How Yes and No stack up to build our lives

Yes? No? Maybe? Every year I struggle with these words. Every. Year. And it isn’t like I don’t see it coming. As soon as we trade the sand and the sun of summer for the backpacks and pencils of a new school year, I have learned to expect it. Maybe you, too?

Hey, Leigh, I need to ask if you can help with _____? Can we count on you to be a part of ______? Are you still willing to lead _______?

Those emails, calls and texts asking for help, leadership, service.  They stack up in my inbox, my brain, my heart. And man, how I want to get the answers right.

Every ask comes with its own set of consequences. I know this well. There was that YES that led to dear friendships and good work done and the one that landed me at my desk ‘til midnight. The NO that made me sick with guilt as I watched a friend struggle on her own and the one that led to the disappearance of a project I held dear.

Each response teaches its own lesson. The familiar why did I say yes to this? and the guilty, well maybe I could make it work? are well acquainted with the battlefield of my heart.

The truth is that I have never have the right answers for the choices that overwhelm me this time of year. I mean some things are clear cut. Ask me to be the treasurer of your organization and I don’t even need to think. NO. Even God’s miraculous power cannot overcome my lack of math skills.

But something about having been the one asking for help (many of you reading this have probably received “ask” emails from me this week) compels me to say yes to most other things.  I am a doer, a joiner, a builder. I know how to get things done and it isn’t really a big deal. Doing things, leading things, that’s my gig. So on we go; me and my list of a million little yesses.

But then this. A friend calls to ask for a simple assist. Yes, I say. It’s fine. I’ve got it. Consider it done, my voice drops to a whisper because suddenly I can’t stop the tears that begin to flow. Talk about an awkward end to a conversation …

It wasn’t a big deal. A few emails and calls, a couple hours one day and it was done. But my response stopped me in my tracks. Tears? Yeah, I am a bit over emotional at times. Publix commercials, eye contact with a friend, and text messages have been known to open my flood gates. But a simple request for help? A simple yes or no question. What in the world?

I once read this quote from Emily Freeman about the things that make us cry. “Maybe our tears are tiny messengers, secret keepers of the most vulnerable kind, sent to deliver a most important message”. Her words roll around in my head as I plow through the rest of my to-do list, the day pushing against my need to be still. And the tears just keep coming. “Tiny messengers” I simply can’t ignore.

And if I am being honest, a message is what I have been begging God for. A way of seeing where he is leading me this year. The signs and wonders; the ways God spoke to his people in the Old Testament have always fascinated me.

If only he would speak to us like that today, I think. If only he would be clear and send me direction.

Tears continue to fall right onto the keyboard as I work.

Speak Lord for your servant is listening” (1Samuel 3:9).

These words from Old Testament story of the prophet Samuel jump right off the page as I land there in the middle of contemplating my towering stack of yesses. Here are the Cliff Notes. Samuel, a young boy who was raised in the temple hears the actual voice of God, yet does not know what it is. He assumes it is the priest Eli calling. But, Eli knows better. He sends young Samuel back to his room with these instructions; “Go and lie down and if he calls you say, Speak Lord for your servant is listening” (1Samuel 3:9). Samuel obeys. God speaks and the Bible goes on to tell us that it isn’t just a one-time thing. “And the Lord continued to appear in Shiloh and reveal himself to Samuel through his word.”

All because he listens. Samuel stops assuming he knows how to make it all work and instead simply listens.

When was the last time I did that? Just listened? 

My tears, these “tiny messengers”, well up from inside a weary soul. A soul that always thinks it can. A soul that puts too much importance on the things that it can build. A soul that has forgotten how to listen.

What about you? What are your tiny messengers? Can you hear the way that God tries to stop you in your own pursuit of making it all happen? Or has the persistent chatter of the world with all of its questions drowned out the voice of the very one who created you?

It is not wrong, the way we say the quick yes to all of the things. There is work to done and God is not calling us to a life of saying No to everything.


What is leading us? Our yesses and nos begin to stack up; building the very hours of our lives. And as my tears fall right into the hum of a regular day, I am reminded that I am not called to build this life  alone.

And neither are you.

Jesus said, I have come that they might have life and have it to the full. Life lived in the middle of the yesses and the nos. Life that builds. Life that bends its knee only to the One who spoke it all into being. And life that listens.

“Speak Lord for your servant is listening”.  


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