I declined the invitation.
It was a dream speaking invite to lead a women’s retreat at a camp in Colorado. In the autumn. On my birthday weekend! I could bring my daughter to sit at a table with my books, sharing this sweet experience with her. I could connect with dozens of women who had taken to the mountains to meet with Jesus, ready to be refreshed and refueled by His presence and friendships. So many of my favorite things, and yet I hemmed and hawed for weeks over the details.
It’s been so long since I’ve spoken at an event; how do I start to shake off the dust on my speaking shoes? (Um, that’s both metaphorical and factual. I actually do have specific shoes I wear to speak!) How will I fit in my full-time job, prep for a full weekend of teaching, get my kids to all their summertime and early fall activities, and you know, sleep? What if my stories are outdated, dusty as my shoes? But what if I say no – how sad and disappointed will I be when that weekend comes? Will I regret my choice?
In the end, I declined and told the sweet program director that despite my excitement and delight over the invitation, my life right now just isn’t built for the kind of preparation and travel it would take to do an excellent job. It used to be; there were years when I clocked dozens of speaking engagements near and far! But these days, my life is quieter.
I’ve set my Instagram profile to private, protecting a modicum of peace (at least against spammy followers). My Facebook is pretty locked down too, and I’m picky about friend requests. I’ve deleted dozens of photos and taken entire albums offline in the same way I spring-clean my home, quieting and cleaning the nooks and crannies. Even my beloved blog is un-updated — old posts sit dormant and comments stay un-replied to. What kind of author makes herself outdated, more difficult to find, and quieter online?
Me. I do. Because I did the hustle thing and it’s exhausting. My life runs better when it’s quieter.
And even though I know that a quiet life is a better life (for me!), with each keystroke (or lack thereof) and ‘no’ that quiets my online life, I wonder if I’m still legit. Do I still count as a writer if my books are seven and ten years old? Am I still successful if I don’t build up a Substack subscriber list or worry about my engagement on posts or play the algorithm game on Instagram? Is it still OK to have dreams dangling out there on the horizon, waiting patiently for me to glance at them? Am I still a gifted communicator if I turn down speaking opportunities, like the one for this fall?
I’m really, actually, wholly happy in the quieted life I’ve purposefully built. And yet, imposter syndrome strikes.
Conversations remind me that others are striving for (and reaching) goals much grander than mine. My self-worth wavers as I see the likes spiking on others’ posts. And it trickles down to my family too. My kids play rec and community sports. They’re in non-competitive dance and gymnastics. We stay in every Friday night, together, with pizza and a movie. Our life is loud with six of us in one small house, full of dishes and homework and football equipment and crayons and toys and a dog. So we quiet it in other ways, and I wonder if my kids ever feel less than, in the same way I can when the likes roll in on others’ posts.
Then I remember the life Jesus seemed to live.
How He spoke to and met thousands in His ministry, and yet was constantly trying to slip away to quiet places. How He admonished loud, prideful, street corner preaching and advocated quiet prayer behind closed doors instead. How He looked to the ones bowed low at His feet, and told the louder others to take a hint.
And I think perhaps Jesus knew something that we, in our live-out-loud, post-it-all, like-counting culture, can easily forget: quieting makes space for more.
More connection. More peace. More open-handedness. More time. More room in our calendars, hearts, and homes.
As a collective, we’ve started talking about slowing down, reiterating how hustle and hurry often aren’t conducive to a peaceful life. But I think we can include quieting in that same category.
Listen, it’s not always easy. Saying ‘no’ almost always comes at a cost. But I’m hard-pressed to believe that we’ll regret the open spaces on our calendars and the little bit of extra breathing space in our souls.
Jesus knew exactly what He was modeling and what He needed when He confidently sought the quiet.
So here’s your freedom to decline the invitation. Make the account private. Fill up the donation box with the dusty shoes, and quiet the corners of your life that feel too loud. Then sit with me and let’s breathe a sigh of relief in the stillness we so confidently sought.