Sunday, 30 November 2008

Balancing Act

I've been thoroughly enjoying reading Jean's blog lately... she's been talking about some of the issues Christian women encounter trying to balance the different demands of life, which I've found challenging and encouraging.

In a recent post she asked people to share their thoughts on balancing "ministry" (or "doing things for God" as I prefer to call it ;) ) inside and outside the home and I thought rather than just commenting on her blog I might as well get a blog post out of it myself!

Some random thoughts on the topic:

* It's important to realise that everything families do is going to involve costs and benefits - it's not just "ministry" that makes demands on families. Every family makes sacrifices for the things they regard as important (eg kids doing more household chores because both parents are working, financial restricitons to make sure the kids have music lessons, waking up early to get little Johnny to cricket on Saturday morning). For me it's important that the sacrifices my family makes are for the things God thinks are important. I feel a bit concerned that people will think some of the decisions my family is making are asking too much of my kids so I need to remind myself that every family makes sacrifices... they're just different kinds of sacrifices for different things.

* Another thing I've been thinking about is the tension I feel between letting kids feel the cost of having God's priorities - because there IS a cost, the Bible is clear about that - and my instinct as a parent to try to protect my kids and shield them from anything difficult. Being a Christian isn't easy; alot of the things the Bible says seem downright wierd, if not completely stupid to the rest of the world and it's a really hard thing to be thought of as a wierd or stupid person. If I want my kids to grow up with a real faith in Jesus I need to prepare them for the "cost" part of being a Christian.

* There are so many ways to do things for God that I'm only limited by my own imagination and flexibility - there will always be more opportunities than I can possibly hope to take up, so the challenge is to find the ones that will have greatest benefit without too much cost to my family. I don't really feel very limited by my small children ... I just need to think outside the box a bit to find heaps of worthwhile things ways to serve God.

* Something I've realised is that if my family is going to make sacrifices to do what God wants us to, I can't expect my family to also make sacrifices for too many other things (eg my hobbies, my slackness or disorganisation). For me this means I don't get nearly as much time as I'd like to to do the various crafty things I'd love to do, and I've had to make a rule for myself that the computer doesn't go on while the kids are awake.

* I think that the parents (not the kids) should cop the brunt of the "making sacrifices" part of serving God. One hard thing for Jeremy is that this means he hardly has any leisure time and one hard thing for me is that we never get time to do any maintenance around the house or garden.

How it looks for me / my family at the moment:

* Aim to have time to read stories, play games, talk, sing, tickle, chase and generally enjoy my kids every day.
* Aim to be home for a midday rest for everyone.
* Prioritise my relationship with Jeremy - I figure if our marriage isn't strong then everything else will fall apart.

I do:

* Make meals for people
* Mind other peoples' kids
* Get my house ready for a bible study every week
* Stay awake for said bible study even though I'm usually exhausted
* Try to have a rest on the afternoon of the bible study so I'm not completely exhausted (obviously this is only semi-successful!)
* Help my husband make plans to study theology full time next year
* Try to read the Bible and pray every day
* Ring my sick Grandma and visit her as often as possible
* Try to be cheerful when I have to get up at the crack of dawn every morning with my kids
* Go to church every week
* Teach the toddler Sunday school class 1/3 of the year

I don't:
* Go to my mothers' group anymore because playgroup at church is on the same morning and I think it's more worthwhile
* Go to the womens' bible study at church because my kids get really distressed when I leave them in the creche
* Iron our clothes (I do wash them though!)
* Visit many people without kids because I'm worried my kids will ransack their houses. I want to work on that one though
* Get as much time as I'd like to do things with Jeremy, or with our family of 4
* Have people over as often as I think we should
* Care for the people in our Bible study group very well (eg with emails, phone calls, socialising)

So there you go, there's some thoughts on the topic, and how it looks (in part) for us at the moment. There's obviously alot of room for improvement, and we're about to enter the impoverished world of student life next year, so that will be a new challenge... I'll have to see how we go with that!

Anyone have any thoughts to add? I'll keep thinking about this and post again soon.


Jean said...

Lucy, I really enjoyed reading that, thankyou for your reflections. I loved your list of "non-negotiables", and it was interesting to hear what ministries you do, what ministries you don't do for the sake of the kids, and so on. Thanks for a glimpse into your life! I suspect many mums could relate to lots of what you said.

Nicole said...

Thanks for this! I especially appreciated your thoughts on teaching your children about the cost of following Jesus. I also liked the way you explained the reasons behind what things you will and won't do.

Russ said...

Thanks for the post, Lucy. It was really helpful, especially being a male and so in some senses sitting on the other side of the fence. (Or maybe just a slightly different shaped fence.)

A good book we've found on marriage recently is Married for God by Christopher Ash. He has a really helpful reflection on the creation account, emphasising that the goal of marriage is service, not "relational fulfilment" (though that can be a wonderful side-benefit). It sounds a bit radical, but I found his thoughts really helpful, especially when having to decide on the sacrifices our kids and we have to make. It means those sacrifices are right—they're the right thing to do give how God's made marriage. I found that encouraging and has made me feel less guilty about the things Talia will probably miss out on because of our choosing to be ministers, and not "working professionals".

Lucy said...

Thanks everyone :) I'll check out that book Russell - sounds great!