The following is adapted from Keri's book Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity (Zondervan, 2009).
The pace of our lives is a key component in our spiritual growth. Moving too fast, ironically, slows our growth. But learning how and when to say no will form you spiritually. When you say "no" to things that are not truly priorities, you can create space in your life to say yes to the things that matter to you most deeply. When God asks you to do something, you can say yes because you have said no to other less important things.
Living at a slower pace overall will make Sabbath easier to keep. But it begins with saying no. Don't say no to everything, but rather use your no judiciously to keep your pace a sane one. Ask, "How will this affect my Sabbath?" before you say yes to anything.
Everything that fills up your Sundays right now is something you've somehow said yes to. You may have been pressured, you may not have thought it through, but your time is taken up each day by things you've agreed to.
Sometimes you've said yes for very good reasons—you want to be a good adult child so you say yes to visiting your mom in the nursing home. Some yeses should be a part of your schedule, even if they are not what you'd choose because they stretch you toward God and build your ability to love others.
If you have children and you've said yes to their requests to let them each play multiple sports, then you have, by doing so, said yes to Saturdays and Sundays with numerous games and practices. You've said yes to busy Sundays even though you may not have thought about that when filling out the form for Little League.
There's a fine line here and only you can determine how to draw it. Activities are often a healthy part of a child's life—but too much activity, especially if it involves intense competition, can be detrimental.
Because of the many temptations teenagers face, especially when they have too much free time on their hands, many of my friends with teens keep their kids busy. And I applaud that, within reason. But rather than keeping them busy for the sake of busy, try to steer them toward meaningful activity.
For example, one summer my sister-in-law found an opportunity for my 17-year-old niece (who aspires to be a surgeon) to "job shadow" a surgeon (accompanying him not only on rounds but into the operating room) one day a week during the summer. Was she busy? Yes. But she was also gaining some meaningful experience.
If you don't have children, you may find yourself working on Sundays just to catch up or to keep yourself busy so you don't feel lonely. What if you could see Sundays as a day to "catch up" on your relationship with God? Or as a day to invite some other person who is hungry for community to enjoy a walk, a meal, or a cup of coffee?
If you say no to over-scheduling during the week, you'll find your weekends are much less hectic. Saying no brings tremendous freedom because it opens the opportunity to say yes to things that really matter like having time to pray with your spouse, play with your kids, read a book, or reconnect with a friend. Sabbath is a day to say no to tasks and yes to people and to God.
If you say no to things that sap your energy, you can say yes to things that bring you joy and truly matter to you. You may have to simply list all the things you're doing—we often don't realize how much we have taken on—and then decide which things you enjoy and which things drain you.
A friend of mine always responds to any invitation or request for her time with this simple phrase, "Let me get back to you on that." She never says yes or no right away—even if she thinks she is certain what her answer will be. This gives her time to check her schedule, pray about commitments, and talk it over with her husband. It also buys her some time. How many times have you said yes to something (such as serving on a committee or volunteering for something) and later regretted your quick assent?