Scurrying to clean up my kitchen one morning, the Lord spoke to me: “Slow down.”
I set down a saucepan and its lid, dropped the kitchen towel, and stopped in my tracks. I had been rushing around to prepare a healthy breakfast and clean up, in order to get to more important things in my day.
He kept speaking: “That’s what’s wrong with people today. They think of caring for themselves as ancillary to life. It is part of life.”
A Late-Winter Wake-Up
A timely message, I thought. I’d been struggling that week with an overload of stress. It felt like I had too much to do. Taking care of “me” was low on the list. As a result, I was sleeping poorly. I had a tight upper back and racing thoughts.
I’m not the only one. My mind was flooded with unsettling images of people I know—mostly parents and their children. I could see them with backpacks and briefcases, rushing to their cars after school and work. They greeted each other speedily. The adults checked their cell phones as kids scoured the Internet or played video games on their devices.
Off they drove, but not home. They hit the drive-through for some coffee and fast food. Next stop: sports practices, music lessons, church groups, or all of the above. In the midst of this, they were checking homework, telephoning a spouse to start the laundry, making a grocery list, or navigating traffic.
Landing at home later that evening, the family members were too exhausted to interact. They prepped for the next day and fell into bed, almost too tired to sleep.
A sobering question came to my mind: What are we doing to ourselves?
We’re suffering. Our commutes grow longer while our time with loved ones grows briefer. Our human interactions are interrupted by the digital world, and we seem unable or unwilling to filter it out. Our guts take in little nutritive food, yet our waistlines seem to be expanding.
The pace of life leaves us tired out; the daily grind leaves us full of doubt, in a jumble of misplaced priorities.
My own week has been full of worry and stress. It’s wearing me down, like a rushing river that carves away the walls of a mountain with its cauldron of frothing foam. Health and relationships erode.
I’ve prayed about it. Thankfully, God has His solutions.
I’ll have to cut my work hours, spend more time on nutrition, and rest from usual activities in order to heal. Even knowing this is God’s plan, I may still need to chase away a nagging feeling that I haven’t gotten enough done each day.
Do you feel that way too? Do you feel guilty after 30 minutes doing nothing on the couch? Do you gauge your worth based on how many items you can check off your “to do” list? I’ve been there.
A few times a week, I sink into an Epsom salt bubble bath. Occasionally, I think about the hot water I am “wasting” or what I could be doing instead of soaking for 20 minutes. For me, the baths are highly relaxing and do dual duty to remove toxins through my skin. So why do I feel a twinge of guilt for self-care?
God is working on me.
One Month Later…
A bit of time has passed, and I am revisiting this writing–and my state of mind.
Peace has settled on me. I am learning to let God redefine my priorities. What He says is important, is important.
I don’t make to-do lists any more. I pray first and get started on one thing. As I near the finish line, I ask Holy Spirit, “What’s next?” He always answers! I can do one thing at a time. Aaaaaah!
I work two days a week in a part-time job; write and create at home for several additional days; make myself available for the needs of extended family members and close friends; and minister in my church on Sundays.
Given all that meaningful work, I’ve learned that I must schedule time each week for rest. I’m talking about a bowl of popcorn and a Hallmark Channel movie, a nap, a hike with my camera, or a potluck with my family. These things invigorate me.
Exercise helps too. I now understand that I must allot 3 to 5 hours of my week to physical activity. My house is a bit dustier, but my temple is cleaner. Fringe benefit: I am headed for summer with better fitness and more vitality!
Emotionally, I surround myself with people who can echo good things into my life. They see the good in me, forgive the bad, and encourage me on life’s journey.
What God has started in me, He is faithful to complete. I am feeling the rhythm of life: work a little, worship a little, rest a little, exercise a little, pray a little, laugh a little, play a little—then repeat! He is making me stronger emotionally, mentally, and physically.
The words of Proverbs 3:5-6 come to mind: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
I am happy to be on this journey with you.
May He lead you on paths beside still waters.