Figuring Out What Balance is…

Ever since we got home from our road trip, we’ve been busy making some long-needed changes to our home. We purchased a new sofa just before we left, and thus opened a pandora’s box of things we needed to do to the house to give it some life again. We must have been really inspired from our trip, because Luke actually ripped off the carpet on the stairs the same night we got home, which revealed beautiful hard wood steps. Then we’ve repainted all the trim, we’ve rearranged rooms and repainted walls and walls, I’ve been sewing tons of new throw pillows and creating a gallery wall, cleaning out books and reorganizing shelves. We’ve been busy, to say the least.

But sometimes when we have projects to accomplish that sort of seem to consume us, I start to feel a little guilty for the other things I’m not accomplishing. It’s really ridiculous if you think about it, but while we are accomplishing much, I’m also thinking about what’s not being done in the meantime and feeling bad about it, wishing I somehow “had it all together” and could redecorate my home while cooking gourmet meals and lounging on the couch reading books to my children. It’s just so easy and such a temptation for me (and maybe you?) to look at what I’m not doing and feel bad about it, instead of being encouraged about what I am doing and feeling satisfied.

And this brings me to the deeper issue, the issue of what I have sometimes believed about gaining balance in my life, but have lately come to rethink—the false idea that each of my days needs to be “perfectly” balanced, with the right amount of housework, the right amount of healthy food offered to my family, the right amount of meaningful time spent with my children, service to neighbors, cleaning, reading, writing, crafting, and the list goes on. It’s almost like I think that as soon as one day turns into the next, the clock of my life actually really does start over and nothing I did yesterday can add into the balance of today (and really, I think this idea is very much promoted in our culture). 
I know that each new day is fresh with a new start, but what I’ve really been trying to think about in recent days (and months) is the idea that balance in my life doesn’t actually happen in a 24 hour period, that I don’t have to do a little of everything all in one day in order to achieve this phantom feeling of balance. I don’t always have to look at my days as what I have done vs. what I haven’t done, or as what I have fed my kids vs. what I haven’t. It doesn’t have to always be compared that way, and I don’t have to try to fit things into each day to feel good about it.

Years ago, I was reading MFK Fisher’s book The Gastronomical Me, and one of the things that stuck out to me about her philosophy of life and food is what she thought about balance (and as a side note, I don’t think she was a believer, but she had some really interesting observations to learn from). I think it was just a simple paragraph where she mentioned that everyone always proclaims that our diet needs to be balanced each and every day, that each day you need to eat a certain amount of each food group to maintain health and balance. Alternatively, she viewed food balance in long terms, that feasting on one or two things one day, and then something else the next day, was the better way of achieving balance. She seemed to chuckle at this idea that our bodies somehow know when the 24hr mark happens and all of a sudden forget everything it ate the day before and you have to start over with all the food groups again. She just seemed to have more of a realistic view of balance. It’s not that each day has to have an equal portion of everything, but that over the long term there’s time for each thing, which is actually a more healthy balance.
For the longest time I even read about the Proverbs 31 woman and just felt overwhelmed about all the things this woman accomplished and felt that my own life fell so short of that high standard. But then this sweet elderly woman from my church in North Carolina encouraged me so much by reminding me that the Proverbs 31 woman didn’t do all those things all in one day, that it’s describing her whole life, a long term well balanced life, if you will. 
So here’s the gist of what I’m saying…
Instead of thinking about your every day life in terms of phrases like this, “I did this today, but I didn’t do this_______,” whatever it is, maybe make the shift to embrace what you are doing today, knowing that another day will be filled with that thing you didn’t get to do, and stop staring at the thing you didn’t do, for crying out loud! (I’m preaching to myself, really). It’s not procrastination at all, it’s real life. Something will always be left out when you are filling your days with something else. If I’m painting my living room and dining room all stinkin’ weekend, then of course I won’t be able to cook a time intensive wholesome meal or read that chapter book from cover to cover to my children, but I will on another day. If I’ve been doing the normal life thing full of laundry and cleaning and taking care of children, I’m not going to be able to keep the garage spotless at the same time, but there will be another day for that. If I’m hosting 6 girls from an out of town youth group (true story and happening as I speak), then my own bedroom is going to be a disaster because I’m having to keep up with towel laundry and overall hospitality. That’s real life people. The scenarios could go on and on, but basically, start thinking about balance as a long-term process, where the balance happens over longer lengths of time. Balance involves a little of this and a little of that on one day, or lots of this on one day, and lots of that on another day. OR lots of this for 3 months and lots of that for the next 3 months.

*photos pictured
1. Yes, Amaleah is on stilts. That’s how she rolls. And she’s doing her best to make our family look like a circus.
2. Picking out Grays. It’s hard work.
3. I had to convince Luke that the kids should be allowed to paint a wall, and he patiently allowed it. Of course then I was the one who scrubbed the floor later after all the paint they dripped soaked through the sheet. But it’s all good.
4. Spinach Pesto over pasta and fresh tomatoes (we have a bumper crop of tomatoes from our unattended garden this summer, seriously). And no, I did not make this while I was painting the house. Remember the balance thing. 

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