Take. Take. Take. Sounds greedy, right? Maybe a little self centered and selfish too.
Yet, how often have we been encouraged to “take time for yourself”?
Have you ever tried to take some time to yourself, but it was of little value because you spent the entire block of time feeling guilty or wrestling regret over other things you “should” be doing?
When I try to “take” some time for myself, some how I end up feeling bad about it. As if I have wrongly captured or stolen it away from someone or something else. Stealing is bad. Then my brain says taking is bad.
I do not want to take. I want to give. I want to be a person who gives generously.
GIVE it a try
A beautiful friend and I had some time on the phone together recently. Part of our time was spent praying for each other. One of the things she prayed over me was to stop feeling guilty about caring for myself. She prayed that I would remember caring for me makes me more prepared to nurture and encourage others. My sweet friend prayed, “may Julie give herself the time that she needs for self care.”
What stood out to me the most was the word give. My friend did not pray that I would TAKE time for myself. She prayed that I would GIVE myself time.
One little word, one huge shift in perspective.
“Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8
Giving does have a much more positive connotation in my mind. To give is to contribute, to present, to endow and to grant. I really like the word grant. There is no conditional repayment implied with the word grant. That sounds like something freely given, a gift.
A Gift for You
What if you gave yourself the gift of time? What would you do with it? What could you give yourself that would help you to care for yourself?
It is not selfish to give a gift to yourself. Now, I would just like to say that I am not talking about giving yourself every desire that you want. I am talking about taking care of yourself so that you are in the best condition that you can be in given the circumstances of your life. Because we all face varying circumstances, this is going to look different for each of us, but we may have some similarities.
Let me give you an example of the circumstances in my life. I am a wife and mother. I have two children; a son who is 17 and a daughter who is 11. We live on farm in rural Minnesota. I am a “Mom of all Trades” as I like to call it. I do a little of this and a little of that. Those are things that you may have in common with me. There are probably many similar things we do like cleaning house, preparing meals and helping kids with homework.
Rest. A long warm shower. Time to clean when kids are not cluttering behind you. A nap. These are wonderful gifts that we can give ourselves, to care for ourselves. These are regular and reoccurring care needs. They need some standard and repeated gifts of care.
What are some frequent forms of care that you need in your life?
In my life’s circumstances, I have Guttate Psoriasis. This is a type of Psoriasis that produces small salmon pink spots on the skin. There is a higher probability that we do not have this in common. I am fortunate to have this diagnosis, while it is not fun during outbreaks, I have been blessed to have only minimal spotting on any average day. Most of the time you would not recognize it if you were looking directly at me.
This circumstance in my life might require different gifts of care. It may mean that I need the time to apply special ointment. It could be that I need to spend dollars visiting the dermatologist. It might even mean a stint in light therapy. These things are often seasonal, lasting only for a period of time. They require infrequent or sporadic gifts of care.
What season are you in right now? What gifts of care are unique to this period of time?
A Gift for Others
Giving yourself the gift of time, is a primary blessing for you. It also has the secondary blessing of pouring over the other people in your life. Don’t you just love multiplied blessings!
If, as a wife and a mother, I get a decent amount of rest and carve out at least enough time give myself the impression that I am fairly put together, I am going to approach my husband and children with eyes that see what they are going through, ears that are in tune with the emotions they are feeling and a heart bent towards giving compassion. This deeply benefits all four of us living in our household, and contributes to making our home a sanctuary of rest from a crazy world.
Or…the opposite can happen. If I have been scaling back my sleep and rest to accomplish an unending conveyor belt of responsibilities, and if I have been giving away my time to put myself together to anyone who squeaks a potential need, then the negative consequences shall surely pour over my husband and my kids. My eyes will desperately search for what I want, my ears will tune into the demands thundering within my head and there will be a “closed, no compassion here” sign hanging on my heart. This is a horrible gift to give and makes those in my home want to leave A.S.A.P.
Believe me, I am sad to confess that I know the negative effects all too well. Things that I have said, I wish I would not have said. Things I left untended, that I wish I would have cared for. Wounds inflicted, that have left scars. I also know that I am going to mess up again the in the future. I know there are going to moments where I falter and moments where I stumble.
Stuff happens. Enjoying good stuff. Overcoming bad stuff. This is life.
How do I give myself the gift of time?
I have often heard it presented that you should give yourself a set amount of time every day. Perhaps this works for you, and that is awesome. But for me, this every day expectation is unreasonable and outlandishly frustrating. I may last two days on this plan before things in the calendar get jumbled up and make me feel defeated. It seems like too high of a goal, that I have too often fallen short of, so why even begin?
Sometimes I feel like blocking a period of time is backwards (but this may just be me). Let me walk you through the crazy garden of my mind to show you what I mean. I block time to give myself the gift of care, and I get to that time in my calendar, but I did not really specify what the time was for. So I begin on a project that is too big for that time slot. Now I can not finish what I started…(in my crazy garden this is like a lawn mower mulching my favorite daisies.)
Now I leave my block of time more frustrated than when I started. I am also crabby about my daisies being run over, but no one else saw it happen or felt the emotional loss. So I get labeled as a “moody mama”. My problem is obvious to me and oblivious to everyone else.
Or perhaps because I did not label the block of time I start this project, then think of that, try to squeeze in another thing over here. Then the calendar cries out to move on to the next thing…and what have I done. Nothing. I have actually accomplished nothing.
Ok, that may not be true, I may have made a big mess of my garden by pulling out a pot here, a shovel there, a pile of weeds, an unrolled hose, all things that will need to be cleaned up later.
In both examples I did not give a gift to myself. I would almost go to the extreme to say that I gave myself burdens instead. Yuck.
For me, I find it more helpful to determine in advance what kind of gift of care I would like to give myself. Then I try to identify what I need to do to work within my constrained circumstances, and my crazy personality, to really make it a gift. Here are some steps that I go through to give myself the best gift of self care.
- What is an area in my life that I feel I am struggling with, lacking or really running on an empty tank in? Is it physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, relational?
- What is driving this struggle or feeling that I am having?
- I pray for wisdom and revelation knowledge.
- Brainstorm any and all crazy potential gifts that could be of benefit in this situation. (Sometimes this will take a running list that I come back to multiple times)
- Pray over the list.
- What potential gifts are beyond the scale of my circumstances? Which gifts to I not have peace about? Which seem to be reasonable?
- Pray some more.
- Look at the calendar. What kind of time does this gift require? What other areas of my life will this affect? How can I address them?
- What would keep this from caring for me? How can I prevent care from turning to chaos?
- What, if anything, do I need to do to make this as fulfilling as possible?
Please keep in mind that these are not formal steps. Sometimes I skip parts or jump through them. Sometimes the gift of self care is just three minutes to brush your teeth, which really does not need this process.
The Most Beautiful Bubble Bath Ever
I love super hot, long bubble baths. In my world, these are a very, very, very rare occurrence. They are an exotic and luxurious gift that I give myself. They also take some planning. They are much more enjoyable when there is no one else in the house. That is a huge constraint on its own.
I was going through this period of intense stress and busyness. I had things not done around my house that I was really longing to do, but also had a severe case of a little here, a little there, no time to spare.
It was a combination of physical, mental and emotional deterioration. I needed more than just five minutes to refuel with an afternoon coffee. It felt like my world was burying me and I needed space.
Of course I prayed, very selfishly, that some generous benefactor would out of the blue bless me with a week long retreat at a beautiful all inclusive hotel with fresh fruit and fresh flowers and a personal hot tub. So…a little out of the constraints of my circumstances. But hey, I thought I would ask.
After a while of brainstorming, more realistic prayer, and filtering out what I could do. I came up with Long Hot Bubble Bath. I wanted to block two hours of time from the moment I could slip away until I had to be ready to merge back into the pace of my everyday world.
Huge problem…with so many responsibilities, how could I do this guilt free? What was one of my most nagging big tasks. One that I don’t seem to be getting too. Scrubbing the grout of the tile of my kitchen and dining room floor.
My plan was to dedicate a school day. Get the kids off and then take on the kitchen and dining room floor. Then relax in a bubble bath. That was my limit. It was blocked. Chaos before school, yes, chaos after school, fine. During the day, this one day, it’s grout and bubble bath.
Buckets, brushes and on my hands & knees I scrubbed away. I don’t know if it was the anticipation of what I was hoping would come or the built up frustrations that I was taking out on my floor. Wow, did it sure feel good to have that done. The dip in the tub was…dare I call it almost heavenly. I am sure Heaven is in fact a much more glorious place, but it was an incredible gift of time to myself.
The progress on the floors prior had removed the guilt, resulting in one sweet soak. And a mom who was a bit more at peace when fast paced footprints, food crumb toting teenagers and one filthy farmer trudged across that tile floor.
It was a generous gift. I am so glad I gave myself the time. That was an extreme example. Most days the gift is time to finish one more chapter in a book, a few minutes to stretch my leg muscles to keep my hips in proper alignment, or time to send an encouraging note to a friend.
A little bit still gives a gift. A little given freely really does seem give a gift that will bless in pour over fashion.
How about we stop trying to take, take, take, time from ourselves and give, give, give the gift of time.
Thank You so much for all You have given us! Thank you for the incredible ways that You have pour into us and blessed us. Thank You for how You richly and freely have given. May we deeply desire to do the same thing, in the same kinds of ways.
Lord, for all of us, please help us to identify those areas that we may need the gift of time to give ourselves a little tender, loving, care. Please help us find the best gifts to give ourselves. Help provide within our circumstances and constraints to allow us the ability to make it happen. Show us how to do it without the guilt and regret so that it is beneficial and helpful to us, as well as those around us.
In the generous name of Jesus, who offers such incredible gifts with His time, amen.