Last March I developed low back pain. Immediately I thought, It will go away. It will get better. I’m young and strong. I started working out more, stretching more, getting massages. I was trying to do all the right things to help it heal on its own. But eventually I found myself defeated and at the doctor’s office asking for some muscle relaxants and pain meds. I also walked out with a referral for physical therapy, which I intended to schedule right away. Excuses, good ones, got in the way. I didn’t treat it soon. I finally started PT in August when school started and I have slowly become stronger in the right ways. I’m glad I began listening to my body.
What I just described is the classic problem of a caregiver, particularly one that lugs around a 26 pound toddler with many muscle tone issues. (Yes, he gained weight!) Experiencing a prolonged period of physical pain has forced me to examine what I need to rework in order to better care for myself and my family.
I’ve taken a caregiver class or two since Nathan was born and they all say the exact same thing, and you may have heard it before too, You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of someone else. This is not helpful for me. Yes, on some level its common sense, but it’s practically hard to do. More importantly when I heed that instruction I find myself turning inward and becoming bitter and resentful towards the loved ones I am caring for. It’s a “me first” mentality and it sets me up to feel entitled. Big time.
Over the last, almost year, my body has forced me to slow down, listen, and pay attention. My body has pushed back against the whims all my mind thinks it can accomplish and said, “no.” Steadily and persistently it has said “no.” This frail and temporal vessel I’ve been given by God, for a short time, is fighting to protect my mind and my spirit. It’s helping me understand what I need, and what my family needs.
I do not need a set of ambitious goals for 2017. Nor do I need another self-improvement plan to take care of the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of me. And I know I don’t need to focus on “taking care of me first, others next.” I don’t need to do anything. I need to be with Him first.
This Christmas season I am focusing on Immanuel, God with us.
When I have been quiet before Him, I have peace and joy characterized by this season. I depend on Him for my strength, not my feeble body. My soul needs to be connected to God before any of the other parts of my life are working properly.
So as the year is nearing a close and I’m in a much better place physically, I’m going to take a PT break. Sure I’ll keep up with the exercises and the “Ice, Heat, Repeat.” But because my mind can do way more than I am physically able to keep up with, I am going to tell that part of me to stop being such a bully. To slow down. Take a load off. I am going take more moments to be still and present with God, to ask Him help me make the right priorities. Though it feels like my body is at times failing me in caring for Nathan, it reminds me of my limits and that it is all so temporary. My primary purpose is to reflect in awe on all God has done. This Christmas season, I am reminded of how grateful I am for His sacrifice in coming to earth as a baby.
She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” – Mac 1:23
This is my very favorite Advent devotional because it does help me to simply be before Him.
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