Have you ever wished you were Amish? You could spend time baking with your daughters, going to a quilting circle, or spending a Saturday afternoon on a picnic with your husband. There have been times in my life when cooking anything beyond frozen chicken strips seemed impossible, but instead of abandoning our modern way of life (and our electricity, phones, computers, and cars), I decided to do a better job at balancing my life so I could make time for cooking, and family, and times of togetherness.
Balance—it’s a not place you arrive at and pound in your stake. It’s an ebb and flow that takes looking at your schedule and making constant adjustments. Four years ago I balanced pre-teens and teenagers in the house. Now I have a married son (and daughter-in-law and grandson), two college students, and a toddler daughter. Things haven’t slowed down one bit! (So if you’re think things will slow down next week, next month, or next year, I wouldn’t count on that.)
Balance is setting your focus on the things that matter most, and not giving your attention to things that aren’t as important. These help me to balance well:
1. Quiet time in the morning. I usually wake up 1-1/2 hours before everyone else. I exercise, read my Bible, pray, and journal. If Mama gets this “quiet” time, the rest of the day goes 100% better. This makes sense because the best place we can center our attention is on Jesus. Jesus isn’t just around to make our life better. He is our life. He isn’t around to help us be good, Jesus should be the source of everything we do. Our love and service to those around us should be an outpouring of His love and service. Life is not about making a commitment to Him. It’s surrendering to Him, realizing we have nothing to offer, yet with Christ-in-us we have everything to give.
2. Weekly date nights with my spouse. We NEED this. We need time to foster our relationship and fall in love again every week. Every strong home has one thing in common—a good foundation. Without unity and mutual commitment, a house will start to crumble. More than that, my husband centers my attention. I tend to get caught up in the daily little things, and John is great about reminding me, “Do you really need to be worrying about that?” John also is the one who gives me a reality check and reminds me that I can’t do everything—no one can. Also, our commitment to each other is one of the best examples we can be living out for our children.
3. Daily prayer and Scripture reading with my husband. Again our marriage relationship is the foundation of the home, and we strive to build our relationship around God. When we take time to read God’s Word together before John goes to work, it’s placing our attention on Who really is the head of our home. God’s Word also nestles in our heart, which makes it easy to refer to it during the day when the challenges of life come (as they always do).
4. Family trips. There are two reasons why the Amish still use buggies. First, it’s that they do not want to conform to the world. Second, they don’t want their family members racing every-which-way in a hurried pace. Those are both worthwhile concerns. With two working adults and young adults who both work and go to college, it seems the only way we get quality time together is to leave town. We travel together as a family three or four times a year, including vacations and weekend trips. It’s a time to leave work and school behind and enjoy one another. A few weeks ago we went to Branson, Missouri, together where we explored a cave, went to a dinner show, and raced around Silver Dollar City (which is like stepping back into a slower-paced time). Once we got home, work and school started up again, but for two days we were together making memories.
5. Dinners together. With the Amish, gathering the family around the dinner table is a daily occurrence. People have been living that way for generations, and it’s only been in the last twenty years that folks seem to think that organized sports or other extracurricular pursuits are more important that family time and breaking bread together. I decided thirteen years ago that I’d rather have my kids’ best memories be of us around the table, chatting about our day, than doing sprints at basketball practice. (Not that I’m against basketball or any sport, it’s just that I limit it to one extracurricular activity per child, per year.) And even though making dinner takes planning and time, I’ve discovered my husband can easily overlook a messy house and a screaming toddler if a good meal is on the table. Now because dinner together is such a habit, my children refuse to eat if Dad’s still at work. They’d rather eat a tepid, re-heated meal than miss that time around the table.
So while you won’t find me trading my iPod for a bonnet anytime soon, I do try to balance my life by focusing on the most important parts first. Like the Amish show us, making time to feed, care for, and seek God with our and family is something that should be a priority. Something we’ll never regret.