Soul Care

Some of us have a trump card that we try not to play very often, but we would like to mention that Grandma didn’t homeschool. (Thank-you for the prompt, you commenters from the last post. ) We keep this close because when somebody whines about something that is an obvious choice they made, people think, “Duh, you didn’t have to sign up for that.” However if you homeschool, you have chosen a challenging path and set yourself up for a lot of work! All the noble reasons for doing what you are doing will not make it easy.  The best thing about homeschooling is that our children are here all the time. The worst thing about it is that our children are here all. the. time. There is no substitute and very little wiggle-room, and it definitely has a way of turning your heart to your children! Unfortunately, it also tends to overload us with anxiety about our failures and their struggles. (You cannot outsource your relationships.) Sometimes you absolutely must get perspective, which means you have to step back, out, away, alone, and think, ponder, pray, cry, figure out how to make this work, how to get the white space you need to be healthy.

It’s not only mothers who have to do this. Nurses, teachers, nannies, cart-pushers, all of us, really… we all need to care for our souls. You know all those verses about fatness and leanness in the Bible? It may sound counter-intuitive, but you want a fat soul! A skinny one won’t be able to share anything nourishing with others.

Winter is coming. In this area that means staying inside most of the time. We end up with projects stacked on projects. As I write this in the living room, there is a Jenga blocks game on the floor, piles of books on the end tables, a Monopoly card game, assorted socks and shoes from church, and spilled popcorn on the floor. Someone was sculpting on the coffee table and there is a PBJ sandwich there as well. In the corner I just noticed a basket of clean blue jeans that got missed yesterday. I expect to feel rather famished by springtime when we can move outside again, but I also have some coping mechanisms that I sprinkle into my days.

  • Take walks alone, if at all possible. When the sun shines, I like to drop non-essentials and go out right then; I need the vitamin D. Sometimes I listen to an audiobook that is above the children’s heads. I pray about the things that trouble me, and once I astonished myself and managed to not think about anything at all for a bit. That is actually a thing- ask a guy! Even if I have to take everybody along, getting out of the house is therapy.
  • Learn to run to Jesus with everyday issues. If you need a little privacy, lock the bathroom door. Nothing is too small, nothing too complicated, nothing out of bounds to pray about. Sometimes I have no words other than a desperate, “Help me, Jesus.” He always hears.
  • Figure out your signature drink, the one that makes you feel like you are going to be all right. Craft it lovingly and drink it out of a great mug or one of those cute Pioneer Woman drinking jars.
  • Keep a secret stash. I don’t care if it’s chocolate covered almonds or tofu chips, it is vastly preferable to chew on something than to chew out somebody. Not like the two are mutually exclusive, but still… I might add that I have been known to hide my chocolate so well that I couldn’t remember where I put it.
  • Make time to read even if it is just a few paragraphs before falling asleep. I love to read the Bible in a different version and study the grand theme of Glory throughout the little lives of people. It helps me to step outside my world and think about other horizons, bigger pictures. (You think you have problems, lady?)
  • Take a touch time-out. We have a few members of the family who are sensitive to others in their space. In a family setting, this is inevitable. When things start going a little bonkers, I make them sit in separate places, no talking or touching each other while I read aloud. They may color or crochet or draw. Sometimes they listen to audiobooks or I read until I am hoarse. It has a way of putting us all on the same page and we forget about the way people were getting on our nerves.
  • Cultivate gratefulness. It will put pounds on your soul, and that is a good thing, remember? My personal challenge for this year is to be truly delighted with how cozy my house is. I will not dwell on the fact that we could easily use another 900 square feet. If you hear me grousing, call me out on it.
  • Teach the children to help with the housework. Few things trigger frustration faster than irresponsible people who will not own their messes or serve others. I am not supposed to do it all for everybody. That may seem spiritual, but in the end I am putting my children at a huge disadvantage by sending them into adulthood with that mentality.
  • Have a restful space that you can retreat to when you need a break. We do not allow our children to play in our bedroom. It’s simply off limits. Sometimes I go in there and lock the door and just breathe for a few minutes until I have lightened up and gotten over myself.
  • Learn to laugh; if you can’t see the humor in life, you might as well stuff yourself into a pickle jar. I have not quite learned to say, “That was a hilarious arc your milk made on its way to the floor,” but I look for belly laughs as often as possible. Recently I read a children’s story about a little African boy who wanted to make biogas from goat droppings. I pronounced it “by-OH-gus” and couldn’t figure out why I had never heard of this alternative fuel before. It has now become part of the hilarities in our family legend, I can assure you.
  • Try grocery shopping all by yourself. I have shopped at Walmart in the wee hours while the household slumbered. It is open 24 hours, after all. This can be very fun and relaxing.
  • Be as creative as you can. The act of making something with your hands is  extremely REcreational.  I have been having it out with pumpkin pie this fall. I grew up on my Mom’s version, where the pumpkin separates slightly from the milk/egg so that the layers are perfectly defined. I can use her recipe, but I can’t make her pie. It has become a duel: the perfect pumpkin pie against me… great recreational activity. My husband bought me a pottery wheel recently, so between that and the pie, I have plenty of scope for creativity.
  • Get help. I have a friend who is willing to come do large housecleaning projects with me. The last time she was here I worked in the kitchen, cooking, while she shampooed the carpets. I recommend getting help for the big stuff.
  • Schedule down-time. Sometimes my husband would notice a certain neediness and tell me to take a break, and sometimes he wouldn’t notice, so I have learned to ask. We try to schedule in a day every month where I can do whatever I need to catch up with schoolwork and shopping.
  • Plant flowers. The girls and I just dropped 150 tulips, 30 alliums, and 30 crocuses in the ground. It’s kind of long range planning, but the anticipation will give us happy thrills all winter. In the flowering season we take joy in regularly bringing in bouquets to lift our hearts.
  • Let go of perfection. It is an unattainable and fretful place to be.

There was once this lady named Martha who was doing all the stuff! She was really reaching around and serving, but she missed the most important thing that would have given her rest in her soul. Her sister just sat there and listened to Jesus. I have often puzzled over how to be both these gals, because the world needs to be fed, and some of that is my job. I feel a kinship with Martha, to be honest. My personal solution is to work hard and rest hard, if that makes sense. Someday you may drop in at my house and be a little shocked to see me messing with yarn and knitting needles while there is a general litter of life all around. It will just be me, tending to my soul.

Your turn. I would be so tickled if someone out there told me they go fishing or hunting. What refreshes you? How do you restore your soul when life gets too busy?


12 thoughts on “Soul Care

  1. This is wonderful advice! First and foremost what you said about learning to go to Jesus with everyday cares…. It might surprise you n myself how He will answer our need of the hour.:) Talk with other homeschooling moms, or if you’re not homeschooling, talk to other moms or someone in ‘like’ shoes. It seems to help when others know exactly (to a certain degree) what you’re going through!😊 Then ask them to pray for you n vice versa. We are here to help each other!❤
    Thanks for sharing this, Dorcas! Many, many blessings to you and yours! You are an encouragement to me.

  2. I don’t have a herd of children, but I do have a full time job and a social life. For me, it is writing in my favorite coffee shop (with ear buds to discourage people from talking to me); or a long quiet walk or drive through the woods. Combining the two is absolute perfection. I’ve been trying to ingrain the verse “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” -Isaiah 30:15, into my spirit these days.
    I also agree with being grateful and finding the good in the small things, somehow it’s much easier to grumble that my coffee is bitter than it is to remember that much of the world doesn’t have clean water to make coffee with.

  3. Like Barli said, I don’t have a herd of kids either, but I manage to regularly pack my life so full that I’m left gasping for air. A looong walk through my town park does wonders for refreshing my soul, especially if I leave my phone at home while I do it. I also find it particularly rejuvenating to spend an evening over popcorn with those few select people who leave me feeling like I just introverted, instead of drained. Lastly, playing piano when nobody can hear me is one of my favorite things. I just roam from song to song, playing whatever comes to mind, and it calms me and lifts my spirits. (Although given the neighbor man’s recent comment about enjoying my Christmas carols, I guess people can hear me. 😛 )

    Yes, yes! to the bit about gratitude. I’m becoming more and more convinced of how life-changing gratitude is, in a multitude of ways.

  4. I don’t know if I can speak for everyone, but I have found it important to find soul nourishment that includes my kids. I don’t want to get in the habit of thinking I need a break from my kids in order to refresh my spirit, although I do value those breaks a lot. My kids often have coffee with me from their own tiny mugs, which I find delightful. I read them books I love. I set the timer for them to get dressed so I don’t have to nag. I go read at the library while they make new friends or play. I take my Bible to the park so I can catch some Scripture while they swing. There are so many ways we moms can be kind to ourselves and our kids at the same time. But our kids do need a break from us every now and then, I think! 😊

    1. I really appreciate that point, especially when I remember the days when the kiddos were too small for me to even go on a solitary walk, so I pushed a stroller. How quickly I forget! Also, I do not ever want the children to feel that they complicate my life so much that I just need to get away. I try to phrase it more like, “Mama needs some time to figure out stuff,” instead of “Mama needs to spatula you out of her space for a while.” You are very wise to refresh yourself throughout the day.

  5. I am just now reading this- and it is timely! It is slow learning for me… To revive myself before all the little straws in my milkshake are sucking up air and making an awful slurping sound 😏 to be filled, so I can fill!

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