Learning to say "no."

I hate missing out on stuff.  I've realized that I often say yes to something just so I won't miss out on it, rather than because that particular thing is right for me and my family in our current season.   When I am able to say no to certain things - even knowing it's the right decision -  I often feel a wave of regret afterwards. 

You tracking?  Yes, it's enough to drive my own self crazy. 

A few weeks ago, I made a very tough decision to say no to participating in Bible Study Fellowship this year.  With how much I love BSF, I really agonized over this decision.  At the end of the study of the book of Matthew in May, I had my doubts whether I would be able to return in the fall.  All summer I kept putting off having to make the decision.  Doing BSF the last two years has really brought the Word of God to life for me in a new way, and my group members and leaders have been wonderful.  Luci Belle has loved going to "Bible school" since she was 2, and Norah was born in the middle of the Matthew study this past January and welcomed with open arms and adoring looks by all the sweet ladies in my group. 

But still, I had this nagging feeling that I didn't feel at peace with enrolling all of us this year.  

There are several reasons that I don't need to describe in detail, but overall I felt that my family needs to come first.  This tough season of life with two little ones and homeschooling and a baby who doesn't take long naps...well, it was just too much to commit to BSF on top of that.  Also,  I was not ready to put Norah into childcare this young, even for just a few hours a week. 

It's never easy saying no to something that you enjoy, but still today, a few weeks later, I know it was the right decision. Sometimes we say no to something good to make room for something better...for the great things.  Sometimes you just have to say no - even to Bible studies or things that are "good."

So this fall and spring, we don't have anything big on our schedule - no big weekly commitment.  It's just everyday life here - changing diapers, playing pretend, making pancakes, cooking dinner, trips to the Farmstead, nursing and feeding my baby, homeschooling my 4-year-old, taking as many walks as possible so we can capture the autumn light.  And I'm tremendously happy with this.

One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, is writing a new book called Present Over PerfectIn her blog post describing it she says,

"This is life, this is family, this is the great beautiful brave spectacular adventure that is plain old everyday life, and it promises to remind you over and over that perfect is a myth, and that perfect breaks our backs and breaks our hearts."

Yes. Yes. A million times, yes.  I love "plain old everyday life," and here are some parts of life I'm saying "yes" to this fall:

  • Being intentional about homeschooling Luci Belle.  We're doing the pre-K curriculum through Sonlight. I actually got tears in my eyes when I ordered it, because I felt so strongly that it's what's right for her and our family right now.  It's faith and literature-based with wonderful books that capture and celebrate the simplicity of childhood and the wonder of being 4-years-old.  So far, it's been so fun to read these books with her, see her learn, and have an Instructor's Guide that gives me structure so I don't go crazy planning our homeschool week at 11pm on a Sunday night. 
  • Caring for myself.   I'm on a continual journey of self-care and because I tend to swing the pendulum way too far on the side of self-neglect-for-the-sake-of-others, I need to constantly be focusing on self-care.  Right now that means a) not going to bed too late, b) making time for short Pilates/yoga workouts and walks multiple times a week, c) eating and cooking healthy food (mostly sticking to whole30), d) making time to be alone with myself and with my husband.
  • Simplifying our lives and home.  We spent the month of August focusing on this, consuming less, and eliminating screen time.  It was wonderful.  We also had a garage sale with some friends and donated a bunch more stuff.  Our lives feel lighter, and I want to continue this.
  • Spending quality time with friends.  I crave being able to have a friend over for morning coffee and really hear and see her.    I'm sick of rushing through time with people so I can get other things done.

My mom gave me a desk calendar several months ago that I've barely looked at.  Today I randomly flipped it over and the page before me said,

"I realized that - as much as I wanted to - I couldn't run out the front door of my home, leaving it in a shambles, to go over to the church to do the work of ministry.  I came to understand that God has charged me with the stewardship of managing my home, and He uses this primary area of ministry to train me for managing other areas of ministry."

So for now, for this season, I say goodbye to another "good" thing on our to-do list.  My Bible study is going to have to look different for now - maybe it's not pages and pages of notes and in-depth study.  Maybe it looks more like reading a short passage through She Reads Truth and then journaling a few lines and saying a prayer.  Maybe it's having meaningful, engaged, undistracted moments with my 4-year-old, reading the Jesus Storybook Bible aloud to her on the couch with no time limit.  Maybe it's practicing the presence of God throughout my day, as I depend on Him to continue to make things new every morning.

He will restore. (30 days of thankfulness - day 30)

I can think of no better note on which to end this month of thankfulness.  A few weeks ago in the middle of my Bible Study Fellowship lecture I was reminded of this verse:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." (Joel 2:25)

I scrawled the verse on my notebook page, and underneath it in bold letters with my turquoise Papermate pen, I wrote, "HE WILL RESTORE."  Tears came into my eyes as I thought of our lives, the lives of so many close friends, filled with so much beauty and so much loss.  And so much hope.  God will restore.

Then, while taking a bath tonight, I read this passage in Anne Lamott's newest book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers...

I practically burst into tears right there in the bathtub.  My thankfulness posts are now all overlapping and intertwining, and I see how God weaves these beautiful stories.  I'd miss them if I didn't practice thankfulness, taking the time to write it down and see how it all connects.

My little family, we've lost much - more than is appropriate to share here in this public space.  But we will - and already have - receive back for what we've lost.  It might not be in the way we've pictured, but it will be good.  The details don't really matter, because what I want to communicate today to each and every person who reads this is that He will restore.  And that's the best possible news I can think of at this very moment. 

~ ~ ~

During the month of November, I'm practicing "30 days of thankfulness" - will you join me?  Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to voice your thankfulness for something every day in November.  My hope is that this daily routine will create in me a heart of thankfulness and gratitude, no matter the day or month or situation.

Bible Study Fellowship. (30 days of thankfulness - day 20)

A vivid image from my childhood: my mom with her worn Bible open, her scrawling cursive filling up the blank spaces of her Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) lessons.  I must have been in grade school at the time, but it was obviously a memorable image - my mother intentionally seeking the Lord in a non-negotiable time of study that I recognized as special and sacred.

Bible Study Fellowship is an international organization, so there are BSF chapters that meet at churches in 38 nations across the world.  The study year begins in September and ends in May, and during that time you study one book of the Bible - everyone around the world seeking the Lord and studying the same book at once.  Beautiful.

Earlier this year, my friend Melissa suggested that I join a local BSF class that was beginning this September - the designated book for this year was Genesis.  It's been so long - too long - since I've been in an organized, disciplined Bible study, and as much as I felt my soul craving it, I immediately started making excuses in my mind:

"Yeah, I already know Genesis.  Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark, Abraham."

"How could Genesis possibly be relevant to my everyday life in 2012?"

"I don't really have time for this." 

"Would Luci Belle be okay in the children's class separated from me for a few hours?"

But I took the plunge, and I can't possibly state more strongly how much it is changing me and how much my daughter is learning.  On a typical BSF day (Wednesday mornings), I drop Luci Belle at her class, where she eagerly runs to her teachers without a single tear.  Then I head to the church sanctuary where hundreds of women gather for a few songs before we split up to our small groups.  During small group time, we discuss the previous week's study notes and our answers to the questions.  After small group, we reconvene in the sanctuary for the lecture, which my education-loving self thrives on - notebook open and ready, Bible open, colored pens uncapped. Only through the Holy Spirit could a straightforward, very un-exciting lecture move a person to tears - which it has already done for me multiple times.

The BSF children's classes are not just childcare.  These teachers love the children deeply, pray for them individually, and teach them a pared-down version of the exact lesson we're learning that week.  My two-year-old is soaking it up like a sponge, asking me practically everyday if it's a "school day" and if she can go to "Bible school."  The second week of BSF, I inquired during the car ride home what she had learned that day.  She boldly declared, "Da Bible is twue."   Last week, we were getting ready to leave for BSF, and my husband picked her up and asked her if she was excited to go to Bible school.  She took her palm, placed it on his chest and said, "Jesus in heart, Daddy?"

I adore the ladies in my small group.  I didn't need another young moms group, but a group of women from diverse backgrounds and ages, and that is what I got.  Most women are older than me, and I love learning from their wisdom. 

More than anything, I'm pleasantly surprised how much Genesis is applicable to my daily life, how often I think about my BSF lessons all throughout my days.  I've found that the Word of God is absolutely "alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12).  The Scriptures have come alive to me once again, as I see the perfect picture of how the Word of God is a pursuant story, with cohesiveness from beginning to end.

~ ~ ~

During the month of November, I'm practicing "30 days of thankfulness" - will you join me?  Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to voice your thankfulness for something every day in November.  My hope is that this daily routine will create in me a heart of thankfulness and gratitude, no matter the day or month or situation.