Sunday, January 1, 2017

How Do I Keep A Balanced Life in the New Year?

This was the talk I gave at church today. I was the final speaker so I had to create an "accordion" talk. That's why some things are bolded and underlined. I did good, better and best (which is discussed in the talk). The bold is best, the underlined is better, and the rest is good. haha! That way no matter how much time I had, I could cut and be sure to include the important stuff. I finished at the exact minute I was asked to. Woo-hoo! I was proud of that. :D :

I had to laugh when I received the phone call asking me to speak, because I was told the topic was on balance. Anyone who knows me is aware of how much I hate this word because it’s something I’ve been striving to achieve for years. During the past two years, instead of choosing New Year’s goals, I have been choosing a word. Can you guess what that word is? Why, yes, it has been the word “balance”. So, when I was told I was speaking on balance, I had to laugh because it’s obviously something Heavenly Father feels I need to continue working on.
The majority of this talk comes from: Let Him Do It With Simplicity by L. Tom Perry, Good, Better, Best by Dallin H. Oaks, Obligations by Gordon B. Hinckley, and the book Mary, Martha, and Me by Camille Fronk Olson.
In Mosiah 4:27 we read, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
This made me think of Martha and Mary from the new testament.
Luke 10:38-42
“Now it came to pass, as they went,
That he entered into a certain village:
And a certain woman named Martha
Received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’s feet,
And heard his word,
But Martha was cumbered about much serving,
And came to him, and said,
Lord, dost thou not care
That my sister hath left me to serve alone?
Bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her,
Martha, Martha, thou art careful
And troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful:
And Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.
I found a poem that sort of ties this story over to my topic pretty well.
Poem by Shirley Adwena Harvey called “To Mary – Who Sat at Jesus’s Feet”
Your dark eyes never left His gentle face
As you sat listening near the Savior’s feet
While Martha’s hurried steps kept constant pace
With the rhythm of your heart’s excited beat.
Your sister’s call to serve was never heard,
You gave no thought to feasting or attire –
Your ears were strained to catch each precious word
As spirit burned within you like a fire.
You knew this was the moment you should seek
The needful things to fill your longing heart
And joy-tears must have trickled down your cheek
When He said you had chosen that good part.

Dear Mary, in your sweet, far-sighted way –
You teach us of priorities today.

What did Jesus say about what Martha was doing? Nothing. What did he say of Mary’s choice? “Mary hath chosen that good part.” Jesus never requires that we choose one or the other: household duties or gospel study. Daily life requires our attention to both – by men and women alike. Too often, however, spiritual nourishment is swallowed up in the temporal crises of the moment.
When addressing young adults, President Gordon B Hinckley challenged his audience to create balance in life by attending to four obligations: “one’s vocation, one’s family, the Church, and to one’s self.”
About the vocation he said, “Choose a vocation where you will be happy. You will spend eight and more hours a day at it through all the foreseeable future. Choose something that you enjoy doing. Income is important, but you do not need to be a multimillionaire to be happy. In fact, you are more likely to be unhappy if wealth becomes your only objective. You will become a slave to it. It will color all your decisions. You need enough to get along on. You need enough to provide well for your family… The greatest task of all, the greatest challenge, and the greatest satisfaction lie in the rearing of a good family. There must also be time for service in the Church. Otherwise these very important dimensions of your life will be relegated to a back burner.”
This made me think of an experience Paul and I had. We were renting a small, 800 sq ft home and we were expecting our first son. Paul began working all the time and I was incredibly frustrated with him. I sat him down one day and told him I did not marry him for money, I married him for a husband and expected him to be one. After that, he stopped taking those extra shifts and we just budgeted better or went without something, but it worked.
Family: “A good [relationship] requires time. It requires effort. You have to work at it. You have to cultivate it. You have to forgive and forget. You have to be absolutely loyal one to another. [Your family] will become the source of your greatest pride and happiness. Rear [children] in love. You don’t have to kick them around. You don’t have to get angry with them. You just have to love them. If they make mistakes, forgive them and help them to avoid a repetition. But let them see in you their truest and best friend, their constant support.”
Church: “serve in the Church. Let the Church be your dear friend. Let it be your great companion. Serve wherever you are called to serve. Do what you are asked to do. Every position you hold will add to your capacity.”

In reference to the final obligation of one’s self, he expounded with this:
You need time to meditate and ponder, to think, to wonder at the great plan of happiness that the Lord has outlined for His children. You need time to read. You need to read the scriptures. You need to read good literature. You need to partake of the great culture which is available to all of us.
To go along with this, many times parents, especially mothers, forget to put effort into themselves because it’s all put into the family. We must take care of ourselves or there will be nothing left to put into serving the church, our family, or any of the other things on our to-do list.
Balancing your life seems so much better in theory. In reality, it gets a little complicated. Have you ever seen those randomly shaped rocks that seem impossible to stack, yet people somehow manage to balance them perfectly to make works of art? Sometimes I feel like my life is one balancing act after another. Just when I’m finally feeling on top of things, the kids will get sick, the dishwasher will break or my eyes will be opened to intense suffering somewhere in the world, and I’ll realize that my “dishwasher woes” are completely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. As I’m deciding how to best balance my time and energy, I often feel like I’m staring at a big pile of rocks that simply don’t fit together.
(Janette Wright) wrote, “My 4-year-old is trying to learn to balance on his bike. He tilts to one side and the other. He screams, ‘Mom, did you see that?’ He is my last. I will only see this feat accomplished by my own child one last time. The dishes can wait, the clothes washer can be balanced later, the computer time can be put on hold, e-mails returned later and The Schedule delayed. I don’t want to miss the Best for Good. I want a more balanced life!”
(Linda Eyre) said, “One secret to finding balance ‘involves something we call serendipity. … Serendipity usually happens because of a crisis or when you are least expecting it! It might be just getting a great idea because of something that one of your kids said or did. It might be just taking a minute to enjoy a gorgeous sunset. It might be getting a call from a long lost friend, just when you thought it was so important to accomplish something else. An annoying interruption by a child becomes an opportunity!”
(Suzanne Christensen) said, “The biggest challenge is finding the right balance. The amount of time we have to ‘spare’ changes with the different stages of our lives. There is no perfect day where we squeeze everything in. Something usually has to fall to the background while we focus on something else. It would be tragic to tip the scale so much that we forget to enjoy the stage we are in now. Find joy and learning in the simple things every day.”
Lessons I’ve learned on balance through my years of trying and trying again to find balance:
Balance requires practice. Each day I learn a new way to balance my life. Each day I end up with something new to juggle. Practice is required for me to gradually improve the balance of my life.
Balance is a temporary state. Every day is different. Every day has new challenges. If we have one balanced day, it doesn’t mean the next day will go just as well. Perhaps a child is having a bad day and throwing temper tantrums continually… the next day may be different. It will make the scales completely different and balance has to start all over.
Balance is possible. It is. It really is. Sometimes it’s only for a day. I have achieved a day where I’ve gotten my personal scripture study and prayer, worked out, done my chores, showered, did school with my kids, got them to all their extra-curricular activities, planned upcoming lessons, got the kids to do their chores, had dinner on the table, got the kids to take their showers, got family prayer and scripture done, and got children to bed on time. Okay, so I cannot think of very many days this miraculous goal has been achieved, but it has happened, which means it is possible.
L. Tom Perry speaks about four basic needs of man: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel.
Let’s talk about these four basic things for a moment. The counsel on food in the Word of Wisdom found in the booklet For the Strength of Youth states, “The Lord has commanded you to take good care of your body. To do this, observe the Word of Wisdom, found in Doctrine and Covenants 89. Eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. When you do all these things, you remain free from harmful addictions and have control over your life. You gain the blessings of a healthy body, an alert mind, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. …”
The second thing he mentioned was clothing - President N. Eldon Tanner once cautioned us with these words: “Modesty in dress is a quality of mind and heart, born of respect for oneself, one’s fellowmen, and the Creator of us all. Modesty reflects an attitude of humility, decency, and propriety.”
Third, shelter - One of the better ways to simplify our lives is to follow the counsel we have so often received to live within our income, stay out of debt, and save for a rainy day. We should practice and increase our habits of thrift, industry, economy, and frugality. Members of a well-managed family do not pay interest; they earn it.
Fourth, fuel – Spiritual Fuel - The Lord has given us a beautiful plan about how we can return to Him, but the completion of our mortal journey requires spiritual fuel. We want to emulate the five wise virgins, who had stored sufficient fuel to accompany the bridegroom when he came (see Matthew 25:6–10). What is required to maintain a sufficient store of spiritual fuel? We must acquire knowledge of God’s eternal plan and our role in it, and then by living righteously, surrendering our will to the will of the Lord, we receive the promised blessings.
Elder Oaks once spoke on organizing our life into categories of “Good, Better, and Best”.
There are many good things we can do. Unfortunately, there are so many good things to do that there isn’t nearly enough time in the day to do them in. We should prioritize all these good things and look at the things that are better. Even then, there are things that are best that should be done before those better things. Are you following?
For a while, I put three columns on my to-do list for the day. I labeled the first one “Best”, the middle one “Better”, and the third one “Good”. The items I needed to do for my spiritual well-being I put under “Best” – such as reading scriptures, saying prayers, planning FHE, family scripture, and family prayer. Under “Better”, I wrote the things that absolutely had to get done that day – do a paper for school, pay the bills, fold the three baskets of clean laundry, take Ryanne to dance or Collin to martial arts. Under “Good” I wrote the things that would be nice to get done – take the kids to the park, clean out the fridge, give the dogs a bath…etc. Using this method, I was able to prioritize my list of things I needed to get done in the day.
In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. Elder Oaks told a story of a friend who took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.”
Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth.
Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children” because families spend far less time together. Time in team sports has doubled, unstructured outdoor play has fallen by 50% and free time has declined by 12 hrs/week all in the last generation.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”
The First Presidency has called on parents “to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. … The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place … in … this God-given responsibility.” The First Presidency has declared that “however worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”
Church leaders should be aware that Church meetings and activities can become too complex and burdensome if a ward or a stake tries to have the membership do everything that is good and possible in our numerous Church programs. Priorities are needed there also.
Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Adjust your activities to be consistent with your local conditions and resources. … Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished. … Remember, don’t magnify the work to be done—simplify it.”
The instruction to magnify our callings is not a command to embellish and complicate them. To innovate does not necessarily mean to expand; very often it means to simplify.
Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.
Here are some other illustrations of good, better, and best given by Elder Oaks:
It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, “crown [our] good with brotherhood,”9 showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect.
To our home teachers and visiting teachers, I suggest that it is good to visit our assigned families; it is better to have a brief visit in which we teach doctrine and principle; and it is best of all to make a difference in the lives of some of those we visit. That same challenge applies to the many meetings we hold—good to hold a meeting, better to teach a principle, but best to actually improve lives as a result of the meeting.
One of the greatest challenges of life is to not give in to the stresses and strains of life and to endure while staying positive and optimistic. Maybe we should remember the words of Robert Browning when difficulties and challenges come into our lives again. “The best is yet to be.”                                                                                        In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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