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Maybe Balance Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

BalanceImage by tricky ™ via Flickr

Balance. It's the buzzword of this generation.

In our hectic lives, everyone is searching for that elusive thing called "balance", where we feel like we're living out our priorities, we're able to get the rest we need, but we're still being purposeful.

What if the whole idea of balance is more like a millstone around your neck than it is a real thing to aim after, though?

Let me explain. Balance, in and of itself, says that some things must lose. It says that you have to put less of an emphasis on one thing so that you can put more of an emphasis on something else. To aim for balance is really to aim for a constant series of trade-offs. You decide that this will have to go, that you can't do this, all so that you can do this.

It's not exactly an easy psychological process.

What if there's a better way? A bunch of very disparate but interesting things have led me to this conclusion. First, I was reading Kathy Peel's book The Family Manager while staying at a friend's home recently.

Her point is that many housewives are extremely capable when it comes to organizing work or organizing big functions at church, but we can't seem to organize our homes. The solution? Take what you're good at and apply those same principles at home. In other words, work to your strengths.

I've read something similar in another book recently, which even though I disagreed with much of it, that one part I thought was useful. Forget balance; instead, figure out what you're good at. What makes you feel alive? What gets you excited? Now concentrate on maximizing your time for that.

At the same time, I've been delivering a number of messages at various speaking engagements about finding your purpose in life. And it occurs to me now that if we apply all three of these principles to our lives, we'd be a lot happier than if we just sought balance. So here's what such a life would look like:

1. Figure out your purpose. What is it that God is calling you to right now? Where does He want you investing your time, your money, your energy? Sometimes there may be just one area; some of us have several areas. I feel called to speak, to homeschool, and to lead the Bible quizzing program with our youth at church. One of those areas is simply my specific responsibility (my family). God always calls you first and foremost to your family. The others are more where I am using my gifts and serving in my particular church.

When you figure out where you are most called, then it's easier to emphasize those areas. Forget everything else. Let it all fall by the wayside. We don't need to be "balanced", doing everything in moderation. We need to be sold out to the areas where God has called us!

Figure out where God has called you, and ditch the rest. Yes, the other stuff needs to get done. But God will call someone to do that other stuff. Your responsibility is just to live out the areas where you are called.

I believe that we are always called primarily to our families and to the people who are closest to us. Those are the people that God has trusted us with to show them Jesus. We are also called to our local body of believers, to serve in at least some capacity. I don't think having children gives you an excuse not to serve. We all can be serving somewhere, because without us the church can't function. So ask God to show you in what one area you can serve that will make a difference.

2. In those areas where you feel called, work to your strengths. Maybe you don't cook. Maybe you never will learn to love cooking or cook very well. That's okay. Stop beating yourself up about it. Learn to make 7 meals well, and rotate them every week. You're allowed. Maybe your real gift is in making a fun home where you play lots of games and create an atmosphere where people just plain have a roaring good time, even if the house is never in tip top shape.

That's who you are. Stop trying to become someone you're not. What are your strengths in your family? Play to them. Do the things that you do well, and then figure out how to minimize the other tasks which do need to get done so that you have more time for your strengths. Don't strive for balance, because in your case, balance means spending more time on stuff that frustrates you and makes you miserable, and less on stuff that gives you life.

I was reminded of this a few years ago when I went on a craft binge. I bought painting supplies. I bought fabric to sew. I bought all kinds of stuff. And then I started doing it and hated it. I sewed my maternity clothes and they never fit quite right. I tried to stencil something and kept going out of the lines.

And all the while my knitting sat beside me, untouched. I was trying to conquer all these other crafts that I admired, instead of doing the one that I am great at (if I do say so myself) and that relaxes me. So now I proudly announce that I don't sew, I don't cross-stitch, I don't scrapbook, and I don't crochet. What I do do is knit. Everywhere. Even in line at the grocery store (I always have a pair of socks on the go in my purse).

It may not be balanced, but it's what I'm good at and it's what I enjoy. You don't need to do everything. Work to your strengths.

When you figure out what you're good at, it's easier to apply those things to your home. If you're a spontaneous person, then create a spontaneous home. Work less to lists and more to creativity. That's okay. Don't try to be someone you're not. Figure out how to get done what does need to get done, but then create a tone for your home where you're laid back, and people can drop in anytime and it doesn't bother you.

If, instead, you're very organized, then don't try to be spontaneous! Create a schedule for your day and stick to it. You'll feel better.

Often instead of working to our strengths we work to our weaknesses. We see the things we're not good at and we spend all kinds of time trying to make ourselves better at these areas of weakness, rather than spending productive time in the areas where we do excel. If we each worked to our strengths, we'd get things done a lot more quickly and with a lot less grief.

God made you the way you are for a purpose. You do not have to be the typical Christian woman, because God may not have made you that way. He sure didn't make me that way! I function best when I have a ton of things on the go. I work really hard, and then I crash really hard, and my family loves it. We're busy, we do interesting things, we talk about interesting things, and no one day is ever exactly like the other.

That's who I am. Do you know who you are? Or are you still reading all these books that tell you that you should fit into a specific mold? I think often we mistake our identity and calling with the things in life that need to get done. Just because laundry needs to get done does not mean that you are naturally a laundry person. Just because you're looking after your children at home does not mean that you are naturally a kid person. But you can take what you are naturally good at and you can apply those things to how you manage your home, how you raise your kids, how you serve in church.

If you don't fit the mold, break it!

Just don't try to have balance, if what you mean by balance is that you do a little bit of everything. It seems to me that God calls us to live out our purpose, and to work productively six days a week, and then He calls us for one day a week to rest in Him, to have time to think, to meditate, to enjoy each other. That's the balance that we need.

So make sure that you're spending time connecting with God so that you can find your purpose. Spend time on your own everyday rejuvenating yourself so that you can live out that purpose. And then apply your strengths to living out your calling day by day. Don't be everything to everybody. Be uniquely you. And that is perfectly okay.


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At 7:45 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Good advice, Sheila. It's what any homemaker who retains her sanity learns early on. Or any woman that matter, since we seem unable to say no when we ought.

Thanks for the reminder.


At 8:09 AM , Blogger Teri Lynne Underwood said…

Umm, yes!!!! Sounds very much like the lopsided living theory I have developed from my strong ANTI-balance mentality!

Love this. Thank you!


At 9:25 AM , Blogger The Happy Domestic said…

I love it. This is so me! :) I'm learning to go with what works for me, and finding that it makes life work better for our whole family.


At 11:15 AM , Blogger Ellen said…

I enjoyed this post - a new idea for me that I will have to 'chew' on for a bit. I have a question, what about the women like me who are procrastinators and will do anything to avoid certain chores - I mean eventually dishes and laundry do need to be done. I don't have any problems doing the 'fun' stuff and leaving the things I don't like doing, but in the end it bites me in the behind because when my counters are full of dirty dishes I get really cranky. I suppose I will have to really search out what my strengths are.


At 11:18 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Great point, Ellen! And I don't think you're alone in the procrastination department. We all are a little more geared to laziness than anything else!

I think I'll have to write a follow-up post to deal with this, but what I would say is figure out HOW you work best. Do you work best with rewards (ie. do the dishes, then you get to be on Facebook for 10 minutes)? Do you work best when you do it all in one swoop, every other day? Do you work best when you're not pressured, or when you set the timer and do as much as possible, as fast as possible?

Don't try to do things the way everyone else tells you you have to do them. Don't try to live up to other people's expectations. Your house is your house. You get to control things, remembering that we are to create a safe and happy and peaceful home for our families.

So figure out how you work best, when you work best, and what style you work best in. And then do it, rather than trying to be something you're not!


At 1:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

This is such an encouraging post. It goes along with what the Lord showed me today in my devotional. What does my life revolve around, what is my purpose? My purpose is to be in Him, growing in His kingdom and righteousness. But I find my live revolves around being the 'right' wife and mother. Making sure I do things like I'm 'suppose' to do. And yet, I'm not a country wife, who grows everything, makes everything from scratch, things that many blogs/woman say are what is being a 'true' biblical woman. Lots of guilt in that kind of thinking.

Thank you for sharing this. It is definitely what I need.



At 5:55 PM , Blogger Tessa said…

I'm looking forward to the follow-up post. I too this morning read about balance. At least that was the plan. Ended up reading more about Sabbath rest, which is somehting that I'm desperate for. I think that once I understand to truly feel rest in Christ, the "balance" will be clearer.
I've always said that if you work on your weaknesses you'll only have strong weaknesses. Never really applied it to my home life though.
I hate cooking and cleaning but I love playing with my son and reading/educating myself on all sorts of things. It's just tough because the other stuff needs to get done too. But I'm getting myself into a system that works too keep up on my housework maintenance. I'll never have a spic'n'span house but it'll be livable and there will always be lots of love. I'm looking forward to the day when I can afford a housekeeper!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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