This morning, I am sipping very strong coffee (french press variety) and still in my gown at 11:00 a.m. and taking a few minutes to breathe. Yes, I did have to get up with the dog after having her surgery yesterday and tend to her, met with Clay for almost an hour to talk about life and the wedding coming up, helped Joy find her wallet, talked with Joel and helped him gathered some things before he flew out the door to record a book on tape, and then finished editing one more chapter of a book coming soon.
I just never had time to get dressed. And I knew I needed a 15 minute, one woman coffee time before moving on to the rest of the day's demands.
In today's whirlwind culture, it's become common to feel pressed to "power through" every possible situation in life. Whether we are ill, exhausted, or dealing with a personal crisis, (or planning weddings in Oxford from thousands of miles away :)), we seem hesitant to take time to refresh ourselves. Putting on a brave face, taking a deep breath, and drinking yet another cup of coffee may help for awhile, but it isn't the best answer long-term when we realize we're truly exhausted in body, soul, and/or spirit.
Even though I love ministering to and inspiring others to Biblical ideals, I get physically and emotionally drained speaking at weekend seminars. All of my energy has to be focused outwardly, which is not natural to my personality. It's no wonder that as soon as the workshop is over I feel a deep need to get away and be by myself. I am not natural at being in the center of attention, so I have to have time to get back to my personal emotional center. I need reflective time alone to refill my spiritual well.
It also helps me understand why I need regular time away from my children. As a young mama who chose to home educate my children, I had committed to a life that was not an introverted lifestyle. Four little people wanted my attention every moment of the day, and there were still other big ones standing in line when my children were through with me! Since it is impossible to find a place or the time to be alone in a house full of people, I have learned to be creative.
When I was 44, and writing my first book, there was a wonderful French bakery about ten minutes from my home that became my private getaway. Just the atmosphere ministers to my soul—French-roasted coffee, brick-oven-baked European breads, a fresh-cut flower on each wooden table, baroque music in the background. It is so reminiscent of the Viennese coffeehouses that Clay and I frequented during our years of ministry in Austria. If I could go there even for just an hour in the early morning, by myself, and enjoy my quiche and coffee without anyone begging for a taste, I come home a totally different person.
I would be newly invigorated and ready for the active life of running after the four always-on- the-go, chattering little squirrels I call my children. One year, I would go for breakfast by myself at least once a week at 6:30 in the mornings. (my children were 13, 10, 8 and 2) Clay would get up with the kids, feed them breakfast and I would be home by 8:00 so that he could go to the office. It was a miracle small retreat for me that changed the days for me.
On rare occasions of personal crisis, I have needed an extended time alone. Several years ago I suffered a serious miscarriage, during which I lost a large amount of blood, leaving me extremely anemic. While I was recovering, my father became ill and died. I was already drained from starting a new mom's group with classes for 120 children and a Bible study for the mothers, and from a broken relationship with another couple at church. I was exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To give me time to recuperate, Clay offered to take the kids home to Texas to visit their grandmother for two weeks. I definitely needed their time away.
I had in mind that while they were gone I would clean and organize the house, get my files in shape, read a book or two about interests that applied to my parenting and educational goals for my children and to refresh and motivate me. Of course I planned to spend some extended time with the Lord. Instead, I slept a lot, ate my favorite foods, went out to restaurants with my mother who flew in to visit, met a couple of friends for lunch, watched some old movies, and spent some casual time reading my Bible. I accomplished very little while the family was gone, but when they returned I was refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to get back to real life. I'd just needed some physical, emotional, and spiritual rest--and fun away from all the goals and work of parenting, marriage and motherhood.
Whatever your personality, be sure you allow yourself the time to be refreshed in a way that is right for you. There is no single, one-size-fits--all formula for how and where that happens, but you need enough time with yourself to determine how and where it will happen for you. But when you take care of your personal needs and make time to invest in your own well-being through this marathon of life, you will live a more sustainable life.
Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is take some time alone, eat something delicious and look at something beautiful--and accomplish absolutely nothing visible at all!
Jesus knew his own disciples needed such time.
And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) ~ Mark 6:31
Do you need to give yourself permission to rest and renew, friend? Summer is a great time to build in small, personal retreats to give yourself renewed energy for a demanding life.