The lake house air, heavy-laden with humidity, smells like heat and magnolia. But when we stroll the peninsula walkway to the dock, the air cools and lifts. Not much later, my boy with the dark, stick-straight hair casts the long stick attached to line and bait into the muddy, cool water.

I watch him fish from his spot on the end of the dock. Sometimes he gets a nibble, a bite, or a catch. Sometimes nothing at all. No matter the outcome, there is a steady rhythm to his work-not-work: cast out, wait, reel in.


My fingers tap along to this summer rhythm so familiar to we Strongs.

My boy now fiddles with his hook after a fish smuggled his worm.  He looks over to me, shakes his handsome head and says,

“That fish stole my worm before I felt a single tug!”

It happens quickly.

Just as quickly, time steals. And for me, what steals time at warp speed? Giving too many yeses to good things but not best-for-me things. Saying yes to something simply because I don’t want to disappoint the person asking.

Here’s the thing: the wrong yes still disappoints. It disappoints me because it disrupts my family’s rhythms before I feel the tug of passing time. 

My boy baits the hook, adjusts the line, and casts it once again. I look at him, take in his silhouette of ever-growing inches and feel the weight of all these yeses inch me further and further away from God’s best for me.


The water licks the edge of the dock and I taste the bitter thought of letting someone down. Before we left for the lake house, I decided to quit with the automatic yes and sent two notes with a firm (but hopefully gracious) no.  One receiver understood and one struggled, and this near hopeless people-pleaser dwells on that second response.

I’m adjusting to new rhythms this summer as I write now more than ever.  Out of necessity I am choosier with my time, more intentional with my daily rhythms. And I’m discovering how a well-placed no reopens and renews the creative parts of my heart. But more than that, it lifts restrictions so I can more freely enjoy fro-yo dates with my sons, naming mountain wildflowers with my daughter, and snuggling with my man on the back porch.

“With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers, we attempt sometimes to water a field, not a garden.”  ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

I tend my garden, and God oversees the field. Slowly but confidently, I am learning the best way to remember this is to be as bold with my no  as I am with my yes. I still don’t love the thought of letting someone down. But I realize my job is not to navigate a person’s opinion of me. My job is to investigate God’s desires for me.

And to follow through with obedience. 

4 Things to Help You Say No with Confidence:

1. Cast out your no with conviction because you are the boss of your own time. Also, if you detest the awkward that dangles after a no and feel you must justify it, then have a couple (truthful!) reasons ready. (i.e. “You know, I’ve been praying about these opportunities and I feel the Lord has yet to make room for them in my schedule.”) Remember: saying no may hurt for a little bit, but the wrong yes hurts much longer.

2. Wait prayerfully and believe your no makes room for someone else to say yes – someone who is better suited and better equipped to meet the need right now. And your well-placed no in this season opens up space for you to give a well-placed yes to something better for you.

3. Reel in trust that God’s knowledge of you is absolutely intimate and His opinion of you is sky-high. Your Creator isn’t disappointed in you. He cheers you wildly anytime you make a hard but good decision. Hold onto His will for you and discover how astonishingly easy He is to please.

4. Repeat the above and find the more you practice saying no, the easier it gets.


The evening sky darkens around the dock, but the atmosphere lightens. A chorus of cicadas add their summer melody to our rhythms.

And I am confident the music delights all on the dock . . . and our Father in heaven.

Kristen Strong, Chasing Blue Skies

  • Cathy

    Wise and timely words. Thank you for your insight and encouragement.

    • Kristen Strong

      Thank you for your kind note here, Cathy. Enjoy your summer!

  • Kimberly

    Your beautiful photos make me want to say yes to quiet and rest and no to everything that pulls me from them. What a lovely visual reminder of how saying no can actually open the door to the best things for us.

    • Kristen Strong

      You sum this up well, Kimberly. Here’s to saying no to all that pulls us from our best! xo

  • Stephanie Petrak

    “And I’m discovering how a well-placed no reopens and renews the creative parts of my heart.”

    Yes, this fellow people pleaser is slowly discovering the meaning of well-placed no’s too. The key for me is well-placed: I need to seek the Lord more when making decisions instead of franticly saying yes without placing it before God, the best place it could be.

    And when I do give a well-placed no, my heart is indeed opened to the creative parts God has gifted me for His Kingdom. It’s me backing down from God’s amazing plans when I say yes to anything and everything without going before the Author of my life.

    • Kristen Strong

      You aren’t the only one with a knee-jerk ‘yes’, Stephanie. Here’s to taking away the automatic yes together! So thankful for you here! xo

  • Karen

    This is really good. Was having this conversation with someone a couple of days ago. I learned a number of years ago that I did not have to “justify” my no. It was hard at first, but has been oh so freeing!

    • Kristen Strong

      Ya know, I think that part of saying no is hard to learn, but with practice I believe it becomes easier, too. Thank you for your virtual high-five here! Love you. xo

  • Rachel Q @ TrippingOverTypeset

    What a word for me this morning! “I tend my garden, and God oversees the field.” How easily I pick up other people’s issues and problems, agenda’s instead of focusing on my own garden. I’m not to do it all but do just what He’s called me to do. I’m learning to hold back from saying yes and pray, wait and then say, no. It’s hard for this people-pleaser, problem solver…but I’m learning. Thanks for this encouragement!

    • Kristen Strong

      Here’s to learning together, Rachel. Much love to you.

  • Lisa

    Very encouraging words especially for those of us who tend to be ‘people pleasers’ and busy ourselves with one activity after another without taking time to just BE in the moment, with ourselves, with our families, and with our Creator.

    • Kristen Strong

      Lisa, it’s written for me more than anyone. Thank *you* for this sweet encouragement! xo

  • Georgette

    This is a word for me!

  • Kathy @ In Quiet Places

    Years ago, I said no when someone asked me to lead an AWANA class, their response was shock and their words nearly shamed me, but I knew God had called me to other areas of ministry. I dug in my heels and stuck to my no and once the peace came that my no was obedience to God’s dealing in my heart, the shame also left. That was the turning point of learning to say no and that there is freedom in wisely choosing to say yes or no.

    • Kristen Strong

      Good for you for staying true to your well-placed no, Kathy! Standing ovation!

  • Janet

    Hi Kristen,

    Amazing post with such gentleness and truth. Thank you.

    The book you quoted is an absolute favorite of mine. Love it so!!

    Have a beautiful day!

    • Kristen Strong

      Janet, can you believe I just discovered it this summer? Where in the Sam Hill have I been? I love it, too. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Janet

        Well working in a library helps. What a great time to discover and read it though. I am reading Walden now but it is a very slow read, very slow :)

  • Tammy

    Thank you so much for this. It was just what I needed. Suffering from being a people-pleasing perfectionist, No is something that is so very hard. But I’m working on it. What a sweet reminder.

    • Kristen Strong

      You and I can keep working on it together, Tammy. xo

  • Alison Lehr

    So true ~
    a grateful heart ~

  • Sue Tell

    Love how you wove your story into your message. Especially love how a well placed no opens the creative part of your heart. I want the creative pay off my heart to stay open.

    “Should” is a yellow light for me.

    Thanks Kristen.

    • Kristen Strong

      A big wave to you, Sue!

      “Should” is a yellow light ~ ah, that’s a good one to remember. Thanks for your encouragement, friend. I’m grateful for you!

  • Sarah

    “He cheers you wildly anytime you make a hard but good decision.” Love that. So true, and love your writing as usual. :-)

    • Kristen Strong

      You bless me, Sarah. Thank *you*. xoxo

  • Mema

    This is so encouraging. Thank you Kristen. I also enjoyed your writing. :)

  • Michele

    I appreciate the reminder that my no opens the door for someone else, someone who is called to that opportunity. If I insist on doing everything, not only will I not do my best work, but someone else will be deprived of opportunity. Amen.

    • Evangeline

      That’s the line that did it for guilt-ridden me even though I am too ill to oblige with a YES.. Thanks a ton.

  • Beth Werner Lee

    Just YES.
    Big no today. I’d booked two hotels for our 10 day family vacation and then church conference in Charleston and as we moved from the first to the second yesterday our hearts sank. The rooms stank. There was a giant cockroach in the bathroom, so they upgraded our room. We slept the night, hubby working late on his paper for the church conference and saw a bug approach the pot I’d made tea in. I woke in the night wondering what it was that just skittered over my ankles under the covers, prayed, and went back to a headachy sleep. In the morning, after expressing love to me, hubby said we can’t stay here, even if we had prepaid and couldn’t get refunded. He was ready to throw big money at the situation. His no was, it turned out, right. But I did call and we were able to cancel the remaining nights and get a refund, and find another place to stay, from which I am typing now. Sometimes it’s hard to work together when one of us would throw money at a situation to fix it and the other would throw time to save money.
    But working together…and expressing love…the no and the yes are both God’s gift of grace.

    • Kristen Strong

      “But working together…and expressing love…the no and the yes are both God’s gift of grace.” LOVE that, Beth!

  • Liliana

    An encouraring message for me.

  • Muchele

    So beautifully said & timely! Thank you!

  • Kathleen

    Hello Kristin,
    This is my first time writing a comment, but I have loved your posts. This one particularly was what God wanted me to see today. I just had to say no to a meeting because of the pain I am in and I really hated to do that. But there will be things during the week I have to push through the pain for and I needed to leave room for that. I am a life long people pleaser and so can relate to your post!

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Marie Bride

    Oh Kristen,
    So very true learning when to say no so you are available for the “Yes” that has been waiting for you!
    Some years ago I worked in the financial and investment market before the economy spiraled downward. During a personal training with a woman from our company she so to speak gave me permission to fire one of my potential clients.
    She said something to the effect that if I was spending my energy with this individual and the outcome was not effective I was not helping him, myself and losing the opportunity to work with someone where a win win could take place.
    When I often find myself in a situation where I am frustrated I send up a conscious prayer and often this lesson comes back to me.

  • Cassie Shafer

    From a reformed people pleaser/fixer. Saying “yes” to all those good causes was like cooking a gourmet meal for an outsider and serving my family leftovers. Wish I had learned that sooner.

    • Kristen Strong

      Oh my STARS that’s soooo good, Cassie. I’ll carry that image with me a long, long time. Much love to you!

  • Bethany Miller

    I read this post with a ridiculously goofy smile on my face. This is something I consistently struggle with. The {very} few times I have said no to something I have bounced out of that room {or off of facebook, as the case may be} with a huge smile on my face.
    I have never thought about this before, but this has given peace to a place in my heart that was hurting:”I am discovering the value in being true to God’s best for me and how that sometimes includes a well-placed no (or several)”. I just said no to someone, and I needed to hear that.
    I remember reading in Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Let Me Be a Woman” her thoughts on saying no. She said that choosing to do something always means choosing NOT to do something else, and that has stuck with me.
    Thanks for the post, hugs!

  • Beth Williams


    I, too, am a people pleaser. It can be hard to say no to simple things. With the stressful year I’m having I’m learning to take those no’s and say “maybe later. I will do it for you, just not now.” I’m realizing that I need more rest and “Spiritual whitespace”. More free time to just be with God and family!

    People will understand eventually. Not everyone realizes what you are going through at the moment and it may be more than you can handle.

    Blessings :)

  • Elangwe Christina

    What a powerful and timely article for me. I had always been a people pleaser, used to saying yes before giving a thought as to the appropriateness of that yes only to start feeling resentment a few seconds after blurting out the yes and wanting to kick myself for the inability to say no; all because I was afraid of disappointing the person asking. And the fun of it all is that those same people will not have any qualms saying no to you , forgetting all the sacrifices you always make when you say yes to them. So I am really discovering the sense of freedom one feels everytime one succeeds in saying no. It is a lesson that took me long to learn but your article gives me the boost I needed to be able to say no knowing that my job is not to naviguate a person’s opinion of me but to investigate God’s desires for me.

  • Jessica @ Pilates Happy Hour

    “I tend my garden, and God oversees the field.” I love this, thank you! If we all tend our own plots and gardens, can you imagine the beauty the field would hold?? I’ll try to ignore my inclination to tend other people’s gardens sometimes :)

  • susan

    Thank you for all the advice I have gotten here. God bless you all

  • Charmaine Davis

    In only the past two years I have totally sold out to my LORD,the only one whom has always had my back .Even when I felt what I was doing the right things he had me .It wasn’t until I became so broken GOD stept in and helped me turly understand the way I was headed it was a endless road .it wasn’t until my brokenness was broken if its possible when that happened I knew it and sold out my HEART,BODY and SOUL today I am at peace and my NO’S are just that NO! THANKS be unto GOD and my SAVOIR JESUS CHRIST how has always had my back. TRULY I LOVE HIM