The last 48-hours have been intense in my heart. Let me explain…
Yesterday I was still basking in the glory of having finished a 9 month intensive Bible class at the Downline Institute in Little Rock. Graduation Monday night was bittersweet, but it couldn’t come fast enough. I was wilting away and running on fumes. The grueling schedule works around your full-time work schedule so that you attend classes Monday nights for 2 hours and Wednesday mornings another 2 hours….beginning at 5:45am. You read that right. That was A to the M. Then one extra Friday morning (or 2) a month. It was worth dragging out of bed when it all was said and done, but most definitely had it not been for the support of my husband and son, I couldn’t have finished.
So I’m sitting across from our blogger friend Rudy Carrasco on a beautiful spring day in Little Rock, introducing him to our very own home-grown Loblolly ice cream. We are meeting Rudy for the first time in real life, having pretty much stalked him for many years online, but feel like we’re just catching up with an old friend. At some point in the animated conversation (we’re both Latino) my husband Rob says, “Hey! Now you’ll have time to write again on your blog!” We had been talking with Rudy about ministry, family, calling, gifting, passion, and finishing Downline. My heart practically lept. I CAN write again! My husband was spending more time with Rudy that evening so I started having visions of gluing my 4-year-old to the TV as I typed away romantically on my forgotten laptop. So I ran home with a blogpost already being typed up in my head as I drove. I may have run a red light daydreaming (kidding!).
The kid runs inside after I park in the garage, takes his clothes off immediately and announces that he’s ready to wear his Superman pajamas. That’ll make my job even easier! He’s getting ready to watch TV. I open my dusty laptop, plug chord in the wall because it has no battery left, and hit “on”. I was ON. I was in writing mode. My fingers couldn’t wait to open a digitally crisp blank page. Until the toddler came and stood by my side. Mommy, are you working? Then through his puppy eyes looking up at me with his hand on my arm I heard God’s gentle voice: Take care of your home. I stalled. I didn’t wanna give up my *amazing* blogpost. Like a gift you’ve been waiting to open all year. I’ve been depriving myself. But I looked at his eyes and also heard that Fatherly voice. Spend time with him. Remember he needs “attention and affection”.
That was my first “no” of the first 24 hours.
As I cuddled with my son on our fluffy couch, laptop in a galaxy far-far-away, my son got close to my side and said, Mommy, I’m loving on you. His toes got close to my toes and I snapped a picture for Instagram. I also snapped a picture with my heart.
So I didn’t get to write a blog post, I cannot even tell you what it was going to be about. I honestly forgot. But I wrote some words on my son’s heart: You’re loved, utterly loved, and you’re not alone, you’re always first. We spent more time together… until my cell phone rings…out of area, unknown, hmm…wonder who it is?
Hello, this is Ines.
Hi Ines! So good to hear your voice! This is Randy from CG…is this a good time to talk?
I now recognize the familiar voice and start catching up with my friend. The conversation is getting too long for my toddler who starts fidgeting and pulling my hand. Mommy can you stop talking now and play with me? I look at my son giving me those puppy eyes again while the man keeps talking into my ear. You moms know how that goes? One moment Nash, just give me 2 minutes please. More talk. An invitation to speak at an extraordinary conference. A conference that is not publicized because it’s almost a clandestine, underground thing for those in high-risk areas around the world. By invitation only. All expenses paid. Valuing that I’m a woman. Valuing my gift of teaching. The only woman on the panel, in fact. Respecting my worth as a sister and wanting to hear what God has to say through me. My heart lept. My toddler got fussier, whinier and I hurry to the end of the conversation, covering the mouthpiece so that the other end won’t hear him. Let me pray about it, thank you, it’s an honor, I gotta go, will get back to you.
I hang up with big excited eyes and gaping mouth at the invitation. Nash also has excited eyes, but only because his football is in his hand and he’s ready to play catch.
Fast forward to this morning at work when I hear my phone buzz. It’s my friend and pastor Bobby Harrison. Not emailing. Not texting. But calling. Uh-oh. THAT never happens. Is there an emergency? Soooo….have you gotten some clarity on the situation? Oh right. See, about that prayer request Bobby…
You see, as I finish one chapter of my life by graduating from Downline, I opened up a chapter called Rest and promised I would take care of myself and my family this summer. No major commitments. The phone call that made my heart leap last night, felt like a bad hangover the next morning. Today, what I thought was a great-God-thing (and it is), now felt like a burden of stress, rush, separation from family, and barely having enough hours to accommodate conference + Honduras trip in August. Counting the vacation hours leftover after putting in the time-off request at work, was like counting drops in the Sahara desert. Zilch hours left over after 2 trips. Zero hours left for any family vacation. In fact, I would have to work 2 holidays if I wanted to make both trips happen. I remembered my son’s eyes the night before longing to be with me. I saw the excitement in my husband’s eyes at my invite, but the sadness of giving up a pair of Bruno Mars concert tickets that he surprised me with for my birthday in May. It all made me restless today and uneasy, so I asked Bobby to pray for discernment. He prayed alright. And he gave me an earful of brotherly advice. Truth like… Family first. Love Rob. Affirm him by choosing him. Err on the side of family. It’s not like you’re not doing anything by staying home. You’re doing lots already. Did I mention err on the side of family? Wisdom. You’re always gonna get pulled in all directions because of who you are. Learn to say no. Answer them with a gentle no and a HUGE thank you for the honor. I was frowning a little at those words, conflicted. I also felt tears welling up that I fought back. But I started feeling lighter and lighter. I found the peace I was looking for, the one that would require the courage to say those 2 letters that are almost like a cuss-word to me: NO. I wrote an e-mail after thanking my brother. I got a gracious email from the organizers in response, understanding and thanking me for caring for my family.
That was my second “no” of the second 24 hours.
I have just finally realized that when I said No, I was actually saying Yes to my family, my first ministry. And there’s no guilt, no shame, no pressure from God otherwise. He’s still pleased with me!
My sweet, earthly dad confirmed it. I called him crying after talking to Rob and giving him the news. I cry so much better in Spanish. My dad said, Hija, you don’t want to get to the end of your life and wish that you had spent more time with your family. Learn this lesson now and save you some heartache. I just said a Big No today to spend time with family. And I have peace. You chose the better thing.
2 letters took so long to explain.
A No is truly so full of Yes to live life full.