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Finding The Freedom In Saying No: Taking Things Off My Plate Without Guilt

Wow, has it ever been a hectic several days! As I strived to get the things done I felt were important this past week, each day I was thrown off course. I found myself doing “good things”, yet things that kept me from reaching any of the goals I had set. I’m not sure even one thing I needed to do was accomplished. Now that’s a problem! But it’s no one’s problem but my own! I had to revisit what I already knew to be true: It’s OK to say NO! And I can say NO without the guilt that tries to cling to me. I’m practicing these words: “No. I’m sorry, I’m unable to do that today.” Oh, I know that I’m not alone in this character flaw. I always, or let me say most of the time, feel like I have to say “YES”. Especially to my family. Are any of you in the same boat? Somehow I think there are many of us sailing through life like this: always being the one to “handle it, do it, pay for it, make it, sew it, bake it, or create it!”

I’m finding it’s not an easy thing for me to write this post. Is it because I have to come face-to-face with tackling this weakness in my own heart? After lots of prayer over this dilemma of wrestling with saying “NO”, I think you’ll find it interesting what I felt Jesus showed me in His very quiet, gentle way. Here it is: You have to say “NO” to yourself before you can say “NO” to someone else. For me, this is a profound truth that I never thought about before! I have to be able to grapple with my own struggles~feeling like I have to be everything to everyone. In the wake of such wrong thinking, by always saying yes, I may be enabling others. So it’s ME I have to say NO to first!

When I’m comfortable knowing what I should be doing each day, being true to that, leaving margin for the unexpected, then I’ll be able to breathe and have a sense of rest. Sleep then comes easily at day’s end.

As I was sitting at my desk yesterday, glancing around, I was astonished at how cluttered it had become. It was piled high with many things that weren’t mine and I couldn't help but laugh a bit because it completely walked hand-in-hand with this post I’m wrestling with.

Here’s the assortment of things I removed:

  • two Buzz Lightyears-I thought there was only ONE real Buzz Lightyear

  • three toy cars

  • one monster truck

  • one old, red toy car much bigger than the two above

  • some building project measurements written on an old scrap of wrinkled paper

  • a less than desirable apple…seriously bruised

  • a ziplock bag with an antiquated box of what appeared to be straight pins (maybe used for an upholstery project), a pair of ancient scissors, and some odd little stainless steel stick of some sort

  • a small stack of children's books (is this a hint?)

  • vitamin D3 capsules? (where did these come from?)

  • an upside down, laminated card leaning against a stack of books entitled “Lifting My Husband Through Prayer” (that’s mine-but what good is it if it’s upside down?)

Now these things listed above were in addition to the things that DO belong on my desk! The condition of my desktop brought clearly into focus that there are many people in our lives who love us so much…and they love to be near us and in our space~they really do. But they come along and deposit their things in our space, leaving them there without much concern or thought. It may be a tangible item like those listed above. Or perhaps the contents of something they dump from their hearts. It’s no surprise that we take it on as our own problem to chew on and worry about.

What other things might add clutter to OUR OWN hearts as a result of us carrying another person’s load? May I suggest resentment, frustration, exhaustion to name a few quickly. Food for thought…

So unless WE handle it, and WE begin to empty it off, WE find ourselves feeling cramped and crowded, unable to get to the things we know we need to accomplish…both practical and heart things.

We are the only ones responsible to maintain the space we need to function the way God intends.

In having relationships (and we all do), I’m personally finding that in order for me to be a blessing the way God has designed me to be in someone else’s life, I have to learn to carry only what He asks me to carry. The result of this is living in the “GUILT-FREE ZONE”!

There are many reasons for that, but one HUGE reason is by carrying things we aren’t meant to carry, it really can affect others. We may actually be “enabling” others if we take things on that THEY THEMSELVES should learn to work through. This goes for relationship of all sorts: family, work, friends, parents of adult children, and relationships with those in our church.

So by learning to say “NO”, I shouldn't be ladened with guilt, but rather I should breathe a sigh of relief. Not only will I benefit from a plate (or my heart) that is no longer cluttered and spilling over, but I can rest assured the Lord will do what only He can do in the hearts of His children.

In keeping true to experiencing the joy of Cherishing Ordinary Days, my prayer is that each of us can assess where we are regarding this age-old issue. Please let me make myself crystal clear. In NO WAY am I suggesting we hoard our time or be rigid in our schedules. For me, I’d rather come to a place in relationship with Jesus where I allow margin for His assignments, but am able to recognize the difference between what I say yes to and take on out of obligation or habit, and what I truly should be doing. Oh to know the difference!

We want to be able to be the BEST VERSION OF OURSELVES for those we love!

We also want to be a PICTURE OF HOPE in a world that is worrying and uneasy with all that’s going on today.

In LETTING GO of the need we may have to always say “YES”, we’ll find a peaceful freedom. We’ll become that best version of ourselves, that picture of hope!

So the work begins with ME…IN ME! The fruit? The wonderful fruit produced when living with a guilt-free heart? What will that be?

Well, I think we’ll find ourselves truly having more time to Cherish Our Ordinary Days…with the ones who have also learned (hopefully by our example) to allow the Lord to carry their load!

It’s OK to say NO…we definitely won’t always say NO of course. We’ll leave plenty of margin for God’s assignments, but we will be able to recognize the difference

The Result: Room on our desk and room in our hearts as we live out our days, guilt-free, this side of Heaven!

On this journey together,



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