I’m a ‘yes’ man. Well, I’m clearly a woman, but you get where I’m going with this.
I say yes to everything and to everyone. And I used to think that was a good thing! I don’t mind being busy, or having a lot on my plate. I feel, probably like most of you, that it makes me important. When I’m in high demand, and when I can hardly feel my face I’m pulled in so many directions, that must mean I’m doing this whole ‘life’ thing right, right?
This past weekend, I found myself driving to and from Nashville for a homeschool convention. Yes, I’m going to homeschool in the fall. Stay tuned for that adventure because I never thought I’d ever be on it, so do feel free to come along for the ride. Either way, as I was driving to and from Nashville (about an hour and 20 minutes each way), I listened to an audio book called Present over perfect. I have to say, this book may well have changed my whole life.
You see, let me tell you what I did to myself this past weekend…
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I was meant to drive to and from this conference in Nashville. I packed a bag on Thursday for two reasons: 1) I figured it wouldn’t hurt to be ready to spend the night at my friend Tori’s house should I need to, as she would also be attending the convention and she actually lives in Nashville, but also 2) I am a birth coach and I had a mom who was due in North Nashville who was in and out of contraction cycles. Yes, I’m a birth coach- I should blog about that too I suppose.
So when I left the house Thursday morning, I really wasn’t sure when I would see my kids next.
Well, add to the schedule that we had family friends coming to visit on Monday and my house was a complete disaster. And my husband, who also has a life despite my best effort to add too much to our plate, coaches our son’s baseball team and had practice on Sunday. Oh yea, and I volunteer in the toddler room at church Sunday mornings.
So Thursday came, I left in the morning- only JUST over the flu myself I might add- and I had my bag packed and big plans to tackle my crazy weekend with all the fervor of a student on the first day of school. On the way to the conference, this book though… the author was talking about how she had lived her life at complete max capacity, achieving like crazy and bearing all kinds of beautiful fruit for her efforts, and yet found herself absolutely missing the most important stuff in life… the stuff found when you just stop. Pay attention. Be present. Do nothing. Sit quietly.
‘HA! I thought. Stop what? What could I even stop if I wanted to? I’m doing all the things! I’m living my life by design. Everything on my plate- I put it there! I chose it! I don’t have a traditional job, so everything I’m doing is because I am choosing to do it. What a blessing!!’
This was me on Thursday…
Thursday evening, completely exhausted from a sleepless night coughing the night before, I found myself driving home (as opposed to staying at my friends house because I was too exhausted) and this book was back in my ear…
More talk of less. More talk of slowing down and resting. More talk of being present…
Wasn’t I present? I’m present, right?
Thursday night at 11pm, my friend who wasn’t due to have her baby for another two weeks, and who I am the birth coach for, was having contractions. She had been having them for several days, but she was pretty convinced that these were different. As soon as I got home, she decided to head to the hospital. She lived on the north side of- yep- Nashville.
I decided to wait and see. The book, after all, had been telling me to just stop. Wait. Pause. Take a minute. So I figured I would. I went to bed, but didn’t sleep. I dozed in and out between text message updates and tried to guess if it was time for me to start to head to the hospital.
Friday morning, at 4:30am, I finally got out of bed. I pulled out my devotional and started reading….
Sidebar: I’ve been doing a daily devotional first thing in the morning every single day of this year so far without exception. It’s changed every single thing about my life, mind, heart and spirit. If you’re a person of faith, or even if you’re a person who is kind of into the idea of being a person of faith, I encourage you to do this. I use the app called the First15 and it’s amazing!!! I wake up, pick up my phone, read the devotional and a chapter suggested by them in the bible, and then I journal for just one page. One page of prayer. Sometimes I pray for others, but mostly I ask God for guidance. I ask him to tell me what I’m supposed to do. I do this first thing in the morning, before I do anything else, and it makes a difference.
Well, Friday morning, God told me to rest. He asked me if I thought I was too busy- if I had put too much on my plate. He told me to be still. He told me to wait.
What on earth was going on here?
So I journaled and I asked God… ‘why should I stop when what I’m doing is for you?’ If there is fruit, it must be of the Lord, right? If I’m busy doing what the Lord has called me to do, it must be good! It must be right! I must not rest!
God has called me to homeschool, so this conference is following God. And I felt compelled to be a birth coach as a form of ministry because I wanted to bless people. And I love having people to my house in fellowship. I want to host. I want to connect with people! God calls us to do that too!
So where can I rest? How can I stop?
And then this dang book, it just wouldn’t stop… Friday morning, as I raced the sunrise up to the hospital to check in on my friend before the conference started for the day, the author talked again about resting, waiting, being present, having patiences for the in between… for the stillness. She said, ‘just because there is fruit, doesn’t mean it’s of God.’
Man, if that didn’t smack me across the face!
You see, like I said before… I’m a yes man. I say yes to everything and everyone! Occasionally, I pray first, but not usually. I think briefly about whatever or not we can maybe make it work, I consider momentarily if it aligns with my priorities- of which I have 48474- and I measure how much saying yes will help me move towards my goals.
Do you see how that works? I have goals, I have plans, I have ‘good works’ that I’m trying to rack up here, but the bible says:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.”
You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4: 13-14
I’m guilty of making plans. I’m a plan maker. And I figure the opportunity wouldn’t be there if God didn’t put it in my path, right?
Well, then why did I find myself on Friday with God telling me directly through my devotional and my Christian book… to stop? To say no?
My friend didn’t have her baby that day. She had it Monday, and although I had to leave my house guests and head to the hospital, I didn’t even make it in time. She had a successful VBAC and she didn’t even need me there to do it. But on Friday night as I headed back home after another long day at the homeschool conference, I couldn’t help but ask God, “what on earth can I do?”
I had one more day of the conference and absolutely no more energy. I had zero time to clean my house which needed a full days cleaning. I was still sick, and hadn’t seen my kids- who were sick- in two days, and my husband and I were a little at odds having been stretched to the breaking point. Baseball couldn’t give, and I couldn’t expect Tom to clean the entire house while he watched three kids- because let’s be honest, you’re setting your husband up to fail by asking him to clean the house… he’ll never do it the way you’ll do it.
So on Friday night, when I finally got home, I said no.
I decided to stay home on Saturday, instead of going to the conference and I decided to be present with my kids. I cleaned all day and felt wonderful having gotten it accomplished the way I would want it done. I made the kids breakfast and played games with them. I also said no to volunteering at church, because I was still sick and it wouldn’t be responsible, even thought I don’t like letting people down. Okay, I HATE letting people down. I don’t like to flake out on things I’ve said yes to.
No is hard for me.
But I said no because God told me to stop. And you know what… I felt the peace almost immediately. I got to enjoy my kids, my husband, and my house guests. We played games and drank wine and hiked. I said no so that I could say yes to being present.
But the whole present over perfect thing… yea, I’m still working on that. This all just happened last week okay, give me a minute. This coming weekend I find that I’m full to the brim again. More trips to Nashville, more house guests, more cleaning. More things to say no to… and I have! Right this very minute I’m supposed to be in Nashville taking a class. And I said no. I have to take a class all day tomorrow, and so tonight, I decided that I needed to say no. I don’t like it. I feel flaky. But I’m trying to be obedient. I played with my kids, put my daughter’s hair in curlers for the Father/Daughter dance tomorrow night, and now I’m catching up with you all and enjoying a glass of wine.
It’s quiet. It’s still. I’m resting. I’m saying no… so that I can say yes.
Maybe you’ll join me in saying no to being too busy- even if you feel like it’s producing fruit. Take a minute and be present… it might just change everything.