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Posts Tagged ‘self-care’

Jo 23I wonder if you own one of those clever washing machines like we do that actually sends little messages to you at times. Recently, ours made a few clanging sounds, then beeped insistently. When I scurried into the laundry to see what was happening, this is the message that was illuminated on the front panel of the machine:

Help! My load is out of balance. Please redistribute and press start.

I hastily did as I was bidden. I removed the big towel that had managed to wrap itself around everything else and straightened out the heavy pair of jeans that was also causing trouble—and lo and behold, my machine then happily went on to finish its cycle. I happily returned to my desk too, but those words I had read stayed with me. Could they possibly have a wider application? Could God ever use a message on a washing machine to challenge us about our lives in general?

I suspect God does sometimes do things like that to get my attention. But what an important challenge for us all to think about, as we begin a new year!

How was this past year in your own life? Was your load ‘out of balance’ at times? Did you feel you were struggling far too often with finding time for things like simply relaxing and taking care of yourself or being quiet with God or contacting someone to see how they were going or working on a project close to your heart? The list could go on, couldn’t it? Sometimes we need to stop, take stock and make those hard decisions to bring things back into balance and enable our lives to run much more smoothly.

Sometimes our lives can end up feeling more than a little askew because of external demands placed upon us, while at other times, this can come as a result of choices we ourselves make. I know in my own life I am very good at doing all the jobs I see around, instead of allowing myself to spend time writing—something that is life-giving for me. Often too, I can overlook spending time with God, in order to complete these same jobs. Yet that is so self-defeating, because my heart is not at rest and at peace as a result and I end up feeling drained and out of kilter, like that washing machine of mine. At times, I need to listen to the warnings of those around me whose wisdom I trust and restore a better balance in my life. But above all, I need to listen to God about it, because God’s heart is to watch over me as a loving father who cares about my wellbeing and does not want to see my life so out of whack.

Before we all press that ‘Start’ button on another year then and are caught up in a whirl of activity again, let’s look to God to order our days, fulling trusting that God will show us how best to live. Then let’s be obedient in 2020 and put into practice what we hear!

Trust in the Lord will all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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I wonder if you are like me and do not readily allow yourself time off from all the tasks around you demanding your attention at home. It might be something I need to finish writing. It might be cooking dinner. It might be vacuuming—my pet hate! Any of these can prevent me putting time aside to be kind to myself and do nothing—or perhaps something special.

Recently, a friend invited me to see the exhibition ‘Modern Masterpieces from The Hermitage’ at the Art Gallery of NSW, with paintings on display ranging from impressionists such as Monet and Pissarro to the more avant-garde Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso. So we locked in a date and I immediately bought our tickets online. No backing out then!

And what a memorable day we had. After a speedy bus ride to the city, we strolled up through Hyde Park and the Domain to the Art Gallery. It was a beautiful day and, as we walked, we enjoyed God’s creative heart on display all around us, particularly in the towering Moreton Bay fig trees lining the road through The Domain.

As we entered the Art Gallery, we were overawed by the building itself, with its spacious, elegant interior, complete with domed ceilings and marble pillars. Our hearts lifted. Our particular exhibition was superbly set out and included an excellent multi-media presentation. And while some of the paintings were more to our taste than others, all spoke of such creativity, of pushing the boundaries, of trying new styles and techniques.

IMG_20190226_131535052Afterwards, we enjoyed lunch in the open air section of the cafeteria and were reminded again of God’s creativity, as we watched the cheeky and persistent rainbow lorikeet pictured here help itself to any crumbs we had left. What fun God musIMG_20190226_115620622t have had, creating its amazing colours! Perhaps it was this very bird, we decided, who inspired the artist Kandinsky to choose the colours he did for his bold landscape included in the exhibition!

As we eventually made our way home, after sampling the special delights of the Queen Victoria Building, we looked back on our wonderful day and felt so blessed—as if God had poured such kindness all over us in so many different ways. We were tired, but our hearts felt lighter and our minds buzzed with creative ideas birthed from seeing such creativity around us—both God’s and man’s, which surely comes from God anyway.

Recently, a friend commented how we can sometimes be less kind to ourselves than God is—and I think that may be true. Some of us are so hard on ourselves that we can end up becoming quite graceless and may even struggle with receiving God’s amazing grace. We do not deserve such compassion and forgiveness, our hearts cry out—we are not good enough. Yet through Jesus, God has reached out to us with such lovingkindness, drawing us close again. We are loved. We are accepted. We are God’s precious children.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

I hope you can show that same kindness and compassion to yourself when you need to—and I hope I can too.

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Jo 23I have discovered we own an extremely polite washing machine. On those rare occasions when I happen to be standing nearby when a wash load finishes, it sends me a sweet, little message via the control panel: ‘Finished! Have a nice day!’ But recently, I found a much more distressing message there. After hearing a little musical summons emanating from our laundry, I went to investigate and found the following: ‘Help! My load is out of balance. Please redistribute load, then press start.’

Of course I did as instructed. I hauled those wet towels around, spread them out more evenly—and my trusty washing machine went spinning on its merry way.

Yet that desperate message my washing machine had sent stayed in my mind long after. Could God perhaps be prompting me to apply this to my own life right now? After all, there have been many times when my ‘load’ has indeed been severely out of balance. Hmm …

It’s so easy, isn’t it, to throw ourselves into all those tasks and responsibilities we have, forgetting key things like rest, like self-care, like close relationships—and like close connectedness with God? Sometimes we need that moment of shuddering to a standstill, as my washing machine did, before we realise we need help to change and somehow redistribute the load in our lives.

For quite a while, I have missed nurturing that more creative side of me that is fed by losing myself for hours in writing my next novel. I know the time will come later this year when I will hopefully find those hours again. But meanwhile, I need some sort of creative outlet. So for that reason, and also to prepare something that could be displayed at our church’s upcoming Art Installation, I decided to create a piece of writing based on John 9. I then used a special bronze metallic pen to handwrite these words on black cardboard and, as I did, I could feel that peace and calm I so desperately needed enfold me once again. God was so wonderfully near, as I recreated that amazing account of how Jesus healed the man who had been born blind.

In the process, I recalled a warning in Isaiah that has often reminded me in the past to stop rushing hither and thither, relying on my own strength, and instead, to listen to God and live and minister the way God sees is best for me:

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15

Like God’s people back then, I have to own to being obstinate at times and wanting to go my own way, so that I am danger of being left desolate, ‘like a flagstaff on mountaintop’ (30:17). Instead, I need to look to God to find the best balance in my life and to walk humbly in God’s love and grace on a daily basis.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! 30:18

That is God’s amazing heart of love for me—and for you too.

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Jo 23During the past week, I experienced what is a rare treat for me—a rejuvenating ‘ultimate facial’ in a quiet, restful beauty salon. For an hour and a half, I was surrounded by wonderful aromas and relaxing music as I enjoyed some very necessary skin revitalising, along with a gentle hand and foot massage, at the experienced hands of our beauty therapist daughter. But what made it even more enjoyable was the fact that this was a birthday gift from her, paid for and administered with love.

On another day, I made a much needed visit to a physiotherapist, in an attempt to fix some old injuries I suffered last year during a fall while out walking. There my body was treated with care once again, although this time with much firmer massaging that will hopefully bring more healing and strength to those parts of me that have been damaged.

In this same week, I also enjoyed several meals out with various friends and family members. One evening, we shared a pleasant dinner with a guest in our own home. Over all these meals, I enjoyed not only the food but also the good conversations that took place and, while my body might well not have needed so much food indulgence, my mind and spirit were enriched by these experiences.

In the midst of this, I found time to watch some tennis on TV and feel sorry for those players, toiling away so hard to win those matches, as I relaxed in the coolness of our lounge room. Yes, I also cooked and gardened and wrote a little and minded grandchildren—but I tried to take care of myself in the process and enjoy the moment, being thankful I can do all these things. I am not renowned in my family for caring overly well for myself but am slowly learning not to see it as self-indulgence but rather as good stewardship of the resources God has given me.

Yet there is something else I need to do, if I am to be ready to do the things God has for me to do. I need to put time aside to listen to God in a deliberate, focussed way. How easy it is to overlook our spiritual wellbeing as we care for ourselves in other ways! This in turn can affect our minds and emotions and even our bodies, I believe. We need to care for ourselves in a holistic manner—otherwise we may end up unable to function as God created us to function.

So this week, I am taking part in a three day spiritual retreat where I hope to hear inspiring input, be creative, have good conversation with others, yet also find time to be alone with God. I want God’s Spirit to renew me and to resource me deep down for the year ahead, so that out of that overflow within me, God can refresh others.

How are you at caring for every part of you? Are you, like me, learning to do this better?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to stay motivated, largely in preparation for a writers’ workshop I’ll be taking on the topic at the Word Writers’ Fair in Brisbane on 6th November (see www.thewordwriters.com). It has been a timely journey – I never cease to be amazed how, when I am preparing input for some speaking engagement, God so often uses it to speak to me first and foremost! You see, the fact is that I have now completed seven years of solid novel writing, plus preparing for many speaking engagements over that period. Is it time then for me to have a sabbatical? Or should I forge ahead, complete Novel Number Six and fulfil those speaking engagements that are beginning to emerge for 2011?

Please don’t get me wrong. I love preparing talks – and delivering whatever God has given me to say. And I love writing with a passion. I can’t wait to complete my current novel and find out what happens to my characters! And I have several more ideas for novels sitting on my computer, almost begging me to investigate them more fully. Yet on certain days at least, it can be an effort to stay focused, to pick up the threads of my current novel and to move my characters forward in a way which is consistent with who they are and the journey they have already travelled.

I have heard what God wanted me to, I believe, as I have prepared my workshop input. I know there are vital ‘God factors’ in staying motivated – things like remembering our call from God to write, reading God’s Word, practising the presence of God, praying, and being thankful for the journey thus far. I have seen again the importance of receiving encouragement from others in the form of a mentor who understands the creative process, a wider faith community, friends who will pray for us and teachers and editors who will give us specific, helpful writing input. I have noted too the place of watching our responses to any negative feedback and of learning to say no to things that are not right to undertake. And again I have been reminded of the whole self-care aspect – getting enough exercise and sleep; finding words, objects, places that motivate me; disciplining my time; setting goals; celebrating my little writing ‘victories’; and putting past failures behind me.

But then God takes over again and drops those extra encouraging words into my spirit. This morning I read the following beautiful, simple prayer from 2 Thessalonians 3:5:

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

That prayer to me highlights the two key things I need to remember in my writing journey – the real direction I need to be heading in my heart. If I focus on God’s amazing love for me and remember that this love will never change, whether I write well or not so well or even whether I write at all, then I am on solid ground. And if I keep Christ’s example before me of persevering to the end and of being so determined to do his Father’s will – well, what motivation could be stronger than that?

And just now, again in God’s exquisite timing, an email has arrived, telling me my fifth manuscript has been accepted for publication! Do you think God is sitting back, smiling and enjoying this special encouraging gift along with me? I do!

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