I used to hate this term. If I’m honest, I still kind of do. To me it sounds selfish, like it should be renamed “selfish care.” That I could understand. Learning in the Bible that we should be “spending ourselves for the poor,” and living in a third world country where opportunities to spend ourselves are literally everywhere we look, it seemed so selfish to me to spend any amount of ourselves on “self care.” I used to think, if I had time for myself, maybe I should be doing more.
For years, I strived and earned my worth. Then I got married and being a wife got added to the list of things I would “do.” When Alan and I would hit rough patches, I would either try to solve the problem by doing more or taking away. I am a great punisher. Life has been based on a series of rewards and earnings.
A year into the marriage, our girls arrived, and although I was blessed to be able to take a 4 month maternity leave I came back from maternity with something to prove.
Motherhood wouldn’t stop me.
Getting married wouldn’t stop me.
I was on mission. I was akin to the little boy with the bowl in his dirty hands asking “may I have more, please?” I was fiend for mission. In some ways it was like a drug. Seeing people’s lives changed = validated self worth… Even if my personal life was beginning to look a little chaotic and messy.
Eventually I would begin doubting it all. Is it worth it? But I continued to justify. The girls won’t even know I am gone, Alan will understand. I’ll just keep focusing on the good I see in others’ lives.
I was married to the mission and the drug of doing and approval seeking. I found my little spot that would feed my addiction to be needed. However, I began not being needed much at home because, well, I wasn’t available to my family emotionally.
We were on a path to destruction.
By His grace, I began to hear a small voice challenge the amount of “doing” I had going on and the amount of “yes’s” I was giving to others and the inevitable amount of “no’s” that meant for our family. I knew deep down what he was asking, but I was so afraid to take the first step. I wish I could say I stepped out in faith, but I didn’t. I kept on my own path of destruction. Until the Lord literally said, “no more my daughter.”
If you have ever experienced this kind of “no,” you know how fully loving, grace-filled and yet parental it can be. Fully God, Fully Jesus. if it was if he was speaking “You have not listened to the spirit I put inside of you, but do not fear, for I make broken things beautiful. I make life out of dead things.”
And so, in 2016, there was a great fire. And many of my dreams and hopes burned to the ground.
Back to back miscarriages.
A moral failure.
I felt broken and dead inside.
Less than 24 hours after our world felt like it was burning to the ground, I was on Skype with a counselor in the states in the US. I needed all the wisdom. All the hope. All the advice. He spoke with Alan for quite awhile and then me and we only talked for about 10 minutes. He told me to focus on one thing.
What in the world was he talking about? He wanted me to be good to my very fragile and tender self.
1. Eat healthy food
2. Physical activity everyday
3. Sleep well
5. Read Scripture
The first week was brutal. I didn’t do anything he said. I ate ice cream for breakfast, sometimes lunch too. I stayed in bed all day with the door shut. I slept during the day and cried my way through the night. I didn’t read scripture. I was mad at God. I turned to Netflix. By the end of week 1, I felt awful.
The second week Alan started cooking for me. He would make eggs and try to get me to eat. I knew it would be good for me to eat. The better food I ate, the better I began to feel. A week later, I added in some light workouts and by the 4th week medication was helping me with sleep.
After the first month I was achieving 4 out of 5. I still couldn’t read scripture. Working my 4 steps felt really good and I began adding in a few other things. Every Friday I would do something just for “me.” Sometimes it was a massage (who can turn down 60 minutes for $15!) or a pedicure or just time with a friend. While the girls were at school, Fridays turned into days I would spend doing something for myself. I began looking forward to these days as a way to recharge. I was taking care of the outer, but the inside of me was still dirty until one day I found my way back to his feet, realizing he had never left my side.
Today I have a completely different outlook on mission and self care or what I would now call soul care, and I don’t limit it to just Fridays. In fact, I spend time every single day tending to my whole self- mind, body, soul.
It took a considerable breakdown for the Lord to be able to show his love to me, just because of who I am and not what I am doing for the Kingdom. He has also faithfully reminded me that my family is also a part of his Kingdom. I have had to say no to things that I would not have in the past to make room for caring for my soul and my family, but I am finding what I am able to give to others has been richer, more genuine, and has brought me and the Lord great joy in serving.
I look forward to these soul care rituals I’ve created every day and am sharing them here in case you were once like me, not even knowing where to start with an idea like should care. I would encourage every person I know to spend some time every single day caring for their whole selves- again, that’s mind, body, and soul.
If you’re looking for a place to start, try something from my routine below and slowly add to it. I would add to my list below that I have gone completely Gluten Free and have been this way for a few months. The difference it has made on my mind and body have been huge.
6:15am- wake up, start coffee and drink a big glass of water (seems silly but this gets your metabolism going right away, plus you wake up dehydrated from going 6-8 hours without water!)
6:20am-7am- read a chapter from current coffee table book (right now it’s Jennie Allen’s Nothing to Prove), read scripture, journal and prayer
On Mondays, Wednesdays- I leave for the gym after breakfast and workout for 30 minutes
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays- I go for a run either in the morning or evenings with one being a 5 mile+
7pm- drink Magnesium Calm after dinner is over
7:30pm- girls are in bed and I make a hot tea (peppermint or chamomile) while doing the nightly “house pick up” and preparing anything we need for the following day. There is no better feeling than waking up to a clean home, starting the day fresh.
8:30pm- lavender bath and take medicine and read (or maybe catch a show on Netflix)
10pm- put lavender and cedar wood on pillows and massage into the bottoms of feet to help with sleep. *Oh and thanks to Shauna Niequist I now sleep in real pajamas and I use a sleep mask to block out light. I usually now get a solid 7-8 hours a night.
I wish I could go back 10 years when I first moved to the DR and talked with my younger self about the importance of tending to my soul, mind, and body. I would never wish a breakdown on anyone to learn this lesson, but nonetheless I have found great joy again in listening to the Lord speak and drawing close to him both through the reading of the scriptures/prayer/journaling as much as through pushing my body to its limits working out and in resting in his peace and grace.
What soul care routines do you practice? Let me know in the comments, I may need to just add it to my current practices!
Photo credit: http://www.greenwoodcc.com/soul-care/