My List of Self-Care Activities

For the past few months I’ve been learning about self-care. I’m learning that one of the many ways that I can honor God is by taking care of my full self: mind, spirit, and body. He has commanded us to be good stewards of all that He’s given us, and this includes ourselves.

I’m so thankful for the things that God has been teaching me about self-care, because I’ve been going through a lot of hardship recently. This week I have entered a new season of life, and it’s involving both good and painful transitions. To help me to cope in my difficult moments, and maintain overall good mental health, I’ve compiled a list of things that help me through moments of anxiety, depression, or grief. When I’m feeling especially anxious or depressed, my motivation tends to disappear. So for me, having a list of things like this is important, because reading it can inspire me to move from idleness and into an activity that will begin to bring me some healing. I’m sharing this here so that I can look back at it in the future for my own use, but also for anyone who may benefit from it as well. These are things that have helped me, but perhaps they’ll help you too. Perhaps reading this list will even inspire you find some new and helpful activities and self-care strategies for yourself. And remember, these are healthy things, but moderation is a good and wise thing. (Except for prayer. I don’t think you could do that too much. 😉 )

Activities for difficult moments:

  • Journaling
  • Drawing/painting/sculpting
  • Coloring books
  • Yoga
  • Reading a book (in these moments I prefer to pick something that isn’t super dense)
  • Walking/Jogging
  • Going to the gym
  • Watching a show or movie (once again, something that isn’t dense)
  • Drinking tea
  • Have a small snack and really focus on the flavor
  • Video games (non-violent)
  • Skyping/calling/hanging out with a friend
  • Listening to music
  • Playing an instrument or singing
  • Meditating on God’s word
  • Reading the Bible (Of course, the whole thing is good, but in these moments I really love the Psalms)
  • Writing a letter to a friend
  • Focusing on deep breaths
  • Watching/petting/caring for an animal
  • Tending to a plant
  • Cleaning/organizing
  • Writing a blog post
  • Aromatherapy (I like essential oils but there are many options)
  • Painting nails, using a facial mask, etc.
  • Taking a long shower
  • Taking a nap (I find that I can’t always fall asleep when I am anxious, so I might try something else to calm me down before I try this)
  • Prayer (this one is especially important, and can be incorporated into many of these other things as well. Honestly, I like to pray while I’m in the shower. And there are many ways to pray: out loud, silently, in a journal, etc. You can be creative with this. Just be honest and real with God, you can talk to Him like you would a good friend.)

Things for long term benefit:

  • Taking vitamins and supplements (vitamins B6 and D3 are known to help with depression, especially seasonal. Do research and be careful not to take too much though. Also, fish oil supplements can help with hormonal health.)
  • Regulating a sleep schedule
  • Regular workouts
  • Start out every day with a small but productive task (for example, the first thing I do most days is make my bed. This helps me to get in a mindset to take on larger tasks throughout the day)
  • Drinking enough water and eating healthily
  • Vitamin D lamp for seasonal depression (I haven’t tried this myself but I am strongly considering. Sitting near it for a small amount of time daily can help to mimic being out in the sun.)

Keep in mind, I have not mastered using these strategies, but that’s okay because it’s all a learning process. Every once in a while I have a day of really being down in the dumps, and it’s hard to get myself to do anything. But with a little bit of determination, even doing one small activity on these days can help. Be patient and loving with yourself. Start small, and things will become easier with time. And remember that even on the hardest of days, even when you can’t feel it, God’s love for you is no less. It is constant, and always greater than you know.

Love, grace, and peace to you all.

(Credit to my younger sister for many of these ideas. She has become so good at being creative about these things, and I am so proud. I love her and I am blessed by her existence.)

 

 

Finding Him, Even When I Can’t Find Answers

There’s so much pain in this world. So much hurt, so much uncertainty. When I encounter these pains, I find myself asking:

“Lord, where are you in this pain?”

“Lord, why do you let these things happen?”

“Lord, if you’re so good, then why is there so much evil in the world you created?”

“Lord, if you love us and want to be with us, then why does it sometimes seem so hard to find you?”

I’ve been following Jesus for near my entire life, yet I don’t have the answers. Sometimes I might have the beginning of an answer or some probable explanations, but I never have certainty about the answers to these questions. Truth be told, that sucks.

Sometimes I get angry with God about these things. There are times I’ve thrown my fists down and yelled at Him in my fury. There are times I’ve experienced heartbreak over these things, and I cry and shout until I just can’t anymore.

One of the hardest things is when people ask me questions about these things. If I don’t have the answers for even myself, how will I be able to help other people who struggle with the same questions and doubts? I try my best to answer, but sometimes I don’t have any answer at all, and sometimes what little response I have might be misguided. It can make me scared to answer, and it’s frustrating.

However, I am glad when people bring their questions and doubts to me, because it reminds me that I’m not the only one who struggles with these things. If those around me are honest with me about their doubts, then I can be honest with myself about mine too. It also gives me the opportunity to offer to keep looking for the answers with others; it gives us the opportunity to find a shoulder to lean on.

I am also so glad to hear of people who have gone through intense times of wrestling with questions like these, and have still found God in the middle of it, even if they didn’t find all the answers. I don’t know why God doesn’t give all the answers (that’s another question of mine), but I do know that His word tells us that He’s good and that He loves with an unfailing, unconditional love, and that it’s a love that I can still find even in my questioning. I know that He doesn’t leave us alone when we go through these thoughts, and I know that He can even use those times of struggle to increase our faith in Him.

Most importantly, I know that my doubts in Him didn’t stop Him from going to the cross for me. I know that He’s not scared, intimidated, or angry about my struggles. I know that He desires to meet me right in the middle of my every mess, and that He covers me in His love, even when I’m angry with Him.

These are the things that continue to give me hope. These are the things that help me to trust that though I don’t have the answers now, someday I will, and that whatever the answers are, that they will be good answers; the best and most loving for this world, because that’s what God does and who He is: He’s good and He loves.

These things help me to find hope in my times of wrestling, because I know that no matter what happens, I will still have Christ. I will still be loved, unconditionally and beyond all measure, by Him, for all time. He hasn’t ever let me down, and though I sometimes doubt that He never will, I will take my doubts and point them to the cross. I’ll point them to the very place where He showed me that He was willing to give everything for me, the place where He showed that He won’t let me down, the place where no doubt or pain or anger in all the world could stop Him from loving me. I’ll lean on that cross.

Today, I don’t have the answers, and I don’t have 100% certainty. What I do have is a God-given strength to keep trusting Him. Today, I have only a little faith, but it’s just enough to help me to keep walking forward, and to know that I am loved.

Today, that is enough for me.

Love always,

Amberly

A Letter

Today was a Tuesday, and Tuesdays are rough days for me. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something about Tuesdays just gets me down in the dumps. Maybe it’s my busy schedule, or maybe it’s the knowledge that there is still the remainder of a long and stressful week ahead of me. Anyway, I decided to write a letter to myself to read on my future Tuesdays, and because I know that I’m not the only one who has bad days, maybe you’ll find it encouraging as well. Insert your own name.

Dear Amberly,

You’re having a rough day. Perhaps your morning didn’t start off the way you planned, or you’re struggling under the weight of everything you have to accomplish today. Maybe everyone was not considerate or compassionate toward you. Maybe you worked hard and gave everything your all today, and it somehow still wasn’t enough, or you’re frustrated with yourself because you weren’t as productive as you wish you could have been.

Maybe you looked in the mirror and didn’t like what you saw, or you felt like a pest when you had to ask someone around you for help. It’s possible that your tongue slipped and you said something that was unkind, and you wish you could take it back. You reflected on your life and on the world around you, and you just weren’t satisfied with what you observed in yourself and in others. Your heart aches today.

Whatever it is that happened today, I encourage you to take a step back and remember a few things:

Amberly, you’re made in the image of the very same God who created the heavens and the earth. It is He that formed you, and He did this with more love and intention than you can fathom. Even though you don’t fully understand this, He has loved you with an everlasting love. There was never a time when His love for you wasn’t there, and there will never be a time when it will no longer be.

Today you faced many challenges, but you were never alone in any of these, because your God, through Jesus, came from heaven to earth as a man, and He gave His life for you in order that He might be with you. This display of love doesn’t make sense to you, as you know that you rebel against Him every day in more ways than you can count… but you’re His beloved creation, and out of His love for you, He has decided to pursue your heart to no end, whatever the cost.

If this isn’t enough to cheer you up, remember that Jesus didn’t stay dead. His authority, His love, and His power were enough to beat even death; His love for you conquered its greatest enemy. As you struggle against the dark depths of your own heart on a daily basis, His life is there giving you life. The price for your rebellion against your Father is already paid, and your sin has been nailed to the cross. As you make the daily choice to put your faith in what God has done for you, He’s making the promise to continue to be with you and to grow you to be more like Christ until the day that He comes back. You have nothing to fear. Not even your own worst sins can separate you from the love that He has for you anymore.

He walked with you today, and He will walk with you through all the days to come. On every day ahead, by yourself you will not be adequate, but He will be more than enough for you. Turn your focus off of yourself, and seek His face. Remind yourself of His character. He will give you hope when you have none, He will give you the ability to turn back and repent when you mess up, He will tell you that you are loved when you don’t love yourself, He’ll be there to comfort you when others hurt you, and He will pick you up when you fall. He sings songs over you and He is always rejoicing in you. He will be patient with you when you lose your focus, and His love for you will never run dry.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written ‘For your sake we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:35-39

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” -Zephaniah 3:17

Follow

There is a huge emphasis on leading in the world and in the church. Just go to any bookstore or library and you could likely fill multiple boxes with books on leadership. There are classes about becoming a leader at churches and in schools, talks about it on public radio, etc. etc.. It seems that people of all sorts, whether Christians or not, are obsessed with leadership in our time.

However, when I open my Bible, I find far more about following than I do about leading. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible does indeed mention leadership, but it always comes from a place of following first. In fact, to be a Christian in this world is to follow Jesus. Simply put, it is not more than that nor less than that.

So what does it mean to follow Jesus? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been thinking on these things, and these are my thoughts:

To follow Jesus is a way of life that involves following this person of Jesus, learning from him, and letting ourselves be changed by him. It is to turn our focus away from ourselves and tune it to Christ, towards his desires instead of our own. It is to find our treasure in Christ rather than in our earthly possessions and desires. It is to live in the truth and to have life in Jesus. It is to obey and deny ourselves, serving God and serving others, learning to love God first and love others as we love ourselves. It is to trust in his lead and follow him wherever he goes, even if that road leads to the cross. And it is to be loved on every step of the way.

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” -Matthew 16:24-25

This is why Christianity is more than a religion or a set of rules. It is not about making ourselves good enough for God, which we never could have done on our own anyway. Rather, it is about Christ, who has given up everything for us in love and is leading us to follow and become more and more like him. We cannot do this on our own, nor will we ever have to. We deny ourselves, and though none of us would have guessed it, we find what we were looking for all along.

And we will certainly fail along the way, but grace is what saves us and grace is what will continue to sustain us. If we remain in him, with his love and strength we will continue to follow and we will see his way until the end.

So with all of that said, it seems to me that if we long to lead, we are to learn to follow first.

Love to you all.

Stories

This world is full of stories. Every person has a million little stories. And for each person all of those little stories add up into one big story: their life story. And these life stories add up into an even larger story: human history. Some stories are marked with happiness, and some with sadness. There are stories of great joy and stories of great pain, of gains and loss, of life and death. Short stories and long stories. There are highs and lows. Rising action and falling action. A climax and a resolution.

These stories make us who we are. They build our characters and they shape the ways in which we look at this world.

For me, there’s one story in particular which changes and shapes my life every single day. It’s the story of a God who formed this world and all of its people out of the love that He is. It’s about a people who turned away from that same God and broke His heart. And then a man steps into its plot, and this man changes the whole thing by bringing love and grace and hope to these people. His name was and is Jesus. He was both fully man and fully God, and He paid the price to draw the people back to their God.

With nails in His hands and feet, and a crown of thorns on His head, He displayed a love that gives every person the chance to find and turn back to the true source of life. He laid down his life for these people whom He called His friends. And then, defeating the power of death once and for all, He rose again. Every person who encounters this true person of Jesus is shown a love beyond compare. It’s a love so powerful that it changed the big story of this world, and it’s a love powerful enough to change every person’s own story.

All of that being said, I’m choosing to write about my own stories. I’m choosing to share about the love that gives me hope every day, in both pain and in joy. I hope my stories will encourage you and bring light into this dark world, and I hope that they show you the person of Jesus.