Taking the time for silence requires much more deliberate planning than it did 100 years ago...or even 50. Noise from cell phones, iPods, laptops, Netflix, appliances, children, and co-workers bombard our waking thoughts. Ironically, even when we sleep, we have sound machines...just in case we're too uncomfortable with the quiet of night.
For many, December blitzes our schedules and seems to demand...more, more. Despite the best of intentions and the stack of Advent calendars, daily Christmas readings, and dusty Jesse trees, we light a candle and wish to just sit and watch it burn. But, there's no time! On to the next thing.
Even though I pull out the dreaded "no" card more than most, my life can overwhelm me. I home-school while trying to wrangle a rebellious--and chatty--three-year-old. My older two constantly fight, so I constantly play referee--I think I need to invest in a whistle. I am teaching two online writing courses for Regent University and doing some side editing. I facilitate the women's Bible study at church and am going to more than my fair share of doctor's appointments these days. Some times, my body feels like it's active, but my brain has been left in the foggy recesses of withdrawal, curled in the fetal position, screaming, "QUIET, please!"
Last night, my ever-loving mom drove over to my house and handed me a huge tub of bath salts, "Go out or stay in, but go do something restful. I'll watch the boys." What luxury! No crazy bathtime, no cleaning the kitchen, no folding laundry (it now haunts me from its mound on the couch)...just peaceful solitude.
I filled a bath with water that would boil fish and read 1/3 of a novel I'd wanted to start. My spirit settled, my heart rested, my breathing slowed, my mind caught up with itself, and I thanked God for the chance to "just be."
If you are going to truly succeed in this life, you have to know when to say "yes" and when to say "no." There's no cookie cutter formula, but I want to share a few basic principle questions you can ask yourself.
These ideas come from Lysa Terkeurst's book,The Best Yes. People tend to fall into two camps, depending on personality, backgrounds, and guilt (let's just admit it). There are those who say, "yes" to everything and later regret it...and there are those who say "no" to everything and later regret it. Balance isn't our strong suit as humans, but we can improve.
"Discovering our Best Yes isn't about saying no to anything that feels uncomfortable. Or stretching. Or even beyond our abilities to resource. But a Best Yes will require having the courage to say no to the other things. No to the wrong things. No to some seemingly good things. That's the only way to ensure there's peace to run and take that leap of faith toward the best things.
"...if I spend resources I don't have, I will eventually bankrupt myself."
When confronted with another party, another obligation, another opportunity, have the courage to evaluate the situation through four filters, asking God, "Do I have the resources to do this well?"
Perhaps we have the time and the finances to take on another project, but the emotional strain will drain us of our loving attitude and make our home life with family less than purposeful. And as Terkeurst states, without love, we're bankrupt. It doesn't matter if we "speak with eloquence, have faith that moves mountains, give everything we own to the poor...if we don't have love." "Not all assignments are my assignments."
Figure out what exactly God has asked of you (not others have asked or what you feel pressured/obligated to do) and do those things well. Guard them and make sure that anything else you take on will align with those focal God-given tasks. If your "yes" is leading to "no's" on the essentials, than the yessing needs to stop.
And remember in this hectic time of year that quiet is essential to growth. We need time to be still in the Presence of the One who calms all fears, speaks truth into our barraged and bruised minds, and says, come. He longs to "lead us beside the still water...to restore our souls."
"In quietness and trust is your strength." Is. 30:14