You might recall that one of the highlights of my trip to Southern Sudan in January was having the opportunity to paint the toenails of the women in some of the small villages around Yabus. The above image is one that mostly comes first to my mind when I think about our journey there. I think because it represents something that is near and dear to my heart, maybe even what my soul was specially created to do: to pamper and care for other women on our journey here on earth. When I cradled those rough, dusty feet that these humble women were at first shy to present to me, I felt such an overwhelming sense of purpose and privilege.
Today I am thinking about what I am here on earth to do and following the clues by what gives me most joy: what makes me feel most fulfilled. When are the times when I truly feel like I am doing what God has chosen me to do?
I don't have to go to Africa to experience this. However, it was at this pretty intense moment of really doing some feet washing and nail painting, this extreme pampering, that I understood the value to the soul this gives. Both to those who are touched by my care, and to myself as the pamperer.
In some ways I feel like I was saved by pampering. When I was at a total loss, it was the care of good friends and my sister that kept me alive. It was the phone calls and messages delivered to a dying soul that wanted to isolate. It was the doctor who added to the other life saving work ups two simple sentences "You have beautiful eyes" (the rest of me looked like Hell) and "I like your painted toenails." She loved me from my head to my toes with two pampering sentences. It was the provision of beds to sleep on and food to nurture me when I had otherwise stopped sleeping and eating. It was one beautiful rose placed on my bed stand that cracked the shell and let me sob.
So the other side of pampering, being open to be on the receiving side, is also important. When I am in need of pampering God provides. It seems especially when I find it hard to ask for. I had to learn that while I am healed by this care, it also gives another the opportunity to express her gift and feel purpose in her pampering of me.
Then there is the aspect of pampering that I am learning now in this chapter of my life: self pampering. Like so many young girls: I let my first loves take over my pampering. That went pretty soon to having a family and focusing my time on care and pampering of my mate and child. Typically I was so spent with all the care of others that I did not have time to do much with other women (at least much else that didn't focus around our children or spouses). What wasn't spent with those was used up at work. There at least I could get the satisfaction of being a good mentor to newbies. It helped, but now I realize wasn't enough.
Unfortunately, for me the biggest step I had to take in self care was to leave my marriage. In the healing from that I now have to opportunity to care for other women (which in it's way is a form of self pampering for me) and to find moments to pamper myself. That might include: getting a pedicure; staying in bed and reading or napping or watching mindless TV when my body tells me I need a rest; inviting a friend to spontaneously drop by and not be worried about how the house looks; writing when something hits me that needs to be written about and take care of the housework later; eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Cheerios for dinner. I am trying to look at my "down time" as a gift; a chance to do what I want for who I want and sometimes that's even me. I think I'm succeeding. God is good.