Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.  Psalm 51:10 The Message

 “Not another one!”

This was the somewhat-less-supportive-than-anticipated response I got from a good friend after telling her about my new book project, one geared toward encouraging women to bring balance back into their lives. Admittedly, it threw me a bit off-balance.

With a significantly softer tone, she continued. “Don’t we all know what the problem is by now? We’re too busy. Why can’t we just figure it out and fix it once and for all?”

That is the question, isn’t it?

It was then I knew. If this book was to be noticed, it needed to take a twist that every woman would relate to.

Of course. Laundry.

You see, I have a theory: life is like laundry. If we don’t stay on top of it, it piles up quickly and, neglected too long, can get really stinky. When that happens it’s time to turn off the spin cycle and take a look at how we’re handling the home goods.

Contrary to popular teaching, the key is not just better time management or optimum organization. Certainly those can be useful tools. However, responses from a vast repertoire of women’s retreats, plus my personal attempts at balancing the responsibilities and expectations accompanying 42-plus years of marriage and ministry have brought me to another conclusion.

Discipline only works long-term when it is spiritually motivated.

The best motivation for getting our lives in order is to truly understand how much God loves us, what a wonderful plan he has for our lives, and, if given a chance, how he will help us eliminate whatever interferes with it.

Trouble is, even with the best of motives, it’s not going to happen instantly or miraculously. That, my frazzled friend, is where the detergent hits the agitator.

Face it. We’re a generation of women who’ve grown up being told we can do it all. Except no one bothered to define all. Consequently, we take on more and more responsibility, only to end up stressed and depressed when it becomes obvious that trying to do everything inevitably means doing nothing well.

Frankly, I’m not convinced that women want to do it all. Rather, much of our added activity boils down to a subconscious search for identity, affirmation and validity. The problem is, in our persistent pursuit we just keeping adding things on without taking time to prioritize or evaluate what needs to be subtracted. No wonder it’s a long, frustrating time before some of us surface long enough to discover where our God-given gifts and passions truly lie.

Many of us struggle, too, with imagined or unrealistic expectations—both our own and others’. Not wanting to disappoint or shirk our responsibilities, we simply can’t bring ourselves to say “no”.

Sad to say, some have misplaced the washing instructions altogether. Wandering far from their spiritual moorings, many are confused about what the spiritual roles and responsibilities of women really are.

The bottom line is this: No one lives without stress. Stress is part of life—which may not always be a bad thing. Why? Stress can motivate us to take stock and make improvements. Face it, if our lives worked like a well-oiled machine, there would be no need for improvement. There would be no need for God.

To be stressed is human; to ask for help, divine. Here’s the good news. Once we realize we are not perfect, God may actually be able to do something wonderful with us.

Can we step away from the spin cycle long enough to discover the difference between doing it all and becoming all God wants us to be? If so, we may actually manage to clean up our unbalanced act once and for all.

Excerpted from Judi’s book, It All Comes Out In The Wash: Sorting Through Priorities When Your Load Is Out of Balance (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2006)