Archive for the ‘Sabbath’ Category

Project Pamper Me

You know how sometimes you know something, but still: you manage to forget its meaning and import in your life?

I occasionally lead a retreat – a retreat that I created – called “Sabbath and the Busy Person.” Its focus is on breaking open the meaning of the 3rd Commandment to Keep Holy the Sabbath, and understand that it’s calling us to more than just worship. Sabbath is about stopping. Not doing. Just being. Refreshing the soul. Re-creating our passion and joy through recreation. Reconnecting with our best selves and the God who created us.

After juxtaposing the theological concept of Sabbath with the reality of our lives, I offer the practical wisdom of Stephen Covey’s 3rd Habit: Put First Things First. In addition to Covey’s time management insights, I also use spiritual insights from Robert Wicks’ Availability. When you’re “too available,” giving to everyone but yourself, you’re sabotaging your own efforts. When you’re tapped – completely wiped out – you’re no good to anyone. You need to take care of yourself, if for no other reason than to be a better you.

I know this. I teach it. I lead reflections and retreats on it. And yet I manage to forget it.

All. The. Time.

One of my favorite recent insights is how wonderful it’s been to have discovered the joy of having a hobby. I have posted about my new found hobby of Functional Art (see previous posts here and here), particularly with the addicting explosion of Pinterest. Not only do I enjoy actually doing these projects, but I find that when I do so, I’m able to turn my theologian-writer-teacher-mother brain off and focus only on creating something new. That in and of itself is a Godsend. Because when I do return to my busy-yet-wonderful-yet-stressful life, my brain is refreshed and energized.

I’m like: “Ooooh – so this is what people mean by ‘Get a hobby!'”

Shortly after the New Year, my Mom and I were having a conversation about trying to shift out of a negative mood. Mom was struggling with a multitude of things and wanted nothing more than to clear her mind of the anger, frustration, and hurt over a situation that was beyond her control. She had spent the morning trying to distract herself from it all by house cleaning, checking email, Facebooking, and whatnot. (Mom hasn’t yet discovered Pinterest, which may explain why she was not able to fully distract herself.)

Mom had the right idea, but the problem with her modes-of-distraction were that they were just time-filling tasks. She didn’t really enjoy any of them. In fact, they tended to drain her energy more than fill her up.

When you need to change your energy, when you need to refresh and re-energize, you need to do something you love. Just. For. Fun.

About a week after my conversation with my Mom, my friend Stacey emailed a few in the girlfriend group whom she recalled having some success with what she called “Project Pamper Me.”

I am feeling…stretched thin…doing everything for everyone all the time, and I am feeling like I just want someone to take care of me!
And…I realized I should pamper and spoil myself like I do for others. I had this realization this morning while simultaneously making the family’s lunches, breakfasts, snacks for the day, fixing their hair, filling out school paperwork all while they ate and I bustled around. And I thought: Man, I would like to sit down.
So…I’ve decided I want to start pampering myself daily…but that’s where I get stuck. What to do? How? So far I have been just sitting in front of the TV…I haven’t even brushed my teeth because I am so drained from giving everything to others and not myself. And I don’t really feel like Teen Mom 2 is the kind of pampering I need…
How do I make myself get up and do something good for myself when I just want to wallow?
What are some long terms ways I can pamper myself – and keep in mind: I don’t want one more “to do” that I need to do to stay healthy. Help!?!
Stacey’s complaint, assessment, and hope-yet-concern resonated deeply. One of the reasons I have been so WOW-ed by my new-found “hobby” of crafting is that it really is something I enjoy for me. And doing it recharges me.
Our group of girlfriends used to do yoga as our “Project Pamper Me” – sometimes as a group, other times individually. And we loved it. And it’s been a while since any of us have done it. In some way, I’ve heard each of us express the desire to return, but we each have a stressed out “how can I fit this in?” attitude about yoga. So far it has been too much. And “too much” doesn’t bring anyone joy.
So Teacher-Julie came up with a 3-Part Plan, and Kari and Amalour added insights to flesh it out.

Project Pamper Me’s 3-Part Plan:

Step 1: Identify the things you like to do that are just for you and bring you joy.

Make a mental list. Or a real paper one. Get your mind around what it is, what way it needs to function to be for-you, by-you. And maintain that approach. I can’t just do crafts “for” other people (on demand), because then it becomes a thing. Even if I ultimately give something to other people, if my hobby is to be rejuvenating and re-joy-infusing, they need to flow from me. Not from others.
Kari suggests:
  • Make a list of the things you enjoy that are just for you (include big and small things, i.e. pedicure, massage, movie, crafts, reading, going for a walk, sitting in the sun, taking a bubble bath, etc)
  • Make it for you, to relax you and bring you joy! (Not another task to be done!)
Amalour is someone who knows how vital relaxation can be to physical health. She’s in the process of beating an aggressive form of breast cancer. For the second time. After a full mastectomy. With a husband and three children under the age of seven. She offered some of her own personal approaches to Project Pamper Me:
  • Fit in at least two soaking baths a week, during the day when all the kids are away. I really take my time and totally relax.
  • Sit out in the sun for a while and get those good melatonin juices flowing.
  • Once in a while, get a sitter to feed and put the kids to bed. Then go to a cafe or Starbuck’s and read. Just get a break from the most frustrating part of the evening.
  • Grab a healthy lunch somewhere alone… somewhere I can get served.
  • When I haven’t gotten the me-time before the kids are home (and find I really need it), Tell them: “I need a little break, absolutely do not disturb me.” Make sure they have a snack, and go take a power nap or ready/study.

Step 2: Do that thing.

Make sure you’re staying true to the unblemished form of the hobby that brings you joy.

Step 3: Make a commitment to yourself to integrate it in to your life.

Sometimes integrating it in to my day is too difficult. But I can do a weekly commitment to care for myself.
Kari suggests integrating into daily life:
  • To implement it daily make sure you have a bunch of small things on the list – not just big things. That way, when you don’t have a lot of time you can still take 10-20 min for you!
  • I get in the TV trap too when I’m feeling worn out. Sometimes I choose to go with it and don’t feel guilty. Other times, I take a bubble bath and read a book. Definitely find some way, big or small, to pamper yourself daily.
  • If it makes it easier, pick the same time everyday.
  • If it doesn’t happen one day don’t beat yourself up, just start again the next day!
Amalour has the planning part down:
  • Look at the coming week’s schedule and block out the me-time. Because for me, it’s not always the same time of the day every day.
  • Make sure to leave ample time; don’t feel rushed.
  • In general, try not to schedule so much errand-running around.

Whatever we choose to do for me-time, be it a hobby or an indulgence, taking care of ourselves has to be a priority. Think of it as a Sabbath Moment; the time in which you get a chance to rest, reflect, and re-energize. It is in these moments which we remember to rejoice in the beauty of Creation. And it is through these moments which we become our best selves.

If you’re still not convinced, I leave you with the words of Robert Wicks:

If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for those you love.

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Even Jesus Needed Downtime

My childhood home was a 1000 square foot raised ranch; five people, one bathroom.  My mom’s favorite form of relaxation has always been taking nice, long, hot baths.  Thus, it was not unusual for my siblings and I to unabashedly enter the bathroom as needed while Mom was soaking in the tub.  I mean, isn’t that what the shower curtain is for?

The thing is that we didn’t necessarily enter to use the facilities.  At any point in Mom’s bath, there may be one, two, or all three of us just talking with Mom: laying on the floor, sitting on the hamper, or lounging on the (closed-lidded) toilet seat with feet propped on the side of the tub as if in a Lazy Boy… just talking.

One day in my adolescence, Mom kind of got a little frustrated with the audience situation.  “Why do you all follow me in here when I take a bath?!”

Speaking from the heart, I responded, “Because it’s the one time we can talk to you without you going anywhere.”

Mom was a little taken aback, thought for a bit, and simply said, “Oh…”

From childhood through young adulthood, whenever I thought of this story, I recalled the honest yearning in my heart to have uninterrupted quality time with my Mom.

Now, as a mother myself, my whole understanding of this family story changed.  I cringe at my Mom’s lack of personal, private downtime.  In fact, now, when I read the story of Jesus healing the paralytic in Mark, I hear something that I never noticed before becoming a mother.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.  Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.  They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”  (Mark 2:1-5)

I read this as a mother thinking – OMG, poor Jesus!  Not a moment to himself!  I mean seriously – there was no room in the house so they opened the roof above him!?!  SERIOUSLY?!

Mark, the shortest, most action-packed Gospel is the quickest, easiest read.  Go back to just before this scene into Chapter 1.  After Jesus finished his 40 days in the desert, he begins his ministry, calls his disciples and started teaching.

Verse 28: “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”  I mean, come on.  Isn’t Mom the most popular, called-upon person in the house?

So then Mark’s Gospel explains that Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to the house of Simon (aka Simon-Peter) and cures his MIL of sickness.  And word spread.  The next thing he knew, “The whole town was gathered at the door” (Mark 1:33).

The WHOLE town?  At this point, part of me is wondering what my Mom was complaining about with just three of us in the bathroom…  But only the sarcastic part.

So Jesus gets up very early the next morning before dawn, and goes off to a deserted place to pray (Mark 1:35).  Because he knew that this was his ONLY CHANCE to be alone, refresh, recharge, and reconnect with God through prayer.

And (for real, scripture says this): “those that were with him pursued him” (Mark 1:36).

The poor guy.  Giving everyone everything he has to give.  Selflessly, completely, without hesitation… and he can’t catch a break.  Wakes up early to recharge with some quiet prayer time, and those that were with him pursued him.

Sound familiar?

But wait, there’s more.

Upon finding him, his disciple Simon-Peter tells him “Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37).

So not only are his plans for a moment of peace thwarted, but those closest to Jesus are actually giving him a guilt trip for not being MORE available.

I mean as a Mom, I can soooooooooooo relate to Jesus in this situation.

I can relate to the frustration of thwarted plans for alone time, but I can also learn from Jesus’ example.

No matter how many times his plans were thwarted, Jesus pursued time alone to pray.  Even Jesus needed downtime to quietly reflect, refresh, and recharge.   Those precious times alone with God gave him the strength, courage, and wisdom to be fully present and available to the children of God.  Because, as he told Simon-Peter, “For this purpose have I come” (Mark 1:38).

Jesus knew how important downtime—time to pray—was to being able to fulfill his purpose.

Especially as a Mom, I need to follow Christ’s example.  Girlfriend’s weekend / Mom’s Night Out / Alone Time, here I come!

Just Paint Over It

For the longest time, I really didn’t have a discernable hobby.  I mean I’ve always enjoyed doing lots (and lots and lots) of different things, but I never felt like I had a concentrated focus on any activity or interest to consider it my answer to what I would do for pleasure or relaxation.

Many of my closest friends and family members (especially my husband) would readily agree that the lack of doing something purely for pleasure or relaxation has been kind of a problem for me.  I don’t know if anyone ever bluntly told me to “go find a hobby.” Maybe they should’ve.  Hmm… Actually, I probably would’ve responded with, “I don’t have time,” which is evidently exactly why I needed one.  But I digress.

Several years ago, I discovered paint-your-own-pottery.  I loved the creative process.  I loved that so long as I approached painting like I was a 9 year old coloring a picture, it turned out pretty cool looking.  AND, I loved that I could use it in my daily life.

After a while, however, I found that paint-your-own-pottery was getting pretty expensive.  And really, how many mugs, plates, bowls, and light-switch plates does a girl need?  Well, over the course of 10+ years, it amounts to quite a bit of both: cost and stuff.

While excitedly working on painting a replacement tea mug, I mentioned my creative joy and my stumbling blocks to my friend, Stacey.  I wanted to do “this kind of thing” more often, but didn’t want the excessive cost or stuff.  She suggested: “Try painting on paper, just for the fun of it.  No one even has to see it if you don’t want them to.”

So I did try.  Twice.  Instead of feeling excitement, relaxation, and pleasure, I was filled with anxiety, completely stressed out about what I was supposed to paint and why.  The process itself was tainted by the fact that I genuinely didn’t like what I painted.  Moreover, I really did want to do something with it.  There was something about the overall purpose of the creation that generated joy for me.

Shortly after these failed attempts at making painting itself a hobby, Stacey’s sister Sara offered her own version of “Pinot and Picasso,” where she taught my group of girlfriends how to paint our own copy of a work of art with step-by-step instructions.  In case you missed it in the class title, there was also a promise of wine, so I was in.

Intimidated even further by the thought of painting on canvas, I hesitated at every step.  Then Sara said something that changed my whole approach to painting:

If you don’t like something, just paint over it.

How freeing!

This insight allowed me to experiment without hesitation.  I had infinite do-over’s.  If something didn’t work, I could just try again, and again, and again until I liked it.  Sometimes that meant starting over.  Sometimes it meant painting over the one spot that wasn’t working.  It removed the pressure of feeling like I had to have the whole thing perfectly planned out before I even started.  Or feeling like it was ruined by one little (or big) mistake.

As a proactive person, I don’t ever want to feel stuck in a complaining rut.  I’d much rather feel empowered to do something about it.  With this just paint over it insight, instead of feeling bound by a choice my attitude became one of exploring the possibilities.

What a wonderful approach to all of life!  If you don’t like something, just paint over it.  As I looked around at my house, my relationships, my work, and inward at myself, this insight became one of transformation.  Don’t trash it; don’t brush it under the carpet and ignore it.  If I didn’t like something, I could transform it.

The very idea of transformation cultivates hope.

In faith, this is the transformation that is linked to forgiveness.  The Greek word for what happens in the transforming process of forgiveness is metanoia.  It is a change of heart, a conversion where the person turns away from what is destructive, hurtful, hateful, and instead turns towards God.

Turning towards God involves

  • forgiving oneself and transforming one’s own character
  • forgiving others, seeking forgiveness from others, and transforming relationships
  • seeking forgiveness from God and becoming transformed.

Put another way, metanoia is about

  • becoming more (and more and more) of a good person
  • doing what is right
  • acting with love
  • helping others

Looking around your own life, what would you like to just paint over and transform?

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