By Wendy LeBolt
As I unwrapped our Christmas tree ornaments and searched for their perfect places on the tree, one in particular gave me pause. It’s an athletically dressed woman in flight. She’s sporting a helmet that reads “Mom,” and from her arm-wings dangle balls, rackets, and sports equipment of all types. She jingles with bells on all of her extremities, and around her neck is a whistle. Boy do I remember this mom who I once was and, in many ways, still am. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Super Mom!
This was my mom when I was growing up. She led my scout troop, organized my sporting events, volunteered at my fundraisers, and drove carpool to practices and performances. I didn’t fully appreciate the life she led apart from mine because she never let it interfere with my shuttle service or my games. In fact, her regular attendance on the sidelines earned her an award at my high school sports banquet. She was voted MVF: Most Valuable Fan. Who doesn’t want to emulate a mom like that?
Mothering three active daughters myself, I tried hard to live up to my mom’s example. And then some. Having completed my PhD, I also wanted to be a “working mom,” and having committed myself to my faith and my Christian community, I wanted to be a serving mom. Go for it, my culture announced, you can have it all and do it all. Be Super Mom!
I felt more like Flying Mom, precariously balanced until some turbulence took me off course. We moms battle to stay aloft, but it takes everything we have and extracts nearly everything we have to give. Confiding this to a wise friend, she lamented, “You can do it all, but everything will be halfway.”
The following week, when I received yet another volunteer request from the elementary school where our youngest was a third grader, I had a new thought: Just because they need a volunteer doesn’t mean I need to volunteer. From somewhere deep inside there was a shuffling, a settling, and a very welcome sense of restoring balance. I sat back in my chair and asked myself two important questions:
What have I been saying yes to?
Was I a better mother, better wife, or better Christian by doing more? No, I was just a busier mother, wife, and Christian. I had been saying yes simply because they asked. Apparently, given the Flying Mom air traffic congestion, many of us take flight when it’s announced that something needs doing. What if that thing doesn’t actually need doing? Or, if it does, what if it is someone else’s opportunity? Even if I could do it all, I wasn’t meant to do it all.
Then and there, I decided only to say yes to the things for which I was uniquely suited or where my contribution could make a significant difference. Yes, my kids, my husband, and my extended family all deserved my time, but God called me and prepared me to do what he desired. Now there was welcome space to say yes to those things. That moment of reflection was a game changer. You might say I came in for a landing. Now I had a new question.
What am I meant to say yes to?
A short time later I attended a Christian Writer’s conference where Mary Lou Redding, Editor of the Upper Room Magazine, was the keynote speaker. Her topic was Making Time to Write. She spoke as if she knew my heart and was speaking directly to me.
“No,” she told us, “is a complete sentence.” When she is asked to do something she can do but knows she’s not called to do, her response is, “Thank you for asking. It’s a compliment that you think I have something to offer; however, I have to say no to this in order to remain free to God’s primary call on my life.” She freely chooses to say no in order to save herself for God’s yes!
It was as if Mary Lou had unearthed a bit of me that had been buried under the weight of expectations. I had been feeling guilty saying no, but surely I wasn’t made for 1,000 yeses. What joy it gave me to begin contributing myself selectively and intentionally. God loves a joyful giver!
When I give of my time, talent, and treasure in the ways that are meant for me, there is no resentment, no exhaustion, and no time crunch. I actually felt more invested in my volunteering, my serving, my family, and my work. There was even time available for the unique opportunities that came my way because I had left myself open to receive the proposal God had set aside just for me.
God Keeps Saying Yes
As a recent empty nester I love seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the young wives and mothers and I empathize with all they are juggling. I do not regret in the least being room mother, piano teacher, homework helper, or soccer coach. Those experiences shaped me and helped grow my kids into the strong women they are. They and the Flying Mom ornament are fond reminders of that moment when the wind of the spirit hovered over my angst and turbulence and whispered, Wendy, I have not called you to everything but just to these things for which I prepared you.
I feel good about my choices and I feel good about the model I have set before my own daughters, a process which includes triage and careful consideration about where to invest oneself. We don’t need to give our whole selves away. We need to hold ourselves in the highest regard, as God does. “I have summoned you by name. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). God has something special for you to do that no other creation on earth is meant to do. Please say yes.
When those yeses plus the world’s demands fill my hands yet again, I recall the sage advice of a dear, faith-filled friend. “Give it all to God. He’ll give back what he means for you to do.” God doesn’t mean for us to say yes to everything; just what fits. That way, when the perfect task comes our way, we will have no hesitation because we have created the space to say yes. All those other demands will wait—or perhaps will solve themselves, as they are someone else’s yeses.
If Super-Flying Mom syndrome has your hands overfull, ask yourself:
• What have I been saying yes to?
• Why have I been saying yes to these things?
• What am I meant to say yes to?
• How do I choose when to say no to keep myself available for God’s yes?
God has great plans for each of us. He is the master juggler but we need not fear he will drop us. By his grace we each fit snugly and securely into the palm of his hand.
Wendy LeBolt is a science and health writer who splits her time between Virginia and Florida alongside her husband and two dogs. (She is the author of Fit2Finish: Keeping Your Soccer Players in the Game, published by Morgan James, Inc. in 2015. (wendylebolt.com)