"No" and the Pivot to "Yes!"
It's the New Year, and if you haven't already, I'm sure you're about to be asked about your resolutions for 2023. It's not a bad thing, it's just a cultural thing. It's part of ringing in the next year. We set goals for things we want to do or stop doing.
I'm a go-getter, so goals are my natural language. Knowing this, it should be no surprise to hear I used to make a list full of resolutions. No sugar, more water, prep for a half marathon, read more, etc. You get the idea. Yet, even though I enjoy goals and they are motivating for me, I'd find myself two or three weeks in and I might still be making some progress on one or two, slight progress on the sugar one, but for sure one of the goals had already been nixed. In sharpie. Probably with the words "That was a dumb one anyway" coming out of my mouth, justifying my action.
How did so much ambition and good intention go south ...BEFORE FEBRUARY?!!
Maybe you've seen a similar pattern in your own life. It's not that we don't want to change or grow, and it's not that the goals aren't "SMART" enough - you know, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely.
Then again, maybe you find great success with your goals this time of year. For those of us who struggle, I'd like to shed some light on an alternative approach. It's not necessarily easier - change never is, but because it starts with a reframing our perspective and thought-life, I've found immense growth in this practice.
What if I were to tell you instead of making goals and resolutions, you simply take one or two weeks and choose one word. If faith guides you like it does me, I'd encourage you to pray about what this one word should be for you this year.
In previous years, I've grown in areas of "authenticity" and been led in ways I never expected through "open." This last year, my word was small but mighty. And, oh, was it hard. Two letters, which are so easy to say at times and so hard to say in others.
It was the word - No.
Being the optimist I am, I initially thought this word sounded great. I imagined a clear schedule - fewer obligations - more "me time" if you will. Though saying no to obligations was part of it, more "me time" was not. God did not lead me into this word for my selfish gain. God was preparing me for the next season of life and what He had for me in it. "No" turned out to be less about schedules and more about boundaries for me.
I've come to see boundaries like a fence. Since I grew up in West Texas, I imagine a fence similar to the ones used to keep cattle and livestock safe. When establishing a fence, it's not easy for either side. Barbed wire, that'll hurt from both sides. In the same way when establishing a boundary, it's not easy for either side - the one or ones setting the boundary or the one or ones adjusting to a new boundary that has been set. But, it is necessary to keep what is inside the boundary safe so it can grow and thrive.
Also, it's important to recognize a fence is not meant to keep everyone out at all times, but it does provide clear guidance on when and how to enter. It's the same with a boundary; it leads others to the gate.
Just like building a fence is hard work, establishing new boundaries is hard work too. It requires some hard conversations.
The need for boundaries surfaced not only in relationships and time management but also in opportunities. When offers were appealing but peace did not befriend it, I had to say no.
Not only did I have opportunities to practice saying "no" with more intention this year, but I was on the receiving end of this word, too. After pitching a book concept, I didn't hear much back after the initial interest, so I interpreted the silence as either a "not yet" or a "no." Even still, I was washed in unexplainable peace, knowing if God wants this to happen, He'll open a door at the right time.
But then, wouldn't you know, Fall came. As the leaves began to hint that change was coming, so did my word. The practice of saying "no" since the beginning of the year proved to be an act of planting seeds and now it was time to harvest. Though the planting was not easy, it was purposeful. In my experience, I've come to understand establishing boundaries is really all about priorities and taking care of what God has uniquely given you. If you're wondering what boundaries need to be set in your life, I suggest starting with these two questions. These are the ones I've been continually returning to:
What role(s) has God given uniquely to me? In other words, in what areas of my life am I responsible? (i.e. a spouse, a mother or father of young or teenage children, a caretaker of an elderly father or mother, a leader in another way, etc.) The role(s) which God has uniquely given to us are our top priorities and will likely require boundaries.
What role(s) has God given me that I share with another or others? Meaning, what can I and should I delegate? Where do I need to say "no" so that I am able to say "yes" where I am needed most right now?
Like I mentioned before, this is what happened for me. Fall came and so did my word. "No" pivoted in miraculous ways to "yes."
I heard back from the literary agent with interest about one of my book concepts. With a whole lot of prayer and some diligence, what I thought was a "no" at the beginning of the year became a "yes!" Y'all, the girl who started a blog two years before has signed with a literary agent! Here's a pic for proof! I was in my pajamas, which is not completely off base. Often, I'm squeezing in writing when and where I can and my pjs are often my writing clothes.
For those who are thinking what's the big deal? Well, basically this is the next right step towards traditional publishing, which is quite incredible for a girl who never thought this would be on her horizon. I don't know what God has planned for this little book He placed on my heart to write but I do know He's opening doors for it and I'm humbled and amazed and squealing with excitement! The no's in this journey were serving as a supernatural boundary, a fence, leading me to the gate, or the door, God had prepared for me to walk through.
As thrilled as I am for this, it pales in comparison to the "yes" God said and allowed me to say in another area of my life. Prayers I've prayed for so many years were answered this year. Dating was full of "no" and "not now" from the Lord, and goodness, am I thankful! I trusted and believed all along it was God's protection but now I see it so clearly. Being on the receiving end of God's boundary for my heart was not fun. There were days of tears, but it provided the guidance I needed and was asking for. It was through the "no" and "not now" boundaries in which God ushered me into the promise He had for me. How crazy is it my year of "no" was the year of God's "yes!" for this prayer? Coincidence? Not a chance.
Every "no" - even to the good things - was preparation and making room so I could say "yes" to the better things God had for me.
I share all this in hopes it will inspire and encourage you. Goals are good, but growth is what we are seeking. What is going to help you grow this year? Consider leaning into one word. Even if you've never prayed before or you feel a little out of practice with it, lean into it with prayer. It doesn't have to be fancy, just humbly say,
"Father God, my heart is to grow this year. I don't want 2023 to come and go and still be the same. I want to be closer to You and in doing so, more like You. Would you show me Your heart for me this year through one word and then help me to be mindful and reflective of how You are growing me through this?"
God's Word says,
When a believing person prays, great things happen. - James 5:16
Coming to God in prayer is a simple but powerful way of saying, "God, I don't know what tomorrow holds, but You do. I'm not in control, You are, and I'm trusting You."
I'm excited for what is to come - what God has store for both of us this year.
May we find strength in prayer and relationship with Him. May He renew our joy and peace as He is given His rightful place as the first priority in our lives. May we find true rest as we trust His goodness in all things.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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