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