Saturday, April 16, 2016

Circles: Sometimes We Need to Say "No."

Sometimes when I write everything comes together seamlessly, smoothly. And I read it back and think "did I write that? Because it's actually pretty good." Other times, the words swim in my head. Swimming a type of stroke that never reaches the shore. Thoughts, feelings, daydreams, hopes, fears, sadness, joy...all colliding in a jumbled mess of words that don't make sense. Maybe I'm being a little melodramatic...I did watch the movie, Inside Out, with my kids tonight...but, you know what I mean.  Sometimes, we know what to say, and sometimes there's just too much to say and it all comes out in a tangled mess of redundancy. That's me today (tonight, or whatever you call 4:30am when you haven't gone to sleep yet). 

Why? I want to know why. Why can't I just fall asleep? Some people can sleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. But, I can't. Maybe because sometimes, I need to empty my soul first. On the bright side, the inner turmoil brings me to a quieter place, a place where I get to know God. He hears all about one kid's social struggles, one kid's attitude problems, one kid's heart cry, one husband's work load...and then there's me trying to carry it all. I don't even know what my own personal struggles are sometimes because I'm busy "fixing" and praying and fretting over other people's problems.

My friend Mary Beth once told me about these circles, invisible circles around all of us, circles that hold within their border the things and people we're actually responsible for and to. Sometimes my circle is crowded because I steal things from other people's circles. I actually do that a lot. For some reason, I get it in my mind that the grocery sacker's forgotten lunch is somehow my problem. Or, the stray dog that keeps running from me requires my continued chasing until I get it into my car (which never actually gets accomplished). I am a problem borrower. My own inefficiencies remain hidden most of time. I will almost do anything for anyone, but I've had to remind myself lately that just because I can do it doesn't mean that I should. 

I'm learning to ask this question before I commit: Is my emotional tank full, or is it empty? If the answer is "empty," then I need to rest for a while instead of always "doing." Sometimes, you have to say "no" so that you can say "yes" later. Then, in the meantime, let yourself off the hook...that's the hardest part.

There are things other than actions to say "no" to, emotional things like shame and peer pressure, judgment and fear. Negative attitudes we have about ourselves do not belong inside of our circles. Don't let people who foster negative thoughts stay in your circle or speak into your life; tighten the borders of your circle of responsibility. The circle analogy helped me process being okay when I forget (and my child also forgets to ask me) to sign a school planner. Because if it isn't signed, she WILL live, and so will I. Truthfully, her school planner belongs in her circle anyway, not mine.  Negativity of any kind does not belong in anyone's circle because it's the opposite of God-honoring. *Ephesians 4:29-32, "...Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them...Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander...instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." If anyone (including ourselves) brings you down instead of lifting you up...that voice does not belong in your life. Sometimes there's damage done within our circle boundary...from people close to us, and in those times we need to rely on God enough to let Him "tighten the border" for a season because it's a privilege and an honor to dwell in my circle. 

In my late night brainstorms, I often read to quiet my mind. Tonight, I read from a book I hadn't picked up in over 5 years. I read all the underlined places from the last time I read Henry Blackaby's On Mission With God. Here's the nuggets God patiently used to strengthen my circle borders and clear my soul:

1. p. 107  God often has to move us out of our comfort zones to serve Him better. 

2. p. 140 Each trial you face equips you to accomplish your mission with God. You may not understand why you must go through one more trial when you think you are already prepared for anything. The Father, however, knows what further character development you need to match the assignment He has for you. If you are facing a test or a trial right now, look at it closely to see what it is God wants to teach you through it. 

3. p. 166 Even knowing the mistakes you would make, God chose you.  *We are not random. Your life story matters.

4. p. 96 Often God uses the one who's overlooked. 1 Samuel 16:7, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

God doesn't usually tell us what will happen. That's why it's called faith. So, look around your circles. Clean out the clutter. Tighten the circle, rein in the borders. Then, pour your life into your circle. Forgive mistakes. See the heart first. Rest when your tank is low. And, say "yes" more than "no."