How Much is Too Much? Learning to Live a More Balanced Life

Finally! The weather and my work schedule has co-operated enough to allow me some clean up time at the house! I am afraid that it is only a “lick and a promise” though (as my mom would say). The bathrooms are clean and I’ve wiped all the counters, but I really would like to get in deep and give all the rooms a good make over. I am beginning to look around and say “wow…we have a lot of “stuff”!” As I try to live a little more “green”, I am beginning to see just how much we have accumulated over the years. We have been blessed enough to be able to buy what we want… and we have. I have a lot of high hopes for things… projects and crafts I want to tackle, furniture I want to refinish, new things I want to learn, and often I can’t say no to a great deal at the thrift store! Time and energy simply get the better of me and my best laid plans get pushed aside to the back of the basement… again. I sound like those hoarders on the documentaries… I wanted to, but just didn’t. Then somehow the piles begin to take over.

The truth is, most of our society has become this way hasn’t it? We always are dreaming bigger, wanting more, and pushing the limits. Even the minimalists are driving forward with their agenda of quality not quantity. My friend describes it as the “new piety”. If I live this way with these things, then you should too…and if you don’t, then you are doing it wrong. If this lifestyle, or this diet, or this gadget, or this, or that, is the way I like, then it must be the best for everyone. And so we must accept it. But how much is too much? Somewhere along the line we have lost balance. Myself included.

I tend to be an all or nothing kinda gal… ask my friends… I love a good project. A task that I can focus all my attention on. Therein lies the problem, though… it takes all my attention. The rest of the world begins to fall down all around me but my blinders prevent me from seeing it. I think I’m not the only one with such tunnel vision, though. So much of our world is “micro-managed” with minority groups driving home very specific opinions on very specific topics. Even our careers and educational paths have taken on this micro vision. Health care, too, has become so finite. We see one specialist for one problem and then have to see three others for the side effects. It can be a little frustrating. We become “specialists”– but masters of nothing.

Photo from link below

We recently saw a film called “The Biggest Little Farm“… a documentary that followed a Californian couple who gave up their city life to try their hand at a new wave of farming. (I think the hubby suggested it to tame my want for chickens…which didn’t work, but I digress). Under capable (yet slightly radical) mentorship, they decided to diversify their farm. They planted a variety of fruit trees instead of one crop, and varied their livestock to share in the load. The idea was balance. Their mentor assured them, that in time, the land itself would balance out, that their farm would flourish with the ebb and flow of predator and prey and nutrient renewal. Science tells us this is true, yet, I couldn’t help but muse how spiritual the message was. We are just finishing a study of the gospel of Mark in our small group. It’s fascinating to me how the gospels show us this idea of Jesus’ perfect balance between a focused plan and the bigger picture.

Christ, the messiah, knew He was coming to earth to fulfill a very specific purpose. He had a goal. A set task. Yet in the height of His ministry he still was conscious that He needed to take time aside for self care, reflection and prayer. He healed many, yet not all. He planned for the future, but often didn’t know where He would sleep at night. He had no means of salary, but never seemed to go hungry. He surrounded Himself with both women and men, with rich and poor, with educated and outcasts. There was no false piety, there was simply a message. Jesus didn’t promise that His way was the easiest, either. Being a Jesus follower did not guarantee the easy road, nor does it now. But it does bring profound hope.

I think, it is this hope that we are all struggling to fill with our stuff, our visions, our drive for the ultimate. We want our futures to be sealed with security. I too, struggle with the future unknown. I’m always looking for something new… “just in case”. That’s the delight of the faith journey though… it’s a journey. A continual path to Heaven that starts when we take the first step out in faith. It then becomes a winding path of checks and balances, but ever encompasses that Hope that guides us onward. So how much is too much? When we become so blinded by all the stuff that we can’t see the forest for the trees. When we begin to lose hope because we have not taken the time to get back on the right path, or the path is blocked by a narrowly focused tunnel. We need a little mix of all to keep the balance. I’m not there yet, either, but learning… anyone need some glass jars? I think I have too many…

I Challenge You!

Finally had a little break from the busy work schedule of last week! I escaped North to visit the oldest beloved. It means I will have lots of work to do when I get back home, so it may not really be too much of a break, but for now, I am relishing the quiet. An introvert needs her time to recoup, you know!

Today, we worshiped at her church… a younger crowd of Jesus followers meeting together to praise the Lord with a little more flash and flourish than I am used to, but a great Bible based message was given, and I am thankful she has found a place where her faith can continue to grow away from home. The pastor’s sermons are relevant connections to the group living there, intended for their special circumstances and neighbourhood. It is different from ours at home… and that is okay. Which got me thinking about an activity I saw in a classroom about a month ago.

The teacher had a bulletin board displayed with challenges that the students made up for their peers to attempt. Simple things like “write a poem like me”, or “play the game I made for you to try” or “make up a cool emoji to use to describe your feelings”. My understanding is, that it was an exercise to create some student choice, as well as an activity that allowed the students to interact and learn from their peers. I thought it was quite a noble concept for public school — and got me thinking about the world as a whole.

I have many friends who have chosen to home school their children. Others who choose to send their children to private or religion based schools. When our eldest was born, we explored various options as well — even considering Montessori learning. As parents, we want the best education possible for our kids. We also want our values and culture to be relevant and present in the lives of our beloveds as well. For many of us, this includes our faith. Especially at a stage where their development is so poignant to their future lives. Let’s face it – whatever we have exposure to when we are young, we tend to use as part of our future lives also.

But let’s get back to trying to condense my muse into something more concrete. I guess what I am trying to say, is that no matter what our background, no matter what our culture, no matter where we grew up, or what kind of life we have led, we come to the cross on the same level. Yet — we need to learn from — and be challenged by — our fellow humans. Our peers. Different cultures. Different methods of learning. Different methods of worship. To use our five senses in worship, thus allowing our faith to grow in whole body, soul, mind and spirit. Fellow students of Biblical learning, challenging one another in love, to go beyond what we know, to sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron. It’s a Biblical concept that instructs us to learn from each other, to meet together to fellowship, to share ideas and grow in our relationships. It’s part of who God made us to be. The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s day knew the law — but Jesus was always challenging them to live out what they learned… with grace and love.

I will be the first to admit that this is not easy for me. I am quick to be negative. I am quick to criticize this or that as not a “proper” method of worship. I, too, have my own biases and preferences. Therefore, I too, must do my research and discover if something is simply tradition, or is it a biblical practice? Can I learn from my peers and be challenged to try something different? Do I choose to hide from the “grey areas” of the faith world and not engage in discussions about difficult topics? Can I learn from someone else’s background? Or worse, will it strengthen my children’s faith by allowing them to be exposed to hard questions? To be confronted by their friends? Or do I hide and protect them from it all? It’s not an easy answer. Are you up for the challenge? I’d love to hear from you! In what ways have you been called to give an answer by others? Has it been easy or hard? Share in the comments!

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

It has been a crazy few weeks! Busy spring schedules means my house is a mess, I’m tired, the laundry is backed up, and things are just a tad bit grumpy around here. So, there is really no time for casual reading, despite my comfy couch calling my name as the sunbeams warm the spot! But before the chaos hit, I had the chance to finish up a book entitled “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” by Matthew Dicks. (FYI – Apparently the author goes by Matthew Green in Australia and the UK). I picked it up in one of the thrift shops we stopped at on our girl’s getaway a few weeks back. (You can read about those adventures, here).

The reviews label it as a “psychological novel”… and I am not quite sure what that means. But it’s good. It is also an auditory book, so if you prefer that, it might be a cool one to listen to on a car trip this summer? Personally, I loved it as a great read, and couldn’t put it down. It tells the story of Max, an elementary school-aged boy with some special needs, and his imaginary friend, Budo. Budo, although imaginary, and only seen and heard by Max, is quite “real” for an imaginary friend. (He has eyebrows!) He is also quite “old” for an imaginary friend (More than five years old — most imaginary friends get killed by kindergarten says Budo 🙂 ). He discovers, through twists and turns in the book, that the more he learns, the more he dislikes reality. Budo’s biggest reality? Imaginary friends do not last very long. And Budo has to make some tough decisions in order to help Max, which in turn, may bring about his own demise.

I’m not a “fluffy” book reader… I like some interesting (and slightly dark) twists in my novels — and this one had just enough to keep me up at night. It boasts of sacrifice and internal struggle and pushing forward. Budo has to face his fears. Ultimately, his friend, Max, does too. The author has made it quite creative, almost whimsical — there are some other meritorious imaginary friends described in the book, and a few teachers who tickled my funny bone, as well.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is not considered a “spiritual” book by any shape or form, but I couldn’t help but see the parallels it has to our own faith journeys. Faith being the operative word here. Have you ever felt like an imaginary friend? Heard and seen and understood by only a very select few? You struggle to “do the right thing” but it may mean sacrificing your friendships, or even your very own existence? Do you have to rely on the strength of others to get you through a challenging trial?

Recently, I discovered our youngest had copied out a verse on the chalk board hanging on her wall. It struck me how we have been developing her faith by our family choices, our encouragement, and our example. In turn, she is beginning to live out her own faith in Christ. And we see it reflected in the doodles and drawings on her chalk board. What a scary privilege we have as parents!

Oh friends, after busy spring weeks like these past few, my faith is weak. I want to achieve big things, but I struggle with simply keeping things at the same, comfortable and re-assuring spot. I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone, into the “real” world and face challenges that might be too hard for me. Sometimes I am barely keeping a float where I am right now! Can I get an Amen? Anyone out there feel the same?

Perhaps, Budo, Max’s imaginary friend, could take notes along with me, from 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT), where we learn that there is someone very real we can count on to strengthen us in our spiritual journeys. Someone who can truly help us step out in faith.  “Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. “ So be it.