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Monday, February 19, 2007


It’s so true that we learn by teaching, or even preparing to teach. Since I’ve said yes to leading a workshop on Simplicity and Transformation with my friend Hollister Knowlton, I’ve been noticing all the ways my own life could be simpler. It reminds me of Gandhi who realized he needed to give up sugar before he could, at a mother’s request, lecture a young man on the evils of sugar. Knowing that I’m going to be speaking on Simplicity in March is challenging me to remember all the things about simplicity that I’ve learned over the years and periodically forget.

As Hollister and I began planning, I remembered a picture I drew in my journal several years ago. It was a depiction of me juggling too many balls. I had labeled each one for the responsibility it represented. The one that was making me feel overwhelmed was my dying Uncle Joe who had no children to visit him in the nursing home. My mother and I had taken up that role, but dragging a two-year-old and a five-year-old to the nursing home every other day was starting to get old. I was clear that being there for Uncle Joe was the right thing to do, but I had to face that I couldn’t do that and continue all the other things I had been doing. My little diagram was helpful because it gave me the chance to see which balls I could drop, and which I could pass to someone else. Then I showed it to another working mother at meeting who gave me a deeper perspective: she said that her life felt more grounded when she could see all the things she did as being about God, rather than as separate disconnected activities. Wow, I thought, How do I manage to think like that every day?

Well, the truth is, I don’t—not every day anyway. But I do feel that comment and the picture of the juggler helped me in moving toward a more integrated life. Still, there are moments when I have to step back and see if I’m juggling any balls that weren’t tossed to me by the Spirit. Just asking this question periodically seems helpful. After pondering it last week and sitting with it all weekend, including in meeting for worship yesterday, I felt confirmed in the sense that I’ve been carrying one ball that never really was tossed by the Spirit. As has often been the case, my main obstacle to dropping that ball has been the fear of letting other people down, of not being reliable and responsible, even though I know that carrying too much is a way of not being responsible to God and myself. Once I thought of it that way, it was relatively easy to write my resignation letter.

Another helpful exercise was writing a brief mission statement for my new web site, which is still in process. It reminded me of a book I read years ago about writing a mission statement for your life. The book recommended that you define your life’s purpose in a way that includes both your personal and professional work. Mine was pretty close to what I wrote on the web site, focusing on helping people hear their inner voice and trust it. From time to time I find it helpful to remember what my main purpose is, especially when someone is asking me to do something new. It always brings me back to the need to listen and trust myself.

On another note, my apologies to anyone who got e-mails announcing old posts when Blogger updated its program. I certainly don't want to complicate anyone else's life with unnecessary e-mails!


Anonymous Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Your juggling imagery provoked me to think hard about my own situation. I am not entirely persuaded that "carrying too much is a way of not being responsible to God and myself", although I can definitely agree that if I'm juggling more than I can handle, there's something wrong. But I find the idea quite provocative, and so I thank you for it.

Your new web site looks promising! I'll be interested to see how you flesh it out --

4:23 PM  

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