The rain came down in sheets and the Gulf-fed bayous rocked. It was his birthday and he’d woken at 4 am to take his daddy and nieces out on a fishing trip but back they came with little hope of getting out in the waters this day.
He wrestled with inaction because these rains were keeping him from not just fishing but rehanging fence in the pens and fixing the dock out back. On his birthday no less.
So despite his protests, we ran into town and bought a passel of lobster and shrimp because he didn’t want to spend a dime on his birthday, but I was determined to make this one fun, weather be damned.
As he napped, catching up on all those wee hours he’d lost, I read this gorgeous post from Ann Voskamp and it resonated so deeply in my soul.
She writes, Invitations aren’t obligations. Invitations are options…
She shares how she’s been turning down requests to come and speak because there’s just so much in front of her to do, with her six kids and husband of 20 years, and how there’s so little time.
Forget the numbers in your work. Focus on the net value of your work… It can be hard to prune good things that are blooming. It can be hard to remember why you are pruning. Because there’s a counter-intuitiveness to it, this plucking off certain life activities that will yield good fruit. Some might even think it foolish to pare back, when the bloom and gifting are apparent; a good harvest inevitable. Yet it’s the pruning of seemingly good leaves that can grow a better life. To allow later seasons to yield the longed-for abundant crop. It takes courage to crop a life back — but it’s exactly the way to have the best crop of all.
And I’ve been doing so much of that pruning in this new season of our lives, so we can have Louisiana-style lobster boils together, and we can spray the kids down with bug spray so these bayou-fed mosquitos don’t make off with the kids while they catch frogs in the twilight.
I remember early last year I had to take a “quarter” off from speaking in order not to crowd my life away from my family and my work. Looking back, it was a good start, but it was still fed from this idea of scarcity. I had an end date when the yeses could return. All stemming from an idea that if I stopped saying yes, the requests would all dry up.
Now the decisions about when to write or speak or lead an organization or whatever the request is come from a place of evaluating what I’m giving up. Will I miss a tooth being lost or a birthday party or a morning on the porch musing with my husband over coffee?
I still give yeses. But I give them out more rarely. I say no to kind invitations for lunch or dinner. I say no to parties and travel and activities.
And we’re extending our own invitations this time around. We invite people over to sit with us on the farm porch. Or to have some fish and come swim in our backyard. In this time of noise and fear, we’re slowly saying no to their terms and building quiet relationships on our terms.
Because what if all those “big” invitations did stop? What would I be left with? I’d be left with the greatest gifts of all. Children that swear they got the best mommy and daddy in the world, even if their mommy and daddy know we mess up all the time. A husband that wakes me up in the morning with a kiss that sends tingles down my spine and a strong cup of coffee to boot. Deep strong friendships with people willing to show up in the hard and laugh in the good.
In the end, that’s all I ever really wanted anyways.