When Yeses Disguise Themselves as Nos

As I sit here on this cold rainy morning reflecting on this past week, I have a big smile on my face. My smile doesn't stem from a perfect week (far from it...I have wiped more runny noses and cleaned up more blow outs in the past two days than I care to admit), but from a week that was not scheduled, not planned, and that brought a lot of surprising blessings.

This is the first week since school started that we haven't had any activities leading our afternoons. We weren't racing from one place to the next, I wasn't running around my house getting snacks, drinks, toys to entertain my two year old for an hour plus at the baseball field, we weren't scarfing down meals to get to the next activity or hurrying through a meal when we got home to get to bed on time.

I am a planner by nature, and I like to know what's coming down the pike at the beginning of each week so that I can organize meals, make sure all of my "chores" are done on the days they need to get done, and plan some "Amy time" in the midst of it all so as not to go crazy with minimal adult interaction. Most of our weeks are jam packed with "stuff," but this past week was not one of them.

We had a vacation day from school in the middle of the week that we spent quietly at home. This was not an easy decision because my personality tends to say, "what adventure can we go on today that is going to be fantastic???." I honestly didn't have the energy or the creativity to pull off a Lawson Day O' Fun, so we decided to spend it at home. My boys (16 months apart) rarely get more than an hour or so of pure playtime during the week, and their interests are SO different, which leads to arguing/complaining/not being kind. This breaks my heart because before they were on different school schedules they were truly best friends...they fought but it was mostly happy times. Because of the limitless playtime on our day off, they both got to play what they wanted, and it was so nice to see them compromise and enjoy each other again! At the end of that day, I had impromptu drinks with friends; later in the week, we had a spur of the moment pizza dinner/playdate with friends; and this past weekend, we had dinner with family friends that we had been trying to pull together forever...and we planned it just that morning.

I know we have all read the articles about not overscheduling, about saying "no," and about slowing down. Let's be honest, though, how often do we take those articles to heart? Or, better question, how often do we WANT to take those articles to heart? I admit that in theory slowing down sounds great, but in actuality it sometimes scares me to death. Being in my house with three children six and under for hours on end everyday is overwhelming to me, but sometimes that's what we all need -  a little down time.

We all go through seasons. There are weeks and months where we feel like we are "on it." We have energy, our kids are in good stages, we feel in sync with our families and our friends. Then there are times when things just don't seem to jive. Sometimes there are reasons behind our struggles, but sometimes it's just life. The demands of the day in day out can wear us down, and sometimes we need to take a step back to see what it is we need to get us back on track. Many times, I find that it's to ditch the schedule and to rest in the quiet moments at home. It's spending more time reading books with my kids, it's a little more TV time for the kids so that I can get myself back in order, it's ordering dinners out rather than cooking every night, it's saying "no" to activities and commitments...even the good and fun ones.

It's during those seasons when I feel like I am slowing down that I often find that I am leaving room for more unanticipated moments of fun and blessings. I have more time to commit to my quiet time, I have more time to go do something that is just for me (for me, that mostly looks like taking an hour and a half to play tennis with friends), and I have end up having more time to give to my family and to my friends. I find that rather than trying to overplan dinner, we order pizza. Rather than planning a girls night out weeks in advance only to have it fall apart at the last minute, we show up after the kids' bed time and enjoy a couple of hours of chatter and laughter. Rather than making my house perfect for house guests, we say come on over and excuse the mess!

I definitely say my fair share of yeses, don't get me wrong. My plate is pretty full between my children, my husband, my volunteer commitments, my church, my Bible studies, my friends. But I need to make sure that it is just full enough and that things aren't falling off of the edges of my plate. I have learned that my time needs to be spent on things that are important to my heart. Before I say yes to something (even if it sounds fantastic) I have to give myself a gut check...why am I doing this? Is this something I believe in?  Is it going to take time away from my little people who count on me? Am I doing this to help the cause or because I feel guilty not helping the cause? Is it going to bring me joy or angst?

I think that joy vs angst question is one that we can all relate to. There are plenty of obligations that are not going to have us shouting from the rooftops with joy (laundry, cooking dinner for some, cleaning bathrooms, changing diapers, preparing for a stressful meeting, traveling for work, etc). Those are the things that happen that make our little worlds keep spinning, but then there are the things that we CHOOSE to spend our time doing. I have learned to give myself permission to say yes to things that are only for me like tennis & blogging because those are the things that make me tick and at the end of the day make me a better mama and wife...and I have learned to give myself permission to say no to things out of self preservation, even really GOOD things so that I can continue to work on making myself the best "me" for my family.

I truly believe that it's important to get out of our routine and out of our comfort zones at times and say an emphatic YES! to whatever comes your way, but I've realized over the years that sometimes things that I want to say yes to just aren't in my (or my family's) best interest. I've also realized that sometimes we need to look for our yeses in our nos. Clear as mud? Here's what I mean: Saying no to chairing an event is saying yes to giving time to several others. Saying no to being on a board where there are various meetings all of the time is saying yes to more time for myself to workout, to go to the grocery store by myself, to play that game of tennis. Saying no a pinterest perfect holiday is saying yes to spending more time enjoying the actual holiday with family and friends. Saying no to a spotless house is saying yes to playdough and markers and cooking with kids and impromptu dinners with friends. Saying no to preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 11 people with three little ones under foot (I know, I was horrified myself making this decision) is saying yes to spending quality time with those 11 people, saying yes to being more rested and peaceful when they arrive, saying yes to saving my sanity!!

It's a crazy world we live in with endless demands and options of activities to spend our time on. If we are not able to find and name the joys in our days...and this is not what SHOULD bring us joy but what ACTUALLY has brought us joy that particular day...then something is off kilter. We need to take a deep breath, take a step back, and try to view our lives from the front porch looking in. We have all been there...when nothing is necessarily "wrong," but we certainly don't feel like we're doing things "right." Those are the times when need to take a moment to reflect on what makes us tick, what makes our families run well, where we derive our joy, where we can make some changes to get ourselves back on track. Because at the end of the day, it's up to us to make our own happiness...we can't rely on other people or circumstances to do that for us...those things can change all too quickly. Sometimes it's as easy as flipping a switch and other times we have to dig deep, be honest with ourselves, and to look for the right yeses even when they may be in our nos so that we can be our best selves for those that rely on us but most importantly for ourselves!

PS - I think I'll put a reminder on my calendar to come back and read this post the week before Christmas when I will undoubtedly be running around like a mad woman and certainly not be my "best"! ;)

This week on the menu are:
Cream Cheese Chicken Taquitos
Sausage & Tortellini Soup
Kofte (Turkish Meatball Pitas)
Penne w/ Creamy Sausage & Tomato Ragu
Ribeyes w/ Kale Salad (recipe to come)

Happy Cooking!

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