Surviving Christmas: A Word about Self-Care

It’s been a little quiet around here recently. And by quiet, I don’t mean silent. (I have a one-year-old.) But I have been a little more unplugged, a little less prone to screen time, a little less-present on the interwebs. Due to finances, we cut our cable, and subsequently internet, about two months ago, and it’s been a welcome distraction gone. I was also getting a bad taste in my mouth for all the buzzes and beeps coming from my devices, so I turned off all notifications. I thought I would miss it. I don’t.

This time of year, I immerse myself in all the Ann Voskamp Advent books, as well as various other Advent studies. I am trying to simplify: clean out a closet I’ve always felt sure I needed, so that we can knock down a wall. Giving lots and lots and lots of things away. I’ve been more likely to meet up with friends for coffee. I’ve put the house aside and given my daughter a bit more hands-on attention. I’m working less than I ever have in my life (or so it seems), and yet I might be the happiest I’ve ever been with my house that will never keep up with the Joneses. Sure, there are things I want, things I think I need. Depending on the day, parenting is hard, or marriage is hard, or both. I am not even close to having life figured out, but I’m finally becoming okay with that.

I think about this community a lot. I want to connect here. I want to do ministry. I want to do what I love and write more. And there are seasons for that. But sometimes the Lord intentionally shelves all of those things for a while to draw me to Himself. To quiet my heart and remind me of what’s most important. I can get caught up in all the good things and miss the best thing.

So I’ve been asking a deep question. What do I want my legacy to be, and are my daily actions proof that I believe this? Do I want to be known for knowing Jesus? YES. This is it. I want to be known for pursuing Jesus. And so when it comes down to it, my house doesn’t need to be perfect. (Said closet contents are currently taking over an entire couch in my living room, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that I’m sitting here typing instead of clearing that pile off.)  My value doesn’t lie in what I accomplish today, or in how much I weigh, or in how much money there is (or isn’t) in my checking account. I can’t neglect those things entirely, but what have I truly accomplished if I’ve tended to all those things but neglected the thing I’ve claimed to be most important in my life?

What if I gain the world (lose the weight, check all the lists off, have a spotless house, be financially secure) only to lose my own soul? I’m not speaking of heaven or hell here, although that is surely what the text means. But what if, in pursuit of all these things, I neglect my own soul? I neglect my relationship with the Lord? I fail to pass on my faith to my children? What have I really gained?

My friend texted me yesterday and said, “Would it be weird if my word for 2018 was self-care?” I looked up the definition of self-care: any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.

This concept has been taken to the extreme in our society, where we often speak of loving yourself and the quip “take care of yourself, because no one else will.” But why did Jesus tell the story of the Good Samaritan? Because He was asked the question: What is the greatest commandment in the law?” His response? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” How can we love our neighbor like we love ourselves if we don’t love ourselves? How do we know how to care of others if we don’t take good care of ourselves? Tell me: do you think the Good Samaritan was overweight and in poor health, bad with money, or a person whose family and home were a wreck? I doubt it. He was able to stop and help the man on the side of the road because he had taken care of himself. He was physically able to stop and load him on his donkey. He was mentally able to fit in one more thing into his day. He was  spiritually-minded because he was looking for opportunities to give of himself. Only a healthy person could behave in this way.

This is Biblical in origin. Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). Glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:20). I discipline my body and keep it under control so that when I have preached to others, I myself should not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh (Proverbs 14:30). There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).

Taking inventory of our heart and emotions, disciplining our body, establishing tranquility, and entering into rest. Going back to the definition of self-care, it is deliberate. Self-initiated. It is something we must be intentional about, something we must put into motion. Keeping ourselves fit and active by exercising, taking time to inventory what’s going on within us, and entering into rest in non-slumbering ways are all methods of self-care. I’ve written posts before on Sabbath, and will write more in the future, but there are many different ways to “Sabbath.” And each of our Sabbaths will look different, because each of us have different things that stir our affections for Jesus. We avoid the things that steal our joy and immerse ourselves in the things that allow us to focus on Jesus. For some, it may be taking a nature walk. For others, it may be taking a bath. The Sabbath is a built-in facet of Christianity; Jesus mandated it. Rest for our bodies, our hearts, our souls. So that we know that we can cease striving. So that we can remember what’s truly important. So that we have what we need to serve the body of Christ.

What does that look like for me in the middle of Christmas season? Saying no to things I actually really want to do because it will make my life hectic. Writing down my victories and losses from 2017, and jotting down goals and prayerful resolutions for the new year. Slowing down to take time to appreciate all that’s around me. Buying a dessert for the next gathering instead of trying to make a delightful Pinterest recipe that will likely turn into a fail (because we’re real here.) Taking my daughter to visit a widow. Meeting with my mentor and accountability partner. Spending drawn-out time in the Word and in prayer. Exercising. A bath here and there.

And, hopefully, a cheeseboard.

Because nothing stirs my affection for Jesus like cheese.