Sitting in Erin Loechner’s session at the Influence Conference, as she spoke on the topic “Lean Back: Encouragement for the weary, the tired, the women in the trenches,” I felt myself relax a bit.
I had walked into that room with makeup on, in my cute dry-clean-only schoolboy blazer and favorite oxford shoes. But heart-wise I still felt weary, and tired, and in the trenches of motherhood, like the day-old sweats you would often find me in at home. I was raw from mentally rehashing a decision to quit a job working with women I loved, chock full of encouragement, in favor of a job that is unseen with very few pats on the back. A while ago, I read in a parenting book that small children are like cavemen. As a parent you begin by teaching your little ones all the basics of civilization: how to talk and put on clothes, how to bathe and use the restroom, silverware, toothbrushes, pleases and thank yous. And some days it is tiring to be surrounded by cavemen. I crave the company of the five civilized, smart, lovely women I worked with for two and a half years.
But calling doesn’t always mean comfortable. I felt peace about this decision in March to step back for a season and focus on our kids. I willingly put my love of work, production, and accomplishment down, in favor of taking a turn carrying the baton in the long marathon of parenthood. I know work will be waiting for me when they start school. I know this season is short and sweet and valuable. Some days it does feel long though. Some days I feel weary from reminders to say please, the teething, and potty training of my cute cavemen. Anything else would surely be more glamorous. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t called to fill this particular role as Evie + Tommy’s mama, at home, today.
So, sitting there listening to Erin talk about rest, self-care, and calling for help (especially to God, but also those nearest to you), was like a gust of refreshing sweet spring air to my soul. Here are the things I want to remember and rub into my brain:
- Lean back instead of in. Sometimes it is ok to say no to some things, in order to say yes to others. For this season, I know that volunteering in my kids’ Sunday School class is not the right choice, even if it is the “good girl” thing to do. I really need some time with adults to take care of myself. It’s ok to lean back in the church pew and not feel guilty about serving that Sunday.
- Calling is slow and steady. I first heard this at Q Women last year, and it has stuck with me. I do not have to have my calling completely figured out in my 20s. Calling doesn’t always mean your life is comfortable, passionate, easy, or impressive. Sometimes it is hard, messy, unique and you might question it. Calling doesn’t equate with a job title or a paystub. It can feel like a trench in a war zone – but trenches are the safest place you can be. Living out what God has called me to is the absolute best place I can be…even when I’m weary.
- Don’t focus too much on the future. I’ve been reading The Screwtape Letters again, and one favorite passage (Ch. 6, if you want to read it) reminded me that today is what matters. God has given me daily bread for today’s tribulations. Erin spoke about manna – how there was just enough for one day at a time. God always provided more the next day. Sometimes I catch myself worrying about five steps down the road or looking sideways and wondering how I would handle someone else’s tribulation. But God is calling me to submit to my day, just today. Seeing God’s provision is simple when I remember to go one day at a time.
- Self-care looks different for each of us. I love how Erin pointed out that Instagram is showing us everyone’s best day – their favorite self-care method. It might be a good book, or a healthy meal, or a girls’ night out, or a tidy home, or a long run. When I see it all strung together, suspecting I have to do ALL those things to take care of myself, self care becomes stressful. But it should be basic.
For me, self-care always starts with a shower. Add in this shower oil or this salt scrub, and for less than a dollar, I feel like I went to a fancy spa. (Read this for more ideas from Erin.) I’m also learning the art of an epsom salt bath, which has all kinds of benefits apparently. Pilates and yoga are my favorite kinds of exercise since they remind me of how strong and lithe I felt as a gymnast. And sleep.
ps. This post on Erin’s blog, Design for Mankind, is a little excerpt from her conference session. Her blog remains one of my go-tos, and it was a treat to meet her. Her writing is insightful, poetic, honest yet gentle. Worth reading.
(top photo by Sara Albers, via Minted.)
Where do you start for self-care?