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


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.


1 (3)


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.

window - 1

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.


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.


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?


I want to live a life defined by love.


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.

camera self portrait

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. 

1 (1)

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.


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


bright office

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.



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.


the sacred art graphic

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?


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.)

Why Taking the Time to Listen May be the Most Fruitful Way to Begin a New Year


It’s the beginning of January, the season for all things self-improvement.

I spent the first Monday of the New Year not going to my exercise class and staying in my pajamas to bask in the quiet and solitude of an empty house. I set aside my work tasks, lit a candle at my desk, spent a bit of time with the words of Jesus, grabbed my journal, pen, and book and settled into the leather recliner beside my desk.

Enveloped by the quiet of my home and the stillness of January, I tried to remember the last time I’d afforded myself such luxury. I couldn’t remember.

Sometimes we don’t realize how hungry we are until we actually sit down at the table to eat. That’s how I felt, like a starving girl who’s waited too long for nourishment.

The demands of the fall semester depleted me more than I realized. When the holidays rolled around, a glad spirit was nowhere to be found. My soul, battered by the waves of stress, emotional turmoil, family busy-ness, and mind-numbing distraction, washed up on the shore of December and lay there in an exhausted, burned-out heap.

We didn’t travel over Christmas so it should have felt easier. I kept waiting for a grand infusion of holiday spirit.


It’s so easy to forget who we truly are at our core and therefore what we really need. In recent months I’ve chosen distraction over reflection. I’ve numbed so that I wouldn’t have to feel. I’ve used busy-ness and legitimate responsibility as excuses for not pursuing the life-giving disciplines of solitude and writing.

When we sit in stillness, we’re forced to reckon with that which comes to the surface. I had pain I didn’t want to stare in the face. So I’d stop by Goodwill. Or scroll through Instagram. I’d become increasingly impulsive and less intentional. And while that feels good and sometimes even momentarily life-giving, I suffered from low-grade frustration, shame, and resentment.

This is not how I want my life to look. 

We can say that about all sorts of things over which we have no control — illness, tragedy, job loss. But mine was a self-induced disappointment. It’s easier to have compassion toward ourselves when we’re victims of external forces; it’s harder to climb out of a pit that we’ve made for ourselves and settled into.



In the past, I’d have bootstrapped my way into short-term self-improvement. Books! Lists! Goals!

But I’m tired. And I’ve tried all of that. I know the answers and there’s nothing trendy or sexy about any of it.

Today means forgoing the gym and wearing yesterday’s mascara. It means acknowledging my weariness and my lack. It means looking at my mistakes across the recent months, feeling the pain I’ve tried to numb, taking inventory of my real self and my real life and just listening for a bit.

Honestly, I prefer actionable steps and instant success, obvious answers and best practices.

But those are not the ways of the soul.

I’m rereading Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer and I love what he says about how our soul responds to force:

The soul is like a wild animal — tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.


I spent the first weekday of January “sitting at the base of a tree,” so to speak. And the truth of who I am began to emerge with more clarity and familiarity than I expected, especially since we’ve been a bit estranged for a while.

With Parker’s language, I spent some time asking myself honest questions about the “truths I embody” and the “values I represent.” I reflected on what my right-now life is telling me {the good, the bad, the ugly} and how that may intersect with the gifts I too often compartmentalize.

I took the time to listen to my life — repenting of the ways I’d misspent my time and effort and acknowledging the life-giving practices I’d neglected.

And for the first time in many, many weeks, the spark of hope began to warm me from within, shining its light into my rhythms, my roles, my work, and my creativity.

I look forward to sharing some hope-filled ideas with you in the coming year. Too often we believe that our right-now roles and routines crowd out the life-giving pursuits that make our hearts sing. But I believe there’s always space for our gifts to walk around in unlikely seasons of life instead of sitting in a box until life issues a more timely invitation.


If this sounds like the encouragement you need, I invite you to join the conversation so you won’t miss a thing. Simply enter your e-mail address in the box at the end of this post and you’re all set.

In the meantime, give your weary mind and soul the gift of solitude. Schedule it if you have to. Hide in your closet while your kids watch a show or give yourself some space during nap time. Spend your lunch break in a quiet place without your phone. Resist the urge to immediately make lists and default to actionable responses.

Listen to your life.

God speaks to us through his Word and through creation, in prayer and in silence. But He also directs us through the unique ways He’s wired us to think, work, create, lead, and serve in the world. When we don’t acknowledge the nuances of who we are, we can overlook what we might offer to those around us.

If you feel like it, take some time to journal the thoughts and emotions that come to the surface. It may feel awkward at first. And you may be surprised by what shows up.

Here are some simple questions that may help to guide your listening:

  • What has caused undue weariness?
  • How have you numbed, avoided, and distracted?
  • How have you tried to live a life that’s not yours?
  • What parts of yourself have you kept hidden? Why?
  • What truths, values, and longings are at the heart of your identity?
  • In what ways do you want to live more authentically in the new year?


It takes courage to sit with who you really are. And it takes trust to receive your own life. In this new year, I pray that God will give you both.

May your brave listening give way to hope and renewal in 2017. I’m so glad to have you here.



Resources you may find helpful:

bird journal

In a way this feels counterintuitive. After a post in which I’ve encouraged listening instead of action, I’m now giving you a list of sorts.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes certain books and practices become a helpful guide, giving me language and tools to excavate that which I often cover up with busy-ness, distraction, and the chaos of my own overthinking brain.

I’m picky about how a certain book or post makes me feel at the end. Do I feel guilty or inspired? Condemned or encouraged? All of these spoke truth and served as a helpful guide in ways that set me free and never felt preachy. Amen.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here you go:

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women’s Work by Kathleen Norris

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

“What’s on Your DON’T List?” {Free Hope*Writers Podcast}

This podcast is so freeing and helpful, even if you’re not a writer. I believe it’s fruitful for everyone to make a list of what you’re not going to do.

3 Gentle Ways to Review Your Life in the New Year, a blog post by Emily P. Freeman

The Book of John

This just happens to be what I’m studying this year. The beauty of God’s Word is that it’s alive and active. It speaks to my current questions and hardships. If often influences what I write. I’ve been amazed at the ways in which the words of John have helped me to live in the tension between my hopes and my reality, revitalizing the unseen, sacred work of my right-now life.

How to Pursue Your Hoped-For Work in the Midst of You

r Right-Now Life, a series

About a year ago, I began a post that turned into an 8-part series that explores how we can live responsibly in the right-now while not letting go of the hoped-for.

*Some affiliate links used. Thanks for your kind support of this little corner of the internet!

Keep Calm and Remove Some Lettuce: 5 Ways to Stay Merry & Bright This Holiday Season


I’ve already started making THE LISTS and decorating the house in my mind. I’m giving my calendar the evil eye and she’s giving it right back.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

If I sound like Scrooge, rest assured, I LOVE this time of year. I love everything but the stress. {Much of which I bring on myself.} Somehow we have turned the holidays into an Olympic sport and I don’t want to resort to cupping just to get through the marathon of it. I want to savor it, to slow down, to sink into the comfort of my home and my people.

The overwhelm began to tap me on the shoulder last week. Instead of making more lists and running around restoring order, I decided to stop and think and write. This post began as a letter to myself but it turned into something for all of us.

If you want to savor this season instead of stressing your way through it, I hope that one or two of these permissions will help:


1. Don’t try to cram too much into a small space.

Here’s what right now begins to feel like if I’m not mindful: a fast food salad.

So many veggies are crammed into the plastic bowl that when you remove the lid, it’s like the lettuce is spring loaded. And if you want to add dressing and croutons and toss it up a bit? Well, I hope you enjoy eating your salad directly from the table and floor.

Fast food salads stress me out. They’re full of yummy things. But they’re crammed so full of good things, you can’t enjoy the actual salad.

Don’t be like Wendy’s, cramming an entire head of iceberg lettuce into an 8-ounce bowl.

If your to-do list feels out of control, it’s time to remove some lettuce.

If looking at your calendar makes you break out in hives, it’s time to remove some lettuce. Reschedule all possible appointments and coffee dates to January. Or later.


If finding all the perfect gifts brings on a migraine instead of joy, it’s time to remove some lettuce and find a simpler way.

The world doesn’t need the martyr version of you during the holidays. They need the relaxed version.

Repeat after me. “Lettuce stay sane this season.”


2. Don’t neglect what keeps you centered.

For me this means two things. {Three if you include coffee.}

1. I have to get my heart rate up and sweat a few times a week or I’m mean to the people I love and get even more anxious than I already am.

2. I have to eat spiritual food. This means me and God’s Word.

Sometimes — okay, often — I try to go without it because I’m “so busy” and I’ll get to it later. But this is like trying to get through the day or a series of days without eating actual food.

Going through my day without spiritual food is like slow starvation. I become a shell of who I really am. I’m malnourished. I’m misguided. I am figuratively nibbling on candy and junk and wondering why I feel terrible.

It’s taken me decades to realize this but God’s Word is my food. It keeps me anchored and nourished. And just like actual food, you have to get up the next day and eat again.

If this sounds like disciplined drudgery, let’s remember that food is awesome. Jesus tells us that He’s the “Bread of Life,” not the “Kale of Life.” {Hallelujah.} This means that time with Jesus can be a feast for your soul.

There are other practices that center me and reset my anxious spirit, like being in nature or finding a quiet place. But over time I’ve found that sweating out my anxiety and being with Jesus are the biggies.

MI walk

For you it may be yoga, baking, taking a walk, opening up a book, or locking yourself in the bathroom so that your body can have an actual break from tiny people touching you. I’m sorry I can’t stop them from yelling “Mommy” or sliding their fingers under the door. Maybe your centering thing right now is a babysitter in the middle of the day or a hefty dose of kids’ movies on Netflix.


3. Outsource and say “yes” to help.

Get someone to clean for you before the holiday season. Buy up a bunch of frozen pizzas, lasagnas, or burritos to make things easier. Give teachers gift cards or chip in for the class gift instead of coming up with something adorable {and time consuming} from Pinterest.

Buy the pre-made sugar cookies for your kids to decorate.

Order gifts online in your pajamas. Target is super fun but the traffic, the people, the end-caps with the holiday candles I can’t stop smelling — I’m just not mature enough to be there very much during the holidays. Also I have a teensy problem with road rage so it’s best that I stay home.

receive my life bracelet

My sanity means my family’s happiness. And my happiness too!

I can promise you this. Your people would rather have a fun-loving, even-tempered you instead of everything on their Christmas list. If this means a smaller holiday budget so that you can actually enjoy this season by ordering take-out and getting your house clean, well, I think that’s a happy trade-off.

And if your life stage or circumstances are more overwhelming than normal, I beg you to accept any and all help that is offered. Don’t let pride, shame, or self-sufficiency rob you and others of the gifts of grace, generosity, and mercy.


4. Honor your Sabbath.

Take a nap. Don’t cook. Or do if cooking is the thing that feeds your soul. Sink into a book or a movie. Linger over dinner and save the dishes until much later, after you’ve had a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

God doesn’t want us to rest from everyday work and rhythms because He demands our rest. He gave it to us as a gift. We don’t have to rest. We get to rest.

tea on the screen porch

Again, this looks different for all of us but it’s a gift I’ve begun to anticipate all week long.

Recently I instituted a break from all things digital {except movies because I’m not crazy} beginning Saturday evening until Monday morning. It was glorious. And weird. I had to fight the compulsion to check things — e-mail, social media, etc. That compulsion let me know that my brain and my spirit desperately needs regular breathing room.

Listen up all you weary souls, we need a real break from all the input. And from all the output. The end.


5. Remember the way of Jesus.

Recently I read two little verses in John 6 that I can’t stop thinking about. The people were all in a tizzy about their works. They crowded in around Jesus, fully expecting for Him to load them up with right answers and lists.

“What must we do to be doing the works of God?” they clamored.

Jesus replied  with a simple answer that surely bewildered them all.

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

That’s it.

Belief is the “work.”

We could unpack that a great deal. Because while belief is simple, it is not easy and it’s definitely not benign. But that’s not my point.

My point is this: The Jesus Way is always a simpler way. 


We load up our faith with lists and He tears them up.

We load up our salvation with works and He tells us that believing in Him is the work.

We load up our holidays with events and musts and comparison. He reminds us that He came into the world in the humblest of ways — as a helpless, human baby. I can’t think of a simpler way for the Savior of the World to make his entrance into the world.


We’ll be prone to forget all of this in the coming weeks of busyness, me included. When that happens, simply come back — to your centering practices, to your rest, to your simpler ways, to Jesus.

We’ll all remove some lettuce and begin again.

As we sink into this week of giving thanks, please know how grateful I am for all of you who join me in this space. I get the feeling that you’re as weary as I am from all the “shoulds” and lists. I know that your right-now life is messy and that it feels like someone hit pause on your “hope.”

Let’s un-pause our hope together, shall we? Your right-now life holds unexpected gifts to unwrap. Let’s look for them. I’m so glad to have you along.


New here? 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 no more than a couple of times a week.

And I have a gift for subscribers:

school made simple freebie header

If you’re overwhelmed by the many educational options for your kids, if you’re curious about the most important questions to ask, I have a FREE resource created just for you!