Archive for the ‘Encouragement & Inspiration’ Category

What Self-Care Really Is

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

A long soak in a nice, hot bath. A glass of wine. Going to the local salon for a mani-pedi. A girls night out. Reading a good book. Chatting with a friend. Scrolling through Instagram. Raiding your chocolate stash and telling your kids, “It’s spicy.”

All of these are thought of as examples of self-care when they are really only an escape. Some of them are wonderfully delicious escapes. For years, I thought these escapes defined self-care. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Granted, we all need an escape now and then. Even if it’s just five minutes alone to pee. Each escape can provide us with the break we need to re-center ourselves and show a kinder, calmer face to our family. However, escape doesn’t even begin to cover what healthy self-care really means. 

Self-care is giving yourself what you need.

It is making sure that your spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, and mental needs are adequately met.

That’s my definition. I didn’t even google it. 

It grew inside of me through experience, reading, and counseling. It came to full blossom during the past year or so, and this is the first time I have condensed it into words. This definition grew out of a burgeoning realization that, while a mani-pedi is scrumptious, I still have to come home to everything I left. None of my load is lifted by having sparkly pink toenails. No matter how much they make me smile when I look down.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t bother with mani-pedis or chocolate? Not at all! What I am saying is that we should see those things as only a drop in the bucket of what we really need. 

Some things to think about:

What we really need is to evaluate our lives, and see where the gaps are that leave us weary, discouraged, or empty. But who has time to evaluate their whole life? Certainly not me. But I can evaluate my week. Sometimes, it has to just boil down to this very day, or even the very next hour. 

I can ask myself, “What do I need, right now?” For me, the answer is usually food. Literal, actual, nourishing food, because I’ve skipped breakfast. Again. Once I have met that need in a minute of self-care, I can re-evaluate and decide what I need next, because my blood sugar isn’t tanking, and I am no longer hangry. 

Don’t wait until you can afford a Fitbit to go for a walk.  If you are anything like me, you will give up if you cannot do everything all at once. So, pick just one area of self-care that you believe will be the easiest to implement today. Yes, today. Do not lie to yourself and tell yourself you can’t fill need X until you line up Y, Z, A2, and Q11 just right before you can start. 

And remember, something is better than nothing. Make this your mantra. Say it over and over. Tape it to your bathroom mirror. So you forgot about the cauliflower crust you intended to use for your own homemade pizza on pizza night last night, but you remembered to make a salad to go with the normal pizza. Something is better than nothing, and you managed some veggies today. Breathe. It’s okay. No throwing babies out with the bathwater. 

Here are 20 things that actually might count as self-care

They each meet a spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, or mental need. Some cover multiple areas of need:

  1. Attending religious services
  2. Taking appropriate medications for whatever reason – medical or mental health
  3. Going to the doctor
  4. Joining a 12-Step group
  5. Going for a short walk, especially in nature, or at least outside
  6. Taking 3 deep, abdominal breaths with eyes closed
  7. Going to a counselor, even once in a while
  8. Trading help with a neighbor or friend – combine your laundry and do it together, for example
  9. Combining your taco shells and fish sticks with your friend’s veggies and ramen, and doing dinner together for an end-of-the-month-we-have-no-food extravaganza
  10. Getting a massage, chiropractic adjustment, or other bodywork
  11. Signing up for a Zumba class
  12. Abstaining from processed sugar
  13. Pleasure reading at the end of the day to unwind instead of Netflix
  14. Having a good cry, alone or with an empathic friend
  15. Drink water
  16. Buy clothes that fit well, no matter your size
  17. Buy that Fitbit and post your steps every day
  18. Educate yourself about shame, and learn shame resilience (thanks, Brené Brown)
  19. Listen to podcasts that educate or uplift you
  20. Let the kids sit in front of a screen and get something done that has been bothering you

I could keep going. But I am pretty sure this is quite long enough.

Self-care. Do it. Start today. Go fill up a glass of water and drink it. Then, pee alone. Because you’re going to have to in about five minutes. Sometimes, it can be nearly imossible. But those “sometimes” are not “all times.” Just do what you can with what you’ve been given today. It may not be enough always, but something is better than nothing.





Breath & Wings: A Mother’s Day Post

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Breath & Wings

Her new wings are still unfurling, tender and delicate. A flutter here, another in a moment. Quiet! There she goes. Uncertain, her feet have left the ground anyway.

“Now is as good a time as any!” Her wings straighten and thrust her into open air.

Not yet soaring, she hops and jumps and keeps testing the strength of these wings. A little higher now, she catches a breath of wind! Just the tiniest movement of air that keeps her suspended in glorious flight for a time. He gently sets her back down, whispering assurances of his soon return to lift her to newfound heights.

“But, I want to fly now.” Forlorn, the wings droop for a time.

If flight is so hard, perhaps it’s better in the soft, sturdy turf. Her eyes lift, and catch the glint of light on other wings. Inspired, her wings twitch in anticipation. Yes, there is strength there, but not of her own stuff. It has come through gentle, slow healing and unfurling. A painful process, and one she has born with grace unfamiliar to her until this day. Grace she did not know she possessed, through the power of the Breath of Life.

The breath returns. Joyously, he lifts her up, carries her. Helps her use her wings in earnest!

Flight is exhausting and exhilarating! Joyful and hard, it takes more work than walking the turf had asked of her.

But flight is freedom, and she knows it full well. Still, she cannot fly forever just now. Not yet.

“Soon,” the wind promises her.

Her wings tire, and he gently gives her rest. “Lie still awhile. Take nourishment. Lasting strength will come.”

There is nectar here, and nesting places for tired wings. Another flight awaits, and sunrise always brings the breeze.

Keep going, Mom. You really can do it. I have never stopped believing in you. I have never stopped thanking God for you. You gave me life, by the grace of God. Without you, I would not be who I am. My wings have unfurled because of you. You are loved. You matter. And you are my favoritest Mommy ever!

Happy Mother’s Day!
Love, Sunshine!!!

I See a Mountain Crumbling.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

It is 3:05pm, and I am just having my first cup of coffee.

As many of you know, our family has had a rough six weeks of getting virus after virus. Levi is the only one who remained relatively unscathed, skidding through with nothing more than a sore throat and niggling cough. Until last night, when a tummy bug hit us all pretty hard, but was thankfully short-lived. Still, it hit at night. While we were supposed to be sleeping.

I didn’t do much of that. Instead, I spent half the night working with Levi to bathe two pukey kids, remove pukey sheets, and try to hunt down clean blankets to replace the puked-on ones.

We have an abundance of blankets in our house, but between getting hit by virus after virus for the past six weeks, and a cat with a tendency to pee on things, we’re fresh out.

I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, trying to ignore the nauseous feeling in my stomach, and on pins and needles listening for any more vomit eruptions coming from the rooms next to us.

At least our two oldest make it to the toilet now – it’s only the two youngest who have yet to master that vital life skill. It’s so much easier to minister with nothing but a cool cloth and whispered assurances than to clean anything (let alone regurgitated dinner) in the bleary-eyed middle-of-the-night state I was in.

Am I really blogging about vomit?

Yes. Yes I am. I apologize.

It’s just that I am so very tired of being sick. Just as we all begin to really feel well, something else hits. It’s been like that for so many families of our acquaintance lately. I think everyone has had a rough winter where this is concerned. Everything we’ve had has gone around every circle I belong to. It’s gotten quite ridiculous. A few friends of mine have theorized that these viruses are being passed around via Facebook.

It’s incredibly hard to maintain any kind of godly, grateful attitude about any of it.

A few things dawned on me the last time I was sick. Things that I’m certain only apply to me, myself, and I, so don’t take this as me telling you how you should feel about whatever you’re handling at the moment. Also, pardon me for any rambling. I blame the late coffee.

God is sifting me, showing me some gaping holes in my walk.

God can use even microbes to reveal me to myself. That self is not entirely…mature about this whole thing. I have thrown more pity-parties in the past six weeks than I have in the past year, I think.

You may think I’m over-spiritualizing things, but I don’t think so. It’s hard to explain, unless you’ve been there. There’s never a doubt when God speaks. It’s like labor – you may have a few false alarms, but when the real thing starts, you KNOW.

Through these illnesses, I’ve been forced away from my mainstay of spiritual nourishment – my home church – and have found that I have left myself nothing else to stand on, whatsoever. Godly conviction is growing in my mind. Conviction I don’t really want to give full voice to, here on this blog, for fear that I will overstep my bounds and assume I know what God is asking me. I know the parameters. I know the first step. I just have to take it.

That abundance of blankets I spoke of earlier? They have created a veritable mountain of colorfully soft stinky-ness in my hallway. A mountain that will only be conquered one blanket at a time, probably for days, before it is diminished to nothing. I look at it and sigh, anticipating the length of time it’s going to take to make any visible progress.

This conviction I carry is like that. I look at it and think, “Why bother? I’m only going to fail again”. Then, I realize that God is not asking me for forever. He’s only asking me for today.

Just today.

Still, even today is hard. Even today feels mountainous all by itself. A mountain that will only be conquered one step, one prayer, one simple act of faith at a time, until it is diminished to nothing in the day I finally stand face-to-face with the God who held me the whole way.

I praise God that it is He who is working in me. It is He who has allowed us to be laid out in sickness, for His good purpose. I don’t claim to know the whole purpose, but I know enough to see that part of it lies in His desire to see me grow, to become more like Him. To see me take action on a conviction that has been growing in me for a year. To reassure me that He’s not finished with me.

He’s not asking anything of me that He hasn’t asked of each of his children before:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. …May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 23-24 (NIV – emphasis mine)

I’m so glad I serve a faithful God, who loves me enough to discipline me and get my attention (even if said discipline pretty much sucked). Who loves me enough to remind me of what His will is for me. Who loves me enough to ask all this of me, then pours out His grace by telling me that He will take on the largest part of the burden, and do His will in me and through me. All I have to do is choose joy, prayer, and gratitude.

I can manage that. After all, the Holy Spirit lives within me, and with God, nothing is impossible.

I see a mountain crumbling.

What is God teaching you lately? What mountains are you facing? How can I pray for you?


I’ve Lost the Plot

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Please, watch this first, all the way through. I’ll wait.

Did you watch it? Good. Now you can read.

By far, this is the best song the Newsboys ever wrote. It never fails to convict me. It came to mind just now, as I was sharing a scripture with a friend, in the hopes of encouraging her. Yet, I’ve ceased to live that scripture myself in the past several weeks.

Apparently, all it takes to knock my faith down a peg or two is a virus. All it takes to get me to start grumbling and complaining is a physical, fleshly complaint.

All it takes to get me to forget that Jesus is coming back soon, and people around me are dying without Him, is a stinking microscopic germ.


The battle of the flesh has proven that I need to keep building my foundation, brick by brick. That I need to not only keep my eyes on the end of the story, but on the plot going on around me. The plot I’m at the center of. The daily grind that should be daily worship.

Have I lost my first love? Did I forget what He forgave?

I hate to face these questions, but I need to, daily. Busy or not. Sick or not. How dare I neglect the One I claim to love the most? Indeed, my spirit is so very willing, but my flesh is ridiculously weak.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

~Romans 7:15-24 (NIV)

This describes me perfectly. What I want to do (what is right and good), I do not do often enough, if at all. What I don’t want to do (give in to my flesh or temptations to sin) I do far too often. And what’s sad is that I know where my weak spot is. I don’t meet God face-to-face each day. I’ve come to realize that, while I cannot beat myself up for not being perfect; there is no excuse for me not to try. He gave his very life for me. His very blood. And I can’t even find a few minutes to just talk to him?

I seem to find plenty of time to do almost anything else I desire to do. *coughbloggingcough*

I may have lost the plot these past weeks, but I have found it again. I am so glad I serve the God of mercy and grace.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” ~1 John 1:9 (NIV)

Here’s to new starts, and the wonderful Grace that allows them!

Day 7: Words.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Today’s post took me all day to figure out. The task is to post a picture of my most treasured item. My mind ran the gamut from my wedding ring, to my Bible, around to my books in general, on to my camera, then to my scrapbooks. All of these are very treasured items, indeed. However, none of them seemed quite right.

I’ve never really been much for “stuff”. There are other things I find more important. Still, I wanted to stick to what the topic asked for, if I could. I closed my eyes and tried to think of things I have held onto the longest, for no apparent good reason.

It dawned on me.

There are two cards in a cheap photo album I have had since I was a teenager. The only cards I have purposefully saved in a place where I can read them at will. Cards filled with priceless words. Words too precious for me to post them here. I carry them somewhere inside of me, and they come out and bless me on hard days.

Words of love, encouragement, and faith from my parents.

I remember the day this card showed up. I was having what Anne Shirley would call a “Jonah Day” at school. I was in high school, I don’t quite remember the year. All I remember, as though it were yesterday, was opening the door to my bedroom, finding it spotless, and this card resting on my pillow.

Before I even opened the purple envelope, there were tears of gratitude for the woman whom I had blown by with a trifling and sullen “Hi,” just moments before.

I sat down, and I read. I fed my hungry eyes on lovely purple script, and my mom’s distinctive handwriting, then tasted it again. I remember walking out to the living room, where Mom was reading in a chair. I knelt in front of her, put my head in her lap, and cried. I couldn’t speak – at least, I don’t remember speaking. Mom and I had a moment. A moment I continue to draw strength from. I don’t know if she ever knew how much her words fed my very soul that day. (Well, Mom, if you’re reading this – now you know.)

This card came from my daddy. It accompanied the purity ring I had asked for for my 16th birthday, but did not receive until six months later at Christmastime. A beautiful, simple gold band with emeralds and cubic zirconia. A ring I still have, much worn, waiting for one of my daughters to wear.

My dad is not a man of many words, but the ones he speaks are always worth listening to. When he says something, he means it.

His words fill up the entire blank side of the card. Words of pride in his daughter, words of encouragement to stick to the promise I was making by putting on that ring. Words of blessing for my future husband and me. Words of deep love. Words I have never forgotten, and have always tried to live up to.

Really, my dad is so easy to please. I didn’t have to try very hard to make him proud – he consistently made it abundantly clear that no matter what, he would always be a safe place of love and encouragement, no matter how hard I might fall. His precious words, in that all-too-familiar handwriting, are words I fall back on often.

So, I guess that’s it. Words of love and affirmation, written down, from my parents – and anyone else I respect and love deeply – mean more to me than any other material thing I possess.

Here is the complete topic list for this particular challenge, if you’re interested in doing it too.

What is your most treasured material possession? What makes it so special to you? Do share!


Topic 18: Accomplishments.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

This week’s 30 More Topic has confounded me. I look back on my life, and I don’t really see any “great” accomplishments. Anything resembling an accomplishment of any “great” magnitude in my life has been due to the influence and working of the Holy Spirit within and through me. I do not say this to seem spiritual or super-duper humble. I am neither of those things. I have some humble moments here and there, but that’s about all that can be said for me in that arena.

Perhaps I am taking this question too seriously. I have a tendency to do that.

Still, at the ripe old age of 29, I have had relatively little time to accomplish very much. I cannot say I have accomplished motherhood, because my stint here is not anywhere near completed. I am right in the middle of its glorious messiness. I consider it an accomplishment if I go to bed with a clean kitchen, and the coffee fairies have been set to work! My life feels more like a long series of little, mundane accomplishments and failures that happen moment by moment.

Still, I suppose “greatest” is a relative term. Those little accomplishments throughout my day certainly feel great, and were achieved with great effort at the time.

Things like…

…confronting the third, entire glass of milk in a morning, whose contents have been splattered across most of the kitchen’s landscape – including the sliding glass door and vertical blinds, without losing my temper, or even being significantly rumpled. Outwardly, anyway.

…using little to no sarcasm, snippy-ness, or nagging in my communications with Levi in the course of a day. It’s so easy to resort to this, because it comes so naturally to my “I’m always right” sensibilities. Especially on Sunday mornings. If I can make it an entire day without doing this, it’s a miracle.

…checking off even one item on my to-do list for the day, and not kicking myself for neglecting to do everything on that evil, ever-present, ever-growing list.

…making a loved one smile on a bad day. If I can scatter a little sunshine here and there during my day, I can go to bed feeling as though I have accomplished a small part of God’s purpose for me. Even better if I did it for anyone living in my own household.

…getting through all of our planned schooling for each day. Without anyone needing to be strung up by their little dirty toes. Or Mommy needing a time-out. Okay, it’s not that bad – I really enjoy our school time, but even on the easy days, it takes a lot of commitment to get through all we need to in order to make progress.

…remembering appointments or commitments. I sometimes forget these things, even if I have written them down on both of my calendars. It’s really quite ridiculous and inexcusable. My accomplishment here is that this forgetfulness is happening less and less, if I step back and look at the big picture.

…maintaining any kind of vague routine for more than a week at a time.

There you have it: my greatest accomplishments in life. Aren’t you impressed? I knew you would be!

In all seriousness, though, I really do feel strongly that anything great I have accomplished (like childbirth) is not because of my inherent goodness or strength. After all, any goodness in me is like a filthy, dirty, used-up rag compared to the pristine, white linen standard of perfection held aloft by Jesus. Any unadulterated goodness in me comes directly from His work in me. And I like it that way. Kind of takes the pressure off of me. I can throw up my hands in surrender, and ask Him to just take over, because I’ve already screwed up. The beauty of it is that He does!

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV)

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV – emphasis mine)

Ultimately, the more surrendered I am, the more accomplished I am. May this be more and more true of me every moment, every day.

What things make you feel accomplished?

May your day be filled with little accomplishments and encouragements.


A New Challenge

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

I read this quote at Stories In My Pocket yesterday, and it challenged me. Do I write simply because I want to say something? I know that sometimes, when I’m in conversation with people, that is exactly what I do, verbally. Silence is hard for me. Not awkward. Just hard. I somehow find myself believing that I need to fill the gap with something, so I speak. And speak. And speak.

To be honest, I really don’t even notice that I’m doing it, until I look back on a conversation later, and wince at my over-bearing domination of it. Especially when it’s something I’m passionate about, like birth, or Jesus.

Do I write the same way? Do I write simply because I must say something, and anything will do?

I’m afraid to admit that I think I do, indeed, do this more often than not.

I would like this year to be the year in which I find my voice on this personal blog of mine, and write because I have something to say. What exactly is it that I want to say here? I would like to narrow my focus, and make sure each word I write has a purpose – that it’s not just here, filling a little tiny corner of the Internet, and not really saying much. I use an awful lot of words for this to be the case!

It’s time I put my words to good use.

One way I hope to do that is to write as consistently as possible this year, and using some assigned topics to break me out of my typical box, challenge me, and help me to search out what it is I want to say here. So, I am joining the WordPress Post-a-Day challenge for 2011. The only day I will not commit to writing something is Sunday. That is my day of rest and quiet and family. I won’t intrude on it.

I already have at least a vague idea of which direction I want to take here. I want to encourage people. Bring a little beauty, joy, or inspiration to someone, somewhere, each day. I want to be a ray of light into darkened corners. I want people to smile because of me. At the same time, I want people to see the real me – not the internet me. I want people to take heart as they see me struggle and surrender; climb and fall; discover, learn, and grow.

Can I do it? I suppose we’ll just have to see. Call me out, won’t you? Leave comments, let me know how I’m doing! If I’m going to know whether or not I’m achieving my goal to inspire and encourage, I’m going to need you, my precious readers, to let me know!

If you’d like to join either of the WordPress challenges (they have a Post-a-Week challenge too), then just click HERE to sign up!