Ladies- the struggle is real.
Life is hard, choices are diverse, and weariness is a constant companion.
As honorable women, who love our families and want to honor Jesus with our lives, we face a true dilemma. Is caring for ourselves selfish? And if not, how do we care for all those who depend on us and care for ourselves as well?
I have no desire to live a selfish life. Jesus is my example. He humbled Himself and served those around Him. My Lord laid His life down- literally. How can I do less?
But therein lies the problem- while I want to live like Jesus, I am not Jesus. My human body, while incredibly intricate and complex, is also fragile and needy. If I don't take care of this body, I can't take care of my family. They would like for me to stick around. Sometimes I am honestly not sure why, but I am INCREDIBLY grateful. My family still likes me enough to desire I have a long life. And I want to be there for them.
Here is the conundrum- there is never enough time, energy, or daylight to accomplish half of what I need to get done. And as I turn the corner into the autumn years of my life, I am feeling the effects of not taking care of myself in the past.
Here is the good news- there WILL NEVER BE enough time, energy, or daylight to accomplish half of what I need to get done.
Are you wondering why that is good news? Because it frees me up from the attempt of FINISHING my work. I can't.
Say this with me, "I can't get it all done!" (I think that was rather half-hearted. Now say it again like you mean it!)
Only God gets it ALL done.
When I strive to do the same, and then feel guilty at my failure, I am trying to be God and then feeling frustrated at my inability. Sounds like I have a prideful God-complex to me. Ouch.
I am not God. I cannot do it all. I cannot provide for every need or solve every problem. I cannot make the people in my family happy, successful, fulfilled, or holy. Those are jobs for Jesus.
Since I can't get it ALL done, I am free to get as much of today's work done, as time and energy allow. But wait- there is a catch in that last sentence. How much work will today allow? Because if I work hard, and don't rest, and make a really good To Do list, I bet I can get MORE done today than yesterday. I just have to work a little harder!
I have to constantly tell myself, "Stop!" Just stop.
I can only love and care for my family, and fulfill the ministry Jesus has given me to do with them and others, if I take care of myself. I struggle with this because there is such a condemnation that surrounds me as I even think about my SELF, much less talk about it.
However the limitations God has placed on my abilities requires me to stop, breath, and make good choices on how to live a healthy life. Here are what I KNOW I need to do.
Renew my body-
We know what to do: eat healthy food and get enough rest. For heaven's sake, we tell our children that constantly. We force vegetables on them and make them adhere to a decent bedtime. For some reason we just don't require that of ourselves.
Sleep is hard to come by, especially when there is a baby in the house. But sleep is so important to our health it needs to be a priority. If the baby is asleep and you have the option between getting the dishes clean and taking a thirty minute nap- take the nap! The dishes will eventually get clean. Or you can throw them all away and just buy paper plates. But take the nap. You will feel better and be more cheerful for the rest of the the day.
2. Eat healthy
True confession- there were several years I survived on chewy granola bars and Dr. Pepper. But if I want to have healthy body with the energy to meet the surrounding needs, I have to fuel it with something besides sugar and caffeine. Which means I have to invest the time to cut some veggies and sit down long enough to eat them. Instead of eating the leftovers off my kids' plates, I have to think about what my female body at my age needs to be healthy.
To take care of my body I also have to exercise. You knew this was coming, didn't you? I have struggled to be consistent with this one, but I KNOW I feel better and sleep sounder when I consistently exercise. It is just one of the true challenges of life. I must invest the time to do something I don't really enjoy so that I will consistently have the vibrancy to care for my family.
Renew my mind-
4. Read and Learn
It would be convenient if this meant binge watching Netflix, but our minds require non-electronic stimulus too. My mind needs good nutrition, just as my body does. So while I do personally extract a great deal of wisdom from reading the classic Winnie the Pooh to my kids, I also need to read books that stimulate my mind and enlarge my vision. You know- adult books. The ones with hardly any pictures. If you are not a reader, we live in a great age for audio books. You can even listen for free on librovox.
I am setting a good example when I act as a life-long learner. I also become a better wife, mother, neighbor, and citizen when I take the time to learn, and never stop engaging in the world around me.
After a day of diapers, cartoons, peanut butter, and dirty socks, nothing resets the mind faster than lighting a candle and settling in with a good book.
Renew my spirit-
5. The Word
Renewing my body and my mind will be fruitless unless it is joined by a rich spirit. I need the wisdom of Jesus to filter out all the lies the world and my enemy dangles in front of my weary eyes.
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV)
I always wanted to lead my children to Jesus, but in order to do that I had to be in communion with Him every single day.
The Bible informs my spirit. Praise music refreshes my spirit. Praying encourages my spirit. And when that happens I have the resources to pour out my spirit for those who need me.
Self-care, not selfish care
I DON'T desire a selfish life. I want to lay my life down in service and love for my Lord and the people He puts around me. But if I want to sustain a lifetime of work and service, I have to be wise in how I care for my body, mind, and spirit.
It has taken me half of a century to really learn this. I hope you can learn this lesson faster than I did.
So take the time to get renewed. Jesus doesn't need you to do everything. He is God and He is capable.
Since "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 ESV), and "...the LORD my God has given me rest on every side." (1 Kings 5:4 ESV), I think I will "..thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service" (1 Timothy 1:12 ESV)
Go eat an apple and have a rest. But first, tell me, how do you take care of yourself?