I clicked “SEND” to confirm the reservation.

My decision to rent a lake house felt extravagant. I was hopeful to secure accommodations for several friends to join me and attend the “Brave On” conference, plus add a few days on the end to enjoy some rest.

As I entered my credit card number, reason quickly challenged my desire. That’s going to cost a lot of money! Are you crazy? What are you thinking? Would my friends commit the time and money the weekend would require? 

When the texts began arriving “YES!” my excitement grew. Our plan was set and the airline reservations were secured, but I was unable to foresee the events that occurred during the 4 weeks prior to the conference.

Here’s what happened…

It was one loss after another arriving like waves crashing onto the shore in rapid succession. These included hard goodbyes, a friend’s funeral and the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. My family and friends were tossed about in the chaos and were facing incredible trials and mountains of unknowns. I was too.

Phone calls and texts began to tumble in one after another. As I watched the nightly news, pictures of familiar places and faces flashed on the TV and in my mind. How could it be? Family and friends were suffering and I started to experience that old familiar feeling of heightened responsibility to stop their pain. My heart began to feel the pressure of me as a 10-year-old little girl, responsible for the care of my hurting family. I wanted to do something and I was feeling helpless.

I wrestled with what I should do, and of all things, I planned a picnic at the river. This choice to insert a day of rest while others were suffering pain felt guilty and selfish. Yet, I made the choice anyway.

I’ve come to realize that pain and suffering are more familiar to me than rest and play.

They are polar opposites and fuel conflicting emotions inside of me. My heart needed rest, play, and a picnic, or so I thought.

Not long after I planned the picnic, I received an inspired idea to cook some meals, freeze them, and deliver them to friends at a halfway point between my house and Houston. My heart quickened. This felt familiar to me. It is what I did as a young girl for my family. Yes!  Perfect!  I can do that! I invited friends to help.

The day before the picnic, I cooked some meals. The next morning, I went into my day feeling the angst and exhaustion of the week. My angst won out. Try as I might, I found myself feeling angry about my planned day of rest and play. My anger felt easier and more affirming than my own disappointment over feeling irresponsible and inadequate to help others.

My frustrations began to leak. I noticed my gut was tight, my breathing shallow, and my temper short. At the picnic, I spoke sarcastic words to a friend. My friend felt the sting of my words and I felt my impact on her. We sat silently and the picnic ended soon after.

It was in that moment of silence that I realized what I had done. I felt horrible and I knew I was in need of self-care. It was not until the next day that self-care actually happened as I sat alone with God. Slowly, forgiveness came as I felt the grace of God wash over me.

I’ve come to realize that God grew my heart through the kindness of self-care and likewise provided a way to care for others during the four weeks prior to Brave On. I will remember Brave On as God’s extravagant gift of kindness for me. He knew what those four weeks would hold, and He had a plan in place for my care well before the losses came. I will be forever grateful for what He provided for me.

I wonder what extravagant gift God has for you as you begin to practice the kindness of self-care? I believe He has something planned for you. Try it and see.


photo-4Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.