The Truth About Busyness

We’re just so busy.

In all the years I had known her, the answer was always the same.

“Why don’t you guys take some time out, just for the two of you?”

We’re just so busy.

One day it dawned on me that we’d been having the same conversation for eight years. The ugly truth was that there was always going to be another project to tackle, another sports team to coach, another ministry to lead, another box to check off the infinite to-do list.

At the time, accepting this truth: how we lived a perpetually busy life was what mattered—and preaching it to my friend wasn’t that difficult because my own life wasn’t moving at such a lightening-quick pace.

But, as you know, leaders get antsy when they’re not in the throes. Over the years, my pace has continued to swell. This fall it turned into a full-on sprint when I went back to work for the first time in almost nine years. Always running a step behind, I feel like I never give my full attention to any one thing. Paradoxically, I’ve never been more energized by my God-given calling. The ping-pong match between passions—family and living out my influence—is maddening.

So I’ve been searching (somewhat desperately, borderline neurotically) for someone a few stages ahead to flip me the magic pill. I grab women’s hands across dinner tables, I plead with them on the phone, I stare them down in church hallways and I beg them to tell me they’ve figured out how to make it all work.

And, more directly, to tell me that I will too.

But none of them will say the words, because they know the truth I spewed at my friend years ago: There will never come a day, no matter how old or seasoned we get, when our boxes are checked, when our kids don’t need us, when we are void of God’s passion to make a difference; when we kick up our feet and finally declare, “Whew, I just can’t quite find enough things to do.”

Strangely, the non-answers have been reassuring. They teach me that God transforms our hearts in spite of the chaos, maybe even because of it. I’m clutching the wisdom of those who have gone before me, like soaking in Nancy Ortberg’s acumen of cultivating a well-ordered heart; like learning from a Thai missionary (via blogger Helen Lee) that balance can be viewed over a lifetime, not days; like shifting perspective by ingesting Mary Byers’ epiphany of rejecting balance and instead holistically integrating the people and passion in our lives.  If you haven’t yet read this issue of FullFill™ on Balance (because you’re so busy),  can I encourage you to click through right now and take a peek?

Don’t get me wrong, given the choice, I’d still pop the magic pill. But rather than striving to perfect that which is elusive, I’ll instead choose to engage the process, accepting the messiness that is life, asking questions of those who know better, making corrections when I fail and doing my best to honor God and the people in my life along the way.

 So tell me friend, what are you learning about juggling life?

*This post first appeared on December 6 at the FullFill Blog.

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4 thoughts on “The Truth About Busyness

  1. Susie, I read an article long ago when Jess and Mindy were young. It said that sometimes you have to make an appointment with your self. You have to write it down on the calendar. This would be an appointment to go out to eat with Eric, sit down and read a book, get in touch with your cousins (hint-hint) or any other thing that would make YOU happy. If you are asked to do something for someone else and it isn’t an emergency, you just tell that person that you have an appointment on that date. This would be true – you have an appointment with yourself. You have to keep yourself in check a little. That isn’t being selfish, it is being smart. Go on Susie, make that appointment and see what happens.

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    • Kathy, you are always full of great reminders. This reminds me of the greatest commandment when Jesus says to “love others as you love yourself.” We beat ourselves up over the “others” part and forget about the “yourself” part, or feel selfish when we do. Actually, I’m not afraid to take time out for myself when I need it (Eric would probably say too much!) but as women specifically, it’s hard not to feel like we do it at the detriment of our spouse and family even though we know in the long run it’s better for everyone. (If mama’s not happy…) Sometimes it feels like a double-edged sword, but I agree, it’s a non-negotiable.

      On the flip side, I will say the tension has given me a new perspective about what men/dads feel like when they are trying to be good in their professions and good at home. Sometimes (maybe often) I’m guilty of not extending the same grace I feel like I deserve. My trying to balance has given me empathy for the other side. (Ha! Laughing at how I typed the “other side” like it’s the dark part of the force.)

      One last thought: I have a friend who works full-time, is going to school, is a mom, etc. who often says, “I need a wife.” I quote it all of the time : )

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  2. Thanks, Suanne, for mentioning me! Ah, the search for balance…elusive for me at best! But taking my friend Grace’s advice to heart, sometimes for me this means that I strive to keep the ebb and flow of life such that no one part gets ignored too long. So for myself, the main categories are, in no particular order: 1) kids (which includes homeschooling, shuttling them to and fro, etc.); 2) house duties (laundry, cleaning up, etc.); 3) writing/career endeavors; 4) church ministry; 5) relationships (husband and friends). (Of course God is overarching all these!) There are days in which I will find I must necessarily focus on one or a few of these, and then I’ll shift gears and go the other way. I’ve learned to let go when, for example, the house stuff doesn’t get done for a while, but there comes a point where it cannot get ignored any more so I have to put other things on the back burner. And so the ebb and flow goes. I’d still rather have all these balls in the air than none at all! And I’m okay with the fact that I’m not just focusing on one area alone–I want to be involved in all these different things (ok, except the laundry and such!)–and it makes life so much more interesting and adventurous! My involvement in activities that allow me to use my gifts and abilities helps to breathe life and peace into me to sustain me in some of the other things that I’m less excited about (dare I mention laundry again???) Anyway, forgive the rambling but I think you’re on the right track with embracing the messiness! Who says life should be anything but? =)

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  3. My friend Janice sent me an email about this post. I asked her if I could share some of her wisdom and she graciously said yes. Thanks Janice!

    “…All the plates are going, and some are wobbly, and all I can do is run from plate to plate giving them a quick one-handed whirl so they don’t fall and crash. But you never get rid of any of them, and so they continue to need spinning.

    So I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know for a long time I’ve been praying for balance. I knew that’s what I needed and that I’d feel so much better. Not perfection, just balance.

    I try to remember that life is all about choices. We choose what we do and what we think we ‘have’ to do because ‘they’ say so. I make a statement about what I think is important and that shows up in how I spend my time, money and energy. But at any time, I can choose to stop doing all of this crazy DuPage county lifestyle. I often have to remind myself to ‘raise your hand if you’re the mom.’ Meaning I’m the one who makes a lot of the choices and could stop if I wanted to. But I don’t, so on some level, I must like it. And so we go on…”

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