I have a dear friend who has gently been watching over me from a distance.

Yesterday, she asked me how I was doing- really doing. Not the "I'm fine, just great!" question. More like the "how are you and God these days?" question. Followed hard upon with the next question- "are you taking care of yourself?"

In my dear friend's mind, the two are quite intertwined. One can't be answered without the other, because to her, taking care of oneself naturally means that one is meeting with God too. Me? I tend the separate out the two by default- as if one could exist without the other, like somehow one could technically be okay without the God-flow in our lives. And there, I err. And I know it too, that I cannot survive, cannot breathe in the space of my days without the sustaining force of my Lord, and yet- and yet…I starve more often than not. I hold myself back from the provision He has so graciously given me, mine for the taking if I would only stop. And listen. And pray.

Sometimes when my friend asks these hard questions, I shrink within. I know she expects an honest answer, and the honesty is sometimes too appalling. Her gentle touches seem to wound, but they are the best kind- the type that excise the infection from a gash and set it to proper healing. But yesterday, I bloomed with the joy that I could answer positively to both questions. Yes, God and I were meeting. He was there, and I was attendant. And yes, I was taking care of myself, as best as I can possibly could with a brand new babe. She probed a bit further, just to be sure, as she knows I have struggled with postpartum depression in the past. And as we talked, I mentioned that it bothered me that it took me until my fifth child, my miracle baby, to finally learn the art of self care. Of soul care. Was it not important with the other four children? Was not my need for sustenance important all the other days that I have walked this journey? I am not sure why. I am still puzzling over this.

As our conversation drew to a close, I was thinking about why this time was different, why I could honestly answer my friend, without one shred of guilt, that yes, I was caring for myself in both the physical and the spiritual sense.

Sustenance.

I tend to try to do too many things at once. Just one more task, one more minute, one more, one more, one more. Until am I exhausted, drawn out, and unable to function. This is my biggest danger when a new baby is in the house, and I knew it. Saw it for the trap it was, and had been prayerfully considering it all summer long. It wasn't until I read Katherine's post, No NAK , that something clicked in my mind. Here's a small snippet of what she said:

NAK is online slang for "nursing at keyboard." I've made this mistake
in the past. I won't do it again. The amount of time I spend nursing my
newborn is tremendous. If I used every nursing session as a chance to
check email, Facebook or Google Reader I would be on the computer for
most of the day and night. Nursing is a special time to bond with one's
baby, building the foundation for a lifelong relationship. I can't bond
and build anything if I'm balancing a nursing baby on an elbow and knee
and staring at a screen. 

Now, Katherine's post was talking about time spent online in general, and this was just a small part of the whole article. But she goes on from this paragraph to say that she has set up her space near her rocking chair as place for prayer. (She's Orthodox.) I think that's what clicked together in my mind as I read this over a month ago now, before Josiah was born. I feel like I've definitely come to a place of balance with my online time, and I don't feel the least bit guilty about my current usage. My thoughts tend to reflect Katherine's in practically all points. But on the other hand, I am horrible about regular prayer times. It is one of those things that constantly discourages me about myself, because as I've said, it's akin to starving!

I resolved at that point that nursing and prayer time, as much as I was able, were to be definitively linked after Josiah was born. I had also decided, in tandem, that no longer would I try to do forty things at once while nursing (you'd be amazed what you can do with a sling or a moby and a willing baby). I would sit down, I would put my feet up, I would have something to drink nearby, and I would stop. The only thing I would 'allow' myself was the chance to read, but even then, only in the early evening hours.

For the last three weeks, that is exactly what I have been doing. Every two and a half, three hours, I stop. I rest. I pray. I marvel at the miracle of Josiah.

And wouldn't you know, I am in a much better head space, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually?

Sustenance.

Ann Voskamp has been doing a series on spiritual disciplines, and this month's focus has been on prayer. Today she wrote an article called prayer: why we struggle (and how not to). Please click over and read the whole thing, the whole series. It is very good. But here is what caught my eye: 

"I never notice it when I just pray after reading Scripture, early or late, when we pray before and after meals.
Prayer's short, convenient. It's only when I began to follow the way of
Jesus and the early church in fixed hour prayer, feeding my soul at
certain fixed times like I eat at certain fixed times, and I was confronted with this consistent struggle to cease working and kneel in prayer, that I realized the true ugliness of my lack of prayer.

It's a startling, wrenching thing to discover that it's not time, or busyness, or pressing concerns that prevent one from prayer. The extent of prayer in one's life is a direct function of whether something else has been set up as more important than God. "

My nursing/prayer times immediately came to mind. It has been very hard for me to come to these hard stops and well, stop. To meet God. It has been a constant struggle actually, to just be still. But even in these short three weeks, I realize how much the better I am for it. And I am shamed by that realization, that statement, that something else has been set up as more important than God. And I question, with Ann, as to why I let my soul starve when the answer is so very simple. Yet I cannot help but see the sort of humor my Lord has, as he has brought me to sustenance through the very act of sustaining- of nursing! As I am nourishing Josiah, through God's grace, the Lord is nourishing me. It makes me smile to think upon it, this gentle irony. Oh that I would learn! His ways are always better. 

Isaiah 66:11-13

11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
       at her comforting breasts;
       you will drink deeply
       and delight in her overflowing abundance."

 12 For this is what the LORD says:
       "I will extend peace to her like a river,
       and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
       you will nurse and be carried on her arm
       and dandled on her knees.

 13 As a mother comforts her child,
       so will I comfort you;
       and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."

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Coming to the hard stops of soul care…

5 thoughts on “Coming to the hard stops of soul care…

  • August 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm
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    How greatly blessed are you to have such a friend as this!

    Reply
  • August 19, 2009 at 3:22 pm
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    I’m looking forward to nursing my own again, but I am already finding the need of which you speak here, to make time to be real with Him, with my husband, with my daughter, with my heart. I am not good at doing this every time I make up my mind to try. Every day is a new day, and good intentions go out the window when the toddler gets up too early. But His mercies are new every morning…
    Five children. Wow. My mom had eight. I am having my second. I can only imagine the journey you have passed. Thank you for sharing here. I am challenged.

    Reply
  • August 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm
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    Amen, and amen and amen!

    Reply
  • August 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm
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    So beautifully written….what great encouragment.
    With my last baby Elijah, I set up a chair with a table and my basket w/bible and journal. Going to the chair helped me focus on the baby and the little quiet I had to meet with Him. I am so easily drawn away in my thoughts as well as my doing.
    I loved the part where you said the “one more” ….this is my temptation too.

    Reply

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