I’m here this month to tell you that self-care, like so many other things in life, is a practice. We each have fall back habits that kick into gear when life gets busy and it takes energy to replace those that are detrimental with something more positive. I can’t pretend there is a quick fix. But I can tell you there is hope and a clear path to greater abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your busy day, week, and season. I come to you in humility – admitting that I need this just as much as you do – and pray that together we can grow in the everyday kind of strength that leaves us more capable of blessing those around us and abiding more deeply in our tireless Savior.
Last month I asked you to take stock of your reaction to hunger. Maybe that seemed like a silly question but this practice of checking in with yourself – looking at your emotional state, impulsive behavior, and how a biological event such as hunger affects both – is possibly the most important habit you could have as you take care of yourself.
How many of us have vowed to drink more water throughout the day only to remember when it hits 4pm and all we’ve had is coffee? This happens because we lose touch with ourselves. We get caught up in the worries and the tasks of our environment. For most of us, this has gone on for so long that we aren’t even really sure what that whole water thing is all about. Instead of identifying water as a need, which comes with self-knowledge and long-term thinking, we put it in the “supposed to” category.
The beautiful reason to drink water is that our cells need it to survive and carry out their functions. It sustains life and enables the chemical reactions necessary for you to read these words, throw your giggling babe in the air, and emotionally connect with your husband. When we fulfill this basic need for hydration, our bodies get to work the way they were designed.
It’s with this perspective that Jesus as Living Water speaks to our thirsty hearts, producing lush fruit despite the drought of the world around us. In John 4, Jesus approaches a Samaritan woman and through conversation establishes her need for the kind of water that permanently satisfies. She, of course, is tired of going to the well and jumps on board with that idea. We do the same thing right? We hear about this need for our own deep soul contentment and, instead of understanding the kind of help Jesus is talking about, we want five steps to no more nagging kids because that would be so very nice.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
We, like the Samaritan woman, are unacquainted with our real needs. We feel a deep longing in the back of our heads and hearts so we go raid the pantry for chocolate. But we who have faith in Christ know it will never satisfy. Contentment requires more than a perfectly constructed moment in time. It requires opening our eyes to the Messiah who has come to show us what life is really all about (John 4:25-26).
Genuine self-care starts with questioning that hunger that sent you to the pantry or scrolling through social media. What’s really going on here? Where am I at emotionally? Psychologists call this mindfulness.
I call it keeping your brain on.
It’s tempting and automatic to shift into autopilot when the day feels a little too long. But remember how we defined self-care as the things we do to prepare ourselves to keep going? Numbing myself to the frustration and pain of pouring out all I have (and it never being enough) is not going to help me get ready for the next round. So what instead?
Keep your brain on. Throughout each day, Christ invites us to drink deep as we abide in Him. He asks us to use his strength instead of our own. The fall of man gave us a predilection for doing everything on our own so we need to consciously step aside. Self-care doesn’t need to be a special day with no kids and a really good massage that we look forward to like our life depends upon it. Self-care can be five minutes of stepping outside to just be and check in on your internal environment.
Re-establishing a mind that is present in the moment instead of wandering through the past failures and future maybes allows us to recognize what identity we are operating out of – one that is sustained by Jesus or something else. When we see it, we can once again surrender to the One who is more than capable to deal with everything on our plate and choose to focus on what he has placed in front of us at this very moment. This is how we keep going.
It is possible to bring mindfulness to your entire day. Remember when I talked about practice? We’re going to start small. Taking care of ourselves and moving out of survival mode on a daily basis looks like actively engaging your mind and your heart in your current season. It might sound counterintuitive, but embracing your life as it is will save you so much energy. When you feel tired, overwhelmed, and stretched thin, don’t disengage. Reach directly for the Water that truly satisfies.
There are a number of places to start in the pursuit of everyday strength. Being a woman and a mother who thrives no matter what is going on around her – clothed in strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25) – can begin simply. The key is practice and a lot of grace. Here are a few action steps to get you going:
Wake up before your kids – even if it’s just 5 minutes – to be silent and orient your mind and heart toward Christ.
Set out water each evening to drink first thing when you wake. Use that time to remind yourself of the Living Water, and ask yourself “Do I feel satisfied?” Don’t be afraid of the answer, let it be and work to surrender whatever it is – joy or anxiety – over to Jesus.
Set an alarm for 3-4 times throughout the day (when you are usually relatively free) and take a 2-3 minute internal check. How are you feeling? Where are your thoughts and attentions? What do you need to surrender to Jesus so you can move back into the present?
Use your time while washing the dishes or folding laundry to check in. Breathe deeply and be totally present with your task. Don’t wander to your schedule or that instagram post that bothered you, just look at you and your current state.
Journal for a few minutes before going to sleep – fight the urge to flip through social media or email one last time and instead think through a few basic questions to set you up for the next day:
Where did I feel most satisfied today?
Where did I feel most chaotic? Empty? Dissatisfied with the present?
What thoughts were continually drawing my attention away from my present?
What is one thing I want to do tomorrow because it makes me feel happy and satisfied?
A key is to be observational – not judgmental. Practice giving yourself grace and being vulnerable with yourself. When we are more present, we can face the difficulties and the joys head on, living more fully in each day. It may be a hard season, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be full of satisfaction.
Thank you Alisa for your wisdom! I am definitely going to work on paying more attention to my internal temperature thanks to the questions that you’ve asked in this post!
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