I’m Done with Self Care {The Grove: Rest}

Dog-tired and bone-weary, I slipped into Seat 33A. Loose ends tied up. Last minute details checked off. Hugs hugged. Home assignment begun.

What kept me moving in the weeks prior was the hope of a few days in a quiet cabin in the woods. A little stream providing rhythm for birds’ melodies outside the window. Long, shaded trails of leaf-strewn paths. No responsibilities. Fresh air. Slowness. Quiet rest.

This, as you may have guessed, did not happen.

Things to do. Places to go. People to see. You know the drill.

Praying – well, whining to God – about the lack of rest, I heard His whisper back, “Patty, you define rest too narrowly. You think it is about the right mix of quiet and nature. But I AM your rest. Lean into My sustaining care for you.”

In that moment, I knew I was done with self care.

Somehow I had mistakenly concluded I was responsible for determining the care for my wellbeing.

But I am invited into something far better: Leaning into and resting in God’s sustaining care for me.

Just to be clear, I am not opposed to what we typically label “self care practices”. Not at all. It’s not particular practices I am abandoning. It’s the notion that I am my own best hope for sheltering my wellbeing or that it’s all on me to ensure I am grounded, nourished, and rested. Because…

…I’m not that good at it. I rarely know what I really need at any given moment, much less how to get it.

Abandoning self care requires some adjustments in thinking and a perspective shift from circumstantial rest to Jesus being ever-present as Rest in me. Here’s where that has taken me.

1. A deepening trust in God’s good and kind heart.

I’m relieved to move from the idea of providing my own self care to leaning into God’s sustaining care for me. But this shift pushes on fundamental beliefs about God’s character. Can I trust both His efficacy and eagerness in caring for me?

Honestly, I have at times envisioned God as a foreman with a clipboard, ready to assign another task, rather than the God-servant with a towel, ready to wash my tired feet.

But I’d have to ignore a lot of evidence to not agree He is rich in love, longing to show compassion, full of mercy. The hand caring for me has my name engraved on it.

So, that leads to #2…

2. Growing in understanding how to live in hesed.

The rich Hebrew word hesed describes God’s way of relating to us in His lovingkindness and covenant faithfulness; steadfast love infused with His tender grace and persistent mercies, going beyond the requirements of an obligation.

Hesed sustains. Living in such generous affection and devotion empowers me to lean into the rest and strength provided through God’s care-full love for me.

Genesis 39:21 may be my favorite picture of hesed. “The Lord was with Joseph in prison, extending to him hesed.” Joseph. Rejected, betrayed, falsely accused, forgotten Joseph. In prison. Experiencing hesed. That tells me God’s care for my wellbeing is not limited to optimal conditions.

When it comes to being cared for, which do I really want? Ideal circumstances or God’s loving presence embodied in kindness in both agreeable and severe places?

You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love (hesed). My life was preserved by your care. Job 10:12 NLT

3. Realizing my sense of wellbeing is only part of the equation.

Like any good Father, God wants us to experience healthy relationships, fulfilling work, a satisfying sense of wellbeing. Although true, this is incomplete.

Our Father most wants to nurture our communion with Jesus as He dwells in us, shaping us to be more like Him. But how will we become like Jesus if our lives are nothing like His? In wilderness testings and lonely gardens God tenderly weaves threads of Christlikeness into our beings.

The wellness of my being and wholeness of my heart is not contingent on a self-sourced ordering of my life but dependent on experiencing the fullness of God through Jesus. So I will trust Him when He uses brokenness to make the soil of my soul ready for seeds of His nature.

Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you. 1 Peter 5:7 MSG

4. Paying attention when God says stop and receive.

“Go and give” tends to be our default understanding of God’s commands. But He also says, “Come away with Me”.

Abandoning self care doesn’t mean stepping away from responsibility as much as it means stepping into responsiveness to God’s ways and nudges. It doesn’t mean not having boundaries, but giving God permission to draw my boundary lines.

One way God invites me into His sustaining care is through Sabbath. More than a spiritual discipline or self care practice, keeping Sabbath expands my soul’s capacity to contain the rest and strength of God.

Rest is not simply recovery and renewal. Rest also prepares us for what’s ahead. As we soak in His presence God is care-fully giving us what we need for the coming moments.

Ezekiel’s description (ch. 47) of the river flowing from God’s sanctuary describes what we long for and need for our wellbeing: nourishment, health, healing, shade, beauty, abundance, life, fruitfulness, growth, consistency. All available because living water flows to us from the sanctuary.

Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love (hesed) is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. Psalm 69:16 NLT

5. A fresh richness in dwelling in Jesus as He dwells in me.

It is not the practice of caring for my body and soul that has been off kilter, but my self-determining, self-reliant, self-sourcing ways.

Jesus is clear about the cure when we are weary and overwhelmed – come and learn from Him. (Mt. 11:28-30) Jesus’ ways of rest are learned with eyes fixed, ears open, heart anchored to Him, ready to respond to His invitations and counsel.

So, I’ve committed anew to abiding. Leaning into His caring presence, soaking in His fragrance, delighting in being with Jesus, creating space for Him to be who He is in me. Rest. And oh so much more.

How about you? Are you ready to trade in the idea of self care for a lifestyle of leaning into God’s generous and kind sustaining care for you? I’d love to hear what you are thinking!

~~~

This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

 

40 Comments

  1. Karen March 30, 2017

    Thank you so much for your message. You have put into words something I’ve been thinking about for the past 5-6 years, that He does a better job of choosing and planning my rest times than I do, and that I should accept that! I mean, I also should be intentional about trying to have a Sabbath and to cut out petty distractions to make space for Him, but for me at times that has just led to anger and resentment when someone else in my life has the nerve to ask for my attention on “my” rest day. And yet I’ve seen so many times, that He has provided other days, other gifts, that were more special, more personally tailored to my circumstances, more “restful” in the sense of really enabling me to enjoy who He is, that more than make up for what I thought I lost. I still think I should make myself available by trying to plan to have rest days, but ultimately to recognize that He has taken on the full responsibility of leading, guiding, and caring for me.

    I’ve often thought about how to explain this, and your post really resonated with me. Thanks!

    Karen

    1. Patty Stallings March 30, 2017

      Karen, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree – some of my most restful moments have come as unplanned gifts from our good Father. I like your way of expressing this – “make myself available”. That’s the key, right? Posturing ourselves to listen and receive His care. Blessings!

  2. Kathryn March 30, 2017

    Patty,
    If you want those wooded paths and birds and some cross country skiing, we would welcome the Stallings family to our little piece of Vermont!
    Love
    Katie Coons

    1. Patty Stallings March 30, 2017

      Katie! So great to hear from you!
      That sounds wonderful – and you never know when these global nomads might wander to Vermont.

  3. Keri March 31, 2017

    Patty, you have done an excellent job at verbalizing sustaining care. I am also realizing more and more as I move through an agonizing struggle that in his sustaining care he provides the peace that I need, the wisdom I require, and the hope I depend on as I lean into his care. The more I lean in the more I realize the sweetness of his care far exceeds any luxury we can find on earth. So thankful for this truth.

    1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

      Keri, I love this, “in his sustaining care he provides the peace that I need, the wisdom I require, and the hope I depend on as I lean into his care”. So very true! You are dearly loved and affectionately cared for in this struggle.

  4. Elizabeth March 31, 2017

    I appreciate your challenge to self-care! In fact today as we speak I’m finishing up a post about how I dislike the term 🙂 I prefer “soul care” and “body care” because to me, that sounds more like worship, like stewardship. No matter how many people say otherwise, the title “self care” still sounds selfish to me (and a lot of other women I talk to). And like you, I think we can really grab hold of the little moments throughout each day where we encounter God and His goodness, and they can be our rest, too.

    1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

      Hey Elizabeth! I’ll be looking forward to reading your thoughts in your post. At ALO?
      Moving away from the term self care has helped me reframe my thinking and reposture my heart to be Spirit led and depend on God’s kind wisdom moment to moment when it comes to my health and wellness. And the funny thing is that I feel far more free to rest, slow down, create margins – all those things promoted in the realm of “self care” – when I am trusting God’s hesed-infused sustaining care for me.

        1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

          Just went over and read your post. A lot of wisdom, Elizabeth!
          Thanks for sharing the link here.

        2. Patty Stallings April 2, 2017

          After going back and bookmarking your post, I wondered where you were 20 years ago when I needed you? And don’t try to blame it on being a kid or the internet not being a thing yet. 🙂

  5. Tanya March 31, 2017

    “It is not the practice of caring for my body and soul that has been off kilter, but my self-determining, self-reliant, self-sourcing ways.”

    Yes! I’ve been wrestling with this for a year (consciously – longer before I had words for it!) I recognise my need for sufficient rest, but find it easy to slip into selfish self-protection. The message I’ve begun to internalise is that my Provider prepares all I need (including different types of rest) and he does a better job than me! Pursuing Him is the best strategy I can have for “self-care”.

    1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

      I so appreciate your comment, Tanya.You are right – we have a real need for rest, and trying to provide it for ourselves through our own efforts leads to selfish self-protection (or time and energy hoarding) or guilt and discouragement for not getting it right. God certainly does do a better job providing for us! And I love this, “Pursuing Him is the best strategy I can have for “self-care.” Amen!

      1. Elizabeth March 31, 2017

        I SO resonate with hoarding my energy. That is exactly the cycle I was stuck in last year, afraid of losing it all, afraid of it being taken from me, and trying to keep it for myself, but in selfish ways. It was something I talked about with a counselor at the beginning of the year.

        1. Tanya March 31, 2017

          I saw Elizabeth’s reply and thought yes! Time/energy hoarding! That is exactly my sinful temptation. Then I realised it was a reply to Patty’s reply on my comment – hahaha! But that’s something I think about a lot – trying to find a balance between wise care for my self, and generous love for others. And I’ve finally accepted that I will NEVER get that balance right, in large part because I don’t know the future. I can’t know when I will be called upon by someone in need, or when I will see a need I could give to. So it makes much more sense for me to stop trying to work it out and instead spend my energy connecting with Jesus. Because God does know the things I don’t. He will provide whatever I need. If I feel I need to protect myself from/for the things God asks of me, I have a dim view of his knowledge of and care for me. (PS- I love that I’m basically having a conversation with both of you, and I love imagining it happening in Real Life!)

          1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

            Double yes! 🙂

          2. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

            What if the goal is integration rather than balance?

            What if our care and wellbeing is somehow connected to generous love for others? The paradoxal dying to have life principle? If so, there is no way we can live that way without being connected to the Vine, led by His Spirit, and grounded in the Father’s deep hesed love.

            Thanks for provoking more thought, Tanya! What thoughts come to mind on the idea of integration vs. balance?

          3. Tanya March 31, 2017

            I think integration is closer, but perhaps we need to be thinking more in terms of interdependence than individual effort. Less self-care and more community-care – caring for each other. I give to those in my community and they give to me and in the end we all have what we need. Sometimes what I’m given is grace, kindness, and permission to take time out. Sometimes what I’m given is the opportunity to show grace and kindness – which also reminds and refreshes my own heart.

            Your reference to the Vine is important, too! I am tempted to think I have a finite resource of energy with which to love and serve others. But that’s not true! I am connected to the Vine. I have a finite amount of time, and my body and mind have finite capacities, but love, grace, kindness? The only limit to how much I can give is how much I have received – and so again I come back to my need to spend time in the presence of my Lord. Yes, I need to structure my life to manage those capacities which ARE limited (the need for sleep, for example) but when what I’m feeling low on is kindness or love, the answer is to go to the Source. Running low on those things is a warning sign that my vine-connection is faltering.

          4. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

            I like the delineation between finite capacities and those that flow out of our connection to the Vine. So helpful. I also appreciate your point that God often cares for us through community.

        2. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

          Have you ever watched the TV show “Hoarders”? It’s scary! But it seems there is always healing that needs to happen from some kind of grief, hurt, or trauma that underlies their compulsion to hoard. Sometimes it takes a community to clear away the clutter to help the person uncover the real issue and do the real work. Spiritual analogies abound! Thank God He is not afraid of the mess in all of us and is willing to tackle the sorting, discarding, cleaning work of healing! I was just reading Psalm 103 this morning about “all His benefits” , His hesed love for us, and this little reminder that breathes hope into my soul, “He knows how we are formed and He remembers we are dust.” God’s expectations and dealings with me are so much kinder and generous than my own!

          I’d love to hear what you learned through your counseling process, Elizabeth! Of course, only what’s appropriate in a public forum. 🙂

          1. Elizabeth April 1, 2017

            When it got down to it, I had two basic fears. Two competing fears, and it didn’t make sense to me how I could have two such opposing fears. The one fear was the fear of letting people down and telling them no. So I would say yes and couldn’t bring myself to say the nos I needed to, the nos my husband was begging me to say. Tied up in this was a good bit of the fear of man — not just a true letting others down, but a fear of what others will think of me. I couldn’t say no to anything because my identity was tied up in everything. In theory I know my identity in Christ. In practice I sometimes stray from center. Also the fear of people getting mad at me for saying no.

            On the other side was the fear of being used up, emptied out. This fear drove me, after saying too many outside yeses, to say no to my family. To hole myself up in my room on a Sunday afternoon and click in circles on the internet or watch videos or listen to podcasts. Nothing harmful in itself, but also nothing helpful for what I truly needed (which is where I understand your statements about not knowing what you really need in any given moment). That was the “soft addiction.” I was building this really high wall trying to save my strength, trying to hoard my time and energy. Thing was, I would emerge from those times no happier to see my family and no readier to take on the week or the day. My body would also be sore from sitting too much, and my brain would be foggy. Now, the woman I was meeting with told me that fear was valid in a way — there is such a thing as being used up, and it’s called burnout. But my fear was leading me to make unhealthy choices, selfish choices, unhelpful choices.

            I didn’t understand how I could have two competing, opposite fears like that. She gave me this word picture of two ditches on the side of the road, that we want to avoid both. That was a breakthrough moment for me. Aha! Now I understand what was happening. I was constantly stuck in one ditch or another, which meant I wasn’t making any progress on the road itself.

            Of course these ditches are also related for me. Too many outside yeses, and I retreat to my room and self-medicate instead of looking to God. But then, I was saying too many yeses because I wasn’t looking to God for my identity or my marching orders. But these competing fears take me out of the game of life and make me miserable.

            I was empty all the time because I was pouring in to the wrong pitchers and attempting to refill my own from all the wrong ones. All of which is to say, I can’t tell you how realigning our time in Chiang Mai was (that’s where we were when I went to see someone in January).

          2. Tanya April 1, 2017

            Oh wow, I so relate to the “soft addiction” that leaves you no better off. Something I’ve been thinking about lately. When I run myself so ragged I don’t have energy to do the things that give me energy – if that makes sense.

          3. Elizabeth April 1, 2017

            Yes, it makes complete sense, and I have totally been there!

          4. Patty Stallings April 2, 2017

            Thanks, Elizabeth, for sharing. so much good food for thought! I read your comment on my way out the door yesterday and thought about it several times since.
            Your picture of ditches on the opposite sides of a healthy path could fit many different issues, right? I think I just may have added a new question into my coaching repertoire. “If the healthy path you want to walk is ___, what are the ditches on each side of the road you tend to get stuck in?” (Thanks!)
            Your last paragraph also brought to mind one of my life-defining passages – Jeremiah 2’s picture of the contrast of the spring of living water with digging our own cisterns that cannot hold water, always leaking, needing to be refilled.

          5. Monica April 4, 2017

            OH MY WORD… you just completely described ME. The me, that gave, poured out, never said, ‘no, COULDN’T say NO… and then would crash and watch a TV show one after the other for a whole afternoon while my family would go get street noodles and play at a park, without me. I would just ‘blank space’ and then get right back out there, doing workshops, leading ministry, and so on. It was nuts, and my counselor told me so, when we went to Link Care for burnout 2 1/2 years ago. So, wow, you just totally described the fears I had and appreciate you articulating it, because it’s a reminder of where I was, my vulnerabilities/weaknesses, and to keep pressing on with healthy soul care. Thanks!

          6. Elizabeth April 6, 2017

            I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who’s fallen into this mud, Monica — or who wants to get out! Thank you.

  6. Michele March 31, 2017

    Like those who’ve already commented, I also found this post really resonated and put into words what I’ve been thinking and trying to act on for the last year. It actually hit me during last year’s Velvet Ashes Retreat. As we meditated on Psalm 23, I suddenly recognized that I was actually afraid God wouldn’t meet my need for time alone with Him, time to rest. It seemed so funny when I realized it, and it is pretty funny to think my Shepherd won’t take care of my soul perfectly, much better than I can care for myself. So, I’ve also been learning to let go and allow Him to lead- ‘make myself available, as Karen said above. The end of last year, a visa run turned into probably the most restful vacation I’ve ever had, a real treat. But the thing He spoke to me as I gave thanks for that time, which I am holding onto this year, was, “Michele, if you don’t learn how to live from the place of rest every day, you will never bear the fruit I’ve ordained for you in this place.” I think the things you listed in this post are practical ways to live from the place of rest every day. It’s also great to read all the comments and know there are a number of us learning to live this way!

    1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

      I love the truth God spoke to you, Michele! Just wow! The connection between abiding, resting in Him, and fruitfulness is something I keep circling back to again and again. Wouldn’t it be sweet to sit over a cup of coffee or tea and explore that together for a few hours. Or days. 🙂
      And I agree – it is encouraging to know our Shepherd has been pressing this thinking into many of our souls. Thanks for sharing how that looks for you.

  7. M'Lynn March 31, 2017

    Patty, this post is so good! Thank you for sharing your God-given wisdom with us today. It reminded me of my recent season when I disassembled my physical home in one place to step out into the unknown in another and God said “I AM your home.” So this is another rung in that ladder of understanding his character a bit more as He says “I AM your rest.”

    Just yesterday as I read John 18 I was yet again excited to see verses 5&6 when Jesus replies “I AM he.” And those seeking to arrest him drew back and fell to the ground. There is power in Jesus statement that I think we often don’t even notice. He is everything, and when we lean into that, like you said, it all comes into focus.

    1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

      I had to grab my Bible and read that passage just now, M’Lynn. I hadn’t noticed before the power of His words in that passage. Thank you for sharing!
      He really is everything, isn’t He? And how kind He is to reveal aspects of Himself in the very moments we need Him so that those truths get embedded deep in our souls.

  8. Haven March 31, 2017

    It’s so hard to find the balance. When is God wanting me to serve and when does He want me to be still and say, “no?” I agree completely that abiding in Jesus IS and should be what we consider “self care,” however when we are at home or work, the temptation to do other things is like the loudest phone ringer you can imagine. I do believe that we should actually be scheduling times to get out of our comfort zones to spend quality time with the Lord. I find myself incredibly thankful and in awe when I am outside the city walls. Jesus lived outside the city walls. He left to the Mount of Olives to pray. He often “went” to pray. That means getting away from where he was and I don’t think we can ignore that either. Discern in how the Lord wants you to serve, but also be a steward of the freedom and the time God gives you.

    1. Patty Stallings March 31, 2017

      Haven, first of all, I love your name! And secondly, I love your two observations that Jesus lived outside the city walls and he “went” to pray. An intentional movement and commitment.

      On my own blog, I wrote a bit more about what I’m discovering about trading in the idea of “self care” for resting in His care for us. Here’s a portion that I think relates to what you’ve shared.

      Viewing God as a God of rhythms.
      Western cultures tend to think in terms of work and play. The model Jesus’ disciples lived was more complex. After being sent to do God’s work, we see a rhythm of returning to Jesus, reporting, realigning, and rest. On our trek toward rest, it’s honoring to our souls to take a time out to report to Jesus, to reflect on what happened out there so we can realign our heart and mind with truth.

      http://pattystallings.com/additional-thoughts-on-abandoning-self-care/

  9. JulieB March 31, 2017

    Patty-
    Great message! I too have never cared for the term “self-care” although I do understand the intention and the need for caring for the life God has entrusted to us. Really appreciated the idea of allowing God to draw my boundary lines. That opens me up to letting Him use me rather than me deciding where the boundaries are. I like that. Again it is relinquishing control.

    Liked the statement too about Sabbath rest is not just “rest from” the past week but also preparation for what is to come. My husband and I have talked a lot about that in in the past as we read a book on Sabbath. Good reminders.

    Thanks Patty. Your name came up in a conversation the other day. Someone asked me if I knew you? I said “Sort of” even though we have never met in person!!! That person said, “you two would be good friends!” .I am still hoping for the day we can meet up for coffee if we are ever in the same city at the same time!!
    Julie B

    1. Patty Stallings April 1, 2017

      Hi Julie. Yes, we must meet up! I will be back in Beijing in August. But if you’ll be in North Dakota before then, just let me know. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing here, Julie. I’ll look forward to when we can talk about these ideas in person!

  10. Candace April 2, 2017

    Patty, thanks for sharing of yourself. I’m preparing to head back to the US in July after 9 years in Kenya. I am going on a spiritual retreat this next week for 4 days and will take your thoughts with me to ruminate over.

    1. Patty Stallings April 2, 2017

      Candace, you live in one of my bucket list places. 🙂 May our Father pour into you during this retreat and remind you over and over again of His hesed love for you and His faithful promise to shepherd your heart on unfamiliar paths.

  11. Sarita April 12, 2017

    This is great Patty. I still think for myself I have to practice a concept of “self-care” or “soul-care” whatever term we like best to describe it because I have to be intentional about carving out that time to respond to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. I don’t think we have to abandon the term, but rather find ways to reframe it for ourselves so it works for us, recognizing that even Jesus pursued “self-care” by spending time with His Father and pulling away to the mountains. I love your concept of Sabbath- so important! Thanks for sharing. I’ve actually just recently finished an eBook called A Self-Care Plan for Global Workers which you can find at my website: http://www.saritahartz.com. I’d be interested if you have any feedback or other suggestions for what you do to protect that Sabbath rest. 🙂

    1. Patty Stallings April 12, 2017

      Sarita, I agree totally that being intentional about carving out space to be available and attentive to His nudges is the key to being able to respond to His sustaining care for us. And thank you for sharing your resource! I will definitely check it out and I hope others will as well.

      1. Sarita April 13, 2017

        That’s wonderful! Thanks Patty! Would love your feedback! And thanks for giving us a lot to think about 🙂

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