By Stephanie Oaks
Balance, margin, rest. What thoughts enter our minds when we read these words? Do we sigh longingly, hoping to one day experience such lofty ideals? Or do we chuckle in our cynicism, knowing these ideals no longer exist in our society? Why do we see these ideals as optional? With so many modern conveniences, why is it that we do not have time to even sleep an appropriate amount of hours at night and eat foods that are nourishing for our bodies—two basics of staying alive? Where have we gone wrong?
We have an almost endless amount of choices to make each day. We are constantly bombarded with information, options, and opportunities. Our ability to discern which options are important is the key to finding balance and margin in our lives. It is so easy to get distracted by things we can be doing, that we fail to make time for what we should be doing. You see, it really is up to us. It is the choices that we make each day that create balance or imbalance in our lives, regardless of our circumstances.
There will be periods in our lives that are marked by imbalance such as the birth of a child or an ill family member. These are the times that we will be glad we entered such periods with strength and clarity of mind. We all have twenty-four hours to work with. Making a choice to say yes to one thing means we will inevitably have to say no to another. Are we even aware of that as we go through our day? Often we deal with the immediate without thinking about our long-term goals and how those immediate decisions will affect our lives in the long run.
Our society is marked by busyness. It is celebrated, and we thrive on it. However, in our pursuit of happiness we have forgotten about the foundations of a healthy life. We have created a “need” for constant entertainment and pleasure. Not only do we need to feed our families and provide shelter for them, but now we “have” to provide cable TV, unlimited Internet access, unlimited data on cell phones, tickets to the latest movie at the movie theater, the newest toy, the latest fashion trends, opportunities to play sports, take lessons, and be involved in clubs. Each of these things is not bad in itself, but added together, it creates a life devoid of inner rest. I am not anti-technology. Our family has cell phones (although we do not have cable TV), and we have very limited Internet access. We watch pre-approved movies and TV series together when we have time, but we are not ruled by the TV schedule. And we survive.
I remember seeing an episode of Oprah while sitting in a waiting room. Oprah had taken a number of women who felt that they had to work outside of the home, yet strongly desired to be at home with their children. Oprah’s team evaluated the cost of daycare, gas, mileage on the car, parking, meals out, clothes for work, dry cleaning expenses, convenience foods—all of the costs that were associated with that mom having to work outside of the home. In almost all of the cases, the cost of them working was greater than the income they were bringing in. These women were devastated when they found out that they were working for nothing. I am not saying that women shouldn’t work. As an organic farmer, I am a working mom, but I encourage you to be constantly reevaluating your situation. Count the costs and make sure that you are saying yes to the right things. We want our kids to have it all, but at what cost?
Why is it that we feel the need to be busy all of the time? I am guilty of this as much as anyone. I have a tendency to want to do it all. What is driving that for us? Is there an inner issue or restlessness that we are trying desperately to avoid? Does it make us feel important or needed? Is it because of our pride? Are we seeking the recognition of others? Do we feel guilty if we are not busy? Do we feel that we do not deserve to take time to rest and meditate? Or are we afraid of closeness with others and our busyness justifies our lack of intimacy in our lives? Even still, is it our discontentment? Do we know how to be content and satisfied in a culture that is always wanting more and telling us every day that we deserve more? Perhaps you are on the other end of the spectrum and struggle with laziness, and yet surprisingly you do not find rest. What is driving this in your life, and how can you motivate yourself to make the right choices?
What does balance even look like? How will we know when we have achieved it? It will look different for each of us. And it will look different at different points in our lives. Here on our farm, the summer is very imbalanced! We have to be very intentional about spending time together, spending time with friends and family, and ignoring our never-ending list of tasks to be done for small periods in order to rest and reflect.
Here is a little bit of what balance looks like in my life: being able to stop, look my teenagers in the eye, and have a conversation with them. It is sitting down for family meals that have been well-planned and prepared using whole foods; being able to have uninterrupted conversations with my husband; having time to read Scripture (and hopefully other books during the off-season). It is having time to intentionally homeschool my children; growing and preserving food for my family; and having time to feel and respond to convictions that have been laid upon my heart.
Balance is not about having more “me” time, time to selfishly do whatever we want. That will not bring rest to our souls. Balance is about having the freedom to do what we know we need to be doing. When we achieve this, we will once again feel that inner rest and be confident that we are living our lives the way we should be—at least until our lives shift once again and we have to rebalance.
In the coming months my articles in Molly Green Magazine will look at how we can bring about balance in each area of our lives—HOMEsteading, HOMEkeeping, HOMEschooling, and HOMEindustry.
Stephanie Oaks lives in Ashland City, Tennessee, where she and her husband own and operate No. 9 Farms, an organic farm that specializes in berries, herbs, fruits and vegetables, and Christmas trees. Stephanie spends the remainder of her time homeschooling their two teenage children and teaching classes on organic gardening and healthy cooking.