While at a weekend women’s conference on the East Coast two weeks ago, I sat in on a seminar given by a gifted young friend whom I’ve known since she was a little girl. Though 20 years my junior, Kristi has learned a principle I still struggle with: how to say “no” with the same confidence with which I say yes.

Kristi labels our tendency to take on too much the “Do-you-want-fries-with-that?” syndrome. The marketing people are clever. They know that consumers nearly always want more when it’s offered. But the temptation to supersize our lives doesn’t just present itself at drive-through windows. It grabs us by the collar continually.

In her thoughtful new book Invitations from God (Intervarsity Press 2011),  author and pastor Adele Ahlberg Calhoun reminds us:

“The things we say yes to and the things we say no to determine the terrain of our future. My convoluted journey is posted with invitations, and my RSVP’s account for the twists and turns. Sometimes, half in love with my own self-destruction, I see a sign inviting me to “Stop!” – and I blow right through it anyway. Life is happening somewhere other than where I am, and I fear missing out on it.”

In my two-plus decades of ministry to women I have attended countless seminars, and given them, on balancing family, work, and volunteer commitments. My present state of thinking? Toss out the concept. Balance is a function of weights and measures, not time management. In certain seasons of life when my kids were small or when we had five teens at home, the scales were heavily skewed towards home. I not only needed to be there – I wanted to be. I don’t regret a moment of the time invested in the development of the precious human lives entrusted to my care.

With the kids grown and on their own, the scales tip outside my home. I am fortunate to have work in a field I am passionate about plus a new opportunity to study scripture on the graduate level. I will not complain about how “busy” I am (scold me if you catch me doing it). Full-time work and grad school guzzle gallons of time but I have no regrets. Yet important as these commitments are, RSVP’ing to relationships are a daily priority. Talking to God. Creating memories with Mike. Skyping with my kids. Serving alongside my faith family.

My persistent,fervent prayer these days is Lord, let me use my time wisely and well. I benefit from others’  time management secrets (thank you Kristi!), so next week I’ll share some tips that are helping me navigate my days.

But in the meantime, I’m learning to slow down internally even as life is speeding up.

I’ve got my daily bread and my Living Water and no, thank you very much ma’am, I don’t need fries with that.