Friday, October 4, 2013

A Time for Everything but Not Everything All the Time. Part 1.

{Links to the rest of the series' post at the bottom of the page}


By the time I was in college, I had almost zero ability to say no to a good opportunity. 

I forewent sleep, sanity, and even doing my best schoolwork because I was a slave to saying yes. So much of my worth was tied to productivity, people-pleasing, involvement, and performance. 

I crammed multiple majors into four years, ran cross-country and track, maintained a work-study job, and held various positions in student government. I socialized and dated and pulled all-nighters for my political science exams. 

Don't admire me. This was not impressive. This was insanity. 

Periodically throughout the year, I'd suffer a low-grade mini-breakdown. I'd become emotionally undone, physically ill, or both. I didn't connect the dots at the time but in retrospect I've realized that I habitually sipped the toxic cocktail of stress, success, and sleep deprivation. 

I lived life as a functional yes-ahololic. 

I'm really not sure how I did it but the trend began in late middle-school / early high-school and I just ran with it. Youth certainly played a part. I've joked with those closest to me that I used up all of my energy and serotonin by the time I was 30. They don't disagree.

It's hard to unlearn decades of habits even after we know better. 

Physical limitations, time constraints, financial realities, and wisdom force me to say no to things all the time. But that doesn't stop my mind and desires from screaming, But I want to do this! Why can't we have this? Perhaps we can find a way to make it work.

Now that I'm a mom with kids who are old enough to have some interests and pursuits of their own, the yes and no stakes feel higher. I love these guys. I want the best for them. I want to expose them to opportunities that may uncover some of their own gifts and passions. 

But I was ill-prepared for the bombardment of good things that have come our way. We've said yes when we should have said no. And we've even said no and then wondered if we should have said yes. We've learned the hard way and I'm not naive enough to believe that this trial and error stuff is all behind us.

Just last week my husband and I said no to a very good thing for one of our kids, a good thing that this kid had practiced and tried out for. After weeks of hard work, they met the requirements and were invited to be part of a terrific opportunity, full of possibility, enrichment, and community. 

And we disallowed it. 

The backlash was fierce. If I have to hear, But everyone else's parents said yes one more time, I'm taking off for Mexico.

It's not that we don't love the opportunity. We do. It's not that we don't think this child would benefit. They would. The problem is simple: the child's plate is full. The child is committed to other things: school, homework, a sport, church, and family. The child is still a child. We, as the child's guardians and teachers, have to set boundaries to guard their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. As a result, we made a loving but very unpopular decision. We're all still a bit raw from the emotional carnage. 

In the whole scheme of things, it's rather small. But it uncovered a gargantuan issue. An issue that's layered with insecurity, fear, seeking peace in our children's happiness, and comparison. It uncovered an ugly monster.  

I don't have a formula or checklist for decision-making. My husband and I are figuring this out as we go and seeking wisdom. He's further along than I am. 

Each family is unique. Each child is unique. Each paycheck is unique.  

But there's one thing we all have 100% in common: time

We all have 24 hours in a day, no more and no less. We all have 7 days in a week, no more and no less. We were made to work and also to rest. There are God-given rhythms and requirements we cannot ignore. 

But we do. 

And I'd like to spend some time talking about this complicated issue that I'm still very much in the trenches of learning.

So come back next week and for a mini-series on this topic of margin and time and commitment. I suspect that most of us have unwittingly been co-opted by our own culture and by the monster of comparison more than we realize. We'll talk about rest, opportunity cost, and seeking wisdom as we make decisions. 

I invite you to join me.


What are your thoughts? Do you feel swept up in a culture of overcommitment?

This is part 1 of a 6-post series: 

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  1. Mind-blowing premise . . . and the promise of more good stuff to come next week. You're on to something here, my dear, and I will say "no" to anything that would keep me from reading this series. I have reminded groups of women (and some men, as well, if they were in the group) across the past few years that the one commodity of which we all have the same quantity is TIME. God created it, we have sought to organize it (calendars of years, months, days), and it still masters us. And when decisions between the good and the better and the best must be made . . . well, that is some heavy "rubber meeting the road" right there. Hang in there, mom to three of my grands. Just recognizing the dilemma is huge!


  2. Yes. I have a sweet friend here who has said no to most activities for the past year. They're just beginning to reintroduce them, actually. It's been so inspiring for me to see her choose well for her family. I am 100 % a knee jerk people pleaser but I've been working on it. It feels funny but I know freedom will follow. I love your thoughts here.

  3. I am interested. Especially where it relates to kids. My kids are still little but growing fast. The other day I spent some time with a high school sophmore. He has a 4.8 gpa, has on average 5 hours of homework a night, plays a sport, does community service and belongs to four different clubs. I am finding that this is typical. I an scared for my kids. I hope we can find a balance without putting them at a disadvantage.

  4. Just today I was talking to a friend about this! And quoting you! We are learning to say "no" and every time I make that decision for our family, I know you are somewhere giving me a fist pump! Love you and your sweet heart and your gift to share your wisdom!!!

  5. LOVE THIS! I can't wait to hear what else you have to say, and I can tell you that this is God's word and truth for us today - we miss out on so much of what he's doing because we're just too busy.

    You're speaking my language!

  6. LOVE this one and all the school posts, too! Why does this line of thinking have to sound so radical? While I am certainly no parenting expert, I can tell you we were once in your same place and declared "no" when it was quite unpopular more than a few times. Despite us and primarily by God's grace, we think our children turned out OK. Kids need "sand box" time to learn to rest, think, and imagine. It is never too early to begin to learn how to "Be STILL and KNOW that I AM GOD."

  7. I love this post and so look forward to reading the rest. I recently wrote a post about this very thing and how I had to say no to more things in my schedule. (like MOPS!) and then today I dropped out of yet another Bible study. I know it will be better for me, but I'm worried about my 3yo son not getting as much interaction with other kids (they have a great childcare program) and suffering for it. Anyway, thanks for helping to confirm this for me.


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