Can we have it all?

out of officeYou know, we can’t do it all. Not all of the time. None of us can.

Sorry to start the post with such a strong pronouncement, but I’m hoping it’s not too much of a shock for you.

I think that each of us wants to have every area of our lives sorted out beautifully all the time. Each of us is striving for:

  • Good family relationships
  • A satisfying career
  • A healthy body
  • A vibrant spiritual life
  • An exciting social calendar
  • And the ability to eat unlimited amounts of chocolate

But it’s just not possible to be there in that paradise at all times. No, not even that last point.

Not even if you quit your job and start your own business from home. Even then it’s impossible to have all of it, all of the time.

There is no silver bullet. And believe me, I’ve spent a fair bit of time searching for one.

This week’s podcast interview is with Professor Matt King, and I asked him about his work-life balance. I know that in academia, the pressure to work long hours is intense. And Matt is trying to balance that with a young family and some ministry opportunities as well.

He said something really wise.

He said, ‘I’d prefer for some parts of my career to be diminished than to just respond to the pressures of being more, more, and more. … At the moment, my personal research is taking a hit. … It’s about priorities.’

So there’s a difficult path for each of us to walk. Which thing do we compromise on right now? Which thing do we concentrate on? What is the aspect of our life that needs special attention, and what needs to be dropped lower on the list for the time being?

Perfection will come, but not until the next life. For this life we are stuck in an imperfect, fallen world and that means making some hard decisions.

I think I may be worse at this than a lot of people. I love being needed. I love it when someone sends me a text and says, ‘Can you help out?’ Whether it’s ministry or editing or just being there for a friend, I love to help out in a crisis. But this means that my schedule fills quickly, that my life gets too full, and that I run out of time for myself, for my family, for my spiritual growth. I need to continue to learn that sometimes it is important to say no.

As I write this, I am frantically working on getting all my jobs finished so that I can take two weeks of holidays next week. I haven’t had a proper holiday for a long time, so I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m intending to book this type of holiday into my schedule regularly, even if that does mean saying no to some editing jobs, or saying no to some ministry opportunities. It’s not easy, but it’s very, very important.

How do you set your priorities? Do you feel the pressure of being ‘more, more, and more’? How do you deal with it? Do you take holidays?

 

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Consider the Ant

Surprising-Science-multicolor-ants-2
Multicoloured Ants from the Smithsonian Magazine

The Good Book says, ‘Consider the ant,’ and I have been doing a lot of that lately. Our house seems to be overrun with them. We have flying ants coming in through our windows and crawling ants coming in through every little crack in the walls.

No, I’m exaggerating. But we do have two major ant incursions.

One in the downstairs bathroom, and one upstairs in the kitchen.

We’ve been using Ant Rid to deal with them. The first thing that happens with Ant Rid is that the ants get all excited and they ALL come to eat the bounty that you have provided for them. Then, so the advertising tells me, they take the poison back to their nest and it kills off the queen and you’re rid of your ant problem.

The downstairs ants have stopped coming, which is nice. But the upstairs ants, they are pretty persistent. There must be a lot of them in that nest.

We keep feeding them, more and more of the delicious Ant Rid. They keep crowding around, making nice neat circles around the drops of golden goodness. We’ve even been making patterns with them — long strips of ant rid, or crop circles. It’s fun. As I say, I’ve been considering them a lot.

When I think of those verses, Proverbs 6:6 and Proverbs 30:25, I tend to think about the busy bustling ant. I think that the verses are a call out to me to be busy. To work hard. To keep going back and forth, storing up food, doing what I’ve been told to do. But that’s not entirely what those verses say.

They say that the ant is wise, it has no commander, and it has little strength, but it stores up its food in the summer; gathers its provisions at harvest.

There is a time limit implicit in those words. The ant doesn’t work hard all the time. It works hard when it is work time, ‘at harvest’, ‘in the summer’. It stores up food then, so that at other times, when it’s not time to work, it will be able to rest.

Our kitchen ants (they are almost pets now) also work hard when the working is good. But when the sun is out and shining on the wall, making it too hot for them to climb up, they rest. At the moment, as I write this, the ants are gone. There are just little puddles of ant rid sitting on our bench and waiting.

But when the sun moves to the west, they will be back, once again busily collecting the food for the nest.

So even for the busy ant there are periods of rest and periods of hard work.

And I think we can apply this to our own lives too. There are times when, even though we are small and weak, we are called to work hard. But around those times, we need to allow ourselves to rest.

Work and rest. It’s a rhythm. Let’s dance to it.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Getting my priorities right

Today’s blog is going to be short, I reckon. I don’t have time to fit much into it. I don’t have a lot of time to do anything today, actually. I was a little stressed about that this morning but I’ve decided to change my mind.

You see, Moz is on holidays, so we left the alarm off and had a nice slow wakening rather than the ‘keep an eye on the time and jump out of bed’ one that we normally have.

Which meant that after my normal morning routine I was running about an hour later than usual and starting to panic that I wasn’t going to get enough done today.

I usually start my work day by writing in my journal. It gets my thoughts sorted out before I try to write anything that anyone else will be reading. And I started by journal today by saying what a lovely morning it had been, and how excited I am to be getting my daughter Jess from the airport (she’ll be here for a short and sweet four day stay), and then I wrote, ‘But I find I’m stressed.’

Why was I stressed? I was stressed because I had a long list of things that I could be doing. A long list of tasks that are necessary for moving my different businesses forward. And what with taking it easy this morning, and picking up Jess at lunch time, and so on, I was not going to make it through my list of tasks.

But then I realised I needed to reframe and reprioritise.

Today is not a day for churning through work tasks. I have a lot I could be doing, but even this blog is not something I have to do. I don’t think any of you will die if the blog gets released one day later than I planned. In fact, I could leave the blog, not write it at all, and nothing dreadful would happen. It’s good to remember that occasionally.

Today is a day for concentrating on my family. For enjoying the rest that comes with school holidays. For giving Jess a big hug at the airport and making the most of having her with us for a very short time. For going out to lunch as a family because we can. And for watching Dr Who together tonight (we’ll be late because Caleb will be at uni until 8pm so no spoilers, please!!)

Sometimes it is important to focus on work, to strive to get through the jobs and to put your pleasures on hold for a while. Sometimes the day needs to be prioritised the other way around. It’s part of the rhythm of life, the seesaw of living.

We are leaving in an hour or so to pick up our daughter Jess from the airport  and today will be a family day. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. The tasks will wait.

I hope that whatever your day holds you also will know what to prioritise and what to let go.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support my writing and the creation of my podcast (coming soon, I promise) then you can head over to Patreon and support me for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

A cure for the latest serious health crisis

Christmas party
I wasn’t sure what picture to use to best represent community. Then I thought a pic of our street Christmas party might do it. Just a few of us, getting together, eating and chatting, and enjoying the company.

The best part of church for me last Sunday was the notices. Yes, you’d think that wouldn’t be a highlight of the service, but last Sunday for me it was, because I was suddenly overwhelmed by gratitude and love for my community. Probably a weird reaction to the notices, but hear me out.

The church has been sending out ‘help!’ emails over the last few weeks. We had a massive storm here (link to the big wet) and the church floors were covered with water. All of the church building, and all of the church hall. Our chapel is on slightly higher ground and didn’t get affected but the rest of the property, hoo boy.

On the Friday after the storm the call went out for help and about 80 volunteers congregated to mop up, clean up, and move all the pews and wipe the feet and put them back. It was a huge effort by an amazing team. (I didn’t go, but we had our own clean up to do.) And it meant that we could all do church on Sunday as usual. Well, nearly as usual, the floor was still a bit wet and a bit stinky, some activities had to be moved or cancelled but we did our best.

The carpets all needed to be thrown out, so last week once the assessors had assessed, the call came out again and an army of volunteers (again, not me) lifted carpet and laid some new carpet tiles so that the children have somewhere to do Sunday school.

It takes a community to be able to deal with these major life crises. But it’s not just the crises, celebrations are well taken care of by community too.

My Mum has been the music minister in another church here for the last 12 years or something and that time drew to a close last month. As part of the farewells, the church held a concert, a ‘ham and jam’ night, and I was privileged to attend.

Everyone in the church who wanted to had been invited to perform and that gave the night a flavour that was unique and completely inclusive. We started with a fanfare and a piece by the church choir, then Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude on the piano was followed by a Colin Buchanan song sung by six kids – one evacuating her nose, two singing like this was the most serious thing ever, two swaying and dancing and jumping, and one rubbing sleepy eyes. The littlest (she with the nose) stopped half way through the song, took a short break, and then started again. Beyond cute, I tell you.

A vet told some animal stories and his daughter joined him on stage half way through, smiling at all of us. He just picked her up and kept going. A young lad in a bowtie played a rag on the piano. When he’d finished he bowed, then raced down and gave his mum a high five, and then ran back up to the stage to collect the music he’d left on the piano stand. We had a stand up comedian, he was over 80 years old. He said he was past his best before date, but hopefully not past his use by date.

There were comings and goings, noises and children’s conversation but it didn’t spoil the atmosphere at all. As the night went on the children gradually disappeared home to bed, but the poems and tales, songs – funny and serious, beautiful music, and dances went on. The night ended again with the church choir. It was a beautiful honouring of Mum and a gorgeous celebration of community.

Community is acceptance, not just tolerance, but love for all different people. For the person with autism, the screaming toddler, the elderly one who chats on and on, the tattooed muscle guy, every body type, every energy level. It’s not something that can be legislated, though we do need rules to support and draw attention to those we may be overlooking. Judgement and comparison kill community, empathy is crucial.

Community is putting aside your own needs and wants for the good of others. It’s giving up a Saturday afternoon’s relaxation to clean up a church hall for Sunday morning. It’s putting others first. Not allowing yourself to be a doormat, but choosing at times to give up what you want for what will benefit others.

And community is vital for our own wellbeing. Loneliness is the new smoking, right? (Or is that sitting? Or sugar? I can’t remember). Having a community around you protects you from mental illnesses and brings you into a place where you feel secure and loved. Not that we have to attend every activity that’s going on all the time. If you’ve read this blog at all you’ll know I’m not advocating that. But being a part of a family group, having your tribe, it’s important.

I must admit, I’m enjoying community a bit more now that I’m not overwhelmed by work. Maybe if your work-life balance doesn’t allow you to be part of a small group of people once a month or so then can I suggest it might be out of whack? Changes might need to be made.

Oh, and one more thing, while I’m on the subject. I have read over and over again on my author internet sites that you cannot expect the support of your family and friends. That family and friends won’t give a flying flower about your book, your launch, your writing. So I just want to say how grateful I am to you all, friends both online and in person, who have bought the books, written reviews, given encouragement, attended launch events, and passed the books on to friends. You have totally blown me away and I am so grateful for you all.

You, my community, totally rock! I am so thrilled to be a small part of such a great group of people.

If you are now wondering which books I’m talking about, then head to www.ruthamos.com.au and www.rjamos.com and you’ll find them there.