Spinning plates: finding balance in our busy lives

Japanese woman in traditional dress spinning plates.

Lately I feel as if I am spinning plates: tending to the needs of our home with cooking, shopping, cleaning for a birthday party this weekend, doing laundry; homeschooling; blogging; writing; working on an upcoming speaking presentation; and most recently, beginning an at-home, side business with Ray. I told my sister Maria today that I can always tell if my life is in order: I look at the laundry. She laughed, but I was totally serious!
If there is a huge mountain of laundry that needs to be washed, I know my life is out of balance in some area(s). Two of our daughters now are married and have children of their own (with their laundry), so there’s only three of us living here now. Yet it seems laundry multiplies, especially when my life gets out of order.The last two days, I have searched for the floor of the utility room, where our washer and dryer are.

The orange-brown, 1980’s carpet (it was already here when we moved in) is nowhere to be found, because it is covered in overflowing laundry. Which might not be a bad thing, considering how ugly the carpet is. But how can three people have this many clothes – especially when each time I look into my closet, there is nothing to wear!

The key is balance. A great quote by Catherine Pusifier, from We Never Seem to Have Enough Time, is: “We need to maintain a proper balance in our life by allocating the time we have. There are occasions where saying no is the best time management practice there is.”
Sometimes we do need to say no. No, I will not attend that class during the weekday, because I have some things to do at home that need to be finished. No, I will not go shopping today because we need to work on Leah’s algebra lesson now. No, I will not eat that brownie….well, maybe one brownie, lol. But we need to learn the power of the word NO. It is very freeing.

Saying no, pruning some activities, is not always enough, though. I believe the lesson here is not in how many activities we have in our life (although sometimes less is more), but in how much time we are giving to each of those areas. Some responsibilities will require more time and effort than others. We have to prioritize.

What matters the most? More importantly, who matters the most? “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
I desire for my priorities to always be God first, my family second, and then all other things follow. That is not always easy to do.

This might mean that I can’t blog every day (gasp!). I may have to set aside the article I was writing, and instead spend quality time with our daughter Leah. Just listening to her, talking to her, laughing with her over her funny dream last night. It might mean I can’t talk on the phone right now with my friend, or get on Facebook or Twitter right this moment…and instead, cook a good, hot meal for my husband, who had a long, 24-hour shift with vomiting patients all night.

Maybe I need to take a break from my long, to-do list, and do nothing for awhile…just relax. For someone who is very much a Martha, doing nothing seems like a complete waste of time! But Jesus thought Martha needed to take it easy, so she would not be so stressed out, worried, or frustrated:

“Now it happened, as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Martha was distracted. She was doing some very good things (after all, she was feeding God!). Jesus did not tell her she shouldn’t cook or practice hospitality. What he was addressing was her priorities being out of order. He wanted Martha to sit at His feet, like Mary ~ and then serve! When we take time to be still and rest in God’s presence, we will hear His word as Mary did. We will be taught by Jesus. We will be given the strength we need for the tasks that are at hand, the work that God wants us to do for His kingdom.
We will cultivate that intimacy with Jesus, which will carry us through each day with more ease and direction. His presence will give us peace, instead of turmoil. Spending time first with God will help us to balance our lives, to prioritize our responsibilities. He will help us with the spinning plates so they don’t come crashing down.

We may need to evaluate our lives to see if there is anything that is hindering us in our purpose and our destiny, and needs to be removed. Maybe we are trying to do too much, and we need to lighten our load. If you are feeling really tired, it’s your body’s way of saying slow down and rest. Cut back.

This is not always the case. Maybe we are supposed to be doing everything that we’re doing right now. But we’re spending too much time on one area, and neglecting the others sometimes. It would be like gaining weight in just one leg, while the other remains slender and muscular. We can lead very busy, productive lives, and still be aligned with God’s perfect will. Look at how busy Jesus was! But Jesus knew his first task was to spend time with God. He often went to the mountains alone to pray, sometimes all night.
Probably we don’t have all night to spend in prayer and Bible reading, but we do have ten minutes. We can start the day meditating on God’s word and getting our marching orders from God for the day. You just can’t beat a cup of coffee first thing, with God!
Well, it is late now. I am going to go to bed now. Because sleep is another priority in my life. We all need sufficient rest to function properly, and do what God has called us to do…spinning those plates perfectly. Finding balance is the key.

I want to close with a nice quote by Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarden.

“Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” ~ Robert Fulghum.

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