Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV)
the warrior who does not care
for herself is too weak for battle.
(I had a conversation with my BFF today; Gayle, if you’re reading this, this is for you too.) I came across a book that just made it onto my “to read” list, Prayers for a Woman's Soul by Julie Gillies. In making the case for women praying for themselves, Julies wrote of the instructions provided by flight attendants “place the mask on yourself first, and then help those around you.” Is that the way you live your life? Wouldn't you like it to be? Here's something to consider-the warrior who does not care for herself is too weak for battle.
So, while you're musing that, enjoy this repost, Running on Fumes.
“An empty pitcher cannot pour.” This is the advice a dear friend gave me many years ago, when I felt stressed out and overwrought by the challenges of chasing my desire; to stay happily and successfully married, expert (a la Claire Huxtable) at mothering, building a career of which I could be proud, along with the notion of personal time and personal space, all under the dry-cleaned and flowing cape of Super Woman. Ha! “An empty pitcher cannot pour.” It is also the advice I gave my sister (the best friend who is truly my sibling in every way but genetics) this morning as I sat at my keyboard wondering what to type. This is usually how my blogs get written.
My sister lamented how worn out she felt, divining the needs of two children (I don’t care if they’re related, you’re doomed if you think that mothering means that one size fits all…), a husband, managing a household, and recounted the story of her 5 year old commenting on her tiredness and crankiness (before you chastise, gentle reader, that 5 year old is my beloved godson…). It sounded like a page from my life. We are currently afflicted with the same ailment. I am cranky. I am always tired. I am running on fumes.
I wear a lot of hats; we all do, and wear them well, mostly. In my case, I am his wife, their mom, daughter to one, granddaughter to another (they live together, and that carries its own drama, trust me), the surprisingly strong woman who promised first a grandfather and then a father that I’d care for the women they loved when they left too soon. I am sister, auntie, cousin, in-law, friend, chief cook and bottle washer, magician, Fashionista, chauffeur, banker and finance analyst, dancer, runner, community advocate. I perform any other duties as necessary. Although I’m running on fumes, the good news is that I’ve been here before, and have recovered, literally returning from the brink of disaster. What I learned, and what I hope to share, is that before you get to empty, you have to refresh yourself.
I LOVE MY LIFE, really. Don’t you? I happen to know that most of my mommy-friends are jogging on the same Sisyphusian treadmill, nearly killing ourselves, when if we only remembered to breathe, exhale (and giggle?), we’d all be so much better off. There are those who actually believe that “the way you breathe is the way you live.” According to Reichian therapy, one’s “capacity to experience joy and fully-realized lives is constricted by walls and armor we put up to protect us from the world.” I am no Reichian master, but I get it. We need to release. We need to shake it off.
There are examples of withdrawing in the Bible. In both Mark 3:7 and Luke 5:16, there is the Divine example of taking a pause, remembering to breathe, getting it back on track, and reclaiming the cool, calm, present focus we all so desire. Remember, in my best wife and mothering moments, I am channeling Claire Huxtable.
Even as I sit at my keyboard, I am listening to the gentle rhythm of my puppy as he snores. Loudly. It draws me away, if only for a moment. It makes me slow down. Distractions can be a good thing, maybe a blessing. The 23rd Psalms is a big ol’ stop sign, if you take a minute to read it.
“2 He makes me lie down…”
When was the last time you rested? Did you have time? Did you make time? Why not? I am clear that since I currently don’t have a regular commute or a FT job outside the home, it’s okay for me to rest during the day, because I haven’t always had the opportunity to do so, and someday that may very likely go away. What’s the harm? Better question, what are the benefits??
“…He leads me beside still waters.”
When was the last time you allowed yourself to be led? I noticed that in teaching our 10 year old son to dance, I was always leading, and I had to apologize and stop. What example was I setting for him, as a woman? What was I teaching him about being a man? Are you always rushing? Are you often impatient? What would happen if you slowed down? Have you ever noticed that you pay attention to people who speak more slowly? Have you ever tried it?
“3 He restores my soul.”
This is the game changer. Guess what? You cannot, and I repeat, cannot, do it all. Allow yourself to be restored. Imagine resting in it. In Peace. In Quiet. In Serenity. Imagine resting in silent meditation, in prayer, simply breathing, with your eyes closed, because restoration is the most important thing you might do in that one moment. What could you accomplish if you weren’t always in a rush?
“…He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” STOP! It’s not about you. It never was (about you, or me, or anyone else.) We are led for His Name’s sake. So stop being cranky. Rest if you’re tired. Would you rather be cared for by someone who delights in what they’re doing (please take the time to re-read the 23rd Psalm), or be hustled around by a burnt-out, overworked, overwrought, under-appreciated, resentful, guilty version of yourself?
My church has a prayer shawl ministry, where members who knit and/or crochet come together a couple hours, once a month. I noticed it for the first time in the bulletin last Sunday, and I’m going. Who knows what might happen? I also dug out, recommended to a friend, and recommitted to finally reading my copy of The Artist’s Way-A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. I’m not going to allow myself to run on fumes anymore. It’s not good for me, and it sets a bad example for the people who might be watching (and you never know who’s watching).
My children deserve better. My husband deserves better. I deserve better. I owe it to God, as I make of myself an offering.
I don’t feel better yet, but I will. I’m about to go for a run. I will feel even better when I hit the publish button, because I promised my sister I’d commit to working out our problem in this blog. So now, Lord, it’s up to You. I did my part. I showed up. I made myself slow down, focusing solely on this task, to the exclusion of multi-tasking, not easy for me, as an object lesson in filling my own pitcher. It cost me nothing.
So, when you are feeling pressed on every side, with not enough energy, time, or resources to cover all the things you think you need to cover, remember that you too are abundantly blessed. Fill your pitcher. Make yourself smile. I believe that God desires, like any good parent, that His children be happy. Hmm, happiness as a Divine Right? Now that’s further evidence that God is Good.