Juggling the yes and no of commitments

How do we know when we are doing too much?  I mean, is it just me or does it feel like there is pressure everywhere you turn to do more and be more? Put in more hours at work, make more money, volunteer more at church, keep your house more picked up, give your kids more opportunities, cook more healthy meals, exercise more, get more sleep, be more sexy, be more crafty, be more friendly, be more educated, be more engaged, be more thrifty…more, more, more.

I’m totally exhausted already. 

You know what I’m going to say here.  You’ve heard it before, but I’m here to gently remind you that you do not have to be everyone and do everything.  Let me rephrase…you can’t be everyone and do everything.  If God wanted it that way, He wouldn’t have made so many of us to color the world so creatively! 

The reason I am writing this post on the topic of do, do, do, more, more, more is because I am feeling poo, poo, pooped.  Yep, three poos there.  I’m Wiped with a capital W, cashed out, down for the count, want to crawl under blankets and sleep for a week pooped.

I was thinking today, why do I feel so exhausted?  As I recounted the last couple weeks, I was instantly reminded that I did too much.  Way too much.  Let me remind you that I have five children, three of which are homeschooled, a two-year old who could keep the world busy if given the chance, and a just turned one year old who still has me up some nights to nurse, and when awake is into everything. 

Now that sounds like enough right there to keep a person busy, right?

Well, on top of the ordinary everyday life, I had way over committed myself.  Over the past two weeks, we had a few evenings where couples were over that we mentor (we love doing this by the way), we also helped at a marriage class at our church (love doing this too), we hosted a soup night for our life group (love), Kevin had church meetings, and any extra mental energy I had was being poured into Kevin’s business because of some changes we are making.  Oh, and last but not least- drumroll please…Kevin was out of town on a business trip for 3 whole days (Peeps, that’s a lot for me.  Did not love this).  That does not include the lunches and dinners out with friends, or the classes I help with at the kids home school co-op, kids activities, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and the to-do list that never ever EVER ends.

Why am I telling you this?  To brag about how busy I am? (What a silly question, yet I do feel like our culture praises busyness, which I don’t get at all.)  NO!  To tell you that this. Is. Too. Much!  No one can do that much and do it well.

This is why I’m wiped.

If your plate looks similar to mine the last couple weeks, I think you and I need to learn to say that little word that so many of us have trouble saying.  No.  Try it with me…no.  No, thank you.  No, I will not be able to help with that.  No, I’m sorry, I think I will have to take a rain check.  No, I would love to, but I don’t think I will be able to make that possible.  Nope, nope, nope.  It doesn’t have to be said in a mean way, and it doesn’t have to be said to every invitation or expectation.  

On the flip side…you may have to learn to say no to yourself.

No to the extra hours at the office, no to starving yourself to be more skinny, no to the stress that you haven’t made all the crafts on Pinterest that you’ve pinned, no to the idea of having a perfectly picked up house, no to the temptation to be more for others.  If you resonate with any of this (umm, my hand is way in the air), you just may need to rest in who you are and in God’s peace for a while.  He is certainly not asking you to be more or do more.  You are putting that on yourself.

Jesus said “come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”, Matthew 11:28-29. 

What yoke are you putting on yourself?  Jesus wasn’t talking about taking the yellow part of his egg and sharing it with you (that’s spelled yolk, just in case you were wondering).  He was referencing the yoke placed on oxen when they work together to pull a heavy load.

He is saying that when you are attached to His work load, it’s an easy one.

We should have peace when we are that close to Him.  We should have peace when we are working with Jesus.  We should have peace when we are doing the things that He has asked us to do.

So I must ask you, are you doing the things He has asked you to do?  Or are you getting caught up in the “mores” of life instead of yoking yourself to Him?

As you ponder that, I do have good news for you, and that is to say YES to the best stuff.  Everything that we get invited and asked to do is good stuff.  Everything I would like to do more of is good stuff.  And I want to do it all!  But, how do we decide what is the BEST things to commit to?  Well, here is the check list I try to go through in my head before committing to something (…when I’m level-headed, unlike the last couple weeks)…

1.       Does God want me to be committing my time to this?  Ask Him before you say yes, and take a few days before giving an answer.

2.       Does this activity benefit the whole family?  This is our plumb line with kids activities.  If it doesn’t benefit family life, we aren’t doing it.  We have the kids in gymnastics classes and swimming classes at the same time so that I am not running children this way and that and screaming to get in the car all the time.  I don’t want to live that way, and I certainly don’t want my kids to remember me that way.

3.       Does your spouse think it’s a good idea?  It’s tempting to want to be involved in everything or have your kids involved in everything, but I think spouses can see the routine from an outside perspective and know if it’s going to be too much.  Kevin and I rely very heavily on each others opinion when it comes to commitments.  I know I am very grateful for the way we work together in making decisions. There have been many times that one of us wanted to commit to something, but the other didn’t think it would be our best yes, so we didn’t, and were very grateful afterward.

You may also want to set boundaries like only committing to two social events every weekend, or three evening commitments in a week.

Talk with your spouse and decide what you want your normal flow to be like, and revisit it often.  Kevin and I had a “two social events per weekend” rule for a while, but have found ourselves as of late having weekends where we are running from one event to the next.  That’s not how we want our weekends to look.  We want it to be full of restful and rejuvenating time to connect with the kids and each other before starting another week. So we talked, and committed to scaling back again. 

As I leave you with these thoughts, I ask you, are you weary or burdened?  Remember that Jesus said to attach yourself and your energies to Him, and He promises rest for your soul.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful? If your answer is yes, then your rest may start with saying no more often…or maybe it’s saying yes to only the best things.  Whatever your answer, know that many of us are doing this juggling act with you.  It’s a skill worth mastering, but for tonight what do you say we call an intermission and get some popcorn?  Yep…I think I’ll go for that too.

Soup’s On!

The other night at our house was a sweet time with friends, so I just had to write about it.  Wednesday evening about 6:30 the smell of soup and fresh bread filled our house while people spilled in the door from out in the cold, greeted each other with hugs, and shared a warm meal together while laughter and life filled the corners of our kitchen.  We enjoyed two hours of uninterrupted conversation with adults while the kids played in the basement.  I enjoyed partaking in the rare occasion of slowly eating my food, while tasting every bite and conversing with close friends.  As any one of you Mama’s know, this is a treat within itself!

Kevin and I decided about six months ago that we wanted more times like this at our house.  I thought I’d share what we do in hopes that you may want to adopt the tradition and begin having more gatherings around your kitchen table.

Soup Nights

We have given these nights a simple name because the idea is…simple. We call them Soup Nights. We say to those invited, come if you can and we will have a big pot of soup on the stove and warm bread.  No other sides, no dessert, and no frills to complicate the evening and stress us out.  Just a simple and warm meal to share with friends.  There is no pressure to rsvp, no pressure to bring anything…no pressure to come at all!

This week there were ten of us, and as the sound of spoons were clinking bowls and laughter echoed around the kitchen, I took the moment in and thought about how I’m so grateful for these people in my life.  After dinner we gathered around one couple that needs God to come through for them quickly, placed our hands on them and prayed.  Then we all shared about some of the things God is doing in our lives, some of our favorite moments of this past Christmas, and ways we want to make next Christmas even better with our families.

So who are the people we invite over for our soup nights?  I’m glad you asked.  I’d love to introduce you to them…

Life Groups

My husband and I have led or been a part of what our church calls Life Groups since we were married nearly fourteen years ago.  The people have changed that have been a part of these groups, but the vision has not.  Your church may call them small groups, cell groups, or something similar to that, but the point is to have a small group of people who you regularly see and really do life with.  For us, it has been life changing to be a part of these groups.

The group we lead now meets at our house once a month for a night of prayer and study.  We vary what we study based on the groups desire.  We also pray for each other and our kids, and encourage each other through life’s ups and downs. The two hours we are together is never wasted!

But this year we also started adding a soup night once a month as a way to hang together with no agenda.  You know how life is.  You think about getting together with someone, and before you know it a year passes by and you still haven’t scheduled anything!  With soup nights on the calendar, it’s a simple way to have a standing date with the people you want to see more of.

Have I sold you on the idea yet?  Yours does not have to be a part of a life group or a church at all.  It could be your neighbors.  Think about if you and six or seven of your neighbors got together and shared a meal once a month. The feel of your neighborhood would completely change.  Or maybe there are coworkers that you would like to get to know better.  Or you could invite some of the parents of the teammates of your kids sports teams.

It’s not difficult, and you can make it in such a way that it’s not expensive either.  Just keep it as simple as possible so that you will want to do it again!  We do a lot of hosting at our house, so I know from experience that if I have to worry about more than one dish, plus get my house clean, and make the table look perfect for seating (all the while yelling at my kids to not touch anything!)… I’m a wreck.  Take it from me that people don’t care if your house looks perfect or the table is set when they walk in.  They care about people and time spent together.  So put your efforts into that.

Have you ever heard the phrase “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care”?  I love that saying.  The point is that the people in your life don’t want to hear you talk about your own ideas or what you know or where you stand on life issues.  They want to know how much you care about them first.  So keep the main thing the main thing…and that is people.  No matter our life story, political or spiritual views, or what types of food we do or don’t eat, we all want to know that we are cared for.  Soup nights is just one way to do that.

Jackie’s Spaghetti

I remember when I was nineteen and I had moved away to Colorado with a friend.  Everything and everyone was foreign, but we found a new church, and there was a widowed lady that attended there who was still raising two of her own boys.  She decided she wanted to take about five of us young girls under her wing.  So every Tuesday night, Jackie would have us over to her small house where she would serve us pasta and Pillsbury crescent rolls.  It was the same every week.  She told us she had to keep it cheap and easy, and would even apologize that it wasn’t a grander meal, but honestly that simple food ministered to us girls deeply at that time in our lives.  After dinner and catching each other up on our week, we would all help with the dishes and then move to the living room where she taught us something out of the Bible. We drank in every last word she had to say, asking her tons of questions as we tried to squeeze out of her every ounce of life experience and wisdom she could offer. It really was a powerful thing she did for us on many different levels.

Every Tuesday evening, I knew down to the deepest fibers of my being that I was cared for.  I was important to someone.  And it all started with an invitation to come over for some spaghetti from a woman I had just met.

Never underestimate the power of an invitation to share in some food.  You may extend the invite for others, but you will be blessed even more.  Proverbs 11:25 says “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed”. So if you find that you could use some refreshing in life, why don’t you start with three simple words…“friends, soup’s on”!