Today I was interviewed for a podcast about the message of Detoured, and while I was answering one of the host’s questions I had a realization. I was answering a question about self-care, or really, soul-care, if you get right down to it. She asked why it was important, and what the term really meant. It called to mind all of the times as a new stay-at-home mom, that I brushed aside my own needs to focus on those of my boys. I endlessly prepared snacks, planned our days, wiped mouths, and washed hands. If I thought about doing anything for myself- like taking a few moments to relax with a cup of tea or a good book- I instantly felt guilt, like I hadn’t earned the right to relax in my own home.

Of course this stemmed from all of the striving I did, trying to prove that I still had value as a stay-at-home mom. I worked really hard in those days to fill the emptiness in my heart that refused to be filled with anything but a closer walk with Christ and the peace only He can provide. Still, when I think about it, I’m not sure it was just guilt I felt- but also fear.

I can’t be the only one who fears that once I experience true joy, the other shoe will drop. Do you do that, too? The opposite of joy is sorrow, right? So if I feel one…well then, the other is sure to follow. Back then, if I enjoyed staying home with my boys, without earning such a gift (that’s the thing with God-gifts, you can’t earn them)- what did that mean? Would something awful happen if I leaned into it, instead of finding a reason to busy myself and brush it away? I was scared to be happy. We do this all of the time, with just about everything. It’s more than being a pessimist, or even anxious. It’s one of the enemy’s prime tools to turn our eyes away from the abundant life Jesus offers, and onto fear instead. When we fear happiness, we keep ourselves in a lukewarm relationship with life. It’s never that bad, but it’s also never that great. We cheat ourselves out of life. Joy is never really allowed to permeate the first layer of our hearts. I don’t want to live that way, do you?

These days, I make myself a cup of tea, and sit down to enjoy it. I paint my nails when I feel like it, and give myself time to write for fun if the mood strikes. Self-care is going to be different for each of us, but it matters. Life is made up of a million little things that bring us joy, and some big ones, too. We aren’t serving our families any better by denying ourselves the joys of living. If we aren’t enjoying the little things in life, how are we to recognize and savor the big ones? If I’m being honest, it’s a daily fight to choose joy over the “what ifs”. To grab onto it and not let go, even when fear tries to weaken my grip, warning me that sorrow or grief is around the corner. I have to turn my eyes sky-ward and remember that my protection comes from Him- and even if the other shoe drops, He will help me pick it back up.

 

For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.- Isaiah 41:13

 

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