Fighting for Self-Care: Reset in 2016

As the new year begins I have been motivated to take inventory and reset my intentions for 2016. And the number one area that has been on my mind, heart and spirit is the issue of self-care. I have been reminded in so many ways during this past year that self-care is integral, woven throughout, indeed required for healthy, strong leadership. And I’ve also been reminded of the truth that self-care shapes our capacity toward and commitment to faithful discipleship, marriage, parenting – you know, life! As I finished out a too-full season this past year, and found myself basking in the refreshment and rest over the holiday break, my soul cried out to me, “Hang onto this space of rest, this renewal, this place of pause from rushing so that you can savor – YOU NEED MORE OF THIS.” And I’ve decided that in order to continue on and pastor well, love well, parent well, just to fully and healthily be me – I am going to listen to that cry.

It’s not that the importance of self-care is new information for me – I’ve long understood and worked toward self-care as part of being a healthy leader, woman, mother, activist. And I know too well when feelings of burn out, despair, or fatigue settle in and replace my sense of calling, passion, and capacity – then I am not able to do much of anything well. What feels newer and more deeply impressed upon my soul in this particular season is the reality of how much work, preparing, protection – even fighting for it – self-care requires. It is of course one thing to affirm the truth of self-care being a good thing; it goes to a whole other level when self-care gets written into my day timer, inserted into my time and mind, protected before and in front of other demands that will and do surge over my life. When I am committed to in this coming year is becoming more aware of, and doing the work that is required in my season, of actually protecting self-care. Right now that looks like actualizing the hopes and intentions into hours with my pen and my journal, walks during my lunch break, saying yes to true things of nourishment in my life and saying no to the rest. Before burn-out draws near, I’m committing to having the hard conversations, going on more dates with my hubby, eating more vegetables, having more fun, and celebrating and praying through who God has really made me to be as the new year begins. And it already feels amazing.

Starting over the holiday break I spent a lot of time thinking, planning, and praying around self-care in this next year. I started several spiritual practices that became obvious to me I was in need of, and I charted out plans to reset and reformat different areas of life over the coming year. Yes, I decided to take a whole year to reset portions of life that are in need of more self-care and focus – instead of underestimating the time or intention that this work might require, which I confess is often my usual method when it comes to self expectations. I redid much of my daytimer and my personal rhythms, taking some realistic inventory of my commitments, goals, health, and projects – so that I could say no to some things, plan ahead for other things, move some things back, and limit some things. I have to say, it felt like a tiny revolution to significantly move around my time, to prioritize and decide for myself what was most needed, most nourishing, most where the Spirit was calling me to be! One of the most refreshing parts of this reset was building in protected time each day that I now call “nourish time” – time where I pray, read, write, journal, listen to God, connect with my people, enjoy music, exercise, and enjoy my husband and kids. Every single day I do something in this category – often most things in this category. I’m already sensing that this planned-ahead-for “nourish time” is easily my biggest accomplishment of this month. Forget crossing off my to-do list, I actually redid what got on my to-do list! Because I am realizing more and more that without structure, preparation, and form being given to my value and longing for self-care, it simply WILL NOT HAPPEN. Period. Self-care happens in real time, within the heavy work load, the parenting crisis, the spiritual lament, the painful and the joyful. Other things will continue to be asked of me and expected of me, because there is no break from it all to reset and find self-care – I have to make it happen, create the space, fight for it to happen.

Maybe you’ve been on this journey of planning for and protecting self-care – what can you teach the rest of us? Or maybe you’re tired and overwhelmed and haven’t yet identified what self-care even looks like for you right now – maybe you need to fight for more self-care. Maybe you wrestle with the idea of taking time for your own care, or where that fits with a full job, serving others, justice work, parenting, or just M-F reality. Whatever season of life you’re in, if you’re longing for more of something, space for something, protected time for something – even if you already agree with the value of self-care, my prayer is that we encourage each other toward protecting, and fighting for the actual work of self-care in this coming season. Sharing ideas, tools, resources, or hang-ups with self-care are most welcome – I am sharing two tools below. This is the first of many thoughts and steps lived out around self-care for me, and I am excited to learn alongside others in this journey. I can already feel the shifts taking place internally and the spaces opening up. I can’t wait for more. Reset to fighting for self-care – ready, steady, GO!

Two tools I’ve loved this month:
The Book: “Take Time for Your Life,” by Coach Cheryl Richardson, http://www.cherylrichardson.com/store/take-time-for-your-life-introduction/
Blog and newsletter reflections from Dr. Chenequa Walker-Barnes, https://drchanequa.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/journey-to-self-care/

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A Holy Experience – and hearing Advent anew

I love Ann Voskamp’s site, “A Holy Experience.” If you ever have one blog to visit in the early mornings or late nights, and ever want to pause and think about things like gratitude, faith, children and everyday sacredness, farming and food, beauty and noticing the small things, vulnerability and trust, love and questions, the power of words and of listening – then you may love her site as much as I do.

Today, I came across this Advent story she told to her daughters, a story told into and through their simple and amazing little lives. This story about what Christmas is really about, and the wisdom of a child, is about the best version I’ve ever heard – it’s retelling the sometimes too-familiar to feel awe-inspiring, yet powerfully eternal and poignant, story of Immanuel God with us.

Read it sometime if you like, and remember the power of God’s gift with a smile, some sniffs and tears, while a little person tugs at your pant leg – everyday ordinary meets wondrously sacred all the time on her blog.

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Abundance and Abide

I was preparing for a short meditation for a friend’s baby shower last week, and two words kept coming to me as I thought about Momma B and her sweet Baby I; abundance and abide. I think these two concepts have been creeping into my mind lately and out through my life in various ways – they seemed to also fit perfectly this occasion of celebrating and sanctifying motherhood.

I ended up starting off by sharing how scarcity is the reality that most of us are exposed to daily. Whether its looking for sales, borrowing baby clothes or feeling the budget strain of a new child, “not having” and skimping seem to be normal, while abundance and overflow seem to be abnormal. While penny-pinching can be a needed – even good – exercise, I think that not having enough financially, or not having enough time, or patience with a toddler, or enough job opportunities, or support, or schools that accept us – whatever it is, not “having ENOUGH” can lead us into believing the lie that WE are “not enough.” And that is just a lie – we are already enough, right now, not after the to do list is done, or the money is saved, or the weight is lost or the goal is attained. Today, we are each enough – and that is because of who God is, and through God’s abundance – not because of who I am. But I am enough today, Momma B holding Baby I, was enough that day, simply because we know God and can turn to the source of an overflowing, always abundant, economy of grace and fullness. I am NOT enough, it turns out, all on my own. I am not ever able to pull off looking like, or pretending to be, or even racing full speed, toward being enough for everyone; I must turn toward the God of abundance to escape fear and scarcity. And this God has enough, has plenty, has an enormous amount of whatever I need – and this is what finally quiets the chatter and worry of scarcity within.

If we really understand this idea of abundance – that I am enough through God’s overwhelming graciousness – then I think this is what leads us to abide. “Abide” is a fun, old-fashioned-sounding word that pulls me into its root meaning – which is to rest, to remain, to be in and within. “Abide/remain in me and you will produce much fruit,” we are told. Apart from God we can do nothing – so, abide. Rest. Remain.

I recently did a workshop that revolved around some of these themes and we talked about how God’s job is to be the vine, to produce the fruit, to the work that is necessary to make all things new and restored. Our job is to stay on the vine, to stay connect – abide – and to let God use us. We rest, we obey, we are willing – but God does the producing. My friend co-leading our workshop pointed out, “You never see a grape on the end of the branch gritting its teeth, clenching its hands, saying “gggrrrrr – GROW, grow, be a grape, be a GRAPE, BE A GRAPE!!!”” Grapes just live at the end of the vine, and they grow. We have a role to play – to learn what God is calling us to be, to learn how to stay connected to the vine, to live into God’s abundance. But, it is God who grow, produces, and bears fruit. We then abide. We rest. We stay connected. How differently would I see my spiritual life, my long list of tasks, my goals as a mother/woman/worker – wherever I find myself, what would that look like if I truly was abiding? Resting? Waiting on God? Letting God do the heavy lifting, so to speak.

The relief and rest that comes from knowing it is God who is enough – not me, but God who brings abundance, means that I do not have to do it all, or save it all. Because God is already enough in His abundance, I can rest. I can abide. I can remind myself that it is not up to me to be a perfect parent, or perfect ____ – it is up to me to learn how to remain on the branch and let God produce the fruit. I pray that this good news of God’s abundance right her and now in the mess of today, and our call to abide and rely on God’s provision, sounded like good news that night for my friend holding her one month old. I hope it is also good news that I can live out today and that moms/parents can help me remember to share with each other over and over again.

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