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November 2013

Sanctuary, Self-Care & Thanksgiving

Sweater Weather Candle and Coffee

As the last of the autumn leaves fall and our first snow descends in Denver, I'm stuck on the idea of practicing self-care. Last week we talked about how the hustle of our lives, or the circumstances in our lives, can conceal the holiness in our lives. So, what's the solution?

A combination of three things: self-care, a sanctuary, and thanksgiving.

First, let's take self-care. This time of year there are so many festive and glittering things to occupy our attention: hunting down the ultimate ugly sweater, or our fourth quarter performance reviews, or anxiety about awkward family dynamics that unfold during the holidays. Self-care isn't something you see on most of our to-do lists, but it's time to start adding it.

What is self-care? Self-care is actively investing time in our emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Self-care can look as simple as putting on your favorite playlist and getting some laundry done, taking a twenty minute walk, or meeting a friend at a coffee shop to rant about corporate life and boys. Self-care is using our emotional intelligence to access what we need most, and allowing ourselves space and time to feel our feelings instead of pushing through them and burning out.

The ability to discern what we truly need, not allowing ourselves to be driven by false narratives or external expectations is a mark of maturity. We know from the scriptures that Jesus made self-care a priority. 

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. {Mark 1:35, NIV}

The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. {Luke 5:15-16}

This was the peak of Jesus' ministry. The word was out that Jesus could heal the sick and make the blind see. Consequently, crowds swarmed Him requesting help. I can't imagine living under that set of expectations and extreme pressure. Yet even in that time, when there was so much potential for Jesus to minister and share the message that would save our fallen world, He took time alone to self-care.

If the son of God Himself took time every day to pursue self-care, why would we be exempt?

Some self-care basics: Choose a place and a regular time with no distractions specifically to practice self-care. Block this time out in your planner, make a date with yourself and guard it militantly, not allowing other commitments to encroach. 

Second, find a sanctuary in your life. There's a story in the Bible that tells us about a time David was running, quite literally, to save his life. Where does he run? To a sanctuary where there is a priest. 

A sanctuary is a holy place, and its priest is in charge of keeping it holy. Holy is a word that we use to designate the otherness, the purity, and the beauty of God. A sanctuary is a place for paying attention to God, a place where the truth of God is preserved and honored, a place for remembering the events in which God has been clearly active and powerful. The spirituality of sanctuary is fundamental to the Christian life. We need sanctuaries to run to in order to sustain ourselves with what is necessary to live - God and God's provisions for living in a dangerous world that is hostile to faith. Holy places are necessary for holy living. - Eugene Peterson, Leap Over A Wall

We all need help maintaining lives lived out of love, truth, and balance. Consequently, we need a daily self-care date and a sanctuary to which to retreat and renew our faith, energy, and trust in God. Create a sanctuary in your life, and become its priest, keeping it holy.

Thanksgiving Kitchen Decor

My sanctuary is my apartment. It's a place that reminds me of God's faithfulness, and it's the place where I continually find vitality and restorative energy. I live alone, so walking through my home is like reading my journal and represents so much of what I believe about life and God. Maybe you have roommates or a busy household and your sanctuary is a favorite park or it's sprawling out your journal and planner, and spending time alone before the rest of the house wakes up, maybe it's the gym. That's just a starting point where I've found sanctuary in past lives, and cities, and in the present, and I'd love to know what you would add to that list. 

For a Thanksgiving-themed look into my sanctuary, here's the latest apartment update:

And lastly, it's with thanksgiving that we learn to honor the holiness in our lives. It's saying thank you for the way the snow on the rooftop is melting and reverberating through the rain gutters so sweetly as I write. It's giving thanks for everything, simply because it's God's will for our lives {1 Thessalonians 5:18}.

Thank you for everything? There is freedom in giving the control of our lives back to God. Control is something I have to give up anew every morning and several times throughout the day. Our lives transform when we look at them through the eyes of faith, trust, and thanks. 

George MacDonald said, "Afflictions are but the shadow of God's wings." Can I learn to see hard circumstances that way? Can I really say thank you for the betrayal in my life? The singleness? The loneliness? The pain? The stress and anxiety? The disappointment? Not usually, but we know that Jesus did.

Jesus sat with the people He loved most in the world, including the man who sold him into crucifixion, and He took bread, broke it, gave thanks, and said, "Do this in memory of me" {Luke 22:19}. As we sit around our tables this Thanksgiving, may we say thank you in memory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for the lives He gave us and for the plans He has for us.

This year I'm thankful for the community, career, and calling I call my own, and I'm grateful for the disappointments that led me to each. I'm grateful that I'm not who I was a year ago, and I'm thanking God for the person I will be a year from now.

My encouragement today:

  1. Pursue self-care everyday this holiday season, develop this habit as we close out 2013 so that we can carry it with us into a fresh new year. 
  2. Create a sanctuary in your life.
  3. In everything, give thanks.

On the run we stop at a holy place and find that there's more to life than our circumstances and feelings indicate at that moment. We perceive God in and around and beneath us. New life surges up within us. We leave our sanctuary restored, revived, and redeemed.  If we enter hungry and needy, letting ourselves be vulnerable before God, bluntly, even belligerently, asking for what we need, we will almost certainly leave better. We will leave grateful to be simply alive, amazed to know that God is with us, that the most holy sacrament is food for our most everyday needs.  - Eugene Peterson, Leap Over A Wall

Holy & Hustle

Holy and Hustle Office Stylingphoto credit

Do you have a check engine light for your life?

Our cars have check engine lights to alert us of a possible breakdown before we are left stranded on the side of the road. We need a check engine light for our lives to alert us of a possible breakdown or burnout on the horizon. 

In my life, the check engine light is writing. If I can't write, no matter how much time I spend sitting in front of my laptop, candles lit and prayers said, willing the words to weave themselves together, then there's an issue afoot.

If I can't write, which the very thing that metabolizes my life and makes it feel completely lived, then I'm poured out and burned out. Writing comes from an overflow of life, energy, and joy. Words are not something that can be forced or coerced into submission, because words themselves are energy. We know from the Bible that God spoke the world into being, that's how much power our words carry. Quite fittingly, if I'm out of words, then I'm out of power and it's time to recharge.

If you checked in over the past two weeks to find an old post staring you down, I apologize I wasn't here for you. I spent many mornings and nights sitting at my desk in my new writing room, wearing my old University of San Diego sweatshirt with a candle lit, gazing out on the pool channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw, but the words didn't come. The muse refused to pay me a visit, and if I look at my life over the past few weeks I can see why. Writing is my calling, but it doesn't call to me unless I've been faithful with self-care.

Everyday I'm Hustlin MugLast Monday, as is my routine, I woke up at 4 AM to spend a few quiet hours before the East coast is all the way live. Most mornings, I wake up between 4 and 5, pray and sip coffee, journal and read my Bible for an hour or so. For the next hour I write, and then I run. Sunday (my puppy) and I come in from the fresh morning air, and I check e-mail and take my first conference call while I get ready for another day in Corporateland. As I take a step back, this schedule alone is more than enough for one twenty-seven-year-old California expatriate in Denver.

On top of life in IT, supporting five clients and the teams that go with them, I also help lead a middle school and high school ministry on Sundays and a Young Adults group on Tuesdays. Then there's this little blog and its new YouTube channel, and my regular life of laundry, trail runs, coffee dates, and nights out that also need to fall into place. 

Three brutal weeks of non-stop conference calls, action logs, status reports, and client meetings straight through the weekend left me depleted and in desperate need of some self-care. Just a tip, if there's ever a time when you're drinking coffee and simultaneously taking a shower and a conference call, you're probably heading for a crash and burnout. 

My pride keeps me running fast yet always feeling behind, burning down early mornings and late nights, yet coming up short. I don’t want to need to sleep or stop, rest or repose. I want to accomplish and achieve, perfect and presuppose. Then I arrive here exhausted and uninspired, finally ready to release and receive.

Instead of grasping and controlling, I am teaching you to release and receive. – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

I know how to grasp and control, plan and work, execute and align; but release and receive is foreign like the freedom to which it gives rise. Why am I so eager to launch myself into a life of hustle, when it could cause me to miss a life that is so much bigger and more compelling, and in one word...holy?

We feel a need for new furniture and a new television and a bigger house in the right neighborhood. We drive in a trance, around salivating for Starbucks while that great heaven sits above us, and that beautiful sunrise is happening, and all those mountains are collecting snow, and all those leaves are changing colors. God, it is so beautiful and perfect. There is more to life than clothes and cars and a new flavor of toothpaste from Target, that is community and creation and beauty and humanity. - Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts

When we start to feel the hustle eclipsing the holy, and we see the check engine light come on in our life, what do we do? We practice self-care. 

If you’re like me, then self-care translates into self-indulgence. I subscribe to the “life’s rough, get a helmet and a manicure” theology. I don't allow myself to admit when I'm tired or hurting, I get a latte and get over it.

It’s time for a paradigm shift from acceleration to self-care, remembering that who I am is enough, and who you are is enough. That means we have permission to slow down and self-care, to take a day off from life every week and do whatever calls to us whether frivolous or deeply meaningful. If you're Christian or Jewish, you know this concept as Sabbath and it's pivotal to living a life connected to God himself. Sabbath is a teaching that means so much to that I named my puppy "Sunday," because I need this reminder as often as I say her name.

Over the last month a Sex and the City marathon called to me. I’ve re-watched the Sex & the City series end-to-end so that I could watch the movies. It’s a testament to how hard I’ve driven myself that I haven’t even seen the Sex & the City movies. These films are chick-flick essentials! So here I sit, eating leftover sage and sausage pizza straight out of the box and catching up on what I missed while I was so busy working to “make it.”

Thanksgiving Themed Movie Night

Sometimes you just need to get away with the girls. – Sex & The City 2

Do you ever feel like we need to catch-up on life before we can move forward? Whether it’s as simple as taking the time to watch girl movies with kettle corn and M&Ms, or as deep as taking time to feel what we haven’t given ourselves permission to feel, we need to set aside time to self-care.

It wasn't really about choosing a man or choosing a bag or choosing a life: It was about, choose yourself. – Michael Patrick King on Sex & the City in Elle magazine

My encouragement today is to find the check engine light in your life, and then use it as a barometer ensuring the hustle does not eclipse the holy. If you find that's exactly what is unfolding...stop, check in with yourself, and practice self-care. The world would have us believe that we need to go and do, see and be, and buy, when what we need is to rest and reflect, give and receive, and live to the point of tears. 

Next week we'll continue talking self-care, along with creating sanctuaries in our lives (including an updated home tour!), and of course...Thanksgiving.