My days, lately, have been swirling with early alarm clocks, half-eaten breakfasts, lost keys, dropped toys on the front porch, coffee in tumblers, hours full of emails, meetings, phone calls, attempts of squeezing long thoughts into short increments of time, spousal communication by way of texts, one precious hour of play and bath time before bedtime, and repeat dinners of pasta and sauce. It's been filled with stacks of junk mail and unpaid bills, watching missed NFL games in fast-forward mode, forgotten birthdays and anniversaries, unreturned messages from friends who miss us, short and incomplete phone conversations with family from afar, habitual sifting through dirty laundry to find something reusable for the next day, and falling dead asleep on the couch next to James before Jon Stewart even begins. (And those are on days when I don't travel).
James and I asked our priest, Becca, how she and her family have been able to manage a life full of dual careers, three sons, significant mission responsibilities and community.
This is what she said:
Life is a box.
The things that fill your life are balloons.
Only so many balloons can fit into the box.
You can have a lot of little balloons. Or a few large balloons.
But the box stays the same size.
So, choose your balloons wisely.
Becca's point is, the box doesn't get bigger.
I thought that our box would be different. That it would have some trap door or special stretchy expansion. But our box is the same as everyone else's.
As James and I rail against the limitation, and as our balloons lodge themselves against one other, we are forced to sort through the good and lasting lessons about what really matters in this season of our lives.
Otherwise, the balloons will pop.
We have put this truth up on our fridge as we consider how to live a sustainable and flourishing life together.
My prayer is that all of us can find our way to a box with the right balloons (whether through inflation, deflation, or removal), and that those remaining balloons will have the space to float.
May we all choose our balloons wisely.
ps. I wrote about these challenges on a blog called Plywood People. You can read it here.