Stop Taking Care of Yourself

In our culture of self-sustainability, self-help, and self-care, this sounds preposterous. “Stop taking care of yourself.” Walk into any bookstore and you’ll immediately find an array of self-help books. Scroll through Pinterest for a variety of betterment ideas. Glance at Instagram for a lot of post-workout selfies and green smoothie photos. You get the idea. We are surrounded with a myriad of ways to care for ourselves. Which is exactly why the title of this post seems so aggressive and anti-YOU. But its not. Read on, friends.

A few months back, I had the privilege of attending a wonderful conference with my husband. Kid-free. Hotel. Enjoyable conference. Refreshment. Rest. <insert abrupt, screeching record sound here> Wait, did I say rest? Right. Well, I anticipated rest. The first night was wrought with the strangeness of a hotel room with an extra bed we didn’t need, a bit of anxiety, and so on. I didn’t sleep. The following day was busy. Conference. Wal-Mart, late night arrival back at the hotel. Ahhhh. Now, we could rest. Right. Did I say rest, again? The second night was complete with a shaking room (seriously, still have no clue), intoxicated hotel guests talking loudly in the halls, and so on. We weren’t at some dumpy motel either. My husband made sure we were at a nice, safe, reputable hotel. So, cue second night of no sleep, and a desperate, more than usual, need for coffee the following morning.

My go-to Starbucks beverage has always been a Vanilla Latte. I loved it in high school, and I love it now (though I take far less syrup in it now!). Unfortunately, in my old age (read: 31), apparently my stomach can’t handle fancy coffee drinks anymore, but that morning I NEEDED a good strong coffee with extra espresso and the whole nine yards, so I splurged. It was worth the uncomfortable tummy effects, and it was awesome…until I spilled it on the floor under my chair at the conference, before I had the chance to enjoy even half of it. I can’t make this stuff up. Don’t cry over spilled coffee.

My life could be a sitcom most days.

I think my husband thought I was going to come unglued right then and there. Bless his heart. His look was either of concern for me, or for the people around me; maybe both. I’m not sure, but his face revealed his uncertainty in that moment. (I don’t do well with no sleep…not to mention spilled coffee. I’m working on it.)

I survived, but here is where it gets good (i.e., where God wrecked shop in my heart…).

There was a resounding theme that day and I continued to be encouraged through scripture and song, reminding me of the rest found in Jesus. I was struck with the realization that I often try so hard to take the care of myself, upon myself, that I end up exhausting myself through my efforts. Do you follow? In my efforts to find rest, I was using up more energy and heaping more burden upon myself. Oh, the irony.

In that moment, that day, I was forced to look past my exhaustion, and find soul refreshment in God. I had no choice in the face of complete exhaustion. I was overwhelmed, honestly, with the realization that I had been taking care of myself for so long, and not allowing myself to be cared for by the mighty creator of this world.

The creator of my soul. MY creator.

I was reminded of Psalm 23.

I read it through again today. I wrote it down. (Quick – Grab your Bible!)

HE

  • lets me lie down
  • leads me to quiet waters
  • renews my life
  • leads me down right paths
  • is with me
  • comforts me
  • nourishes me
  • anoints me
  • pursues me with goodness and a faithful love

Because of what HE does, my cup overflows. Not like an overflowing plate of STUFF that is burdensome…no. An overflowing cup. Like a creamy vanilla latte (or whatever you prefer in your mug) that doesn’t empty out on the floor or cause tummy trouble. Starbucks doesn’t hold a candle to this cup. Friends, this cup is GOOD, because our Father is GOOD!

A shepherd guides his sheep, not the other way around. I don’t find rest because I chase it down, but because He leads me there. The path I think looks peaceful, may actually be steep and strenuous. I don’t have to exhaust myself, running from place to place, seeking rest. I seek Him, and He provides what I need.

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God tells His people, in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” and Jesus tells His followers in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of that.

So, while I don’t condemn “taking care of yourself” in practical ways, or drifting off to sleep when your body needs physical rest, I challenge you to find your soul’s rest in Jesus. By all means, go get that pedicure and nap when the baby does! Remember, though, that you, my friend, were created to need physical re-charge, as well as emotional, mental, and spiritual refreshment. Let us not forsake the latter.

I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. – Psalms 62:1

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. – Psalms 62:5

The Curse of Busyness

“How have you been?”

“Busy!”

This seems to be a common exchange among people of all ages lately. I don’t know when I began to take notice, but perhaps it was when I noticed myself saying it more and more. It seems to be a go-to answer, especially when you don’t have authentic relationship with the person asking. It nearly seems like a justification for having no time for relationship with the person you are talking with. Am I right?

Busyness can be a curse.

Busyness can certainly be, and is often, a curse, rather than a blessing. We are apt to say things like, “Oh, we are busy, but it is with all GOOD things!”, “Busy, but I like to keep moving!”, or “Busy, but too blessed to be stressed!”. We are pulled in many different directions, being stretched far too thin. I imagine a rubber band that is being slowly stretched. The center point, the breaking point, slowly thinning, at risk of snapping at any moment…yet, we continue to allow the stretch and pull, until we cannot withstand the pressure any longer.

I can only imagine the immense satisfaction that Satan feels when the followers of Jesus are busy and stressed.

In our busyness, we often miss our own brokenness, and brokenness is where grace shows up.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

Remember when Jesus illustrated salvation with the picture of being born again (John 3)? Being born again suggests a new growth cycle. We are growing new; starting over, with the process of growing spiritually more mature, and changing with each stage of growth, just as we do in our physical growth process. We recognize our brokenness, then grace, by the name of Jesus, steps in and propels us to growth, beyond our broken nature. Furthermore, scripture tells us that we, as fellow Believers, are an integral part of each others’ growth process!

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:24-25

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

When we experience grace, we are then free to give it and show others the joy of walking in it.We receive. We give. We walk it out. It is part of our growth process.

So, then, what happens if we are too busy to meet together or encourage one another? What happens when we are too busy to share in our brokenness and walk out the gift of grace together? We can become apathetic and complacent, stagnant in our growth as a Believer.

In our busyness, we often miss authentic community, and community is where we walk in grace.

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I don’t believe that the author of Hebrews was talking about meeting only on Sunday for Sunday School and a sermon.

In the book of Acts, the author wrote that the early church met together daily, in each others’ homes! Now, don’t run away just yet. I see you there, wide-eyed, at the mention of the word “daily”. Stay with me for a moment. Think about the concept for just a second. Opening your home. Others opening their homes. Building community, growing relationships, being vulnerable, and making time.

Our time is valuable.

It speaks more to me for someone to make the time, than for them to write a check, and I think we could all agree. For most people, money is more disposable than their time. So, if our time is of value, then what does it say to those around us when we don’t make the time for them? Does is speak to how we view the people around us? Do we view them as valuable and worthy of “spending” time on? Think about it.

Perhaps, we should evaluate our currency; our time, and how it is spent. We can DO a lot of GOOD things and still be missing out on the beautiful community that is all around us. When we busy ourselves to the point of exhaustion and leave no room for authentic relationships with people, we have busied ourselves right out of God’s design for us.

Now, this is a hard post to write, because I’ve been in the same boat. I’m stretched thin, just like the rubber band, and yet I often don’t know how to end the constant “stretch, pull, break, start again” cycle. I’m working on it, though. I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder where my time went and what sort of things I spent it on. I want my greatest currency, my time, to be spent on things of substance and value.

We can start small and grow, but the point is that we need to start.

Start with meeting a friend for lunch one day a week. Start with having the crockpot filled with food on Sunday so that you are free to invite another family over for lunch. Start with something. It will be worth it. Will you join me in building community, one block of time at a time?

*I’d love to hear from you! Comment and let me know how you plan to better spend your time, and build community into your life. Let’s encourage one another and share!

 

A Community of 4 Year Olds

My youngest son and I walked hand in hand, into the church for the Wednesday night kids’ program. He was tired from a long day and just hanging on by a thread. It’s tough to be 4, sometimes. It’s even tougher when you have an expectation and things don’t go as planned. (Don’t we know it!) An unplanned (minor) hiccup in his evening caused a colossal meltdown, and if you have been around children, you’ll know the meltdown I’m talking about. TEARS. Oh, the tears. Buried face in my shirt. “I just want YOU, mommy.” Kids pouring in from all directions. Noise. Stares. Suddenly I’m surrounded by a group of 4 and 5 year old kids. “Is Levi okay?” “Levi, what’s wrong?” Wide eyed with concern, their faces were sweet and caring. No judgment. Not wondering why this kid was having a meltdown over something that was seemingly insignificant. Just care and concern. Just community.

Community. It can be such a beautiful and rewarding part of our lives. We desire it. We crave it! I think that there are three important things that we can grow and learn from the Pre-K community.

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 1. Community takes effort and sacrifice.

Just before we left for church that evening, my sweet, tired boy was lying on the couch, watching his favorite show. Shoes kicked off, relaxing, just being 4. At the first mention of getting shoes on and going to church, his response was that he wanted to finish his show…and he didn’t want to put his shoes on (me either, kid). I casually mentioned a few friends’ names and let him know that if he wanted to see them, he would need to put on his shoes so that we could leave. He perked up, said, “Oh! I want to see my friends!”, put on his shoes and turned off the show. For him, that was sacrifice. It took effort and a made up mind to do the things he didn’t feel like doing so that he could go to church and visit with his little tribe of Pre-K friends. For us grown-ups, this might look like allowing others into our homes, carving out time for coffee with a friend, or leaving the house, even when we don’t feel like it. Community may require some sacrifice and certainly some effort, but don’t doubt that it will be worth it.

2. Community is beautiful when judgment is withheld.

Community can be messy, when we meet each other in our weaknesses, not just our strengths. As I observed the wide eyed, pudgy cheeked faces peering at their friend in distress, I was struck with the genuine concern that I saw. There was no judgment for their friend that was causing a scene and struggling. There was only love. There were no sideways glances or rolled eyes. You know, any one of those sweet little faces may have been tear streaked just hours before when their day did not go as expected. They saw a friend in need, and they responded with love. For us, this will certainly mean that we reserve judgment and see the person, beyond a situation at hand. We may not always agree or have the same situational response as another person, but we can still love the soul of who they are and extend grace.

3. Community refreshes our souls.

When we left that evening, my son was all smiles. He had pushed through the “don’t wanna”s, been refined and encouraged, and ultimately experienced soul refreshment. It is GOOD to be involved in a community that supports, encourages, and cares. We were created for community, and we will be lacking without it.

Shout out to the 4 and 5 year old cuties, for the sweet and genuine display of community that I was honored to witness. We could all learn a few things from observing the pint-sized community of children, especially those that are young enough to not be tainted by the silly, presumptuous notions of grown-ups. Perhaps we should all be a bit more childlike in our care of others.

“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭HCSB‬‬