Prayer

Self Care: Selfish or Scriptural

By Shannon Toller

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It’s not a secret to anyone that knows me that I love a good self-help book. I like to paint my nails and put headphones in when the girls go to sleep. I cherish drinking a hot cup of coffee, and I may even like it when my taste buds get burned off with that first gulp. But, when it comes to the “self-care movement” of today, I feel like Sandra Bullock before she turns into Gracie Lou Freebush.

I’m all about a mani/pedi day with my girlfriends, followed by lunch and a movie. Except for the tiny baby hiccup that I just don’t have the time for that anymore. I am a stay at home mama to three girls under six, and it’s summertime to boot, so I am using all my God-given energy to figure out new ways to eat turkey sandwiches. I don’t have time (or money) to pay a sitter and take a “me day.” Quite honestly, I don’t even know if I would enjoy a day at the spa at this season of life; I wouldn’t be able to relax because I'd be too worried that the kids lit the house on fire. My head would be filled with more thoughts like, “I should have bought that baby-cam," instead of ideas of Namaste and chill. So instead of working myself into an anxiety spiral at a day spa, I find solace in my time with Jesus.

True Self Care

Jesus Christ and my relationship with Him is MY self-care.

I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but our Lord and Savior practiced self-care. Remember in the gospel of Mark when Jesus told his followers that there are two commandments to follow in their relationship with Him:

Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
— Luke 10:27

Right here in Scripture, Jesus implores us to take care of our friends and neighbors the way we take care of ourselves. We wouldn’t offer our friends the bare minimum: the scraps of food we eat off our kids’ plates at dinner time, or the five-minute bathroom timeout we so desperately need in our mothering journey. We would roll out the red carpet for a friend who was celebrating and break out the tissues and chocolate for the friend who was grieving. We would break out the best china, the best cheese and crackers, and we would fill their cups. We would pray with them, cry with them, and laugh with them. We wouldn’t guilt them into doing “more” or “less.” We would simply be with them. Just like Jesus simply is with us.

Jesus practiced self-care when He took time away from the crowds and the congregations to spend quiet time with the Father. He never had a big prayer session in the middle of a marketplace. He went to the most secluded of places, simply so He could hear what His Father was speaking to him. He never tried to do it himself or put on a façade. When Jesus was scared and reluctant to be beaten, bloodied, and crucified on a rugged cross for our sins, he literally sweat blood. He was as human as is humanly possible, without all of that silly sin stuff.

Jesus never forsook the fellowship. He was always available to his friends and family, but He still knew when the time for prayer and solitude was on the horizon. Like Jesus, we need to remind ourselves that sometimes “self-care” isn’t a spa day: it’s the solitude of reflection and prayer. But in this world of “hustle this” and “hustle that” and “hustle until you’re dead,” being still and quiet and open to the movement of the Holy Spirit is the most counter-cultural thing you could do in 2019.

C.S. Lewis says it best: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Redefining Self Care

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Spa days and comfy leggings and tubs of ice cream are fun and enjoyable. But when you are choosing them over Jesus, that’s when life starts to fall apart. When you focus too much on yourself and your “self-care,” you are neglecting one of the most important commandments in the Bible: Everyone should look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

Yes, we need to take care of ourselves. Us mamas need to get a shower in more than once a week. We need to wear our hair down instead of defaulting to the “mom-bun.” But, if we are neglecting our families and friends for the sake of self-care, then I think we are all missing the point.

Being a young mama isn’t for the faint of heart, especially in 2019. We need to be kind to ourselves and extend that good, good grace God extends to us. We need to get sound sleep each day. Contrary to popular belief, I cannot run on coffee, and I’m betting you can’t either. We need healthy, nutritious diets to fuel our adventures in motherhood. We need to get out the stroller and take a walk with the kids. We need to play at the park and swing on the swing set. We need to dance in the kitchen with our husbands, and we most definitely need to make out with our husband in front of our children. They need to see love and stability, just as much, if not more than we do. We need to go to the doctor when we aren’t feeling well. We need to ask for help when we are drowning in sorrow and depression and laundry.

Most importantly, we need to rely on Jesus and our relationship with Him. Not just because He is our heavenly Father and our Savior, but because He is our friend. The friend who sacrificed himself for a punishment we so rightfully deserved is a prayer away. The Holy Spirit that rose Jesus from the grave lives in you. How’s that for “self-care” in your daily life?


Finding Your Rest

By Joy O’Neal

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Summer, summer, summertime…the song I’m sure every teacher is singing right now. I surely am! It’s summer! Us moms have a love-hate relationship with summer, don’t we? If your children aren’t school-age yet, then it’s just a warmer part of the year with more opportunities to play in the sun, but if they are school-age, then your entire world just changed for the next twelve weeks into beautiful chaos. The game of tug-of-war between relaxing vs. go has already begun. For me, summer has already whispered a beautiful soul lesson of restoring peace and surrendering to God’s presence inside of motherhood.

The school year ended, and the excitement for a much-needed break was rising throughout my home, but I continually heard the shout of one word, STOP! I knew where it was coming from. I knew why this four-letter word was all I could hear. I knew that my soul was weary, but I resented the wrestling match that would follow. A collision I’ve felt many times as an ambivert. I was empty. I sat the kids down and explained to them that this summer, our theme was rest. I told them other than a few local attractions we wouldn’t be doing much. I was extremely surprised when each one met me precisely where I was. It was clear. We all needed rest.

Cue wrestling match. Each morning I would sit and attempt to usher in the silence. Only a few days passed, and my mind battled between the thoughts of how many tasks I could complete this summer and resting. I would enter my office and see all the lesson plans and books and for a moment contemplate diving into the space. Again, STOP! I knew I needed to go the extra mile. I began to pack up my office and remove everything that called me into teacher brain. I searched Facebook Marketplace for an oversized chair. Once I cleared out my office and found my chair, the word shifted from STOP to SIT. I don’t know about you, but as a mom sitting is hard! Doesn’t it seem like once our bottoms hit a chair our children have an inner alarm system? Then the most beautiful thing happened—it rained! And I love the rain. Growing up in South Carolina afternoon summer rainstorms were a daily occurrence. Each evening it rained, and each evening I would sit.

Once I started to get the hang of sitting the word quickly switched to SEARCH! This beautiful rest and peace that was being restored caused me to search for the deeper why behind its previous exit from my life. How did Jesus manage to stop when He was being pulled? How did He choose to sit when He was sent to this world to spread a message? As I searched through Scripture, I found beautiful similarity between the life of Jesus and the cry of my heart. Verse upon verse, it was clear. Even Jesus knew He needed to slip away. Scripture refers to these places as a Solitary place (Mark 1:35), Lonely place (Luke 5:16), Quiet place (Mark 6:32), and Certain place (Luke 11:1). Jesus knew the importance of having a spot.

How as mothers and professionals do we maintain a quiet spot? How do we bring this certain place into the school year? How do we acquire time of solitude amid so much activity? We can’t. We can’t until we let go of the fairytale quiet place we’ve mentally created and replaced it with Susanna Wesley’s prayer apron.

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Susanne Wesley was the mother of John and Charles Wesley. These two men grew up to lead millions to Christ. Now there’s a mom goal! John and Charles weren’t her only children, though. Susanne had 19 children, but only ten lived through infancy. Studying her life feels a bit like a chapter out of Job. Her marriage was in constant conflict; one of her children was crippled, and another couldn’t speak until they were six. Susanne’s husband couldn’t manage finances and provoked the anger of his congregation, which lead to multiple attacks on their home and livelihood. Finding time to stop, sit, and search would seem impossible in Susanne’s life. When Susanne was young, she made a vow with God that she would never spend more time in entertainment or leisure than she did in prayer with Him. A house with ten kids doesn’t seem like a setting for a quiet place, but Susanne created her own spot by telling her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, they were not to bother her. Two hours a day, Susanne would meet with God in her apron tent and pray.

Just like Susanne, we have to be creative with creating our places of solitude and quiet. Maybe it’s the car ride to daycare? Maybe it’s waking up 20 minutes before the house gets busy? Maybe it’s folding the towels or creating a ‘Do Not Disturb’ apron moment of our own? One of my favorite songs right now is “You Are My Hiding Place” by Selah and each time I hear this song I am reassured that it’s in our moment with God when we are restored. However this practice of stopping, sitting, and searching looks for you, I am convinced that when our hiding place is in Him, then our peace can be anywhere. Cheers to summer!


Tuning into God's Voice in Motherhood

By Brittany Rust

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Washers and dryers running. Kids yelling as they chase each other around the house. Hungry baby cries. The inner to-do list for the day running through your mind. There’s no shortage of noise in the life of a mom. And that’s just the practical. You might also struggle with cultural distractions to mother with a certain finesse and play supermom. Comparison, fear, doubt, and insecurity clamor for your attention. You’re bombarded with voices all the time—and it can be both overwhelming and exhausting.

Elijah was bombarded with great acts that many assume God would be in. Yet, God wasn’t in the fire or wind—He was in the gentle whisper.

And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
— 1 Kings 19:11-13
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In motherhood, it’s easy to be distracted by all the things. However, it’s never more important than in parenting to silence the noises and tune into one: His. It’s this intimate connection that gives you strength when you are weak. That gives you the tools to parent in grace. That sustains you in the exhaustion and discouragement. And it’s this connection that leads you in wisdom when it comes to discipling or correcting or leading your child. It’s vital to your role as a mother.

So, how do you tune into God’s voice and push away all the others? They are practical and may seem obvious, but these three practices are foundational to hearing His voice.

How to hear God’s voice

1.Read the Bible.

The Bible is God’s only definitive word we have and by reading it, you can learn about His character, discover what He cares about, and uncover His revealed will for your life. There is no doubt that if you aren’t in Scripture, you will have a hard time hearing from Him.

Even is it’s a few verses at a time, try to get something in you each day. This will help you in hearing from Him and lend to you flourishing in parenthood.

I know when you’re chasing kids around it can be a challenge to carve out a devotional time but it’s also the single most important thing you can do each day. If you’re not in His Word to be refreshed, you’ll start operating out of your own strength and in that limitation, struggle in your parenting. You need Jesus! And your kids will be better off with a mama who prioritizes her spiritual walk with the Lord.

2. Pray.

Regular communication is necessary for any healthy relationship and it’s no different in your relationship with God. Conversation helps to know one’s voice. When you take time to communicate with God regularly, and listen in return, you will be cultivating an ear for His voice.

3. Practice.

If you feel the smallest inkling to step out and act, do it. Put your faith into action. By practice, you will learn what is and isn’t God’s voice. Maybe you step out and find it wasn’t God’s voice—that’s okay. In that experience you’ll learn what isn’t God’s voice. You can learn from what worked and what didn’t work—and the more you practice, you’ll discern what God’s voice sounds like.

If you will start implementing these three practices in your daily routine, I am confident that you’ll cultivate a greater intimacy with God, learn to discern His voice, and have His guidance in the matters of motherhood.

** This blog is based on a portion of Brittany’s new book, Here I Am: Responding When God Calls Your Name. Grab your copy to further learn to discern His voice, how you can overcome doubt and fear, and learn how to step confidently into your calling.