Balance….it’s not what you think

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Balance.  We all need it.  It seems we are all searching for ways to get there, too.  It’s no easy task to live a balanced life these days!  The definition of balance is a means of judging or deciding and/or mental and emotional steadiness.  I’ve often asked myself, how do I balance it all?  With four kids ranging in age from 18 down to 3, it’s hard keeping up with all the activities, chores, homeschooling, Sunday School teaching, co-op preparations, a new Sunday night program I’m starting in August, husband pleasing, menu planning, grocery shopping, meal prep, etc., etc., etc.  That doesn’t even include the schedule or my times alone with the Lord.  I often feel frazzled, and it’s no wonder.  Busyness is taking over our culture.  If we aren’t busy, we question if we’re doing enough.

I seem to feel more “balanced” when I have a To-Do List.  I can’t seem to function without one.  Routines are also key.  Doing the same things every day in the exact same order. They don’t have to be a certain time, as long as they are in the same order. If I don’t have a To-Do List or follow my routines, I get nothing productive done.  I also have to set alarms on my phone for everything, or I’d forget.  Things like gymnastics, story time at the library, when to pick my kids up from events, trash day, etc.  Is this normal?  Or, am I just frazzled?  LOL!

I always thought that balance in life meant figuring out how to make everything in my day work out smoothly, without stress. It was something that I had to schedule correctly, work through, or make happen. I even thought that praying for a more balanced life was a good thing, and it is. But, I think balance is not exactly what I’ve been thinking it is.  I recently wrote this post about resources I have used to help me have a clean and organized home.  One of those resources that I’m reading through currently is a book called Unstuffed. It deals with our stuff/belongings, our mind, our schedules, and our spirits.  And, I’m finding out that balance really has nothing to do with what “I” do. I can’t do anything to become more balanced. I can only find rest. Rest is what keeps me balanced. Why did it take me SO LONG to realize this? I mean, it’s clearly laid out in the creation account of Genesis. God did all his work in six days, and on the seventh He rested. He didn’t need to rest, He was just giving us an example to follow. Yet, in this day and age, we don’t see that NEED for rest. We feel like we have to go 100 miles a minute, and keep pushing through to get just one more thing done.  I think it’s also making sure that after we get a full day of rest once a week, that we focus on four areas to keep us from that frazzled state.

  1. Spiritual – Remain steadfast in God’s Word and in a healthy prayer life.  Keep sin at bay by asking for forgiveness often and repenting or turning from the sin.  Forgive others as the Lord has forgiven you.  Be thankful in all circumstances and for all things.  We are truly blessed.  Serve others in love.
  2. Physical – Eat healthy foods and get active.  Whether that means walking or a full on workout.  Exercise is great for your body, but it’s also great for your mood.  Give it a try and see for yourself.  I enjoy water aerobics when the weather is nice, Pilates for strength training, yoga for stretching and relaxation, and I’m checking into T-Tapp which is something I’ve just learned about.
  3. Mental – Feed your mind.  Never stop learning.  I always have books on hand to read, and now we have blogs, and articles all over the internet.  Learn something new.  Keep your mind active.  Fill it with good things, and stay away from negative things that can cause a negative attitude or mindset.
  4. Emotional – Be a friend.  Stay positive.  Think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely.  Laugh a lot!  Do things that make you happy.  I’ve recently discovered that I enjoy doing art.  It brings me joy.  Make it a point to be in contact with people who encourage you, challenge you, and lift you up.

So, I believe to have a balanced life, we must REST.  It’s the key.  What are some ways you try to remain balanced?  Do you think REST is important?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I am planning to continue studying up on this.  I recently ordered the Bible Study called Living a Life of Balance (Women of Faith Series).  Can’t wait to get started on it and see what it says about having a balanced life!

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The Temptation of Pride

I am a long time follower of Jesus.  My relationship with the Lord began when I was a child, and I learned to study God’s Word as a teenager.  I’ve had lots of ups and downs in studying God’s Word through many different periods of my life.  I think all Christians do.  However, I’ve recently discovered that sometimes long time Christians who’ve read parts of the Bible over and over again can become numb to the words.  So, in considering this, I asked myself: “Why is this?”  We become numb to it, or feel like we aren’t getting anything out of it, even though the study time began with prayer and we’re reading our Bibles daily.  Surely I’m not the only one that feels this way.  We are so busy in this day and age.  Myself included!  Sometimes I think we are so busy that we just can’t slow our minds down enough to ingest what the Lord is wanting to tell us.  So, in our rushed minds, we also rush through our study of the Bible and feel nothing.  We just have a common routine of being able to check our study off our daily to do list.  Does this mean we shouldn’t have this daily routine, especially if we feel we never get anything out of it?  Absolutely not!  Good habits are sometimes difficult to maintain, so making it a priority to even open the Word is important.  But, I think when we feel we aren’t getting anything out of it, we are really just forgetting to open our hearts and minds, and to slow the pace within us.

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I know this has been me, more often than I’d like to admit.  Often times I have my To-Do List that is always considerably longer than I’m even capable of completing in a day’s time lingering in my mind, and I feel like I have to hurry and get things done, including my time with the Lord.  This is the ‘Martha’ in me, and not the ‘Mary’.  (See Luke 10:38-42)  I’m more worried about what gets accomplished than I am about hearing from the Lord, and growing in His Word.  God’s Word tells us in Isaiah 55:10-11, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  So, if God’s Word is true, and I believe it is 100%, then we are meant to receive something from the Lord EACH and EVERY time we open His Word.  So, why do so many people NOT feel like they do?

I know this has been me, because when I really, truly, deeply within myself am hungering for growth, the Lord shows me something new; something that’s been there all along, mind you, but I was too rushed to see it and soak it in.  I’ve also read the same passages over and over again, reading the words like I read a story, and not really thinking much about what I’m reading.  So, I come away ‘knowing’ the story, but not really the message behind the story.  One such story that I know I’ve missed messages in, or didn’t understand the complete message was the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32.  I always thought the whole story was about the son that took his share of his inheritance, squandered it in wild living, and then came to his senses and returned to his father, who was waiting for him with open arms. I also always felt the older brother had reason to be upset!  So, I tended to side with him.  However, in really studying the passage, I came to realize that passage has a lot to say about the older brother.  In fact, nearly half of the story is about the older brother.  And, I realized that the older brother really had a heart problem.  He felt he’d done no wrong, and didn’t understand why his ‘naughty’ brother was getting all the attention.  The Lord showed me that the older brother was in fact wrong.  He had a prideful heart!  He felt as though he was better than his brother.  But, Jesus takes us as we are…..good, bad, and ugly.  Another story that I had read multiple times was the story of Mary and Martha (mentioned above).  I felt Martha’s pain!  I couldn’t understand why the Lord rubuked her when all she wanted was some help.  But again, it was a heart problem.  Mary had chosen relationships over regular duties.  Martha was probably worried about cleaning the house, and preparing a meal.  But, Jesus wants our hearts much more than our service.  How did I miss these messages for so many years?  I believe that it’s a prideful heart that causes us not to hear from the Lord.  We think….I’m doing the right thing, I’m spending time in His Word and in prayer.  But, deep down we think we’ve heard all of this before, that what we’re reading is boring or doesn’t apply to our exact situation.  So we try to go at this life on our own figuring we can take care of whatever we happen to be going through on our own.

Thank You, Lord, for putting up with my pride.  Create in me a clean heart and a humble spirit.  I want to feel what Hebrews 4:12 says:  “For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

May we all slow our pace, get rid of our pride, and really desire to grow in His Word, and in better relationship with Him.

The Meaning Behind Strings to Wings

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I have wanted to write for a very long time.  I started writing when I was a teen, but it was just in personal journals that I began with:  “Dear Imagination”.  Now I see that and think it is rather funny.  But, it was during those times of writing in my journals and studying God’s Word those many years ago, that I felt like writing was something I could do.  I enjoyed writing.  It made me smile, released whatever feelings I may have been having, and it just felt right.

I remember one summer, after I came home from a Christian Youth Camp called Super Summer, I would sit in the quiet of my room for hours everyday, just listening to Christian music and spending time in prayer and Bible Study.  I loved that time in my life.  I grew so much Spiritually during that time and it was beautiful!  I even remember my mom, at one time, being concerned about me because I was spending so much time hanging out in my room.  But, to me, it was a place where I could meet with the Lord and be filled.

It was during that time, I began writing a devotional/journal/notebook that I called AGOGE, which is greek for Manner of Living.  At that time, I did everything with pen and paper, kind of like a sketch of what I hoped it would become.  We didn’t own a computer, this was the late 80’s or early 90’s and computers were just starting to become common place.  But, I did what I could with what I had.  I did own a pretty fancy typewriter that erased if you made a mistake, which was heaven to me after using one that you had to pull the paper completely out, white out your mistake, then try to realign your paper to type over where you made the mistake.  I was very grateful to have the typewriter that corrected mistakes!  (And, now I am extra thrilled to have a husband who owns a computer business!)

Anyway, I made the devotional/journal/notebook and once I had it typed how I wanted it, 3 hole punched, and put into a small notebook, I took it to my pastor to show him.  He was such an encouragement to me!  He told me that I had a gift and that I really ought to try to get the book published.  Well, I was a teenager!  I had no idea how to do that, but he gave me some information to check into and encouraged me to run with it.  He is also the one that helped me come up with the name AGOGE.  I am forever grateful, and to this day I think of him as the best pastor I’ve ever had.  (Not just because he encouraged my writing, but because he preached with conviction, he lived what he preached, he loved on our family, and he mentored many people into true disciples of Jesus Christ.)  He is retired now, but he is still very much active in ministry.  That’s the way it should be when you love Jesus!

I regret to say that I never did get AGOGE published.  I still have it tucked away in a file cabinet. But, I did happen to to make several copies of it and sold it for super cheap (probably the price of the notebook) to people who wanted a copy.  And, it did sell.  I was happy with that.

I tell you all of this as background.  Once I got married, and involved in Youth Ministry with my husband, my writing got put on the back burner.  I was living life.  I was newly married, learning ministry with my husband, and working.  My creativity played out in new ways then.  I LOVED to decorate homes, try out faux painting techniques, refinish things, and the like.  I also worked full-time, so I just had to fit in these creative activities when I had time.  And, then we began having children.  Well, with one child, the creativity continued into scrapbooking, along with the previous mentioned things.  But, once the second baby came, along with feeding issues and doctor visits, all came to an abrupt halt.  Once we got through the difficulties, more life happened and more struggles occured.  Maybe someday I can write about those bumps in my life, but those will be for other posts.  I am grateful now for the struggles and bumps, even as difficult as they were, because God used them to shape me into the person I am today, and He continues to work in my life growing me into the exact person He wants me to be.

Now we have 4 children, and have been married for 22 years.  My husband is still doing youth ministry, but I stay at home to homeschool my kiddos (one is about to graduate this year, and my youngest hasn’t even started school yet), and life has been super crazy.  However, I feel the Lord nudging me on to venture back into writing.  Except this time through blogging.  I’m excited and thrilled!

Remember how I mentioned above the struggles and bumps along the journey my life has taken me?  Well, it was through those difficult times that God gave me the thought of how my heart is on a string.  It is super fragile, but placed in His hands will be held and given wings to fly above whatever circumstances come my way.  And, in training and raising my children, I have the same goals for them.  That I will eventually help them to cut the ties at home and be able to fly on wings as eagles.  So, originally I came up with a super long blog post name.  It was….Hearts on Strings Getting Wings.  But, after speaking with a good friend who also blogs, she encouraged me to shorten it, as it was too long.  So, I came up with Strings to Wings.

We all are on a journey through this life, and all of us have fragile hearts.  Hopefully when the pressures of life come and the strings get worn or cut, we will have grown enough to not fall to the ground, but to fly above those circumstances, and soar.