not yeah. ,

Rachel: it’s not which, I’m glad you said that because for some people I’ve talked to, that is part of their rest and they do find it restful. And for some of others it’s not. And I would be one of those. It’s not , it’s not,

Elisa: it’s not, I think it as, I mean, I enjoy it, but I still view it [00:26:00] as work a lot of times. Mm-hmm . And so, um,

Rachel: exactly.

Elisa: So a lot of times what ended up happening is, and now I still do the same thing, I either, I either pretty much say no to everything on a Saturday or on a Sunday, you know, for some reason it’s one of those weird weekends where I can’t say no to everything on one of those days.

Um, I will try to carve a day out in the week and if I can’t do that, I can feel it. I can feel a huge difference. And on that in, on whatever weekday that is. It’s like, I only spend time with my family. I get off of social media. Um, sometimes I’ll do, and social media is a tricky one because a lot of what I do is via social media.

Mm-hmm so it’s like, well, this is how I make a difference. I can’t just like drop it. However, on the other hand there are, I do try to make sure that I get at least one or two weeks off of social media a year, um, because it makes me a lot healthier. Um, and I definitely, um, on those sabbath type days I stay off of it because, um, I find myself, you know, and I even have, you know, people that hold me [00:27:00] accountable.

If they see me looking like I’m starting to get like com you know, they see, they can probably see me. If they’re sitting, you can tell,

Rachel: you can tell when somebody

Elisa: discouraged, you’re getting, like, you’re starting to compare yourself. They’re like, get off your phone. I’m like, Okay, I’m gonna get off my phone and like I’ve needed that accountability to help me be, um, spiritually healthy, you know?

And so like, that is definitely part of a part of my Sabbath practice is staying off of, you know, my phone for a couple days. I usually don’t even check email on that day. I, I just kind of like, sorry guys. I’m out. The only people who see me here, people who happen to be around my house. Um, so. And, you know, and that, and that helps, um, a lot, you know, trying to make sure I get sleep.

I usually do end up doing some like silly type of fun thing, you know, like watch a movie or whatever. But, uh, one of my goals on my Sabbath is to really take some intentional time to journal and, um, There’s a journaling form [00:28:00] that I really like to use that is called it’s called a manual journaling. Um, and it’s this, it’s kind of like a way that you set up to, to hear your, to hear God, um, and you start with thankfulness and being thankful and then.

And I don’t know, lots of people, you know, some people don’t believe that the holy spirit speaks today and feel free to write this off if you’re one of those, but you know, for me, I’m like starting and, and you know, like, like it’s like, God is speaking to me through that. And, and I’m always blown away by what comes out of that, those journal prompts.

And I’m like, huh, how did God know about me? You know, of course he knew it all.

Rachel: I love when that works out, when it’s like, oh, this is meant for me for today. I needed that. Yeah.

Elisa: Yes. So that type of thing, you know, and I think it looks different in different times. Like mm-hmm, often I’ll be reading spiritual books and often I’ll often I’ll be listening as spiritual podcasts or, you know, things like that.

Take some worship time, you know, and those are things that I try to incorporate into my daily [00:29:00] life too. Um, in a lot of deep breathing, I found that that actually really helps me. Uh, I don’t know, uh, there’s a name for it, but I don’t think I know the official name. Um, Complementarian prayer or something like that.

I dunno. It’s where you

Rachel: contemplative prayer. Is that what you?

Elisa: Yeah. So when you like breathe in your prayers, mm-hmm and you just really get yourself to relax in, in your body at the same time, you’re spiritually seeking God. And so those type of things have become a regular part of my, um, you know, daily rest, but then my weekly Sabbath rest also.

Rachel: Does your family rest with you?

Elisa: You know, they, they, yes, they do. Probably just because of the fact that, um, that I’m not scheduling anything for them and I’m just like here…

Rachel: It’s just organic.

Elisa: It’s very organic. I don’t, you know, and now that you mention that, it kinda makes me be like, you know, I could probably talk with them a little bit more about it, [00:30:00] but I mean, I think one thing that’s really important for me is that, you know, I want them to, to learn what it means to, to be the church and to practice and to practice what that looks like.

However, I think that that doesn’t necessarily mean like a Sunday morning church service. Yes. So. So it’s kind of interesting, cuz I find myself in this weird middle road where I’m like, I want you to understand Christian culture in the United States and how churches tend to do things. And so that’s why this week we are going to our church service, which is different than being the church.

But we are going to see people and practice being the church with people at our church service and worshiping God together. Cuz these are practices. Of being the church, but we can also worship God with each other at home, and that’s still being the church, you know? So it’s these really strange, weird conversations where I’m trying to like help them navigate.

So that way they have these healthy practices, whether or not that they are, you know, like, you know, whether or not there’s another pandemic and the, you know, church services shut down again. [00:31:00] Right. You know? So like, so I think, you know, in helping them see that a church service does not necessarily mean a Sabbath rest time, like we also need rest.

Rachel: Exactly.

Elisa: You know.

Rachel: I think that Sabbath lends itself to what you’re talking about, about being the church outside of being the church. Like yeah, because Sabbath is really. If you look at like the traditions in the Jewish faith, a lot of it centers around the Shabbat meal and blessing and community. And it’s like, that’s really, truly what I think that church is.

It’s about gathering together as a community and praising God, but you’re just doing life together. Yes. And, um, and so sometimes I, I feel like we’ve missed, we have we’re missing out on something. By the ways in which our churches have, um, our church culture evolved and changed over the years to become what it is today.

And so,

Elisa: and I do, I feel like it’s a [00:32:00] missing out. It’s not, it’s like, we’re so busy doing this other thing that we don’t get to practice these other practices that are beautiful. And I feel like they’re more aligned to what would bring us more filling, honestly, and more connection with God.

Rachel: And I don’t wanna, I don’t want anybody listening to, um, to think that I’m harping on the church and saying it’s all bad. It’s not, I think there’s some very beautiful ways in which the church functions. And I think there are some very beautiful worship services and there’s wonderful worship leaders who are guiding those services and pastors who are preaching solid teaching each week.

Um, I just wonder if, because we’re such an individualistic culture. If that’s infiltrated our churches in a way that makes it very individualistic we’re we come into Sunday morning and we sit and we consume in a way. And I know that sounds really hard of a word, but a harsh of a word, but we really do.

We just sit there and we, we engage in [00:33:00] worship, but there’s somebody leading us. Yeah. And we listen to a sermon. Yeah. And we, you know, we partake in communion, occasionally some churches once a month, some every week. It just depends.

Elisa: Some a year.

Rachel: Some once a year. But I wonder if we were to weekly as a community, come together and eat a meal and share and, and remember how God has provided for us and talk about the challenges and enjoyed of the week and just really engage in life together. Wow. How resting together, how that would look like, how that would impact us, how that would just become a cultural. And I think we get taste of this through communion and, um, you know, Easter and. Uh, Christmas, I think there’s tastes of it where it’s like we, as a community are all celebrating the same thing at the same time.

We’re all remembering the same thing at the same time. And I think that there’s something really powerful in that, but I could [00:34:00] keep going on for that one.

Elisa: No, I mean, I hear you 100% because I mean, and that’s, my heartbeat is to be like, you know, to not be against the church and church services, but to be like, we all have to be participants and, and a lot of church church ministry is set up.

So that again, they’re, we’re positioned so that we, we burn out cuz you have a very high stress culture of those who are highly involved. And they’re the only ones who are giving. So they’re giving 80% and then you have the, you know, the cozy culture and, and the people who are, who are taking from that you know, that from the, those people who are highly invested.

And I don’t think that that was how the church was designed to be. I think it, we are all to be equal participants and we are all to be, um, you know, the, those who are leading are simply equipping the people to, to grow the church and bless the church and, and use their own gifts. And I think that that little, I mean, it’s such a subtle shift.

Subtle shift keeps us from living real life together. And it also really [00:35:00] sets us up for for burnout and not being able to feel like you can take sabbaths and rest because you’re like, well, I have to take care of all these people. Um, you know, and, and I understand that tension so much. So if anybody’s listening to this and they hear this and they’re like, I can’t, my nonprofit will fall through.. My ministry will fall through my, you know, whatever it is that you’re leading, it will fall if you take a rest and, you know, honestly it might. But it might be okay too.

Like that might actually be a good thing because you are, you are modeling and you’re changing your lifestyle to actually be more aligned with what God has called you to do.

And so whoever’s hearing that and whoever’s afraid of that. I have no doubt that Rachel will happily talk with you about that, or you can reach out to me and I will encourage you also, because honestly, I know that for myself, that has been such a huge hindrance over the years where I’m like, I can’t, I can’t step down.

I can’t take a break mm-hmm I can’t, you know, and last year I found myself going through phases again, where I realized I had some unresolved hurt. Um, I realized that I, um, was [00:36:00] just, I found out there was things going on in my family I didn’t know about that needed attention. And, you know, there was a pandemic and a bunch of crazy stuff.

And I found myself again on the verge of burnout. And I was like, I can’t handle homeschooling my kids at the same time. I’m running a nonprofit mm-hmm and ministries at my church. I can’t do it all. And all this other stuff is under the surface that needs to be addressed. Because I’m stuck here and these are some trauma things I need to work through with, with somebody wise.

Um, and so like in that I could recognize those signs where I started feeling burnt out again. And I was like, I need to, I need to step down from these things. And you know, part of me is like, oh my gosh, I can’t step down from these things. But I was like, I think God is calling me to step down from these things and I need to listen to him.

And so, you know, I finally made this huge move to step down. Being the CEO of blackout trafficking. And when I was telling the chair of the board, I was like, I have to do it. I know we don’t have somebody to take our, my place, but I have to do it. I have to obey God in this. And they were like, actually, I know you’ve asked me [00:37:00] to lead this organization so many times before, and I’ve always said, no, but in the last week, God has confirmed to me. I’m supposed to take over this organization.

I was so blown away because it required so much faith for me to step down and be like, I have to be okay with this baby of mine, this nonprofit, you know, fizzling away because, because I have to, cause God needs me to rest. He said I had to, and I need to listen to him cuz I know what happens if I don’t.

It was so cool. Just to see how. How God provided somebody to lead in that situation. But then there was another thing where I was the leader of a woman’s ministry. And I stepped down from that too. And nobody stood up to take that place and it’s kind of fizzled and it makes me sad cuz there was a lot of investment in that and people were growing so much mm-hmm and it was a beautiful thing to see those lives, um, be changed through that.

But you know, at the same time it was also like. This is not where God wants me and I need, and I know that. And even if it fizzled away, that’s okay. Like if, [00:38:00] because he can still manage to lead these people, he can still bring them the help that they need. And, you know, at the right time, somebody else will rise up to lead them.

And, you know, and that was really hard for me to see all that work kind of you know, disappear and it feels like a failure. And I have to take that, not personally because, um, because it wasn’t a personal, like, like I failed all these people, but in reality, God was responsible for him and I’m ultimately required to obey him first.

Even if he says it’s time for you to step down from this. Um, so anyways, all to say, for those of you struggling with that, I hear you, and I know what that feels like, and you never really know what God’s gonna do with that. But I think that he can do good things with it, whether he brings in new leaders or whether he, he says this ministry’s time to be done.

So, um, those are just some other thoughts in there when it comes to the idea of rest and recovery and being spiritually healthy before you lead.

Rachel: I am kind of blown [00:39:00] away right now because your journey sounds a lot, like my journey and so I’m kinda like, huh, that’s interesting. But one of the things that I experienced, same thing, I should have stepped out of some stuff.

I, there was one point where I was like, I was in one role and I would hand it off to somebody and then they would just quit. And then it would come back to me, that’s frustrating. And I would hand it off to somebody and then they got a job and they came back to me. just kept like coming back to me and I back.

Elisa: And I will tell you this woman’s ministry won. Keep trying to come back to me. And I keep being like, no, I can’t. No. Right. I hear you.

Rachel: So I was like, I, I. Kept taking it on because people had to get served, right? Like they, these people had to be fed. It was a very in, um, in a very important part of the system this role had to be done.

And, um, so it just kept coming back to me. But what I finally learned from all of that [00:40:00] and what I have come to understand a little bit more fully in the last few years is my disobedience sometimes gets in the way of somebody else’s obedience. Yeah. And like you said, where, when you step down. that other person was able to say, actually, God’s calling me to this.

Yeah. That by you being disobedient, you were in the way of her being obedient. Yeah. And so, um, I’ve come to realize that that’s very true and we have to be very careful that we’re not thinking, oh, this relies on me. This depends on me. This is something that if I don’t, if I stop the whole, world’s gonna come crashing.

Yeah. And I mean, we think this in our, every, like this totally is about Sabbath, right? This is the entire Sabbath mentality is to not allow that thinking to permeate our lives. Right. Yeah. Sabbath is about

Elisa: we become the provider again. Whereas the point Sabbath is that God shows [00:41:00] he’s the provider.

Rachel: Exactly. And that means even in our ministries. Yeah. Even in those things that we’re doing, even in the organizations, we’re a part of and running. Ultimately they’re his, ultimately at the end of the day, even if it’s not a particularly Christian overtly Christian ministry, um, organization at the end of the day, he is the provider. He is sovereign. And if he is calling us to step out of a role, we better be obedient. Yeah. Cause we will do more damage being disobey disobedient than we would being obedient, even when things feel like they just fall apart after you leave them. We might not see the bigger picture at play. There might have been a reason why that needed to stop and it might hurt, but you know what you, your job at the end of the day is to steward the roles and responsibilities you have been given.

And if you’re not doing that wisely and with intentionality and with energy that is given by [00:42:00] God, then it’s not, it’s not worth it and it’s not do well, and it’s not gonna flourish.

Elisa: No, it’s not. And I, and I wish that I see this happen so frequently when people don’t step down when it’s time for them to step down. And it’s such a hard, it’s such a hard choice. And so I understand it, but at the same time, I’m like, I can, you know, like, I’ll get close to nonprofits and see what’s happening on the inside. And, and it just breaks my heart cuz I’m like, they, they need that release. They need leaders coming alongside them saying.

You can, you can step away, even if it falls apart, you can step away. And, and I’m not saying to do that necessarily. Like, I know we were talking about how people quit, like hap hazardly. Yeah. And I realize that people need to do that sometimes because they didn’t have the, you know, they didn’t have those rhythms.

Rachel: That’s I think that we’re advocating is being aware of that so that you can do so that you can leave with intentionality

Elisa: leave well, or to finish.

Rachel: Yeah, leave well,

Elisa: um, and I mean, ideally we are at a place where we’re [00:43:00] always questioning God to be like, is this still where you want me, like, we’re reevaluating that on a regular basis, it’s part of our lifestyle.

And maybe that should be part of our Sabbath, Sabbath, um, you know, experience where we’re saying, is this still where you want me? God, because I wanna be where you want me, you know, mm-hmm, like, So often we find ourselves, you know, hanging onto where he used to want us and not listening to where he wants us now.

And, and like you said, that that is, uh, that is kind of the, the opposite of the Sabbath idea because we’re missing out on his provision. We’re missing out on him pouring into us first and pouring into the people first and letting him provide these amazing things in the ways that he can provide. And, um, and that is really the beauty of it is that is that he is, he’s doing a bunch of stuff and we’re just participants in it rather than we’re the ones who are in charge of all these programs and right. Ministries and nonprofits, like, we’re just, we’re just along for the journey with him even. And like you said, I don’t think it has to [00:44:00] be a Christian ministry or, or a secular ministry that doesn’t matter to me. It’s wherever he’s positioned you at any given time. And, and he’s still doing something in those locations, in those spaces.

And I think that. Continual reevaluation and having that set as part of your life where you reevaluate it, and you ask people around you who are trusted to reevaluate it with you. I think that that’s essential because he, he has he’s often moves us on, or he often changes our jobs. And if we’re not looking for that and aware of that, we might find ourselves in a very still ministry or in a still are, are in a place where we’re not let leading other people to become leaders or teaching them how to take over and, and mentoring and discipling in those contexts. So I think that that’s really, really important and I wish a lot of people, um, a lot more people knew that

Rachel: I agree. And I love what you just said there about, um, just that if we would [00:45:00] recognize that God is pouring into.

Through our weekly Sabbath. Like we can’t tell that we are supposed to step outta side of something, unless we give ourselves the space to have that communication with God. And that’s what does it creates a space for us to process our week to ask God, to help us see the week through his eyes and to ask him what he has for our future

Elisa: That margin.

Rachel: Yeah. That creating that margin for it. You are not gonna recognize it. If you’re just go, go, go, go, go all the time. And so I think it’s really important, but I liked what you said about God pouring into you. And I’m like, oh, that goes back to what we were talking about earlier. God pours into you through your weekly Sabbath.

and then you pourer those underneath you, whether those are your kids, whether those are volunteers. Yeah. Whatever it is that you are leading, you’re leading. And then they go out and they do the work that they’re supposed to do. Yeah. And so if we, if we would apply that, that model to our families, to [00:46:00] our organization, It would do so much good for us.

Elisa: Oh, it would I, yeah. Yeah. I’m with you. It would, it would do amazing things.

Rachel: And it would help us avoid that burnout. It would help us to avoid those moments where people just need to leave so quickly where it ends up actually hindering the work that being done and but we just ultimately need to remember that God is in control and that we are to be obedient to his call on our lives.

And if we can help out each other create space and create margin and create rest, then we can, as a collective community, do so much more good. Yes.

Elisa: It actually helps us more than hinders us.

Rachel: Exactly. It helps move us forward in the kingdom work that he has for us. Yeah. Thank you so much for this conversation. I am like, I loved it. I love talking about this stuff. I, um, I really do [00:47:00] believe that Sabbath is something that could help those of us who are these change makers, who are these, you know, go doers. And, um, and I really hope that those who are listening, who have that heart for doing social justice, for making a difference for helping you know, those who need to be helped.

That they would, that they would listen to this and remember, yes, God has wired me to pursue this activism, but he’s also wired me for rest and I need to rest. And so I love it. I appreciate the fact that you came on here and, and, and had this conversation with me before we go, though. You have so much more wisdom to share with our listeners.

So would you please tell them how to find you, what resources you have for them?

Elisa: So let’s see. Um, I am on average advocate.com. That’s where you can usually find me online. And like I said, on Instagram, @averageadvocate, I love it when people talk with me on there. So don’t be shy [00:48:00] comment and say stuff, cuz then I’m like, oh conversation.

Um, so I’m one of the most people, um, And honestly, if you would, you know, when it comes to the context of what we’ve been talking about when it comes to rest, um, there’s, uh, I, I know a lot of us sometimes get stuck on things that are happening and there’s a lot of change that happens, and we need a way to process through that.

And so there’s a resource on my website, um, called journaling through change. Um, and that’s been, you know, approved and looked at by therapists, but it really just answer helps you walk through seven journaling questions that can really help you process things. So that way you’re not so stuck in them as you make a difference.

Um, because really what I wanna do is I want and help you figure out how to get involved in social issues and figure out where your best fit is. And, you know, maybe it’s not social issues, maybe it’s in your church ministry or whatever it is, and figure out where you fit and how to kind of walk along that journey.

And. I also care though that you do it without burning out and being more fully alive. And so that’s kind of where the journaling questions come in, but when [00:49:00] it comes to, um, when it comes and also, you know, I mentioned life mapping, that’s also on there. Um, that one is not free, but I do coaching with life mapping. If anybody’s interested.

But another resource that I highly recommend, um, is, is called the five phases of rising up. And so that kind of takes people wherever they’re at. And pretty much I can guarantee everybody’s somewhere in this process and it kind of helps them figure out, you know, what to do when you first become aware of something that like really, really irks you and bothers you, whether it’s like all the Afghan refugees coming here or whether it’s human trafficking or maybe. The hungry people in your neighborhood, whatever that is. And it kind of takes you from there to knowing how to move forward, how to not get stuck in the process, or maybe you feel really angry because of something and kind of how to move through that anger or whether you’re kind of long term involved in in doing something like you actually already have a ministry or you already are working in a nonprofit or whatever it is and how to set yourself up for success at [00:50:00] that point of time. Um, so that, that way you don’t burn out and you do take care of yourself. So it’s kind of set up for people wherever they’re at in their journey, in those five phases of rising up kind of, um, help people process through that journey that they have.

And, um, that’s a really good starting point, um, getting that, and that’s a free resource on average advocate that you should see anywhere if you type in my, um, if you type in average advocate.com, you’ll find that anywhere on there. Um, because I think that that is probably the most helpful thing on there for just masses of people. Um, but you know what? I like to talk about everything. I like to talk about how to do X of kindness with your kids, or, you know, on the other side, how to help leaders navigate these difficult things. You know, it just really kind depends on where you’re at in your journey, but please connect with me cuz I really like talking with people, I’m actually a very social person.

And so it makes me so excited when people are talking with me online and they’re like, Hey, I’m like, you’re a person. be sure to reach out and say hi to me.

Rachel: Great. You guys go do that. [00:51:00] Okay. Um, would you mind praying for us as we close our episode?

Elisa: Yes, I would love to pray for all of us. Um, okay. God, we, God, we’re so grateful for this time. I just pray that everything that happened in this conversation, all the thoughts that, um, that just came up in the ideas that were, you know, might have gone over people’s heads and some might have resonated with them. I just pray that the things that you really want people to grasp onto that it will stick with us, God, that it will stick with the listeners listening today, that they will hear things and they will be able to just be able to meditate on it, that your spirit will guide them as they figure out next steps to implement things.

And, um, we just pray your protection over, um, the people who are listening, that they will, that they. Create rhythms of rest with you and that they will have you be their guide. So that, that way they can, um, be more fully alive and understand what that means to be in the Oasis of your presence. So that, that way they can be, [00:52:00] um, moist and well and whole.

So that, that way they’re not giving out of dryness and they’re not pouring out of nothing. God, but they’re pouring out of the love that you’ve poured into them and the identity that you’ve given them. And we just pray this over those who are listening, that they’ll take away what they need to take away. And, um, anything that we said that they don’t need to take away.

I just pray that it’ll just go on by and that the right people will hear this. Um, we also pray a blessing over Rachel and what she’s doing. Um, just really delving deep into this idea of Sabbath. And as she guides us through that, That you will just bless her and, um, just bless her journey as she moves forward into what you’re calling her to do. I thank you so much, uh, for this podcast and we honor you. We love you. Amen.

Rachel: Amen. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. It was very fun.

And thank you for listening into today’s episode. We’ll meet back here next week. As we continue the conversation about what it looks like to implement [00:53:00] Sabbath, rest in a culture that is so enslaved to hustle and hurry.


Hey, I just want to say thank you for joining me for today’s conversation. I know many things demand your attention. I don’t take lightly the privilege it is to share your time. I want to make things as easy and simple for you. So I’ve linked to all the resources mentioned in the episode in the show notes, and you can always find the link and more helpful information on my website, www.rachelfahrenbach.com.

As we say our goodbyes, let me remind you that what we’re talking about in this podcast is not just another thing to add to your to-do list. This is not another expectation for you to live up to. It is a gift out stretched from the hand of your creator. An invitation to press pause on walking alongside Jesus in all the things He’s called you to do. And instead the down, across from Him and just be with Him.

It is an invitation to [00:54:00] Simply Sabbath.



You can access Elisa’s 5 Phases of Rising Up here: https://averageadvocate.com

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