Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Pursuit of Balance

It’s Third Thursday Blog Hop time! This month all of the Hearts at Home bloggers are writing a piece on balance - where to find it, how to keep it, why we never seem to fully master it. I’ve written about balance before, but it was mostly just a confession that I, too, lack the peace of a fully balanced life. And don’t we all to some extent? Maybe that’s because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day; or maybe it’s because we aren’t defining balance in a way that brings it within our grasp.

The concept of balance is often centered on time management and our ability (or inability) to find enough time to maintain our kids, homes, jobs, and relationships without losing sight of our own needs and personal identities. But what if we could disconnect ourselves from the belief that balance depends on our time management skills? What if the opposite is true, and the way we manage our time simply flows from our sense of internal balance?

Simply put, you can’t have a well-balanced life in terms of time spent on personal activities, work hours, and relationships until you first achieve a well-balanced mind. Having a well-balanced mind means taking control of your thoughts, getting in tune with your priorities, and making honest self-appraisals about where you are in relation to where you want to be. Once you achieve that internal balance, the allocation of time toward things that maintain that balance will follow.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula for achieving that internal balance because balance is not a permanent state. It’s a constant ebb and flow of calm and storm. It’s fully present on some days and completely absent on others. Like other loaded concepts such as faith and education, the quest for balance is a life-long journey involving deep personal reflection, a willingness to acknowledge the gaps between our values and our actions, and the ability to distinguish what we have the power to change from the life circumstances we must learn to accept.

If you are searching for that ever-elusive balance, try to stop thinking that it has anything to do with how much time you spend on a treadmill or your storage room’s perpetual state of disarray. Instead, spend some quiet time figuring out why those things bother you; where the pressure comes from; and how to accept yourself in spite of your imperfect exercise schedule or cleaning habits. Balance isn’t just about finding time to work out, cook healthy meals, read to our kids, and make love to husbands. Instead of working on balancing our time, we should be working on balancing ourselves. Time is a constant. We’ll never have more of it tomorrow than we did yesterday. Balance doesn’t come from time. Balance comes from peace, and greater peace is always within reach.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Can I Do That?

Have you ever seen someone who maintains incredible faith despite difficult circumstances and wondered, How can they do that? When we see people facing life-changing challenges and personal losses, it’s natural to wonder where they find the strength to rebuild their lives and the courage to continue fighting amid so many struggles. Sometimes when I see someone rebuilding after a natural disaster, battling a terminal illness, or living with a physical impairment, I can’t help wondering how I would handle such a challenge.
Sometimes I find myself praying that God will continue to provide me with the life of comfort to which I have grown so accustomed. I do this out of the fear that I could not rise to the occasion and face the challenges in my future with grace and humility. I wonder if I would surrender to God’s plan or continue to demand that He follow my plan. Most of all I wonder if I could accept my struggles with a thankful heart and praise God through my suffering.

During the Easter season I am reminded that this time of year is about more than the joyful celebration surrounding Jesus’ resurrection and the fulfillment of God’s promise that everlasting life awaits His faithful   followers. Easter is also about recognizing Jesus’ sacrifice and acknowledging His ability to understand our pain because He has walked among us. He endured a human death and all of the physical and emotional pain that surrounds human suffering. In Him lies all the strength and courage we could ever need.

I believe God brings us all to our knees at various points in our lives. Although none of us is exempt from bearing our own crosses someday, we don’t have to fear the challenge. We don’t have to fear it because we are loved by a Savior who has experienced our pain; a Savior who has the ability to provide us with abundant grace and tremendous strength. As much as I believe God gives us each a cross, I also believe that He can grant us the grace to bear it if we choose to let Him embrace us with His love and walk with us on a journey that He knows all too well.

So I guess I don’t need to pray for safety, health, or financial security nearly as often as I need to pray for the ability to maintain unwavering faith despite the presence or absence of any of those things in my life. It is incredibly comforting to know that He is willing to walk with me through everything from flat tires and bee stings to cancer and death. I guess that’s the answer. That’s how they do it. And the rest of us can do it too if we acknowledge His constant presence within us. Draw on His strength, celebrate His mercy, praise Him in good times and bad, and when the unexpected strikes your life you’ll never have to wonder, How can I do that?

Today and every day, He walks with you. Take comfort in His presence, honor His sacrifice, celebrate His promise, and have a very happy Easter!