Stop Making Excuses!
I received a letter recently that basically said, I work an 8 hour night shift, and then after work I’m chauffeuring children all around, how am I suppose to spend time with God? I’m not sure whether this person is single, but if so, you can just pile another 100 pound of bricks on all she’s up against. I know because I’ve been there.
For almost 15 years, I did just that. I worked full-time as an elementary school teacher and parented three daughters as a single parent. Fortunately, I received a lot of support from their father, so I’m very thankful to God for that. But still, when all the responsibilities fall on one person to keep everything running smoothly, it’s both difficult and draining. Some days you just want to give up, but you can’t because you have little people depending on you. So you just trudge ahead the best way you can.
This has become the lifestyle or pattern of many Christians whether married, single, or child-less. We just trudge along doing the best we can with the little time and energy we have left over. Whether were employed in or outside the home, attending church services, volunteering our time to various organizations, we often don’t take time just for us. Everything else seems to take precedent over our own self-care and this can only last so long with taking a toll on our mental, spiritual, and physical health.
In the question, how do I find the time to spend with God? You don’t find the time, you “make” time. That might mean moving schedules around or omitting some activities. If we’re just waiting for that time to show up, we’ll be waiting for an eternity.
I honestly believe that many of the problems and issues we face today are a result of not taking care of our inner self, our spirit. When we are worn down spiritual, it creates an open door for stress, fear, unbelief, worry, anger, and many other destructive emotions and mindsets. When we aren’t feeling our best spiritually and emotional we often find ways to cope and compensate. We overeat or eat poorly. We get irritable and snap at our family members. Minor occurrences become major irritants. We lose our faith and fear takes over. This may lead to hopelessness and depression.
So what is self-care? Self-care is spending some time EVERYDAY doing something that nurtures your mind, body, and spirit. Self-care for one person may be different for another. At a recent workshop where I discussed the benefits of Christian meditation, the topic of self-care came up. Someone asked, do you mean going to the spa or taking a bubble bath? I answered by saying, it could be that for one individual but not another. It’s up to you to decide how you want to nurture yourself. But whatever it is you decide, try to spend at least one hour per day just for you.
For me self-care is spending 15-20 minutes with God in the morning. This time is invaluable because it sets the pace for my day, helps me to create balance, centers my mind, and creates a sense of peace and well-being. It’s my time to align myself with the Lord and fill myself up with his attributes. It also includes journaling and working through my Weight Loss God’s Way Program, which is teaching me how to create the body I want through my words, thoughts, and actions. Dr. Frank Smoot, creator of this program states, “Your most important job in this world is to optimize your own life, so that you can be a true blessing to others.” That means becoming the best “you” that you can be. Dr. Smoot goes on to say and we’ve all heard it before, “you can’t give water from an empty well, and you can’t contribute much to others’ lives if your life isn’t working.” Jesus loved us so much that He died for us, but we need to fall in love with ourselves as well so that we will do those things make us feel happy and whole. When we take of others at our own expense, it is called neglect. And you can only neglect yourself so long before you become resentful, tired, and disillusioned.
Moving on…self-care for me also includes making fresh fruit or vegetable juice everyday and spending some time recording thoughts in my journal. It includes reading my affirmation prayer and spending 5 minutes visualizing my goals and dreams. My self-care also includes writing articles like these, because they help me as much as they help others with keeping my priorities in check. It also includes spending 30 minutes on my treadmill 3 days a week followed by a six-pack abs workout. These are the activities that make me fill like I really accomplished something that day.
But you might be thinking, we’ll now that your kids are grown you have time to do all these things. Let me tell you that space will always occupy itself with something. It’s like saying, the more money you have the more you spend. Well time is no different. If you don’t plan your time, no matter how much you have, you are most likely to waste it or fill it with those habitual activities. My habitual activities are extended work hours and television; neither of which nurtures my soul.
When my children were younger and in my home, I looked forward everyday to my time with God. Because mornings and early evenings were hectic, I carved about an hour each night around 8p.m. to just abide in God’s presence. By this time of night, my girls were settled in for the evening, the house was quiet, and I would retreat to my bedroom, lock the door, and spend the next hour being loved and nurtured by God. It was one of my favorite times of the day and I craved it. Spending time with God in silence or with soft music playing in the background made me feel cherished and renewed. Sometimes I would sing to the Lord along with the lyrics of my favorite soul- stirring songs. I always felt the sweet presence of God’s spirit.
My good friend created a prayer retreat in a small room of her home. It is so awesome. She has a chaise lounge underneath a standing lamp, angels and Christian artifacts adorning her shelves, a cushiony rug, pictures, plants, gifts, a vision board, and everything special to her. This is her secret place where she hides away with God every morning or when the weight of the world begins to invade her peace. Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole room to devote to spending time with God, but anyone can create an area in their home that draws you to this daily practice.
When you feel good inside by taking time to nurture yourself, every other area in your life will fall into place. That is because you will be making choices and decision from a place of balance and clarity. You will be creating your life proactively instead of just reacting to one crisis after another. You will begin to set the stage of your life, instead of allowing life’s circumstances to create your daily script. When this happens, we eat better which results in more energy, better health and weight loss, our homes are cleaner and reflect our inner peace, our relationships thrive, we accomplish more doing less, and we attract better and more positive situations into our lives. Self-care promotes authentic and present-centered living. It also promotes increased peace, joy, and clarity. It helps us to live out our truest values instead of just being dragged along with the tide. It creates the life of our truest desires and dreams and helps us to fill that whole and complete.
Your assignment today is to list your top 10 excuses for not taking care of yourself. Here is what your list might look like:
1.I have too many things on my plate right now.
2.I work fulltime.
3.I have small children and they take all my time.
4.I’m just not important enough.
5.I have more important things to do.
6.I’m so far behind, I need to catch up.
7.It is too overwhelming and I’m just too tired.
8.I can’t afford a gym membership or equipment.
9.I’m too involved at my church.
10.I don’t get any support at home.
Once you have your list, make a resolution to stop buying into these excuses. Next, begin to think about and reflect upon your inner values and then decide how you will manage your time so that you can incorporate them (your inner values) into your life for at least one-hour per day and preferably two.
Your inner values include those things most important to you and you need to be first on the list. What activities do you need to eliminate or reduce so that you can begin your own personal self-care regiment? Ask God to reveal to you the areas in your life that you are neglecting and what you can do to take your control back. If you just don’t know what to do, then sit with God in quiet or with soft music playing everyday for 30 minutes to one hour, until you do. Vision, direction, and clarity will come in time.
Christian meditation or spending time with God in silence and solitude will help you to find balance and regain control over your life. If the thought of sitting alone with God brings on a mini-anxiety attack, consider purchasing one of my guided Christian meditation CDs. These Cds provide a great transition from busyness to stillness and they come in a variety of topics and include a progressive relaxation followed by a scriptural narrative. You can also learn more about Weight Loss God’s Way, which is a wonderful program for renewing your mind, “body”, and spirit.