No Such Thing as Balance

We all long for balance.  The problem is there is no such thing as balance.  Life is not perfect.  We are not perfect.  Others around us are not perfect.  Harsh words for a recovering perfectionist.  Harsh reality for all of us finding ourselves battling the striving versus the being.

There is no such thing as balance.  Our days will be too full.  The unexpected will happen.  Something or everything will take too long.  As we seek to live a more organized life, to live our priorities in a meaningful way, we need to remember that balance will never be achieved.  The scales will always be tipped just a little one way or the other, AND that is o.k

scales

As long as the scales are gently rocking back and forth we can maintain, we can move forward, we can be confident we are living our priorities.  It is when the scales go crashing to one side or the other we need be concerned.  This week my business is taking more of my time, tipping the scales to one side.   However, I continue to protect our family dinner time, to honor the coming holy holiday, and limit the number of appointments next week.  When I can release the idea of balance, perfection, I can honor my family, friends, clients, home.  I can free myself from guilt as I meet the priorities of each given day or week, knowing next week there will be a shift in priorities.

It can be difficult to keep the scales gently rocking back and forth.  And there are those times, times of unexpected illness, loss, and even opportunity, that keep the scales tipped to one side longer than normal.  As long as there is a shifting back, as long as we remember the shift is necessary, that’s o.k.

My paper planner is key to helping me keep my eye on my priorities, keeping the scales from tipping too far to one side or the other.

IMG_3928IMG_3927

Across the top of my weekly pages I have a column for each of my priority areas.  My Home, Children, Business, Blog, Volunteer Commitments.  It is here I can track the weekly tasks.  Not only does this allow me to capture all the things I need to get done, it allows me to see where the bulk of my tasks are.  If week after week my business or volunteer activities require the bulk of my tasks, I can see the scales are tipped and I need to make some adjustments, focusing energy and tasks on family, myself, our home.  If I struggle to find a category in which to place the tasks, I know I need to assess my activities, determine if it is time to change priorities, let something go in order to embrace a new opportunity, new season. When a week seems overwhelming I can look to the next and make adjustments, focusing attention on another area/category.

There is no such thing as balance.  There is a gentle ebb and flow.  Once I embrace the ebb and flow, remembering the goal is to keep the scales gently tilting back and forth, I can release myself from the grip of perfection, the striving to do it all, and live more fully.  I can trust that while this week may be more about work, next week can be more about family, friends, caring for a loved one.  I can live a more beautiful life of purpose.

Friendships Matter to Our Daughters

I have twin 16 year old daughters.  I have loved every season of life with them.  I have to say though, there is something very settling about the season we are in right now.  They are coming into their own.  As a mom, I have the opportunity to begin to see glimpses of the women they will become.  I have the opportunity to see the fruits of my labor and know that it was not in vain.

friendship-cover

I have never been one to have a ton of friends.  Partly due to my personality type.  I love my alone time and I’m an introvert.  I am also extremely loyal and when I do make friends, true friends, the relationships are lasting, authentic and deep.  I have had the opportunity lately to spend more time with my friends.  We have been engaged in business, events, sharing difficulties in life.  I have also just made a point lately to spend more time with my friends.  My daughters have also been spending more time with friends.  I love to watch them interact with their friends and see them with this group of girls they have known for years, as well as the new set of friends.  They are bound with girls of like faith.  They share prayer requests, they share philosophies on dating, they share shopping, they share laughter.

This past week on the ride home from school one of my daughters commented on how much she liked one of my friends and then went on to say how happy she was I had gotten to spend more time with my friends.  I asked her why she liked my friends and why it mattered to her if I spent time with them.  I don’t think I had ever really given that aspect much thought.  Her first comment was that I was happier when I got to be around my friends.  Her second comment though was the one that mattered.  She went on to tell me she loved my friends because she knew they loved God.  She knew they were all really good moms who worked really hard to raise their children and to encourage others.  Then she said the golden words.  She said she liked my friends because she knew they prayed for her and they cared about my family as much as they cared about me.   Yes.  She is right.

When our friends are women of faith walking our faith journey with us, in honesty, in integrity, they influence our families and we their families.  I am a better person because of this small group of women.  My family is a better family because of this small group of women.  These are the women who correct me, hold me accountable, rejoice with me, pray with me. These are the women who would pick up my kids in an emergency, bring me food when I am sick and know how much I love chocolate!

As moms our friendships matter.  We are often cautious about the friends our daughters choose.  Are we as careful about our own friendships?  Do we spend time with women who influence us for good?  We need to remember the women we choose as friends will influence our families as well.  We need to remember that how we live out our friendships sets the example for our daughters.  I am so thankful my daughters see the women my friends are.  I am so thankful they see my friends as positive role models.  I am so thankful my friends enhance my family, make me a better mom and wife.

Friendships Matter.

Inspired-Back to Basics with the Proverbs 31 Woman

Any time I am asked to speak, God does a work in me.  This weekend, sharing about how to be effective women and not just efficient women, I was reminded how valuable these passages in Proverbs 31 are.  It saddens me when others say this Proverbs 31 woman is not relevant, that she is simply an ideal, and not one we can attain to.  I just beg to differ.  She is an ideal. The description of her however is the entirety of her life.  Yet, we see her included in scripture.  I believe she is the goal to be attained, much like Paul refers to.  She is the culmination of a race well run.  She is God’s design for woman and the description of her helps us in setting our priorities and making choices.

prov31I am reminded that in good season, God grants me the wisdom, the ability and the time to be and to do.  Keeping Him first and my family second, remain constant.  The opportunity to work, invest, minister, etc… come at different times.  So often in my humanness I struggle with the “in due season.”  I read Proverbs 31 and I want it all, all right now.  I strain and struggle. I become discouraged and before I know it, Satan convinces me I can’t do it.  He would be correct.  I can’t do it without Christ and I can’t do it all at once.  I have to remind myself that a “no” now does not mean “no” forever.  There are moments when God says “no, not right now”.  I have to remember that He will restore those jobs, ministries, relationships in due season.

I struggled with this when my girls were younger, spending way too much time trying to do too much, looking to the next season instead of embracing the season I was in.  I have fallen prey to that again.  I realized as I shared with others, God was convicting me.  I had let a seed of resentment set in regarding home schooling.  I was looking to ministry and jobs I wanted, but couldn’t make work in this season.  I need to embrace this moment.  What a gift.  I have the opportunity to be at home, to focus attention on both my girls in unique ways.  I get this extra time while home schooling.  I have to have faith, living in this season with strength and dignity, knowing He will open doors for ministry, expand my opportunities when this season is over.

As I refocused my attentions on this passage it was like revisiting an old friend.  Why had I lost touch?  Why I had I let my attention drift to other things?  This world needs more Proverbs 31 women.  I embrace setting her before me as an example, a goal.  I will not strive though.  Instead I will rest in Him, seeking His guidance and wisdom as I seek to love Him, serve my husband and my daughters.  I will embrace His precepts and follow His word.  I will raise girls to do the same.

The link below is a document outlining what I believe to be the attributes of the Proverbs 31 Woman.  I would love for you to use these as motivation.  Please don’t look to them as a “to do” list.  Instead see them as a guide.  Remember it is not about what you do, so much as it is about who you are.  Yes, the Proverbs 31 Woman did a lot, but the passage focuses on who she was, how she did it.

Outline

A Year Ago: The Inspire Conference that Broke Me

Shana Chaplin:

An update to a year old post.

Originally posted on Simplified Organized Styled:

I have spent the last few months preparing to lead a breakout session at Inspire 2015.  A year ago, this very conference was the site of a HUGE God moment for me.  It wasn’t the event.  It was a simple act of obedience on my part and on the part of every other woman who made a choice to be present.  Inspire is a simple conference.  Just one day-not even a full day.  It is just a day for women of faith to gather and share their stories.  Yet the simple impacts.  The sharing of stories draws us to REAL life, REAL hearts, REAL faith.  

I was coming out of one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  I was disheartened by the church.  I had been struggling with my own striving.  I was in the midst of changing my reactions to my relationship with my mother and…

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Be AWARE or Beware

Having the opportunity to work as an organizer and meet with women through my Mary & Martha business (www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana) I realize how this fast paced life we live keeps us from being aware of what we are doing.  Choices get made, or choices get avoided.  We often think that when we avoid choices/decisions, we are simply NOT making a decision.  But the opposite is true.  Most of the time, NOT making a decision is in all actuality making a really bad decision.  Nothing is ever gained by avoidance. Nothing is ever gained by moving through life unaware.

I am a mom, wife, daughter, owner of two businesses, friend, Sunday School leader, speaker and sister/aunt.  I know and study time management principles and strive to approach my days with wisdom, directed by the Holy Spirit.  Yet, I too fall prey to just getting through the days/weeks/months too often unaware.  I’m in a hurry so I say “yes” when the answer should be “let me get back to you” or “no”.  I grab an unhealthy fast food item to eat in the car because I overbooked my day, leaving no white space (see previous post).  I snap at my girls and husband because I am tired and have let household tasks pile  up as a result of not taking my own advice and blocking off time for them.

The real tragedy comes in not stopping long enough to even know why we are doing what we are doing.  And sadly, as Christians we often pile scripture on top of it all in an attempt to justify our hectic lives.

We get a flat tire on the side of the road with a car load of kids.  We post to Facebook how “blessed” we are that this happened because along came some lonely older gentleman to help us and we got to witness to him.  NOT.  God doesn’t cause flat tires.  God doesn’t desire flat tires.  Yes, he can bring something good out of the situation if we respond in a biblical way to the situation.  The reality though is we would not have put ourselves, the kids, others on the road at risk if we had been thinking about our hectic lives, paying attention to the fact our car needed maintenance.  Being AWARE of our possessions and the care of them, aka the car, would have led us to make a best decision.  Did God and can God redeem our bad decisions if we allow Him to?  Of course He can.

We take our children out to eat after a full day of errands, preceded the day before by a late night at sports practice followed by a late dinner and homework.  They proceed to throw a fit.  We are too tired, or desperate for nourishment, to address them.  We allow them to throw the fit, disrupting everyone else in the restaurant.  We get upset at the couple two tables over for “glaring” at us.  We remind ourselves that children are a gift from the Lord and we are busy and tired from all the things we are providing them in an attempt to raise them for His service.  We remind ourselves that God is a loving God and we are to practice grace and forgiveness.  Not faulty theology, but maybe just maybe, we need to step back and consider the poor choices that got our family to this place and consider our motives along the way.  Would it be better for our kids to not be tired in the first place?  Would it be better after a long two days for us to be eating at home around our own dinner table where we would relax, share in conversation and seek refuge?

We get to work having spilled our third cup of coffee for the morning all over our front seat and meeting notes for staff meeting.  We’ve thrown the bible in the work bag, thinking will read it when we get to the office.  Lunch has been left on the counter, along with our kids’ lunches, forgotten in the frenzied moment of yelling and pushing to get out the door late.  the receptionist smiles and says good morning.  We mumble, head down and slam the door to our office hoping for a moment of quiet, when in walks the employee needing guidance on the last project we gave them.  We snap, we criticize.  We quickly apologize and then begin to remind ourselves we just need to pull it together because “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”  We decide to carry on, get over it, tell everyone else to get over it and move on.  We ignore the underlying issues.  Why are we late to school and work every day?  Can we have Christ’s wisdom and strength if daily the quiet time in His word is laid to the side?  Christ doesn’t promise to strengthen us for the crazy we let in our lives.  He promises to strengthen us for His works, getting through this life in this fallen world with grace and hope and joy based upon believing faith.  Again, wouldn’t it be better to remove some things from our calendar, determine what we can delegate and slow the pace of our lives down?

I’ve been there.  I have done all of the above-except stay in the restaurant with screaming kids-too much of a people pleaser to have ever gone there!  Skewing our theology, using scripture to justify or as a sword of judgement comes with fatigue, with lack of time in His word, with a rushed life.   It comes with lack of awareness, being on auto pilot.  When we fail to live life aware of our choices we need to BEWARE of all that will slip in, sucking life right out of us and those we love.  Living life unaware costs us.  It costs us in relationships.  It costs us in health.  It costs us financially.

As I seek JOY this year, I am reminded more than ever how important it is to be aware of what I am doing.  It takes time.  It means I have to step back and look at my life from the larger lens.  It means I have to stop when I react in a way I don’t like and ask myself “why?”.  It means making some tough decisions, letting go of some things or activities.  It means focusing more on WHO God wants me to become, than what I am doing (even if I think I am doing it for Him).  The process can be difficult because often I see my motives and how off base they are-wanting to impress, wanting recognition, needing to feel important.  Other times I have to accept responsibility for outcomes brought on by letting others control me or influence me.  This though is where I can claim His word.  He will strengthen me to make the difficult decisions.  He will work out for good those things in my life I lay at His feet, those choices made in the quiet time of reading His word, searching and seeking His wisdom and guidance.  He will grant me rest as I make best decisions which honor Him and meet with the priorities He has entrusted to me.   He will provide for my needs, not my wants and in Him I will find peace that surpasses all understanding.

I want to stand on His promises.  I want to claim them.  I can only do that by being AWARE of my moment to moment choices.  I have to remember to BEWARE of the one that comes to mislead and steal.  I will live AWARE.

Why Does It Take a Snow Day?

I like to live life at a different pace.  Life is slower in our home than in many.  My husband and I made a commitment early on to keep the frantic pace of life at bay.  Some may call us boring.  Some say we are depriving our children of opportunities. Others I am sure think we are not social enough, and lack thereof keeps our children from future success.  We know many though who envy our choice.  We have had many ask us how we do it.  Most walk away saying they wish they could, but they’re already too invested in the frantic.

I don’t really know why we made the choice we did.  I know in part, it was a result of working with youth before we had our girls.  We listened to the kids complain about exhaustion, talk about playing sports they really didn’t want to play any more. We saw them slip away from church as athletic practices and social events took up their time.  We heard them discuss grown up topics-things they were too young to be thinking about.  Life events around us also impacted our thinking.  We watched marriages crumble.  We have seen depression set in and three different friends commit suicide.  We lost Paul’s mom early in our marriage and long before her time should have come.

We live a slower paced life.  We have made it a priority to eat meals at home.  We eat breakfast together and eat dinner together every night.  We have made it a point to have uncluttered weekends-time for just us-time just to clean cars, work in the yard, watch television.  We have made it a point to take family vacations-alone.  No extra friends.  Just us.  We have told our girls we expect them to do their very best, but we have not pushed them to be “advanced”.  In fact, we have treasured watching our girls be kids, enjoy being kids.  We want that innocence and unencumbered life to last as long as it can.  We want them to grow in wisdom, not just in knowledge.  We want them to know rest and what it means to “be still and know that I am God.”  We want them to have strength to serve.  We want them to know that home is always their safe place to fall.

We have made many mistakes along the way.  We fight.  Our girls complain.  We may have to pay a little more than others for college tuition.  I don’t know.  What I do know is it always makes me a little sad to see how many talk about or post about enjoying time with family, having a break from the hectic schedules, eating dinner all together for the first time in months… all because it snowed.  Why does it take a snow day to get us to slow down?  I fear we are addicted to the hectic.  I fear living fast paced keeps us from dealing with our realities.  Yet, the majority are exhausted.  Our children are losing faith-literally walking away from their faith.  What if we lived every day as if it were a snow day?

It’s NOT About Consistency, It’s About Constancy

consistency

 [kuh n-sis-tuh n-see]
Spell Syllables
noun, plural consistencies.

1.a degree of density, firmness, viscosity, etc.: The liquid has the consistency of cream.

2.steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.: There is consistency in his pattern of behavior.

3.agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing: consistency of colors throughout the house.

4.the condition of cohering or holding together and retaining form;solidity or firmness.
I recently returned from Leadership Development training for my Mary & Martha business (www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana).  As we toured Dayspring and attended conference sessions, we were reminded repeatedly of the importance of “the daily”.  Success does not come from some grand act.  Success comes from daily activity.  As one of the founders of Dayspring defined it, “Success is the next step of obedience.”  
We often talk a lot about being consistent.  Most of the time we are talking about adhering to principles.  However, I think the success comes from constancy.

constancy[kon-stuh n-see]

Spell Syllables
noun
1.the quality of being unchanging or unwavering, as in purpose, love, or loyalty; firmness of mind; faithfulness.
2.uniformity or regularity, as in qualities or conditions; invariableness.
Our success comes from regularity.  The regularity creates the consistency.  We will never be consistent though until we are constant.  Regularly doing something and being unwavering in our purpose, our mind.  I know it seems trite, but so often until I stop to really think about and define my actions, I can get on auto pilot and find myself moving more slowly toward my goals.
I get up early to read scripture and spend time in prayer/communion.  This is a constant act.  The daily act of getting up early and reading helps me to be a more consistent woman of faith-my actions matching my values/beliefs.  I drink a gallon of water daily (well 75% of the time).  The constancy of this behavior helps me stay consistently full and healthier.
We have been iced in.  (Now mind you, here in AR that means we have 2 inches of ice and freezing temps, so the world shuts down.  We couldn’t handle the 6 feet Boston got!)  Anyway, the days at home have given me opportunity to think about what other behaviors I want to make more constant, so I can have a more consistent faith walk, more consistent good health, more consistent sales in my business and more consistent growth in my business team.
Is there something you need to start doing constantly, so you create consistency?  Have you gotten off track with some of your New Year’s goals?  What is the next step of obedience?  Remember, success comes from daily actions, daily actions repeated over time.