Cultivating Care for Christians

Recently, I read a blog post condemning “self-care” for Christians, as though self-care is negative thing for believers. Someone even went so far as to comment that she cringes when she hears Christians talk about self-care. It’s been weighing on me because I disagree, believing it to be not only beneficial, but vital to our health.

Self-care is a three-pronged approach. It includes nourishing the body, mind, and soul. Creating a daily routine that helps us to nurture each aspect is key. And when self-care is approached in the right manner, with intention, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Our physical, mental, and spiritual selves need to be tended to.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

When it comes to our physical bodies, taking time out to exercise our temples and keep them healthy is essential. For those with chronic health conditions such as myself, even five or ten minutes of walking or light stretching can be have positive benefits. And, cooking a meal with fresh whole foods that provide nutrients for our bodies is another way to care for ourselves physically. We can honor God with the choices we make when it comes to caring for our bodies, as well as our minds.

Pausing to feed our minds and souls daily with God’s Word is also critical, as is sitting with Jesus and meditating on His word. We need His food on a daily basis to not only sustain us, but to thrive. This is how he prunes us and allows fruit to grow in our lives, helping us to blossom into healthier selves.

Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. -John 6:35

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” -Matthew 4:4

In order to flourish, we need balance, which means we need to take time to enjoy life and not just work. God wants us to delight in our lives. This means we can take time out of our day to partake in a hobby that is fun and that we find enjoyable, without letting all the “should’s” take over. I should be doing __________________ (fill in the blank) instead. That hobby may be gardening, fishing, or it may be something artistic.

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. -Ecclesiastes 8:15

For some, creativity as self-care can be a challenge. It can get pushed aside or blocked for a number of reasons. This is something I personally struggle with. If being creative lights your fire, making time to create without guilt is crucial. Our God is a creative God who created the universe, and we are made in His image. Creativity is an excellent form of self-care and self-expression that can be used to rejuvenate and incite passion that can then be used to glorify God. The word “created” is used three times just in this one Bible verse alone:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27

It seems that maybe it’s the “self” part of self-care that is the concern of some, however, self-care doesn’t need to be all about us. In fact, it should include God because He desires a relationship with us and for us to us to dwell in His presence. We can take care of ourselves, while being in tune with God as we engage in those activities. And if we are intentional, sharing space with God while doing self-care, we can grow in our relationship with Him at the same time! So, let’s find ways to nurture each part of us, while making sure to include God each step of the way. Taking care of and loving ourselves, not only refreshes us, but it helps us to love and better serve others.

And because I’m a lover of lists, I’ve provided you with a free printable so you can start a daily self-care routine with God.

I Stand with Ukraine!

Together they will be like warriors in battle trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets. They will fight because the LORD is with them, and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame. -Zechariah 10:5

Please join me today in praying for the Ukrainian people. As I sit here writing, pondering how I can help, my heart bleeds for all the men, women, and children experiencing loss and trauma due to senseless acts of war. Many emotions are evoked as I hear of the devastation and chaos rocking the country of Ukraine. Ukraine, I stand with you! Let us pray!

Dear Lord,

I pray for peace and strength for the Ukrainian people. Please comfort them and surround them with your love during this tumultuous time. I pray that the Ukrainian people will seek you and find their strength in You. For those defending their country, please keep them safe and out of harm’s way. And for those who are seeking refuge, I pray that they will know that their refuge is in You, and that you will provide them with what they need to live. Lord, give them hope amidst the tragedy and destruction that is unfolding. I pray that you will protect President Zelenskyy and his family, and put a stop to this evil. Please give leaders around the world the wisdom to lead in the manner in which you want them to lead.

In Jesus’ Mighty Name,

Amen

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. -Romans 8:37

Endure…and Dance a Little

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. -James 1:12

Have you ever experienced one of those stormy seasons where you get slammed again and again, not knowing what will hit you next? You know the saying-when it rains it pours. Well, we’ve been caught in a torrential downpour. It has literally been one thing after the next. I’ll give you the shortened version…Over the past couple of months, our car engine blew in our nearly new and only vehicle due the fault of an auto body shop that didn’t replace our oil plug properly. While trying to figure out how this was going to be fixed, our rental car was suddenly pulled. The owner of the auto body shop decided he was no longer at fault and so refused to further pay for the rental. We were left to tow our car 300 miles away to be fixed, footing the bill for this and the new rental car, which cost thousands of dollars out of pocket. At the time we were dealing with our car, we ran into problems with our septic system. That same week, we experienced a 5.9 earthquake. Shortly afterwards, our daughter was diagnosed with asthma. In addition, we ended up making two trips to the ER that were totally unrelated. Our youngest, also began having heart issues and was recently fitted with a Holter monitor. Furthermore, last week, I slipped on the ice, tweaking my back and knee. It didn’t stop there though. This past weekend, we noticed our tire in our rental car had a slow leak. Then, last night, I severely blistered my hand cooking dinner. And through it all, God has been speaking.

ENDURE-That’s the word that has appeared in my Bible reading numerous times over the past two months. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, endure means “to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding though it is difficult” and “to undergo especially without giving in.” Remain firm. These are the words that penetrated my soul. So how do we do that when we are getting drenched? We persist, remaining steadfast in Jesus. He is unwavering, the One that is steady. He is our Rock. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.” Therefore, we don’t give up. We don’t give in. Rather, we continue to persevere, putting one foot in front of the other, walking in faith, with our hope grounded in Him and our focus on the eternal, doing everything for the glory of God. And…let us not forget to dance in the rain, remembering to be joyful because despite the challenges and hardships we may face, this is the day that the Lord has made!

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. -1 Peter 1:6

Sockfuls of Christmas Kindness

Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. -Proverbs 16:24

If you’re looking for a new Christmas tradition that’s simple, keeps Christ in Christmas, yet makes a big impact in your family’s life, checkout this free download of Christmas Kindness Notes below that I posted last year, in Our Christmas Eve Rundown. While not my original idea, (I got the idea for these notes on Pinterest) the notes below were created by me. You can get your free download here and start making memories:

This new tradition begins in our family as soon as we hang our stockings. The first week of December, we begin writing short messages of kindness, words of encouragement, short personal prayers, or snippets about what we love about each family member. Then, we slip the notes into our stockings. On Christmas Eve, we open our sockfuls of kindness and take turns reading the notes to each other.

Last year, this was a hit in our family. It was so uplifting to hear all the loving words we had written to each other. And when I told our girls we were going to do it this again this year, one of them replied (air pump and all), “yesssss!! I love doing those!” Not only is this a wonderful memory maker, the notes can be treasured for years to come! So, why not add this free stocking stuffer tradition and give the gift of kindness to your family this Christmas!

Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give. -Unknown

Plugged In?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. -John 1:1

What are you plugged into-the Word or the world? If you are plugged into the world, you are much more susceptible to the enemy. And, he is out there seeking to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to devour anyone he can get his hands on. Peter urges us in 1 Peter 5:8, to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” What a perfect opportunity for him to slither in when our focus isn’t where it needs to be.

With distractions and temptations at our every whim, along with a society pulling us in constant worldly directions, it’s easy to succumb to the world, leaving openings for the Satan. I don’t know about you, but I’m not up for playing tug o’ war with the enemy. And that’s exactly what we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to when we are not plugged into the Bible and dwelling in His presence. I recently came across this quote by Jarred Wilson, which says, The closer we are to the Shepherd, the safer we are from the wolves.

We must close the gaps, inching ourselves closer to our Shepherd day by day, moment by moment, arming ourselves with His Word, and clothing ourselves with rest of the armor of God. By making a conscious effort to die to ourselves daily, choosing God, and living out His Word continuously, we remain plugged into Him. It’s not enough to just read the Word-we must live it and breathe it. We must apply it in our everyday lives, not just as an after thought.

Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father. Everything that belongs to the world—what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of—none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world. -1 John 2:15

Cheer On, Cheerleader!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:11

Are you being a cheerleader in your loved ones lives? Encouraging others is something God calls us to do. Recently, my husband and I watched Life Below Zero: Port Protection. One of the women on the show, Timbi, was holding her tongue and mentioned she was trying to be a cheerleader for her husband in order to help keep him on track with his projects. I could see she was frustrated, but at the same time she bit her tongue and proceeded to continue to motivate him. She stood by his side and cheered him on to move forward with their projects, despite his mistakes and setbacks. This made me think about how God has called us to act. As Christians, we are called to uplift others. Proverbs 18:21 says, The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Being a perfectionist and being very particular about how I like things done, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s easy to pick. What’s harder is choosing the higher road by setting expectations aside and building others up. This can be extremely challenging. When we want something done a certain way or expect something to get completed to our satisfaction and it’s not, how much more difficult it is to hold our tongue and speak words of encouragement. I’m not saying we can’t ever express our dissatisfaction or our feelings, but we need to do it in a way that is not tearing others down. This is something I am definitely working on.

So, the next time we are tempted to get upset about something someone did that wasn’t up to par with what was hoped, let’s remember to bite it and build them up. Whether it’s a friend or a coworker, a family member or neighbor-we can look for the good and choose our words carefully-words that speak life, and not death.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. -Ephesians 4:29

Remain in Me

Several months ago, the monotony of the days had been getting to me-one running into the next, that I sometimes forgot to count my blessings. Like painting with those messy Crayola watercolor paints, where one color runs into the next and you can’t distinguish the blue from the red from the green, because they’re all muddied-that’s how it was. I didn’t want to adult and complete the routine tasks of washing dishes and making dinner, to do it all over again the next day and the next. Catching myself grumbling, I paused, then asked for forgiveness. In connecting with God, I heard Him say remain in me.

This brought to mind some Christians I met with years ago in a life group that were also discussing these words from the Bible:

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. -John 15:1-11

During our meeting a little over a decade ago, I distinctly recall the powerful message that was presented. The leader of the group had cut a tree branch a couple of days prior and showed us that the withering branch was dying because it wasn’t connected to its source. It was cut off from its lifeblood and was no longer getting the nutrients it needed to survive, let alone thrive and prosper. This is what happens to us. We must remain in Him in order to continue to bear fruit, in order to grow. How can we be expected to thrive without our Lifeline? When we don’t remain connected to the Vine, our growth is stunted.

Are you staying connected to Him or have you cut yourself off from the One who will sustain you? Where are you getting your strength? Are you remaining in Him so you can keep walking the narrow path? He makes it extremely clear in this verse that we are to remain in Him. We must stay connected at all times in order to blossom. Let us be those branches that bear fruit-that flourish, by remembering to remain in His love every moment of every day. Then, we will have the sustenance to keep doing His will-loving and serving others while building the Kingdom of God.

It’s the Little Things…and the Big

“‘The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ -Numbers 6:24-26

Recently, while trying to cope with the profound fatigue that plagues me and other challenges of living with chronic illnesses, my childhood best friend reminded me… it’s the little things. So, in an effort to look for those little things…

I may not have the energy to go for a jog, but I can walk the block with my family.

I may not have the stamina to run full speed ahead in a family game of soccer, but some days I am blessed to kick a soccer ball around with my kiddos and play the goalie in a shorter soccer match.

I may not be in a fast-paced career anymore, but my body is more at rest and moving at the pace it needs to be right now.

I may not know the future, but I have the present.

I may not think the most positive thoughts at the moment, but I have His Word to give me hope.

I may not always be able to calm the storms of anxiety that afflict me, but I have a God who is bigger than my fears.

I may not see the sun shining, but the Son is always shining down on us.

I may not be living the life I imagined, but God has a plan for me-and His plan is far superior to mine.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

My “Holding onto His Hope” Playlist

Some days are so trying, it may feel like life will always be a struggle. And, it may be. We can expect trouble because God didn’t promise us a life without problems. In John 16:33, He did say, however, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He is the One we need to run to when life becomes overwhelming and the suffering too much. I’ve mentioned previously that Christian music and worship help draw me closer to Him. He will give us peace, even during trials, but we must make that time to reach for Him. Here’s my new “Holding onto His Hope” playlist:

  1. Keep on Hoping-Riley Clemmons
  2. Hold Onto Me-Lauren Daigle
  3. Cling-Lion & Bear
  4. Fighting for Me-Riley Clemmons
  5. Carry Me-NEEDTOBREATHE (feat. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot)
  6. Maybe It’s OK-We Are Messengers
  7. Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)-H.E.R. and Tauren Wells
  8. Light of Your Grace (Radio Version)-Citizens
  9. In This Moment-Riley Clemmons
  10. It’s Always Been You-Phil Whickham
  11. God of the Wilderness-Shaylee Simeone
  12. Can’t Take Away-Jeremy Camp
  13. Even at My Worst-Blanca

If you’ll hold on to me for dear life, says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!” -Psalms 91:14-16 MSG

My “Fear Not” Playlist

Do you ever struggle with fear and anxiety? I know I do! It’s so important to connect with God during these times. One way I do this, is through music. It helps me to focus on Him so I can really feel His presence. Here is my go-to playlist when I’m caught in a cycle of anxiety:

  1. Sparrows-Cory Asbury
  2. Not Today-Hillsong United
  3. Holding Me Still-Elle Limebear
  4. Cast My Cares-Finding Favour
  5. The One I’m Running To (Acoustic)-7eventh Time Down
  6. We Won’t Be Shaken-Building 429
  7. Control-For King and Country
  8. Tremble-Mosaic
  9. When I’m with You-Citizen Way
  10. Peace Be Still-Hope Darst
  11. Shepherd of My Soul-Rivers and Robots
  12. Broken Prayers-Riley Clemons
  13. Breathe-Johnny Diaz
  14. Never Gonna Let Me Go-Tauren Wells
  15. Breathing-Elle Limebear

And, here’s my new favorite verse I’ve been meditating on when the waves of fear roll in:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. -Psalm 56:3