Christian Living

Saying “No” to the Good.

I’ve been sick this week, which means I am further behind on my writing goals and further behind on my other goals and commitments. And the house is a disaster. So as we (hopefully) jump back into our regular schedule, Evan and I have been talking about how to be wise with our time. We’ve also been talking about how to make time for connecting with people–probably because we spent a whole week talking about connection on our podcast, Epic Every Day.

So how do you make time for things?

I’d argue it’s impossible to talk about saying “yes” to thing without talking about saying “no.” In Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend talk about how we are all gardens, metaphorically. There are four types of gardens or people: 1) the garden with no walls, 2) the garden with no gate, 3) the garden with a gate that keeps out the good and lets in the bad, and 4) the garden with a gate that lets in the good and keeps out the bad.

For a person with no walls, they don’t have a “no.” They say “yes” to everyone, so anyone can come in and pick the fruit in the garden. This person often doesn’t have any fruit left to feed themselves so they’re starving all the time. They also don’t have time to cultivate the garden so there’s not loads of fruit for those who wander in.

The person who has no gate doesn’t let anyone in at all. They keep their own fruit, but miss out on the joy of relationship. Personally, I believe that results in another kind of starvation.

Then there are the people who have walls with a gate. Some of us are raised in such a way that we don’t know how to keep the bad out or how to let the good in. We don’t know how to let people love us. We don’t think we’re worth protecting so we just let bad people wander in and steal our fruit. We’re the people who automatically assume a criticism is about us (and personal) but can’t accept a compliment to save our lives.

Obviously, the person to be is the one with the last garden. Even if you’re in this place, you’ll have a tendency towards one of the other three–something that you came from or that you can slide back into. People with the last garden believe they’re worth protecting so they keep the bad stuff out of their garden and let the good in. They let themselves be loved and joyfully give to those God has called them to give to.

Our time is an indicator of what kind of person we are. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to be someone who does exactly the things God’s called me to do. I love doing what God’s called me to do because it’s fun and life-giving. It feeds my soul. It creates margin even in the midst of doing it. On the other hand, it’s also hard and takes energy to do.

For me, I don’t usually get sucked into letting the bad in. I used to be there, but I’ve grown past it. I am, however, way, way, way more likely to get sucked into focusing on the good over the best. You know what I mean–when you do something that’s not bad but it’s not the best use of your time? Scrolling through Facebook, extra housecleaning, messing around with my phone, organizing my recipe cards, reading, checking our finances more than once a day, liking people’s posts instead of hanging out with the person in real life… the list goes on and on and on. Some of it is just stuff that is the best when I do it at the right time–for example, we organize our finances and have a money meeting on Fridays, but sometimes I’m tired and avoiding other, harder things so I’ll check just to “categorize the latest receipts” (even when there aren’t receipts). It’s not a bad thing to do, it’s just not the right time to do it.

So often, it’s the good that keeps me from doing the best. I can rationalize the good in order to avoid the work that comes with the best. I might not be as fulfilled as if I engaged in the best, but I don’t have to work up the energy either.

Connection is like that: we’re too busy doing all those “good” things or we’re too busy engaging in the “good” relationships or we don’t have good gates so we let people in who suck us dry. It takes work to say “no” to the good and and to go after the best.

But really, is the “good” good? I mean, if it keeps us from our best, is it good? Or does it become bad?

Blog_ Saying No to the Good


Christian Living

The Cycle of Burnout

The past week or so has been pretty brutal. I had a busy day on Friday and then, on Saturday, I went to something that was important, but that I knew I didn’t have energy for. The result: a two-day migraine and four nights of insomnia. Good times.

My husband, Evan, and I have been talking a lot about margin lately. And as I was reading through my journal this morning, I was reminded that Sabbath is created rather than attained via circumstances or avoidance of circumstances. It’s proactive rather than reactive.

Burnout is the opposite. If your time, talents, resources, etc. are a garden and boundaries are what make sure you have enough fruit in your garden to feed yourself and your family and to share with others, then burnout begins with a garden of scarcity. From my personal experience, burnout comes when I start from a place of exhaustion and lack in my own life and then try to use my scanty resources on others (my kids, my friends, my Church, etc.) instead of making sure I’m fed.

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t give sacrificially for others–we should. But there’s a difference between sacrificing and putting yourself in burnout. Sacrificing is when you choose to give something that is a stretch. However, part of that whole loving ourselves as we love others equation means that we shouldn’t give to the point that we’re starving. It’s still sacrificial giving to give away your time, energy, talents, etc. even if you can survive without that particular resource.

I’ve been thinking about 2 Cor. 9:7 which says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (NIV).  It’s impossible to be a cheerful giver when you’re in burnout–just like it’s impossible to think creatively, problem-solve, or any of those other things your brain shuts off when you’re in survival mode. You end up giving reluctantly or because it’s the “right” thing to do instead of something you want to give. It may feel spiritual, but it’s actually not. It doesn’t reflect who God is. It doesn’t make for healthier relationships or a healthier Church.

See, here’s the thing: when we give out of lack, we ourselves then have to be taken care of. When we’re full of the Holy Spirit and all Sabbathed-up, we’re giving from a place of abundance. That doesn’t mean we don’t need God to refill us daily or that we don’t need a weekly Sabbath. Burnout begins with lack and leads to more and more lack. It’s a vicious cycle. True, healthy giving begins with abundance. It starts with being full and then reaches out.

What about you guys? Any helpful tips on avoiding burnout?


Three Inches

So here is my happy news for you, if I haven’t shared it already, the area in which your body is in balance is only about three inches. Isn’t that great?!?! Now, I’m sure you’re scratching your head and wondering what I’m on that makes me that excited about three inches. 😉 It’s because it’s a lovely little type. Three inches of physical space you have to hang onto in order to stay upright. Go on, go try it. Stand up straight. Lean a little bit to the left, to the right, to the front and to the back. Feel where you’re actually balanced. Lean too far and you start to lose your balance. Three inches. That’s it. Not the whole room. Not a foot’s worth of personal space. Just a measly little three inches.

So here’s why I get excited about those three inches: every time I remember them, I remember that I only have to hang onto three little inches of emotional space too. I don’t have to control the people around me. I don’t have to control the circumstances around me. I just have to hang onto my three inches. This is one of my favorite things I’ve learned from Tai Chi. During the terrible threes, I can’t tell you the number of times “three inches” was my mantra. And now, when there’s a lot of crazy going on in my life, I’m back to muttering it to myself throughout the day. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know that I don’t need a lot of space to be myself.

So there you go! Everybody has to balance–whether you’re laying in bed, sitting in a chair, or standing. It means we all have a built-in reminder that emotional balance is not all about controlling everything in the world, but just hanging onto our three inches.