Category : Joy

self-care
Joy, Projects, Sabbath
0

Project Pamper Me

You know how sometimes you know something, but still: you manage to forget its meaning and import in your life?

I occasionally lead a retreat – a retreat that I created – called “Sabbath and the Busy Person.” Its focus is on breaking open the meaning of the 3rd Commandment to Keep Holy the Sabbath, and understand that it’s calling us to more than just worship.

Sabbath is about stopping. Not doing. Just being. Refreshing the soul. Re-creating our passion and joy through recreation. Reconnecting with our best selves and the God who created us.

After juxtaposing the theological concept of Sabbath with the reality of our lives, I offer the practical wisdom of Stephen Covey’s 3rd Habit: Put First Things First. In addition to Covey’s time management insights, I also use spiritual insights from Robert Wicks’ Availability. When you’re “too available,” giving to everyone but yourself, you’re sabotaging your own efforts. When you’re tapped – completely wiped out – you’re no good to anyone.

You need to take care of yourself, if for no other reason than to be a better you.

I know this. I teach it. I lead reflections and retreats on it. And yet I manage to forget it.

All. The. Time.

One of my favorite recent insights is how wonderful it’s been to have discovered the joy of having a hobby. I have posted about my new found hobby of Functional Art (see previous posts here and here), particularly with the addicting explosion of Pinterest. Not only do I enjoy actually doing these projects, but I find that when I do so, I’m able to turn my theologian-writer-teacher-mother brain off and focus only on creating something new. That in and of itself is a Godsend. Because when I do return to my busy-yet-wonderful-yet-stressful life, my brain is refreshed and energized.

I’m like: “Ooooh – so this is what people mean by ‘Get a hobby!'”

Shortly after the New Year, my Mom and I were having a conversation about trying to shift out of a negative mood. Mom was struggling with a multitude of things and wanted nothing more than to clear her mind of the anger, frustration, and hurt over a situation that was beyond her control. She had spent the morning trying to distract herself from it all by house cleaning, checking email, Facebooking, and whatnot. (Mom hasn’t yet discovered Pinterest, which may explain why she was not able to fully distract herself.)

Mom had the right idea, but the problem with her modes-of-distraction were that they were just time-filling tasks. She didn’t really enjoy any of them. In fact, they tended to drain her energy more than fill her up.

When you need to change your energy, when you need to refresh and re-energize, you need to do something you love. Just. For. Fun.

About a week after my conversation with my Mom, my friend Stacey emailed a few in the girlfriend group whom she recalled having some success with what she called “Project Pamper Me.”


I am feeling…stretched thin…doing everything for everyone all the time, and I am feeling like I just want someone to take care of me!

And…I realized I should pamper and spoil myself like I do for others. I had this realization this morning while simultaneously making the family’s lunches, breakfasts, snacks for the day, fixing their hair, filling out school paperwork all while they ate and I bustled around. And I thought: Man, I would like to sit down.

So…I’ve decided I want to start pampering myself daily…but that’s where I get stuck. What to do? How? So far I have been just sitting in front of the TV…I haven’t even brushed my teeth because I am so drained from giving everything to others and not myself. And I don’t really feel like Teen Mom 2 is the kind of pampering I need…

How do I make myself get up and do something good for myself when I just want to wallow?

What are some long terms ways I can pamper myself – and keep in mind: I don’t want one more “to do” that I need to do to stay healthy. Help!?!

Stacey’s complaint, assessment, and hope-yet-concern resonated deeply. One of the reasons I have been so WOW-ed by my new-found “hobby” of crafting is that it really is something I enjoy for me. And doing it recharges me.

Our group of girlfriends used to do yoga as our “Project Pamper Me” – sometimes as a group, other times individually. And we loved it. And it’s been a while since any of us have done it. In some way, I’ve heard each of us express the desire to return, but we each have a stressed out “how can I fit this in?” attitude about yoga. So far it has been too much. And “too much” doesn’t bring anyone joy.

So Teacher-Julie came up with a 3-Part Plan, and Kari and Amalour added insights to flesh it out.

Project Pamper Me’s 3-Part Plan:

Step 1: Identify the things you like to do that are just for you and bring you joy.

Make a mental list. Or a real paper one. Get your mind around what it is, what way it needs to function to be for-you, by-you. And maintain that approach. I can’t just do crafts “for” other people (on demand), because then it becomes a thing. Even if I ultimately give something to other people, if my hobby is to be rejuvenating and re-joy-infusing, they need to flow from me. Not from others.

Kari suggests:

  • Make a list of the things you enjoy that are just for you (include big and small things, i.e. pedicure, massage, movie, crafts, reading, going for a walk, sitting in the sun, taking a bubble bath, etc)
  • Make it for you, to relax you and bring you joy! (Not another task to be done!)

Amalour is someone who knows how vital relaxation can be to physical health. She’s in the process of beating an aggressive form of breast cancer. For the second time. After a full mastectomy. With a husband and three children under the age of seven. She offered some of her own personal approaches to Project Pamper Me:

  • Fit in at least two soaking baths a week, during the day when all the kids are away. I really take my time and totally relax.
  • Sit out in the sun for a while and get those good melatonin juices flowing.
  • Once in a while, get a sitter to feed and put the kids to bed. Then go to a cafe or Starbuck’s and read. Just get a break from the most frustrating part of the evening.
  • Grab a healthy lunch somewhere alone… somewhere I can get served.
  • When I haven’t gotten the me-time before the kids are home (and find I really need it), Tell them: “I need a little break, absolutely do not disturb me.” Make sure they have a snack, and go take a power nap or ready/study.

Step 2: Do that thing.

Make sure you’re staying true to the unblemished form of the hobby that brings you joy.

Step 3: Make a commitment to yourself to integrate it in to your life.

Sometimes integrating it in to my day is too difficult. But I can do a weekly commitment to care for myself.

Kari suggests integrating into daily life:

  • To implement it daily make sure you have a bunch of small things on the list – not just big things. That way, when you don’t have a lot of time you can still take 10-20 min for you!
  • I get in the TV trap too when I’m feeling worn out. Sometimes I choose to go with it and don’t feel guilty. Other times, I take a bubble bath and read a book. Definitely find some way, big or small, to pamper yourself daily.
  • If it makes it easier, pick the same time everyday.
  • If it doesn’t happen one day don’t beat yourself up, just start again the next day!

Amalour has the planning part down:

  • Look at the coming week’s schedule and block out the me-time. Because for me, it’s not always the same time of the day every day.
  • Make sure to leave ample time; don’t feel rushed.
  • In general, try not to schedule so much errand-running around.

Whatever we choose to do for me-time, be it a hobby or an indulgence, taking care of ourselves has to be a priority. Think of it as a Sabbath Moment; the time in which you get a chance to rest, reflect, and re-energize. It is in these moments which we remember to rejoice in the beauty of Creation. And it is through these moments which we become our best selves.

If you’re still not convinced, I leave you with the words of Robert Wicks:

If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for those you love.


rejuvenation.self.care.logo by guttersnipe.76](https://www.flickr.com/photos/guttersnipe76) licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Skipping Rocks
Action, Joy, Projects
0

Just Do One Thing

 On any given to-do list, there are the pressing errands and whatnot that need urgent attention and then there are the projects – small and large – that tend to get back-burnered due to time constraints.

A little while ago, my group of Mom-friends decided they were going to do Project 365, taking a photo every day for a year.  Most of them planned on scrapbooking (digitally or on paper), and documenting a year of daily life in their families.  While I loved the idea, my project list was waaaaay too long, and I was pretty happy with the ease of sharing photos and posts on Facebook for all of my long distance family.

Instead, I proposed my own version: doing a project a day for a year.  I figured if I could just do one thing from my project list every day, it’d really help me out.

I had no idea the profound impact that this practice would have on my life.

I started listing out all those back-burnered things – in no particular order.  At the time I was struggling with depression and an intense set of work deadlines.  Both motivation and time were lacking in major ways.  But moreover, I started to feel mocked by my to-do list.  And there was no way I was going to let a list win.  So I began my 365 Projects.

Just. Do. One. Thing

Some days I would just have 5 or 10 minutes in between work, house, and motherhood responsibilities.  Other times, like on weekends, I’d take a little longer.  I found that if a task required multiple steps – like first acquiring the supplies and then actually patching the holes in the knees of my boys’ jeans – I’d count that as two things, especially since I’d have to do each step on a different day.

Within a remarkably short period of time (maybe six weeks), I had accomplished all of the nagging tasks on my list.  By just doing one thing each day, I eliminated the feeling of being overwhelmed.  I became proactive.  I was, once again, making a difference the organization and function of my home; I was making a difference in my life.

But that wasn’t even the best part.  The BEST part was what happened in my attitude.

Completing each of these projects brought me a little joy.  Every time I would use a space or a “thing” that had been part of one of my 365 Projects, I’d smile.  Embracing that joy transformed my attitude.  Now, when I encounter something that frustrates me, instead of being overwhelmed by the ever-growing to-do list tasks (which will always be there), I get excited about the possibilities and begin brainstorming a solution.

My friend and mentor, Tom Groome offers a reflection on John the Baptist which resonates deeply with people in ministry (and for what it’s worth, I consider motherhood a ministry).  Tom praises John’s wisdom for knowing that he is not the Messiah.  I remember Tom inviting us to speak those words aloud: I am not the MessiahI am not the MessiahI am not the Messiah.

So often – in both our personal and professional lives – we feel like we have to do it all, so overwhelmed by everything before us that we can’t figure out where to begin.

Whether it’s your home, your relationships, your kids, your friends, your work, or the social injustices plaguing our world, it’s a good idea to remind yourself:

I am not the Messiah.

We have one of those.  It’s not all up to you; that’s what God is for.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean that the answer is to do nothing.

When looking at the social injustices in the world, it’s not uncommon to hear people (mis)quote Jesus, “The Poor will always be with us” (Matthew 26:1).

Dorothy Day responds to this beautifully:  “Yes, the poor are always going to be with us—Our Lord told us that—and there will always be a need for our sharing…It will always be a lifetime job.  But I am sure that God did not intend that there be so many poor…we must do what we can to change it” (“Works of Mercy.” Dorothy Day Selected Writings. Ed Robert Ellsberg. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1996, 111).

“What we would like to do is change the world…We can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.  We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world….[T]here is nothing we can do but love, and dear God—please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend” (Ibid, 98).


Skipping Rocks by Robb & Jessie Stankey licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Drip Painting
Hope, Joy, Projects, Sabbath, Transformation
4

Just Paint Over It

For the longest time, I really didn’t have a discernable hobby.  I mean I’ve always enjoyed doing lots (and lots and lots) of different things, but I never felt like I had a concentrated focus on any activity or interest to consider it my answer to what I would do for pleasure or relaxation.

Many of my closest friends and family members (especially my husband) would readily agree that the lack of doing something purely for pleasure or relaxation has been kind of a problem for me.  I don’t know if anyone ever bluntly told me to “go find a hobby.” Maybe they should’ve.  Hmm… Actually, I probably would’ve responded with, “I don’t have time,” which is evidently exactly why I needed one.  But I digress.

Several years ago, I discovered paint-your-own-pottery.  I loved the creative process.  I loved that so long as I approached painting like I was a 9 year old coloring a picture, it turned out pretty cool looking.  AND, I loved that I could use it in my daily life.


Painted Mug 1
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 2
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 3
Painted Mug 6

After a while, however, I found that paint-your-own-pottery was getting pretty expensive.  And really, how many mugs, plates, bowls, and light-switch plates does a girl need?  Well, over the course of 10+ years, it amounts to quite a bit of both: cost and stuff.

While excitedly working on painting a replacement tea mug, I mentioned my creative joy and my stumbling blocks to my friend, Stacey.  I wanted to do “this kind of thing” more often, but didn’t want the excessive cost or stuff.  She suggested: “Try painting on paper, just for the fun of it.  No one even has to see it if you don’t want them to.”

So I did try.  Twice.  Instead of feeling excitement, relaxation, and pleasure, I was filled with anxiety, completely stressed out about what I was supposed to paint and why.  The process itself was tainted by the fact that I genuinely didn’t like what I painted.  Moreover, I really did want to do something with it.  There was something about the overall purpose of the creation that generated joy for me.

Shortly after these failed attempts at making painting itself a hobby, Stacey’s sister Sara offered her own version of “Pinot and Picasso,” where she taught my group of girlfriends how to paint our own copy of a work of art with step-by-step instructions.  In case you missed it in the class title, there was also a promise of wine, so I was in.

Intimidated even further by the thought of painting on canvas, I hesitated at every step.  Then Sara said something that changed my whole approach to painting:

If you don’t like something, just paint over it.

How freeing!

This insight allowed me to experiment without hesitation.  I had infinite do-over’s.  If something didn’t work, I could just try again, and again, and again until I liked it.  Sometimes that meant starting over.  Sometimes it meant painting over the one spot that wasn’t working.  It removed the pressure of feeling like I had to have the whole thing perfectly planned out before I even started.  Or feeling like it was ruined by one little (or big) mistake.

As a proactive person, I don’t ever want to feel stuck in a complaining rut.  I’d much rather feel empowered to do something about it.  With this just paint over it insight, instead of feeling bound by a choice my attitude became one of exploring the possibilities.

What a wonderful approach to all of life!  If you don’t like something, just paint over it.  As I looked around at my house, my relationships, my work, and inward at myself, this insight became one of transformation.  Don’t trash it; don’t brush it under the carpet and ignore it.  If I didn’t like something, I could transform it.

The very idea of transformation cultivates hope.

In faith, this is the transformation that is linked to forgiveness.  The Greek word for what happens in the transforming process of forgiveness is metanoia.  It is a change of heart, a conversion where the person turns away from what is destructive, hurtful, hateful, and instead turns towards God.

Turning towards God involves

  • forgiving oneself and transforming one’s own character
  • forgiving others, seeking forgiveness from others, and transforming relationships
  • seeking forgiveness from God and becoming transformed.

Put another way, metanoia is about

  • becoming more (and more and more) of a good person
  • doing what is right
  • acting with love
  • helping others
  • Looking around your own life, what would you like to just paint over and transform?

Drip painting by Justin Green licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Woman Jumping with green scarf
Joy, Love
0

Joy

In a word, my New Year’s resolution was joy. I want to see the joy that I know permeates my life. It’s as much about an increased awareness for me as it is about changing my perspective on otherwise mediocre (or downright annoying) events in my life.

I read Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, happiness is not my word. For me, “happiness” conjures images of immediate, transitory, situational pleasure. Throughout her book, Rubin cites philosophers and theologians throughout the ages who offer a variety of definitions and descriptions about what happiness is and is not. I love Rubin’s expression of happiness; in fact, it is aligned with my own understanding of joy.

My notion of joy (and Rubin’s of happiness) is more of a deep, big-picture outlook encompassing the growth and well-being of one’s body, mind, and soul. Joy is enduring. Joy has a spiritual dimension to it – as if it is the very experience of one’s soul taking delight. Joy is infused with love and gratitude.

So joy is my word.

As a pastoral theologian and educator, my area of expertise is taking the theoretical, putting it into practice, and then reflecting upon the process to learn and grow in my life and faith. The idea is that joy will go from being my word to becoming my life.

In the first couple of days, I challenged myself to embrace the smiles which my boys bring me as opportunities for joy. I reveled in the opportunity to vacuum my carseat-free RAV4 and liberate it from the Cheerios, Chex, and raisins imbedded in the back seat.

One of my favorite pastimes is doing crafty projects, so one afternoon that I fully intended to walk to the park with the kids, I threw schedules to the wind and got totally absorbed in things involving fabric, paint, and a hot glue gun. I even let the boys use the low-temp glue gun and make their own messy whatevers. It wasn’t about making a birthday gift for a 4 year old; it was about creating something new, fun, imagined, and even useful. So, so much fun! Joy.

When I found myself with an extra 25 minutes before I needed to pick the kids up from school, I called the husband, coordinated meeting at the park near his work, and packed a picnic lunch. It was delightful.

I feel like I have found the Zen of cleaning. I have white tiles with “supposedly” white grout on my kitchen floor. Really scrubbing that grout is a hands-and-knees chore that I’ve been avoiding for two solid years. But I looked to the resolution to embrace it and ultimately transform it. A good scrub brush, a bucket of water, a decent cleaning agent, some towels, and a couple of hours, along with a lot of elbow grease allowed me to latch on to the perks of this previously dreaded task. The grout went from black to off-white, which in my mind was instant gratification. And in the “lather, rinse, repeat” mode, I had a lot of time to simply think and reflect – which in and of itself is a total bonus in my world.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I basically blew out my wrists with a repetitive-use injury the day after the kitchen floor project. But with a focus on joy, I acknowledged my transitory pain and every time I walk into the room, I’m still prompted to bask in the glory of sparkling white floors.

From the standpoint of faith, this focus on joy has helped me tune into the presence of God in my daily life. It reminds me of the virtue of Hope and maintaining a proper perspective on what does and does not matter.

Joy is available to me. I need only to see it. As the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote:

Earth’s crammed with heaven.
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

“Jumping © Depositphotos.com/ikostudio”

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