As the wife of a wonderful man that I really love, and a stay-at-home mom to three remarkable kids, my life is pretty much woven around putting others first. Women, in my opinion, really understand that tenet of the Christian faith - sacrificial love. From the moment our eyes open in the morning (or often in the middle of the night as our sweet little people tiptoe to our sides to let us know they had a bad dream, or wet the bed, or don't feel so well) until we can no longer keep them open late at night (I try sooooo hard to squeeze in extra minutes of reading a great romance novel or watching my favorite show, but I just can't keep my eyes open!!) we're thinking of others. Often we're raised with the expectation of being future caregivers (I know lots of men are, too, and I am married to the most selfless one of all!). It's no surprise then that one thing that is a little harder for many of us to acknowledge, and certainly me, is the often missed truth that taking care of ourselves is NECESSARY. As I've read about Jesus, I've learned about the importance of resting like he did, making sure to find moments to get away and connect with God and His Love for me like he did, and caring for His temple like he did. I started a couple of years ago looking for moments of Sabbath in my week and found myself making the time to read, watch a movie I'd been waiting to see, or often taking a nap. In my mind I thought I'd gotten pretty good at self-care, until early this fall when I was shocked to discover that wasn't the case at all.
I got sick. Like...really, really sick. It started with these pains in my back when I was driving home one Sunday that spread all the way to my front. They took my breath away. I thought they were no big deal and would go away. Since I was so great at taking care of myself (wink, wink) I promptly went home and rested on my heating pad, thinking I'd heal with time and rest. But I didn't. It became nearly impossible to eat, my stomach was on fire, I got really light-headed, lost all my energy, and started losing weight rapidly. But I kept thinking, "I'll just rest. It'll go away." After two weeks of forcing myself to eat tiny bits of food, I finally realized that I needed to see a doctor. They ran a gazillion tests that really didn't show anything conclusive. The doctors (yes, I ended up seeing more than one) shared their theories, and those theories were leading to surgery. In my gut I just felt like that wasn't the answer. I didn't know what was, but I deeply felt that wasn't it.
There was a building sense of desperation for relief in my home. Certainly from me, but also from all my people who needed their caregiver back (me resting on a heating pad just wasn't cutting it!). My husband was doing his very best to manage his responsibilities and mine, and my parents came to help (they are always the first to put others first!). The pain and other symptoms persisted and I just wasn't getting any better. I needed a solution....fast. So I scheduled the surgery, even though I felt totally uneasy about it.
Then I got a call one day from my sister. She'd been working with an amazing nutritionist, Vicki, whose office is in Australia (thank you God for Facetime!). She'd shared my story with her and Vicki strongly suggested I consult with her before I got the surgery. Like I said, I was desperate, so I set up a Facetime meeting. Vicki was sure she could help and told me her plan, which consisted of eating specifically balanced meals...6 times a day!!! After getting off the phone with her I panicked. I literally thought, "There is no way I can do this. I can't make food for myself that often. I don't have time for that!" That thought really surprised me. As I thought more about it, I was shocked to realize that the only real meal I ate in a normal day was dinner - the one I prepared for EVERYONE ELSE. Breakfast was two cups of strong coffee and maybe an apple two hours later on the way out the door. If I ate lunch, it was usually a small bag of chips or crackers, followed by my afternoon snack of another cup or two of coffee and a sweet treat. It occurred to me then, in my panic, that maybe I really wasn't so great at taking care of myself.
The thoughts of not being able to do it, not knowing where I would find the energy or time, and the heavy guilt I felt about choosing to care for myself and spending money on myself plagued me. But I was desperate. It was this or surgery. My husband and I talked and decided we were willing to do whatever it took to get me back to good health. So, I changed my surgery date and told Vicki I'd give it a month. Within two weeks, I felt 100% better. Actually...even better than that! I had more energy than I can remember having in a long time. Not only was I making delicious healthy meals for myself, I was also making better ones for my family. I began paying attention to the selfless man I married and checking in to see if he was taking care of himself, too. Were his needs being met? Was he eating and sleeping well? Was he connecting with God and the people in his life? I now had the energy to get out there and really LIVE with him. I started laughing more and finding more purpose and joy in my everyday. And, I cancelled my surgery!
I'm still on the road to permanent recovery from my "mom guilt," but I am pretty sure there's something important to this idea of taking care of myself. As it turns out, Jesus was onto something by both taking care of himself (like getting away - literally for 40 days and nights, resting at the well, getting up early to pray, eating with His disciples, etc.) AND sacrificing for others. I'm beginning to think it isn't one or the other, but rather an inclusive "both" reality. Maybe we're only able to sacrifice and put others first when we commit to also taking care of ourselves as well.
Lisa is a deep-thinker, a philosopher in cute jeans and flip flops, a Nutty Professor - mom style. She recognized God's presence at an early age and has lived life mostly open to Him. She hears His voice in books, movies, and music - no matter the genre! She is serious about the work of living Loved, loving God, and loving people.