Balancing Acts

“If you never go out on the branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit.”(Sarah Parish)

New Year, New Word While I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, (see why here,) I do pick a word for each year. This word is a general principle that I want to be a lot more intentional about. My word for 2024 is “Balance.”

Your Mileage May Vary For some people, balance is a natural righting response. They are uncomfortable with the outer edges, and move toward the middle anytime things get too “iffy” out there. These are the people who often say things like, “Better safe than sorry!” They will tell you that they aren’t anxious; just appropriately cautious. Some of them are telling the truth.

To those who naturally crave balance, people like me can be scary. It’s not that we don’t value and pursue balance, it’s just that we want to make sure we don’t miss anything important out on the margins of a thought or an experience. There’s good stuff out there! There is also scary stuff out there. It took somewhere around 50 years for me to learn how far was too far. I’m a slow learner, but once I get there, I am solid in my convictions!

Even Keel Picture a boat out on the water. The natural balancers will let the boat rock a little bit to the sides before taking action to get back to “even keel.” (Yes, that really iswhere that phrase comes from.) People wired more like me will let the boat rock more widely, even letting it take on water here and there. We aren’t (usually) being reckless; We are learning. We are learning our own abilities, the propensities of the boat and the water, and getting a sense of what does and doesn’t work.

I appreciate “even keelers.” They are great at keeping things steady. They avoid many unfruitful risks. At the same time, I also appreciate all that I learn from rocky boats. If nothing else, I have an insider's view of what’s helpful when the boats of my client’s lives get tipped or even capsized. I’ve landed in the water many times, sometimes by my own choices and non-choices and sometimes by the choices of others. I’ve lived to tell the tale. I’ve become a resourceful life-swimmer.

Setting Intentions Striving for balance involves a level of conscious intention on my part. It requires me to periodically remember to stop and take inventory of what the outer edge exploration is costing me. Each time, I make a conscious decision about whether to keep exploring, or to lean the other way in the boat to right the vessel.

Balance is a verb for me: I’m balancing my energies, balancing my time, balancing my finances, balancing reactivity and SNS response, balancing my biochemistry. This requires effort and follow through. It isn’t a noun to be achieved; It’s a verb in a constant state of evolution.

More Mom Lessons When my mother was alive, she spoke frequently of “simplifying” her life to achieve balance. She seemed to be on a perpetual quest for a quieter, more peaceful existence. As a younger person that felt like deprivation and limitation. Now I get it.

My daughter and I recently visited the town where my mother/her Mom Mom and my stepfather/her Pop Pop had served as pastors in my mother’s latter years. My daughter had spent quite a lot of time with them at the parsonage next door to the main church they served.

The parsonage and church sit on a lovely, quiet, pre-Civil War historic street in a little farm town. This is in sharp contrast to my mother’s urban Baltimore childhood, and to my childhood inside the DC Beltway. I experienced my mother as happier, more creative, and more herself in that tiny town than anywhere else I had known her.

Swinging It I had forgotten how peaceful it was. My daughter and I both remember swinging on the porch swing with my mother, taking in the rhythmic >squeak! squeak!< of the swing’s chain against its hooks. The soundscape was frequently dotted by input from the local cows, sheep or goats that lived on the farms surrounding the main street. (That’s the actual porch and swing there in the picture that illustrates this blog.)

While ministry life is nearly always chaotic and unpredictable, her time there was graced by these moments of the kind of gentle quiet she had longed for. As I consider my quest for balance now, I plan to revisit that porch swing in my mind over and over again. I hope to tune into the metronome-like squeaks, the feel of the swing rocking us, and even the occasional hello from a cow.

Perspective From that place of quiet, I recognize that the demanding “NOW NOW NOW” of my life is an illusion. It will all be there in five minutes. For now, I’m going to swing on the porch and ground myself in that deliciously unhurried energy. I’ll make more balanced decisions that way.

So many things in our daily lives seem to do their best to tip us out of balance. I don’t expect to not be thrown again and again. At the same time, I commit to regularly returning to the porch swing in my mind to reconsider what’s important, what’s worth my attention, and what’s not.

I’ll say, “Hi,” to the goats for you.


Want to join me on the metaphoric porch swing? Contact Tiffany today. Let’s look at ways to do it well.