This post is part of our series of Lenten reflections for 2013, focusing on ways that we can nourish ourselves as mothers so that we are better able to serve and bring light to our families, friends, and all the others we come in contact with.
In my three short months of motherhood, I have learned that taking care of my body is more important, difficult, and pleasurable than ever before. Caring for my little girl is physically and emotionally exhausting, not to mention the constant second-guessing and trying to keep up with all her rapid developmental changes. If I neglect my own needs in favor of hers every time, I become a useless mess pretty quickly. It's tempting to tell myself that something else is more worthy of the time I spend making sure my needs are met. In reality, though, what my family needs is a healthy wife and mamma. When I play the martyr and neglect myself, everyone suffers. I start to snap at my husband, and I resent every little thing I do for someone else. Give me a nap, a bath, or a good meal, and I'm a new person. God provides for all of our needs, but like all gifts, we have to take hold of them with our own hands for them to do us any good.
Let's explore the ways in which the Shepherd cares for us (and invites us to care for ourselves).
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
Sleep is vital. Sometimes I still have to take a nap when my daughter does in the afternoon (especially if she's been keeping me up at night). I am much more pleasant and effective when I'm rested, and sometimes that means that there are days when I must choose sleep over something more exciting.
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
The walking paths of righteousness, that is! Get outside in the fresh air for a walk every day, or do some simple stretches and deep breathing before bed. Exercise releases endorphins! Even if it's cold, getting outside for some sunshine and a walk around the block shakes the cobwebs out of my soul and refreshes me immensely. This may not be the time for marathon training, but certainly there is something I can do each day to get moving.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Treat yourself to whole, healthy food and plenty of water. This is your body's basic fuel, and if you're breastfeeding, your baby's fuel, too. Fruits and vegetables, full-fat dairy, whole grains, omega-3-rich foods like wild salmon, nuts and seeds. If possible, don't give in to the temptation to use super-sugary foods for the quick energy boost; you know you pay for that later. (Don't cut out everything indulgent, though! Moderation is key!) Take a little time to plan meals at the beginning of the week, and prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Keep your fridge stocked with easy, healthy snacks: hummus and baby carrots, yogurt, trail mix, natural energy bars. Mix it up and have fun with trying new things.
You anoint my head with oil;
Most days, a quick shower is all I have time for. I have a really quick makeup routine (seriously, 3 minutes) that I try to do every day, even if I'm not going to see anyone. It makes me feel human. A few times a month, I try to make sure I do a little extra pampering. Run a really hot bath, light a couple of candles, sprinkle in some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil (homemade bath salts! so much cheaper!!), and soak for a while with my eyes closed. Give myself a manicure or pedicure. Do a deep-conditioning treatment on my hair or a clay mask on my face. Cucumber slices on my eyes? Why not?
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord