A Simple Lesson on Eggs + Knowing When to Say No
I tend to raise my hand too often. I volunteer myself like a weird impulsive muscle, reacting where there is a felt need. I have kicked myself retroactively many times, feeling the crunch of obligations and responsibilities and why did I sign up for this? The last three weeks for our family have been a whirlwind of activity.
But there are many good, great things in my life right now. In fact, they’re all wonderful, which is why it’s so hard to say no. Jesus said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). I’m getting life from giving myself. Mostly.
Like this lesson I signed up to teach at our homeschool co-op.
In browsing through the books at our local library, I found some nicely written literature about eggs, complete with beautiful illustrations. One thing led to another, and I was leaving with a huge stack of books, navigating my way through the parking lot carefully. I picked up watercolors, paint brushes, and 2 dozen eggs at Walmart and headed home, feeling happy to splurge a little bit on kids that don’t belong to me.
Here’s how it works:
- Poke a hole in both ends of the egg. Blow out the innards, the yolk, and the albumen (egg white). Make the holes big enough so you don’t pop a vein. Let them dry overnight.
- Gather the kids together. You can quiz them on what they already know about eggs. Then read this book to them. Or this book. Or this book. If you like, re-assess what they know at the end. Find out what they learned.
- Using bird egg charts as a guide, have them paint their own eggs to resemble the illustrations. The younger kids will probably forgo this step entirely, and paint their eggs with bright yellows, pinks, purples, and blues. Don’t fight them on it-let them be creative. It’s totally fun.
- This craft doubles as a Christmas ornament. Just cut a small piece of wood from a toothpick or match, tie a piece of thread around it and push it through the top of the egg. Hang it on your tree in a couple of months, and remember this amazing lesson. Marvel at your egg knowledge. Yes.
This is an example of when saying yes meant a fun morning spent with kids and the mamas who made them. It meant community. Most of the time, that’s what saying yes means for me: spending time with people, having them in my home, serving them in one way or another. But sometimes, you have to say no.
Here's some guidelines.
When you’re neglecting other responsibilities in your life. When I could not find my sweater on Friday because of the mountain of clean laundry that hasn’t been put away, I realized I might need to rework my schedule to account for some of the more mundane (and simply boring) tasks around the house. It’s much more exciting to go for a hike in the woods with other homeschoolers, or hang out with a friend, but having a bed that’s not covered with laundry or a kitchen counter that isn’t covered with dirty dishes is also up there in importance. It gets out of control fast. I can easily convince myself that I have more important things to do, but it’s not true. Doing the dishes or scrubbing the toilets is some serious holy work.
When your husband (and kids) need a break. What I choose to do with my time affects my family. If I’m dragging them around to activities I’ve committed to, or opening up the home every week, it can drain my family fast. We already have a hectic schedule and do a lot of driving every week, so I have to be very careful with what I pencil in, especially on school days. Sometimes I overdo it, and I’m not the only one paying for it. So find time to serve others and make it a family affair, but count the cost for each individual. In other words, it is absolutely necessary to include your husband in this general discussion, and there is unnecessary stress on everyone when you don’t.
When you’re not taking care of yourself. My husband Aaron is my ballast. He steadies me and balances me out when I’m moving at breakneck speeds. He can see the crash ahead. I recently got a cold that took me out for a week because I was so rundown. Mental and physical stress take their toll on you, and part of being human is recognizing our limitations. It was a good reminder that I’m not God. I can’t always push through. I can’t always say yes. It reminds me that I can do nothing apart from Jesus. The Sabbath was instituted for a reason-we all need rest, and it's an exercise in trust. Do I trust God to take a break from my to-do list for a day? Can I put an important project down if I need to? Can I sit and be still and just remember that he is God? Always striving is counter-productive. And I’m learning the hard way, but at least I’m learning.
Because we should mean what we say and be reliable, it's important to think and pray through committing to something. And for me, that probably means saying no to some good things in my life, areas of service that I really want to be involved in right now. Don't get me wrong-we should be actively involved in some area of service to others. But it's hubris to think that those areas won’t thrive without us, and sometimes excessive serving is really just excessive pride.
Saying yes is awesome. You should say yes lots in your life. When asked to serve, when asked to give, when asked to obey. If you never say yes, don't worry about when to say no. Obviously, that's not a problem at the moment. But for those of you who over-commit their schedules, whose houses are a disaster, whose kids are tired, whose husbands need to connect with you, you need to know when to say no so that your priorities don't get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. This requires prayer and wisdom and input, listening to the needs of your family and creating quiet so that God can speak.
And some weeks will still be over-run with commitments. Life is not neat most of the time-it's messy and full. Enjoy it anyways. Lean into your loved ones. Embrace crazy when it comes and wipe the grimace off your face. Learn how to love well in the midst of busy, and create order where you can. That's all we can do, but life can still be good. Sometimes, it's a simple matter of letting go.