September is considered by some as the month to focus on “self-care.” For me personally, “self-care” often translates to “soul-care.” I was invited to share some thoughts about this concept on LivingLovedToday.com . . .
When I first started running, it was on a bit of a dare, and I’ve never been known to back down from a challenge. I was sure I would prove that this running thing was NOT for me.
On my first attempt, everything about running seemed strange. My joints hurt, my muscles were sore, my lungs were bursting, and I thought, “How does anyone like running, let alone LOVE it?”
But as I stubbornly kept going, my muscles began to relax, my joints loosened, my breathing fell into an even pattern, and I realized that my body had found its own comfortable, sustainable stride. After that first run, I was tired. But it was a “good tired!” Somehow, I still felt refreshed and surprisingly motivated to try it again!
I have now been a runner for almost a decade. Sometimes, when I’d rather just take a day off, I need to be disciplined to GO RUN, knowing that the benefits will be worth it when I’m done. (I’ve never regretted going!) Some days I can honestly say that I crave that run, need that run, and can’t wait to lace up my running shoes and get lost in thought and prayer, with favorite songs streaming through my earbuds.
It seems almost backwards, but expending the energy to run actually gives me more energy! It keeps my blood pumping through my body. I sweat out all sorts of “used up” nutrients and exhale carbon dioxide while breathing in the fresh air.
My body’s endorphins kick in and I feel a fresh wave of strength and endurance I didn’t know was possible. My body becomes healthier, challenging my muscles so they will grow leaner and stronger – burning off undesired, useless fat, and replacing it with healthy, efficient, new tissues.
When I get home from a run I am dying of thirst – for all the good stuff: good, clean water and nutrients to replace all of the “used up” ones I discarded along the way, fresh fruits and veggies and protein to fuel my body for another day. And I realize that one good decision to GO RUN leads to other wise choices like a healthy diet (and a renewed commitment to avoid the temptations of sweets and junk food), and gives me the energy to be more positive and efficient with the rest of my to-do list.
The positive effects are not just physical. Running is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually therapeutic! It is the one time that although my body is moving, my heart is “still.” My brain uses that hour to sort through thoughts and feelings, to wrestle with GOD in prayer about many different burdens. There are no distractions. No phone, no house chores, no family members needing love or attention, no computer, no TV, no books, no other responsibilities to cloud my heart.
I can think, I can pray, and like no other time in my busy day, I can use that hour to listen for the LORD’s still small voice to speak to me, teach me, show me, guide me, and comfort me.
Sometimes He uses those songs streaming from my phone. The tunes are catchy. They keep me moving forward. They keep me in step. The lyrics redirect my mind and heart, reminding me of GOD’s precious promises. They challenge me to let go of my wrestlings, rest in His love, and step out with courage and obedience as He directs me.
There are two other things that keep me going when I start to feel weary in the middle of a run. One is a very practical little thing I discovered called ”sport beans.” These jelly-bean-like wonders are filled with a boost of all the nutrients my body is using up while I’m running. There are many days I can comfortably reach the end of my run without them, but sometimes I am more depleted than I realize and find myself struggling to finish. In those moments, one or two little “sport beans” is all I need to feel an extra burst of power, and with it, the ability to keep going and finish what I started.
The second is a precious thought that came to me one day. I have the luxury of running a 5K along the main road through our community. As I near the end of my loop, there is a cypress preserve where beautiful flocks of birds like to spend their days. On the other side of the preserve is a park bench. When I start to feel weary, I tell myself, “Keep going now, you can rest when you reach the park bench on the other side of the preserve!” It made me smile to think that such a simple thought had a far-reaching application.
Yes, for that particular run, I will be able to rest once the LORD has “preserved” me to reach the other side. But it is also a daily reminder that our eternal rest will come after He has preserved us through whatever journey He has mapped out for us here on earth. Whatever challenges I face on that run, or on that day, He will preserve me, and He will provide the necessary rest once He has seen me safely to the other side.
When our journey with the Lord begins, initially our walk with Him and study of His Word may seem strange and uncomfortable. But in our search for truth, we find GOD and His Word to be faithful and we are so thankful that we didn’t give up easily. As we keep digging and searching, He reveals things to us about Himself and His ways. Our hearts begin to align with His and we find ourselves falling into an easier, more peaceful, more sustainable stride with Him. When we spend time with the LORD, we come away refreshed and motivated to do it again!
As we continue this over days, months, and years, there are times when we need to be disciplined to “come aside with Him,” sit quietly and read His Word, and spend time in prayer with Him. Sometimes, we’d honestly stay happily distracted by other things or choose to do nothing, content to “take a day off.” But we never regret taking time to focus on the things of GOD, And more and more days we crave that time with Him. We need His guidance, His provision, and His comfort.
Again, it seems backwards, but the crazier life becomes, the busier our days are, the more we need to take that time just to “walk humbly with Him.” He puts it all into perspective. With His help, we are able to sort the necessary from the unnecessary, set our priorities in order, and find His strength to tackle what He is truly asking us to do. Investing that time actually gives us more energy and efficiency in our work for Him.
We discard the unnecessary, distracting, or “toxic” things from our hearts and our to-do lists and come away hungry to “refuel” with all the good stuff – truth from His Word, the preciousness of His presence, and the transforming power of His Spirit. That renewing builds our commitment to avoid temptations, things that are not honoring to Him and therefore harmful to us.
Just like my phone streaming CHRIST-centered lyrics, redirecting and encouraging my mind and heart with Biblical truths, it is so crucial to saturate my world with people, media messages (songs, books, TV shows, etc), and ideas that consistently point me back to the LORD.
What do I read? What do I listen to? With whom do I spend time? Do all of these influences keep me moving forward, keeping me in step with the LORD’s plans and purposes? Do the people I spend the most time with have a love for the LORD that is contagious? Are their words, attitudes, and actions “catchy” in the best ways? Do our conversations replay in my head and heart, and motivate me to stay in tune with the LORD? Do the voices that speak into my world strengthen my walk with Him and draw me back when I’ve drifted away? And on the flip side, how do I influence others along my path? Am I spurring them on for the LORD or distracting them? Humbling thought!
And those sport beans…they remind me of the nuggets from Scripture that we tuck away in our hearts. There may be days that we feel like we don’t need them in front of our eyes, We can comfortably reach the end of the day without giving GOD’s Words much thought. But in moments when we find ourselves weary, confused, or distressed, the verses we’ve memorized even decades ago come back to our minds and hearts, fresh and poignant! When that happens, we are encouraged to read more, memorize more, and live and breathe by GOD’s Word!
Which parts of your daily routine breathe life into your days? In what moments are you most aware of the LORD’s presence with you? Have you ever sensed Him nudging you to try something that on the surface seems only practical, stretching you toward physical health, but also opens a pathway for Him to minister to your soul?
How does the LORD reveal His heart to you? What step might you be encouraged to take this week (for the first time or to rediscover a good habit that has been neglected) to invest in your growing relationship with Him? Our GOD’s tender care will be faithful to meet you in that step, to nurture your soul as you journey with Him.
The steps of a man are ordered by the LORD
who takes delight in his journey.
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