Here at Tales of a Peanut I’m wanting to partner with some additional women to provide you with the best content that I can. My ultimate goal is to help you connect with God and with each other. So today I’m introducing you to Alisa Nelson from Strength Collective. She is going to be writing for us about once a month and is starting out talking about Self Care. I will tell you that when I read her first draft of this post I cried because it was exactly what I needed to hear. So I am extremely excited to share her wisdom with you and I hope that you learn as much from her as I am. You can find all of her contact information on the new Contributors page. We would both love for you to get involved with this series (and with all of the others posts on this site) so that we can help you grow in Christ. Without further ado, here’s Alisa!
I became a mom very unexpectedly. A mere 5 months into marriage I found myself graduating from college and taking a pregnancy test – I became a stay-at-home mom to a little girl at 22 years old. And as any new mom can imagine, transitioning out of the idea I’d had of the future to the one sitting in front of me was difficult. One day my husband came home from work and I gave him my usual exhausted look. He didn’t normally respond with the sympathy I imagined I deserved and this time was no different. In fact, we had a discussion that night that has remained in my heart as a pivot point in our marriage and my life in general. I realized I was living for the moment he walked through the door. Once he was home, I was done for the day. Dinner was always a last minute thought, he was handed our daughter, and every night I had zero interest in talking or investing in him – I just wanted to go to bed. In looking back, I can see I was neck deep in survival mode – and it was evident I was planning to live this way until I got enough “me time” to recuperate.
I began to ask questions of myself and of God – what does it even mean to have energy to keep pouring out? What does it look like, in this season, to be a blessing to other people and raise my daughter to rejoice through all of life’s circumstances?
There’s this weird tension for the mother – we’re expected to be everything to everybody but then we are expected to not be defined by our motherhood. Tricky. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is a recipe for survival mode. I’ve seen the thought lingering in the back of my mind, “Maybe if I hustle and get all the needs met, I will be able to slip away and I’ll have earned my time alone.” Sadly, toddlers haven’t learned that rule yet. There is always another need. Always more dishes and more laundry. Always another opportunity to experience the guilt and shame of being the only mom who can’t keep it all together.
When I was in the early postpartum days after my son was born, I had a realization (after magically getting both kids in bed at the same time) that I didn’t have to clean up lunch right away. Instead, I slipped into bed and grabbed a nap. This is one of the ways I practice self-care on a daily basis – and I’m not talking about the nap.
As I dive into that word – “self-care” – I want to start with what it is not. Self-care is not selfish. A mother is not automatically neglecting her family nor is she automatically relinquishing responsibility. I emphasize that word, automatically, because self-care is complex. As with so many relational topics, the heart of the person matters more than any hard and fast rules. Self-care is not the opportunity to temporarily remove the role of motherhood. If my response to needing a break from my kids is to drop everything in my husband’s lap so I can go do whatever I want, I won’t experience the rest I am hoping for. Do you see that?
So, then, what is self-care? I believe it is everything we do to prepare ourselves to keep going. To keep loving, keep pouring out, keep laughing, keep wiping sticky fingers and hugging our little people when they can’t figure out how to listen. To keep pursuing our husbands even when the middle-of-the-night wake up is looming. And to keep our hearts tuned to the nudging of the Spirit who might point us to yet another person who needs us.
In Deuteronomy 8, the Lord gives an explanation for the way he addressed a most basic need of the Israelites while they trudged through the desert –
“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”
Forty years is a long time. Everyday they were supposed to practice trusting God to supply all of their needs – to keep going when their hunger pangs grew stronger. Trust that each morning would bring new manna from heaven – an outpouring of their Father’s love.
Hunger is a scary feeling. Our bodies respond by releasing hormones and neurotransmitters, fixing our attention on any nearby food in order to induce us to eat. If you think back, you will probably be able to recall a time when you suddenly realized how hungry you were. What did you experience? How did you react? Were you in the drive thru line before you even realized what was happening?
We can hit that sort of wall in our everyday life when it comes to rest too. Where we suddenly feel desperate for moments of quiet. What’s your fall back? Are you quick to start scrolling through your various social media feeds? Do you see yourself starting to get snippy with your kids?
It was in these moments that the Israelites responded with grumbling – more food, more water, more variety. Nothing was enough. I, and probably you too, find I can have quite the appetite when I have taken it upon myself to provide for my needs. I will consume anything I can find – whether that be food, entertainment, or silence. What I seek for myself – and what I want to see you seek alongside me – is the discipline of surrender. I think self-care in light of the Gospel looks like ceasing all the striving and hustling so we can crawl up to our Father and be reminded of our humanity. He didn’t make us to be Energizer bunnies. He made us to require rest and rejuvenation – food, water, sleep, quiet reflection and prayer. We were created to need constant connection with Him. Because we are sinful, we have to consistently check in and take notice of how we have strayed. We will never be able to continuously outpour ourselves to those in our lives if we are not being poured into by the well that never runs dry.
When I left that lunch table messy and took a nap, the self-care part was not the nap. No, the self-care was actually the letting go of my own perfection. Recognizing that in that instance, a clean table was not going to help me be ready for the next round. I didn’t realize it then but this was a practice in trusting God. Not that somehow my house would end up clean, but that my satisfaction did not depend upon these perceived expectations of being everything to everyone. I didn’t have to secure my own happiness or my own peace.
As I wrap up, consider this passage from Hebrews 6 –
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
This “oath” the author refers to goes back to Genesis where God made a covenant with Abraham – “surely I will bless you and multiply you.” When it came time for the covenant ceremony to be performed – where both parties would walk through a line of animals split in two, thus saying “may this be me if I do not keep this oath” – the Lord made Abraham fall asleep and walked through on his own. This means that the Lord was vowing to hold to his oath no matter what Abraham (or his offspring) did. So when the Israelites grumbled in the desert, the Lord remained faithful. All the way until Christ would suffer, die, and rise again to take his place as the Great High Priest. The fulfillment of this covenant is Christ – our anchor.
And if we have this sure and steadfast anchor for our soul, we can step away from all the striving toward perfection and submit ourselves to a Father who cares more about our heart than our appearance.
Self-care is a topic growing in popularity, for good reason, but if we aren’t careful in how we think through and act on it, we will fail to look any different from those who reject Christ. Our assurance of salvation and our identity as dearly beloved children removes any need to be everything to everybody in order to have earned our rest. Rest, whether it comes now or at the end of all things, is given because God is good. And we are instructed to take daily moments to remind ourselves of that goodness – and His worthiness of our trust and worship.
In future posts, we’ll continue to flesh out what self-care really is and through this new understanding, we’ll devise strategies for taking consistent time to practice trusting the Lord to enable us to keep going.
Right now, I want to give you a first step. In my next post I will talk about the necessity of keeping our brain on so we can see the posture of our hearts and the attitude of our self-talk.
To get ready for it I want you to think about this question and comment below:
What do you do when you experience sudden hunger? What happens in your body and what’s your fallback behavior?
As we begin this journey together toward more effective self-care, I invite you to post pictures on Instagram of your personal pursuit of trusting God and fighting against the pull to be everything to everyone. Use the hashtag #everydaystrength (a phrase we’ll dive into next time) so we can see too!