Do you feel like you’re running out of gas? That despite your best efforts you’re about to come to a grinding halt slap bang in the middle of the highway of life? Perhaps you feel like you don’t have time to refuel or that life’s thrown you such a curve ball, you just need to keep on chugging on – there’s no time to stop, who would pick up the pieces and you don’t deserve it anyway.
If you’re like me, you dream of days where you’re mind’s clear of all the baggage you’ve been carrying around for years – the what-ifs, the must-dos, the should-haves and the could-have-beens. A dream where you’re energized and full of the joyful calm that’s been eluding you for years.
It can be so frustrating can’t it? Never quite being able to refuel enough to get to that dream place. Our lives are busy. We have bathrooms that need cleaning, children that need feeding, bosses that need appeasing, bills to pay and hearts that won’t mend. I know the feeling. I struggle too.
When I was a teenager my parents divorced and left home before I went off to college. Ten years ago my mum died after an ugly battle with cancer and then, six years later, my sister Jo died of the same malicious disease. Six weeks after that, I was diagnosed with cancer. My cancer was rectal cancer and there’s nothing sexy about rectal cancer. It certainly doesn’t come with a pretty pink bow. This isn’t a sob story, it’s just that life’s taken some turns I hadn’t signed up for and I know what it is to feel so emotionally and physically tired that you’re numb to the world around you.
Thankfully I’m still here and cancer free, but I’m left with a suitcase full of baggage that will take years to unpack. I’m not terribly good at self-care. But I’m getting better, because I think I stumbled on something that’s helping me slow down enough to refuel, despite my crazy life and back pack of emotional junk. It all started at the gas station.
First up, let me tell you that I’ve been driving for over thirty years now. I learned in my mums rusty Fiat Uno, that bore more of a resemblance to a sardine tin than a car with any illusions of safety. It was the 80’s, the decade of big hair and ra-ra skirts, and I quickly mastered the narrow streets of London.
I’ve driven extensively all over Britain, America, Canada and Europe. I’ve even driven in through the mountains and savannah of Africa. So you’d think that by now I’d have figured out the refueling piece of this human-automobile relationship.
Not so much.
I’m still a hot mess when it comes to all things petrol and car related.
I’ve filled up a diesel car with petrol, I’ve driven away with the pump still wedged snuggly in the gas tank, ripping the pump hose off the pump, and, despite having the same car for over seven years, I’m constantly driving up to the pump with the tank on the wrong side of the car, requiring a nifty, and highly embarrassing, three point turn smack bang in the middle of the gas station.
So it was with some degree of pride that I managed to pump gas with out drama or embarrassment the other day. The only glitch was that the little notches in the pump handle were missing. You know the ones that let you lock the lever in place and return to the drivers seat to scroll through cat videos on your phone. It meant I was trapped there, squeezing the handle, until the tank was full. I was shocked how lost I felt for those three and a half minutes. How it felt like an eternity and how I struggled to just be. To just stand there and daydream, un-tethered from cyberspace.
As I stood there, the car guzzling thirstily on the gasoline, I felt God nudging me about my own personal refueling. Do I struggle to just sit and be with God, letting Him refuel me, without the use of technology, without rushing back into the world?
I realized that I’m constantly looking for those little notches that will let me be filled up hands free, while I keep my hands on the rest of my life. But let’s face it, that’s not real self-care is it? A nod and a wink to it may be, but we don’t stand a chance of being refreshed physically or emotionally, let alone spiritually like that do we?
So I’ve decided to break off all the notches that trick me into thinking I’m recharging when really my mind and body are else where, like the laundry pile or wondering what my sister would have done for her 50th birthday. So I made this little routine for myself, and I’d love to share it with you. After all, we deserve a little time for ourselves and a little time with the man upstairs who loves us just the way we are.
1. Put a little time aside each day. Even 5 minutes is a good start.
2. Find a quiet spot where you wont be disturbed. I know this can be hard, but get creative – 5 minutes in your car before you head into work is great.
3. Turn off anything electronic that beeps or buzzes, put away shopping lists, action lists and anything else you’re working on.
4. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in … and out…
5. Ask God to come and calm you and refresh you.
6. Reciting a scripture is a good idea. I have a mish-mash verse that I like to recite.
7. Meditating on His promises is another thing that helps me.
8. Breath in for four counts, hold for four counts, breath out for four counts, hold for four counts. Repeat.
9. Tell God some of the things you’re grateful for and some of the things you’re worried about.
10. Ask God to go with you into your day and fill you with His strength, His peace and His joy.
That’s it. It’s not rocket science and I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of it. The hardest bit for me is number one, just sitting still somewhere, but I promise you it’s worth it.
So dear friends, can I invite you to join me in intentionally stepping into a time of refueling each day? If, like me, you’ve got used to the notches in your life that mean you can keep going and going and going, and this is something new to you, can I encourage you to give it a go? You are dearly loved and seen by God. You are His precious child who He hates to see drive herself into the ground, tired and thirsty, when He has all you need to refuel and go on in His strength.
Niki Hardy is a Brit in the USA, a cancer survivor and pastor’s wife, a fresh air junkie, tea drinker and dog lover. Following the death of her mum and her sister to cancer, Niki was diagnosed with rectal cancer. It didn’t come with a pretty pink bow, but she found humor and grace in the midst of it all. Niki has ridden the rollercoaster of life and knows what it is to grieve deeply, laugh uncontrollably and sprint to the bathroom in heels. Her candid, humorous storytelling helps us connect with God, find humor and grace in the darkest place, and learn to laugh, when all we want to do is scream. You can find her over on her blog, MyStoryMyGod, where she’s decorated some of God’s promises for you to download and print, as a little gift to help you remember you are loved and seen, and that He will never leave you.