Moxie: A Series on Self-Care (space for the soul)

One of the biggest parts of my self-care is investing in my faith. This is a challenging gray area to write about. The ways we care for our souls are tender and personal. This post isn't here to tell you how to start your day or even that you need to believe in God. It's simply a look into another area of taking care of ourselves, our whole selves. This is an area I'm a firm believer in, I've seen the destruction that comes from ignoring this part of my life and the healing pursuing self-care can bring. If I'm longwinded or bossy, chalk it up to passion. 

If you are not a person of faith, may I gently suggest you still incorporate some sort of meditation. Time and time again, studies have shown the benefits of clearing our heads and connecting to our hearts.  Stress levels and overall health dramatically improve when individuals take even five minutes a day to pause and intentionally quiet. Technology has made it simple, there are apps that will guide you through a short meditation each day. 

If you follow Jesus, let me clarify a few things before I jump in. First, I believe our relationships are highly individualized. This means that the ways we connect with God can look vastly different from person to person. Gary Thomas has a wonderful book about this called Sacred Pathways. He outlines the main ways people feel God's presence and gives some practical tips to enhance your faith life. Second, I believe that connecting with the Lord looks different int different seasons. At times, my mornings have been heavily focused on prayer. Other times, memorizing scripture has taken center stage. More recently, painting and worship music have found a way into my rotation (more on this in a minute). We pursue our friends, family, and significant others in multiple ways depending on the season. Why would our relationship with Jesus be any different? Lastly, I believe that spending time with God is a discipline. It is something to be practiced, something to grow in, and something we may not always feel like doing. Some people equate this to practicing a sport, but I hate that analogy for faith. Instead, let me put it in terms of relationships. I am not always great at listening to my man. My mind wanders, especially if he begins to talk about health or sports. BUT, listening and connecting with him is a crucial part of marriage. So I listen, or rather I practice listening. Some days are better than others, I ask him about his day, put away any distractions, and fully engage in the conversation. Other days, listening is the last thing I want to do. However, I still make an effort. Because those moments of listening, whether my heart was in it or not, add up and build a firm foundation. 

Here is the rough outline of how I make space for my soul. 

Monday-Friday: Typically, I read a chapter or two of my Bible. Currently, I am using the Jesus Bible and loving it. Most mornings, I try to dig into the scripture. My favorite method of studying is outlined by Jen Wilkin in Women of the Word. It's an incredible resource! Plus, she has some deeper studies on her website that you can print off and follow.

Usually, I have a Christian non-fiction book in the rotation that I read a chapter of as well. About ever three months, I stop reading Christin non-fiction for a while and focus solely on my bible. I never want to supplement people's opinions for the truth of God and this pause helps me remember that the Bible is ultimately the only resource I need.

The rest of the day includes prayer. One or two days a week I journal my prayers, the other days I set aside time in the car to pray. That is my favorite! I pray out loud and worship, plus I'm sure the other drivers on the road get a kick out of it.

Weekends: During the weekends, all structure is thrown out the window. There is not set time or to-do. Most weekends, I paint in Lindsay Letter's coloring book of verses and play my favorite worship playlist on Spotify. Other times, I pull weeds in the garden and pray. I'll lay in the hammock and journal, go for a walk with my man and talk about what we see God doing, or start the day on the back porch in gratitude. It's loose and free and wonderful.

Marriage: We try to create intentional space where we grow together. Three to four nights a week, we read either the Bible or a chapter of a book together and pray right before bed. Currently, we are reading Jim Cybala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, one of my all time favorite books on prayer and the Holy Spirit. 

Our souls need room to breathe, to connect with the Lord or at least unplug from daily stressors. While it's not perfect, these are the rhythms that have created margin and refreshed my heart. There are days I miss all of this entirely. There are areas I am terrible at, such as praying with friends, studying theology, or sharing my faith. Tending to my soul is just another area of self-care that I am developing, slowly but surely.

Even when we struggle, our discipline pays off. When I was in the thick of extreme depression, self-care flew out the window, including any time with the Lord. It was an incredibly dark and frighting time, my mind felt trapped and weighed down. Once I began to heal, I picked up my prayer journal. When I flipped it open, I realized it had been an entire year since I had last written. Twelve months had passed since I had picked up my Bible, prayed, or done anything of the sort. However, while I was battling the darkness, my mind constantly was filled with scripture. Verse after verse would pass through my thoughts daily. For about 18 months before the depression hit, I had been actively memorizing parts of the Bible. Memorization had always been a weak skill set of mine so I wanted to challenge myself. Those few verses I managed to commit to memory, even though it was less than enjoyable at the time, became a lifeline in one of the most challenging seasons in our lives. The self-care we practice today matters for tomorrow. Each small choice, each step in the direction of health, whether mental, physical, spiritual, they add up. I've lived through the reality of preemptive self-care and the consequences of pushing it to the side.

So let's all learn from my mistakes and be preemptive. Make space for your soul. Your body and mind will thank you. 

 

 

Meredith Harper