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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One Body: White Christians, Time to Get in the Game

(Grateful to have this piece also shared on sojo.net and eugenecho.com)

I am grieving and lamenting and beyond angry over what feels like open season on the Black Community/Church right now in the US. White Christians, this is the time to pay attention and be part of our nation’s struggle to understand and address the continual violence happening against our black sisters and brothers. When one part of the Body hurts we all hurt – when one part of the Body is repeatedly targeted, killed, not protected, pulled out of swimming pools, seen as threats when unarmed – and then misrepresented, silenced, or made small through ahistoric excuses, side-stepping through political mess, or any other form of evil – we need to stand up. We need to show up – loudly. We need to demand a different response – and start with our people in the church.

White church – and the wider church in general – this is the time for all of us to engage. Help present the truth wherever you can, whether it’s on facebook or over lunch at work. Fight for life, by holding up friends right now and grieving with those too tired to carry on, and preparing for advocacy and work that is necessary and is always before us in the future. Seek to understand, lament, and see the systems and principalities at work in our world, in our churches, maybe in our minds – ask Christ for the eyes to see. Thank you to all those already in the game – advocating, grieving, listening, standing with, and paying attention.

If you’re not sure what to do – start paying attention, right now. Read articles from the Black Community, notice the particular beauty and pain within the Black Church, start to feel this pain and shock and repeated abuse as if it were in your own family, because, well, it is. Pray, pray more, confess, lament, and learn more, and pray some more. Bring this up with your people. Ask about this reality of race and death at your church – where will it be addressed within worship this Sunday? Where will we take our part of the responsibility of educating, advocating, understanding, speaking out, and helping change how race and faith and life and death are seen in the US? Publicly share information and lament and hope with others. Publicly stand for and with and fight this sense of black life not being as valuable, as noticed, as mourned. The more we join the outrage and point to the truth that ‪#‎faithandracealwaysmatter‬ and ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ , the more we help open up spaces of lament, healing, Good News, justice, reconciliation, hope and the potential for life to flourish.

This is not a time to leave the black community alone, to let them mourn or be angry or fix it alone. White Christians, we inherited this mess and this story of power and privilege and racism that shapes our individual lives, our corporate realities, and even our congregations. The wider church and the world will be shaped by how we choose to engage or turn away from this kind of death. Particularly those of us with any voice, leadership, influence, and the privilege to choose whether or not to engage issues of death and race – it is time to get in the game. Because of course, this is no game – these issues of racism and how we choose to see truthfully or speak up – these are literally matters of life and death for the Black Community. So it is past time to choose life, to advocate for our people – all people – in the Body of Christ. It is on our shoulders to be part of fighting the evil we are witnessing over and over in our nation that is taking and diminishing Black life – actively, with faith and hope and love, and with each other. ‪#‎timetogetinthegame ‬ ‪#‎payattention ‬ ‪#‎prayforCharleston ‬ ‪#‎standwiththeBlackChurch‬ ‪#‎OneBody‬

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Lent, Honesty, Mental Health and Freedom

“Holy God, our lives are laid open before you: rescue us from the chaos of sin and through the death of your Son bring us healing and make us whole in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
—Common Worship, the Church of England

“Did you ever look inside yourself and see what you are not?”
—Flannery O’Connor

As this year’s Lenten season draws to a close, I have been struck by the way time and awareness and health are intersecting this year. A good friend of mine has a degree in psychology and counseling, and she was telling me that mental health is really about self-awareness – seeing who we truly are and being able to hold the good and the bad, the dark and the light, the best and the worst all together in one piece without lying to ourselves about who we really are. This holding together of the diverse parts of the self is what psychologists term ‘coherance’ – my friend is especially good at helping people talk through their own lives, look at their own stories, and come to places of deeper coherance where they can hold the whole story together, in one piece – finding better mental health.
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