4 Ways to Boost Your Self-Care Quotient

“What would you like to do?” he asked.
My good and faithful husband had hired a babysitter for our four sons (Combat pay!), and we were driving away from the house, the cavernous mini-van feeling empty and oddly quiet.

“Good question,” I thought, “What would I like to do?” As a homeschooling mum, church woman, maker of beds and of sandwiches, I had just about lost touch with what grown ups do when they are assigned the task of having fun or the responsibility of relaxing.

In Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, April Yamasaki opens her own life to self-care scrutiny and examines Scripture’s claims about the abundant life alongside biblical promises of God’s care for those who believingly follow Him.  To my great relief, Yamasaki frames self-care with a bigger vision than manicures and a daily green smoothie, as she encourages readers to receive the gifts that flow from the first great commandment:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  (Mark 12:30)

Caring for You. Caring for Others.

The busy-ness of life in all its demanding seasons can lead to habits that could best be described as self-neglect. Conversely, culture screams messages that make a virtue of self-indulgence:  “I deserve this.” I have had a tendency to read messages about self-care as burdensome checklists, one more item on an already too-full list of things to do.

The abundant life involves caring for your own needs, caring for others, and surrendering to the call of God. There is freedom to be found in the “healthy tension” (188) between loving ourselves well and also being fully available to our neighbor. In Four Gifts, April invites readers into a purposeful pursuit of healthy living according to God’s design in ways that are both challenging and realistic:

1. Self-Care Leaves Space to Honor Your Core Commitments

Just as the heart “represents the center of our physical, mental, and spiritual being,” (221) each of us has “core commitments” that direct our daily actions. Mine are shaped around marriage, mothering and grandmothering, homeschooling, writing, and church ministries. Because your commitments are different from mine, the parameters of  our self-care regimens will look very different.

“Self-care that honors core commitments might be delayed or postponed or after the fact, but it’s still self-care even if it sometimes seems to come in second.” (234)

2.  Self-Care Begins with Learning How to Stop

For me, self-care is mostly about knowing when to stop, and this came into sharp focus as I was reminded of New Testament directives to the early church that clearly distinguish “between being weighed down and being focused on following Jesus.” The Hebrews 12 “weight” that interferes with the believer’s race can often be the tasks we take on that are not really ours to do.

3.  Self-Care Leaves Room for a Listening Life

In the rush of life, I often catch myself half-listening to people, tuning out details to conserve mental energy, or failing to set aside the task at hand in order to meet the eyes of my dearest people while they speak. When Jesus was being quizzed by the religious elite, pressed into choosing the most important commandment of all, His answer began with the word Listen!

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’No other commandment is greater than these.”  (Mark 12:28-31)

Taking time to listen to God, to hear the words of Scripture from a thoughtful stance, to listen to my own aging body in its need for rest, and to slow down and hear the messages coming through the words of the people I love are all forms of self-care that minister to the whole person and also spread ripples of health into a family or a community.

4.  Self-Care Frees the Soul for Sabbath Rest

April Yamasaki is a ministry professional, and she manages a website called When You Work for the Church. Her perspective on Sabbath rest includes first-hand knowledge that Sunday is often the busiest and most stressful day of the week. It turns out that most of us have a much too narrow definition of Sabbath-keeping. The rest and rejuvenation that come with it are “sometimes a by-product but not the primary purpose. The primary biblical purpose . . . is to put away the idol of control and power.” (766) If I can address this issue at its core, suddenly other pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Turning off my phone or taking a nap or postponing an errand to another day can become an offering in which I kick myself out of the center of the universe, a fruit of self-discipline in which I say no to the habit of accomplishment and yes to the habit of quiet or rest.

At its core, then, self-care may be uncomfortable. It may push me to honor limits I’ve become accustomed to pushing through, to utter a few well-placed “nos” that feel as if I’m squandering opportunities, to admit that I need help rather than forging ahead on my own. God’s four gifts of heart, soul, mind, and strength come with the expectation of a graceful stewarding of those gifts, a responsibility that takes practice–and a privilege that comes with the following life as we lean on Jesus for each step in the right direction.

Many thanks to Herald Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Leaning on Jesus,

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Women in Ministry: What God Wants You to Know

We were greeted with warm handshakes and pleasantries, an outline of the morning service, and then a startling announcement:  “We assumed that your wife would want to take the children.”  In the early days of our marriage when my husband was the area director of a children’s ministry, I used to travel with him to his weekend engagements.  However, in those days, I had a full-time job, no children yet, and no — I did not carry a Bible lesson around in my back pocket. (Given the same situation today?  I’d probably go for it!  Why not?)

Ministry wives are often subject to assumptions and misconceptions, and it is with this audience in mind that Kay Warren has written Sacred Privilege.  However, her words are relevant to all women in ministry, with or without husbands.  She writes from the perspective of a life-long “church girl,” the daughter of a pastor, wife to Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Life fame, and also as the mother to a pastor’s wife.  The book is a distillation of wisdom gained from an entire life lived in the fish bowl of ministry — not from the viewpoint of “perfect wife,” but as messenger and strong survivor, as one who has taken strength from God for a very specific calling and now wants to pass that encouragement on to others who share that call.

If you are a woman in ministry, here’s what God wants you to know:

1.  “You need to embrace your own story — all of it — for the glory of God and the good of His kingdom.” (31)

Kay’s story includes a brush with a porn addiction and a rocky start to her marriage.  It includes a struggle with depression and the mental illness and ultimate suicide of her son. She assesses this terrain and concludes that the life she has lived is the exact price required for becoming who she is today.

2.  “There is no greater heritage than for children to see that ministry is not just for dads but also for moms and brothers and sisters.”  (50)

Sharing a ministry focus as a couple and also as a family protects everyone from resentment and eases the claustrophobia of the glass house that can plague ministry families.  Kay defines “thriving” over the long haul  as the ability to share a God-given dream and points to Ephesians 2:10 to affirm that God is the architect of that dream.

3.  “Success in ministry is not about numerical results or recognition but about thriving, flourishing, and growing strong in one’s calling and in one’s character.” (58)

This does not mean that women in ministry will meet everyone’s expectations.  On the flip side, it also does not mean that we will always be free to do the thing we love the most.  When it comes to defining success in ministry, the most important voice in the room is God’s.

4.  “You have a story that is worth telling.”  (125)

Sharing God’s redemption process in your life is risky because your weaknesses come out of hiding.  However, in the process, others are drawn into the Light, and true friendships can be formed that will endure for the long haul.  Life in community — knowing others and being known — is so much safer and more comfortable than life on a pedestal.

5.  “No one will take care of you but you.” (139)

That sounds cynical, doesn’t it?  And it’s not to say that God, your husband, and/or your loving church family are all out to exploit you and suck you dry, but there are some aspects of self-care that are completely in your court:  eating, sleeping, and moving every day are your responsibility.  My favorite of Kay’s aphorisms applies here:

“Control the controllable and leave the uncontrollable to God.”

Nourishing the inner life and stepping away from ministry for Sabbath rest may require some adjusting.  Cultivating this flexibility is a discipline that is well worth it in the end.

6.  “Accept the loss of privacy with God’s grace.”  (180)

Gail MacDonald and Edith Schaeffer have blazed a gracious trail for ministry wives (and all women) with their writing, and Edith is eloquently accurate on this subject of boundaries:

“A family is a door that has hinges and a lock.  The hinges should be well-oiled to swing the door open during certain times, but the lock should be firm enough to let people know that the family needs to be alone part of the time, just to be a family.”  (183)

7.  “Live with transparency and work hard to do what is right in the sight of God and others.”  (194)

Because ministry is a “sacred privilege,” God-honoring integrity is key, particularly in the crucial areas of sex, money, and power.  Kay and her husband maintain a “warnings” file with details about well-known pastors who have left the ministry because of moral failure — just to remind them of their own vulnerability.

8.  Maintain an eternal perspective.

Practicing radical forgiveness will make the battle scars earned in church conflict more bearable — and will even speed healing!  Franςois Fénelon offers wise counsel:

“Don’t be so upset when things are said about you.  Let the world talk; just seek to do the will of God.  You will never be able to entirely satisfy people and it isn’t worth the painful effort.”  (215)

The shared dreams and plans, the sacrifices and the adjustments required of women in ministry can be viewed alongside Paul’s metaphor of the Christian life as a race.  We run toward a finish line that is difficult to see, and the noise of the crowd — whether cheering or jeering — can be a distraction.  Making it “our aim to please” God is the mindset that will foster self-acceptance, a thriving family, and the ability to live out God’s calling on our lives with integrity and joy.

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This book was provided by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

For more information about Kay’s writing and ministry check out her website here.

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Living a Redeemed Life — A Conversation with Michele Morin

I don’t usually share a post on Fridays, but I couldn’t resist sharing this podcast (yes, Michele has entered the 21st century) of a conversation with Holly Barrett.  

Last fall, Holly Barrett invited me to be a guest on her weekly show, Living a Redeemed Life.  By the time we worked out the details of scheduling (and using Skype . . . ), it was nearly Christmas time, but it is my pleasure today to introduce to you my friend Holly and to urge you to check out her blog, Reclaiming a Redeemed Life,  where you will find that she is not only a skilled interviewer, but also a fine writer and a student of Scripture.

Holly asked me about my family, how I got started with blogging, and, of course, we talked about books.  Click here to listen in on our visit!

capture

Living a Redeemed Life is a podcast dedicated to encouraging all who listen to live in the redemption found in Jesus every day. Each week Holly enjoys a conversation with a friend—some old friends, some new—and they talk about all the things. Jobs and friends, spouses and kids, the writing life, the struggles they’ve overcome, the ones they’re still struggling with, and much more. And along the way, we see how God is redeeming each circumstance to bring us closer to Him. It’s also a lot of fun! So sit back and relax, and enjoy this conversation with my friend!

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Just One Thing: Gates

“They laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. “*

Not exactly the stuff of which a “life verse” or a New Year’s Resolution is made,

But five times in Nehemiah’s counter-clockwise tour of the wall we are confronted:

What’s the point of a walled city if the gates are not secure?

Shore them up!  Every beam; every door; every bolt; every bar,

Not just for the glory of Old Jerusalem, but for the glory of God,

Who is, after all, the Center, the focus of Nehemiah’s renovation.

“Where there is no center, there is no circumference,”**

And how we need a circumference–

A boundary–

Not to hem us in, suffocation-style,

But to correct our warped geometry,

To free us up,

To establish the playing field:

“Here is the goal.”

“This is my responsibility.”

“Someone else will cover this area.”

After all, didn’t original sin sprout from the refusal of a boundary?

What if, instead of an outreached hand to harvest death,

Eve’s response had been,

“Let me not be like unto God.  Let me be instead what I was created to be.

Let me be a woman.”***

Today, and everyday, let me secure the gates.

All day long we choose

With eyes, ears, lips, fingers —

Trivial pursuits, mindless entertainment,

The gates wide-open to the corrosion of our souls.

Lay the beams, tighten the bolts and bars.

Guard your heart and live free.

 

* Nehemah 3:3, 6, 13-15

**Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder

*** Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman

For further study, read Nehemiah 3 in a sitting.  It may be second only to “the begats” in its repetitive monotony, but if your Bible has a map of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem, follow it around the wall as you read.  It really does help!