The Secret to Practicing Self-Care in Your Crazy, Right-Now Life

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Do you ever feel like certain seasons are defined by weariness?

  • the mental and physical weariness of your own everyday life
  • the emotional weariness of living in a cruel and tragic world
  • the personal grief and private trials of your own small life

 

We’re only two months into a new year but I write from a place of utter weariness. It’s been a long year already.

I lost my friend to cancer almost three weeks ago.

She was my own age – a wife, a mom to 3 kids, a beloved Kindergarten teacher. We lived next door for 10 years, raising our kids on communal popsicles and sharing so much of life together.

I’ve been working on this post in fits and starts for two weeks, writing from a place of grief and all of its accompanying friends – fatigue, confusion, and weepiness that comes out of nowhere. I wish I was a child who could be sent to time out. For like, 4 weeks.

There are still mouths to feed and work to do and decisions to make, and this is a good thing. But I go through these everyday motions with a heaviness I can’t shake off.

It’s not an unfamiliar place. Just over three years ago, I lost another dear friend to cancer – a wife and mom in her 40s, a devoted college professor, the most loyal friend.

Loss has a way of refining our truest priorities, doesn’t it?

A year and a half ago, my grandmother’s death reoriented me in ways I didn’t know I needed. The words I read at her funeral began my journey of receiving my right-now season of life even though it meant letting go of a hoped-for dream, of learning to see limitations as gifts instead of liabilities.

But this is a lesson I am slow to learn.

There’s nothing like losing two women your very own age to force you to examine what you want your own life to be about, especially when they’ve loved you and others generously.

 

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I had a difficult conversation with my husband recently. It didn’t start out as a speak-the-hard-truth sort of talk; it really just began as an apology. But we can’t always predict where our words will lead and this particular exchange landed me in a painful place. I’d been operating from a know-it-all place of entitlement and expectation. I could see exactly what the issues were and guess what? I wasn’t the problem.

Except that I was, in fact, a very big part of the problem.

This is marriage. Nothing happens in a vacuum; we’re both wrong and also right. But in this case, grace showed up and allowed me to receive the hard truth, to hold it up to the light and discern a thing or two.

Here’s the paraphrased version:

We loved each other almost immediately. Back then, I knew how to live fully and freely in the moment, to laugh long and hard and easy. I was audacious and optimistic and brimming with love. But that person doesn’t come around much anymore. It’s sad and frustrating to be with someone you don’t much recognize, to miss the person you fell in love with.

He reminded me that I know all too well what that’s like. And I do. For a long season, I didn’t recognize him either. By grace, God brought him back, but I know what it’s like to miss someone even though you both still live under the same roof.

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Then he said something that I can’t stop thinking about:

I don’t care if you never put another meal on the table. What matters to me and to the kids is the person you are when you’re with us. And we’re all walking on eggshells around here.

Happy times.

The drama of our life together is one for the books. We are a marriage of redemption, partially because we’ve given God so much material to work with. At first, I resisted the truth he spoke because I wanted to blame him for my own stressy demeanor that has apparently had everyone treading so lightly.

But he spoke those painful words in love and I knew he was right. The truth is, I’ve missed myself too.

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I know what you may be thinking: What does any of this have to do with rest and self-care?

I’ll tell you what. I have not been living within my means.

What’s the secret to practicing self-care in the midst of your crazy, right-now life?

Learning to recognize and receive your own limitations. 

When I don’t live within my means, I don’t live a life defined by love. I live a life defined by stress, anxiety, worry, and control. I am not kind or patient with those I love most.

Simply put, I’ve increasingly stretched myself too thin. I’ve said yes when I should have said no. I’ve been so busy tending to the immediate and the urgent that I’ve neglected the important. I’ve chosen agenda over relationship. I’ve tried to be my own savior and other people’s too. I’ve let fear have its way with me. I’ve brewed extra coffee instead of taking a nap.

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I’ve learned these lessons before and I should know better. I’ve read Essentialism for crying out loud. But living beyond our means doesn’t happen all at once.

Step by step, I’ve slowly crept into the rolling fog of overwhelm until I could no longer see clearly. I’ve been blind to my own sin and lack of love, blaming others for my woes — spouse, kids, circumstances I didn’t deserve.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. What do I want my life to be about?

Love.

I want to live a life defined by love.

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Jesus said that the second greatest commandment (after loving God with all that you are) is loving your neighbor as yourself. We tend to zero in on the “neighbor” part of that verse, while ignoring an implicit truth.

To know how to love others, we need to know how to love ourselves.

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This is the trickiest of truths to unpack, partially because our culture paints “loving yourself” into some sort of Real Housewives caricature of personal indulgence. That’s not the sort of loving yourself I’m talking about. That’s just narcissism.

The great thing about the Christian faith is that we have a God who became a real man and lived among us. His life is actually written down for us, which means we can learn from him and through him.

Here is the perfect example of someone who loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength AND loved his neighbor as himself. Jesus, even though He was God and could have lived beyond his human capacity, chose not to. Which means He lived within his means. He honored his own limitations.

He slept when He was tired.

He retreated from crowds when He was overwhelmed and needed to rest, regroup, and pray.

He took naps, even when a literal storm raged around him and everyone was freaking out. When He woke up, He calmly took care of business and did not waste precious energy coming unhinged.

He dined leisurely with friends and family.

He made wine flow abundantly so that his loved ones could prolong their celebration.

He did not hurry. 

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He did not heal everyone who needed healing.

He did not take advantage of every great opportunity that came his way, even though those closest to him said he should. 

He learned a trade and worked, making beautiful and useful things with his hands.

He knew that the Scriptures were his food and his life.

Jesus was not a workaholic. He honored the God-given rhythms of work and rest.

Even though we know that God’s power sustained him through temptation and suffering, I can’t help but wonder if the fruit of these disciplines helped nourish him during the times when he did have to live beyond his means. 

When He was being tempted in the desert for 40 days.

When crowds were pressing in on Him.

When He kept teaching for hours on end and had to feed thousands of hungry people. 

When the religious establishment harassed him endlessly.

In the days leading up to his death.

As he suffered and eventually died for a world that did not see who He was.

Like him, we face situations or seasons when we’re forced to live in crisis mode, when there are no healthy rhythms because we’re just trying to survive or help others survive. Jesus lived in the same broken world we live in — he was called upon to step in to crises, to go without sleep, to do God’s work when he was exhausted.

But he didn’t live this way all the time.

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What might it look like to seek the greatest good of those around you in the same way that you naturally, instinctively, seek the greatest good for yourself?

  • Honoring your limitations and honoring their limitations
  • Receiving compassion and grace for yourself, giving compassion and grace to those around you
  • Receiving rest for yourself and providing rest to others
  • Caring for your own body and caring for the bodies of those you love — with food, with tenderness, with intention

 

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I am not my own end game. When I learn how to care for myself in this Jesus way, I also learn how to care for others in this Jesus way.

Living loved helps me live love. 

I continue to learn the hard way that if I don’t honor my human limitations and care for myself accordingly, I can’t love others well. Or sometimes at all.

Even if there weren’t others to care for or live in relationship with, knowing that the Creator of the universe loves you and delights in you regardless of what you accomplish — that’s who God created us to be. Learning to live loved is enough.

But people do need you. They need the unique brand of love and work and giftedness that only you can offer the world.

  • They don’t need a bootstrapped version of you that will burn out.  
  • Or a dutiful but resentful version of you (my personal favorite)
  •  Or an apathetic, checked-out version of you
  •  Or a you that is so focused on everyone else that you are falling apart on the inside / bitter / coping in all the wrong ways

 

By learning what it looks like to love ourselves in the midst of our right-now lives, we can begin to live lives defined by love.

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I’ve tried all sorts of things in the name of self-care — exercise, eating well, taking supplements or medicine, getting a break. I still do these things to varying degrees. But I’m here to tell you, after years of trial and error, that honoring my limitations makes more of a difference than anything else.

Learning to rest, to let go of what I can, to ration my energy, to always count the cost of stress — these are the most loving things I can do for myself and the people I love.

In what areas do you need to rest, scale back, or let go?

What may feel selfish at first could actually breathe more life into yourself, your work, your home, and the world you influence.

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The next post in this series, coming to you sooner rather than later, will get super practical. I’ve learned there are little changes we can make in our everyday lives that yield big exhales (to us and to our people.)

If you find yourself in any of the following statements, the next post in the series is for you:

  • I can’t spend money on spa days or shopping weekends. How can I practice self-care? (Me either.)
  • My life has zero margin.
  • I have little kids. What is this “rest” you speak of?
  • I literally don’t know where to start. I’ve always been focused on the needs of those around me. To think of my own feelings, desires, or needs is a foreign concept.
  • I probably focus too much on myself and not enough on those around me. How can I find a healtier way to care for myself?
  • I’m so busy fulfilling my many responsibilities. Self-care will have to wait.
  • I am a Real Housewife and this post offends me. How DARE you?

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If this series sounds like something you need, all you have to do is subscribe to this online space. (You can do that in the box below this post.) If you’re already subscribed, yay! You’ll automatically receive it. The series is totally free.

Simply come and receive.

Whenever the latest installment of the series is published, you’ll be the first to know and you won’t miss a post.

Other posts in the series:

Post 1: How to Live Your Ordinary Life with Extraordinary Purpose

Post 2: The One Word that Forever Changed How I Approach the Bible

Post 3: When Your Right-Now Life Needs a Realistic Way to Study Scripture

 

Click here to leave a question or comment. You can also chime in on social media. (Links below.)

Weekend Links: Treat Yourself to Summer Awesomeness

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Happy Summer, friends! It’s been a bit quiet on the blog this week but never fear. I’m storing up some fun summery goodies for you, rolled out at a leisurely pace in the coming weeks because that’s what summer should be.

In the meantime, the internet has rolled out some gifts of its own this week and I don’t want you to miss out on great reads, awesome showtime, and much-needed moments of stillness to reset our soul and spirit as we transition from hustle to a slower pace.

Enjoy this early summer weekend!

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The Minimalist Summer Reading Guide from Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy

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Five carefully curated books in six wonderful categories. This is THE reading guide for “decision-haters.” {Hand raised!} I love Anne’s annual summer reading guide and this one may be my favorite, simply because she’s made it so easy for us

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Introducing SHOW CLUB from Kendra Adachi at The Lazy Genius Collective

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Kendra is my favorite lazy genius and she’s going to help us all get LOST this summer. Curious? You should be. Check it out.

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7 Days of Still Moments from Emily P. Freeman

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It’s like Emily surveyed my spinning mind and rapidly beating heart, took me by the hand, and said, “Oh sister, let me help you get your bearings during this time of change.” If you do nothing else today, do this. All you have to do is click. Emily does the rest and your soul will be the better for it.

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a personal note:

It’s been a frantic and heavy two weeks for us. In the midst of typical end-of-school-year crazy, we attended / participated in two funerals over five days. Don’t worry, we’re okay. While death is always painful, these passings were, in a way, timely instead of tragic. After 73 years of marriage, my dear grandparents died just 5 days apart. We have grieved but we’re also grateful. In many ways we should all be so lucky.

I’m fascinated by the mystery of two hearts linked together like that; it’s the stuff movies are made of. But for us, they were simply a real couple that we had the privilege of knowing and loving for so many years.

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Their love story inspired this post, What “For Better or For Worse” Really Means.

Don’t worry, it won’t make you feel like you need to try harder in your own marriage. It’s simply an honest account of how their 73-year commitment has helped breathe life into my own weathered union. If you’re tired of feeling like marriage sometimes {or all the time} brings out your worst instead of your best, rest assured. You’re not alone.

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coming up:

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Next week I’ll share some sanity-saving thoughts for the mom who has a complicated relationship with summer. {Hand raised again.}

Let’s just say the Vischer house did not get off to the happiest of starts. I’ll tell you the story next week. Thankfully there’s always hope for a restart. It’s the first of several posts I’ll serve up in the coming weeks to make summer a bit more realistically awesome for you.

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I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. If that sounds like something you need, subscribe in the box below to have fresh hope delivered to your inbox once or twice a week.

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{P.S. I’ll be hanging out on Instagram this summer. Join me?}

What “For Better or For Worse” Really Means

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The story goes that when he finally came home from World War 2, she nearly knocked him over as she threw her long arms around him.

You couldn’t blame her. She’d prayed for his safe return as days turned into months that turned into years.

Worry hung like heavy fog across the whole world back then. But I think most about the worry of her own inner world that was spinning a mile a minute on a thin axis of hope. She spent nearly 1,000 days as a young wife without the certainty of her husband’s heartbeat. Can you imagine such a thing?

They went on to have three children, four grandchildren, and thirteen great-grandchildren. They served together in the home, in the church, in the public schools, and in the community. For seventy-three years they served together.

Last Friday around 3 am he peacefully went to be with Jesus. Five days later, also around 3 am, she joined him. It is surely one of the most bittersweet things I’ve ever witnessed.

The morning after her husband had passed, my dad went to see her straight away — to comfort his mother and to make sure she understood that her husband of all those years was gone. “Oh Lord,” she wept, “What am I going to do?”

Less than 48 hours later, she was unresponsive. We buried my grandfather, all of us emotional through the military honors as they handed my aunt the American flag. Two hours later we were at Gigi’s bedside, telling her goodbye and giving our blessing to fly on home.

After 73 years together, they left this earth just 5 days apart.

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My daughter said she can’t imagine being married to someone for 73 years, that a couple would surely drive one another crazy and get “super annoying” after all that time. I told her I can’t imagine it either and I affirmed that indeed, you do drive one another crazy and it doesn’t take 73 years.

I can’t remember all the words of our conversation but I remember a few. I told her that marriage isn’t contingent on things like not getting on each other’s nerves and our ever-changing feelings. That those early, fiery emotions don’t quite burn with the same intensity forever.

“They don’t?!? You mean you don’t always feel that way? That’s terrible! I don’t know if I want to get married.”

“You begin to experience something deeper and more lasting than that,” I told her. “The fire gives way to a depth of love and devotion that’s hard to explain.”

It felt like a watershed moment for me, a moment where my own words stared me square in the face and dared me to believe what I’d just spoken out loud.

My grandparents’ story is a love story but not in the Hollywood sort of way. The truth is, they bickered with one another like the old married couple they were. She fussed at him because of what he ate and he fussed at her for fussing at him. They were opposites in every way, each with their own brand of willfulness. He was a boisterous extrovert who lived a very public life and rarely had an unspoken thought. She was more private and introverted. But she had a dry wit that we began to observe {and relish} as she got older. Usually she directed her well-timed barbs at my verbose grandfather, putting him in his place while the rest of us giggled. It always caught us by surprise.

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Last summer, after she had moved in with my parents in order to receive the increasing care she needed, he came regularly to visit with her. The kids and I were over there often and Papa always greeted Gigi in the same way: “HELLOOOO SWEETHEART!”

Sometimes his overtures were well-received. Sometimes they weren’t. Perhaps dementia made her unpredictable; perhaps her own emotions made her unpredictable. She always came around eventually, but it was a reminder that marriage remains a complicated dance until the very end.

I’ve been married nearly 21 years. I keep waiting for it to be predictable and uncomplicated, to settle into a rhythm of ease and harmony. I don’t know whether it’s comforting or disconcerting that after 73 years, my grandparents didn’t feel like lovebirds all the time. {Or even most of the time?}

This week their 73-year commitment has breathed new life into my own weathered union, reminding me that it’s a precious gift to grow old together, especially when you’ve walked through the fires of real life to get there.

I know the intent of “for better for for worse” vows. Whether things are going well or going horribly, you stay together. But I’m learning to translate those words differently.

This person will see you at your best and at your worst. And this person will bring out both your best and your worst. 

Marriage isn’t for the faint of heart because it is both humbling and humiliating. I only want to see my best! I only want others to see my best! I only want to be around people who bring out the best in me! I want to immerse myself in work that showcases my best!

Marriage doesn’t let you hide. And that may be the toughest thing about it.

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Though death snuffs out life, it has a way of resurrecting perspective. This week I’ve thought a lot about real love, the kind of love that serves others. How it’s not the name we make for ourselves that matters but the life of sacrifice we pour out, the daily commitment that often goes unnoticed because it doesn’t garner “likes” or “retweets” or even a “thank you.”

My marital idealism flew the coop long ago. Our children already know that marriage isn’t easy and 100% romantic. We’ve been excellent role models in that way.

My hope is simple and singular — that my children will look at our life together and see the power of the Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ.

I hope they will say,

My mom and dad saw the absolute worst of one another and chose love anyway. It was the love during their worst that somehow rescued their best, transforming each of them into a version of themselves that never would have been possible otherwise.

This is what Jesus has done for me — seen me at my worst and loved me anyway. This is what Jesus has done for my husband — seen him at his worst and loved him anyway. This is what Jesus has done for the world — seen it at its worst and loved it anyway. Only this kind of love can bring out the best.

Not a manufactured best or a self-improvement-book best or an only-showcase-your-strengths best —

Our truest best is only born out of being lovingly rescued from our truest worst. 

I’m not sure why God chose marriage to be this most two-edged of mirrors but He did.

It’s easy to look at those 73 years together, wax on about commitment, and feel inspired to pull our best selves up by our bootstraps and go “live a legacy.” But willpower is no lasting match for two people who have pledged their lives to one another in wedded ignorance bliss. My grandfather survived the jungles of New Guinea and my grandmother survived the hot textile mills as a lonely war bride. But there were surely moments when they barely survived one another.

Thankfully, the sin and struggle didn’t get the last word. Love did.

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When my Papa arrived at his true home last Friday, it was only right that Gigi didn’t wait long before she flew home too. I like to think that she gave it a few days just to make him sweat it out a little bit, one last playful jab as she finally got her turn to have the last word.

But without him by her side, there was no real point in sticking around. I think she held on for him, even through her own suffering, because hers was a love that waited and sacrificed for the ones she loved.

This time she was the one who returned home to him and I imagine that she nearly knocked him over for the second time, both of them overjoyed to be reunited.

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I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox a couple of times a week.