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

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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.

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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.

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Slaying the Worry Dragon: The Weapon of Choice is Simplicity

Worry is my sin.  That sin I so long to rid myself of, yet find myself battling daily.  I can justify it, yet there is no justification.  I can condemn myself, yet there is no condemnation.  Like Paul of scripture, I ask myself, I ask God, “Why do I do the things I do not want to do?”  It is the nature of our lives.  We all have that sin-the one that becomes our daily struggle.

As I seek to slay the worry dragon I have come to realize simplicity is the key.  For those of us to whom much has been given, much is expected.  Yet along with the much, are things, mindsets that cause us to stumble in our faith.  With good upbringing, strong family ties, come expectations.  We are pushed and we drive ourselves to exceed the financial status of our parents, to exceed the educational levels of our family ancestors, to go beyond, do better.  We call it the American Dream.  Yet, all of that places our mind, our focus upon achievements and things.  Maybe it is my age, maybe it is wisdom gained with age, but whatever the cause, I find myself desiring to do less, be less.  I’d like to return to the days of my forefathers.  Days of gardening, hands stained by dirt, body aching and tired at night.  Days of family gatherings crowded into small, quaint homes. Days of giving beyond means and ensuring family and neighbors have plenty.  The simpler life.  Not an easier life, but a less complicated life.  A life in which things could not take hold, because things were not aplenty.

My scripture reading this morning was in Matthew.  The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.  If one read only those passages, one would understand who Christ is and how as Christians we are to live.  It becomes clear the weapon for worry is simplicity.  In the midst of the abundance around me, the busyness, the striving, the rush to carry out good deeds in the “spirit of Christmas giving”, God speaks to me yet again through the women I hold dear at Christian Women’s Job Corps.  Women who live a simple life, yet lives complicated by messy families, consequences of poor choices, health issues…

They can not undo their past.  None of us can.  Many of them born into pasts they could not control, inheriting trouble they never asked for/deserved.  Most hurt as children, used as adolescents, and exposed as adults.  Difference circumstances, different hurts, different lives, yet one thing in common.  Each making the decision, finding the resolve to choose to do something different.  Each choosing Christian Women’s Job Corps.  Each seeking to learn about Christ, put Him first.  Each finding joy in walking away from the complicated towards the simple.

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One has walked away from all she owns/had: home, belongings, man.  She has faithfully come soaking up the teachings of the pastors during morning devotion, the words of scripture during Bible study, the life skills taught by women whose lives have been easier than hers.  She has rejoiced weekly in the smallest of victories.  She has taken every word taught and believed it.  She has professed and proclaimed scripture in the midst of battle, believing it would drive Satan out.  She has accepted help with graciousness and humility.  She has found a new home, new friends, new life.  Things, accomplishments, are of consequence.  She has no bed, yet shares with all how well she is sleeping.  She has humble means, yet can’t wait to share. She has seen God provide.  She does not worry for her future.  She trusts.  She trusts Him, the Great Provider, the Healer, the Lord of Lords.

I am humbled when in her presence.  And as I sit in my abundance, clinging to my worry, I am convicted by her life and His words in Matthew.  The words come alive through her story.  Simplicity.  It is in the being, the service done in “the secret place”, the honesty, the letting go, the living life together.  Simplicity slays the worry dragon.  Her days are filled with trouble, enough trouble to fill a lifetime.  She takes each day as it comes, too many troubles to worry about tomorrow.  “Sufficient for the day it its own trouble.”  Matthew 6:34 NIV  She lives the scripture.  I long to live the scripture yet my demons are a complicated life, full of too much.  The too much brings the worry, the striving, the lack of faith.  God brings her into my life, not that I may serve, but that we both might be served.  We love one another, we teach one another.  I share my abundance, she teaches me out of her lack-lack of things, lack of knowledge.  We experience Him.  We experience true worship.  We find each other.  We find ourselves.  In that place, He finds us, we hear Him and know His presence.

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Average: Perfectly Acceptable to Me

Average:   a level that is typical of a group, class, or series : a middle point between extremes.  

The above is “average” as defined in the Webster dictionary.  Nothing extraordinary.  A simple word.  Why then do we as a culture, as parents, gasp at the very utterance of the word?  Why has “average” become something negative, looked down upon?  Why this drive to excellence-not just for ourselves, but for our children?  There is this never ending push, striving for excellence.  One can no longer just play ball in the backyard and make the school team.  One can no longer take instrument lessons from the sweet lady down the street and expect an opportunity in the school orchestra or a chance to obtain a scholarship.  One can no longer take “regular” classes at school and even dream of getting into the best college and receive financial aide.  Everything, everything seems to be about achieving excellence, being accelerated.  A 4.0 GPA is to be frowned upon. Now we demand or expect a 5.6 GPA and our 18 year old children to enter college as Sophomores!

What happened to average?  Average is really all I want.  It is perfectly acceptable to me.  Especially as a parent.  I would love to think my kids are “a middle point between extremes”.  I want my children to be more focused on WHO they are, than WHAT they are.

As I pondered this thought, that average is perfectly acceptable, I turned to scripture.  What does God expect of us?  No place in scripture does God ask for excellence.  Not one place in scripture does God say we are to perform at a higher standard than everyone else.  Quite the contrary.  Repeatedly in scripture God says we are to be humble, “the least of these shall inherit”, and the last shall be first.  He told us the rich man was not greater than the widow who gave her one mite.  God didn’t call men of wealth or position or of education to be a part of the inner circle to walk with His Son on this earth.  And the few who did have some means or success in their “careers” He asked to walk away from it all.  God did not send His Son to be born in a five star resort, a midst the royalty of the day.  He chose a young girl, of little means, to bare His son.  He sent her on a donkey to a small village town, to give birth to her son in a stable, surrounded by sheep, goats and donkeys.

I think average is perfectly acceptable to God.  I believe He wants me and my children to do everything we do to the best of our abilities and “as for Him”.  But, I still think He finds average perfectly acceptable, in fact desired.  God doesn’t want me striving for earthly success.  He doesn’t want me to strive for position or wealth.  God wants me to strive for Him.  He asks that I yearn for Him, for wisdom.  He asks that I earnestly seek Him.  He asks that I persevere and run the race.  He doesn’t ask me to win the race.  He just asks that I run it and I run it with my eyes on Him.

That is all I want of and for my children.  I want them to be willing to spend more time seeking God than they spend seeking straight A’s.  I want them loving Him with their whole beings-heart, soul and mind (Matthew 23:37).  Secondly, I want them to allow that love to spill over into others (Matthew 23:38).

Does this mean I wont’ challenge my children?  Does this mean a C average in school is all I expect?  No.  I expect them to work hard, to give everything they do their best effort. But, if the choice is between making the team only if they invest 5-6 hours per week in expensive, private coaching, the answer is “NO.”  If taking AP and college concurrent courses means they can’t attend Wednesday night worship, work to sacrifice and save for a mission trip, or engage in missions in their community, then the AP and college concurrent courses won’t make the cut in our house.  Average will be just fine.

When I stand, when they stand, before Christ at the judgement seat and are asked, “Did you love me?  Did you really love me?” I want to, I want them to, be able to say, “Yes, Lord I loved you above all else.  I loved you so much your loved spilled over into others and they too learned to love you.”

More than ever I am convinced it is OK for me to accept average.  I challenge you to accept average.  What are you and/or your children missing out on as you chase after excellence/success as defined by the world?  Will it matter when you die?  Does it honor God?  Is it a means of loving Him, worshiping Him?  If not, could you give it up and refocus those monies, time and energy on Him?

Average-it’s perfectly acceptable.