Monday, November 18, 2013

Learning the Words: No

I've been thinking a great deal about the power of the word 'no'. It was something that wasn't in my vocabulary back in the days when I was trying mightily to be the perfect Fundagelical momma/wife/sister in Christ. Especially in the beginning.

After all, aren't you supposed to pour yourselves out as a blessing for others? A servant's heart. The way the scriptures read from a fundamentalist view you rarely have the right to say no to others if they are in need. Service, service, service. That old J.O.Y. - Jesus first, others second and yourself last in line. No matter what.

This weekend as I worked on a baby quilt for one of my daughter's many friends, baked breads, cookies and cupcakes for a CFC fundraiser at Jim's office, and I ignored my flared-up asthma it felt just like old times. Me rushing around toting that barge, lifting that bale while putting my needs on hold.

There was an enormous difference this time. While I was insane level busy like I used to be then, this time I really wanted to do those things. Laura's friend is someone I love dearly, whom I used to babysit occasionally back when she was two. Her mother abandoned her with various relatives and this girl is like another daughter to me. She's been part of my life for over twenty years. I'm making a baby quilt for her newest baby because she asked me if I would.

The baking? I love to bake but now that it's just Jim and I the baking is rare. Jim is in charge of CFC (Combined Federal Campaign - fundraising for charities) for his office and really enjoys his role. This year he's appeared on the CFC site promoting the program, been in one of the Washington Post publications and today's bake sale is going to be attended by the higher ups.

Both of these tasks are labors of love for me. Love for Laura's friend, love for my husband and the causes he is passionate about. I'm not expected or forced to do either, unlike my JOY years.

During the years when 'NO' was a dirty word I was busy from the time I got up until going to bed, busy meeting the expectations of others. No love there even as I was told this was loving others. Driving someone to chemo treatments, providing meals for those who were sick, cleaning the Pastor's house (yes, this really happened!), sewing forty costumes for a Christmas play, doing whatever was asked of me.

Inside I was sometimes seething but on the outside I appeared as if I were actually the calm, loving, gracious woman of God I was trying to be. In those days there was no time to sit outside on the lawn reading a book and sipping lemonade. No down time from the demands. After a while your mask slips and you explode. I did a few times in the safety of my own home.

Once we left our old church I started to realize I don't have to be saving the world before breakfast. That saying no to requests wasn't the end of the world. That what I needed the most was a huge time out from being busy all of the time.

Sometimes you have to put yourself first and if that means saying no sometimes, even to good things, then that's exactly what you'd better do.

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