I was completely overwhelmed.
It was my first year homeschooling my twin boys, who were in kindergarten. I was running a part-time photography business and freelance writing gig. I’d successfully juggled both jobs before homeschooling, and I figured it would be easy to add kindergarten to the mix. How hard could kindergarten be, after all?
But it ended up being harder than I thought. I felt pulled in many directions and my scattered focus meant I didn’t feel I was doing any job well. I wanted to homeschool my kids, but was jealous of moms whose kids were in school and could devote time to growing their photography business during “office hours.” Yet I wanted to write and wished I had more time to do so during the late hours I stayed up editing yet another photo session.
Conflicted. That’s how I felt.
At last I had a light bulb moment and decided to no longer pursue growing my photography business. I continued accepting existing clients but did not add new clients or pursue business growth, but focused on only one part-time job: writing.
A burden lifted.
The Freedom of Saying No
Everyone has a different threshold for activity in his or her life. Some people thrive and are energized by lots of social engagements and activity. I’ve discovered I’m not one of them. I’m drained by multiple nights out or daily activities to attend. By learning more about how I’m wired, I no longer feel guilty about not agreeing to things I’d rather not be doing in the first place.
This is not an invitation to be selfish, however. There are seasons I need to extend myself for the needs of others or times that are busy just because that’s the way it is.
But saying “no” doesn’t automatically equal selfishness.
What it really takes is spiritual eyes to see what God wants me to be doing with my time. And this has given me the freedom to say “no” to other’s demands and to say “yes” to what God’s called me to.
The Power of Saying No
God has a purpose for my days and my life. But I am free to make choices in how I spend my time. Often these choices are between two good things, like writing or photography. How do I make wise choices?
“We get so wrapped up about Getting Stuff Done, or about defining our value in our accomplishments, our busyness,” writes Tsh Oxenreider in her article To Don’t Do. “But is that really what life’s all about? Crossing off a to-do list isn’t a bad thing, but this isn’t the core of our life’s meaning, what really makes up the sum purpose of our days.”
It takes spiritual vision to determine what exactly is to make up the sum purpose of our days. And in doing so, life is simplified because we know our purpose. “When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God’s will and the whole life is kept in simplicity,” writes Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest.
Jesus demonstrates this power in Mark 1:35-39. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him, and they found Him and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.'”
Through prayer and connection with His Father, Jesus knew when it was time to go to the next town, despite the crowd’s never-ending demands for miracles. At the end of His life he could say, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Jesus accomplished the work God gave Him to do, not the work others demanded of Him. There were still poor, sick, and needy in the world. But Jesus had accomplished what He was meant to.
There is power in knowing our purpose. And thus there is power in saying no to that which does not line up with that purpose.
The Confidence of Saying No
The process I went through to determine saying “no” to photography and “yes” to writing has been helpful in countless scenarios. From writing projects to signing my kids up for extra curricular activities, there have been many things I’ve needed to pass on.
I’ve learned to always respond with a “let me think about it” before coming to a final decision and ask myself a few questions:
- Is this something I want to do?
- How will this impact my family?
- Are the expectations of others making me feel like I should do something even when I don’t want to?
- Have I prayed about whether it’s something God wants me to invest in?
- If I say “yes”” to this activity, will I be saying “no” to something else of importance?
Once I’ve thought through the impact of taking on something new, I can make a confident decision.
Despite the fact I was good at photography and made money doing so, I’m glad I knew when to finally say “no” so I could say “yes” to something I loved more and was a better fit for my life. I’ve learned there is freedom, power, and confidence in saying “no.”