The Art Of Saying No

One of the best single piece of advice I have ever gotten was this: “You can do anything but you can’t do everything.”

This was given to me by one of the mentors at Seattle Pacific University, at registration day. The context was talking about the many opportunities we were going to have as students and how to pick and choose the opportunities that made the most sense for us.

This advice has kept with me, even 13 years after receiving it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to have so many opportunities, whether it be volunteer opportunities, sports, gaming, tutoring jobs, math teaching jobs, even got offered a social media marketing position at a gaming company once.

All that being said, even though many of these opportunities were good, they may have not been the right thing at the right time. I believe wisdom is doing the right thing for the right reasons, and it’s hard to dial that in if we are always saying “yes” to every opportunity.

My tendency growing up has been to try and fill my life and time with every good opportunity that I come across. However, this often has lead to burnout, stress, and ultimately, anxiety. 

I like to say that I may have time to do all these things, but not the brain space. There’s always “time” to do things, but that doesn’t mean your brain and heart can mentally and emotionally handle all these things.

It also depends on each person and what they and their family can handle. I’m a person that when I commit to something, I put forth 150% of effort into it. I go above and beyond what is expected and try to become the best person I can be in that role.

Because of this, I can only commit to X amount of things at the same time in my life. I’m not a person who can do 10 things and only do them at 50%. I’m someone that wants to do 3 things and do them very, very well.

Now that I know this about myself, I have to say no to a lot of opportunities. Many of those opportunities I would have jumped into just a few years ago. But I’ve learned the art of saying no.

And that’s hard. It fills me with stress and anxiety sometimes that I made the wrong decision, but then I realized, where God has me right now, is where I’m supposed to be. 

I think the reason why it’s hard for me to say no sometimes is I don’t want people to think I’m lazy. That is the one thing I don’t want people to ever think about me. So I push myself so hard sometimes that I just crash and burn. Social media does not help. People might see “Oh she’s at the coffee shop again being lazy” but they don’t know that I’m forming friendships and relationships at the coffee shop. I’m creating content for the coffee shop Instagram and creating content for my own website. I might be planning for AWANA or coordinating with my 3-4 different groups I interact with each week.

So I have to forget what people might think on Instagram. That’s not my full life! I also think and plan all the time. Just this morning, I had to reign in my thoughts for the week. I like to plan nearly every hour of my week. So now, I’ve been trying to force myself to do rest days and not to plan something for every week. Like today, Saturday, we have one thing on the schedule. That gives me the ability to do a bunch of different things, whether it’s relaxing with a video game or writing a blog. 

I also am the main coordinator of my friend groups. I’m the one that sends out the reminder for board game night, coordinate climbing schedules, AWANA leaders, family events and more. I’ve always done this, even in college I was the main bridge with all the different groups we did homework and hung out with.

That’s another reason I have to say no sometimes. Because I fully invest in the friendships and relationships in any aspect I dwell in. If I’m at the climbing gym, it’s not just a workout, but it’s me being a listening ear to a friend’s health issues. It’s encouraging the kid whose trying to make the team. It’s giving feedback to the routesetters to their routes.

Same thing in any thing I do. And so I have learned for myself. To commit to those things that are really important. There’s a lot of great things one can do in their life. And each season is different too! Passions change. Opportunities change. People change. You change as you grow older. 

So I guess the lesson is: don’t be afraid to say no. Seek out wise people in your life to help you make decisions. Pray and seek God’s Word. Know your limits. And you will be much more joyful, at peace, and have the energy to do what you’re called to do. 

What are you invested in?

When I think of the word investment, I immediately think of finances and the stock market. However, there is another definition that is used commonly in church culture. Basically the idea of being involved in many different areas. Investing your time, mental energy, faith, and physical self into activities, people, or events.

I recently said the other day I was feeling burnt out, and I tried to think of why I’ve been feeling that way lately. Then I realized, I’ve invested myself in many things and people. I do have downtime, especially with the kid in school full time. I do have a good amount of time for myself.

That being said, I often use that time investing in the people around me. If I’m at the coffee shop, I’m chatting it up with the baristas and possibly the other customers. If I’m at the rock gym, I’m not just climbing but talking and building friendships with not only the employees but with the members. When I’m at church, I’m investing in my church family and my family as well. When I’m at AWANA, I’m investing in the kids and leaders.

My husband and I have spread ourselves pretty thin this year in terms of investment. We love spending time with people and getting to know them. Between coworkers, friends, family, school, our kid’s friends, it all adds up. On any given week, I’m coordinating with probably over 50 people on various tasks. Whether it’s my several climbing groups, AWANA, my small group, game group, two D&D groups, friends, and family, sometimes I get even where I’m triple booked in one day.

This isn’t a post on me being popular or doing too much. But it’s showing how even though I’m a stay at home mom with a good chunk of free time, I’m also investing myself in many different directions. Just because I spend an hour at the coffee shop every few days, doesn’t mean I’m not currently investing in the people and place there. I am. I’m an extrovert, and I love building friendships and relationships with people.

Community is what drives me. As a Christian, it’s all about relationships for me. And I don’t have an agenda. I don’t become your friend just to invite you to church. I become your friend because I care about you and I love sharing this passion with you. Whether it’s coffee or climbing or math or board games. And if I’m able to enourage and be a light to people along the way, that’s my ultimate goal.

And no, I am far from being perfect. I still get mad when I don’t send a league route. I still get annoyed if I don’t win that board game. I’m not a perfect representation of Christ. I still make mistakes. I say dumb things and I get very emotional. But as my pastor says, we are all in process. I invest in all these people and events and places because I want to share my life with so many people. I don’t want to just live in the church bubble. I want to be friends with people of all walks of life, because that’s how we grow. And I think hearing where people are and where they come from is so interesting to me.

So what’s the point of all of this? I guess it’s saying that just because someone appears to have lots of free time, doesn’t mean that their emotional, spiritual, and physical energy doesn’t get sapped from time to time. I guess it means we should all have grace and not judge people’s schedules. Everyone does life differently. Some people are homebodies and want as much home time as possible. Others love to be out and about and doing as many things as possible.

I’m a bit of a mix. I guess with my son in school full time I thought I would have more time. I do have more time, but I have less emotional time. We are involved in a lot, and though I’m constantly saying no to certain events or commitments, I also want to be open and available for a lot of people. I’ll get my break soon. Once summer hits, a lot of the things I’m involved in take a break. I won’t have recess duty or school events or Awana or everyday 3 pm pick up. Gotta keep rolling until the end of the school year.

All in all, what it comes down to, is I love people, I love spending time with people, and I wouldn’t trade my life for the world. I’m so blessed that I get to interact and be friends with so many different people.

As Iron Sharpens Iron, so we must sharpen each other.

Dating my Husband

I was talking with my climbing group the other day, and I had mentioned going on dates with my husband. Both of my friends have significant others as well, so the conversation turned to how going on dates can be important and fun to a relationship.

My husband and I are very blessed to have so much family in town that can watch our son. We do a lot of things as a family, but we never want to lose sight of doing stuff together as a couple. In our fast paced culture, it can be easy to just fill our schedule and never get time to take a breathe. We try to do dates a couple times a month, even if it’s just doing a quick lunch during his lunch hour.

How does a date differ from just hanging out? My husband and I are involved in many different friend groups and communities. Between church, work, school, AWANA, climbing, and board games, we literally can fill every single night with an event (and we often do). However, this can lead to severe burnout, especially for an introvert like my husband.

We have therefore learned to say no to things and to make sure we schedule in 2-3 dates a month to get that quality time. To me, a date is specifically taking time to spend with your significant other, focusing on quality time. For this reason, we avoid movies unless it’s Star Wars. We want to spend face to face time together. When we were younger and didn’t have a kid, we saw movies a lot. But when you get just 2-3 hours every few months to go on a one on one date, we aren’t gonna waste it staring at a screen.

We also have needed to vary our dates. Going on a climbing date is loads of fun, but then we finish off the night absolutely exhausted, instead of recharging our mental, emotional, and physical batteries. So we try to do a climbing date or a lunch date or just a walk at the park date.

I understand that not everyone can do dates out, but even just carving out an hour at home when the kids are in bed can be beneficial to your relationship! Also, build your community around people who support you and your family. If you have kids, find friends or family who can watch your kids for a bit so you can catch a break. It does actually take a village to raise your kids. More on that in another blog post.

Even if you don’t have kids, go on dates with your spouse! Even people without kids can fill their schedules so much that they don’t take time to spend together. My husband and I love going on dates, especially because as a dating and engaged couple we were long distance. We wouldn’t see each other for a few months at a time, and so every date was so special. We have now carried that into our marriage.

One more note: your don’t have to do something crazy big every time for a date. Sometimes all you need is some coffee and a walk in the neighborhood. Just taking the time to spend together, especially without screens is vital to a relationship in this uncompromising social media driven world.