Last year, I was introduced to the idea of OneWord365. I didn't join the community, but I loved the idea of choosing a word to focus on for the year. A word to grow into, to intentionally shape your life around.

 

The word I chose was thrive. At the beginning of 2015, we had just moved again for the seventh time in three years. We were in the midst of burnout. It felt like our whole married life (almost five years at that point) we'd just been surviving. Holding on for the next season. Waiting for things to get better, more settled, easier. I was tired of living in survival mode.

It was time to thrive.

I was realizing that it might be a long time until our life felt settled. It might be a long time until things were easy again. With a burned out, depressed husband and many questions about our future, I wasn't even sure how we were going to survive, let alone thrive. But that was the word God put on my heart. Thrive.

So I wrote it down. And then I wrote out what thriving looked like to me. My list was divided into categories, and included things like "weekly meal plans", "regular date nights", "daily exercise" and "hospitality". I chose my one word, and then I made a whole list of New Year's Resolutions that I felt would help me live out that word.

Little did I know that things were going to get worse before they got better. I've already shared some of our story, so many of you know that by April we were desperate for help and signed up for a three-week counseling program. Not exactly thriving. At some point about halfway through the year, after a few months of barely surviving, I pulled out my New Year's list. As I read down through all the worthy goals I had set for myself, I felt hopelessly condemned. I most certainly picked the wrong word. This was not a year to thrive.

And then it hit me. Thriving is not defined by whether or not my kitchen is clean, my meals are planned, or my husband is taking me out for a date. Thriving is the state of my heart, an attitude. I can accomplish my to-do list and still not be thriving. On the other hand, I can rest in God in the midst of turmoil, confusion and pain, and my heart can thrive.

I still don't feel like I did a good job of living out my OneWord this year. I do not feel like I thrived. But I did learn that thriving is not something you do, it's something you are. I did realize how quick I am to make lists and measure my success by what I get done, instead of focusing on the attitude of my heart. I did learn that God is not nearly as interested in my goals and accomplishments as He is in meeting me in my pain and weakness.

And now that I've learned those things, I think I'm ready to learn to thrive.

 

This article is part of a link-up at Velvet Ashes. Don't miss the great articles there about other ladies' experiences with their word for the year!

 

rsz ow 365

Self-care. How does that word make you feel? For the longest time, I catagorized "self-care" with "selfish" - in the list of things I shouldn't really do, or should only do if I had lots of time completely free from responsibilities. (Which never happens when you have children!)

But I've learned something over the last two years of walking through burnout and depression. You ARE responsible for taking care of yourself. No one else will. No one else can. And you know what? It's not selfish. It's part of being the best person you can be, so that you can have something to offer those around you. You are the mom. The world revolves around you. If you crash, you take everyone down with you! Isn't it better to take time for yourself now, rather than find yourself debilitated by depression, or leaving the field because of burnout, or hospitalized with a physical illness a few years down the road?**

I believe ALL moms need to focus more on taking care of themselves. However, this is especially necessary for moms overseas. Why?

  • Our support system is small or non-existent. No grandma to babysit while we go shopping. No best friend to take us out for coffee. Perhaps no Christian community to meet for regular fellowship and encouragement.
  • We're under huge cultural stress, making everything more exhausting.
  • Everyday life is harder. No air conditioning, unreliable eletricity, no convenience foods - you know the list.
  • There's fewer people around us that will notice the danger signs when we're not doing well.
  • There's more pressure on us, from locals and from supporters, to meet up to certain expectations and perform well.

That's a lot of stress on a mom, who ALREADY has enough stress in simply running the home and raising her children! I believe self-care is absolutely essential to survival as a mother overseas.

So what does self-care really mean? How do we DO it?

I am NOT an expert, but here are some things we have been learning. The outworking of these things will look different in each situation.

  1. Draining vs. Energizing Activities - Everything you do is either energizing for you or draining for you. It is different for each individual - for one mom, cooking is a fun hobby, while for another it is a stressful chore. For one person, large social groups are energizing and exciting, for another they are exhausting and draining. Obviously we can't avoid everything that is draining for us, but we can identify those things and make sure to follow them with "recharge" time. If cooking is stressful for you, figure out a way to take a break from cooking one day a week. If large groups are exhausting, make sure you can take some time alone after the event is over. Balance your draining activities with energizing ones, and eliminate any that you can.
  2. Self-Talk - I am finding this to be a huge need in my life. What are you saying about yourself in your head? "I can't keep on top of things no matter how hard I try."  "I'll never be good enough." "I'm such a failure as a mom." Sound familiar? Just this morning I realized that I forgot eggs at the store AGAIN and the words in my head were "Brilliant homemaker, can't even remember her whole grocery list." STOP! Talking this way about yourself (even if you never say the words outloud) is hurting not only you, but your children as well.
  3. Time to Create. You might be thinking, "But I'm not a crafty-type person." Fine. I'm certainly not! But we all need time to be creative. For some this means writing. For some it means drawing, painting, sewing, or craft projects. It might be cooking or home decorating or photography. Whatever it is, you need to have a creative outlet. Even if you can only squeeze in an hour a week, DO IT!
  4. Time to Meet Your Needs - As busy moms, especially in ministry, we often deprive ourselves of the most essential physical needs. This ought to be obvious, but ladies, we need to feed ourselves as well as our children! We need to get enough sleep to keep our bodies healthy. We all need exercize (unless we have a toddler to chase!) These physical needs should be a priority, even on busy, crazy days. But we all have other needs, emotional and spiritual, as well. Don't feel guilty about taking a hot bath, scheduling a coffee date with a friend, or spending the evening reading a good book. Identify what your needs are and make sure they're getting met on a regular basis! Obviously there will be weeks when everyone has the stomach flu, or you're packing to leave on furlough, that everything is upside down and there is no time for you. But don't constantly live in the 'maybe I'll have time next week' mode. Time for you will not happen unless YOU make it a priority.
  5. Time with the Lord. I shouldn't even need to mention this one, right? But it's SO easy as a busy mom to let personal time with the Lord get bumped out by more urgent things. Keep it a priority! And I'm not talking about the legalistic "have to read a chapter" that you can check off your to-do list. That is not life-giving or relationship-building. Do what you need to do to really connect with the Lord and be refreshed by Him: maybe praying the Scriptures outloud, journaling through a chapter of the Bible, reading a devotional, or listening to an audio message.
  6. Get Help. Maybe you need practical help - Are household chores taking all your time? Consider hiring local household help. Do you really need to get out? Find someone who can babysit and give you a break. Or maybe you need emotional help and support. Reach out to a friend. Find a mentor. Join an online community of women who can understand and give support. Find a counselor before you're desperate. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

A closing thought on what self-care is not? Self-care is not self-medicating your stress by spending mindless hours on Facebook or YouTube or reading novels, or whatever your escape might be. I'm not saying that doing something like that to relax is always wrong. But when you find yourself binge-watching a TV series to escape your responsiblities (and emotions), please do not call it self-care. Rather, realize it's a warning sign that you NEED to put some healthy self-care in place before it's too late!

**I certainly do not suggest that every case of deperession or illness is caused by lack of self-care. There are many other circumstances out of our control that can also cause these things. But let's be responsible to do what we can, and that means taking care of ourselves!**

So now it's your turn, ladies! What do you think when you hear the word "self-care"? Do you have some boundaries in place that allow you to take care of yourself? What do you find most helpful to you? Please share in the comments below!

I haven't been sure how to write this post, and so I've been puting it off for a week or more already. But I do want to continue TCKmom and it can't continue without new content . . . so at last I sit down at my keyboard determined to find the words to explain the absence of the last 2+ months.

I want to share a little bit of our story. Not as an excuse, but because maybe it can help someone else. Maybe you can learn from our mistakes, or if you're already struggling, maybe you can be encouraged that you're not alone.

Over a year ago, while we were still overseas, my husband went through burnout & depression. It was a dark time for both of us. For months, it felt like we were barely surviving. We clung to the hope that returning to the States and having a time of rest would fix everything . . . but it didn't. As our time in the US went on, and we realized that we wouldn't be able to return to our foreign home as planned, I became as depressed as my husband. We knew we needed help but didn't know where to turn. It felt like a very hopeless time.

We finally found a counseling program for hurting overseas workers and enrolled for the next available session. It was a very intense time, dealing with a lot of emotions and issues, but those three weeks changed our lives! As my husband described it - there's light at the end of the tunnel now. We turned around and realized that the light was behind us and now there's hope - we're headed in the right direction!

There is so much I could share from the experiences of the past year or more, and maybe over time, I will. For now, I'd like to encourage you in one of the biggest things that might have prevented our situation.

PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. As a wife and mother, you have a demanding job. As a wife and mother living in a foreign culture, you have a gigantic, overwhelming job. Don't try to be superwoman. Don't try to do it all.

1) Take breaks. Take a few little breaks throughout the day, to breathe, to pray, to read a few inspirational paragraphs or smell a flower. Take a bigger break once a week, to recharge your emotional "batteries" by reading a good book, enjoying a hobby, journaling, drawing, or whatever energizes you. And please, as a family, be sure to take regular vacation time to focus on each other and get away from work for a while. Breaks will keep you from burnout.

2) Lower your expectations. Evaluate what are the real priorities and let the other things go. Don't be afraid to say no.

3) Don't feel guilty. We often feel like we shouldn't take time for ourselves, shouldn't do things for ourselves. But what do they tell you when flying - in case of emergency, put the oxygen mask ON YOURSELF FIRST before you help dependent passengers. You have to get the oxygen you need - spiritually and emotionally - in order to keep going for those who are depending on you. It's not selfish. It's essential. Identify your needs, make sure you're doing what you need to so that those needs are being met, and don't feel guilty about it. Take care of yourself.

And lastly - if you're already struggling, if it feels like you're trapped, if life is dark and hopeless, if you're not sure how to survive the next week - please get help. THERE IS HOPE. Don't keep struggling on alone. Don't tell yourself that you just need to pray harder and be more spiritual. There is help available. Please find it.

 Blessings to each of you dear ladies! Thank you for being patient as TCKmom has been on hold through this time. New content is on the way!

Our guest post this morning comes from Jennifer Yzbick. Let's take a few minute to consider WHO God is and how that should affect our lives today!

"Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations." Ps. 46:10

"Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him." Ps. 98:1

"Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool. Holy is He." Ps. 99:5

I am so short sighted. I don't know how I continually walk the same path, but I do. I sing, I rejoice, I give thanks to the Lord. I rejoice in all that he has done and I am filled to overflowing. I repent and weep, I am overcome with emotion and humbled. I lay prostrate before Him.

Then, evening comes.

My children scream and refuse to nap, my husband forgets to take out the trash, dinner i bland and burnt, my phone overflows with teenage girl problems of doubt and worry, yet another person wants to come over before bedtime, and I am ready to scream. what began as a joyful, Spirit-filled day ended tired and defeated because somewhere in the midst of it all I became god.

HE is to be feared.

HE is to be praised.

HE is above all peoples,all nations, all gods.

HE can do all things.

HE, HE, HE . . .

Somewhere, somehow, I began to carry a burden not mine to carry. I took on responsibility that was not mine. In the course of the day I began to believe that my children's behavior meant I was failing as a mother and teacher. My husband's forgetfulness something else that I had failed to remedy. My lack of culinary skills just more proof of my deficiency. Others' spiritual success was clearly mine to mold and shape. And so, I end the day defeated and lacking joy. Angry with myself and frustrated with God.

Then, as I reflected on the day and this cycle of success and failure, I realized the faulty logic that led to this defeat. When others in my sphere of influence fail, I take it as my own fault and failure. Now wait a second . . . somehow I believed that I was responsible for my behavior, my husband's behavior, my children's behavior, and my disciple's behavior. Well, if that is the case ... I must be God.

Wow, I had to pause for a while to let this truly sink in.

Here I was, a missionary and church planter in a foreign land. Those back home would probably classify me as humble and with a servant heart. I am sure in the eyes of many, I am a super-Christian . . . and sometimes I believe it myself. So imagine my surprise when I realized that my faulty theology left me trying to play God. Not so humble any way you cut it.

How did this happen? And how did this happen so quickly?

As I wrestled with God a bit on this I realized a few things:

1) I had a small view of God.

2) I stopped being thankful.

3) I failed to worship.

My small view of God led to an aggrandized view of myself. As I stopped focusing on His power and might, I stopped being thankful. In ceasing to thank God, I began to believe I was responsible for the good and the bad that was happening around me, and so I ceased to worship.

That's it folks. Sad but true.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave us? (Because I don't think I am the only one who steps into this cycle.)

1) Put God in His rightful place. God is bigger and greater and more awesome than anything and anyone we can possibly imagine. We need to stop having such a small view of god. He is able. Whatever the situation, the problem, the pain, HE IS ABLE.

2) Repent. Wanting to be god is no small thing. Repent, acknowledging our pride and trust that He is faithful and will forgive. He is so gracious.

3) Reflecting on God's bigness, power and forgiveness, choose to worship Him. Sing to the Lord, worship His holy name, thank Him and praise Him because no matter the season or storm, HE IS GOD.

We may be tempted to step into this cycle again. Let us remember to praise Him, let us be sober in Spirit and ask that He would reveal to us when we are trying to play god. Let us also encourage each other as we learn to walk by the Spirit. There are no super-Christians, but there is one SUPER God.