I have learned some hard lessons over the past few years since becoming active in refugee ministry. I have a big family which I love. I have many refugee friends that I also love. I have a strong desire to “make things right” when I see unmet needs amongst those refugee friends. The hard lessons I am talking about are in accepting the fact that I can’t do it all. I knew this fact all along, yet it was easier to talk about keeping boundaries in place before I became involved in community activism. It was easier to huddle down and focus on “my” stuff before actually meeting needy people.
I have experienced several years of tension related to trying to meet everyone’s needs- my family’s needs and my friends’ needs. I have been on the verge of burn-out many times when trying to take on more than I could handle, but thankfully I have been given a peace about letting go. I now choose to live by my own convictions that quality care is better than quantity care. I want to be truly present–whether that’s for my husband, my children or friends, and yes, even for myself–and in order to do that, I resigned from being a harsh taskmaster to myself. I instead keep my eyes and heart open to what the Lord has just for me. I am not anybody’s “savior” and my limitations must be recognized.
Keeping open space on my calendar is crucial to me now. I am still pursuing my degree in Intercultural Studies. I am still homeschooling an 8th and 10th grader. I am still the co-leader of Woodlawn Refugee Ministry. These activities are both invigorating and exhausting. I can’t imagine removing any of these things from my life because I am not meant to. This is right where God has me in this season and I am embracing the fullness of 2018. With this fullness, I have given myself permission to say no to extra requests for help from refugees and instead find others who also have a heart to serve in this manner.
Along with permission to say no, I realize the importance of taking care of myself- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. How do I do this? For one thing, getting a one-hour massage once or twice a month has been a priority of mine for the past 15+ years. I also see a chiropractor twice a month just to be on the proactive side of taking care of my body. I take time each morning to be alone in the quiet of the house. I spend this alone time praying, reading, meditating, reflecting. When I neglect to do this, I am grumpy and my brain feels like it’s in a fog. I go on walks several times a week on the Greenway bordering the Tennessee River. While walking, I sometimes listen to podcasts or music or, like right now, I am listening to The Count of Monte Cristo. Or sometimes I listen to nothing except the birds singing which reminds me to also give thanks to the Lord for the beauty in nature. Carving out time to be alone with Mike is also important to me. Staying up late to talk together before bed or going out to eat together on dates is something that I wouldn’t give up for the world.
Instead of Go, Go, Go and Do, Do, Do, my goal includes having at least one day per week where I don’t leave the house. Today is one of those days. My agenda? Writing. Reading. Wearing frumpy house clothes that I feel relaxed in. Enjoying several cups of jasmine green tea. Maybe even taking a nap. I’ve got the window open behind me and I feel the gentle breeze coming in. I hear my cat, Gilbert, purring beside me in his bed. Ahh, the stress is gone.
It is good to be still because God is in the center of my stillness.