a new year of new living: juggling work, home and everything else

How many jugglers does it take to change a light bulb?

Two: An expert to change the light bulb, and a beginner to ask, "Yeah, but can you change *two* light bulbs?"

Everyone juggles, even if poorly.

A ball enters one hand, is traded off to another, and is tossed into the air in the hope it’ll be caught again.

This isn't a circus act... this is how you spend your time.

Every day you toss one thing up in the air hoping to gain something else. Perhaps it’s legitimate, such as sacrificing your hobby to gain time at home. Maybe it’s illegitimate, such as a student who cheats for a higher grade, a businessman who lies to make a sale, or a taxpayer who fudges on their taxes for their yearly return.

People try to ignore these differences in integrity by reasoning they’re juggling whatever they can to “survive.” Who wants to think that when their motives are pure that their methods might be impure?

So you juggle. You invest in some relationships and ignore others. Somehow the lines blur between telling people what they want to hear versus genuinely conversing. Every responsibility and opportunity competes for your attention, but to give each the time it demands or deserves requires more than you have.

You eventually find out which balls are made of rubber and which ones are made of glass. At times you feel the satisfaction of having made the right choice of what to toss and what to hold, and other times you deal with a cycle of guilt, anger, jealously, and rejection from trying to do more than you can. Some of the people around you feel fulfilled, and others feel so rejected that even the strongest of bonds and loyalties erode.

In his book "Choosing To Cheat," author Andy Stanley clarifies this issue:
  • Your problem is not discipline or organization.
  • Your problem is not that you have yet to stumble onto the perfect schedule.
  • Your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time.
  • The problem is there is not enough time to get everything done that you are convinced—or others have convinced you needs to get done.
Someone or something is not going to get what they want or need from you. If you stayed at home all day, you’d lose the job that provides for it; if you worked at the office until everyone was pleased, you'd have no time to ensure there was Life in your life; if you answered every call and text, you’d never have stillness in your life. The list is endless and so are the time requirements.

Your knee-jerk reaction is likely to drop all the other balls to save one:
  • The ball that strokes our sense of self-worth, be it a job or hobby that we excel at.
  • The ball that slides into our hand most easily because it relaxes us, be it partying on the weekends or sleeping in for more “me time.”
  • The ball that squeaks the loudest, be it a boss who threatens to fire us or a loved one who threatens to leave us.
All of this tracks back to Genesis 3 when in our attempt to be our own god we created the consequences of difficult work and relationships. Every job requires more sweat than it should, and even the most intimate of marriages will struggle over matters of desire.

So what's the solution? I have bad news and good news.
  • The bad news: There’s no permanent solution on this side of heaven. As you toss one or more balls in the air to grab another, you’ll have to assure whatever you’ve released that being hands-off for a moment doesn't equal being completely abandoned... and only your life (not your words) can affirm that.
  • The good news: You can align your pace of juggling with the priorities of your season. Life is made up of chapters, and each demands a shift to focus on your heart, soul, mind, body, or relationships more than another. A doctor may tell you that this season of your life needs to shift dramatically to increase your physical health, or a spouse may explain that he/she needs you at home more. Again, if you communicate to the other priorities what is temporarily required of you in another, most will understand.
Colossians 3:17 states: "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." I like the visual of concentric circles to apply this:
  • God: Am I merely religious, or am I truly surrendered? Do I let God readjust what I'm doing emotionally, intellectually, physically, and relationally so everything has integrity?
  • God and my wife: Does the amazing person who knows me best get my best? Are we investing into each other? If we’re in a busy season, how can we not let that define our relationship? Am I doing life with her or near her?
  • God, my wife, and my kids: Do my kids know that my wife comes before them so I give them the gift of a healthy home? Do they likewise feel invested into? When they speak to me, do they see my eyes or the side of my head as I do other things?
  • God, my wife, my kids, and my job: Can I do my job guilt-free because I've spent quality time at home first? Do the people I serve through my job get a consistent, quality burst from me?
  • God, my wife, my kids, my job and everything else: Have I built margin in my life to be available for spontaneous needs and curveballs?
The core priorities in your life are where you are the least expendable - your own life and home, for example. Only you can be you to the people in your life who call you spouse or parent. The latter priorities are where you are most expendable, such as a job that you could change any day.

You'll have to toss different balls in the air during different chapters of life. Just make sure you don't throw someone up so high that they feel abandoned or sent on a trajectory where they won't return to you. You may have to let some "urgent" things drop to ensure the truly important things don't. You can always get another job, but you can’t always get another family. Release and delegate, letting God (and not the squeakiest ball) guide it all.

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