For about two months each year, our family enjoys and endures youth baseball. The season concluded earlier this month and although it has been a lot of fun, we were ready for a break. Our four oldest boys all played this year (and the fifth boy would've play, too, if he was old enough!). Two of the boys were on the same team so that simplified things a little bit since we only had three team schedules to coordinate. Thankfully, the little boys always played in Clinton though the older two traveled half the time to other cities in central Illinois. We typically had a game (or two) four or five days a week (usually in the evenings) until tournament time came and then there were games everyday. Busy, busy, busy!
I've been asked before: How does your family do everything? The answer is: We don't. It's true that we keep a very full schedule, but there are many things to which we simply have to say "no." It is a balancing act of sorts for our family as it is for me as an individual. Making wise decisions regarding how I should be spending my time each day is one of the biggest challenges for me personally. It's the blessing and the curse of essentially being self-employed. I've been richly blessed with manifold opportunities and wonderful flexibility in my life. I really enjoy everything I'm involved in and that's what makes it tough, at times. Let me elaborate a bit:
So, in a nutshell, I love my family, my work as a preacher, and my businesses. Because I love all three, however, I do a lot of juggling almost daily. I try to devote multiple hours each day to each aspect, and working at home primarily out of our basement helps keep me connected to the family, even though it means lots of interruptions which means decreased productivity. But, I've learned not to be a slave to productivity. Don't misunderstand--I like to get things accomplished in a timely and excellent fashion, but some things just have to be pushed off until tomorrow, next week, or next year because something or someone needs my immediate attention. Perhaps it's a misbehaving child. Maybe it's someone who needs help in our community. Or it could be a customer who has questions about his order. Yes, there are days where I get busy tending to the urgent and the important gets pushed to the side. But, tomorrow is a new day and another chance to get back on track. Although I'd love to spend all my time on my family or on my work as a preacher, that would make it impossible (at least here in Clinton) for me to provide for the needs of my family. Ultimately, I love juggling my busy life and setting the direction for my family to follow. No matter what I accomplish or fail to get done (anyone seen either of my offices lately?), my heart yearns to be a faithful steward for God. That's what I'm aiming for, in every facet of life (how about you?). And, in truth, only the Lord knows if I'm really succeeding or not or if I'm deceiving myself.
The baseball season this year really provided a testing opportunity that I hadn't exactly faced before. I've always explained to the coaches at the beginning of the season that our sons would not be available for games on Wednesday nights (or, more accurately, they could play the first few innings but would always leave with our family for 7 PM Bible class at the church building). That has never been an issue. However, this year Abel was on a very skilled team and was helpful as a pitcher. They competed against 17 other teams in the season-ending tournament and ended up winning the whole thing! Champions! Exciting, right? Indeed, but also conflicting. One of those tournament games was on a Sunday night and I told the coach Abel wouldn't be there. The two final games of the tournament were both on Wednesday night and out of town which made it impossible to attend either of them and still gather with the church for Bible classes. Abel would have likely pitched in one of those championship games but I reluctantly told the coach that Abel would not be present. I admit that I felt bad about the decision, as if it was a no-win situation. If I required our 11-year-old son to attend Bible class, would he be letting the team down in a small way with his absence? Would he understand and respect my decision? I knew that I would feel like I had compromised my convictions for our family on one level if I let him miss Bible class even for championship baseball games. I believe the correct decision was made (although God is the judge--not me--of others who may come to a different conclusion). I was thankful that Abel's team won it all, though disappointed he could not be there with them on that Wednesday night. Other parents, out of kindness, volunteered to provide transportation for Abel. I thanked them for their kindness but explained that our family had another commitment. Abel and I talked about the matter a good bit. He wanted to play in the games, but he knew we would not go but would instead gather with Christians as is our custom on Wednesday nights to sing, pray, and study. He was mostly disappointed that the championship games had been scheduled on a Wednesday night to begin with. He was very mature about the whole matter; probably more so than I would have been at his age. His attitude about the whole situation was very encouraging to me.
Friends, I decided a long time ago that I would be a Christian first and foremost and would do my best to lead my family accordingly. That commitment simplifies much of the decision-making process in this crazy world of ours, though there are still tough situations that I don't enjoy dealing with. Sometimes responsibilities collide between family, church, & business, and difficult decisions must be made. May God help us and strengthen us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness always as we endeavor to be faithful stewards of His (cf. Matt. 6:33)!