A friend of mine has been having a difficult time lately-he has been stressed about work, and just the bumps in the road of life. He reached out to his friends and family to ask for advice, and I was reminded of December of 2012.
Josh and I were with our World Race team in the Philippines, working with a church in the projects outside of Manila. The work was not hard necessarily-our days consisted of walking around the government project area, making friends, and hanging out with the youth of the church.
The work was not hard, but I found myself feeling drained, physically and emotionally. Maybe it was the oppressive heat, maybe it was the 14’x14′ living space that all 8 of us lived in. Maybe it was the constant attention of locals peering through our window, or the stress of being thousands of dollars behind in fundraising, and not knowing if we would be allowed to continue on to the next month, and next country, of the World Race. Whatever it was, I was feeling drained; I felt like a lesser version of myself, and I knew I wasn’t giving my all.
So, I sat down one day, and jotted down in my journal the ways that I get filled up that came to mind. I am a verbal and written processor, so often I don’t even realize that something is true until it comes out of my mouth or shows up on the page. Some of the things didn’t surprise me, but some did.
Quality one on one time. No surprise here. As an extreme extrovert, I feel most alive when I am connecting to people. Especially when having a deep, soul-filling conversation. Often, after meeting a friend for a coffee date, I leave with the this is what life is all about feeling.
Music solitude. Growing up in my family, there was always something going on in the background-people talking, music playing, TV going in the background. Background noise is comforting to me; silence is jarring. One of my absolute favorite feelings is the feeling that there is a soundtrack playing to my life. I remember a moment in Honduras-our team had loaded up on the back of a flatbed truck, and we were being driven out to pray for a family who had a deathly ill family member. I stood on the bed of the truck, holding onto the rails, and I had my headphones in and mp3 player going. I was listening to Take Me Into the Beautiful by Cloverton. The sun was warming my skin, the leaves of the banana trees blew in the wind, the smiling faces of my teammates on the back of the truck made me smile, too. It’s as if turning off the sound of the “real world”, and putting a soundtrack to it gives me a chance to step back and observe the beauty of the moment.
Interaction with animals. I love animals. I think the Lord did something really special when He created them. Animals give us a chance to interact with creatures other than ourselves. We can see nature in them, we can see intelligence in them, we can even see social bonds in them. I love that my cats could exist on their own if they needed to, but instead, we enrich each others lives. I give them an endless supply of yummy food and treats, toys, and the occasional catnip, and they give Josh and I laughs and unconditional (sometimes conditional-if we haven’t filled their food bowl yet, or didn’t pet correctly…) love. While on the World Race, if there was a kitten to be found, it was in my arms.
Creating things. This was one that surprised me. I’ve always known that I enjoy the arts and creating things, whether that be crafts, music, writing, media, design-basically any kind of creative outflow. But I didn’t realize just how much it filled me up until I realized that I hadn’t done any of those in a long time.
There were a few others on the list, but for the sake of time, I won’t list those. Once I had these things written down, it gave me tangible ways that I could refill and refresh myself. The very next page of my journal has a pen sketch of a tree by a stream, with the words Like a tree planted by the streams of Living Water. I remember sketching that out, and feeling the release of stress and tension that I had been carrying around for who knows how long.
That month in the Philippines went from being draining to enjoyable. Still difficult, but enjoyable. Thankfully, I also had the loving support of my husband and our teammates to help sharpen me, and I am forever grateful for the ways that they molded and shaped me throughout that year.
I encourage you to make out your own list. What fills you up? Maybe you could just start with what do you like to do? And then, here is the important part, go do those things!
Love and peace.