Back in my first few years as a mom, I vividly remember a coffee date when I'd met up with an older mom friend at Starbucks on a damp and overcast fall day. Clutching my toasty warm Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand, I welcomed the adult company and the quiet break away from my two-year-old daughter and twin babies. I needed that break. My body and mind needed that break. My SOUL needed that break.
Like me, my friend was also a mom and a business owner. She too, was even a mom of multiples, though her littles were older, so she was a few steps ahead of me on the "mom" journey. She had been in my shoes. And, as it would turn out, this coffee date to both catch up with one another, and to allow me to consult with her on some branding and marketing concerns she had for her own business, would turn into something much more. It turned into a true "God moment", as I like to refer to them - one of those times when someone else's words to you become such a blessing, you hold onto them forever and know they just had to be divinely inspired.
As my friend and I talked, words and feelings that had been weighing on my heart spilled out onto the table between us. We spoke about motherhood and identity, that need for something of our "own" that as moms, we sometimes cling to when we feel pulled in so many directions by everyone else in our world. At that time, I was working as both a part-time photographer AND had just launched a second business name (was I CRAZY?! Yes, I think I was.), under which I was creating designs and marketing pieces for other photographers and small business owners. I remember sharing the words, "When I'm spending time with the kids, my mind drifts to what I should be working on for the business, but when I'm sitting at my computer working, all I can think about is that I should be with my kids." It was a double-edged sword constantly stabbing at my guilt-ridden mother's heart, and I couldn't figure out how to make it all work together.
"How do you do it?" I asked her. "How do you find the balance?"
She sipped her latte as a wise, all-knowing smile spread across her face. "Oh honey," she sort of sighed and laughed to herself at the same time, indicating that she really HAD been in my shoes, "there is no such thing."
"Huh?" I thought to myself. "What?" How could there be "no such thing"? I had been elusively searching for the magic key, the secret words, that single piece of advice I needed to hear to be set free from this exhausting race to make it all work... and it didn't exist? Yikes. These are not the words I had been expecting to hear. And yet, they were exactly the words I needed to hear.
Our conversation continued, with me hoping to expunge every last drip of her more-experienced mom wisdom. We talked about that quest for balancing it all that will never end, because life isn't about balance so much as it is about priorities. Everything falls into place when our priorities are set. The hamster wheel of thoughts in my mind was turning, and I continued to think about her words long after our coffee talk had ended. I prayed, asking God to help show me how He wanted me to be using my time. Maybe I had it all wrong, trying to juggle all of this on my own. Maybe I was doing it all backwards?With a lot of prayer, and a lot of careful listening, I started to recognize that a balanced life isn't set in place by the number of hours in the day we have (or don't have!) or the length of our to-do lists, but by living life on purpose. With purpose. This shift in perspective CHANGED by world.
But, what does "living on purpose" mean? I think of it as the choice between letting life happen to us vs. making deliberate choices in our lives based on our priorities and our purpose. There are only so many hours in a day. How do we decide what to do with those hours? Matthew 6:33 tells us, “Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Had I been seeking God first when starting my days? When defining my purpose? When setting my priorities? No. I was consulting myself and struggling, really struggling to find meaning and purpose in the things I thought that I should be doing. I was looking for answers in all the wrong places. Looking back, I really was doing life backwards... then wondering why everything felt so out of balance.
But you know those "magic words" I was relentlessly searching for? They were there the whole time. God has outlined in scripture His secret for finding balance and determining what our priorities are to be. That secret is to seek Him. I love reading John 15:4-5: "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Unless we first seek and rest in Him, we will not find the necessary energy and focus to be productive in our lives. To feel some sense of balance.
We can find more inspiration in John 15:1-2: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” God wants us to be contently productive and focused - more fruitful! Doesn't it make sense that God would have created our days with enough time for the things He knows we need time for? He doesn’t want us to waste time on things that aren’t bearing fruit, nor does He want us to exhaust ourselves or lose sight of our priorities by not remaining in Him. His involvement in each of our days is the key to a spiritually balanced life.