“No” Isn’t a Dirty Word

No. It’s one of our first and favorite words, and it quickly becomes a parental nightmare. Toddlers, ordinarily adorable with their sweet smiles and cute voices, transform into tiny terrors as they scrunch up their little faces and yell “NO” with an explosive, albeit impressive gusto.

And yet, somewhere along the way, we stop saying “no” and start saying “yes.” Even worse, we start seeing “no” as a dirty word. We associate “no” with weakness, and we base our worth on life’s “yeses.”

I’m one of the worst culprits, friends. I HATE saying no to things. One of my biggest fears is disappointing people, so I avoid saying “no” at all costs.

I convince myself that “it’ll all be OK” and “I can handle this,” so I keep taking on more.  But the truth is, I say “yes” to so many things that I find myself overwhelmed, exhausted and defeated.

Even though I may be doing a lot of good things, it means nothing if I’m not doing a lot of God things. Because the worst part is that sometimes when I’m saying yes to people, it means I’m saying no to God.

And sometimes I wonder what my life would look like if I worried about pleasing God as much as I worried about pleasing people.

As I evaluate my obsession with “yes,” I feel a little ashamed because I find the root of it all – my pride.

When someone asks me for help, it makes me feel needed and necessary. It gives me a purpose, and it makes me feel validated. And when I always say “yes,” I convince myself I’m being a good friend, a good student, a good worker, etc.

Do you see what’s glaringly wrong about that?

When I say “yes” to all these things, I’m telling myself I’m doing it for someone else’s benefit, but really, I’m doing it for my own.

When I say “yes,” sometimes I’m not doing it because I love that person…I’m doing it because I want them to love me.

When I say “yes,” I’m using their acknowledgment for my affirmation, which is the surest path to destruction.

The problem is, my worth isn’t found in my works. It’s not tucked away in life’s “yeses” waiting for me to earn it. My worth is waiting in the love letter Christ wrote to me. And when I read His Word, I find it.

Your self-esteem isn’t rooted in what you do, friends. It’s rooted in who you are – which is a hand-crafted, perfectly unique treasure designed by God.

You don’t need someone to say “Good Job.” You don’t need that extra accomplishment. You don’t need to be busy to be loved.

Sometimes, the best thing we can do is say “No.” Because when we find strength in the stillness, we can find clarity in our purpose.

If I’ve learned anything this summer, it’s that at Life Church, “we give up things we love for things we love even more.” Sometimes we have to say “no” to good things to say “yes” to the God ones, and those “yeses” will ultimately make us happier, healthier and whole.

Love Always,

Alli

The Eight Best Lessons I am Still Learning

With my 19th birthday coming up, I am again reminded that I am supposedly an adult now – even though I still love Disney movies, crayons and kids meals. Though this new label freaks me out, the godly examples of my family, teachers and friends inspire my life. These wonderful people continue to teach me the eight best lessons I am still learning. (In no particular order.)

1. You cannot save the world. Jesus already did that.

Man, do I struggle with this one. Sometimes I try to save people instead of pointing them to the Savior. Yes, it breaks my heart to see people sad, lonely or afraid. But Jesus never promised this life would be easy. He promised to overcome it. “Take heart, in this world you will have trouble. But I have overcome the world…” (John 16:33) I am not big enough or strong enough to take on all the world’s problems, but my God is.

2. You cannot please everyone. Be a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser.

I, Alli Owen, am a people pleaser. This is otherwise known as the “make-everybody-happy disease.” The thing is, we cannot please everyone. There will always be someone who disagrees, and that’s OK. That’s why God gave us free will! But I do know that if you spend your life trying to make everybody happy, you never will be. Carl Lentz (an awesome preacher) said “at the end of the day, I seek to please an audience of one. God.” And that’s the only opinion that matters.

3. “Do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6-7)

I am not only a people-pleaser but also a worrywart. I let myself think in terms of “if only” and “what if…” too often. Anxiety is poison, and it diminishes my faith in God. Someone once told me, “Your brain doesn’t have room for both worry and faith.” And that’s true. If I have faith that God created an entire plan for my life and He “will never leave nor forsake me,” there is no use in worrying.

4. “Be STILL and KNOW that I am God…” (Psalms 46:10)

Confession. Sometimes, I boss God around. How silly is that? I, a teenage girl with limited understanding try to tell the Creator of Heaven and Earth what to do and when to do it. Did I mention that I’m the same girl who burns cookies in the oven? (And I’m talking about the ready-made ones…) Doing things my way culminates in outcomes as burnt as my culinary fiascos. So relax, be still and let God work because His plan is infinitely greater than we could ever imagine.

5. I am not good enough. But God is more than enough.

Insecurities are lies. Sometimes I tell myself that I am not good enough, and the truth is, I’m not. None of us are. If we were, Jesus wouldn’t have died for us. But “His grace is sufficient for us…” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Jesus died so we never have to worry about being good enough! He will never stop loving you, even when you can’t seem to love yourself. So replace negative thoughts with the words of a God who loves you so much that He sent his Son as the ultimate sacrifice for you.

6. There is no scale of Christianity.

For a long time, I let myself believe that I wasn’t Christian enough. I thought there was some holiness scale that measured your faith, and I could never measure up. I let myself feel ashamed because “I didn’t go to church enough, raise my hand in worship enough or wear Jesus T-Shirts.” I’m not kidding, I seriously thought that. But as so many people have pointed out, Christianity is not a religion based on rituals. It’s a relationship rooted in love. Don’t compare yourself to other Christians because it’s not about measuring faith. It’s about having a personal connection to God. The rest comes from love, not obligation.

7. Christianity is not about judgment and “no fun.”

There’s a reason God is referred to as our “Father.” We understand that our own dads love us unconditionally, even when we mess up. And even when our dads get angry with us for disobeying them, the anger is only because they love us enough to want the best for us. I imagine God as the ultimate dad. He isn’t a God of “no” and “no fun.” He just has the wisdom to know that the things that might make me happy for a moment aren’t the things that will satisfy me later.

8. All adventures begin outside of my comfort zone.

There are so many people to meet, things to do and life to live. But sometimes I let fear confine me. God gave us one life. One life to dream; one life to love; one life to live. One of my favorite quotes is “Ships are safe in harbors, but that’s not where ships were meant to be.” Our lives are oceans of possibilities. Don’t live life in the harbor, friends.