Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When yes is no and no is yes

I chronically overpromise.

Maybe it's the dark side of being an optimist. I always hope to have more time, more energy, more resources than I actually end up having. I want to do more, be more, and create more. I feel I have a lot to give, so I want to give it. Then an opportunity comes up that seems perfect for me, I say "Yes, I'd love to!" and end up running around like the proverbial chicken trying to find my keys and one of my kids' shoes and mittens that match for everyone on the coldest day of the year.

(I know, the chicken was looking for his head. The thing is, it's a lot harder to find keys, mittens, etc. if you also can't find your own head. And that's how I felt today.)

Do you ever have days where the ordinary everyday stuff seems too much to handle? When deciding what to have for breakfast and getting it on the table is going to completely overtake you? Or when putting that load of laundry in and starting the washer is such a monumental task that you might just fall in the washer along with the clothes and end up drowning during the rinse cycle? I'm not sure what it was today...everything just seemed hard. During the throes of lunch and nap and accompanying tantrums from overtired kids, I realized I'd forgotten last night to soak the beans for our dinner tonight. The idea of having to do the "quick soak" method and set them on the stove to simmer before I could lie down for a rest was so overwhelming that I texted my husband and asked him to bring home frozen pizza for dinner.

Sometimes, I think overcommitment is almost expected of us. Our priest even talked about it this week in his homily. If you do well with the obligations you already have, people will ask you to do more things. You can sing in the choir? Great, we'll ask you to be a lector. You used to teach preschool? Oh, wonderful, we'd love to have you be a scout troop leader! I look around and see I'm far from the only one doing so many things and being so overextended that I can barely scrape myself off the couch at the end of the night to go to bed.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we put so much into our lives that we exhaust ourselves trying to keep up? If we run ourselves completely ragged doing all these good and worthy and important tasks, do we even have room to remember the reason we're doing these things in the first place?

Is there ever a time when saying "no" to commitments means saying "yes" to more space for God?

After I took a nap with the baby this afternoon, I still felt overwhelmed. Responsible Me said I should put Felix in his swing, turn on some music, and tackle the chores I hadn't finished this morning. I was dragging myself and the baby swing into the kitchen when Nora appeared at my side, eyes big.

"Do you know what is a really good snack?" she said, a smile forming in the left-hand corner of her mouth. "Something flat and kind of soft but kind of crunchy. That involves oatmeal. And chocolate chips."

"You're asking me to make cookies?" I sighed.

She wrapped her arms around my leg and squeezed me. "No. I want to help you make some cookies."

And you know what? I said Yes. Forget the chores. Forget the fact that I haven't posted on my blog in a month and that the sidebar still excludes the existence of my now three and a half month old son. Forget the hats that haven't been knitted even though it's 24 degrees today and the meals that haven't been planned and the floor that really needs to be mopped. Let's go make some cookies.

So we did.

And while God wasn't telling me explicitly to go bake cookies today, I think He'd be glad I did.

Let's not get so busy with all the have-to-dos, even the really good, worthy, well-intentioned ones, that we forget to make room for the spontaneous encounters and experiences that really make life worth living.

Like warm cookies with chocolate chips eaten with smiling three-year-olds.

And licking the spoon...because I said "yes" to that, as well.

Today is the big release day for Lisa Hendey's new book, The Grace of Yes. It's all about cultivating the virtues that help us to say "yes" to God in our lives. I'm only halfway through the book, but I'm loving it so far. Lisa weaves her personal story with wise advice. Reading her book feels like having coffee and seeking counsel from a warm, faithful friend who shares from her own experience without telling me what to do. You can check out The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living on Amazon.com...and be sure to look for all the stories people are sharing on social media  today with the hashtag #GraceofYesDay.

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