In my early twenties was the first time that I found myself without the nurture and daily oversight of my parents. I now lived in South Carolina, while everyone I knew in the world lived in Spain. Our only communication was reduced to Thursday afternoon phone calls and very sporadic emails.
During those years away from home, my mom would faithfully end each conversation with a pleading “take care of yourself!” It became so monotonous and honestly meaningless. Is she thinking I’d do something foolish? Does she think I might stop taking showers or doing my hair? Maybe she means don’t eat so many pop tarts and ramen noodles?
You see, her request seemed pestering to me because I was on top of things – I knew the name of the fingernail polish I was wearing, I was staring at the empty cup of Sonic’s happy -hour slushy, and I rarely missed taking a nap on Fridays.
But I got a glimpse of her very wise words when I was first married and had my first fever. I starkly remember, years later, a terrible mastitis and the longing for someone to take care of me. I had quickly become so accustomed to caring for sick little ones, and for disorganized closets, and for—-, that I didn’t know where to start to feel better and heal. Sure those are just instances, not continuous occurrences, but you get the point. Have you ever struggled with taking care of yourself?
This is not every woman’s story, but it is a profound lesson I am learning. I’m beginning to realize that for many years I had wearied myself through sleep-deprivation, often skipping meals, not getting dressed nor showering. This wasn’t proof that I was prioritizing my family, but that I was becoming unhealthy. I am gently learning that God rejoices when I thrive. I am not being a martyr about very fulfilling and very demanding days. Motherhood is a long race, and we’ll only be good at it while rooted in Christ and serving with gladness (Psalm 100:2).
Our Creator cares about our emotions. Gladness is the emotion opposite of sadness. He’s interested in how we feel, that’s why He tells us to feel peace, not only show a calm attitude (Colossians 3:15), and feel joyful, not just serve with a happy face (1 Thessalonians 5:16), and be tenderhearted, not just show tenderness (Ephesians 4:32).
A large part of us taking care of ourselves and being healthy is to do the things that we love – the things we used to enjoy. Those are the little things that will help us thrive. But how to find time to take care of yourself?
Here are my four favorites:
Write it on the to-do list – It works! It feels so good to write “go for a run”, or “write encouragement card”, or “read 1 chapter.” Writing it down helps to make it a priority, and everyone knows it’s part of the day. I’m sure you love crossing things off the list as much as I do : )
Involve the Children – This is the biggest one. If I really want to look through recipes and get inspiration, I get them involved, and we all do it together. Sometimes, I’d really enjoy going out for early morning coffee, so I get them going quickly and we sit at a coffee shop for just a little while usually with little treats for them to share. Not everything can be done with kids, but you may be surprised.
Just a Little Bit Counts – Don’t feel beat down when the half-hour run can only be 20 minutes because the baby woke up, or you can only do one coat of fingernail polish, or skim through a magazine article. A little bit still helps.
Give Up Something – When we say ‘yes’ to something, we say ‘no’ to something else. Edith Schaeffer’s words say it best, “One is always having to neglect one thing in order to give precedence to something else. The question is one of priorities.”
Consider this a nudge to take care of yourself today. What are the little things that fill you up? Reading? Exercising? Painting your nails? Taking a bath? A date night on the calendar? Cooking up a new recipe? Tell me what were the things you used to enjoy? Better yet, go do that thing.
with love, Damaris