Self Care in the New Year

butterfly

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.

What Trumps the Bump? Getting Flooded by the Spirit.

flood

Note: this post has nothing whatsoever to do with Donald Trump. Or politics, for that matter. Well, I suppose it could, if politics make you want to drink / use … I totally get that, if they do. In which case I highly recommend fasting the news entirely. Is it important to be up on current events? Sure. Is it worth you sobriety? No freaking way.

By: Jana Greene

Just a little bump. That’s all I need.

A little something to get through this feeling of pain / elation / worry / regret / boredom. (Really, any strong feeling will do.)

Feeling are so…I don’t know…FEEL-FULL.

I never used street drugs, and I’m not bragging about that. It is purely by happenstance that I didn’t go that route. I do love me a good high. Alcohol was my drug of choice. But its a drug nonetheless.

A bump can be anything, really.

A drink. A pill. A random sexual encounter. A binge at a slot machine.  An impulsive buy on Amazon to make yourself feel better. And then another. And then another and another. Anything to distract you from All The Feels.

Trading endorphins for guilt later is never a good deal.

The only thing I’ve ever known to trump the bump is a prayerful flooding of the Holy Spirit.

I have a theory, but it’s a working theory. And it goes like this:

High is the state in which we were born and built to function.

But not on drugs or drink, which are counterfeit, temporary conduits of “high.”

Kind of like the Texas saying, the higher the hair, the closer to God? I like to think “the higher the propensity to use drugs and alcohol, the more desire to be close to God.”

I’ve seen it too many times for it to be coincidence. The people most entrenched in addiction are the most sensitive to feelings and thought. They are usually Seekers. The hungrily fill the void with all manner of self-soothing behaviors.

Just a bump, you see. It always starts out with just a bump. And that’s the first lie to oneself, that shortcoming.

The thing about seeking is, there’s nothing wrong with it. We were born to seek, born to crave the high. The problem comes in when we use our own wits to fabricate it. It’s called “sin” in the Bible, but we don’t like to cal it that anymore. In truth, it doesn’t matter what you label it, so long as you realize what it is.

This is also known as Step 7 recovery work:

“Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.”
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

My default setting is to numb out in lieu of asking for help to overcome my shortcomings. As an alcoholic, that’s what my body and mind want to do. I would love to say that after 15 years of sobriety, drinking never crosses my mind, but that would be such a lie. It’s sneaky, that addiction. Much like a computer that has been programmed to ‘default’ to a certain setting, something in me – the genetics for addiction? – There is a pattern of negative thinking that leads to default. I’m just wired that way.

But that’s not a mistake. I am also wired to bask in the presence of the Creator. That’s why ‘high’ is our preferred state, and that’s my story – I’m stickin’ to it.

I have to change the settings, ‘manually’ – reprogram.

The best high I’ve ever known has been Holy Spirit high. For those of you who are unchurched (or Baptist…a little humor there, I was raised Baptist, so I can joke….) there is this perfect state of nirvana that comes from being filled with the spirit of God.

Religion may be the opiate of the masses, as Karl Marx is famous for having said. But RELATIONSHIP with God is the Ultimate High.

God is, simply put, Love Incarnate. Jesus Christ came as God in a human body to show us how to do life on life’s terms – and with victory, even!

When you are too busy trying to figure God out or justify reasons not to believe, there is no room for the Spirit. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

Throw everything that turns you off to God from the table. It’s probably man-made anyway. The cheap stuff. Do yourself a favor and:

  1. Go ahead and feel your feelings.
  2. Ask the living and loving God of the universe for a little something to get through this feeling of pain / elation / worry / regret / boredom. (Really, any strong feeling will do.)
  3. Leave room for the Spirit of Love to move into the spaces that counterfeit, temporary ‘highs’ leave empty.

Lather, rinse, repeat … as often as your brain tries to default to numbness through any number of destructive behaviors.

SUCH PEACE can overcome you in God’s presence. Almost like you were MADE to seek it.

The thing about seeking is, there’s nothing wrong with it. We were born to seek, born to crave the high. The ultimate Good News is that it was planted there by a Creator who loves us more than anything, and who poured Himself over bone and under flesh to prove it.

Ain’t no high like the Holy Spirit High. Trumps the ‘bump’ every time.

Go ahead and be FEEL-FULL. It’s alright. No numbing agent required.
I’m so grateful for that.

Don’t Tread on Christmas

Christmas

Christmas is Christmas. Everyone just needs to accept it and move on.

There is definitely a movement of opposing the true meaning of Christmas going on, and to the folks perpetuating it, Christmas is just the High Holy Occasion for said hate. Last year, in New York City, atheists paid good money to put up billboards at Christmas espousing the holiday as a “fairy tale.” The celebration of the Messiah who changed the landscape for all mankind draws ire from those who don’t know Him. I get it.

But I have a truly revolutionary idea, which I put into practice all the time. You won’t believe it, it is such a crazy-radical idea!

Every single year….

At Hanukkah, I don‘t light a Menorah.

At  Ramadan, I do not fast.

On special atheist days (such as “Tuesday”) and Santeria holy days, I do nothing to commemorate them.

I do not own a statue of the Buddha.

I appreciate nature, with no regard whatsoever to paganism.

And although I like reggae music, I do not follow one single Rastafarian tenet.

I also don’t recognize the Summer/Winter Solstices, or celebrate the ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Because, you see, I’m not Jewish or Muslim, pagan or Hindi. I am not Buddhist, or Rastafarian, or an atheist.

I believe with everything that God poured himself over bone and under skin to be born in a humble manger. I believe he came to walk around in flesh, so that he could (a) know what the human condition feels like, and (b) give himself as a living sacrifice for all mankind. Jesus was revolution incarnate.

So, you can see why the birth of that savior is a big deal to Christians.

As a revolutionary thinker,  I just  don’t celebrate the holidays that are not meaningful to me.

I don’t insist that members of other religions alter their icons of celebration so that little crosses are part of their displays.

I don’t ask that they change their traditions to suit my skepticism and faith.

I don’t ask that they homogenize the teachings of their prophets,  so as not to offend my delicate spiritual sensibilities.

I would have no right to insist upon these things – to change an entire religious celebration for ME! Because I am JUST. THAT. SPECIAL.

I wouldn’t think of demanding that they light candles on alternate nights, eat a mid-day meal, or “don’t stop believing” (I couldn’t help it) because those ways are not my ways. How arrogant that would be of me!

But I would defend the traditions of either of those groups, and even of atheists – yes, atheists! I defend their right to NOT celebrate MY religion, it’s tenants, OR it’s holidays. Crazy, right?

It’s kind of the American Way, religious freedom.

In return for my not imposing my beliefs (or non-beliefs) on you – like I’m doing you a favor there –  I ask that you extend the same to me.

You know, the whole Golden Rule idea. It’s an idea that has roots in Judeo-Christian origin, not that its okay to mention that in polite society.

If Christmas has no meaning to you, don’t celebrate it. But how arrogant of you to ask that those who do change the very definition of the occasion.

If it offends you to be wished a “Merry Christmas,” I feel kind of sad for you. The message of Christ is and was love, and Christmas a celebration of goodwill toward men.

If it pains you to respond, “And Merry Christmas to you,” perhaps you are not as enlightened and tolerant as you fancy yourself.

(My favorite take on giving Christians the courtesy to allow them celebration is written by Ben Stein, himself Jewish. If you’ve never read it, I recommend it highly:  A Ben Stein Christmas.)

If you begrudge Christians the right to celebrate the birth of the savior, all you manage to change in the hearts of Christians is their resolve to keep Christ in Christmas.

You do not – by displaying a hardened, offended  spirit  – change the fact that God came in the form of a human being, changed the course of history one life at a time for over two thousand years now.

You will not change our hearts.

But yours might be.

Would your heart change if you passed along the goodwill that Christians celebrate at Christmas, by not insisting that the single most important event in history to millions of people be watered down to assuage those who don’t believe?

Are you just that special? (Irony: to the God you deny, you are incredibly special.)

I would rather Jewish, Islamic, and yes – even atheists! – celebrate their respective religions (or lack thereof) full-on without watering down their traditions to please me.

Don’t tread on me.

Don’t tread on my Christ.

Don’t tread on my Christmas.

And Merry Christmas. Welcome to the resistance.

The World Gone Crazy, but we still have The Friend

I took this picture at the Little Chapel in NYC at the base of Ground Zero. The banner was decorated by children to cheer the emergency workers and volunteers during the recovery. The Little Chapel, directly next to the Twin Towers was virtually untouched by the carnage that day.

By: Jana Greene

“Judas (not Iscariot) said: ‘Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not the world?’ (in reference to ascending to heaven).

“Because it is a loveless world, “said Jesus. “A sightless world.  If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and the Father will love him – we’ll move right into the neighborhood!  Not loving me means not keeping my words.  The message you are hearing isn’t mine.  It’s the message of the Father who sent me.”   John 14:22-27 (MSG)

Over the past few weeks, I have felt like the world were falling apart.  Losing hope, like Jesus is not welcome in many neighborhoods.  As we are approaching a Presidential  election, media coverage (largely unbalanced) is stepping up the mud-slinging and Americans are picking mud off the ground and  hurling it at each other.  Civil rights issues are at the forefront, and people and businesses with belief systems that have been practiced and adhered to for centuries are being sucked into the vortex under the guise of “civility”.

It is un-hip now to be a Christian, no matter which side of one particular debate that Christian might fall on. That’s the crazy thing – Christians as a whole are slowly but surely starting to be persecuted  in America – not by bodily threat, but by that thing that Americans have long disdained: intolerance.  A witch hunt for historically conservative people is still a witch hunt.

There is even a movement to make “all religion illegal”.  It is still a small and restless, largely underground phenomenon, but I can assure you, it exists.  I have seen the evidence with my own eyes, in my own town.   The frightening thing is that such a thing doesn’t seem  out of the realm of reality these days.

Allow me to describe the current government trajectory as I see it with my earthly eyes:  It is growing into a massive,  monstrous machine that sucks the civil liberties of the masses into a grinder in the name of its own twisted definition of the ‘greater good’.  In the end of digestion, this ravenous machine – having  gorged on the constitutional sacrifices of Americans, craps out a tiny brick of pseudo-rights for a small segment of society.  That’s positively un-American.  And yes, that’s my opinion.

So far as I know, we are all still entitled to have one.  But leaning too much on my passionate opinions and too little on my faith doesn’t usually go well.

Everyone seems angry with everyone else right now, myself included.  I hate that feeling, that angst.  Because it comes from a place of fear.  I need to take a step back and breathe, and give my earthly eyes a rest.

It seems to be American against American, in chat rooms, on blog pages, on Facebook, even in our homes, our neighborhoods.  It is so easy to get focused on the manifestations of evil all around – the horrors that took place in a movie theater in Colorado, the epidemic of human trafficking – which takes in our own country!  The distractions of feeling politically passionate because of movements and issues, and freaking out with fear about the possibilities.  The longing for justice, because it is so out of whack. I get so wrapped up in my emotional frustrations with the entire world, which  are largely out of my control, that I forget that none of it is a surprise to my God.   I forget that He himself said that it is a loveless world, and that even when it feels completely out of control, He did not leave us all here stranded.

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you,” Jesus continues in the verse.  ” The Friend, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you.  he will remind you of all the things I have told you.  I’m leaving you well and whole (on earth) – that’s my parting gift to you.  Peace.  I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset.  Don’t be distraught.”

Distraught doesn’t even begin to TOUCH how I’ve been feeling lately.  But that’s what happens when you look around the world for peace, instead of exclusively  within – where He has placed it.  Within, where He gives us The Friend, who in turn fills us up so that we can love on a loveless world.  The Friend, to guide us through a sightless world.  Hearing the message of the Father, who IS love, instead of talking heads on the news, and instead of the voices of hatred.

Because I will worship God on my knees forever and ever, and no law can stop me.  The government didn’t give me the right to pray and worship and it cannot take that right away.   It is a right endowed by my Creator, who will is not subject to the rules of man, and who gives a peace that passes understanding to ALL who ask for His redemption.  There is also a lot of beauty still in the world.  Because the Holy Spirit is still on this planet and within us, there is still majesty, purity, grace, hospitality, and love – so much love.  God fills all of us imperfect, cracked vessels with his love in order to love on a world that is falling apart.  My hope is in Jesus.

Amen and God Bless America!