what does self-care mean for a Christian woman?

I went to small group two nights ago after missing each group of the semester thus far (approximately 5 or six meetings!) and I feel renewed. 

Three years ago, if my closest friend had told me that sitting inside a local eatery, eating good food and laughing with a group of girlfriends for an hour and a half would be fulfilling, I would have thought differently. I wouldn't have laughed, but at the time I would have probably considered "self-care" as my being able to save a few hours for myself each week, you know, going to Barnes and Noble, grabbing a pile of magazines and books (despite the fact that I knew I wouldn't read them all), and drinking a large coffee that I wouldn't have to share. But really, that's just motherhood. Sometimes we just want to read pointless celebrity gossip and intake calories from whipped cream and chocolate syrup that we don't have to share with our husbands or children :)

I spoke with a friend a few weeks ago, and I think we just happened to catch each other on a mutually rough day. We were both overwhelmed with wanting to be working supermoms who do not tire after a week of work, after school activities and everthing else we do regularly that we truly do love. Before we put our phones aside to resume our schedules, she told me that she needed to begin incorporating self-care, which is a word that more times than not will lead me to think about the spa gift card from my husband that I have been saving for a rainy day. 

But there is something about those words, self-care.  

As a Christian woman, I think self-care equates to a whole other idea. Sure, we feel fantastic when we look good or lose a few pounds, but lately, my desperate need has been one for spiritual health. I've learned that self-care quickly follows suit when you tend to work toward achieving spiritual health. I feel the greatest when I am close to God. What makes me feel close to God? Here are a few things that draw me nearer to Him.  

1) Marinating in God's word. Daily. This will seem hard if you overthink it. Yes, focusing on my prayers is "best" when I am at home in the early morning with my worship music playing in the background. I feel even better about this time when I can have this time for thirty to forty-five minutes uninterrupted. Is this realistic for all of us? Honestly, I wish it could be. But insert family, work, extracurricular activities, and a multitude of other things, and sometimes we are happy to just have five minutes of complete silence before bed. BUT...in the same way that we make getting up for work a priority, taking the time to be specific in our reading of His word is paramount to prayer life and relationship with God.

2) Taking part in community. Join a small group or community group and attend regularly. Don't miss. If you feel like missing, and find yourself coming up with excuses of things that you are responsible for regardless, understand that taking aside an hour will generally not effect your schedule negatively. In fact, after a life-giving fellowship you may accomplish more than you originally planned!  Never take yourself out of the running of being lifted up by other believers by God's Word. While in attendance, express yourself in a way that allows you to open up with other women who are seeking the same things: Jesus and how we can live our lives to bring glory to His name. 

3) Setting aside alone time, preferably each day for a few minutes, but definitely a few times per week. While prayer is our main means of communication with our Heavenly Father, and is a strong number one for this list, having alone time to process your thoughts is a strong habit to incorporate into your daily schedule too. When you are alone it will be easier to walk yourself through the things that you need to commune with Him about when it is time to pray. What do you need to thank him for? What do you have going on that you need to ask God to help you identify, and then correct? It's hard to deepen your spiritual relationship when it remains surface-level, and if you're trying to do this while driving in your kids' carpool or running errands on a lunch break, you may have brief revelations, but it takes time away from everything to truly make this time beneficial in your walk with God. 

4) Studying, asking questions and learning. In some circles today, Christianity seems to be like a popularity contest. I believe this sometimes results in groups of women who are taking the word of others over the word of God. If you are unsure of what you are being taught, hear, or read, make it a priority to learn God's word on your own!

You can find yourself cheering on someone else in their spiritual journey, and this is great, but you are the only one who can cultivate your own relationship with Jesus.