Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8
For 16 days of the Christmas season this year, I loved, served, provided for, stayed up late with, and gave extensively to my four children who were all home for Christmas. I love them and love having them home.
But on day 17, as Clay, my husband, and I we were putting up the Christmas decorations, and I was washing dishes after making one of the last breakfasts we would have together, I looked toward the den and saw all four of my kids lounging on the couches, sipping coffee and giggling about life together.
It should have been a memory making moment, but some mysterious monster invaded my soul, and darkness filled my mind and soul and I began to spew! It wasn’t a pretty sight. Everyone looked at me as though I was a little crazy—and perhaps for a few moments, I was crazy! But my anger and condemnation for them not helping me came as a surprise even to me. And guilt immediately poured over my heart as I felt shame for raising my voice at such a moment.
Sequestering myself in my bedroom alone, I retreated for a few quiet moments to try to gain my composure. God began to gently whisper to me, “Your exhausted body, your weary mind, your much expended self is speaking to you. Pay attention.”
I realized that my anger was my body’s way of saying, “Help! I am overdrawn! You need to stop abusing me!” Anger is always a red flag, a warning, that there is something else happening in our hearts that we must address.
Today, my new book, The Life Giving Home is being released and as it travels into the hands of women in the days to come, I have been pondering my ideals and desires for home to be a place of belonging, and how I wish I'd understood as a young mom that anger is always a warning, a red flag telling us that there is something else under the surface of our souls that we must address. So many women struggle and feel they are failures when they are angry, but neglect to care for their own hearts and healing, because they do not understand what anger signals and how it can destroy all they work so faithfully to build.
After 31 years of parenting, and 20 years of hosting conferences nationally for mamas, exhaustion is not new to me. We all have seasons that tax our very core. And I have learned that if I push myself too far, I will either get sick or I can guarantee that my attitude and heart will go downhill. Slowly, I have learned to monitor my emotions. What are they telling me? What do they reflect? Too much ministry over the years has taught me so much.
After the whirlwind of a busy conference season, which usually involves countless plane flights, hotels, and faraway cities, out of the normal food, I find it such a relief to make that final trip back to our beautiful Colorado home, nestled in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains and surrounded on all sides by snow-laden pine trees.
I also know, though, that if I don’t take care of myself, I will fall apart and begin to show signs of distress. Creating a plan of ways I can refresh is not second nature to me. Relaxing by candlelight, sipping coffee, and listening to gorgeous instrumental music while sharing a dessert with my family is just the kind of rest I need after those busy winter months. I never feel guilty for taking time off to refresh as I see it as necessary to get myself back to my center.
Each of us has our own puzzle of life to figure out, and we assemble the pieces with the grace God provides us in our need. My puzzle of a speaking/writing/ministry life has meant that by March each year, my body is in need of restoration and the rhythms of home. In Colorado, March still clings to the chill of winter even as signs of spring begin to emerge. The persistence of cold and gray makes it that much harder to persevere with my normal responsibilities. That is why I almost always take a break in March. The journey of ministry and homemaking to which I have been called is a long one, and if I am to make it to the end with resilience, I have to plan for adequate rest along the way.
It also helps, I’ve learned, to seek out beauty, especially on those long, gray days of March. I remember once that a friend told Sarah, my oldest daughter, that her love for beauty seemed a bit frivolous. Thankfully I was able to share with her that we are all responsible to keep a light burning in our souls and that beauty is one of the most profound fuels for that fire. Creating a beautiful environment and appreciating the joyful moments in the midst of a fallen, sad world not only nurtures the light in our souls but also helps give light to others.
None of us is immune to pain and ugliness in life. Allowing ourselves to admit that truth and to recognize that our difficulties may persist for years can actually free us to be intentional about staying alive and awake to God’s goodness in the midst of it all.
We all have to take responsibility for replenishing our souls, and God has given beauty as a watering can to hydrate the dry and shriveled parts of our lives. Just as God incarnated Himself into the world in the person of Christ, He wants to incarnate His life into our lives every day. Beauty, resting, bringing back joy to life, are primary ways of His means of doing that. I will spurge and buy myself a rose or vase of carnations. Taking a walk outdoors releases my built up adrenalin. Sleeping at least 8 hours two days in a row is an amazing help. Watching a movie with a great story releases me from the serious issues that sometimes weigh heavy on my heart.
How do we bring more of this incarnational beauty into our lives and find refreshment when we grow weary?
I’ve found it really helps to be with people who know me as I am but love me in spite if my weaknesses. These inner circle relationships provide a kind of soul sanctuary where I can stop pretending and most fully be myself. Godly friendships can act as human “cathedrals,” and when we enter into the safety of their love and support, we are enabled to worship God more fully in the beauty of His holiness.
One of the ways our family has developed such “sanctuary” relationships with one another is by being intentional about spending time together over the years. Mealtimes, daily family devotions and prayer, afternoon cups of tea or coffee, dinners shared around the table, goodnight blessings—each of these is a rhythm that creates the foundation of beauty in relationships. These rhythms have become consistent, habitual disciplines that still carry us along in different seasons of life.
All of us spew once in a while. Living under a cloud of guilt is not productive and can sometimes makeus feel more dark. Yet, realizing that anger is a voice of warning speaking to us of our need to stop, define the real issues that caused the anger to pour out, and learning to restore, will give us the means to keep bring life and beauty to those we love, and to recreate an atmosphere of love in our homes as we lead out of a healthy heart.
Blessings to you today, sweet ones,
Today, Sally's new book, The Life Giving Home releases and is available in book stores everywhere. We are are sure it will be a blessing to your heart and to your home and are thrilled to recommend it to our readers at The Better Mom. The Life Giving Home Experience also releases today and is a Bible Study that is wonderful or groups or personal reflection. You can also register for Sally's live webcast next Tuesday night, where she will be giving away wonderful prizes, and even a grand prize of a trip for you and a friend to have a retreat at her home this summer. Register at sallyclarkson.com