I love that the Jewish New year, Rosh Hashanah, is in the Fall. I think the fall is such a good time to start fresh: it’s a new year for school and a great time to start a new routine. For the past two weeks, I have completely changed my morning routine and today with its “New Year” energy seems like a good day to share what I’ve been up to.
Here’s the big change in my life: I’ve been waking up an hour before my kids and spending the first moments of the morning in peace and quiet with my Bible. Waking up and spending a little peace and quiet time with God gives me more peace throughout the whole day. And everything in life goes better if we have more peace! (Especially our mornings!!!)
If you need some encouragement to care for yourself, to rest, or to stop worrying, read on!!! Two weeks of daily Bible Journaling produced a lot of pictures!
I’m not sure how to tell the story of what brought about the big change, so I just share the real sequence of events….
Around the time my youngest daughter started kindergarten, I watched this video on Facebook…
On the first day of school, I came home and made my bed. After listening to the Admiral, I made my bed really well. I put brand new sheets on and arranged the pillows. And cried and cried and cried. I laid down on the bed when it was made and cried some more. I’ve been making my bed every day since (without all the tears!).
I guess nobody can tell you how you will feel when your youngest child starts kindergarten. It’s a huge life change to go from being a mama of littles to a mom of big kids. I had that feeling everyone warns you about as you are holding your tiny infant: “It goes so fast.” I also just cried because I haven’t had time to make my bed before noon in years.
It’s taken me some time to unpack my emotions that day. At least part of the puzzle was intense tears of contrition for all the little things that I’ve let go (like making my bed). And as Admiral William McRaven says: “The little things in life matter.” Little things, like getting enough sleep, eating nourishing food, spending time in the Word, getting exercise (beyond just chasing kids!), making our living space more welcoming. I get that it was just a season of my life, but as I move from one season to another I was surprised by how quickly my priorities shifted back to little things, especially toward caring for myself.
Somebody who has taught me so much about caring for myself and using my time well is Holly Rigsby. She posted a video on Facebook about how she makes her bed in the morning and shared that she was going to host a “Take Back Your Morning Challenge” on Facebook. So I signed up! And about the same time Illustrated Faith offered a printable called “Self Care Dare.” Everything started coming together…
One of the things, that I love about Holly is that she often teaches by asking quesitons. For example, she doesn’t describe her dream morning, but asks: “What does your morning look like and what would you look like it to look like?” Truth-be-told, my mornings were chaotic, usually beginning with kids jumping on me and pulling me out of bed, and the word “quiet” came to mind when I thought of what I wanted. Focusing on that one word, “quiet” set everything else into motion for me. Maybe another person would prefer “energetic” or “productive”, but for me waking up slowly and alone is a good thing!
The next morning, I set my alarm for 6:00 AM, with the idea that I might actually get 6:30, and I would have a little quiet. But I woke up right away and then I was like, “Now what?” How do I want to use this quiet time? Well, one of my favorite things to do is color in my Inspire Bible, so that’s what I did…I started with one of the recommended verses in the Self Care Dare printable. It was a strange experience to wake up and read an invitation to rest, but I sure enjoyed the peace and quiet and a little time to play before the day starts.
Holly encouraged us to map our morning, plan it out. I found that it was even easier to wake up the next morning, knowing that I would enjoy the first few moments of the day. The next day felt like waking up on Christmas as I journaled more about rest and played with one of my gelatos.
In one of her morning pep talks, Holly says we can either “Rise & Shine” or “Rise & Whine.” (Most of my life, I’ve been in the “Rise & Whine category.) According to Holly, there are two major reasons why mornings are tough: Sleep deprivation and attitude. For a long time, sleep deprivation was the issue for me, especially with little ones in the house. But that problem resolved itself, so I need to fix my attitude about mornings. Holly says: “Life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change.” It’s been a good change for me to start the day with Jesus, his Word, and some grace…
One of the suggested Bible passages for the self-care dare was 1 Corinthians 19: “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?”
Throughout the years, I have seen so many people use the above verse as motivation for fitness and weight loss. I’ve always silently objected. Paul didn’t say lift weights and eat right, he said don’t have inappropriate sex. As I worked on the page above, I wondered if maybe I should explore the topic more deeply. I thought “Maybe I should read all the verses in the Bible about the Temple and to appreciate this verse more fully.”
So I printed the verses out after finding them on Bible Gateway and copying them into a Word document…As I read through the verses, I could see some parallels between the temple of the Bible and our own bodies: There are times we build up, times we neglect, times we take things into our temple that we shouldn’t, times we restore and rebuild.
I picked another verse to journal…I focused on the passage about the pillars of the temple named Jachin and Boaz because I was thinking about the pillars of self-care.
Holly shares that the best practices of a morning routine fall into three categories: movement, mindset and nourishment. She calls this the trifecta of a good morning to supercharge your mood, energy, and momentum for the day. From my notes:
- Movement is life; movement is energy. In the morning, stretch or take a walk, or both.
- Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. Read something inspirational every morning.
- Each and every time you eat or drink is an opportunity to nourish your body. The simplest starting point is the first thing that goes into your body. Wake up and drink a glass of water!
More quotes from Holly:
- Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.
- Don’t strive for perfection, but shoot for daily continuous improvement.
I decided to work all these thoughts into an illustration of “my temple.”
I wondered if it was ok to put three pillars instead of two as described in the Bible. I thought “That’s probably fine.”
The thought occurred to me, “The middle pillar is you.” Then I had an epiphany “Oh, you have to have the mindset to balance the nutrition you take in with the movement you give out to keep the temple in good shape.” For a moment or two, I may have gotten lost in some sort of mystical moment, thinking about contrasting energies represented by Jachin and Boaz.
One of the things that I love about Holly is that she can speak tough truth. She calls it the “shoulder shake” we all need from time to time. These words hit me hard….
You cannot be to busy for you. You will always have time for the things you put first, and for all the busy, frazzled moms out there, you have to put yourself first because the quality of what you give will decline if you are not replenishing and restoring your reserves. It is not selfish. There is not reason to feel guilt…If you claim to be super mom and everything to everyone, but you are not taking care of yourself than what everything and everyone is getting from you is crap. -Holly Rigsby
In many ways, taking care of yourself is a prerequisite to loving God and others…(my page from the next morning.)
A big part of self-care, of course, is watching your own self-talk. It is so important to talk to ourselves, the way we would talk to someone we love. I loved this little reminder from the Illustrated Faith Self-Care Dare…It didn’t quite fit on the page where I thought it belonged, so I just wrote the message where there was room on the page.
I’ve been following Holly for about six years. I was first drawn to her fitness program, but I quickly discovered her most helpful advice was about how to manage time better. She taught me that productivity means doing the right things at the right time. For example, there are times during the day where an e-mail can be written in 20 minutes and times when takes 3 hours because of foreseeable interruptions. If it’s important, get it done when it’s possible and save yourself some frustration. During times when your not as productive, lighten up. She says almost everyone has three power blocks during the day. Know ahead of time how you will use them. As Holly says, “You don’t need more time. You need more reason to use your time well.” I never learned to love 15-minute intense interval workouts, but this wisdom has made all the difference in my life. During some of my lighten-up moments of the day, I colored this page from Habakkuk.
One morning, Holly talked extensively about mindset. She shared that the quickest way to improve our mindset is to practice gratitude. It’s impossible to feel grumpy if what is in your heart and on your mind are the things you are truly grateful for. She suggests just taking five minutes in the morning and again in the evening to write down three things that bring about feelings of gratitude. It never occurred to me that gratitude is as form of self-care until Holly Shared this quote from Melodie Beattie, author of Co-dependent No More:
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
I love this quote, so it found its way into my Bible next to the verse: “Give thanks.”
As Holly discussed attitude, she asked the question: “What do you need to let go?” We all have hurts and sorrows and frustrations in life. Holly reminded me, “You have survived 100% of your worst days.” Sometimes, we need to rest in God’s promise…
When I asked myself the question, “What do I need to let go of?”, I found that there was a conversation I needed to have. I kept going round and round in my head wondering why someone had a change of mind about something. It would be easy enough to just ask the person so that I could stop asking myself the same question over and over again. I had a good conversation and gained some clarity and felt better…
I thought I let it go on Friday, but on Monday, I had another conversation about the same topic with someone else. I became really worried that I was misunderstood, not just a little bit worried, but obsessively so. Maybe it was the death throws of letting something go, but I wrote three letters I never sent, one in the middle of the night when I had terrible insomnia. I was seriously annoying myself and I found myself distressed that I was distressed.
Some people have eating binges on a diet, but I had a full-blown worry binge while making so much progress on feeling more at peace in life. (Life is never a straightforward path!–Something else I learned from Holly.)
At moments like this I think of a quote by Hermann Melville that always makes me laugh:
Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.
I realized that I have a deep-seated fear of being misunderstood. (This probably has something to do with why I like to write! I need all the practice with communication I can get.) I also realized that as part of my self-care dare, I need to address this tendency to worry obsessively.
I woke up early again the next morning. I couldn’t just jump out of bed because I had such trouble sleeping, but at 7:00 I got out of bed, drank some water, and did some stretches; I started feeling better. It was a new day! I had a little time to color in my Bible, too.
That night I went to a Bible Journaling workshop taught by my friend Tess Crawford. She taught a devotion on Paul’s speech to the Athenians at the Temple of the Unknown God. She asked us how we would live differently if we had a full awareness of God’s presence with us. I said that “I would worry less. God only told me in Scripture not to worry about 100 times.” Everyone laughed. This is the page I did that night. It’s good to be reminded that God is always with us. The beautiful tip-in was created by my friend Tess Crawford of “Recess with Jesus.”
While I was at the Bible Journaling workshop, which was in a Lifeway store, I bumped into a retired pastor from my church, who is fond of saying “There are no coincidences!”. He sat down and flipped through my Bible. He talked through numerous scriptures and it’s always a joy to listen to him illuminate the text. At some point in our conversation he told me “You know Oswald Chambers says that worry is irritation with God.” I responded, “That helps me right now because I’ve been struggling with some anxiety.” He went searching for Oswald Chambers’ book If You Will Ask. (It seems every time I share a problem with a Presbyterian minister, I receive a book to read! This is a good one on prayer.)
The next morning this quote found its way into my Bible.
Toward the end of my challenge I ran out of pieces in the Self Care Dare printable. I couldn’t decide if I should do “Thrive” or “Sleeping Beauty” next, so I combined some paper pieces from both. I love the page below because it summarizes so much of what I’ve learned over the past few weeks.
I stumbled upon this quote from Brene Brown over the course of my two-week challenge:
Creativity embeds knowledge so that it can become practice. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration — it is how we fold our experiences into our being… The Asaro tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea has a beautiful saying: “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.”
Weaving together Bible Jouranling with a 10-day course on how to have a better morning helped integrate so many lessons in self-care so that they are now living in my muscle!
I am embracing the Jewish new year. I am going to stick with a few small changes: Waking up on purpose and spending some quiet time with God and making my bed as soon as possible. After just making these few changes for two weeks, I’m feeling inspired to also eat better and move more, to speak kindly to myself, to practice gratitude, to let go of anything that steals my joy, and to stop worrying!
One more quote from Holly: “What you do today will improve all your tomorrows.”