The Secret Rhythm of a Fulfilling Life

For years, I’ve been traveling the world with a little organization called Son Servants. My trip with them to Reynosa, Mexico when I was 16 years old sparked my lifelong love of the developing world, and since then, I’ve done everything in my power to go on a trip with them at least once a summer.

I love Son Servants trips because they are fun and hilarious and hard and beautiful. I love them because my Son Servants team is a family, and every summer is like a family reunion. And I love that they introduce me to new people and new places and new experiences—every one of which has transformed my life for the better.

But a couple of weeks ago in Costa Rica, I realized the thing I might love most of all about these trips:

They force me into the very best rhythm of life. 

Son Servants trips are not vacations. They are hard hard work, and they are exhausting. Taking 60 high schoolers to a Latin American country is a tiny bit stressful, to say the least. But on these trips, life is right.

I feel like I am living in the way we are designed to live. 

Each trip is defined by the same four practices, on repeat, every day.

Everything else is removed. The technology and due dates and drama and herding cats that define my typical work day are gone, and I’m left with the very building blocks of a beautiful, flourishing life.

Worship, Work, Play, Rest. 


All day every day.

And if I’m honest, leaving this rhythm for “regular” life is rough, because this rhythm is good.

And more than that, I’m coming to understand more and more that this rhythm is right.


Days start with longgg quiet times. Prayer and praise and just sitting with Jesus. A practice that I intend to replicate in its fullness and entirety at home, but never ever do.

Somehow an hour of quiet time feels completely feasible in Costa Rica, and completely impossible in Chicago.

But starting your day in a posture of gratitude and reflection and worship sets the tone for everything else. It transforms every interaction and thought that comes after it.

It’s a secret weapon.

Later in the day, we return to worship—corporately this time—to sing and celebrate and share. And this is good too. So so good. So so right. Asking God to show himself in the morning, and then recognizing how he has at night.

Yes and amen.


I sometimes think that the life I want is one of total relaxation and rest, but it’s not. A good, full, flourishing life includes work. Work that influences lives and exhausts not just the mind, but the body too. Work that builds the kingdom, even if only a little bit.

All day long, we work.

We repair houses and paint churches and teach 12 year olds to use power tools. We tire and sweat and ache, but end the day feeling fulfilled. Like we have accomplished something—because we have.

On my first few trips to Reynosa, we poured concrete roofs, literally flinging buckets of concrete up makeshift scaffolding all. day. long. It was 110 degrees and we shoveled and lifted for 7 hours a day. I have never sweat so much in my life.

And I have never been so happy.

I was so certain that what I was doing was making a tiny, but important difference. We were finishing homes so that families would have a place to live. We were using our bodies and minds for something bigger than ourselves.

This is work that matters.


Surround yourself with dozens of students, and you can’t avoid at least a little bit of playtime.

In Costa Rica, it looked like constant imaginary blow darts and very intense games of Egyptian Rat Slap. It meant a very big, very crazy dance party that nearly broke the floor.

Play, as it it turns out, matters a lot.

And I am grateful to spend so much time with teenagers because they remind me how to play well, when so many adults seem to have forgotten.

I was on a date recently and I asked the guy what he liked to do, how he liked to spend his time.

He couldn’t answer.

He literally couldn’t think of anything besides work.

Needless to say, we didn’t go out again.

Because play matters. Connecting with one another matters. Laughing matters.

Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun.


The final element of a Son Servants day is rest, and this looks like a lot of different things.

A break from your cell phone.

Crashing into your bunk at 10:00pm, physically exhausted and ready to sleep hard and fast and well.

Laying down the stress and drama and pain that has been weighing you down, and getting a tiny taste of freedom.

Breathing a little bit deeper.

The song I sing to myself more than any other is an random Indelible Grace hymn—a song that I don’t even particularly like, but one that has a line that I repeat constantly: “Jesus I am resting resting, in the joy of what thou art, I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.”

That is my hope and prayer. And it’s what I experience while traveling more than just about anything else.

In a day full full full of responsibilities and hard work, I find rest. Real rest. Soul rest.

And it gives me energy and joy beyond measure.

I’m back home now, and unsurprisingly have fallen away from this perfect routine.

My house is a mess, I’m spending long hours on a contract, and I haven’t written a blog post in more than a month.

But all is not lost.

I’m remembering.

I’m allowing Costa Rica to change me, even a little bit. And tomorrow when I leave for Mexico, I’ll let that change me, too.

The trips are not the solution, but they are the reminder. The tiny glimpse of the way life should be, and the challenge to incorporate a little bit more of this rhythm every time I return home.

Worship, work, play, rest.



4 thoughts on “The Secret Rhythm of a Fulfilling Life

  1. chris chaffin says:

    So good, Allison! Loved it and I am forwarding this to my brother who was on summer staff back in 93. A good reminder to us all! – chris


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