On the second day of this year, we threw a party for my son, Ezra, who’d just turned one. Metallic streamers and three-dimensional gold stars hung all over the dining room to celebrate “twinkle, twinkle little star, he’s grown so much and come so far.”
About 20 friends joined us that morning and all of our kids were running amuck around the house. French toast and star-topped cupcakes surely contributed to the chaos.
Amid the mayhem, a dear friend shared her pain, there in my kitchen. The joy of the occasion couldn’t prevent her hurt from breaking through. As we filled plastic cups with juice, my friend talked about the miscarriage she had experienced six months earlier and how she still cried about it often.
How her husband was tired of her crying.
How she was going to start attending a support group to seek comfort.
How she yearned for another child.
I just stood there, listening, the rest of the party fading away. I grasped for words, but none came, so I just hugged her tight and said that I loved her.
When the party was over and in the days that followed, I thought about my friend. Not only did I think about her circumstances, but I thought about how in recent months I had not been the friend that she needed.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus shares the the two most important commandments — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.
I think we probably remember the love the Lord part. And we likely remember the love your neighbor part, too. But that as yourself part — those are the words we forget.
Last year was incredibly hectic for my family and me. I released two books and had baby #3. My husband traveled for six weeks overseas. I worked full-time and blogged.
In the end, too many responsibilities, particularly with how much I worked, prevented me from loving myself well. I over-yessed myself and ran on empty for most of the year.
Consequently, when my friend had a miscarriage, I spoke with her and texted during those first hard weeks, but then I became distracted. Part of why I couldn’t love her to the best of my ability was because I wasn’t loving myself during that season.
I didn’t have the capacity I needed. I was exhausted and busy. Stretched too thin.
The irony is that I believe unequivocally that practicing self-care needs to be a top priority for women. I wrote two books about it. Yet, in sharing that message with the world, I lost sight of it myself.
In my research for my latest project, a course for working moms called Stretched Too Thin: Overcoming the Hustle and Thriving as a Working Mom, I learned that I am like most working moms. Eighty percent of the women who responded said that practicing self-care was something they found challenging. This is a statistic we need to change.
Jesus knew that self-care wasn’t just about us.
Loving ourselves has a positive ripple effect on our families, our jobs, our communities, and the world.
We are the body of Christ. We belong to one another and desperately need one another’s love. But that starts with the way we love ourselves.
Just think of what the world would look like if we really embraced Jesus’s commandment.
If we started exercising and took control of our eating habits.
If we made time to be creative.
If we spent time in the Word.
We would be healthier.
We would be happier.
We would love our neighbors better.
We wouldn’t neglect our friends when they are going through painful seasons, too wrapped up in our own busyness. Instead, we would be able to radically love the way Jesus has called us to do.
2016 has been a year of growth and slowing down. I have gone from surviving to thriving as a working mom.
This doesn’t mean days aren’t going to be full and sometimes messy. That’s not how life works; all of us know that firsthand. Three kids to parent, 9-5s to report to, meals to make, laundry to fold, and the list goes on.
Yet, in each day, we can make ourselves a priority. We can make the right choices so that we better ourselves and our lives.
In doing so, life-change happens.
Beauty is found.
Friendships are nurtured.
We are the best versions of the people God created us to be.
My prayer for you is that you embrace with renewed commitment Jesus’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. Because in the end, most of us will do just that. And don’t we all want our love to be big and bright?
If you are a working mom who feels overwhelmed, check out Jessica’s new video course: Stretched Too Thin: A 10-Day Course to Overcoming the Hustle and Thriving as a Working Mom.
Do you feel stretched too thin when it comes to your relationships, managing your home, your self-care, etc.? Jessica understands the struggle, and tonight at 9 pm CST she is going to share with our (in)courage Facebook community how we can go from surviving to thriving. You’re going to love her practical wisdom and insights!
We hope you’ll join us on Facebook tonight. See you there!