Sunday, January 24, 2016

Making Self-Care a Priority

Last January was one of the greatest new beginnings that I have experienced, and I didn’t even plan it. I hadn’t made any sort of resolution that led to this new start, but the Lord had worked things in my life that forced me to resolve to begin anew in some ways.

I had been very sick for 3 months without a known cause until discovering in January that my wide range of frightening symptoms all stemmed from problems with my spine and the nerves running out of my upper back and neck.

When finally settling on the diagnosis, my doctor said that I absolutely must start exercising regularly or just accept that I would likely never feel better. My back was weak and discs and vertebrae were suffering, and exercise was required to build muscle to support my spine.  I literally hadn't exercised in years. I had neglected to take care of myself physically to the point that I was greatly incapacitated by lack of stewardship of my body.

So, given the ultimatum to exercise or suffer, I started back to ballet, which I had studied until I was a young adult. I knew it would be good exercise and good for my posture, and hoped it would be enjoyable too. You see, when I had quit, I had completely burnt out and never thought I’d desire to dance again. At this moment though, dancing seemed more interesting to me than other options, so I decided to give it a try.

I showed up to the first class, and to my surprise, I experienced one of the biggest surges of joy that I had experienced in years. I was reminded of a long faded passion for music, movement, and beauty. I immediately felt the benefit to not only my body, but to my emotions and soul that come about through physical exercise and doing something I had once loved. My physical symptoms resolved over a period of weeks, and my emotional and spiritual health also greatly improved.

A picture from after class in November.

As a mother of 4 young kids serving overseas, life always feels intense. There doesn’t feel like there is space for anything superfluous, and in reality there rarely is. But what I have been learning is that caring for myself is not superfluous. It is necessary. It is necessary for my ability to be a good mom and wife, it is necessary for longevity on the mission field, it is necessary to keep me from imploding under the weight of all that urgently needs to be done in this life, and it is necessary to remind me that I am loved by the Lord and that He desires to care for me as His daughter. I am not His slave, but His beloved daughter whose mind, body, and soul matter greatly to Him. 

Last year was the beginning of a journey in learning how to make sure that I am a good steward of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I was forced to fit a hobby/exercise back into my life, and realized that though it does take time, my capacity has actually increased. I am better able to love and serve others and to accomplish my daily tasks because I am so much more refreshed than I have been in years past. I also have had so much more authentic joy in the Lord.

I write this to you as encouragement to those of you who, like me until God forced a change, feel like there just isn’t any space for you to care for yourself. To me it literally felt impossible to add anything to my life at the moment that I was forced to do so. It does take creativity, and at first it will look like sacrifice and perhaps even an impossibility like it did to me until receiving the doctor’s ultimatum, but often there really is a way if you we are willing to work to find it. As mothers and missionaries, we are very used to and skilled at putting our needs aside for long seasons, but sometimes we need also to remember how to be good stewards of the mind, body, and soul given to us by the Lord. He loves you and cares about all aspects of who you are!

Here are a few questions I’ve come up with to perhaps help in brainstorming ways to move towards greater health in this New Year if you are feeling stuck:

1.       In what area am I feeling most depleted? (Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Relationally?...)

2.       What are some things that bring me joy, fulfillment, and health in this area? What are some things that I have benefited from in the past in this regard, or what is something that I’ve always wanted to try?

3.       If I were commanded by an authority that I absolutely must make space in my life for one of these things, how would I do it? What would I cut out to make room? How practically could I make it happen? Whose help would I need to make this a reality?

4.       Without being literally commanded to do so, could I try stepping out in faith to care for myself in this area of need? 

Have you had similar new beginnings with regards to your own self-care? Are you willing to share an area where you are feeling depleted and perhaps need to begin caring more for your own well-being?


  1. LOVE the photo~ beautiful!

    I also find self care a hard one... (are we like secret twins... doubt and self care??? ;-) )

    I tend to equate self care with selfishness, no matter how hard I try and end up feeling guilty. I'm in much the same boat, though - where I have to keep physically active or my joints and back give me a lot of grief. I'd finally gotten myself in a good routine before moving to Quebec and am now struggling to find that routine again... and also looking for a dance outlet (although not nearly so classical - I used to perform with a folk and international dance troupe).

    Great, great questions! Thanks for including them.

    1. Ha ha! I'd be so honored if I were your secret twin, Richelle! =D

      I totally relate with you on the self-care=selfishness struggle. That has always been a battle for me too. Even now I sometimes fear the potential of swinging too far and making too much of self-care and forgetting that God often calls us to sacrifice and perseverance. I think this year is the first year, though, when I have seen as clear as day what a difference it has made not just for me, but for my family and others that I serve when I take care of myself. I think the medical stuff was a unique and intense situation, and I have wondered if God didn't allow it because I am pretty dense when it comes to certain lessons and just needed the Him to shout at me on this one!

      How fun that you too are looking for a dance outlet! I hope you find something that is just right for you! I love watching various types of folk dance and dances from various countries. Let us know if you end up finding something!

  2. I can relate to the struggle with self-care. Once I realized stress was affecting my health, I was able to make some changes, slowly. It helps me to write things at certain times on my calendar. Then I'm more likely to do it, or to tell someone "no" about something happening during that time.