Life is full of decisions. New situations and opportunities present themselves constantly, requiring us to continually examine where and how we should devote our time and attention. And our primary focus of course should always be on keeping our priorities straight – serving God, serving our spouse, and serving our family, in that order.
But how do we know when it’s a good idea to say yes to a new opportunity? And when is it prudent to say no? I would say it’s always good to take it to prayer! But I’ve come up with 5 potential good reasons for saying no, and 1 great reason to say yes.
Here they are… It might be a good idea to say no to a new opportunity if:
The time commitment will make it difficult for you to make time for regular prayer and family time.
It doesn’t feel like the timing is right. Would it make more sense to make this change or addition at a later date? Why or why not?
Your heart isn’t in it, or if it’s not an area of passion for you.
You’re struggling to keep up with your current schedule and committments. However, if the new opportunity is going to clear up your current schedule and make things easier on your family, that might be something to take into consideration.
It’s going to cost a significant amount of money or if it will burden your family in a way that is beyond what is feasible or responsible. Will this new opportunity pull you away from your family or will it provide a creative outlet that may be healthy for you & the wellbeing of your family?
And finally, here’s one great reason to say yes to a new opportunity… If you feel like God is leading you to this opportunity, and if you feel like He may be asking you to take a leap of faith and trust Him with the outcome, it might be a good time to say yes.
Will it be scary? Sure, it might be scary. Will it be exciting? Likely. But will it be do-able? Absolutely. All things are possible with Christ. Knowing when to say yes may take some time, but it is life-giving. So pray, assess, pray a little more, and then dive into your decision with confidence.
Our pastor Father Winslow once told a story once about the time his friend visited a monastery. The man had been discerning a vocation as a monk, so he went to live with the monks for awhile. It reminds me of P.J. Funnybunny who decided to be a bear, so he went to live with the bears. And then he decided to be a skunk, so he went to live with the skunks.
Well, when the man returned home, Fr. Winslow asked him about his visit. He said that he enjoyed the experience and one thing really struck him in particular. “What was that?” asked Fr. Winslow. “Well,” said the man, “there was a mirror in the bathroom over the sink. But covering the mirror was a piece of paper, so that every time you wanted to see yourself in the mirror, you had to lift the paper to see your image.”
On the paper were the words from 1 Samuel 16:7 – “For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
The monks at this monastery knew that we are tempted to pride when we look good, and that we are tempted to despair when we don’t look the way we think we should look. Neither of these things are from God. But if positive self-talk can lead us to pride, and negative self-talk can lead us to despair, what should we do?
Now, these words and this story are dear to my heart these days, as cystic acne, redness, and scarring often cover my face. But it got me thinking about how we really are our own worst critic sometimes.
In fact, no one actually talks to me to my face as inconsiderately as the awful voice in my head. Is it my nemesis? My alter ego? The devil himself? I know this much: negative self-talk can be silenced.
How do I know? Because I’ve learned how to turn it off. And you deserve peace of mind and freedom from this voice, too. So keep reading.
Here are 3 ways to snap yourself out of negative self talk:
1. Cover your mirrors and give your worldly image to God.
Okay, so I’m saying cover your mirrors as a metaphor here. You don’t have to go cover the mirrors in your home (though you could!). What I mean is, cover the worldly mirrors that bounce your own image back to you in your heart.
In other words, when people insult you, or when you perceive they insult you, give it directly to God. When people compliment you, or when you think highly of yourself, give it directly to God. When you see your own image in the mirror staring back at you, give it to God.
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging your weaknesses and there’s also nothing wrong with acknowledging your strengths, talents, beauty, and gifts! But when we give all of the criticism and all of the praise we receive to God, we can “cover the mirrors” showing us the world’s image of who we are. And we can then ask God to show us our true reflection. We can ask God to show us the truth of who we are as His son or daughter. And we can ask God to make us into a reflection of Him.
The real beauty here is that we are created in His image. So the more we truly seek to align our view of ourselves with God’s view of us, and the more we ask Him to make us into a reflection of Him, the more we will radiate His love into the world.
2. Shift your focus outward.
Whenever I start hearing the “woe is me” monologue go off in my head, it’s a good idea to direct my focus outward. Who can I serve right in front of me? What people and needs are near me at that moment that I can meet with kindness and compassion?
By being intentional about shifting my focus to serving my husband, children, or friends, I distract the evil narration in my mind and move on to something healthier.
Take a moment to listen to others, look them in the eye, and let them know they are loved.
3. Gratefulness – to infinity and beyond!
And finally, guys, the BEST way to snap yourself out of negative self-talk is to be grateful for absolutely everything you do have in life!
Grab a journal or the notes app on your phone. Make a list of all your needs starting with food, water, and shelter. Then check off every need that is currently being met. Then create your litany of gratefulness: “I am grateful for X, and Y, and Z!”
What else do you do to snap yourself out of negative self-talk? I’d love to know!
My luggage was packed, and my fiancee stood with his family at the bottom of the stairs. We were newly engaged, and our families had spent the weekend getting to know one another at my parent’s home near Chicago. They were supposed to be my ride back to Kentucky that day, but a flood of tears kept me from going back with them to my college.
I had just finished my first semester of pharmacy school with flying colors, but it just wasn’t going to work out. My fiancee Benjamin and I were doing great! (In fact, we will be married 10 YEARS later this month!) But my career plans needed to shift.
Benjamin and I had been talking a lot – which is good, you know, when you’re about to spend forever together. It was important to both of us to make it possible, if at all possible, for me to stay home with our children once we were married. That is to say, if we were blessed with children.
So far we have been blessed with four wonderful children in the past 6 years, and no kind sir at the grocery store today, there are no twins in there (though I’m all for fewer pregnancies & more kids!).
So I burst out crying right before the drive back to Kentucky for my second semester of pharmacy school, and long story short, I didn’t go back with them that day. Instead, I took some time to process my life, and switched back into an undergraduate program to finish my biology degree.
I went on to become a teacher, which meant significantly lower school loans that could be paid off quickly, and a career with an easy transition in and out of becoming a stay-at-home mother.
But guys, I was terrified of walking away from that career as a pharmacist. Mostly because I had set my mind on it for so long. And if you don’t know me well yet, I’m pretty determined and stubborn about doing what I feel called to do. But in times of transition in life, fear can creep in and complicate things. (Anyone else agree??)
In walking away from one dream to pursue another – in my case – greater dream, I found peace. And I’ve learned that when we listen to our fears, we can learn so much about ourselves.
Here are three valuable insights you can learn from your fears:
1.What’s most important to you right now?
We should pay attention to what we fear, because our fears can indicate what we truly desire. For example, if we fear illness or death, we may be desiring health & longevity. If we fear long term infertility, our hearts may truly be desiring the gift of children. If we fear failure about something in particular, this may indicate an area where we long to succeed.
We fear rejection because we long to be accepted. We fear being forgotten because we long to be known. We fear being disliked and excluded because we long to be loved.
By allowing ourselves to feel afraid and experience a certain fear, we may be able to articulate and pinpoint the source of that fear. In my situation, I was afraid of giving up a dream and being seen as a failure. I wanted to be successful, and I learned that being successful doesn’t only come in a career-sized package. So, our fears can indicate what’s most important to us right now – what we’re hoping to receive and experience in life. The reverse of our fear is often one of our deepest desires.
2. Where might you need to take action?
If you’re severely afraid of something, or if you have a recurring fear, it may indicate an area where you need to take action. Are you doing everything you can in a certain area to ensure your success? Are you focusing your attention in the right areas and in appropriate proportion to your desires & your mission in life?
I felt restless during my entire first semester of pharmacy school because I slowly realized it was not the right career for my future family. I feared becoming a pharmacist (I wanted to eventually be at home with children), and I feared making a change (I wanted to be “successful”). All of this fear was an indication that I needed to take action. Something had to give. Something was not aligning here.
Where might things not be aligning properly in your own life? Where might you need to take action and make adjustments and course corrections to find peace and to fulfill your personal calling? What is it exactly that’s tugging on your heart strings and causing you to fear?
3. Where might you need to increase your trust?
There’s a lot of comfort that comes from having a cushy 6-figure salary and benefit package, and it’s wise to be prudent and cautious when making decisions about how we live and how we act. But if we find that we are excessively fearful about losing something in particular, this may indicate an area where we can grow in trust.
God is the one in control. We receive all of our blessings through Him and because of Him – no matter how much we think we’re just earning things based on our own merit. His providence and grace is what gives me the ability to type these words out for you, and it’s what gives you the ability to read them. Without Him, we are nothing. So, if we turn our fears over to Him, and ask Him to increase our trust in these areas where we are afraid, He will.
As Jesus told Saint Faustina, “Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity.” (Diary, 1602) So we really can’t go wrong when we turn our fears over to God and increase our trust in Him.
If this article has been helpful to you, click here to join my email list and you’ll get instant access to your free copy of 5 Keys to Moving From Fear to Freedom, based on my journey overcoming anxiety. Peace!
*Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy.
She sat in a chair facing us and smiled nervously. We asked each person at youth group that night to share about something in particular, though I cannot for the life of me recall what they were supposed to share. Mikaela chose to speak about something different when it was her turn. I’m not even sure she knew things were going to come out the way they did.
She smiled and talked about her experiences as a new college student based on the prompt we gave, when suddenly, her face became solemn. “And then I had an abortion,” she said. And words began to pour out. Her voice became rushed and she spoke through tears.
She told the whole story. How she hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant except her boyfriend, how he was abusive and threatening, how she was terrified and didn’t know where to go, and how she ultimately decided on an abortion. She was so sorry for her choice, and she explained that she was grieving the loss of her child.
All of a sudden, this ordinary night at youth group felt the full weight of the confessional, but the more Mikaela talked, the more you could see this sense of relief wash over her tiny figure.
She had finally told someone her secret. She had an abortion. And this public sharing, however unscripted and surprising, ended up being the first step on her journey toward healing and peace.
But what struck me the most, was that up until this moment, she had kept her pregnancy and subsequent abortion a complete secret from almost everyone in her life. At that time, we were pretty close. I knew Mikaela and her mother well and had spent a lot of time with their family. And my heart just broke for her.
I had been one of the people speaking into Mikaela’s life about social justice, charity, chastity, and forgiveness. These words were not enough. We can talk all we want, guys, but if our youth do not see the Church as a safe place to run when things don’t turn out how they expect, they’ll find somewhere else to go. And they do. They do all the time.
All children need to know about chastity, but they also need to know that if they choose differently, we will still love them. We will not excommunicate them from the Church or force them to wear a scarlet letter. Instead, we will be there to catch them, to love them, and to show them Christ’s mercy through it all. No one should ever feel they need to turn to an abortion out of fear or shame.
And guys, that’s partly on us as the Church. If people perceive that we don’t care and that we’re just here to cast judgment, then honestly, we’re not doing a very good job at being Christ in this world.
This also means that we need to respect the difficulty of an unexpected pregnancy. How can we sit here and say, “Oh, just choose adoption,” without acknowledging that in this, we are asking women to do something heart wrenching and difficult? How can we sit here and say, “Oh, just have your baby,” without acknowledging that we may be asking her to bring a child into an abusive relationship? And by the way, shouldn’t we help her out of that abuse? Isn’t a desire for abortion at least sometimes an indicator of something seriously unhealthy in a person’s environment?
So, it’s not enough to just talk about chastity and charity. Our youth need to visibly see that we will treat everyone with compassion and respect. Perhaps if Mikaela had the privilege of seeing the Church reaching out to young women in crisis pregnancies, or if she had attended a baby shower at her parish for a friend facing an unexpected pregnancy, she might have known a little more about Christ’s compassion for everyone. And maybe – just maybe – she could have trusted that same compassion would be there for her as well.
Our chastity talks are not enough – they are all talk. Our youth deserve the opportunity to see charity in action. Will you help them see?
*If you’d like more information about starting a chapter of Mary Garden Showers at your parish, please reach out to us at marygardenshowers.org, and we will send you our Manual. Mary Garden Showers is an apostolate serving women and families in crisis pregnancies through baby showers for women choosing to directly parent, and blessing showers for women choosing to place a child for adoption.
*And if you haven’t requested your free copy of 5 Keys to Moving from Fear to Freedom, you can do so here! I created this resource for you based on my own experiences battling anxiety. And I’d love to share it with you (or your friend or loved one) to help you move from fear to freedom in your life!
“I don’t know how you get anything done in a day!” my Dad said. He spent the morning watching my children, and honestly, hearing him say that gave me so much consolation. I felt so validated and affirmed.
Because it is hard to “get things done.” It’s definitely not easy caring for four small children. And while I’m very blessed to be able to be home with my children day and night, it takes a lot of intentionality to get through the day and achieve success in the categories of: take a shower, get 5 people dressed and fed, and brush 5 sets of teeth twice.
Not to mention success in completing home care tasks, home school tasks, ministry tasks, and carving out time for some vital personal space.
I’m convinced that good time management only takes us so far. And we certainly don’t run a tight Von Trapp family ship with whistles and kids lining up and marching around doing their chores at the same time every day. While we do say no to events and commitments sometimes… we often say yes.
I believe our culture is taking individualism a little too far with this trendy “say no to all the new commitments” mentality. I’ve noticed it in the community, too. It feels like everyone is too busy to be together!
My husband and I are quick to say yes to getting together with friends and to ministry work when we know it can benefit our family and the Kingdom of God. We are far from perfect, but we really try to be intentional about being with people.
So what’s the key to having enough time to do it all? Honestly, I believe the key is an attitude shift. We need to remember that God is not out to get us. He’s not trying to sabotage our lives by placing more people in front of us to love, by blessing us with more children, or by inviting us to do more for His Kingdom.
No, He’s not trying to sabotage our lives with these things. He’s trying to make us into saints. And He has a good track record of making people into saints when they work with Him and not against Him.
So I think we have to remember this: There is enough time in my day for me to do everything that is God’s will for me today.
How amazing is that! You have enough time today to do absolutely everything that God is asking you to do today!
So then the real question becomes not, “Do I have time for that today?” But it flips around into, “Am I being a good steward of my time today?” And that is a drastic shift!
Because we always do have enough time to complete His will.
Yes, we need to be prudent. Prudence is a cardinal virtue, guys – let’s be prudent! But if I am constantly feeling like I don’t have enough time for my own life… I should try to revisit God’s will. Let Him look at your planner.
What would God say about how we’re spending our time? What would He say about those little moments where we escape into social media world, those little moments where we waste time worrying, or the frequency with which we check our email inbox? Oh, I’m so guilty of wasting time. We’re all a work in progress.
But remember – God’s giving you enough time to do everything that He’s asking you to do today. Will we be good stewards of the time we receive?
For a long time, I struggled with the concept of “privilege.” The truth is, I know I am very blessed. I have enjoyed many privileges in my life.
But this word bothered me because I felt like it fueled the victim-mentality in our culture, elevating certain victims or underprivileged to a bizarre form of elitism. I think we need to be careful that we don’t do this, and I do think it happens sometimes, which can make us quick to say we’re a victim, too.
Certainly we are all dealt a different hand in life, there can be no denying this fact. Opportunities unfortunately are not equally available to everyone.
We are all privileged in some ways. And we are all underprivileged in other ways. We are all a victim of our upbringing and a product of our choices and life experiences. But we need to be careful not to turn life into a victim competition.
After much reflection and prayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is worth discussing the concept of privilege.
Because our privileges may enable some of us to speak out and be heard more than others, but a lack of privilege should never keep anyone from speaking out or being heard.
No matter your level of privilege or underprivilege, no matter what you’ve endured, no matter how blessed or broken you may feel right now, please know that you are loved.
Mercy is always a privilege, and it is the one privilege that is always available to everyone. Because mercy comes to us from the Cross. And the Cross is for us all.
The struggle is that this is hard work for us on earth. The struggle is that all this giving and loving and serving causes discomfort. And receiving love is difficult because we can feel so unworthy.
True love is never simple. It is always sacrificial.
Giving genuine love and mercy is often painful. It’s often easier to fall into our sinful nature than it is to reject our sinful nature and to seek loving action. God knows how hard this is for us, and that’s why He came down, humbled himself, and died for us all.
Because without His help, we wouldn’t have a chance at getting it right.
Receiving true love and mercy is shocking and humbling. “You would do that?” we think, just like the Beast when Belle takes her father’s place in the prison cell. (I have so many Disney movie references to pull from, guys, stay tuned!)
Someone is ready to take your place in your suffering and pain and brokenness, too.
It’s time to tell the whole world. Mercy is the privilege that’s always available to everyone. Claim it. Share it. You’re worth it.
I’d love to know your thoughts on privilege – let me know below!
Now, when we start to fulfill our mission of mercy, life will likely become uncomfortable. This is good! If we truly want to serve others at full capacity, we need to be okay with discomfort and change.
God loves to take us out of our comfort zones, because that’s where real growth and change can take root. Like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes, as we begin to serve, God will continually increase our capacity to love others.
When we carry out our true mission in life, we will only grow closer to the person He intends for us to become. We should remember that God’s full plan for our lives always involves some form of renouncing the world in pursuit of His mission.
So, if we want our stories to become more interesting, if we want God to use us as fully as possible to do His work, we must discover how God is asking us to renounce the world in pursuit of Heaven.
All the best stories shift and become captivating when the lead character renounces his world for another.
Ariel leaves her world in The Little Mermaid to become part of another.
Belle leaves provincial life in Beauty and the Beast and stumbles upon something more enchanted.
Lucy leaves a dreary old house in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and enters the world of Narnia.
The lovely Saint Clare of Assisi departs from royalty to pursue a life of poverty.
Moses flees from Egypt, freeing God’s people in pursuit of the promised land.
Saint Joan of Arc leaves her life spinning wool at her mother’s side as a young girl to lead the French army to victory over Britain.
Saint Benedict leaves the corruption of Rome to pursue life as a hermit.
Jesus departs from his home in Nazareth to face temptation in the desert before beginning the adventures of his public ministry.
There are so many people out there who need to know they are loved! This is no time to sit in suburban bubbles and Lexus cages.
“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you” (Luke 14:13-14).
So, how might God be asking you to renounce the world in pursuit of your mission? How might He be asking you to step out of your comfort zone this week?
For one girl last week, it involved praying in public in downtown NYC. And her story from that day was certainly interesting! We can’t let fear and discomfort keep us from showing up when and where we are needed. Even if it means we might be attacked by a bird… seriously… read her story here!
Tomorrow, I’ll share why I’ve had such an issue with the buzz word “privilege.” And find out the one privilege that’s available to everyone on the planet!
To recap, we’re all being sent on a great mission. And if we don’t reach out to those in need while mercy is still available for all, millions who could come to know the mercy of God will not.
As stewards of the rich heritage that is truth and life, we will absolutely be held accountable for such a tragedy. How will we answer God upon our judgment when our reason for not being more hospitable, courageous, or evangelical amounts to frequent Instagram scrolling and Downton Abbey binges?
Trust me, I’m a cracked vessel myself. No perfect human is typing these words, please be assured of that much. But, that’s precisely my point.
We don’t need to be perfect, our families don’t need to be perfect, and our homes don’t need to be perfect for God to use us for His glory. God is awesome at taking the imperfect people, imperfect families, and imperfect homes, and using them to build up His perfect Kingdom.
So, no, you don’t need to be perfect to help build up a perfect kingdom. You don’t need to be perfect to be an inspiration. You don’t need to be perfect to direct others to the One who is.
Next up, why we need to step out of our comfort zones if we want to truly serve others at full capacity, and I’ll link to an awesome story of what happened when one girl did this recently…
It started simply. Deacon Matt Coriale challenged me to read the Gospel straight through, and I had never actually done this before.
When I did, words jumped off the page and into my heart. I became fascinated with the concept of owning less, and with the concept of giving up everything in service to others.
“He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two tunics should share with the one who has none.’” (Luke 3:11) Well, that verse hit me hard. I had just moved south from Wisconsin. I owned so many coats!
I felt restless in my heart, because our home was overflowing with wedding and baby shower gits. We were well equipped to fully serve the needs of multiple families from our possessions.
At that time, a donation drop-off center stood just a block away from our home. So, that spring, I often loaded up the stroller in the morning with our superfluous items and passed them on to others during my daily walk with my daughter.
This was just the tip of the iceberg. It was the very beginning of a long, exciting, often uncomfortable, but always rewarding journey to a simple and more merciful life.
Something shifted in my heart. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been willing to give before. It was that a fire had been lit within me, and I saw everything in that new light.
When we began passing on many of our possessions, freeing up physical space in our home, it felt natural to begin clearing out the mental clutter, too. So, we drastically cut down on our media intake. I was already not using any social media outlets, but began to cut back on television and movies until these things no longer interested me much at all.
And something amazing happened with this process. It freed up so much time and energy! The physical, mental, and spiritual space that opened up provided room for me to think clearly and to dream big. My soul finally had room to breathe.
If we want to start living and serving at full capacity, we need to take a look at our excess. Because the excess steals our time and stifles our creativity.
Recovering perfectionists, stay tuned, because next I’ll be talking about whether we need to be perfect to carry out a mission of mercy.
If we’re serious about discovering and fulfilling our God-intended mission in this urgent time of mercy, here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to see if we’re on the right track:
1. What headlines, tragedies, or crisis situations compel me to anger, feelings of discomfort in my abundance, or deep compassion?
2. When do I feel most content, peaceful, and fulfilled? Does everyone have access to these types of situations?
3. God speaks and provides direction in a still, small voice. How much time am I spending in complete silence these days?
4. What is one service, work, or volunteer opportunity sticks out most in my life as a monumental or life changing experience? What impact did this have on me at the time? What impact does this have on my life now?
5. What talents, gifts, skills, resources, privileges, knowledge, and abilities do I have that can make life better for people affected by the headlines, tragedies, or crisis situations mentioned in question 1?
6. In my daily life, when do I come in contact with people in deep spiritual, emotional, or physical need? What is my reaction to these situations? Am I helping to bear another’s burden? In what ways? How might I be able to better respond to these people and their needs in the future?
7. What can or should I do to intentionally come into contact with and to be hospitable to people in deep need, particularly to those who may be in moral danger?
8. What can I provide to the world that perhaps no one else can? Am I staying silent and comfortable instead of speaking out about any important issues that deserve to be addressed?
9. How can my life and lifestyle help the world see and come to know the mercy and love of God?
10. What am I willing to renounce for the sake of the Kingdom? In other words, what could or should I part with in life so I can better direct my attention to fulfilling God’s plans?
On Sunday this blog will rest. But check back on Monday, when I’ll be sharing more about how my family discovered our mission, and how you can start to fulfill yours.