3 Words that Will Help You Say ‘No’

I’m a guilt-prone, overly-responsible, passionate and protective firstborn. Within my strengths creep my weaknesses. For example, my fervor and determination can often be interpreted as anger or antagonism. My prophetic tendencies to speak truth often get me blasted by those who don’t appreciate accountability or questions. Although I don’t enjoy confrontation like some, I won’t back down from a fight when a punch is thrown my way, especially when truth is called into question or people I love are criticized. I will pick up the slack on a task because it just needs to be done, but oftentimes I feel resentful of those who aren’t more helpful. I’ve grown to be less of a people-pleaser, but in all honesty, I still want to be liked (who doesn’t?). And if I’m disliked, I want it to be for legitimate reasons (not a false assumption or misunderstanding).

When I was planning my wedding, I desired to keep things simple. I’d had far too many friends get married with this mantra hanging over the day, “I just want it all to be over with already.” How sad, I thought. Why spend all this time, energy, and money on something you just want to get through? The day should be blissfully enjoyable, not stressfully dreaded. Mothers and daughters were at odds. The engaged couple was exhausted and burned-out from the planning. And I just wondered, “why not elope if all this…?”

Thankfully, God blessed me with a wonderful mom who was on the same page with my dream, making the process of planning a delight. The only snafu came when my dear grandmother wanted to interject her ideas into the day. Having given up her wedding dreams for a less desirable and very simple ceremony, my grandma generously offered to make the day all that I wanted it to be (or all she anticipated it to be). My grandma was one of the most generous and hospitable people I ever knew, but she also had the tendency to guilt people into doing what she wanted. She often lived vicariously through her two granddaughters, which often saddened me because she did have an amazing life herself. I think she always wanted more for herself and for those around her. Anyway, her offers were abundantly kind and giving, but not always what I wanted for me.

As I tried to graciously decline offers or discuss ideas with my extended family, I hated feeling manipulated but I also didn’t like disappointing people. My dad’s sage advice to me always came in three somewhat comedic words (frequently repeated), “It’s your wedding.” He’d smile and squeeze my shoulder. And that was that. Take it back. It’s yours.

I think about those words a lot in relationship to my own life.

I’ve been criticized frequently

….for how I parent…

….for homeschooling my kids.

….for my views on patriotism and citizenship.

….for my relationship with my husband. (for even dating too much, if you can believe that).

….for not protecting my kids enough. (or for protecting them too much–y’all the mom-shame is an ugly reality)

….for not disciplining right.

….for my leadership style.

….for my passion.

….for my outspokenness or for being too open/honest.

….for my views on health and wellness.

….for being too task-driven.

….for not mirroring other personalities or convictions.

The pressure and disappointment weighs me down with shame until I want to scream or cry or run away to an island. And then I remember Dad’s words: “It’s your wedding.”

When I struggled to make a decision (should I take this job? should I say something or not? should I join this ministry? should I…?), I’d sometimes ask Dad what he thought. He’d voice Scripture, but if the area of my life’s path all followed God’s purposes, he’d be reluctant to tell me what to do. “It’s your life, Kristin. You need to just keep praying and seek the Lord.” He never wanted me to be controlled or manipulated into following a course because I thought it would please him. He wanted me to chase after God’s will and dreams for me.

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So, now I ask myself, “Am I doing what’s right for my family…for my life? Am I doing what God has called me to do?”  After all, this is “my responsibility”, not anyone else’s. I will be held accountable for how I raised my kids. I will be held responsible for how I lead.  For how I submit.  For how I defended and protected. For how I stood on my convictions. How I spoke out or didn’t. Whether I followed through and served or stayed home. I am called to a life that God has uniquely stamped for me. And His direction is the map I follow. Your map may look different.

Ask yourself when you make decisions, am I doing this because I am trying to live my life to the best of my ability? Or am I living someone else’s life? Someone else’s expectations? passions? perspective? calling? etc.? I am called to live my life. “It’s your life.” So live it how He calls you to.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV 

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

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