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On Saying No…

Every weekend, I reflect on the things I have gotten done during the week.

And the things I haven’t. 

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I always have a lot to celebrate. Fun things. Time with family and friends. Shopping trips. Good eats. House cleaned.

But I also usually have a lot to beat myself up about. I think of how some days got de-railed. There’s something to be said for being flexible, but often I find myself off track because I choose to say yes to things that I have no business saying yes to. I am a people-pleaser to a fault, and I have a hard time saying no, especially to the things I want to do. The things I’m good at. The things I worry no one else can do as well as me. The things no one else wants to do.

I don’t want to say no to church things. If I cut corners somewhere, it surely shouldn’t be in the church, right? And I don’t want to say no to friends. They’re my people! And my neighbors can’t think poorly of me because then they might think poorly of Jesus. So that doesn’t leave many requests for me to say no to.

But this week, I found that I had been saying yes to things I don’t even want to do! This is when I realized that this is an epidemic in my life.

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So how do I deal with this? I can’t stay afloat in my life as long as I’m agreeing to everything I’ve been asked to do. How do I set boundaries? One thing that is helpful is deciding ahead of time what things I will and will not say yes to. A friend of mine had a rule when her children were small. She could only go somewhere twice a week and only get the kids in and out of their carseats two times on that trip. This kept her sane. If she had already committed to two things in one day, she knew her answer to anything else that was presented to her.

The world will banter for our attention, and if we turn our head every time something sparkles, we will soon find that our life will lose its sparkle. It has been helpful for me to write down a mission statement. This small paragraph composes the goals I have in life, the jobs I am confident God has given me to do, and the roles I must play to be a faithful servant. These are mostly under the headings of Christian, wife, mother, and employee. The usual things are on this list: meals, laundry, reading my Bible, finishing work projects on time, taking time out to encourage others in the faith. I think having a boundary in place is helpful.

If you are an extrovert, it will limit your time spent socializing.

Likewise, if you are an introvert, it will encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone, once or a twice a week. I feel sure that my friend wanted to say yes more often than she did. But looking back, she realized that her boundary was a wise decision.

So I guess the real question is: are we willing to sacrifice now to gain later? Sacrifice our comfort zone to reach out to others who need it? Give up our daily nap to spend more time in the Word? Give up our TV time to call a friend who needs encouragement? Go to bed earlier so that we can wake up before the kids and have a better disposition? Schedule some self-care and take a bath or go on a walk so that we have more patience with our families? Sacrifice our need to socialize so that we can be home more and less stressed about the Cheerios stuck on the walls?

I choose a word to be my theme every year, and a verse to correspond with the word. My word for 2017 is Necessary, from Luke 10:42, and even just having this word stuck in my head has enabled me not to distract myself with lesser priorities. In her book, “A Woman After God’s Own Heart,” Elizabeth George says that she prays about every decision. The ones she wants to say yes to, the ones she wants to say no to, and the ones she has no idea about. I think that if we prayed about every opportunity, we would find ourselves less stressed, less irritated, and much more peaceful.

Maybe Isaiah was onto something when he told us to wait on the Lord. Before we rush ahead, before we chock-full our calendars, before we operate on a whim. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and no be weary, and they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV).

Are we willing to stop the rat race that the world is in and slow down? It will be unusual. It will feel foreign, perhaps. It may not be popular in our circles. But take courage. As Christine Caine says, “Life is too short, the world is too big, and God’s love is too good to live ordinarily.”

Let’s be women who fear God more than people. Let’s not feel failure as much as we fear succeeding at things that don’t really matter. Let’s give up our comfort idols in order to make a mark on the world.

Our time here is short. Let’s make the most of it!

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Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

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