The Beam

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So, there’s this book.

It’s called For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, and I’m so in love with it. If you haven’t read For the Love yet, then do yourself a favor and go out and buy it. Right now. (You can thank me later.) This book is so good that you’ll actually want to skip watching So You Think You Can Dance after the kids’ bedtime just so you can soak in more of those wonderful words. If For the Love were a food instead of a book, it would be dark chocolate cake smothered in cream cheese frosting. I dare you to take just a bite, but guaranteed you’ll devour the whole thing in one sitting.

I may be a bit biased because the book is written by my blogger idol, Jen Hatmaker. She is perhaps the wittiest, most honest writer/speaker/liver of life that I’ve ever met (ok, I haven’t actually met her…not in the physical sense…but I cyber-stalk her and kind of want to be her when I grow up and a friend of mine once sat by her on a plane …so that all has to count for something, right?).

The book covers the hilarious (there’s a whole chapter on the appropriate-ness of leggings, tights, and yoga pants. She speaks straight to my heart.) to the more practical issues we all deal with in life. One topic in the book really got under my skin, in a good way. It made me take a critical look at my own life and make some actual changes. So what is this powerful topic of personal change? A gymnastics balance beam.

The balance beam is a metaphor for the balance in our own lives–particularly the lives of busy modern-day moms. As Hatmaker observes:

Here is the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self-care”, served neighbors/church/world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior.

You can’t balance that job description.

Amen! Hallelujah! It’s so true. We are constantly shown the best side of people–on social media (When’s the last time you updated your profile picture to how you look RIGHT NOW? ), on TV (I’m pretty sure most celebrities don’t forget to take a shower for 3 or 4 days in a row), and even face to face (I put on “real clothes” and “makeup” when I know I’m going somewhere where people might recognize me).

What we don’t see is the other 99% of peoples’ lives that are happening outside of the glimpses we catch of their highlight reel. Those times when they lose it with their kids and/or spouse. Those times when they stuffed a Lunchable into their kid’s lunchbox and called it a day. That week when she didn’t touch a broom or a vaccuum or a toilet bowl brush because she just didn’t care. That time she looked jealously at the working mom and felt she wasn’t doing enough. That time she looked at the stay at home mom and felt she wasn’t doing enough.

And isn’t that the truth? We set expectations for ourselves based on what we think the perfect life should be, and we see how much other people are just killing it…and it’s slowly killing us. We often see the best in people but fail to see that perfection simply doesn’t exist. We are striving toward a goal that is unreachable, and we are destined to fail. You can’t be the Pinterest mom AND the CEO mom AND the Martha Stewart mom AND the PTA mom AND the marathon mom AND the…you get the picture. You can’t and I can’t and nobody is.

So where do we go from here?

The balance beam! As Hatmaker points out, “We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.” Just as you can’t possibly make it across a balance beam if it’s too crowded with STUFF, we can’t possibly make it through life if it’s too overrun by the unnecessary (I was in gymnastics for 6 years and I could hardly make it across that dang beam with NOTHING in my way). Some things we do for all of the wrong reasons–they need to go off the beam. In some areas we are sacrificing a Good for a Best–they need to find room on the beam.

Wow. Seriously, easier said than done. This idea of taking things on and off my beam got me thinking. I looked at my own crowded beam and I knew that there were some things that had to change. Here are a few of the things I pushed off my beam, and some that I pulled back on:

Off the beam: 
-Extra volunteering/leadership. I’m usually one of the first to raise my hand when they need someone to help out and, honestly, I love doing it. But I can’t do it all. And maybe someone else can even do it better. I’ve chosen a few areas where I will consistently serve, and I’m saying no to the rest.
-Late nights. As much as I love the moments in my day that are just my own, and even though my husband is the living definition of a night owl, Mama needs her sleep.
-The kids’ school. This was absolutely my hardest off the beam decision, and it took us nearly a year to make it. Traditional school wasn’t working well for David or our family during this season, and we had to take it off the beam (Goodbye mornings to myself! Goodbye lovely teachers whom we adore! Goodbye “normal”). Which brings me to…

On the beam:
-Homeschool. Hands-down the most rewarding–and exhausting–thing we’ve put on the beam this year. A total lifestyle switch, and it’s taking up a lot of room on my beam.
-The gym. I hadn’t joined a gym in about 6 years, but I needed some scheduled exercise breaks during the week…without my kids. The gym gives me 90 minutes of kid-free exercise every day I can manage to drag us out the door–enough time for a barre class and a solo shower: win-win!
-Writing. I enjoy writing, both here on the blog and for my own self, so I’m carving out specific time during the week where I can make that happen.

There are other things I’m still working on moving on or off my beam, but change takes time. One step at a time, I will make it across this balance beam called life. Even if I do fall every now and then.

Now it’s your turn, friend–what are you pulling on or pushing off your beam?

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