Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What About You, Sam?

That's the question I was asked after yesterday's post. I had told a story about decisions my dad made to choose "a life" over "a living."

In the midst of some great comments about "work/life balance," one of my blogging friends wanted to know how I am handling these issues. For what it's worth, here are a few ways I have tried to keep balanced...

1. I have a clear set of priorities. I determined this part of my life when I was a young man. In order, my five priorities are God, Cathy (my wife), our children, work and ministry.

I believe that these priorities reflect a Biblical worldview. I would mention that the way I express those priorities is different now that my children are grown. I also have the benefit of added simplification: my work -- the way I make the money to live -- is ministry. (As a side note, I sometimes teach on these at church. When I do, I explain that we really can't have a ministry from the overflow of our lives unless the first four priorities are in order.)

2. My priorities regularly drive my time decisions. Two examples come to mind. First, I made time to have a regular one-hour "date" with each of my children as they grew up. Many of you read the blogs of one or both my daughters. These are the same girls I sat in the floor and played paper dolls with as they grew up. I will never regret those hours with them or the ones I spent playing ball with my son (and I can't get that season of life back).

A second example is my choice to limit the number of times in a week that I eat lunch out. My life has its share of night meetings. Being a pastor can mean being on call 24 hours a day. Because of that, I choose to come home and have lunch with my wife. When our children were growing up, those were some of the quietest hours we shared -- the kids were in school!

3. I have learned intuitively what a balance feels like. I know that statement may be way too subjective for some of you. However, the truth is that I know when I'm overdoing work just like I know when I'm being lazy.

I have a busy life. I lead a growing church with multiple staff. I preach about 40 Sundays a year and on most of those I preach three times on Sunday mornings. I currently write two blogs. This one is six days a week and the other one is every day. I lead a home group. I prepare and lead meetings of our key lay leaders. I normally take two annual trips to work in the Dominican Republic. I often mentor younger pastors. And I want to read 50 books this year.

(Before you decide that I'm crazy to even discuss a work/life balance, sit down and make out your own list. You will be surprised how long it gets.)

In the midst of all that, how do I know when I'm out of balance? First, I feel internal anger rise up over stuff that normally wouldn't bother me. Second, a large portion of my work requires creativity. If my creative batteries are out of charge, I know I need rest (and/or recreation).

Finally, I have two accountability partners and get together with them almost every week. We decompress the pressures (we each have them) of our lives and come clean about sins -- even the ones in our thought lives. We encourage each other, advise each other and pray for each other.

Most important to my balance is my relationship to Cathy. She is a precious gift. Her middle name is Jewell and she is a jewel of rare supply. She loves me unconditionally, but she is unafraid to tell me when when I get out of balance. Each time I have resisted her input, I have learned a difficult lesson.

Tomorrow, to keep this story balanced, I will tell you about when my life was out of control.

Those are some ways I try to stay balanced. Which of them is most helpful to you?


Liz said...

"3. I have learned intuitively what a balance feels like. I know that statement may be way too subjective for some of you. However, the truth is that I know when I'm overdoing work just like I know when I'm being lazy."

This is the part that struck me the most. Because I think this is the part I'm in now. Recognizing when I'm being lazy and then choosing to change it. Seeing when work stress is traveling home with me and then choosing to let it go so it doesn't impact my family.

Isabella said...

I would have to say all of these are helpful to us.

My husband and I have only been married for a little over two years now and we have a 9 month old...needless to say, we are a relatively new family. Balancing our priorities is something we are still trying to work out.

We do pretty well with recognizing #3...not only on our own but with each other. Sometimes I may be too overwhelmed to realize why I'm edgy and my husband is right there to help me figure it out.

Sam said...

Thank you, Liz and Isabella. I hope you can both drop by tomorrow for my lesson from my dark side. Sam

Sandy Carlson said...

All are helpful. I do think #1 is most helpful for me right now. I want to do EVERYTHING right now. I want to work to help out a little, financially. That is why I'm substitute teaching starting the last week of January. I also think it will get me out of a lazy mode. I want to exercise. Haven't figured out where to fit that in yet. I sell Mary Kay part-time and am thinking of selling Premier jewelry part-time (hoping its easier for me to sell than the make-up). I'm in 2 small groups (one with the church and one elsewhere, plus the climbing companions. I'm happily on the praise team scheduled every 2 weeks and starting this Sunday I'll fill in for Toni once a month. Not to mention upcoming sports at school and after school activities, cooking and cleaning Ugh!! I'm wanting to go to bed at 10:00 PM and get up at 5:00 AM (haven't mastered that yet). Just thinking how I'm going to work it all in without feeling totally worn out or overwhelmed. It will probably be ok and I need to not THINK so much and "Just Do It". My husbands favorite saying.

Rachel Cotterill said...

It's particularly interesting to me that you've identified #2 as separate to #1 - because I suppose 'priorities' as a vague concept in your head is meaningless if it doesn't inspire your actions, but at the same time it can be very hard to ensure that you don't get constantly sidetracked by the low-priority things (things that don't even make it on to the 'top 5' list). I like that you identify it separately, because then it can't get subsumed.

I will go and read part 2 now, since I was away from the internet last night & I'm late catching up! :)