It's been over a year since our beloved Mrs. Bonnie Walls breathed her last breath here on earth. A prayer team member and a big part of the BCS community for many, many years, Bonnie was one of those people who you knew you could count on to pray whenever you had a need.
In one of my emails to the prayer team back in the spring of 2020, I asked for prayer especially for leaders - within our own community and beyond - that God would give wisdom and provision as well as help them practice giving the same grace and compassion to themselves that they were offering to those around them.
Bonnie was quick to respond to this email, letting me know she was praying for us. In part of her reply, she said..
When I’ve gone through dark times, one of the phrases I feel the Holy Spirit has given me is “Be gentle with yourself”. I’ll pray that our leadership team will be able to do that. I pray that they all will be able to rest in the truth that God knows how all this is going to play out.
He has a perfect plan and perfect timing...
Even though she shared those words at a totally different time, they somehow still feel timely and relevant today. I don't know about you, but I feel like this last stretch of the school year is not unlike the end of a really long, hard race (one with rocks, hills, mud and heat!). We might not all be running the exact same race, but whether you are a student, a parent, a teacher, or just someone who knows a student, parent, or teacher, the common feeling seems to be hang-on-for-dear-life...we're-almost-there...I-just-hope-we-all-make-it-across-the-finish-line.
In times like these, when we find ourselves in what feels like a hard part of the race, it would probably do us all some good to heed this word from Bonnie and "be gentle with ourselves". I wonder though, why something so simple can sometimes feel so incredibly hard to do. Ironically, the act of writing this blog was a bit of an exercise in this very thing for me.
I had put the kids to bed and was hopeful that I could dig right into finishing the writing I had started the day before. What I hadn't counted on was that one child would come out looking for a book to read, followed by another child couldn't sleep because of siblings making too much noise, followed by another child who wanted to fill me in on a very exciting plan to create an album because he was working on lyrics for his second song. I won't even try to relay the debacle over several missing bookmarks that came next.
Needless to say, I was having a hard time settling in to write about "being gentle with myself". At one point I typed out a sentence saying that it literally feels impossible to do the very thing I'm trying to write about doing!
But after a few extra hugs and some patient (and maybe not-so-patient) waiting on my part, the kids did eventually settle down and I found myself with a little more mental space to ponder this idea of being gentle with myself. I decided the tricky thing is that it's a whole lot easier to be gentle with yourself when you're not in the middle of a stressful situation. I can be very gentle with myself when looking back on a tough time, or when everything feels like it's smooth sailing. But the time I need gentleness the most feels like the time it is also the hardest to come by.
So what do we do? How do we actually practice being gentle with ourselves during those difficult times?
One possibility is that practicing gentleness might work a little like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Perhaps as I practice being gentle with myself during non-stressful times, it will start to feel ever so slightly more natural to be gentle with myself during the stressful times too.
No matter how many times I feel like I fail at being gentle with myself, the other very hopeful and powerful thing I can do is to pray. I can pray for God to help me be gentle with myself and trust Him to keep working on me in this area. When I'm struggling to be gentle with myself, I can ask God to show me how to do it. Who knows, maybe sometimes just pausing to take a slow, deep breath would lead me one step closer to that gentleness I'm trying to find.
The really good thing is that even if I am not consistently gentle with myself, Jesus always is. When He describes Himself, He says "I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:28) and Hebrews tells us He is "the same yesterday, today and forever". Always gentle. Always.
Pray with me...
... Father, please increase our awareness of how very gentle and loving You are with all of us all the time
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9
... Lord, enable us to be gentle with ourselves, especially during those times when we struggle
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21
... God, may we not only be gentle with ourselves, but also gentle with each other
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
Above: photo taken by Bonnie Walls, one of many she took at the beach!
Her daughter shared with me these other bits of advice she gave over the years, relating to being gentle with yourself...
1. Take mini vacations - like a day at the beach, coffee with a friend, getting your nails done, etc
2. Eat a little chocolate after dinner - not a lot, just enough to sweeten the end of the day
3. Watch a good movie or read a good book
4. Allow yourself to say “no” to some commitments that you normally would say “yes” to (these types of things are usually good things to do, but not God’s best for you because of the time it takes you away from other more important things like spending time with Him or with family)
5. If you are doing your best, and you tend to be hard on yourself, remind yourself that you are doing your best!
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory