As the oldest child in a single parent family, I grew up fast. But when I became a mom, I wanted to “do it right,” to be a good mom for my two boys.
So, I blindly signed up for a “Mom Mentor” at my church. I was paired with Betty and once a week we shared prayer requests over the phone.
Betty asked why I signed up and I said, “I grew up raising myself more or less. Now, I need a role model on how to be a good mom. A good wife. What’s it like to raise a loving family? I’d love to know how you did it.”
I was waiting for Betty to tell me how it’s done. Instead, Betty said the most amazing thing that changed the course of my parenting: “Bonnie, you don’t need me or anyone as a role model. You already have the best role model – Jesus. You already ARE a good mom. You already love God and your kids. Just do what you feel inspired to do. Do what gives you joy.”
I thought a minute. It sounded too easy. “Well, I just like to read. I like to write and to be outside. I like music. Kind of boring, introverted stuff.”
I could hear Betty’s voice smile. “Well, then do that! When your boys nap, write, read. When they wake up, go to the park. Go to the library. Read to them.”
Betty continued, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace. Do what gives YOU joy and peace; then your boys will be blessed by what God wants to give them through you. You’re the perfect match for them.”
That simple conversation changed the heartbeat of my parenting, because I realized that my identity as mother was not based on what I do – but on who I am.
I made the mistake of erasing my pre-mom identity to adopt an image of motherhood that I believed my peers might see as “good,” instead of treasuring who God made me to be with my unique interests, dislikes and preferences.
I realized the best parenting practice was something new to explore: soul care. I began to prioritize my emotional and physical well-being. I researched tips through scientific studies and the Bible for different ways to spark joy, restore calm to my body and refresh my spirit, so I could refresh my family, too.
I started giving myself permission to grow in my true identity as God’s beloved, and as a result of this I learned Four Simple Soul Care Practices to Lower Stress and Spark Joy, an excerpt from my devotional, Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God’s Love to Reviatlize Your Soul:
1. Meet with a friend for coffee & share how you’re feeling.
Notice how you feel better after talking about your troubles – even if the problem hasn’t been fixed?
Research shows depression is eased, anxiety is reduced, and people bounce back sooner (resiliency) when people share their stories and talk about how they feel (rather than just describing events that happen).
2. Take a walk outside.
Don’t think about it. Just put on your shoes and go. You’ll return refreshed!
Studies show that just 10 minutes walking refreshes and helps with anxiety – depression in school, work, and everyday life.
3. Journal. You’ll feel better.
Grab a piece of paper and start writing about what’s important to you, your feelings, and worries. You’ll feel better!
Studies show you don’t have to “keep a journal” to reap the benefits of writing. Research shows just 10 minutes writing makes a difference, leading to behavioral changes and improving happiness.
4. Buy yourself flowers.
Behavioral research at Rutgers University found that simply looking at flowers improves emotional health.
The presence of flowers triggered happy emotions, increasing feelings of life satisfaction. Flowers are a natural mood enhancer!
Today, when stress grips you and you’re tempted to solve it by being busy, stop to enjoy what brings you peace and joy. Be the real you. God’s beloved.
“These things I have spoken to you so that … your joy may be made full.” John 15:11
For more soul care encouragement, visit WhispersofRest.com to download free resources: Whispers of Rest 6-Video Book Study Series, prayer podcasts and coloring pages.
BONNIE GRAY is the author of the newly released devotional, Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at thebonniegray.com.