Sunday, July 18, 2010

When It's Time to Just Say No

Recently, I shared a housekeeping tip of saying yes when others say no. What I meant by this was that the tidiest housekeepers among us tend not to ignore what needs to be done; they do it right away. My tip today of saying no does not counteract the housekeeping attitude of saying yes; in fact, it goes right along with it. Let me explain.

My college professor and advisor once said that our character is proven more by what we say no to than what we say yes to. There are many great things out there that are easy to say yes to, but sometimes saying no is what is best.

Take ladies' Bible studies for example. I don't do them (although I am going to a Wednesday night summer study when it works out for my family for me to attend). I tried going for awhile, but it was way too stressful for me. We were always late, and I was grouchy and short-tempered with my kids. The rules are that kids have to stay in the nursery, and if they don't want to stay in the nursery, that is another stress altogether. Plus, I'm not organized enough to return home from being gone all morning and have a productive rest of the day. The stresses and the grumpiness of it all are quite taxing. So pretty much a whole day is shot trying to become a "more godly woman." In the process, my children are not seeing Mommy acting like a patient, godly woman.

I've come to the conclusion that it is better for me, and my husband and my children, at this season in my life to not put the women's Bible study morning on my already full plate. I can read and study my Bible just fine right here at home (and it is much more relaxing and my kids can actually be with me if they're up).

Laura at Heavenly Homemakers blogged about this earlier this week as well. Here's part of what she wrote:
"I remember struggling to get out of the door by 9:30 for a Ladies’ Bible Study each Thursday morning when my boys were tiny (nursing, in diapers, potty training…). I don’t remember a thing about what we studied during those years. What I do remember is feeling like I wanted to CRY every single Thursday by the time I finally got there (late) and fought my kids to get into the nursery. Don’t even get me started on how much it wrecked their nap schedule and threw the entire day off and created a lot of grouchiness (the kids were usually grouchy too).

Why did I keep doing it week after week? Because it was 'a good thing to do'."
Laura interviewed author and speaker Lisa Whelchel about raising little ones. Here's what Lisa said when asked, "What encouragement can you offer moms with little ones?”

“I’d say do as little as possible outside of being a mom. Don’t put your kids in a bunch of activities. Don’t be involved yourself in a lot of extra activities. You don’t need to try to lead a Bible study…don’t even go to a bunch of Bible studies if getting there takes too much out of you. There are so many good things to do, but you may need to give up even some of the good things you’re interested in doing so that you can do what you need to do for your family. Raising little ones takes a lot out of us and if we give a lot of our energy to outside things, we don’t have anything left for our family. This is a short season in life…later you can do more of the other things you feel are important, but right now raising your little ones is the most important."
What great encouragement and advice. You can read the rest of Laura's interview here. She also talked to her about marriage and raising teens.

Getting back to just saying no, I was quite convicted once, but also inspired, when I read these words by the 19th century preacher J.R. Miller in his beautiful book The Family:
"There certainly have been cases in which very tender love has lost its tenderness and when the cause lay in the disorder, the negligence and the mismanagement of the housewifery. There is not doubt that many a heart-estrangement begins at the table where meals are unpunctual and food is poorly cooked or repulsively served. Bad housekeeping will soon drive the last vestige of romance out of any home. The illusion which love weaves about an idolized bride will soon vanish if she proves incompetent in her domestic management. The wife who will keep the charm of early love unbroken through the years, and in whose home the dreams of the wedding-day will come true, must be a good housekeeper.

In one of his Epistles, St. Paul gives the counsel that young wives should be 'workers at home,'...signifying that home is the sphere of the wife's duties, and she is to find her chief work there. There is a glory in all the Christian charities which Christian women, especially in these recent days, are founding and conducting with so much enthusiasm and such marked success....There are many who are free to serve in public charities, in caring for the poor, for the sick in hospital wards, for the orphaned and the aged....

But it should be understood that for every wife the first duty is the making and keeping of her own home. Her first and best work should be done there, and till it is well done she has no right to go outside to take up other duties. She is to be a 'worker at home.' She must look upon her home as the one spot on earth for which she alone is responsible, and which she must cultivate well for God if she never does anything outside. For her the Father's business is not attending Dorcas societies and missionary meetings, and mothers' meetings, and temperance conventions, or even teaching a Sunday-school class, until she has made her own home all that her wisest thought and best skill can make it. There have been wives who in their zeal for Christ's work outside have neglected Christ's work inside there own doors...Let it be remembered that Christ's work in the home is the first that he gives to every wife, and that no amount of consecrated activities in other spheres will atone in this world or the next for neglect or failure there."
Ouch. But I believe he is right. He's not just talking about housework, but about all that happens at home: raising children, helping neighbors and trying to lead them to Christ through our words and deeds, being a great wife, mother and friend. Use discernment about going out and participating in activities. Saying "yes" to all that being a worker at home entails means saying no to a lot of other things.

Here are some of the items I'm choosing to say no to at this season in my life, so I can say yes to my roles as a wife, mom, and home manager (after all, with baking, cooking, laundry, cleaning, homeschooling, raising kids, and enjoying time as a family, there's little time left for much else!):
  • Ladies Bible study
  • Facebook (a huge time robber, not only for chores but quality family time)
  • Excessive playdates (one every few weeks is plenty for us)
  • Long phone conversations regularly
  • TV (we don't watch much anyway)
  • And yes, blogging. While I love writing and encouraging other moms, many days I don't even have a half-hour to spend on the computer. Actually I choose to spend what could be my computer time differently--taking a walk or a bike ride with my family, making breakfast, spending some one-on-one time with my oldest while his brothers are napping, putting away laundry, etc. If it works out to write, I will. If it doesn't, I won't.  
Unfortunately, the phase of being too busy doesn't end when little ones grow. Many of the older ladies at church whom I admire, whose children are grown and gone, have told me they're still too busy to get any cleaning done at home. At some point, we have to make intentional choices about what we say no to, in order to make room for what we really want to say yes to.

Is there anything you can say no to today?




  1. Great post, thank you!

  2. I have been considering whether to join a weekday morning Bible study, and you've given me a different way to look at it. Like you, I have a hard time being out in the morning and having a productive afternoon. Thanks for the fresh perspective!

  3. Thanks for the encouragement! I too feel my first priority is to my family at home and as a result don't do as much as other moms around me which results in guilt or feelings of inadequacy. Thanks for reminding me that what I'm doing at home is more important than being super mom everywhere else.

  4. This post made me think. I stopped writing on my blog for the summer to snuggle my newborn and be with my other 3 kids. I am glad I read your post. It reminded me to put Bible reading before the Sunday Ad's!! You have given me things to think about today and to talk to my husband about tonight. Thank you.

  5. This is a very thoughtful post. It is so blatantly countercultural to ask moms to focus first on the home. But, you're right, when I put my family and home first I see see my family strengthened and thriving. And I am lifted up and encouraged right along with them.

    Feeling Encouraged by your words.

    Georgia Peach

  6. This is so good! Well said!

  7. I have just awarded you a blogger award. Check it out.

  8. So true and (once again) exactly what I needed to read right now. I have always been a person that feels the need to say "yes" to everything because I don't want to miss out on any opportunities, plus I have a ton of interests. I need to step back and realize that my #1 job is being a godly wife to my husband and a loving mother to my son. Everything else is secondary.

  9. Good post. I have been behind on reading (and writing) on blogs. I have been amazed that you have had time to keep up with writing and responding with so many followers so passionate on various topics. :) It's okay if you take a break...enjoy it. BTW - I never started facebook because I knew my weakness would be to spend too much time. (And I don't want my kids on it :))I see this as an incredible struggle in many ladies lives and many have quit it all together because of the pull it has had on them.

    It is so important to look at what God wants us to do individually and not do something just because it's offered. Some children thrive in public settings with other children. Some don't. Some women need corporate Bible study in order to learn, grow and be held accountable. Others do a great job on their own. The point is that God and the Bible need to be primary. God has given us each different gifts for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ -- at home, in the local church, and in the world.

    We can't assume that because something is best for us should be best for others. We can all grow and become more Christ-like, but it doesn't mean we are clones. It's good, Cheryl, for you to realize and not apologize about the fact that at this time in your life, ladies Bible Study is not a good idea. For others - it's a lifeline that helps them to be better mothers and wives.

    One thing I took away from Chantelle's funeral yesterday is the importance of relationships, hospitality, family, love and living for Christ. The ladies Bible study she did impacted her greatly and she shared with many people. So for her, I am sure this was a good investment of her time.

    So to answer your I am saying "no" to staying home to organize a cluttered basket and instead taking kids to library, then joining Christian sisters and their kids at a pool for lunch and swimming. I look forward to this fellowship and incorporating the kids into the grief and joy so that they learn how to minister to others in times of need.

    Love this John Piper quote: "Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

    Have a super day.

  10. I think it's important to evaluate and re-evaluate often my schedule as a mom. When my second son was born, that was actually when I started attending a morning bible study. He cried pretty much non-stop for the first year of his life, and I found myself dissolving into tears and having emotional breakdowns trying to mother him. The ladies in the nursery at the bible study were so good to me - they knew what a hard time I was having and so they would take on this crying, screaming infant and allow me 2 hours to myself to recharge.

    2 years later (and the addition of my third child), I found myself arguing with my kids to get them to the child care. They really didn't want to be there, and with my oldest in kindergarten, I suddenly found my family over scheduled.

    I sadly told my small group one morning that I would not be returning for a while. God had provided that group when I needed it, but it's purpose in my life for this season had run its course.

    Sometimes it's hard to get out of a comfortable routine, but taking regular stock of the family schedule and emotions is a great exercise to help me as a mother to govern my home and family.

  11. Thank You! What freedom comes from not needing to be super-mom! Just what I needed to hear today - after a frazzled week of too-many playdates, errands, and other get-togethers. I can't wait for tomorrow when we have no where to go.

    And for the record, I LOVE my ladies bible-study, its the best part of my week. I'm so sad to give it up in Jan when #3 is born.

  12. Great post - some of it made me uncomfortable, but in a good way! i'm the MOPS coordinator at our church - a life-giving ministry to isolated stay at home moms who are shell-shocked in their new lifestyle! I work from home part time - where I get to pick the deadlines, the hours I work and how much! Took a lot of time to get all this stuff balanced. My home isn't perfect, but having a meal plan, regularly scheduled cleaning times, family time, mommy time, spouse time and fun time makes the rhythm of our household run smoother. Kids have tasks they are expected to do with rules to live by..... Home is first priority, but the other things God has called me to are just as important!

    I said no to an "important" ministry in our church - partnering with a church in Kenya - the other day. I thought people's head would spin off when I said no. Instead they sort of looked at me strangely. I just said, my mission field for right now is my home and MOPS and being a Proverbs 31 woman in my sphere of influence. Some folks were angered that I said no. Others were clearly envious that I knew what I wasn't called to do and felt comfortable admitting it. Thanks for your post and your encouragement thru it!

  13. This blog is exactly how I have been feeling lately and reaffirmed that I just made some good decisions in my life. I have always attended a women's bible study and cherish the support and fellowship that it provides but lately have decided not to attend for awhile. The time of day was simply not working for me and my children were upset the entire time leading to more stress than good. This blog reminded me that it's okay to say that I'm going to concentrate on home first!