I’m too busy to have cancer.

Those are the words I spoke to my doctor 25 years ago.

I was a young mom to three. There were snacks to be made for soccer games, and a million tasks of managing life as a mom. I worked full-time, commuting 65 miles each way. Every Wednesday night I served as youth group staff, and I taught a Sunday school class on Sunday morning. So when the doctor said that I had cancer, these words fell from my lips.


Looking back, I’m certain that my response originated from the shock of the news. I didn’t go to the doctor thinking I had cancer. It was a lump. I had one removed before and it was benign. I thought it was going to be the same ‘ole, same ‘ole.

Well, it wasn’t.

And cancer didn’t care about my schedule, or snacks, or how busy my life might be.

For the next year I had no choice but to slow down as as I went through surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy. I was Stage 2B (now considered Stage 3). Lymph nodes were involved. It was risky and scary, and everything that seemed ultra-important took second place as I fought for my life.

What a gift.

Not the cancer, but what came out of that incredibly hard time.

I learned that “busy” was part-life, part-Suzie. I discovered that I didn’t have to be all things, omnipresent (that’s God’s job), or required to run myself ragged.

[bctt tweet=”I am not required to be all things, or omnipresent. That is God’s job. #livingfreetogether ” username=”suzanneeller”]

The other day a friend shared something as we dipped into this conversation on rest. She said, “I don’t know how to rest. Is that even possible?

If you’d asked me 25 years ago as a young mom if physical rest was possible, I would have said, “I don’t think so.”

Yet I learned that it is. It doesn’t look the same for each of us. We are in different seasons. We have different needs. We have different levels of support. Yet there are things we can all do.

When forced to slow down, I begin to ask the following questions:

What is non-negotiable?

What is negotiable? 

What if?

What is non-negotiable?

I couldn’t slow down until I answered this question for myself. My children were non-negotiable. My relationship with my husband was also a non-negotiable.

My job wasn’t just something to do. It was necessary financially. Medical bills made it even more so, but there were negotiables within my job.

What mattered most to me where the people I loved. They were my non-negotiables.

What is negotiable?

Year-round soccer — negotiable.

Commuting — negotiable.

Teaching and volunteering in church — negotiable.

Clean house — negotiable.

A negotiable simply means that there is leeway. Listing them as a negotiable doesn’t mean that they aren’t important, but that they can be renegotiated.

Which leads to the last question.

Download this printable to use in your reflection time with God.

What if?

What if we played soccer for one season, rather than year round?

What if I talked to my boss to see if there were other opportunities in my job, or if I could work part-time, or what if I worked a different job (which I eventually did).

What if I prayed and chose one area of ministry, and did that with all my heart instead of being pulled in several different directions?

[bctt tweet=”What if? That is the question that will help us rediscover rest. Join us as we find it together. www.tsuzanneeller.com/blog ” username=”suzanneeller”]

What if the living room and kitchen were clean, and the other rooms were cleaned on different days? (These were actually negotiated way more than that. I learned that as long as it was clean underneath, the clutter on top was lovely.)

What if I started to see physical rest as important as the work I used to do?

What if I started to play more with my kids, and worry less about things that wouldn’t matter in the end?

What if I asked for help occasionally, rather than trying to do everything on my own?

What if I put it all on the table (everything I do, along with all my roles) and I invited God to help me sort out what I was supposed to do, versus what I thought I had to do?

This changed me. This was the gift that cancer gave me.

Though it’s been 25 years, I still put everything on the table every six months. Not physically, of course, but I lay everything that I am doing before the Lord. I ask for wisdom. I ask him to show me those things I picked up because I thought I was responsible. I ask him to show me those things that he has placed there for a season, and if it’s time to put them down. I ask him to show me if I’m out of balance.

Sometimes I am out of balance.

Sometimes the things he shows me — or asks me to put down — I really don’t want to let go of them, but I’ve learned to listen.

Will you do this same exercise, along with me this week? I’m actually slipping away for a couple of days to do just that. I know most of us don’t have that luxury. I didn’t either when I was a mom of three kids, and to be honest it’s a sacrifice for us now. Yet I’ve found myself in a place of busyness all over again, and I need time with God.

However, we don’t have to go anywhere to do this. Just hang out with God for a half hour. Journal it. Write it all down, and invite him into your list.

Hold it all with open hands, because there’s a good chance that he might show you something that needs to be renegotiated or set aside.

As you go into that quiet place, just you and God, hold up your schedule. Hold up your ambitions. Hold up your busy life. Ask him:

What is supposed to be on my schedule?

Is it time to let something go?

If I struggle to let go, why am I holding so tightly?

Will it really matter in the end, this thing I hang on to with all my might?

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Hebrews 4:9-10

That’s our promise.

While I would never wish to go through that difficult season of cancer again, I will always be thankful for the lessons it taught me. By nature, I pile things on my plate. By nature, I am a doer. His nature of rest shows me how to do that in a way that honors him, and allows me to step into his rest. I don’t do it perfectly friends, but by asking these questions, he helps me find my way back when I’m out of balance.


Printable (just for you!)

  • Download the printable — {{My Life}} — for your personal reflection time with God.

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