5 Real Ways to Practice Self-Care in Your Crazy, Right-Now Life {that cost zero dollars}

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What does it look like to receive your right-now life just as it is and not how you want it to be?

What does it look like to receive this season of work you wish you didn’t have to do? What does it look like to receive this season of parenting? Of marriage? Of income? Of keeping so many plates spinning, you’re positively dizzy?

That’s been the purpose of this series — to encourage your soul in the midst of your right-now season and to provide you with practical tips to make the “receiving” a little bit easier.

We’ve talked about feeding your soul — why it matters and how to do it. And we’ve talked about why self-care matters, especially if you want to live a life defined by love.

Today, we’re getting super practical about everyday self-care and I’m reporting to you directly from the trenches. I’ve taken on too much work in the middle of a family season that also’s a bit too much. I feel stretched in every way and have had to accept that I’ll be a little bonkers until the end of the school year.

When life looks like this, we can proceed with fists clenched or we can proceed with palms open, receiving this season for what it is and opening our hearts to the ways God wants to love us, provide for us, and gently teach us.

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One of the ways He provides is through opening my eyes to “everyday self-care.” I’m not talking about massages and pedicures. I’m talking about daily rhythms and practices that help us to care for ourselves so that we can receive our right-now season of life (craziness and all) and better love those around us.

Here are 5 real-life ways you too can practice everyday self-care:

1. Do normal things slowly and with care.

During the holidays I listened to this podcast on self-care from The Lazy Genius. She talked about slowing down when you wash your face at night. And so I did.

You guys, do you realize that you don’t have to hurry when you wash your face? You can take the time to massage the cleanser into your skin, to slowly rinse your face with care, to gently pat your moisturizer onto your face. It turns a daily chore into a loving ritual. I feel like it helps to calm my brain and my body before bedtime.

I now do the same thing when I wash my hair, massaging my scalp with my fingertips in the same way my sweet hairdresser does. Why have we not being treating ourselves to these daily luxuries?

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If you had a friend who was struggling in some way, who needed your help to wash her face or hair, how would you care for her? Gently and with tenderness. Care for yourself in the kind way you would care for a friend. (I’ll say this a lot.)

Whether it’s a long shower at the end of the day, a warm bath instead of scrolling through Facebook, or washing your dishes slowly in a sudsy sink of hot water, the possibility of daily luxury is all around you. Treat yourself.

 

2. Kick hurry to the curb.

A couple of months ago I went to the grocery store mid-morning. It was a rare day of not having a super pressing agenda, so I gifted myself a latte from the in-store Starbucks and took my time through the aisles. Over and over, I said to myself: “Slow down. There is no need to rush.”

After I checked out and loaded my groceries into the car, I felt strangely relaxed and peaceful. Slowing down and sipping coffee had somehow turned a regular chore into a treat. I considered how I’m constantly in a hurry, even when I don’t have to be.

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I realize we don’t always have that luxury. You may have small children who accompany you everywhere or you’re squeezing in a grocery run before school pick-up. But when you’re doing a regular chore and you don’t have to hurry, be kind to yourself and value slowness over productivity. When I slow my pace and my mind, it’s as if anxiety runs out of gas and stalls, leaving me with a rare sense of calm.

As I’ve considered the life of Christ, I’ve noticed that he was never in a rush. We tend to assume this was a cultural state of mind, yet there are so many stories in Scripture of those around him hurrying and scurrying, frantic and panicked about all sorts of things. But Jesus never responded with hurry or stress, which tells me that’s not his intention for us either.

He is a God of peace and he calls us to be people of peace — in our inner lives and in the world around us. How can we be instruments of peace if we remain in a state of hurry and stress?

When a season of life is extra crazy, when we are struggling to receive it because we just want to get to the other side, hurry may be our default but it’s not our friend. Stressful seasons are the most important times to weave rhythms of slowness into our days.

 

3. Live within your means.

I don’t mean in a financial sense, though that totally applies. I’m referring to your energy level, your mental and emotional state, your relationships, your calendar, your commitments, your current season.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about an entire year of rest I had to take about 6 years ago. The reasons are long are complicated but a big part of the equation was my refusal, for years on end, to honor my own limitations. I was spinning my wheels in good, but misplaced directions.

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I wasn’t the only one who paid for it. For a long season of recovery, I had little to give anyone. When we don’t honor our God-given limitations, we will eventually fall apart, making it impossible to live a life defined by love.

{For more on this topic of honoring our limitations, see my last post: The Secret to Practicing Self-Care in Your Crazy, Right-Now Life.}

If your right-now life feels bananas, if you’re living beyond your means but you can’t take anything off your plate {it happens}, choose not to add anything else to it. Finish what you must and then resolve to move forward with intention. In the words of St. Benedict, “Always we begin again.”

 

4. Work with what you have, right where you are.

There is a holy hush that comes over my mind and soul when I quit wrestling and simply receive what is mine with gratitude. This applies to everything from my home and possessions, to the opportunities I have…and don’t have.

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This series I’m writing, while precious to me, has unfolded far more slowly than I planned. I have had to honor my limitations in the form of time and energy, which means I write in the smallest slivers of my full schedule and publish less often. I worry that I’m losing momentum and my writing skills, that people won’t keep reading, that the deep longings I have to encourage others as I write from my own heart will go unmet and unblessed. When I look around and see writers passing me by, it’s easy to lose heart, to panic, to throw in the towel.

This verse comforts me:

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6 (NIV)

Living a “limitless” life is not the goal. Notice that the psalmist is thanking God for boundary lines. Our good Father knows what we truly need and what we don’t. He alone is our portion and our provider. We can trust him with the limitations he’s placed in our lives, knowing that they provide protection or perhaps just a necessary pause.

We waste precious mental and emotional energy comparing our lives to others. We cannot simultaneously reach for what is not ours and receive what is ours. We can only do one or the other.

5. Feed yourself.

I’m talking about spiritual food and actual food. When our lives are especially crazy, we tend to neglect the most basic necessities, like nourishment.

As I said in an earlier post of this series, we can get a little crazy when we don’t eat. We lose all perspective. We despair. We cry. We don’t think or feel or act as we should. We act like young children with low blood sugar.

When I began to see Scripture as my food, it changed everything. It helped me prioritize time with God in his word, not merely as a spiritual discipline but as the daily sustenance I desperately needed.

The same is true for the actual food we eat. I love this illustration from Anne Lamott on teaching others to feed themselves in the same way they’d feed their beloved pastor if invited over for lunch or dinner:

They wouldn’t say, ‘Here Pastor, let’s eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of barbecue Pringles is all for you. I have my own,’ and then stand there gobbling from their own tubular container.

No, they’d get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before Veronica at the table, a plate filled with love, pride and connection. That’s what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create.  From, A Few Quick Thoughts on That Diet You Are About to Fail

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A couple of weeks ago my energy level was so low, I felt chronically sleepy and overwhelmed. How in the world was I going to do all the work set before me when all I wanted to do was nap? I couldn’t abandon my responsibilities or stop being a wife or leave my children as orphans. And even though I knew this commitment level would only be for a season, I still had to get through it.

As a last resort, I switched up my eating for this season I’m in, prioritizing my own nourishment. The details don’t matter because we’re all different in the ways we need to eat, but I will say this. As Anne Lamott advises, feed yourself with the care and intention you would employ if you were having your pastor or dear friend over for a meal.

The way you nourish yourself matters. Within a few days of making the changes I knew I needed to make, enough energy has returned for me to (hopefully) meet the daily demands of my current season. It’s impossible to receive your own life if you’re not feeding yourself in the most basic ways.

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And on that note, let’s take a break and enjoy a snack. : )

Because I have more real-life tips for practicing self-care in your crazy, right-now life, there will be a Part 2 of this segment on everyday self-care. In the meantime, what practices would you like to begin implementing in your own life?

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote on self-care:

I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act–it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch. ~ Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

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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

Post 4: The Secret to Practicing Self-Care in Your Crazy, Right-Now Life

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

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.)

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

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If you’re here for the first time, welcome! We’re in the early stages of a new series, The Sacred Art of Receiving Your Right-Now Life. It’s all about living your ordinary life with extraordinary purpose.

Here’s what I’m learning. I can provide soulful encouragement and how-to tips all day long. But if we don’t begin with one of our most basic needs — being fed and nourished on a soul level — we’ll lose perspective and momentum quickly, no matter how good our intentions and ideas are.

There is one thing that helps me receive my own life, undesirable days and all, more than anything else. It’s the truth and sustenance of God’s Word. 

I invite you to read the previous post — The One Word that Forever Changed How I Approach Scripture — so that you can have the full context for this post.

Here’s the main point: I began to desire God’s Word when I realized it was my food.

Without it, I ricochet through my days much like a hungry child with low blood sugar. My life is easily defined by my frustration, circumstances, and selfishness. With it, I’m more grounded and centered. I have a perspective that’s so much bigger than myself and my own little kingdom. I walk in a spirit of truth instead of a spirit of crazy.

With the foundation that God’s Word is our food, it’s time for us to learn how to eat. There are countless approaches to studying Scripture, but my goal here is to share lessons from my own journey and to help you find practical ways to be nourished in your right-now life.

One thing to remember. Any food is better than no food.

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A Tale of…a Lot of Group Bible Studies

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I did my first real group Bible study when I was in graduate school. I was a young mom with a new baby. I was also just coming out of an intensely dark season of my life spiritually. I had gone from belief to not knowing what I believed to definitely not believing in anything to shakily embracing my Christian faith again. That’s a story in itself but not the point of this post.

I was starving. Our new church advertised a Bible study and they had childcare.

Armed with All The Colored Pencils, my notebook and my Bible, I devoured each week’s Precepts inductive lesson even though it often meant cramming the night before (because grad school + a baby that didn’t sleep.)

I probably loved Precepts because of its timing in my life and not because it’s a tailor-made approach for me. Which just goes to show, it’s really not about the method. It’s about the intersection of your right-now life and what you have access to.

When my young family moved to the town we live in now, I got involved with the weekly small group studies at my church. We did everything from book studies to Books of the Bible studies to Beth Moore studies. They had childcare for my little ones (praise) and it also provided relationship and community for me as a young mom in a new place.

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The most meaningful study for me during those years was Beth Moore’s Believing God. No surprise, it was all about the timing. Again, I had survived a dark and painful season (of a totally different nature) and I was struggling to believe in God’s goodness and faithfulness. That study and Beth’s teaching was a lifeline to me.

As my kids got older and their schooling demands meant I could no longer spend a morning in Bible study, I floundered. I can’t even remember what my “quiet time” looked like in those years but it was a time when life felt more defined by my circumstances and what I “should” be doing than by who God is and what’s He’s already done for me. Spiritually speaking, I probably lived in a chronic state of low blood sugar and it showed up in every area of my life.

About five years ago, a friend from college told me about Bible Study Fellowship (BSF.) I was 100% not interested. I’d heard of BSF and it sounded, um…not for me. Too structured, too old-school. But there was something about it I couldn’t shake and I was finally in a season that offered time and energy.

Long story short, I traveled to an hour-away Bible study for two years with a friend of mine. We then had the privilege of helping begin a BSF satellite group in our own town.

This is my first year in five years not being involved in BSF and I miss it terribly. While there is no one way for every person, Bible Study Fellowship fed me richly and deeply with the Word of God like nothing else ever has.

When I studied the Life of Moses, God was bringing me out of an impossible place and into a promised land.

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When I studied John, I was living in the tension between my right-now work and my hoped-for work. Week after week, Jesus’ words and life spoke into that tension in a way that literally changed me, that helped me accept God’s perfect timing. The Gospel of John taught me to receive my right-now life in all of its unnoticed abundance and in all of the ways it fell short of what I longed for.

Do you know what my own journey with Bible studies tells me?

It’s not about finding the one perfect way to be in Scripture.

It’s about letting the richness of God’s word into your daily life — no matter the season — and being desperate for Him to meet you right where you are.

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Enough backstory. Tell me what to do!

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Group Bible Studies

A group Bible study might be for you if: 

  • You struggle with intrinsic motivation and need the accountability of a group.
  • You like to process what you’re learning with others.
  • You need to receive what you’re learning in a variety of formats — studying on your own during the week, processing with a small group, and perhaps having teaching on the topic from a leader that ties it all together.
  • You have small children and have access to a Bible study that provides childcare.
  • You need to get out of the house.

 

A group Bible study might not be for you if:

  • Your time is scarce.
  • You get super annoyed when you process things in small groups with a variety of personalities.
  • You don’t have convenient access to one.
  • You have a schedule that means your involvement will be hit or miss.

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Studying God’s Word on Your Own

(fail…and then find something that works)

This current year of my life — with where we are as a family, with my job and some extra work — doesn’t allow for a group study. I got the big idea that I would go through the book of John again on my own because it meant so much to me and I longed to dig deeper.

I was not consistent. Like, at all. But I did get really good at drinking coffee and jumping right into work and shuffling papers around.

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One of the reason group studies have often worked well for me is because there’s accountability. When someone expects something of me, I do it. And if someone doesn’t? I can be hit or miss. I meet outer expectations. I tend to resist inner expectations.

BSF worked for me because I had homework due every week and I have never been the gal who shows up without my homework done.

After spending last semester snacking my way through devotionals and being hit or miss with John, I knew I needed a new approach. But still, there was the issue of time. I don’t have a morning or an evening to go to a study or even to join an online group.

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The first week of January, I met with a friend and she introduced me to what I’m doing right now. I call it “Bible Study Devotional Journaling.” I literally just made up that title as I typed it. : )

Here’s the thing. No one is holding me accountable. But after a summer + semester of being spiritually “hangry,” I have craved my time with God each day because I know how badly I need it.

Like any discipline (a word I don’t love), the fruit of the habit becomes its own reward. This is what continues to motivate me day after day, not the habit itself. 

Yes, your personality matters and we’ll talk about that more in a minute. But once you begin eating real food every day, once it becomes the sustenance that keeps you grounded and centered in the truth of who God is, you don’t want to go back to nibbling crumbs every other day and wondering why you feel spiritually anemic and unsteady.

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“Bible Study Devotional Journaling” how-to:
(Guys, please help me find another name for this.)
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Step 1: Choose a devotional that goes through a book of the Bible.

I’m using Tim Keller’s The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms.

Step 2: Grab a simple composition book and a good pen. You’re ready to go!

Step 3: Read the Scripture passage.

Don’t read the notes from the author. Don’t read the prayer. Just focus on the Scripture. Read through it once or twice.

Step 4: Start writing.

I try to write down 20-30 things, going verse by verse. Here are the types of things I write:

  • Who does God say He is?
  • What attributes of God do I see? (Faithful, good, patient, just, merciful, etc.)
  • What is He promising?
  • How I resonate with particular verses of the passage.
  • A one-sentence prayer in response to a verse.
  • A truth statement.
  • A personal application in response to a verse.

 

Step 5: Read the commentary or devotional.

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There’s a reason you read this last. It’s important to let God speak to you when it’s just you and the Scripture itself. I love commentaries. I love looking up the original Greek or Hebrew for a certain word. But that’s not where I begin. The Word itself and the Holy Spirit are enough. After I’ve done my own verse by verse examination and study, I love seeing what the author of the study or devotional has to say about it. This can offer extra insight.

Step 6: Read back over the verses, what you’ve journaled, and maybe the commentary / devotional. Write a short statement. 

Add some more things that you didn’t notice the first time and then read over all that you’ve journaled. Is there an overarching principle or truth statement you want to carry with you for the day? This forces me to synthesize what I’ve read and apply it in a more concise way.

Step 7: Pray

Sometimes I write out my prayer. Sometimes I write out and pray the author’s prayer. Sometimes I just sit in my chair and pray, not writing out anything.

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Choose a simple all-inclusive Bible study…and maybe a friend.

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If my current method doesn’t sound like a fit, if you need something more structured (and with less writing), consider a Bible study that has a passage and directed questions for you to answer. I did this study for the Book of Galatians and it’s a great approach. Everything you need, including the Scripture, right in one book.

If you can’t do a group study but you don’t feel like you’ll stick with something on your own, what about asking a friend to meet with you once a week or every other week? This is a great compromise because you still have accountability but it’s not A Big Weekly Thing You Attend.

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The Word on the Go

Now that we carry computers around in our pockets, we can carry Scripture with us wherever we go. you on your journey.

Read Scripture App

You guys. This is the coolest.

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It’s a free app that provides videos and context along the way. There are reading plans and reminders you can set to spur you along. It’s for everyone from kids and teenagers to people like you and me. Seriously, if you don’t know where to start, download the app and begin with this.

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Your Personality Matters

God’s Word is for all of us. But there’s no one best way to study the Bible.

Know who you are. Chances are, you don’t need a personality test to tell you what you already know. You know whether you’re disciplined or not. You know if you’re sort of ADD or not. You know how you learn best. You know if you need to study with others or if your time is richer on your own. You know what you have time for in this season and what you don’t.

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I know that reading through the Bible in a year is highly recommended and a great spiritual discipline. But you guys, every time I’ve tried I get so bored. I lose interest. I dawdle and procrastinate. I just can’t.

I’m sustained by God’s Word when I dig deep into smaller passages at a time. I love to take an entire year and study one book. This feeds me so richly, but I know it’s not for everyone.

I have artistic friends who have journaling Bibles with wide margins. They draw beautiful images as they study and it makes God’s Word come alive to them.

I’ve been in small discussion groups that literally were such a struggle for me, it got in the way of studying Scripture. I know, I’m a horrible person, but it’s true.

Take what you know about yourself and apply it. Don’t feel guilty. Walk in freedom and experiment! Just find a way to eat that’s nourishing, sustaining, and doable for you. 

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Hearing the Word

Sometimes we place so much emphasis on personal Bible study, forgetting that for centuries, most Christians couldn’t have a “quiet time” as we think of it today for one very big reason: they were illiterate. 

Priests rolled open the scrolls and people simply listened. They read the Word and congregants believed them. Preachers proclaimed the Gospel and this spoken word found its way into the desperate hearts of men, women, and children.

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Whether it’s sitting in church regularly and hearing the faithful preaching of God’s Word or listening to sermons on your iPhone as you drive to work — hearing the Word matters. It matters a lot actually. If you’re beating yourself up because your personal quiet time isn’t as robust as it “should” be, know that there are many ways God feeds his people.

Sometimes I’ll play the audio version of Scripture on the Bible Gateway app on my phone as I drive or clean the kitchen. And if you want something super cool (that your kids will dig), check out Streetlights — the actual Word of God being spoken (with an urban, street vibe) in your home or car, via your earbuds. The spoken Word is a powerful thing and it will not return empty. That’s God’s promise, not mine.

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A Few Final Thoughts: On simplicity, new habits, and real enemies

You may be tempted to run out and buy a pretty new Bible study, Moleskin journal, and fancy pen to start your new Bible routine.

But here’s the thing. New and fresh will only get you so far.

When I needed a different approach this year, I grabbed The Songs of Jesus devotional I already had and an old composition book from ye olde pile of castoff notebooks.

I spent zero dollars. But every day, I feel like I eat a 5-course meal.

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A friend told me this and it’s too good not to share:

The way to become like Jesus is by spending time with Jesus. We can call it spiritual discipline but it’s really just time with him.

The more I feed on God’s Word as my daily sustenance, the more I desire this time with Jesus, the Word who became flesh and came to dwell among us. 

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Some of you have asked what to do when God seems distant, when his Word seems to leave you no different than when you arrived, when it feels like duty instead of desire. I’m familiar with all of these places. And as much as I’d love to talk about it here, I’ve already written too many words for one post. These are topics I’d love to write about in the future because they’re part of my story.

Here’s what I will say right now:

  • Come hungry, asking to be filled.
  • Come seeking and honest, asking to be met in personal ways. Just this morning, my passage in the Psalms began with this question: “Why, Lord, do you stand far off?” It is good and okay to go to him with with our gut-honest questions, feelings, and perceptions. He welcomes us just as we are.
  • Come often. Habits and disciplines can feel awkward and contrived at the beginning. Keep coming to the table hungry and see what happens.

 

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One final word. There is a real enemy who wants to keep you from the sustaining truth you need to receive every day, the truth that enables you to receive your right-now life with hope for the future, with trust in God’s timing, and with the certainty that God is at work even the most mundane or painful seasons of your life.

In Ephesians 6, the passage about putting on the whole armor of God, there is but one offensive weapon mentioned in the entire list. Guess what it is?

“The sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God.

Know that when you are fed, you are able to fight.

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If you have ideas you’d like to share with others, practical ways that you’ve been nourished by God’s Word, share them in the comments! I’m only one person. Let’s learn from one another.

If you have questions you’d like to see me address, I welcome them. You can leave them in the comments section or email me directly.

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.

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

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

Other Resources:

“He leads me beside streams of toilet waters.” (a real-life tale of how Scripture shows up in the mayhem of your right-now life)

The Best Online Bible Studies for Women by Kayse Pratt