"Mommy, you don't have to work so hard."
The words in my 7-year-old daughter's handwriting are emblazoned in my mind now. She randomly made me a card and there they were. Right across the front. Along with a picture she drew of me and her together with long hair and dramatic eyelashes (she knows me).
I'm pretty sure tears shot out of my eyes as I stared at it in disbelief. On a week when I was sick and had barely been working, this card made it's way to my hands.
Why she decided to write it that week, I don't know. I'd been feeling guilty for watching too much Netflix and taking long naps. But I can't forget it.
I push myself pretty hard. I have office hours and an assistant, expense reports, contracts, and deadlines to meet. I have a social media calendar, marketing plans, and several partnerships. Push, push, push. Produce, produce, produce. I was also feeling pretty discouraged that after all that hard work, the results weren't matching my level of effort.
"Kimberly, you don't have to work so hard."
This time the words came from the Lord. I was getting ready to go on a writing retreat, praying about what I needed to do to get the most out of my time away. What did I need to do for that breakthrough? Did I need to fast for three days? Spend hours in Bible study and prayer? Did I need to make sure to get up and watch the sunrise every morning? Walk around the lake every day?
The words of God, spoken to me through my daughter weeks before, bubbled up inside. His soothing voice said, "You don't need a breakthrough, Kimberly. You don't need to do anything more, to work any harder, to show more discipline or reach any new milestones to please me. I am pleased with you just the way you are.
"This is a time to rest and reflect on the pleasure I take in you."
I struggled with those words. I am such a doer. I feel very guilty for not finding a spot in my schedule for that one more thing, for that friend I'd love to catch up with, or for that volunteer opportunity that would mean so much. Then suddenly I look at my schedule and think - what have I done?
God reminded me that I'd been working very hard and He actually wanted me to rest. He wanted me to bask in His great love for me, regardless of what I accomplished, and just enjoy myself.
So I adjusted my plans. I set up my little mini-office and got a little bit of work done, but not much. I read a novel. I exercised a little. I got some yummy food. I turned my back to the clock and let myself lose track of time. I stayed off the phone and spent a lot of time enjoying the view.
As a mother, and in particular as a mother of a child whose needs are more complex than most, the rest was delicious. I didn't have to take care of anyone else at all. While I consider motherhood one of the highest honors and I love my children more deeply than I could ever express, the mental load of taking care of them can become overwhelming at times. I missed them, but those three full days of freedom from responsibility (except for the apparently unnecessary calls home to make sure my husband didn't forget things) was exactly what I needed. (I was a little offended that he handled things so well without me. Ha!)
If you're reading these words and thinking, "It must be nice to be able to get away like that. I sure can't." Stop.
Making the very difficult choice to take care of myself is the reason I'm still alive. There was a point a few years ago when I was so worn and shattered that I didn't care if I died, and I nearly drove my car into a tree. I wasn't suicidal, but I was exhausted beyond my ability to function properly. I didn't want to die, but I didn't think I had the energy to keep on living. Although I don't feel anywhere near that point now, this has been a rough year. I trust that God knows better than I do. If He says to rest, I need to rest.
Please don't allow yourself to get to the point of burn-out before you decide to invest in your own health and wholeness. It's a hard fight back from despair, and I will never allow myself to get there again.
Your health and well-being are important too! If you can't function properly, how can you care for your family? Make sure you're body is healthy. Make sure your mind is sound. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to deal with your emotions in an effective way. Make sure your heart is right with God.
To me, self-care doesn't mean getting a manicure every other week and drinking coffee with friends. Those things are wonderful, and I encourage you to do them! But what I'm referring to is making sure your deepest and most basic needs are met. There may be seasons of our lives where that isn't possible due to extenuating circumstances, but even then. Even then. Humble yourself and ask for help. No one thinks they're going to nearly drive their car into a tree. Ask for help before you get to that point.
And if your child gives you a card that says you don't have to work so hard, listen.
If you'd like to read more about my story, including the incident with the car and the tree, I write in much greater detail in my book, Looking Up When Life Looks Down: Shattered Dreams, Medical Miracles, Restored Hope. You can get a signed paperback in my shop on this website. It's 40% off right now and if you use the code FREESHIP20, you'll get free shipping too. Or you can get the Kindle e-book or Audiobook on Amazon. Consider giving it as a Christmas gift to someone special in your life.