A marriage invariably brings together two individuals who are skilled in different ways. Some are gifted in nurturing, others are adept in managing finances. One may have culinary expertise or even a natural inclination for decorating. Yet, another is gifted at craftsmanship to handle the home repairs. My father was the consummate worker, a plumber by trade, but he could also fix anything, and he loved any home repair challenge. My mother, on the other hand, was the model of hospitality. She welcomed exchange students from France. She created our home as a hub for all the neighborhood children. Most importantly, she taught us to reach out and care for the marginalized. Mom and Dad were a nice blend.
I must have inherited a small degree of my father’s desire to keep things in order. This was most evident to my husband’s chagrin a few weeks back, as I asked the family to help me clean out the garage after attending Sunday service. “Ugh,” was his reply as he had just settled in to read the Sunday paper on his IPAD. Well, I knew he would like some quiet time to read, so I decided to prey on my five children. I tempted them with outdoor playtime and a trip to the pool, if they helped. Again, after a few moans and groans and my persistence we moved out to the garage. We began by pulling everything out on the driveway. It was going well until I unrolled a carpet and out of the carpet, a mouse ran up my arm, and I ran down the driveway screaming! After we calmed down, we swept and organized the entire garage. That day, we donated a few things. The kids rode their bikes and had fun with an old box. They even practiced shooting hoops. Close to the day’s end, we even pulled our two cars into the garage, which hasn’t happened in months.
The next morning as I ventured into the garage to find some batteries, I had an overwhelming feeling of being content. I paused for a moment to soak in the rewards of our labor. It led me to think about where does contentment and happiness come from in life? Cleaning my garage allowed me to remember how good we feel when our life is in balance. Our family unravels when we are running around for days on end with sports, school activities and family obligations. We feel overwhelmed and overscheduled. The flip side is how we connect when things are in balance. Attending to each of our individual needs and family needs isn’t always easy. I find that balance when our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs are being met.
Our family makes an attempt at healthy eating even with the occasional drive-thru meal. School and park district sports, along with dance are the bases for our fitness regimen. Connecting as a family comes through enjoying family dinners, game nights or movie nights on the weekends and a healthy dose of affection at bedtime. Taking time to nurture our marriage doesn’t always get the highest priority. We both agree a regular date night is a necessary component, especially since it is easier with older children. We try to keep our life mostly in balance, and sometimes, we even get over confident and feel really good about ourselves. Then life throws us a curve ball. When my Dad’s illness took a turn for the worse our family had to readjust the meaning of balance.
I have learned that my greatest contentment comes from being aware and grateful to the source of the blessings in my life. Having a discipline to nurture my spirituality, even in very subtle ways, has transformed my life. Taking five minutes in the morning to rest in God’s goodness and then five minutes at bedtime to reflect upon the day has been my most meaningful spiritual practice. It is in that 10 minutes every day that I remember the moments that were filled with love and those that were absent of love. From there, I determine what I can do differently tomorrow.
My husband may not jump for joy to clean our garage, but he brings an important component to our marriage. He creates a loving atmosphere that is focused on balance in all areas of life. He demonstrates a great work ethic, he is an avid reader, and he values education. He coaches the children’s sports teams and remains connected with their needs. He hugs me first when he comes home from a long day of work. And most importantly, he teaches our children to pray.
Cleaning my garage is like my spiritual journey. Having the discipline to nurture my faith provides me stable footing (the balance in my life) and supports me when life tosses me a curve ball. When life gets cluttered , we hit the reset button to get it back on track. Then, when the curve ball comes and we have that balance, we are better prepared to tend to ourselves and those we love in our life.
“If we will walk humbly with our God, He will lead us by the hand to exactly who and what we need, to those people, things and experiences He has designed and intended for us, and this alone will be the cause of our deep fulfillment and happiness.” Matthew Kelly
This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “Love One Another,” “Who Loves You?” and “Who is Listening?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.