Recently I got a massage. - a birthday gift I've been waiting to use for two months. For me, getting a massage is a an indulgence, and one I am not entirely comfortable with. No judgement here; it's just that I am not at all used to pampering myself in this way. As I tried to relax and breathe through the paper-lined donut that cradled my face, my thoughts bounced around like marbles in a pinball machine. It went something like this...
What a wonderful birthday gift. Today is the perfect day for me to enjoy this...it's been such a busy week.
Oh my gosh! I forgot that Bernie is at a class and Claire has to take the car to work which means that I can't pick Brenna up from school for our special date like we planned. (Insert Mom guilt over having to cancel special date here.) I'll need to call the school as soon as I leave here so they can get a message to Brenna to take the bus home.
Relax, Becky. You are supposed to be relaxing. It's all OK. Brenna will understand.
When am I going to go to the grocery store? I am working the next two days.
Wow...this feels so good. When she was working on my back and shoulders a couple of minutes ago I thought that was the best, but who knew that having your arms and hands massaged could feel so good? And she is not in a hurry. She is taking her time.
The deadline to order Claire's senior pictures is in eight days. (I'm a mom. This is how my brain works.)
As she gently worked the tension out of my body, I thought about how, over the last week, my arms had carried bags and boxes, lifted my suitcase in and out of the trunk, pushed a shopping cart, swept my hardwood floors, and wrapped themselves around those I love. I thought about how my hands had mixed and measured ingredients, prepared food for customers and family, shook strangers' hands during introductions, held a microphone, and cleaned up dog puke from our family room floor. I pictured my fingers moving over my keyboard, typing words and clicking my mousepad, holding a pen while writing up invoices and writing down appointments, never-ending to-do lists, and prayers in my journal. I pictured them scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, texting messages to people in my tribe, moving over and under as I braid my daughter's hair.
This woman's job is to pamper and nurture people, to give them a retreat from their work and rest from the busyness of their days. I wonder what she does for a retreat? I wonder who pampers her?
Suddenly a memory comes to mind of being with my mom in the hospital, the day before she died. Or was it the morning of? I had massaged lotion onto her legs and feet and arms and hands. I will never forget how it felt to pour out my grief and love in those moments. I didn't want to let her go. But I knew I had to.
Now I am softly crying. The woman is massaging my legs and feet, and when she touches my right foot I jerk it away. "You're ticklish! So sorry." For some reason I picture my daughter Kate's face, and I cry some more. She is a sophomore in college and I miss her. A lot.
What on earth is wrong with me? Only I would turn a massage into some sort of deep, reflective, emotionally charged activity. This is why I shouldn't do stuff like this...
Slowing down is hard for some of us. Maybe one of the reasons some of us don't slow down is because we are afraid of what I just described. We are afraid of what is there, just beneath the surface, or maybe buried deep below. We don't want to remember the sad. We don't want to feel the hurt. We don't want to feel angry or scared or have to deal with our own sense of failure or rejection. We have questions without answers. So we stay busy. We go fast. We avoid what is uncomfortable.
But hard-wired into our very DNA is a need to slow down: a God-instilled rhythm of work and rest, work and rest. We were created to go and stop, not just go go go. We were designed to remember and reflect, to connect. We were made to laugh and cry and breathe and feel all the feels.
I left my appointment feeling relaxed and calm. And at a deeper level, grateful and comforted and sensitive to all of life around me. Nothing came up during my 50-minute massage that God did not tenderly hold with me. I'm grateful for meaningful work and opportunities to grow. I love my family, my tribe, and even my dog who makes messes for me to clean up. It's been almost six years, and I still miss Mom every day. I miss Kate, away at college, every single day. Claire will be graduating in May and heading to college in the fall. Brenna will be starting high school and honestly, it's all breaking my heart a little bit. I need to slow down enough to feel it. Why? Because whether or not I'm aware of it , I need comfort.
In Matthew 5:4 Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." We cannot experience comfort without mourning. And we can't mourn what we refuse to feel.
My guess is you've got some stuff that's honestly breaking your heart just a bit, and I'm wondering if maybe you need to slow down enough to feel it, too? It doesn't have to be a massage. Go for a walk. Sit with your coffee in the morning, just you and God. Turn off the radio when you're driving alone in your car. Turn off the TV and Pandora. Tell Alexa to take a nap. Just. slow. down. Let yourself be still. Don't be afraid of what may surface. Whatever it is, you won't face it alone. God will hold it with you.
I am a member of a Chicago-area speaker group - a group of like-minded women who write and speak and are passionate about sharing messages that resonate with and encourage women. At our last meeting, after sharing some discouraging news I received about a writing project, a couple of these friends encouraged me to start blogging more regularly. Like every week.
"Every week?!? I can't do that! I don't have time," I pushed back because what they were suggesting felt overwhelming to me. One of the women graciously shared her observation that if I continued to write blog posts the length of a book chapter that are perfectly edited and polished, then no, I probably couldn't pull off a blog post a week. But if I were to write short snippets, to write about moments as a mom and a writer, as a wife and a friend, and just put them out there, then I probably could write one post a week. They encouraged me to connect authentically and not worry about doing it perfectly.
When it comes to writing, I am a perfectionist. I painstakingly labor over every word, send my "book chapter" off to a few people to proof, sit with it for several days, make edits, and then often mentally debate back and forth over whether it is worthy of posting. I want my writing to be clean. More importantly, I want to say something of value. I don't just want to be another voice in a sea of voices.
My friends convinced me to give it a shot. They know my journey. They believe in the work God is doing in and around me. These women are some of the "Mordecais" in my life. Remember him? In the story of Queen Esther, he is her cousin who was really more of a father figure in her life. When she is taken into the King's harem, Mordecai keeps his eye on Esther. And he keeps his ears open to the sinister plot developing from inside the palace to destroy the Jewish people (which included Esther and Mordecai.)
Esther may be able to do something. But it is risky. She could lose her life in the process of trying to save her people. In some of the most beloved words of the Old Testament we read this charge to Esther:
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)
We love these words filled with inspiration and courage. These words have been the theme of women's conferences, have graced the covers of books, have been written into song lyrics and sermons.
Who knows whether everything that has happened to you in your life, the good and the bad, the blessing and the suffering, has led up to this divinely-inspired moment, when God may do something beyond what you could ever imagine?
We so love this verse, but have we considered who said these words? It wasn't Esther; it was Mordecai, her watchful, wise, faith-filled cousin. He challenges Esther to see beyond her life in the palace. He encourages her - which literally means "to fill with courage" - to consider the possibility that God may be up to something. That maybe He has been working His plan in all of the circumstances leading up to this moment, and maybe He wanted to use Esther the queen to save her people.
Now to be clear, few of us will ever impact a nation of people the way Esther did. Mordecai's words held immeasurable influence over Esther's life, and her brave actions changed the course of history for the Jewish people. And, I am certainly not comparing myself, my influence, or my platform to Esther's in any way. But I believe that we can, in big and small ways, be Mordecai to the people God has put in our lives.
Several friends have been Mordecai to me over the years, in various areas of my life. Truth-tellers and encouragers have helped me be brave in parenting and marriage, trust God in the most heart-wrenching situations, and find courage to say yes to things that terrify me.
We can fill others with courage. We can say, "I know your story. I've been with you through the ups and downs. I see how you have struggled and the ways you have doubted God's work in your life. I see the fear and insecurity you have about stepping out and speaking up. It's understandable. But I also see the beautiful ways God has gifted you. I see what you've overcome. I see your faith and your surrendered heart. And I just can't help but wonder if maybe God has been working in your life in ways you haven't been able to see? I can't shake this feeling that maybe He wants to use you and your story for His purposes. Take courage! Be brave! Be bold! Together, let's see what God might do."
Who are the Mordecai's in your life? And for whom can you be a Mordecai? To whom can you speak words of truth and faith? Whose heart can you fill with courage today?
Categories: for such a time as this, encouragement, courage, brave, Esther, Mordecai, God's plan, words of truth, fear, anxiety, discouragement, friendship, writing, speaking, faith, Christian blogs
My daughter, Kate, is in her second year of nursing school, and she decided not to come home from college for spring break. And I am happy. It's not that I wouldn't love to see her -- I miss her and sooo would love to have her home. I would love to have tea together in the morning and catch up on...everything. I'd be thrilled to set an extra place at the dinner table. It would warm my heart to hear the sisters talking and giggling in her room. But she has chosen, for the second year in a row, to go with her cousin, Britta, on a road trip to visit extended family.
First stop: their cousin Rachel's house. They will spend a few days with Rachel, her husband, and their two kids. (Their dog is at the kennel because he is as huge as a horse and my petite daughter is legit scared of him.) Then they will head upstate to visit my sister, Kari, and her husband, their five kids, and their two dogs. (Their dogs are harmless little yippers, so they get to stay.)
Here is why I am happy: Rachel and Kari each texted Kate and Britta to ask them what food they want served during their visits. I know the girls are going to be welcomed and pampered and loved on. They are going to sleep late, hopefully take a break from studying, and get their college-sized buckets filled while spending time with these families. There will be lots of laughter, deep conversations, probably some tears, and a fair amount of inappropriate humor. Rachel, Kari, and their husbands will speak words of life and truth and encouragement. The kids will splash light and love the way kids do, and for all of it, I am so, so grateful.
I am happy that my daughter has good people in her life. I'm glad she invests in life-giving relationships and that she knows where to go to get filled up. She has been watching me do this for years: coffee dates and walks with friends, phone conversations that keep me grounded and authentically connected, trips with sisters and friends, nurturing relationships that fill me up. God has healed me and loved me through the good people in my life. And to see Him doing that in the lives of my daughters and my nieces makes my heart so very happy.
I hope that my three daughters will make time to nurture their relationships in the coming years. I hope that when they are married and have children, when the craziness of family life is in full swing, wherever they may be, that they will take time for themselves. I hope they will invest in their relationships. I hope they will learn what fills them up and then be intentional about scheduling those activities into their calendars. I hope my daughters will plan get-aways together and not invite me. (OK, maybe sometimes they can invite me.)
I think our daughters are on their way, because when my husband and I asked the younger two what they wanted to do for their Spring Break (which is in a couple of weeks), they both said the same thing: "Let's go see Kate at college."
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12
Categories parenting, motherhood, relationships, letting go, self-care, family, spring break, parenting adult children, love