Self Care in the New Year

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This week, I would love to explore the oft-overlooked issue of Self-Care, and what it really means to care for yourself in the tenderest way. I welcome all comments, as I’d love to start a conversation about how God figures in  your journey. Taking care of yourself isn’t just for those in recovery – I think all of us struggle with it at times. Women especially – the mothers and grandmothers and caretakers – are often expected to put their needs last. It may not be an audible and clear message, but the societal expectations buoy it up all the same. When we don’t self-care, we have nothing to pour out. God bless you in this new year!

 

By: Jana Greene

Have you ever just gotten lazy about something? Like really taking care of yourself – Mind, body and soul?

This time of year, we are all thinking about priorities. That’s all New Year’s resolutions are, right? Putting priority on one healthier endeavor and maybe letting other, less healthy habits slip down a notch or two.

For me, going to 12 Step meetings is my re-boot.

When I say I don’t have time to go, I’m suggesting to myself that I’m not worth making the time.

When I say I’m too sick or tired to go, I am opting out of an experience that may not heal my body, but will certainly be a salve to my soul.

When I want to hide away under my duvet cover and eat a box of Thin Mints instead of going to a meeting, well …. that should be a big, red flag.

I was raised with the notion that you don’t want to think too highly of yourself, and I get that. I understand why that is a slippery slope – God is God and I am not. I’m not talking about being self-righteous or pious. Any righteousness I might have certainly doesn’t stem from my own actions, but by the willingness to surrender my will to God’s. That’s not what I’m talking about at all.

I’m talking about how easy it is find your own heart and mind and spirit on the bottom rung of the priority ladder. You may not even notice the slippage happening. You may have been too busy caring for everyone else to see it. You may have stacked up box after box of codependency to reach your top priorities. Without a basis of loving self-care, it will topple and take you with it.

I’m terrible at self-care, true self-care. I’m really good at showing myself love by giving into it’s appetites. Isn’t that what care is about? If I want a cookie, I want the box. If I want to treat myself to something on Amazon, 10 things end up in my basket. Stay up late to watch “Call the Midwife” on Netflix? ALL NIGHT LONG.

Somewhere my psyche learned to equate moderation with deprivation.

If one is good, twelve is better. Except for that’s hardly ever true.

“Self-Care” that makes you feel awful afterward is not self-care. This may seem rudimentary, but this morning as I write this post, it’s kind of an epiphany to me.

I’ve gotten lazy with self-care, cheapening it. Worse, when someone I love needs help or care, I’ve got only a dry well to draw from.

This January 3rd, I will celebrate 16 years of consecutive sobriety. For my Recovery’s Sweet Sixteen, I’m going back to the basics. Because that’s where I find God most of the time. Like most teenagers, my recovery often likes to think it knows everything. But oh how wrong that mindset is!

I still have SO much to learn!

So, as we enter a New Year, I’m going to try to take better care of myself and re-arrange the rungs on the priority ladder. If you’ve forgotten how to truly self-care, join me on the intentional journey to care for yourself. Take time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write out some self-care statements. Here are mine:

I will seek out one-on-one time with my Heavenly Father. That doesn’t mean carving out an Instagram-worthy devotional time, but authentic conversation with God. (Authentic conversation means listening, too. I forget that.)

I will not apologize for showing myself the same level of kindness as I would a friend, or even a stranger.

I will not call myself names, deriding myself for being ‘so stupid,’ for example. Even when just kept in the confines of own mind, putting myself down takes a toll.

I will make the time and effort to make at least one Celebrate Recovery per week. I will ask God to help me out of the rut of making excuses to avoid going. At the meetings, I will LISTEN and learn, and love on my tribe.

I will make a sincere effort to consider that moderation and deprivation are not the same thing. I need Holy Help on this one, because it is ingrained very deeply. Honestly, it stems from a place of fear, of being without. And that isn’t what faith in the Lord looks like. It’s what trusting in only this world looks like.

I will get up and walk at least once every day. Jesus, walk with me and talk with me as I strive to make the changes my physical health so badly needs implemented.

I will listen to my body, and try to heed what it’s telling me. I have limitations that I’ve been fighting against for years. Maybe it’s time for acceptance.

I will maintain boundaries to protect my sobriety.

I will become more intuitive about what I REALLY need, and feed myself that which cares for it best. The Word of God. Spending time with friends. Investing in my marriage. Bringing my anxiety straight to Jesus instead of rolling around in it first.

I will give myself permission to enjoy life. And I will rely on God to help me do that. All evidence points to doom in the worldly estimation, but all truth says that He has already got this. He’s GOT it, already.

I will make the cup of tea the right way, not the microwave way.

Take the bubble bath.

Enjoy the funny cat memes.

Sometimes self-care is so simple.

Father God, praise to you for my sobriety, and for my tribe of recovery warriors. Thank you for friends and readers, and family. In this new year, reveal yourself to us in our ordinary days and through extraordinary circumstances. We need to feel your presence. Help us to actually BELIEVE that we are worth the care, the way YOU say we are worth caring for.

Amen.

How do you Pray when You Cannot Focus?

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The most important thing on my cork board. No matter how unfocused I am, this is my Jesus.

By: Jana Greene

Over the weekend, one of my very dear girlfriends contacted me. Our friendship is a God Thing to the inth degree. A years ago, we became Facebook friends somehow, and then NAMASTE! – my spirit recognized her spirit the instant we talked. We have much in common health-wise, many of the same struggles. It was as if Abba said, “Hmmm….these two could really bounce things off each other.” And he was right.

She is going through a prolonged episode of ‘brain fog’ due to chronic health issues. If you are healthy (or your brain is young) the fog might be a foreign concept to you. It’s more than forgetting what you went in to the kitchen for. It’s like your thoughts are trying to gain footing on a very slippery rock.  It’s a dulling and jumbling of your mind, which can really do a number on your spirit.

“How does one keep a solid prayer/reading life with chronic illness?” She asked me.  “When you either oversleep (because you are sick and need the sleep, not because you’re lazy), or you truly can’t muster up a prayer, or read. Or your mind is all over the place, not stable like it used to be? Maybe a good blog topic?”

A very good blog topic.

I am worlds WORST with carving out quiet time/devotions. There, I said it. It’s OUT THERE now. And It isn’t because prayer isn’t important to me.

Between chronic pain, ADD (and OCD, which can be kind of severe at times)  and anxiety…there are times that the best thing I can offer is conversational prayer with God throughout the day. For a short while, I took medication for my ADD and the BIGGEST change I noticed was that I could pray like a regular Saint Augustine! HOURS. When I had to go off of it because it raised my blood pressure, I felt like somebody yanked the prayer rug from under me.

I still pray, of course. It’s a constant conversation, but often not terribly structured.

After I saw the movie “War Room,”  I was so stoked to make deliberate time in my bedroom closet. I covered one wall with cork-boards on which to pin my heartfelt prayers every day as soon as I woke up. FIRST THING. Maybe I’ll be so fervent I’ll go into the Prayer Closet several times in the middle of the night! Wow, I’ll bet I will REALLY hear from God then! My boards will resemble the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, it will be so jam-packed with my sacraments and epiphanies!

The next morning I did, in fact, enter it like the Holy of Holies. But the day after that I had a migraine and another day, my anxiety was too full-on to sit still, and other days I just forgot.

Mostly my self-crafted Prayer Closet just caused me to feel guilty EVERY single time I’d walk in to get a pair of shoes. Eventually it went like this: Enter closet for shirt, avoid eye contact with The Wall, feel massively guilty, avoid God because I can’t even hack this focus thing, emotionally self-flagellate. Vow to spend two hours solid in it the next day. Fail to do so and feel terrible. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But then I realized that I talk to God conversationally all day long. He knows my heart, he knows my pain, and my janky brain fog. In trying, trying, trying to be better, I set myself up for failure (it’s kind of a specialty of mine.)

But God, who created my brain and all the other miraculous workings of my body, is not going to withhold from me because of my limitations. That would be pretty freaking cruel. Instead, he caulks in the cracks and loves me like MAD.

My dear friend  is also frustrated with hearing from God the way she used to when she was brain fog-free. I get that, too. That’s the worst thing. But I think he – knowing our plight – compensates by speaking to us in our constant conversation with him. He is never more than a dozen thoughts from my heart, and he knows it.

When someone comes to mind, I pray for her. When I’m worried, I pray. When I see a pretty flower, praise the Creator and thank him for it. Thank him for my friends and blessings and hot coffee.

Especially, I tell him I trust that he is working on issues I don’t see evidence of yet, and ask him to help me trust when I don’t.

I ask for focus fifty times a day, at least.

But when I can’t get through the fog, here’s the cool thing: Grace!

GRACE is the caulk in the space between our best intentions and highest enlightenment. It fills in the cracks and expands in the crevices where I’m foggy or anxious, or even just lazy. We are not perfect but he holds us close to us still! No guilt required.

My sacraments and epiphanies don’t always come down from Heaven like a bolt of lightning when I’m having an Instagram-worthy moment of devotion with the perfect cup of coffee.

Sometimes they trickle in increments of A-Ha! moments that Holy Spirit doles out and pours into me. When I’m too pained or foggy to tune into his frequency, he reminds me that it’s okay.

I told my dear friend that perhaps we can meet this week and brain-dazed and janky together. Pray awkward, foggy prayers together, and trust grace to caulk in our rough spots. Listen for the bolt of lightning, but be okay with the A-Ha moments and roll with it as the Sisters in Christ that we are. Raise a War Room right where we are, where two or more are gathered.

God isn’t angry that we have unfocused seasons. He just desires that we keep the conversation going, and listen for his voice.

God bless us, every one.

 

 


 

The Privilege of Focusing Elsewhere

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By Jana Greene

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ and he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” –  Mark 4:35-41

Yesterday as a super weird day. Ever feel ‘off’? Ever feel ‘unhinged?’ That was me yesterday, all day.

I woke up upset about the state of the world – the terrorist attacks in Paris, more specifically.  Then I got more and more upset about how improperly people were responding to it.

People I love dearly, suggesting we all basically sit in a giant circle around the globe and sing Kumbaya until mean people stop being mean. Honestly, that makes no sense to me. You’d think you would catch on to the ineffectiveness of that plan already. It’s not working.

Then I wrote about it on this blog, and poised my finger over the ‘publish’ button on WordPress. It was a stellar piece, really. Full of common sense and righteous indignation, and I really wanted to post it. I wanted to post it and share it so that I could stick some facts and impassioned logic in the faces of people who are just NOT getting it. People who make me wonder where the world would be if we applied tolerance liberally to the Nazi regime. (Spoiler alert: The gentiles among us would all be speaking German and the Jews would all have been murdered years ago….)

I am related to some very dove-ish people, they are hopelessly and unrealistically optimistic. I love them dearly, even in their perceived wrongness.

Finger poised over the ‘publish’ key, I decided to shut down the computer. I was simply too sad to even post it.

Now, although I reserve the right to publish it later (and probably WILL at some point) God had other plans for my spirit yesterday, plans put into motion by My Beloved. That man is a saint in sinner’s clothing, I’m absolutely convinced of it.

“Lets take a ride,” he suggests. Understand that I am alternately glowering and crying, slamming things around. I don’t feel like a ride. I feel like crying, and can you not plainly SEE this? But I know the plans he (my husband) has for me, and they are entirely good, always. So I ride along.

While we are driving down to Southport, a quaint little harbor town nearly an hour away, I am on my phone texting madly with my adult daughters. They are not upset enough at the right people my liking about the whole Paris thing, and I am going to MAKE THEM SEE the light. I am also having an internal conversation with God, who keeps insisting that maybe it’s time to trust Him with my daughters (and, um….everything else.)

But when a woman is high on anxiety and low on estrogen, there is no reasoning with her. In a group text, I reminded my kids about 9/11 and how dangerous it can be to try to reason with terrorists, worse even then reasoning with their hormone-depleted mother. They took offense, naturally, but I could not stop. I was going to make my point, dammit, for their own good.

It went abysmally, the whole exchange. They reminded me that they are adults and have their own opinions. I sometimes forget that.

MEANWHILE, as I’m furiously texting 90 words per minute, I am SOBBING. Absolutely just losing it. My poor husband.

Why is everything so SAD? Why don’t my kids GET IT? By the time we got to Southport, I’ve blown through an entire box of Puffs Plus. Little balls of snotty tissue littered the lovely leather interior of the car.

My Beloved pulls the car over at a little ice cream stand and insists I eat some ice cream. I look like a frog from crying hysterically and you think I want ICE CREAM?

Okay, I do want ice cream. So we sit out on the patio and I eat Mint Chocolate chip whilst crying. The kid at the counter looked so confused. I fought the urge to remind him to call his mother and be nice to her.

After the treat, My Beloved drove down to the water, and when we got out of the car, this happened:

sunset 3

It took my breath away, the calmness. I didn’t welcome it at first. I still wanted to hold on to my hysteria because the world is upside down (as if that HELPS turn it right side up?)

But then I just rested my eyes on the whole scene in front of me. You would never know that the world is on fire, if you were sitting at this little spot by the sea. And then came peace.

You have to LOOK for the calmness, it won’t come to you first.

The truth is that while I am very upset about terrorism, I am also upset about everything else changing in my world. From job loss to depression to major surgery to empty nest syndrome to becoming a grandparent….things are weird and different and I’m scared of all the change.

It’s chaos, if I’m looking around me.

Today I told God that I was SO over this planet and everyone on it. And what is the DEAL with humanity being so freaking hateful and disregarding human life and Lord God, do you even SEE what is going on here!?

“Teacher, do you not CARE that we are perishing!?”

And then this happened. In the midst of being so OVER everything, because that’s where He shows up. Smack dab in the middle.

sunset1And this happened too.

Jesus

And then I say, “Okay, God. Now you’re just showing off.” But I’m not crying anymore.

My Heavenly Papa spoke to me.

“Hey you,” He said. “Get over yourself and look at this! Isn’t it incredible? I’m here, never left. Stop flailing about in worried hysteria. I’m still Me. This is to remind you where your eyes belong.”

I just love Him so much.

The world was still crazy when we drove back home. Real messed up. I tried not to watch the news at all. I was still hormonal and unhinged, but a little less weepy. I texted my children to ask them to please forgive my harsh tone and my expectation that they think like me. It’s unrealistic. If you’ve never asked your children to forgive you after a blow-up, it’s very humbling.

And they texted back that they love their mom and forgive her, just as they always do when I mess up. Just like I always do for them when they mess up. We try really hard not to let the sun set on our anger, no matter what. And this day, the sunset was absolutely spectacular (literally and figuratively.)

“Peace!” Jesus says. “Be still!'”

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Here’s a little insight: You cannot control a SINGLE act or reaction that another person exhibits. Not even a little bit. Don’t say I never taught you anything here at The Beggar’s Bakery.

But you can refocus your eyes. Even when it feels like God is sleeping.

Although pretty sunsets and ice cream don’t ‘fix’ what’s wrong, they can be a catalyst to changing your thinking, even for a while.

You have the right to look for calm in the midst of a crazy chaotic world. You have the right to use up a whole box of tissues in one sobbing sitting if you need to, but God gives us the privilege of refocusing on Him.

It’s a privilege.

Teacher, help us to be still.

Amen.