Grace, parenting

A Moment of Clarity

I had an epiphany Sunday morning.

I stood in church, my heart overcome with a desire to worship. It felt so right, so perfect to be in God’s house, my hands lifted high. The songs were more than words on my lips; they were from the overflow of my heart.

It was the first time in months that my heart felt ready to worship. I’ve continued to do all of the right things, spending time in the Word and praying and fasting. But God has seemed so…distant. I’ve done everything I know to do to focus my heart and mind throughout my days…but I’ve been empty. I’ve begged God to show me how to find Him again, but every day has been a battle just to keep going.

A couple weeks ago, I spent several days in tears. My heart was so heavy, so grieved. There was nothing I could pinpoint causing the stress other than sheer exhaustion. The reality that I only have five years left with kids in my home hit me hard, and my heart aches to spend as much time with them as I can. I want more than anything to have fun, to play, to build memories while I still have time.

But my life is chaotic. Work is stressful. I am exhausted, no energy to build memories with my kids. Gone are the days where we spent lazy summers going to the water park. Money has been too tight to go on vacations, and my job rarely allows me enough time to get away. I long to be the mom my kids deserve, but the responsibilities and exhaustion are more than I can handle.

I’ve long clung to the truth found in Mark 12:30-31: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Exactly which truth? The truth that says we must love ourselves first and love ourselves well before we can truly love others.

You see, Christ taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Have you ever met someone who didn’t love themselves? Maybe they had extremely low self-esteem. Maybe they were taught they were unworthy of love growing up. Whatever the reason, the one who is incapable of loving him/herself is also incapable of truly loving others.

When I entered the season of single motherhood, I instinctively knew that I needed to be nice to myself. I knew I needed to find ways to pamper myself, to love myself. I had always put myself on the backburner during my marriage, putting everyone else’s needs above my own. But, as I walked as courageously as I could into the role of single parenting, I chose to occasionally put myself first. I made time to exercise. I lost weight and had to buy new clothes. I began to pamper myself with the occasional manicure and pedicure. It was all about learning to love myself.

As the years have passed, I have continued to do some of these same things for myself. However, somewhere in the chaos, I have lost my ability to have fun. My weekends have been about taking time to rest, relax—as much as I can while running my children to their various activities.

But this weekend was different.

Saturday, we put away all of the stress and responsibilities and decided to get away. No work phones. No voice lessons. No feeding the sheep. No cleaning house or mowing the yard. We decided all of those things could wait. We loaded up the car and headed to the lake.

We spent the day hanging out with my brother and his family. I watched as the kids surfed behind his boat. We cooled off by jumping in the lake. When my fiancé arrived, we jumped in the inner tube and enjoyed the cool water as we zigged and zagged around the lake. We laughed. We enjoyed the sun. We enjoyed one another.

And I felt like a totally new person.

I miss the days of three-day work weeks, where I could have several days each week to devote to playing with my kids. I feel as if I never have the energy to just play, to have fun anymore. And now I realize just how much I miss it.

About a month ago, I began to ask God to show me how to renew my strength, how to find rivers of refreshment in the tumultuous storms of life. And I think I’m beginning to find a few keys.

Slow down. I know how difficult this is as a single parent. There’s always someone who needs to be at voice lessons or a basketball game or the sheep barn. There’s always house work that needs to be done or meals that need to be cooked or errands that need to be run. There’s always more to be completed in a 24 hour period than we will ever be able to accomplish.

But, sometimes we need to just step away and take a deep breath. Sleep in and skip that morning workout. Tell your kids no, you just can’t do it tonight. Skip the extra hours at the office or the volunteer opportunity. Intentionally slow down.

Treat yourself. How about a massage to wipe away some of your stress? What about going to get a manicure and pedicure? Maybe a new outfit to make you feel beautiful? What did you buy yourself for your birthday? How about sending yourself some flowers to brighten your office or home?

I have to tell you that my fiancé has spoiled me in the last year. There’s nothing like a delivery of flowers with a sweet card to brighten your day. But, before Roy came along, I learned to do little things for myself just because. I learned after my first Christmas alone to buy and wrap gifts for myself and put them under the tree so I had something to open on Christmas morning. I’ve learned to buy myself new clothes when I buy clothes for the kids (or even if I don’t buy the kids anything). I’ve learned to find ways to treat myself.

Make time to play. So often I don’t feel like playing. I am absolutely exhausted and just want to rest. But this weekend showed me that sometimes the best way to regain energy is to play. To have fun. To let your hair down and do something totally different. To get away.

One evening the kids asked my fiancé and I to play cards with them. I reluctantly agreed. At midnight, we were still going strong, laughing and enjoying every moment of the evening. I am learning again that play time is essential to life.

Find out what works for you. Some people are energized by being with other people. Others, like me, need ample alone time. Only you can figure out what you need. And only you can make it happen.

A few weeks ago, I shipped all the kids off to various places and I spent an afternoon completely alone. I grabbed a book and some sunscreen, and found a quiet place at the local pool. I might have been the only adult with no kids there, but it was a relaxing afternoon that helped fill me up.

Maybe you need an evening out with the girls to refresh you. If so, find someone to watch those kids. Don’t feel guilty for caring for yourself; it will help you love and care for them better.

Lord Jesus, you know our hearts are to know you and love you. Our hearts are to love our neighbors as ourselves. And you know that means we must love ourselves first and love ourselves well. We pray you would help us find ways to play, to be nice to ourselves, to find refreshment in the midst of our chaotic lives. We pray you would renew our strength as only you can. We pray you will infuse us with your supernatural renewal.

10 thoughts on “A Moment of Clarity”

    1. Wow. That’s all I know to say. In your face judgement on someone you don’t even know. Yes, Jesus is my treasure without a doubt. And I am very different from this world in which I live. I am so glad I live for an audience of the One and not the approval of man.

      1. I see a great deal of difference in your life, Dena, and have walked the challenging road of single motherhood and blended family life (even more challenging in my opinion). I experience Christ in the example HE set to step away and slow down. I remember indulging in a vanilla coke and just resting for a few minutes, knowing He was with me, right by my side. The joy of play and the freedom of finding what works for each individual are treasure found within the hard spaces of our fallen world. Capturing the simple act of self care is a tangible demonstration of our worth as creations of Holy God.

  1. Thank you, this was a very timely message I needed to hear. Single moms are the hardest working people I know. So often we forget to just live in the moment and take time to just be…

  2. I know how you feel. Sometimes I have a date with God where I lock myself away in a quiet place at home, light a couple, relax and read the bible and or a Christian book. Afterwards, I take a nap. My son is given strict orders not to disturb me. This practice really renews my soul.

  3. Dena,
    Thank your for those wonderful words that serve as a reminder that we too are important and deserve time for ourselves. That is one thing I have always done even while married (held against me as I was being selfish). I am still mindful of taking time for me. Pedicures, nails, massages, new clothes going out to eat with friends or going to see a movie. Sometime doing these things with others and sometime just by myself. Through the darkness of the last 2 1/2 years I can look back and see God’s hands, arms and feet. Sometimes those feet walked to pick me up. Sometimes those hands held my hand as we walked along life’s path. Other times those arms held me as I felt like I was falling apart. I at tiles have felt God’s presence even stronger ok Sunday mornings as I stood in church and worshipped. One time I even went to the alter to pray during the song . “Come As You Are” by Crowder. It just seemed very appropriate. His past Sunday was another Sunday filled with humble praise and worship. As I stood in my place tears streamed down my face as the songs reminded me of God’s ever constant presence in my life. Saturday was a stinger as my ex married the other woman. The pastor’s message was another reminder that despite our circumstances God is always there. It may not be our fault and there may be no explanation for why we are where we are but we have a choice to continue to worship and praise our Lord. I have chosen to do that through this entire journey and God has blessed me immeasurably. Then I got a message from my ex on Monday regarding custody that turned my world upside down again however the promises of God’s Word Fromm Sunday and the words I sang during worship were a reminder that we can handle this. All day Tuesday the music on the local Christian radio station served as a constant reminder that God is right here with me. He feels my pain, He catches my tears and He is holding me tight in the clefts. Our God is good!!!

  4. Dena~
    What a strange comment from a Christian sister..
    Self-care is not a topic of much discussion because [in the world] one selfishly consumes and does not think upon the other’s need. Jesus never would have stated these words if they were not true. On a general level, we are irresponsible to not take care of our needs. On a personal level, we were meant to enjoy life. And honestly?.. I find it difficult. I think it’s easier to deny oneself (thinking we are always to work in order to earn) than to do as scripture says; rest and maintain physical and mental health. I have been thinking about Jesus at his friend’s wedding, and how fun and surprising it was to have “saved the best for last.” One may feel more comfortable to spiritulize this event, but the fact remains: He turned the water into wine.

  5. I love this! As I started reading, I wasn’t expecting it to go in the direction it did – I was waiting for something uber-spiritual. But what you write here is truth and many of us need our definition of “spiritual” to be redefined (as evidenced by the hurtful comment above).

    I wrote a long comment last night that didn’t post for some reason, but my thoughts were that taking the time to rest and enjoy life is an act of faith in God – that He can hold our lives together and life isn’t all up to us and our powering through thinking that if we step back, life will fall apart. In some ways, we set ourselves up as more important than we really are. (Ok, maybe in a lot of ways, haha).

    Also, I remember one time hearing on a Christian radio program the number of days that God had set apart for the Israelites to rest or celebrate (Sabbaths and feast days) in a year — it was a very signifiant number. Clearly, God is not opposed to His children enjoying life to the fullest. How sad that our view of God is otherwise. He is such a good, generous God! A God that said that He came to give us life more abundantly!

    As I’m walking through healing of being in an emotionally abusive marriage, the work that God has clearly been doing in my life the last couple of weeks is to get me to understand that loving myself in ways that you mentioned is not wrong! He loves me, He created my personality with my likes and dislikes and for me to never take the time to invest in myself is *not* healthy. That kind of mindset – that it’s wrong to do so – is straight from the enemy who loves nothing more than to see us fall apart emotionally, physically and even spiritually when we give and do and invest in others but never take time to do that for ourselves. Ultimately, we are the steward of ourselves which includes each part of us. God expects us to treat ourselves well and that’s where that verse came from (to love others as we love ourselves). Some people think, though, that we are all just naturally selfish always. But, some of us have had to be convinced that it isn’t selfish to invest in a gym membership or a great haircut or do something fun for ourselves.

    Here’s to new patterns in our lives that include proper rest, play and fun and investing in our own health and lives in these ways so that we can be healthy and whole to love and serve in a better way!

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