Taking time to breathe

I was running around Thursday morning with way too much on my mind. I was stressed and anxious. I looked at my Fitbit to see how late I was going to be.

Instead of giving me the time, the screen said “5 minutes.” Below that was an arrow button, prompting me to begin.

I’ve only had this Fitbit for a few months, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing this option before on the screen. I wasn’t sure what to do other than push the arrow.

“Be still,” my watch instructed me. “Take slow deep breaths.”

“Wait. What?” I asked as I read the screen. “Ummm… I’m trying to find out what time it is?”

My watch ignored me.

Inhale, it instructed. Exhale.

I followed its commands. I wasn’t sure what else to do. I was afraid that If I disobeyed, it might refuse to go back to its usual mode of telling me the time.

I didn’t want to sit still for a full five minutes, but the breathing was helping.

I felt calmer.

“Sparkles mean you’re doing well,” my watch encouraged me.

Digital confetti floated across the screen.


I was a bit bewildered that I had given into the commands of my robotic watch. How did it know I needed to breathe at that very moment? Why did I feel I had no choice but to comply?

Maybe it’s because I’m a little obsessed with my Fitbit, in general. I start each morning by asking it to analyze my sleep. I know I could just consider my own experience in determining whether I’ve slept well, but it gives me comfort to see a complete data analysis of how long I was in deep sleep, REM or restless during the night. At the end of each day, I look to my Fitbit to determine how active I’ve been. Did I achieve my daily steps?

But this was a first.

I sat there breathing for five minutes, asking myself how on Earth an electronic device could know me so well. Did it really sense my anxiety and care so much about me that it would make me stop and breathe?


Reality sunk in. I felt a little sad, knowing that this was most likely just another of its high-tech tricks to use that sensor wrapped around my arm to analyze my body’s rhythms. Or maybe I had just bumped the button on the side, setting off the relaxation app. Either way, it lacked real compassion.

Then, I thought about a verse that grabbed my attention a few weeks ago. I’ve been reading it over and over, and recently decided it should be a theme for my summer. I especially love this translation of Matthew 11:28-30 from The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Those promises.

It’s almost hard to believe that they could be true, especially for an achiever like me. I live in a world where I’m always tracking. Always making sure I’ve done enough. Did I walk enough steps? Did I work hard enough today? I’ve even researched how I can be a better sleeper to improve my nightly sleep data!


But God says He will give me rest, even without any effort on my part. I don’t have to work hard to recover my life. I can learn to live freely and lightly.

And guess what? Those aren’t just robotic instructions, initiated by my fast heart rate. They come from real genuine care and compassion from a God who knows me. He isn’t just some all-knowing electronic device processing my data. Those words flow from a desire to see me live my best life. He doesn’t want to pile more burdens on my weary back. He wants me to live in grace and freedom.

He knows what’s best not only for my heart rate, but also for my soul.


This is the last day of our school year. Summer starts today! I’m planning to make those verses my mantra. How about you? How are you doing? Do you need more time to breathe?

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8 responses to “Taking time to breathe”

  1. Smitha Avatar

    Love this so very much!! I have been getting ready so to speak for the start of summer too and it’s making me very anxious! Taking time for just yourself is so important right now for me otherwise I will fall apart. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. emilyneal Avatar

      Smiths, thank you for reading! I hope you have time to relax this summer!

  2. Holly Avatar

    On point as always! Love this!

    1. emilyneal Avatar

      Thanks for reading, Holly!

  3. Michele Avatar


  4. Emily Eileen Avatar
    Emily Eileen

    I personally like the Message version. It speaks to me more. I also tend to listen to random devices. We are who they made them for.

    I have to remember how to comment as me, not my alter ego.

  5. Sues Avatar

    I always seem to take random things like this that happen to me as signs from God.

    I have enough time to breathe this summer; I just have to trust in God’s plan for our family and trust that He will provide without getting discouraged…

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I’m Emily

Storyteller. Photographer. Creative.

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