I’ve always associated a balanced life with an ultra-organized Martha Stewart type. But as I ponder my life, I realize that although it’s often messy, I take great joy in the journey. I wear many different hats and sometimes pivot so quickly I become dizzy, but I am, after all, still upright. And, when you think about it, remaining upright absolutely requires balance.
Once that realization hit home, it was easy to identify two strategies which have sustained me during the last 20 years of mothering, freelance writing, volunteering with Alzheimer’s patients, and teaching. I highly recommend them to any woman who feels she’s in the eye of the hurricane. They won’t allow you to do it all, but they’ll make you much happier as you try.
Exercise—both physical and spiritual—allows me to keep my perspective, health, and joy. Without these disciplines, I honestly don’t know how I would have navigated these past two decades. I may have made it through, but the path would have been much steeper, much darker, and much more hopeless.
I realize my keys to life balance—or remaining upright—may seem overly simplistic. Well, they are simple, but they’re not always easy. In today’s overscheduled virtual world, it’s tempting to skip one or both types of exercise. They take time, and they often make us uncomfortable, but both types of exercise are essential for me. I always focus first on physical exercise because, without it, spiritual exercise is not as rewarding as it should be.
I don’t do physical exercise to lose weight or obtain the perfect figure. At 50, those days are long gone. I focus on physical exercise, so I can do everything else—write, parent, organize, volunteer, and teach. Physical exercise keeps my body—and my mind—strong and active. It also ensures I remain hydrated because while I’m working out, I drink quarts of water.
When my children were very young, working out helped me lift my 2-year-old with one arm while having a baby strapped to my front and holding the hand of my four-year-old. Now that my children are in college, physical exercise helps me lift myself up, which comes in handy.
Four days a week for at least one hour. That’s my goal. If I can do more, I do more.
Some of you may shake your head at this commitment, pointing to full-time work or three kids under five as reasons why this amount of physical exercise is impossible. I get it. Honestly, I do. But anything that helps you live life abundantly should be prioritized, no matter how inconvenient or hard it may be.
When I worked full-time, I would exercise in the evening, and it was often the last thing I wanted to do. But I did it.
Small children can also complicate an exercise routine. For years, I invested in Veggie Tales videos but otherwise had to spend very little to keep in shape. While the kids sang along with Rad, Shack, and Benny, I’d do push-ups, sit-ups, and I’d jump rope. It wasn’t a perfect workout, but it helped me remain strong throughout my core, literally and figuratively. Many days, I just wanted to snuggle with the kids and watch Veggie Tales instead of sweating. As tempting as this was, I usually plowed through my workout. I honestly felt it would make me a better mom.
On days you really don’t want to work out, do it anyway.
Spiritual exercise is my second path to life balance. For 18 years I’ve attended the same Bible study. This ecumenical, neighborhood group has been my constant through church splits, new pastors, and evolving congregations. We’re encouraged to discuss the Bible, not our churches and their doctrine, and we use a NavPress study guide to keep us scripturally on track. This Bible study has helped me focus on what’s truly important during these whirlwind years—my relationship with Christ.
Through him, I can do all things, after all. I can even remain balanced.
Like its physical counterpart, there are times I simply don’t want my spiritual exercise. While sitting down with my Bible and study guide, I gaze yearningly at my newly purchased copy of A Gentleman in Moscow. While racing out the door to Bible study, I consider my crowded daily calendar and think I should skip—just this once—to put my affairs in order. When I’m tempted to shelve my spiritual exercise, I think about my God-shaped vacuum within me, and remind myself that nothing else can fill it. I can gorge on historical fiction or catch up on my writing assignments, but these won’t fill my soul. Nothing can satisfy the vacuum except the Lord. And reading the Bible is where you meet him.
On days you really don’t want your spiritual exercise, do it anyway.
My belief is exercise—both physical and spiritual—makes us stronger in mind, spirit, and body. As any exercise physiologist will tell you, balance and strength go together. The stronger we become, the more balanced our lives will become. We’ll be able to remain on our feet and live the life God has planned for us.