Boxes

There are so many things I want to do.

I want to go back to school and get my masters in Spiritual formation. I want a certificate in Spiritual Direction. I’d love to do that. I think I have a couple of books in me that need writing. I want to get those out. There are several trips I want to make. I want to return to India. I want to visit my Pakistan.

Recently I had to make a painful decision not to take a speaking engagement in the UAE. A friend and I were invited to speak on the book we wrote together, a book on expectations and burnout. Sue was able to attend and urged me to join her. We’ve spoken separately on the topic. We’ve spoken together on the topic. We love it when it works out for us to take these opportunities together. It made complete sense that I would go.

But it also made complete sense that I would not go.

Looking at my calendar this spring I realized I have a couple of other speaking engagements on the books. My husband Lowell also has a couple of trips planned. We have a long-term house guest staying with us. We have three children at home with their own things on the family calendar: choir concerts, dramas, dance class, the dance recital, poetry recitations. Their Spring break from school falls dab center in the middle of March. Two of our three are teenagers and carry their own adolescent angst with them wherever they go. The third is trying on pre-teen drama for size!

In looking at all of that it made complete sense for me to stay home.

Making that decision I felt a panic well up on my insides. What if I’m never asked again? What if this is my last chance to travel overseas? What if I’m forever shelved? What if the pause button on Robynn is pushed in permanently?

My friend Jill, in Albuquerque, had recently read a book by Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women. Tucked inside the book was a brilliant little chapter entitled, Boxes. As I shared my fears over this decision with Jill, she quietly got up and went and retrieved the book. She opened it to the page and handed it to me.

boxesShirer learned early on from a mentor the concept of Boxes. This mentor patiently explained to her that we all have these various boxes: passions, interests, roles, gifts. Balance doesn’t mean filling each box to the same level and then keeping all the boxes at that level. Balance means sorting out our priorities; shifting around our boxes. Knowing which ones we need immediate access to and keeping those at the front. The other boxes can be stowed away for another day. They’re not gone. They haven’t disappeared. But for now they’re not needed. Keeping the Christmas decorations at the front of the storage room doesn’t make sense when you need to switch out your eleven year old daughter’s winter clothes and you need into the box marked “Spring/Summer Girls size 10-12”.

I found it particularly comforting to know that the boxes that I’m not currently rummaging through haven’t disappeared. They’re not gone forever. My dreams and plans, my longings to travel, the things I want to try my hand at—those are kept for another day, another season.  Robynn hasn’t been shelved…just some of my boxes are pushed to the back for now. I suppose thinking it through in a spirit of prayer and dependence on the Giver of these gifts and dreams is the only way I’ll ever determine which boxes to leave out and which ones to put away.

The biggest box I have out today is one marked, “Kids!” Each of them are exceptional, energetic, creative, and passionate. It’s a box that brings me a great deal of joy, some anxiety, some frustration, and a lot of love. I also have a writing box I’ve just opened. That’s an exciting prospect. There’s a large box marked “volunteer” that keeps me busy at church and at our children’s schools.  There are other boxes open just now too, some smaller ones, some awkwardly shaped.

The rest of the boxes I’ll put away. My travel box (honestly, one of my favourites!), the opportunity box, Spiritual Direction box, speaking box those are all stacked neatly toward the back for now. Out of sight, but certainly not, out of mind.

Balance is not when the boxes are equally filled but when we are free to fill only those that are important for now, without feeling guilt over the ones that we’ve left for another time and place. This is balance. Remember it.” –Priscilla Shirer’s wise friend’s words to her.

5 thoughts on “Boxes

  1. That a tremendously helpful metaphor of balance. Thank you for sharing it. I think this may give me a paradigm to understand why life looks the way it does for me right now.

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  2. You are speaking my language! This is exactly what I’ve been dealing with the last 2-3 years. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone. I’ve never heard the boxes analogy. It makes so much sense and I can picture the boxes I shift through in my attic. Thanks for sharing. BTW, found you yesterday through the comments and links from an article by Grace Biskie at A Deeper Story. I’m having fun exploring your blog. Great articles!

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