We have taken quite the unexpected break this summer! We have had a busy summer full of adventure, and we were having too much fun to write blog posts. We are excited to get back into the swing of things now that school has started again and we are getting into a routine.
In the spring, we received an email from the school district asking for volunteers to host exchange students this summer. I quickly skimmed it, discounted it, and went on with my day, but Greg had different ideas. He really wanted to do it. As a kid, he had many exchange students stay with his family, and he had fond memories of those times. He wanted our family to experience it. I had so many reasons that it wasn’t a good time for us to have them: we don’t have an extra bedroom; we don’t have room in the car unless we caravan; we are already so busy; we are already stressed; we just don’t need more! These are are all good, reasonable reasons to say no, but Greg really really wanted to do it, so in the end, I relented.
Our summer was quite packed, which is another reason I was hesitant to say yes to having the students. We started our summer with an almost two week trip to Canada to visit family. It was a really great trip, and we made a lot of memories. We did a lot of driving, and got to see a lot of Southern Alberta. It was a fun, but very tiring trip with six kids!
When we got home from Canada, we had one full week to prepare for our two Chinese foreign exchange students to stay with us for two weeks. It was a lot of work to get ready for them, and then to get them where they needed to be, entertain them, and take care of their needs. But overall, it was such a fun and educational experience to have these two girls in our home. We learned a lot about a much different culture, and we got to experience a lot of firsts with them. They had never been camping, fishing, had a water fight, cooked, seen a parade, walked on grass, eaten donuts and so many other things. It was very eye opening.
By the time we said goodbye to them, I truly loved them, almost as if they were my own daughters. It was incredible how quickly we all started to care for them. They felt like part of the family, and they still do. We even have a group chat named “We Are Family”, named by one of our Chinese girls.
As we shared time with the girls, I started to see how now is the perfect time to say YES! It’s true that it was inconvenient. It was a lot of work! But the positive impact on our family far outweighs any negative. It was wonderful to welcome them into our home. It was wonderful to share with them and to give to someone else. It filled our cups, and it inspired the entire family. Now we have friends on the other side of the world. We will keep in touch as much as we can, and hopefully meet in person again someday. It was an experience I would never take back. I’m so glad we said yes.
What is the thing you have always wanted to do but haven’t? I think we all have things we have always wanted to do. Things we are saving for later. We wait for the perfect time when all the stars align, and we can finally have our dreams. Something that has become more clear to Greg and me the past year and a half is that we don’t always have later. We have learned to live for now, and it has helped us to make some good choices, and to say yes to some things we may not have said yes to in the past. It has also helped us to know when it is a good idea to say no.
I have started saying yes to quite a few things that I wouldn’t have in the past. I have started to consciously make goals and reach for them instead of waiting for the ‘perfect’ time to get started. We were much less likely to go on adventures because they required a lot of work and sacrifice of time, and sometimes money. We could always do those things later in our minds. It is too hard with 6 kids, we said. It will be easier in a year, or 5 years, or 10 years. That is when we will do those things on our bucket list. I have learned some important lessons about saying yes for myself and for my family.
- I say yes to opportunities for memories. This summer we went on two camping trips, to Canada, and hosted foreign exchange students. That is a record for us. It was tiring! But, it was so worth it. We made memories, and we will never forget this summer.
- I say yes to new experiences. We go on little excursions as often as possible. When we have a chance to spend family time we do. We love to explore and learn and grow as a family. It is definitely exhausting and a lot of work, but so worthwhile! Even the not so awesome adventures are memorable, if only for laughs later on.
- I say yes to service. When I have the capacity to help others, I do. I have found that service, if done out of love, actually increases my capacity to deal with things. It is amazing, but it is true. Maybe it isn’t always big things, but I do my best to give back in the ways I can.
- I say yes to opportunities that get me closer to my goals. These opportunities usually stretch me and scare me, but the things that stretch me are the things that are worthwhile. They help me grow and get me closer to who I want to be and what I want to do with my life.
I do believe that there is a season for everything, and sometimes that means saying no. The day after the exchange students left, we were given the opportunity to have an exchange student for an entire year. Greg really really wanted to say yes, but I said no to that one, and I ended up winning. A year is a whole other story than two weeks! This isn’t the season in our family’s life to host an exchange student for an entire year for the same reasons I was hesitant to saying yes to exchange students for two weeks. Those reasons really matter when we are talking about a whole year.
It can feel selfish to say no. It means that you are putting yourself first. That is important sometimes! You have to learn to love and care for yourself before you can truly love and care for someone else. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It means you respect yourself and your family, and you value your time. When you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to everything else, so it is important to say yes to the right things.
- I say no when it isn’t in my best interest, my husband’s best interest, or my family’s best interest. If any of them will suffer, it is best to say no. Even if it seems like a worthwhile thing, it is important to make sure my family is taken care of before I take care of those outside of my family.
- I say no when I don’t have time. If I truly can’t do everything that is important AND the thing in question, I say no to it. It is a disservice to myself if I am short-changing my own time.
- I say no if it will distract me from my goals and dreams. If I can’t say yes AND make steps toward my goals, the answer is no.
Knowing when to say yes and when to say no is a very important skill. Both have their place. This has been a difficult concept for me to learn, and I am still learning. I’m grateful for the times this summer that I said yes. They stretched me in good ways. I’m also grateful that I have had the strength to say no when I knew it wasn’t in my own or my family’s best interest.