general parenting

Self-Care: Another Form of Sabbath we’ve been Neglecting

There is nothing quite like the stillness of morning.

When my babies were little, I did the wise thing and slept as long as they did, often trying to delay the arrival of morning by snuggling them close in bed and nursing them back to sleep as many times as they’d allow.

But these days, I set an alarm for at least an hour before those little eyes will open. I’ve crept downstairs in the darkness, lit candles around my living room, stretched out on a yoga mat, and eased into the day. I’ve poured myself a hot cup of coffee, sweetening it with honey, and relished its sweet, earthy taste. I’ve read a few words or scripture or a poem as the dawn slowly turns the black sky to gray, then pink. I’ve listened to the chirping of the crickets and the gentle swell of traffic.

Then, I try to work a little on this blog, or I’ll read a book or, most recently, lesson plan for homeschool preschool.

Quite honestly, it’s worth losing sleep over. I’m a better wife, a better mom, a better human in general, when I take some time to do what brings a little refreshment to my life.

Self-Care is a form of Sabbath Rest

The term “self-care” may seem new and trendy, but the concept of it is extremely important and has been for all of human history. In this day and age, we’ve strayed far away from the concept of sabbath that our creator so intentionally designed, and to our detriment. We fill our lives with events, tasks, stuff, screens, entertainment, and general noise, most of which are life-sucking as opposed to life-giving. Consequently, we shouldn’t be surprised when we become anxious, stressed, strung-out, impatient, quick to judge, quick to become angry, discouraged, weary.

I think it’s especially hard to practice self-care as a parent. I remember being warned, especially by Christians, about not allowing your child to be come the center of the universe when you become a parent. While I think that warning is well-intended, it’s also misguided. Our children, especially when they are little, are entirely dependent on us. We have to make sacrifices to care for them. They are not the center of the universe, an idol that we cast our entire lives down before, but they are God-given missions that we must pour into and care for with Christ-like selflessness. Their needs are many, and our responsibility is great.

What that means, though, is that it’s very important for us to have moments to recharge, to sneak away, as Jesus did, for some solitude. That looks different for everyone.

But what I’ve noticed in myself, though, is that if I don’t take some time to appreciate beauty, care for my body, commune with my Lord, I don’t have as much energy or patience to love my children well.

It’s a humbling thing when you hear yourself yelling at your toddler out of your own deficit, choosing the quick flare of anger over patience, then hearing your three-year old say to you,  crying, “Wait, Mommy, God will wipe away my tears.” The lesson I had taught hours ago to bring about a sense of comfort was now being applied to a situation I had created.

Would I have practiced more self-control and grace for him if I had taken time to care for myself? Probably.

We Need It

Listen. Parenting is rough. Our kids will frustrate us, break stuff, spill stuff, hurt their sibling, interrupt our sacred time with our spouse. Marriage is hard. You will argue and miscommunicate, you will hurt each other at times, and you will look back at the times when things were “easier”. Life is difficult. We work and strive and struggle and doubt and fear and get distracted and overwhelmed and exhausted.

It’s important to let go of unnecessary burdens. It’s ok to say “no” to things sometimes, things that deplete us or overwhelm us or take away from our time with people and hobbies we love. It’s good to say “yes” to rest and restoration, even at the expense of our never-ending to-do lists.

But it’s more than just vegging. Sabbath was meant to be a time to be reflective, restorative, intimate. It was an antidote to a busy workweek, a balance to productiveness, a time to be. To sit back and watch Netflix for ten hours straight may be convenient, but it won’t offer life to your soul the way a walk through the woods, reading a thoughtful book, or snuggling with your spouse will. Each of us has our own set of things that fill us up, and you know what it it is for you. And it’s important to choose those things when time and circumstances permits.

Practice It

So that’s my encouragement to myself and to you, dear reader. Take time today to do something that brings you joy or peace, something that fills you up. Try to do it unplugged. Practice awareness. Appreciate beauty. Contemplate truth. Adventure outdoors. Taste wholesome food and drink. Move your body. Embrace your loved ones. Sing, dance, look, listen, laugh, play, reflect, stretch, serve, admire, create, love.

Then, give. It’s with wisdom that Jesus commissioned us to love our neighbors as ourselves, not more than ourselves. If you’re like me, it may be a lot easier to love others when you take a little time to love yourself, too.

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