In an article Sarah Thebarge wrote after spending two months practicing medicine in a war zone in South Sudan, she said, “I keep reminding myself that rest is holy.”
Back in the United States and spending time with family, Sarah wrote about missing the Sudanese children and her work at the hospital, and feeling slightly guilty for being safe in America while recharging her batteries.
This wisdom from Sarah after writing about the importance of rest before venturing out on another tour of service:
So this week, my goal is to fill back up. To be still as my heart, body, mind and soul soak up Love. To be restful in a restless world so I can better prepare to practice compassion again in this world that God so loves.
I recently heard a gifted young woman speak about the selfishness of the concept of self-care. In her case, I think it was a matter of semantics and how she defined the term.
For the sake of this discussion, self-care isn’t putting our needs above the needs of others. It’s not seeing to our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual health first.
Self-care is simply refueling ourselves — body, soul, and spirit — in order to have a full reserve from which to better care for others.
There was a dark, pre-dawn day when I hurried my husband, Gary, to ER. After five hours of some serious infusion of antibiotics, I brought him home, prepared something for him to eat, ran out to pick up his prescription and … (wait for it) … reported to work.
Exhausted in every imaginable way.
My co-workers would have been appalled to know that I showed up at work after being out and tending to my husband since 4:30 that morning. But they didn’t know.
Self-care on this particular day would have simply meant taking the day off, brewing a cup of tea, curling up on the couch, chatting with Gary when he was awake, taking an afternoon nap when he slept.
It would have meant giving my anxieties that were stacking up—like so many totaled and crushed cars—back to God, listening for His voice, adding to my gratitude list, picking up a good read as my beloved dozed on and off.
Self maintenance would have refreshed me for continued caregiving as the day progressed, and for the next day of work.
Refueling can be done in so many simple ways: a gentle walk, sitting on a park bench and contemplating the grandness of God, picking up a knitting project, memorizing a scripture and pondering its meaning, meeting a friend over coffee, playing fetch with a dog.
If it’s challenging to get out of the house, then recharging our batteries can be as easy as brewing a cup of coffee (and maybe finding a piece of dark chocolate), lighting a fire, lighting candles, and sitting with a good book in a favorite chair accomplishing absolutely nothing.
Healthy personal care should happen on those days that challenge us to the core, but always after feeding our families, after tending to a sick child or an elderly live-in parent with Alzheimer’s, after seeing to the needs of a beloved husband who is dying of cancer.
No, self-care isn’t selfish. It’s critical in order to better serve, in order to be more present in our serving, in order to be glad and not resentful in the service.
Back to Sarah Thebarge — a couple years ago I had the privilege of taking a writing class from her: “The Healing Power of Your Story.”
Sarah told her own story in her book, The Invisible Girls – about surviving an aggressive breast cancer in her twenties, a broken relationship, leaving her Ivy League education and successful career on the East Coast and starting over in the Pacific Northwest where she met Hadhi, a Somali refugee, struggling to raise five young daughters alone.
Sarah helped Hadhi and the girls improve their English skills, taught them how to navigate the American way of life, and recruited her church to reach out in love to this Somali family. Which helped bring healing to Sarah’s own brokenness.
And get this: All proceeds from her book, The Invisible Girls, are going toward a college fund for the five Somali girls. How cool is that?!