We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. Psalm 39:6
Since when did saying “No” become such a bad word? And why do we feel like we need to say “Yes!” to everything that comes our way? Well I’ve got good news! We don’t! For so long my schedule was jammed-packed with everything under the sun. Work things, conferences, evening events, volunteering to do this, that and the other and weekends full of one thing after another! And Sunday? Well it was hardly a day of rest… I said “yes” to just about everything that came my way and everything someone requested of me. Saying “no” seemed rude or uncaring at the time, so I learned to function in a state of haste, being constantly on-the-go. During this time I had two young children and another one on the way. I was working full-time, with a part-time evening position as well. I was busy. Looking back now I’m not really sure how I did it or how much of me my family really got during that time. And I mean the fully-present me, not the doing-ten-things-at-once me.
I remember thinking “something’s got to change” once my third child was born. I couldn’t keep up at that pace with three small kids and the demands my home and family required. I think it’s safe to say that during that “busy rushing” period my priorities were out of whack. Big time. God was faithful to show that to me and to help me realize what was important and what needed to go. He showed me what deserved my time and what didn’t, and that saying “no” to things isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it can be really, really good!
I remember flipping through my planner (because I still use a paper planner) and mentally crossing things off. After thoughtfully and prayerfully considering all that I was involved in, I started weeding out those things that, during this season, didn’t need to have my time. For so long I was looking outside of my home for purpose and a mission, when all along God planned for my purpose and mission to be inside these four walls. I said goodbye to both jobs, which wasn’t an easy decision. We knew it’d be an adjustment in every way, including financially. I’d worked hard for that Masters degree and waited a long time to become licensed, but I knew without a doubt that God had called me to stay home with my children. Obedience usually requires sacrifice. I continued to weed out other activities and commitments that I didn’t feel led to hang on to. I knew that my family needed my presence (all of me!) in the evenings for dinnertime and bedtime routines so I made it a priority to be home most evenings, and I still strive for this. Let me add that as I said “no” to a lot of things, I made some “yes” choices too, including joining a mom’s group where my kids could be involved as well and a bible study to encourage the growth in my faith. And choosing to invest in friendships where I could find strength, encouragement and support was another priority. With a change in priorities came a change in commitments and I found it easier to say “no” if someone presented me with a request that would take away from valuable time with my family or that I didn’t feel led to do.
I no longer wanted to see every single weekend in my planner filled to the brim with things that, at the end of the day, only left us tired and worn out. That wasn’t fun for anyone. Instead, it’s nice to see our weekends free, or at least mostly free, to just enjoy each other, have friends and neighbors over and truly make Sundays restful. The freedom in this is that our children and spouses begin to get more of us (the best parts of us) and we are less frazzled and less stressed with having to meet the demands of commitments and obligations. I want to be available to spend time with my husband after the kids are in bed, so that means being home in the evenings and making it a priority to have regular date nights with him (see my post on Stay-at-Home date nights!).
I know that there are some things that are unavoidable, especially if you’re a working parent. I get that. I remember just how hard it was some days to leave the office on time. And saying “no” to my boss wasn’t always the most pleasant experience. But boundaries can be set even at work to allow for our families to become a priority.
So many times when I ask someone how they’re doing the first response I hear is “I’m so busy!” or “It’s just so busy right now!” I probably answer with that too at times! But how much of “busy” is our own choice? When you think about it, life is just busy, period. There’s always (always!) something to do, and someone or something that needs our attention. So it’s safe to say that the world we live in is busy. But that’s not the word I want to describe my everyday life. Busy is defined as “having a great deal to do”. Busy doesn’t sound rested. Busy doesn’t sound available to meet the needs of others. And busy doesn’t sound like much fun.
So like the verse at the beginning says “…all our busy rushing ends in nothing…” let’s choose to make those around us a priority over all the other things that tug at our time. And let’s lose the guilt when it comes to saying “no” to things. This just might not be the season to lead the PTA, or be on this committee or that… We can rest assured knowing that if we ask God to prioritize our time and show us what’s most deserving of it then He’ll be faithful to do just that, and He’ll give us the freedom to say “no” and the direction when we need to say “yes”.