What a Concussion Taught Me



The very last day of our Christmas vacation, we had been playing hard. We’d witnessed a beautiful wedding and danced our fannies off. The little ones ran with their cousins while the big grownup cousins played, too, hanging on each other, laughing, dancing to the jazz band.

We woke that Sunday morning to prepare for a good Southern family brunch, all slow and loosey goosey, just before we had to leave Baton Rouge, and a loud pumpkin thump in the living room stopped everything. My oldest was in a pile of kids on the couch playing video games and had thrown himself back hard and dramatic, thinking he’d land soft on the sofa. Instead, his head hit the corner of a column, and a cartoon-worthy pump knot jumped out right away. He wanted to puke, and he writhed all over for hours with a throbbing headache. I called the doctor and received instructions to watch him closely.

By the next morning, we knew he had a concussion. He got lost going to the bathroom and would just stand in one spot staring at the wall. He mixed his words up and felt weird all over.

Our doctor friend told us he wasn’t allowed to read or watch television. He needed brain rest, and I secretly and immediately wished someone would prescribe me the same thing. Maybe I’ve hit my head and don’t remember it.

My instructions were to only allow Isaac to listen to books. His healing required him to let his mind rest into a story, and so he listened to Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Lord of the Flies, and White Fang. It took a week for his headache to go away. It took him a bit longer to understand my instruction.

In my last newsletter a few months ago, I asked readers where they would like to have new eyes this year. What mystery do they hope unfolds to them? It’s a good question that I haven’t stopped asking myself. In the kitchen, on the porch, with the chickens, I keep thinking it: “There we go. There’s another mystery.” Or I’ll bend to all the leaves piled under my dying house plants, and the light will catch me just so, a flicker of thought, an in-giving to forgiveness or to a gift or a mercy. There’s a glimmer to the here-and-now when we wake up to how precious and fragile it is.

Isn’t everything an icon, a window into the invisible world around us?

Over Christmas break, I didn’t spend a moment alone. I drove through six states and cared for a kid who was terrified he’ll act like head-beaten boxer forever. My shoulders were in knots next to my ears. Every disordered auto-immune red flag I had ever had was waving in my face. In fact, it is still whacking my face, and so it seems I’m backed into a corner. Sometimes I believe God is holding me by the shoulders, telling me to listen to Him. Why do we act like discipline and self-care are stupid until we find ourselves dying without it?

I have done no scientific research, but I believe I’ve learned that the Maker of Science (and so therefore – Science) backs me up here. When it comes to healing, it requires rest and a listening. When we want to heal, we need to find a place to listen – not a place to interject or control, but instead a place to hear. I know when I’m unrested, my wheels begin to spin in some unhealthy  places.

What are you listening to these days? What wheels are spinning in your mind?

By the beginning of February, Seth and I decided to see what would happen if we slept 8 hours a night for 30 days. It was as if our time and energy doubled from there. This is a practical thing. We had to give up our evening  television-watching. We had to sleep later in the morning, but we came to such healing. Pain left my body. The world wasn’t so dark. I heard the voice of God. We had to consider ourselves and our callings worth the rest. We had to release control.

So I suspect that when our 30 days were up, I needed to see what would happen when I tried to control things again, when I stayed up late thumbing through instagram and when I tried to wake early to knock out my to-do lists. Guess what. The icons of my life, the windows to the holy and my ear to God’s voice, it has all become blurry and muted again. My body hurts again.

My friend Laura always says, “Start where you are.” So here I am, the Queen of Starting Again, asking you to join me.

What would it look like for you to take care of yourself? What if self-care were actually kingdom work? Is it maybe a lie that it’s selfish to take care of yourself?

About me


Soul Practices: Part 2
January 25, 2017
When You’re Not a Precious Thing
February 03, 2016
Out in the Wild
September 22, 2015
Even on a Tuesday
March 17, 2015
A Haines Home Companion: On Joy and How We Love
April 11, 2014
Watch Me.
October 31, 2013
What to do with Temptation
September 11, 2013
At the Crux
September 02, 2013
On Holding It In
April 09, 2013


Reply March 25, 2016

Hi, I'm new to your blog and am really enjoying it thank you. What you wrote about really resonated with me. I work at a job that is both really dull and really stressful, and struggle with the idea of vacation. That might sound silly, but vacations bother me because on the one hand, I know financially we are to be living wartime lifestyles, yet without rest in a new place with fresh air, sun, great scents, and swimming I really notice a difference to my wellbeing. Last year I worked straight through, and by the end, in the midst of winter, I felt like a zombie, even though I had had some time off at home. I'm acutely aware of the privilege of such things, but wish I didn't always let guilt impede my thanksgiving and enjoyment. I know it's not quite the same as your post, but it's what your post brought to mind. Blessings

    Reply March 25, 2016

    Rose, I wish I didn't understand what you're talking about, but I do. Guilt makes so many of my decisions. Something I wrote in my book is: the fruit always tells. I need to be wise about the fruit of my actions. What fruit will be born out of not resting? The fruit of grumpiness. The fruit of a back ache. What fruit would come of a vacation? Eating well? Going to therapy? Getting a massage?

      Debbie Howerton
      Reply August 20, 2016

      What is your interpretation of Matthew 7:17 where Jesus says that good trees only bear good fruit? If that is true, then can a good tree be grumpy at times and happy at other times? Does a good tree bear good fruit sometimes, and bad fruit (sin) at other times, and if so, then, again, what about Matthew 7:17? And can sleep ever cure what ails us (sin)? If so, where is that found in the Word?

Reply March 25, 2016

Can I hug you?
This world is too loud and busy and demanding. But God's Kingdom is even here, even now, right? Not having to bend to all the un-rest sounds so good, and yes, like Kingdom work ;) he gives rest to those He loves!

Now if only "nighttime me" would remember what "daytime me" needs, and do something about it. You're right, sleep is so worth it.

Reply March 25, 2016


I've been asking these same question all over the place - both to others and to my own self.

As a momma, with both a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and an auto-immune disease, I get this piece. Finally.

I've been doing a slow come-apart, seams ripping gentle, yet leaving gaps wide enough for me to fall right through.

It's true, ya know? The cheesy sayings about filling up our tanks first, breathing oxygen before tending to others. I used to think "Surely I can do it better and with less rest than them."

Sometimes here lately I feel dumb because it's taken four years of loose threads for me to see the hole. To see places where I could've patched it up a bit better.

So, to answer part of your tri-question ending, self care is kingdom work, but not for me, for Him.

I reckon God doesn't want my re-gifted time and energy -- time that I should have spent refueling, refreshing, and resting my physical. He wants my heart (straight-up with no danglers, no hangers-on). Period. I cannot give Him that which He desires when I'm undone.

(I'm very sorry about your son's concussion. It's so hard. Plenty of rest, lots of lean protein, and a easing into the "normalcy" of a boy's life.)

Kelly S
Reply March 25, 2016

I tried for twelve months to sleep seven hours or more each night. I think I did it ten times in a year. I push until I break and make myself rise early to push some more. I am taking you with me today. Just as God blessed the Sabbath, just as He made provisions for the year of Jubilee, I must trust that He can do what He needs to with the sixteen hours I have to give. Starting again.

Reply April 5, 2016

"What if self-care were actually kingdom work?"

It does not feel like kingdom work, when you're putting aside all the other More Important Things to care for yourself. It's humbling. It is just straight humbling to be so human and need that care.

I love that you are here again. I wish you could be here more.

Rachel Moss
Reply May 25, 2016

Thank you for your stories. I am tentatively joining the world of social media, a little leery of what I might find. I am glad to find similar minded folks sharing their God-centered lives and stories with the world. Please stop by and say hello. Rachel

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