Tag Archives: Balance

Off with the Old, On with the New

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would turn myself into a morning person who could function on about 5 1/2 hours of sleep. Helpful in this season of motherhood. Or I would erase my emotions’ ability to go from 0-60 in 0.5 seconds flat. Helpful in all of life.

A friend of mine, a fitness coach, uses her social media to challenge people to eat well and work out to care for their bodies. More than anything, as I scroll through her feed, she reminds me that everything we do comes from a choice. Our choice. We can stay where we are, or we can choose to grow stronger.

And not just physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, every day we get to choose our direction.

Will we continue to disappoint ourselves by staying stuck in mental habits we want to shake? Will we try to handle life on our own or let God have control? Will we let life happen to us or will we overcome? Are we going to believe the truth of God’s word over the lies in our head?

Lately I’ve felt prompted to share some of the practical side of my journey toward self-discipline in a 4-part series addressing mental habits that drag us down spiritually. This series is for you if you want to change but don’t know how to begin. It’s for you if you’re discouraged because you can’t see God working in your life. And it’s for you if you are wondering how following Christ makes a difference in a person’s everyday life.

elizabeth cravillion opening toward god letting spirit work
Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians:

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

The longer I walk with Christ, the more he peels back my inner layers. I think one issue is resolved, like my struggle with anxiety, then five years later, it rears its head again in a new way. So God pulls back that layer to show me new steps to following his design for me more closely.

I stumble when I think there is anything good within me. There isn’t. Deep in my core, the natural side of Elizabeth craves self-worship, self-satisfaction, self-pleasure. But that’s not the new me. I am created to be like God, truly righteous and holy. So the old woman has to go. My hands have to let go of their grip on what I want.

I can’t do this alone. I heard this recently spoken this way: Christ is the only one who can live the Christian life. It’s his life, and it’s our job to let him live it through us. As Paul stated it – “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” The Spirit does the work. We get to let him do it.

I can look at myself and be discouraged by how I continue to fail. I can look around and be defeated by the brokenness of the world around me. Or I can rest on the fact that God is working. It is his work: in me and in the world. And all he asks for is my willingness to let him work in and through me.

This series will include
Show me the Lies
No Longer a Victim
Not Holding on Anymore
Never Going Back to Perfect

Balance: Recognizing your Season

This is part of a series on balance. Begin here to read more.

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillionWhen my soul starts questioning life, I always find my way back to the book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon, who is even in secular history books considered one of the greatest rulers who ever lived.

God offered a young Solomon whatever he pleased and Solomon asked for an understanding heart to lead his people well. God loved this and gave Solomon so much more than he asked for. He gave Solomon incredible wisdom and gave Israel great wealth and influence under his reign.

balance elizabeth cravillion season ecclesiastesSolomon lived a long life, making both good and bad choices. He experienced it all. He wrote several books but he wrote Ecclesiastes at the end of his life, looking back and tackling big questions. Why am I here? Has my life even mattered? What’s this all about? He lived to have everything he ever wanted and yet found it wasn’t enough. As he writes the book he comes to several conclusions that always leave me with a quiet sense of peace.

Solomon wrote the famous passage you’ve probably heard, “To everything there is a season…a time to be born, a time to die; a time to weep, a time to laugh; etc, etc.” At the end of this section, he wrote this,

“I have concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they live, and also that everyone should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all his toil, for these things are a gift from God.” (3:12-13)

To live a balanced life, it’s crucial that we recognize the season we are in and embrace it. We must live fully present and accept each moment as a gift from God. Sometimes I would like to be able to live all the seasons at once. In college I worked hard but was constantly being filled with spiritual truth and encouragement. As a mom, I’m not being poured into like that. Authors I follow online release books and travel around speaking and working and I don’t have that freedom. There are days I cross off my to-do list like a pro and other days when keeping my kids alive is my major accomplishment.

balance elizabeth cravillion season ecclesiastes

Life will never look exactly like we wish it would – at least not all of it at once. If I want to live in balance, I must learn to be content. To soak up the blessings around me and thank God for them, even in the face of disappointment, grief or struggles.

Every season is necessary. Sometimes the earth needs plowing, weeds need pulling, seeds need planting and watering, and bushes need pruning. If I chafe at these chores because I’m not enjoying the fruit of harvest yet, I won’t appreciate the value of my current task. We work toward harvest but it is not everything. Like Solomon, we can find enjoyment in the hard work before the harvest as well.

In any given day I can be in several seasons. I can be in a season of giving all morning while I care for my kids and run errands and text friends needing encouragement. Then I can enter a season of receiving as the kids nap and I rest and read God’s word or listen to a podcast. Sometimes it’s time for me to write, and sometimes it’s time for me to live out what I’ll be writing about later.   A key to balance is resting in this moment where God has me and walking forward in that.

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Maybe you’re in a dark or stormy season. Lean hard on God to carry you through it and keep moving forward. Maybe you’re in a season of harvest after your hard work and life is just good. Savor it and give God credit for the joy.

Discontentment always pulls us out of balance. Accepting our present life with open hands as a gift from God brings peace no matter what our circumstances may be.

Balance: Looking Beyond Today

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillion*Note* Today I’m sharing some biblical facts about God and Satan. If you wonder where on earth I’ve found these concepts, click the hyperlinks and they will take you to the verses that spell out the truths I’m explaining.

Watching my little boy climb up the rock wall at the playground, I ask myself again, “Where did the time go?” Just yesterday he was learning to crawl. Now his spindly legs race across the park as he yells, “I win you!”

Why do we always marvel at the speed of time? Because a timeless God created us with eternity in our hearts. Time is strange to our souls. As is sin, which has infected the world around us. We rebel at the passing of time and pain in life and the separation of death because our souls were created to be pure and whole and to live forever. This paradox tends to throw us out of balance.

People often ask why an all-powerful God allows pain and suffering in the world. It’s a deep question that I’m not going to delve into today. But through the Bible I understand that God has allowed his enemy a period of time to rule this world, within certain constraints. Our world is presently “groaning” under sin’s corruption, and we suffer with it. Bad things happen to us because we are stuck in the world’s system.

God’s word emphasizes that we live on a battlefield. Spiritual forces, invisible to our human eyes, fight for dominance over this world. We know that with every war comes pain, suffering and every form of evil.

In my naive Western mind, I’m tempted to view life as a classroom, where every hard experience equals a test from my teacher, God. It’s pristine and orderly and I just have to check off the right boxes and I’ll get an A. When life becomes more painful and messy I start questioning God – what’s going on? Are you torturing me? Why do I deserve this horrible essay test when my classmate over there gets an easy multiple-choice quiz?

elizabeth cravillion balance peace spiritual warfare

In March our family experienced some spiritual oppression through seemingly unwarranted defeat and dark discouragement. We prayed our way through it but suddenly I, was flat on my back in pain in the hospital with pneumonia and blood clots in both lungs.

We felt blindsided and I really struggled spiritually as I recovered. Clearly I could have died but God spared me. Why did he allow all this? Instinctively, I searched for the lesson he might be trying to teach me. Was he trying to get me to admit he was in control? Was he out to prove something to me? I really feared God for quite some time and couldn’t put my finger on why.

So I spent several weeks searching my heart and God’s word for answers. This is what God spoke to me. I’m living in a war zone. As believers in Christ on mission for God’s kingdom, our family fights in the front lines. God didn’t attack me with physical sickness. Satan did. God wasn’t out to prove his toughness to me. He’d been shielding me from a fatal attack from the enemy. He love my family and me so deeply that he protected me that way.

As I saw this, I wept. And I learned some rich, beautiful truths about my God in a way I’ve never seen them before. I may never have learned them this way if it hadn’t been for this experience.

Did God allow them so I would learn a lesson? Do I really need to ask that question? How pain and suffering purify me and make me like Jesus is a mystery. This we know: the Bible declares God as our protector – not our antagonist. He does redeem the corruption of sin in this world, meaning, he makes beautiful things out of the ugly, but he doesn’t take pleasure in our pain!

So in daily life, I fall out of balance when I forget to expect hard things from the invisible spiritual world. I forget Satan and his demons are attacking me with their lies and corruption. Satan masquerades as an angel of light and blends his lies so easily with the truth. He wants to destroy me. He’ll use anything to defeat me, from my baby’s teething to my coworker’s attitude to my dad’s diagnosis to my chronic pain.

When I forget about Satan, I get discouraged, or beat myself up, or doubt God. But when I put my mind on things above and remember that while physically in this world, I can separate my circumstances from spiritual reality. This provides clarity I desperately need in this hard life.

The truth is, this life is not everything. My comfort today is not the end goal. And as a believer, I have confidence that,  because of his death and resurrection, Christ wins in the end over Satan. Sin and pain don’t win. Temper tantrums don’t win. Dirty laundry doesn’t win. Cancer can’t win. Jesus does. And I am his.

photo credit: _IGP0388_adjusted via photopin (license)

Balance: Free Yourself

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillionHebrews 12:1 says, “Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, our leader.” TLB

I like this picture of running a well-paced race with nothing holding me down, all my training pushing me toward Jesus at the finish line.

However, so many days as I try to keep my eyes on Jesus, everything else crowds in and shoves him out of my vision. I end up struggling to just stay on my feet, let alone finish the race. So much slows me down.

In February I discovered an online Mom’s Night Out webinar each month held by Susan Seay. Please check it out if you’re a mom at any stage of life. She shares so much godly wisdom from her heart. As I listened to her teaching on spring-cleaning our hearts and homes, she said something that resonated with me.

“Clutter is the sign of a delayed decision.”

Hello! The reason I’ve struggled my entire life to establish good habits with my chores and routine and even my stuff. I care more about being with people and being comfortable than I do about making those little daily decisions to take care of seemingly insignificant tasks. That’s my excuse. Yours might be different.clutter free yourself hebrews 12 elizabeth cravillion

As the oldest in my family, I thought housekeeping would come easily for me. But I found I hated all the “mundane” household chores. And keeping things tidy has never been my strong suit. Last year we moved into a lovely rental home where we have a lot of redecorating and renovating liberty and my list of household projects began to accumulate.

So by this spring, I felt completely overwhelmed. My kitchen was always piled too high with dishes. Our home was always messy (beyond what the kids created). And I couldn’t stop thinking about all the jobs that needed to be done.

When I realized the heart of my struggle, something as simple as putting things off, I began to slowly change. For years I’d been saying, “It’ll do,” to a myriad of things, far beyond household chores, that clouded my mind. But living a mediocre life isn’t good enough. I want to be at peace! By taking two extra seconds to hang up the shirt instead of throwing it on the floor, and twenty extra minutes a day to do a dishwasher load, and making a list of projects to slowly chip away at, I began freeing myself of the negativity filling my brain.

Have you ever made a list of all the negative thoughts that plague you? What slows you down every day? What decisions are you delaying?

Maybe it’s stuff you need to release emotionally. Maybe it’s people you need to forgive. Maybe it’s circumstances you need to surrender.

See, by doing my dishes daily, my messy kitchen rarely even crosses my mind, even when there are stacks to scrub. To turn off that mental track stuck on repeat, decide to release that frustration to God. Seriously, let it go. Make the needed change.

One day I was whining to Nate about my stress over the dishes and he said, “Why don’t you just try doing the dishes once a day and see how it goes?” So I did. And it was amazing. And I’m never going back.

Just do it. This is about more than physical clutter. It will clear your heart. And maybe even your kitchen counter.

Balance: Just Because I Can

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillion“We must push beyond what is comfortable if we want to grow.” Susie Larson

They tell me it isn’t normal to be able to rattle off 30 or 40 people’s names I’ve been actively reaching out to on any given week. Camp kids I write letters to. Elderly people whose houses I clean, who I love on in a myriad of ways. Peers I email and call regularly. Everywhere, anywhere I run into a human being – that person becomes someone to care for and love.

Meet the former Elizabeth Skiles, the never-stopping, always pouring out caregiver. When God called me from a Kansas farm to Bible college, I especially felt like I was in heaven. Students and teachers all around me, who I could give, give, give to, every day.

When I took the Myers-Briggs personality test about 10 years ago, my results showed that I was 100% extroverted (by the way, if you haven’t taken it, you should). One hundred percent. My life literally revolved around other people. I loved it that way.

However, when you say, “God, do whatever you want with me and my life,” you may be surprised at what he starts to take away, and what he shows you about who you really are.

God began to teach me that by constantly pouring out, I was actually seeking for other’s approval and affection. Was it wrong to give, and love, and to be busy serving others with my time? No. But my motives to love others were completely intertwined with seeking love for myself.

So when I surrendered my love for people to God, he revealed just how deeply he loves and accepts me, no matter what I do. And he began to call me to be quiet and alone with him, and serve in uncomfortable ways that didn’t look like my definition of serving at all.

susie larson comfortable want to grow balance elizabeth cravillionFor example, I’m in my third pregnancy right now and I’ve discovered that there are seasons where physically growing a new life is my only service to God, because I’m too sick to do anything else. Motherhood in itself means your sphere of influence can go from wide to narrow very quickly as you focus on your children.

Or there can be lonely seasons of life, where you feel lost and disconnected from others. Using that time to draw close to God and learn contentment may be your one act of service to God.

Maybe God is calling you to a ministry of prayer in the quiet of your home, where nobody sees and knows how you spend your time. But it is service nonetheless.

I have introverted friends who say that for them, reaching out to say hello to someone, or offer a helping hand, is uncomfortable. To me, not saying “yes” to every possible opportunity to serve, lead, and meet others’ needs stretches me. For every person, “uncomfortable” means something unique.

What makes us uncomfortable is an area God can stretch us. It’s like a muscle that needs conditioning. If we never get off the couch, we’ll never become stronger. I’ve learned that balance in serving God means I trust him when he leads me somewhere new and challenging.

For me, that has looked like letting go of some ministries and being at peace with times of rest. What might it look like for you?

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A book that has been instrumental for me this year is Susie Larson’s Balance that Works when Life Doesn’t. It’s very practical and really goes to the heart of both physical and spiritual balance. Highly recommend it!

 

 

Balance: Not What I Think it Looks Like

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillionA favorite blogger of mine, Lisa Jo Baker, has been doing a 10-day challenge with herself to get back into regular blogging. I’ve decided I’m going to do half of that and blog for 5 days in the next week to stretch my mental muscles and prove to myself I’m capable of thinking about more than potty training or dish washing.

My  3-month goal this January was to become more organized and to streamline my routines. By the end of March I was feeling empowered and confident. I decluttered our home and my mind. We were creating good family habits. For the first time in my marriage I was beginning to feel like I ruled my housework and my schedule, instead of vice versa.

Then I got really sick. And pregnant. Enter my season of waiting and healing. I thought it would last all summer, but by the time second trimester snuck up on me, suddenly it was only mid-summer and I had energy to spare.

(Physical energy, I should say. Do you have any idea how much mental stamina it takes to grow a baby while parenting two toddlers? I didn’t – ha! It’s no joke. The blank mind. The forget-why-I-came-in-the-room brain. The after the kids’ bedtime zone out time. The “Is it only 10 am? Can someone please fast forward this day to nap time or we may end up watching PBS for the next 3 hours” thoughts.)

Once upon a time I had an unbelievable drive to get things done. Senior year of college I took 15 credits a semester (including two Biblical language classes), I headed up my church Sunday school program, led a Bible study, worked 3 part-time jobs, dated Nate, planned and designed our DIY wedding, and mentored several students.

Granted, that was a little extreme, but that’s how most of my life has looked in varying degrees, with little burnout. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back – just to emphasize that God gave me this capacity to juggle many plates at one time and thrive doing it.

seek peace pursue it find balance elizabeth cravillionSo when he called me to a season of sickness and weakness when I got pregnant with Charles 4 years ago, I floundered like a fish out of water, but came to accept his leading. He has spent the last few years redefining for me what it means to be a Christ-follower in real life, and showing me that it can include times of quietness and inactivity. In essence, that I don’t have to act like Superwoman for him to love me – he treasures me just as I am.

I wonder if somewhere, sometime, I asked him to teach me balance, because in one word, that is how I would describe my entire married life. Over the past 8 months, I’ve been discovering some beautiful truths about balance. I’d love to share them with you in a short series. Because once upon a time I thought balance meant doing 50 things well. But it might not be. I know a little more of how multi-faceted it is and how refreshing a life spent pursuing peace can truly be.

Will you join me?

More Posts here:
Balance: Just Because I Can
Balance: Free Yourself
Balance: Looking Beyond Today
Balance: Recognizing Your Season