The Gift of Balance: Our Personal Journey

I was recently asked to join two other coaches in discussing what balance looks like in key areas of our lives. What you’re going to read is a transcript of our Friday phone conversations. I believe there is something in this series for everyone; as each of us brings a plethora of experience from different areas of the work/ministry world. Combined we have experience in corporate America, pastoring, counseling, coaching, leading as a single leader for over 20 years, a combined 45+ years of marriage, over 20 years of parenting, home schooling, etc. We each hail from different areas of the country as well. So pour some coffee, tea or cocoa and enjoy reading our gift to you! Merry Christmas! (Be sure to check out Mark & John’s websites below).

1) What’s your personal story of balance?

Mark: I grew up in a lower-middle-class, conservative Christian family in southern Michigan. My parents were very involved in our lives. After marrying my high school sweetheart, we moved to Columbus where I began a career in corporate America. I knew early on that work and non-work balance was an important equation that I would have to solve. As we added three kids (now 13, 15 & 17), I realized balance is nuanced and fluid; it’s not a static, rigid concept. There are seasons where you may be focused on one area more than another. What I always retained was that my relationships-wife, kids, God-were the things that I valued. My career encroached on my home life and balance became really difficult. After twenty years, I acknowledged publically that life was out of balance and I had to hit reset.  I chose to walk away and chart a new course. Now I enjoy working with coaching clients on this idea of balance in their lives. I’m jazzed about helping people know where they want to go in life and put together a plan to get there!

Tonya: My husband & I are also Michiganders; we grew up, met and married there. We were involved in ministry right out of the gate in various areas; campus ministry, music ministry, associate pastors, etc. My story of balance comes after our oldest son was born and we were on a church staff under a pastor who had a moral failure only to be replaced with an unbalanced man emotionally and work wise. My husband who was working a full-time job at one place and part-time at the church was being pushed to give more and more, while our family was getting less and less. We finally sat down and said, “Enough! What does God want here?” We made some changes that weren’t popular but we know pleased the Lord and that’s what mattered to us. We chose to literally walk out the talk of putting God and family before ministry and work. I home schooled our boys (now, 17 & 20) all the way through. We were their biggest fans at all their sporting events. It meant keeping my therapy practice to part time and pinching pennies, but it was all worth it.

John: As I listen to you both, I hear interesting intersections in our stories. I grew up in a pastor’s home; my dad passed away at the age of 40. As a twelve-year-old kid, I can’t say that my dad was a workaholic, but I can’t say that I think he had balance in his life. So that certainly influenced my view of balance as a pastor, to not repeat the same history. Being single, achieving balance looks different but is still important. Balance can get out of whack for all of us in any area. I have worked through a couple of seasons where I realized, more from an emotional state, that I was out of balance. Similar to you, Mark, I chose to walk away from staff positions in order to reset. I didn’t have a “next” lined up. So Tonya, I got those same, “What are you doing?” comments. The balance for me wasn’t being concerned about what any one person thought more than what I understood the Holy Spirit was telling me. That doesn’t mean I have it all together, but when I feel like I’m out of balance I step back and let Him speak into what’s going on.

2) What makes you passionate about the subject of balance?

Tonya: I have sat across from so many leaders through the years in my therapy practice, who were broken and out of balance in their lives. I decided I wanted to help before they get there; guiding them away from the ministry pitfalls. The Oxford dictionary says that balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone to remain upright and steady. I want to constantly evaluate my own load, being sure to put my effort where the Lord wants. I also want to help leaders do the same so they can remain upright and steady in their lives.

Mark: This may sound cliché, but I think it’s in the time of difficulty where we are tested to choose the things that we value. Working with crazy workaholics lacking a longer view; I decided that’s not what I wanted. Who gets to their death bed and says, “I regret I didn’t have more conference calls. I didn’t travel more to meetings around the country”? Nobody says that. There is this pressure that organizations put on their people to go the extra mile. I always wanted to maintain this longer view, to not wake up one day and my kids are gone and I don’t know my wife, realizing I’ve missed it. In the church context, if we don’t exercise our opportunity to say “no” then it doesn’t give others the opportunity to step up and say “yes.”

Tonya: To piggyback off of that, this summer I spent three months with my father back in Michigan as he was losing his battle with cancer. It reinforced for me the principle of understanding who we are is not what we do. He touched a lot of lives in his ministry through the years, yet at the end he was struggling to find peace; feeling he hadn’t done enough. It was hard to watch this, I just wanted him to know his value was in who he was not what he did or didn’t do. That’s why I choose to introduce myself to others as “the daughter of the most-high God,” first. Not to be super spiritual but I want to reinforce where my value comes from.

John: Feeding off of your thoughts, two things come to my mind that I’m sure people have heard me say or observed me do. One is, “You’re not that important; Chill!” The other one is driven by my being drained by people who take themselves so seriously. “Relax. God’s in charge here. It’ll be okay.” My passion is similar to what you were talking about, Mark, in helping people say no. Modeling that is huge. Helping people see the freedom and creating that “wow” reaction; “I didn’t know this kind of living existed.”

Next we each give an honest answer to areas we’ve personally struggled with balance in; stay tuned!

John Gregory – pastor, coach, writer and musician –

Mark Stanifer – life coach, 20 yrs experience in corporate America, husband, father –

Tonya Waechter – leadership coach, 22+ years therapy experience, wife, mother –

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