By Christina Quick
By all appearances, Constance Rhodes had everything going for her. An attractive young woman with talent and determination, she landed a promising job in the Christian music industry a few years after graduating college.
As a marketing director for Sparrow Records in Nashville, Tenn., she rubbed shoulders with recording artists such as Steven Curtis Chapman and Nichole Nordeman. Yet the self-described “workaholic” didn’t feel satisfied.
“My need to achieve, to do it all, messed up the balance in my life,” she says. “I didn’t leave room for other people or even spiritual things.”
When her struggle to maintain control led to compulsive dieting and a borderline eating disorder, Rhodes slowly realized she’d been pursuing her own plans instead of God’s. Sensing the Lord’s direction, she quit her job and launched a Web-based ministry for women. Today the 33-year-old wife and mother understands that busyness doesn’t always bring happiness.
“Human nature is driven to achieve,” she says. “But too often we find ourselves at the end of the day having done all these things and feeling empty.”
From careers and child care to chores and checkbooks, today’s women have a lot to balance. Over time, the hectic pace of managing it all can take a heavy toll. Many women want to live more balanced lives but don’t know where to begin.
The good news is it doesn’t always take a major change — such as giving up a job — to bring major results. A few small steps in the right direction can lead to a life that feels less like a moving treadmill and more like the rewarding journey God intends.
1. Be imperfect.
Women often underestimate their God-given abilities and focus instead on traits they perceive as flaws.
Looking back, Rhodes believes her compulsive behavior arose from low self-esteem and an unhealthy desire for perfection.
“We spend a lot of time and energy feeling like we need to achieve perfection,” she says. “Even if you come as close as you can, it doesn’t give any sort of peace.”
Whether they’re business executives, stay-at-home moms, or grandmothers, Rhodes encourages women to depend on God for daily help and direction rather than placing unrealistic demands on themselves.
“We have to allow ourselves to be imperfect,” she says. “The key is knowing that our identity is not in what we do, what we look like or what we have. We find our identity in what God created us to be. We can’t let anything else define our value.”
2. Address the stress.
In today’s society stress is often accepted as a way of life. Though stress has been linked to a number of life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease and some forms of cancer, many people believe it is something to be expected and tolerated.
Experts see that as a dangerous attitude. Instead of ignoring stress, they say people should consider ways to decrease or eliminate it before it leads to more serious problems.
Brenda Spina, an Assemblies of God minister and therapist at the Center for Family Healing in Appleton, Wis., says a woman’s stress often ripples through her entire family.
“In many ways, she is the heartbeat of the family,” Spina says. “If she’s not caring for herself, others aren’t going to feel like she’s available to them.”
Spina advises stressed-out clients to compile a list of their daily schedules and habits, including details on nutrition and exercise. She then challenges them to choose one unhealthy habit that would be easy to change, using that as a starting point for dealing with their stress. For instance, a person who is not getting enough sleep could go to bed an hour earlier each night.
As each unhealthy habit is replaced with a better choice, the stress level is gradually reduced.
3. Abandon unhealthy guilt.
Any woman who has left a clinging, sobbing child at day care or placed an elderly parent in a nursing home knows what it’s like to feel guilty.
While guilt can serve as a healthy reminder that you may indeed need to refocus your priorities, women are particularly susceptible to piling on unhealthy guilt about situations that they cannot control.
“A lot of our mental and emotional energy gets wrapped up in dealing with shame-filled thoughts,” Spina says. “But God is still God. His plans and purposes go beyond our situations. We have to give the guilt — and the situations — to Jesus.”
Spina recently counseled an 84-year-old woman who was wracked with guilt because of a strained relationship with her daughter.
Spina’s advice for women of any age is to leave behind the guilt of yesterday, do their best with today, and look forward to doing even better tomorrow.
Most people can name the values and goals that are most important to them. Yet many people have trouble keeping their priorities in focus.
Lysa TerKeurst, co-author of the book A Woman’s Secret to a Balanced Life, says some women are so caught up in the everyday busyness of living that they fail to strategize the way they live.
“It’s a lot easier to live an out-of-balance life than it is to take time to really make the plan,” she says. “The reality is we only have a few years to make a tremendous impact for the Lord. It’s vitally important for a woman to set her priorities so she can strive to be a woman with no regrets and experience the joy of a life well-lived.”
TerKeurst, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries in Charlotte, N.C., tells women to list their priorities, then consider a few simple changes they could make to help their lives better match those priorities. Her motto is: “Start simply, but simply start.”
“I’ve had to say no to good things to protect the great things,” she says. “The world tells women they can do it all, they can be it all, they can go after everything and find happiness. That’s simply not true. God says, ‘Go after the things that I want you to go after and then you’ll find joy that’s lasting.’ ”
5. Stop comparing.
The Gospel of John records an interesting exchange between Jesus and Peter. After being told by the risen Lord that he will die a martyr, Peter looks at John and asks, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus’ answer is good advice for all Christians: “What is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:20,22, NIV).
Though it’s easy to make comparisons, Jesus wants us to stay focused on following Him, realizing that His plan for each person is unique.
Catherine Farnes, who suffers from albinism that has rendered her legally blind, used to grow discouraged wishing she could be more like others. Today, the published children’s author and mother of four has learned to trust God’s
“God has proven His faithfulness time and again,” says Farnes, who attends the Assembly of God in Sidney, Mont. “I’ve realized that I can’t be somebody else. If I’m trying to do what someone else is supposed to be doing, I won’t fulfill God’s plans for my life.”
6. Accept help.
Though Gail Davis has never been inclined to ask for favors, she has come to appreciate the value of help.
The wife of Pastor Maury Davis of Cornerstone Church of the Assemblies of God in Madison, Tenn., she received numerous offers of help after the birth of her triplets 18 years ago. At the time, the Davises were youth pastors at Calvary Church Assembly of God in Irving, Texas. Members of the congregation cleaned her house, helped with child care and donated baby equipment.
“Because I was willing to receive the help that was offered to me, it really took some of the pressure off,” Davis says.
Some women may have to seek out the assistance they need, whether that means hiring a housekeeper or placing an ad for a weekend babysitter.
Kassidee Rose and her husband recently made a cross-country move to be closer to family after the birth of a disabled child.
“We didn’t have any friends where we were,” Rose says. “There was no one we could turn to for support. Just being near people who love us and want to help has meant a lot.”
7. Just say no.
After 45 years as an Assemblies of God pastor’s wife, Betty Owens finally learned the importance of saying no.
“I don’t like to see things done wrong,” explains Owens, who serves as Women’s Ministries director for the Arizona District. “I was really bad about getting involved in too many things. I didn’t discover until later in life that you don’t have to do everything people ask you to do.”
It was only after Owens became seriously ill and started suffering from anxiety attacks a few years ago that she realized she needed to slow down.
“We think we’re so strong,” Owens says. “Through this, God has taught me a lot about what’s important and what’s not.”
Today Owens counsels young women to concentrate first on spending time with God and family and to say no to anything that interferes with those priorities.
8. Give yourself a break.
Whether it’s kayaking on a river or playing a board game with a friend, research shows that people who take a break from their busy routines are happier and healthier.
After her illness struck, Owens realized her need for more leisure time. Now she and her husband meet family members for a leisurely brunch once a week. She also carves out time for reading, watching old movies and going for walks.
“There has to be a balance,” Owens says. “I’ve learned to listen to my body and say, ‘That’s enough. I have to take a break.’ ”
9. Laugh often.
Christian comedienne Cecile Kaiser figures she inherited her sense of humor from her parents. Kaiser’s mother always managed to laugh, even late in life when she was nearly blind and had both legs amputated.
“One day she blew up long, skinny balloons and pinned them to her pants at the thigh where she had lost her legs,” Kaiser recalls. “She thought it was the funniest thing, but most of all it made the people in her retirement home not feel so awkward around her.”
Kaiser uses that same quick wit not only in her comedy routines but also in raising her six children.
“It’s important to have fun,” she says. “God intended us to enjoy our lives. Around our house, we laugh about the small things and pray about the big things.”
10. Expand your boundaries.
While women who feel overwhelmed need to simplify their lives, that doesn’t mean they should always avoid taking on new challenges.
Arlene Allen, National Women’s Ministries director for the Assemblies of God, points out that trying new things is what allows people to keep learning and growing throughout their lives.
For some, that may involve taking college courses to begin a new career. For others, it may mean teaching an adult Sunday School class for the first time.
“When God drops an idea in your heart about something you’ve never done, He’s telling you it’s time to expand your boundaries,” Allen says.
The new slogan for Women’s Ministries — Unlimited! is “More than you imagined.” Allen says she wants women to understand that with God’s help and guidance they can have a balanced life — and accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
Christina Quick is staff writer for Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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