I was lamenting to friends what a busy Saturday we had ahead of us. We were literally driving back and forth across the middle of North Carolina to four different events. A fun run for my husband and son. A birthday party. A housewarming gathering. A graduation celebration.
My two friends exchanged a sideways glance, laughed and said, “Why don’t you just say ‘no?'”
Hmmm. Why didn’t I?
I struggled with this question for the next 24 hours as I looked ahead to our Crazy Saturday. What could I cut out? Who could I say “no” to?
It would’ve made perfect sense to excuse myself from at least one of these commitments. After all, I have a chronic illness and my body doesn’t always agree with my plans. It was the end-of-the-school-year craziness and a holiday weekend. I could have gotten things done at home or built in needed rest time. Plus, it was going to be a warm May day – and I don’t do well when the temps rise above 80 degrees.
As I wrestled with my plans, however, I just couldn’t make any cuts. So we forged ahead with our busy day.
I don’t know exactly what mile marker we were at, but it hit me.
Why was I doing this?
And the clear-as-day answer? People were celebrating, they invited me, and I wanted them to feel celebrated.
Now, it’s no sacrifice for this extrovert to go to a party, I get that. But it is a stretch for me to commit a whole day to others in the scope of a really busy week. I have to ration out my time and energy. I “count backwards” and try to build in margins so I don’t get worn out.
As we were driving around central NC, however, God was refreshing me. The car time served as ample air-conditioned rest. Our little family of three got to catch up after my husband had been traveling quite a bit for work. At each event, I got to have meaningful and fun conversations. And my belly definitely wasn’t complaining as we went from a cook out to BBQ and home-baked goodies to catered Mexican food.
I finished the day feeling satisfied and refreshed, not run down.
Finding My Why
I shared with my husband and two opinionated (in-a-good-way) friends my epiphany – I was doing these things because I wanted to and it was important for me to celebrate others! My husband was like, “Well, yeah.” He is the energizer bunny, after all, and an extrovert all the way. My friends had the opposite reaction: “Wow, that’s not where I thought you were going with that at all!” Me, neither!
But I realized that my entire perspective hung on the “why.” And my answer to that “why?” made all the difference in my attitude.
So I thought about applying this principle when I feel unsure or stressed about a decision, and even (especially) in my every day life. When I worked in the PR field, I had annual goals and a defined mission. My duties aligned with my “why” at work. I felt accomplished, on task, purposeful.
However, since becoming a stay-at-home mom more than six years ago (and with a rocky start at that), I haven’t really had any defined goals. Often, I’ve been on auto pilot or in survival mode, both figuratively and literally at times.
Yes, I love my family. So therefore… I make food. I clean up food. Do laundry. Shop (for necessity and fun). Run errands. Go to church. Do Bible study. Get together with friends. Repeat. But I almost never ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”
Precious Time, Purposeful Living
Some families have overall mission statements and goals. Awesome for them! We haven’t gotten that far yet (if ever?! And that’s okay!). I don’t even have a personal mission statement – but I do have a Word of the Year for 2018 for the first time in my life (that’s another post for another day).
However, what I’m talking about here is more of a momentary mission statement. When you’re making a choice on what to do with your valuable time or dreading what must be done, it’s helpful to pause and assign the “why.” Adding a dose of gratitude can also be extremely helpful and make all the difference in your day. And it might look something like this:
Mounds of laundry for my large family. What’s my why? I like us to look nice. It’s easier for my family to find things when clothes are clean and put away. I’m thankful for modern appliances (amen?!) and loved ones to wear these clothes.
Babies and toddlers who are in constant need of your attention or care. What’s my why? God gave me these children and they’re only little for a short time. They are my greatest ministry right now. Thank you, God, for my kids and that I can meet a lot of their practical needs (with Your help).
Going to work that you don’t necessarily love or you’d rather be home. What’s my why? Our family needs the income and stability. I have a sphere of influence here and need to be joyful. I get to be creative or work with people. Thank you that I have the ability to work, Lord.
Another social gathering to attend. What’s my why? They thought it was important to celebrate and I feel special for being included. Thank you that I can help celebrate them!
A friend calling for help that interrupts your plans for the day. What’s my why? My friend needs my help right now more than I need to [clean, shop, etc.]; they felt I was trustworthy enough to call. Thank you that I have the ability to help when I can, Lord; let me be a blessing.
On the flip side, I realize that asking “why?” may mean saying “no” to some things. If something doesn’t go along with your purpose, then it may be a necessity to cut it out. For me, chronic illness means that sometimes I have to listen to my body (the “what”) more than I have to listen to my “why.” So that may look like this:
We were asked to help with or attend _______ [insert any of a million demands on your time here]. We need to say no. What’s my why? We really haven’t spent any time as a family together. We just need time to regroup and deal with daily tasks or have fun with just us.
It would probably be beneficial here – well, in all cases really – to talk about the “why” with your spouse and your family. Often we just “do” (or don’t do) without thinking through or verbalizing the reasons.
I pray you find this exercise – learned on the North Carolina highways – helpful. Our time is precious. God’s Word tells us over and over that our lives are fleeting; we are but a vapor. We don’t need to live this life resigned to our tasks at hand or reacting to things happening around us. We can do them with joy. I’m not talking about bogging yourself down with overthinking things…but maybe discovering your “why” can give your days purpose to forge ahead and inject some passion for doing the mundane.