There is an unspoken myth I see in the lives of women when it comes to the idea of finding balance. Simply put, the myth says, “Achieving balance means everything in life is in balance.” This myth whispers to women that if you are achieving balance you will find time to have and do it all – friends, family, work, play, physical health, mental growth, spiritual growth, and time to cook, clean and manage the house.
This is a complete lie.
The truth about balance is that it isn’t balanced at all! What God has taught me over the years through experience, wise mentors, and Scripture, is that balance is really the ability to provide myself with good self-care as I seek God, trusting He is in control of the rest. When I take care of myself, not in a narcissistic “me, me, me” way, but in a healthy way, I have more to give to the things in my life that God is calling me to get done. The key is to remember that God’s “to do” list might look very different than mine.
I first started to grasp this concept 15 years ago at a women’s conference in Houston, Texas. Author and speaker Jill Briscoe, then in her 70’s, was the keynote speaker for the weekend. Throughout the course of the weekend, Jill would teach us all day and then fly out at the end of the evening to be with her husband who was hospitalized in another city. Then in the mornings she would catch an early flight back to Houston to teach at the conference. It sounded exhausting.
Over lunch one afternoon, some of the women attending asked Jill how she was holding up and how she was able to get so much accomplished. She smiled and said, “There are many things I want to do, but I trust that the things God allows me to get done are the only ones He is asking me to do each day.” She went on to say that she knew she was called to teach us that weekend, needed to be available for her husband, and that God was making sure it all happened according to His agenda.
Jill’s wise words have come to mind many times over the years. Regardless of the season of life I was in, they have proven to be truer than I ever could have imagined. As I have learned to seek God first and engage in good self-care, everything that needs to be done indeed does get done. The key has been to remember I’m following God’s agenda, not mine. When I remember this, balance and peace reign. When I forget it, frustration and stress rises. So let me share a few examples of what this has practically looked liked over the years.
When my children were 8 and 12 God led me to go back to school. For my husband and I, there was the realization that to have balance I could not work full time, go to school full time, and be a good wife, mother, friend, etc. To give up working was extremely difficult and made me feel like I was putting our family under financial stress. But as we honored God in this new endeavor and chose to seek balance, our finances were stretched and we had peace.
A few times I tried to take on part-time jobs, but they always ended abruptly because I couldn’t seem to make my schedule work. I believe work was the one thing God clearly hadn’t called me to do that during that season.
Years later as I moved into a full time ministry role, balance became increasingly difficult to find as I worked 6 days a week at a church. Knowing the keys to balance are seeking God and self-care, I decided to get creative. While I loved being at church on Saturdays and Sundays, I was still working and needed a day of Sabbath rest for myself. So Friday became my Sabbath. My family knew that on Fridays I would not cook, clean, grocery shop, or do laundry because it was my day to rest and be with God. Interestingly, God honored this, giving me extra time through the week when I was already in work mode to get these things done.
Recently life has been turned upside down as finding balance has required a huge necessary change. Looking at my life, two things were bringing stress – time away from family and a desire to write. My kids are 19 and 22 now and we’ve moved into the season of life where we see each other most on weekends and holidays – the times I’m always at church. Add to this my desire to write, but finding it impossible to keep a 6-day work schedule, seek the heart of God, and then to write about what He revealed while still maintaining a good family system. So God asked me to let go of the job and follow him into new endeavors.
Sometimes the necessary steps we must take to find balance are painful.
It has been ridiculously hard to leave a job I loved and I’ve spent months grieving that loss. Still, I’m beginning to see God’s hand moving to restore and lead me to the balance He’s called me to for this next season of life. In fact, over the past few weeks God has put all the pieces together for me. He’s lead me to a job where I get to counsel people a few days a week while using the other days to continue writing and teaching. The bonus is that I get the weekends with my family back.
God knows what each one of us needs in every season of life. The question is do we trust him. Even when we do trust him, sometimes life gets rocky and in our humanness we will feel like we should be accomplishing more or that God is somehow letting us down. Don’t beat yourself up. Keep holding onto Jesus, looking to him even when you don’t understand, and trust the things you’re getting done each day, big or small, are the only things He’s calling you to do.
Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC, NCC
Stephanie is a licensed professional counselor, Bible teacher, writer, and passionate advocate of hope! She believes hope is a good and beautiful thing and her desire is to show those who are searching for it that hope is real. Stephanie believes God's Word to be what most clearly "echoes" hope and writes about the truths she sees on her blog, Echoes of Hope.
You can Connect with Stephanie here:
Twitter: @Echoes of Hope