Free Sometimes Really Means Free


Repeatedly the company calls. I have been selected to win this absolutely free, three-day cruise. I roll my eyes, make some sarcastic remark, and hang up. Just before the voice tells me to push a button and claim my free-gift.

Momma was right. “If it sounds too good to be true; it is.”

Yup, they just happened to call me (out of the all the other millions of people) to offer me a trip to some exotic place. Three days on a boat. Free.

Each time they call, I hung up and start laughing. Free? Sure?

This offer seemed way to good. There had to be a catch.


Free often doesn’t really mean free. 


We hadn’t been married long, when we headed to the beach for a free night at a resort. After a pleasant 3-hour trip, we were checking in; being handed keys, told about the pool, restaurant, exercise room and more. Oh, and our appointment the next afternoon with some nice sounding person to discuss our stay.

Yes, little did we know our short chat would turn into a two-hour high-pressured sales presentation where we were presented with the opportunity to buy a yearly stay at the resort. Our first introduction to a time share. We didn’t budge or cave in, and left with our wallet not drained, but we were wrung out and lifeless from our fight to say no.

Ever since that life-sucking experience, I know that there is no free stay or cruise. (Even if we did return with a free knife. It would have been a free TV if we had only said yes!)

I mentioned the free cruise calls to my sister, and guess what? She had been getting offered a free three-day cruise too.

One day she decided to have some fun with the customer service person and figure out how much this free cruise would really cost a person. Turns out there were port fees. Boat fees. And other fees.

“So, what was the bottom line cost for this free three-day cruise?” I asked.

She laughed. “Well, this free cruise was going to cost $800 to $1000.”

“That’s so free,” I laughed.

Free often has strings attached.


It was no surprise. Because it seems in life, few things are really free.

Free, as in they don’t cost you something.

You may get a set of free stake knives, but you had to buy the exercise equipment first. You may get a free CD, but you had to buy a twenty-three set first. That coffee may be free, but only after you bought the 12 previous cups.

Yes, we get cynical and laugh at anything free. Life shows us at an early age most things are not free.

We want to visit our classmate, but mom says we have to clean our room and the chicken pen fist. We get a gift from a schoolmate, but now they expect us to eat lunch with them. We can get a free super-duper bow and arrow, but we first have to sell 100 rolls of gift wrap. We earn good grades in school, but are now expected to earn more.

Free? Nothing seems free.

And we buy into this attitude.

We doubt that others do things for free. Without wanting something in return.

Someone invites us over for dinner, we feel indebted until we have them over. Our kids get a ride to the game, we feel we owe something back. Our mate surprises us with a splendid night out, we feel we need to return the favor. We go to a free lecture, but feel obligated to buy a self-help program.

But others are not the only ones expecting things in return.

We  also expect things back. Payment of some kind. 

We take our kids out to the playground, and we expect them to be good the rest of the day. We babysit for a friend, and then feel we can ask them to reciprocate in the future. We make a special dinner with candles and a lone flower, and we expect people to appreciate it, to even say thank you.

We often want something in return for our efforts, even if it is praise, appreciation, acknowledgement, or a thank you.  

I am not saying that we should not acknowledge and appreciate and thank people. No, we should. It is part of treating them the way we want to be treated. It is being thankful.

Sometimes we do something for someone, our family, or kids, and get a little bit tweaked out of shape when what we do was not acknowledged, appreciated, or mentioned. We can get resentful or upset because our free-gift was not really given without strings attached. The fine print, which they fail to read, really said, “Not really totally and completely free. Something expected in return.”

Somethings, though, free things in life are really free. No strings attached.


We don’t expect totally free things, nor do we often don’t give totally free things.

And yet there is someone who gives good gifts that are totally free. No strings attached.

Seriously! No laughing now.

Have you ever paid for a sunrise? A sunset? The rain? Watching a bird in your backyard? The view of the mountains? A walk on the beach? A breath of air? A breeze? The shade of a tree?

Nature surrounds us, and it is free. Beauty surrounds us, and it is free.

Did you pay for your personality? Strengths? Intellect? Talents and gifts? Your smile? 

God surrounds us all with his good gifts. His daily and nightly gifts. Free to all.

He offers us the free gift of salvation, where we receive a new heart and have our sins cancelled. No cost here, all free. No self-improvement, no shower or clean clothes, no weight loss, no repayment plan, no perfection required or owed. A come as you are gift. No strings attached. We just receive.

He offers us so many free gifts if we just come and spend some time with him. Good things. Valuable things. Peace, joy, wisdom, love, patience, rest, hope, direction, laughter, a new heart, grace and more grace, and eternal life.

He gives these things freely. But we need to stop doubting. Wondering if they are really free. Quit looking for strings attached. Quit expecting this is a timeshare or sales presentation. Because it is not.

Our job is to quit doubting. Quit trying to earn. Quit trying to avoid taking the gift until we have payment ready.

Because when God says free. There is no fine print.

Acknowledge him and his free gifts and his friendship he offers.

Sounds to simple, doesn’t it? Sounds to good to be true? Well we can trust him.

And when we do, we don’t feel so bad about giving truly free gifts with no strings attached to those around us. Not when we think of all the free gifts we have been given.

Try it. Receive from him, and then give back to others.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.Theresa

If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.

Join the discussion: What free gifts have you enjoyed?  

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory);  Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

Relearning the Same Thing, Again

Sometimes it seems as if my life is on replay. Or maybe that it is punctuated with Deja-vu moments.

We were driving across Indiana when it began happening. My son was shivering and not feeling well. Basically miserable, he was, and I was trying to comfort him. Encourage him that this too shall pass. When it did pass. Up from his stomach and out onto his father’s coat that was lying across his body, the back seat, floor, and my shoes.


But the thing was, I was taken by surprise. Totally by surprise.

Somehow, I had missed the warning signs. Warning signs that have repeated themselves more times then I care to count or remember.

This scenario has replayed itself out on car rides numerous times. From the time he was a toddler to now.

I look at him, taller than me these last few months, and I am still surprised at the outcome. And yet all the signs were pointing towards this outcome. This culminating stomach upheaval. Once again, I had misread the signs. Not learned from experience.

This boy is so like me that I can not fault him. For I was known in my family for a stomach that liked to empty its contents. I did in the car. Across the bedroom floor. Outside the door of a motel (you should have seen the look the owner gave me. I remember thinking she should have been counting her blessings because it is easier to clean a flower bed than a motel floor.). Beside the roadside. In a cow pasture. In the middle of a mall parking lot. At a title company. In the shower. At school. And occasionally in bathrooms.

We are a pair of soft stomachs. Him and I.

We are driving again after cleaning the mess up, and he is lying on my lap, and I am looking out the window wondering how many times is life about relearning something. Relearning the same thing we did earlier. Maybe the circumstances and players are different, but the lesson is basically the same. Though sometimes there may be some new awareness or twist.

How many times have you learned the same lessons?


If you are like me, you are forgetful. Eager to lean and move on to the next thing. Not wanting to waste time on the same old thing. Wanting to cross it off your list as mastered and move to conquering the next big life changing thing.

How many times have I relearned that patience is not a virtue I have yet mastered? Been reminded that hate hurts me more than others? Remembered that God loves me plain and simple; not for what I do or because I conquered my day, but because of whose I am? Been surprised about how much my husband and kids love me? Relearned the pain of heartache? Had to remind myself that God is in charge? Seen how people are willing to help others?

How many times have I learned that a 30-minute dinner takes at least 60 minutes. That it takes longer than an hour to wash and dry a load of clothes. That driving across town takes more than 15 minutes, even if all the lights are green. That kindness motivates people more than guilt. That I can’t leave the library without gathering a stack of books. That baths are never as relaxing as I think they will be. That friends make life such a blessing. That getting outside clears my head in a way nothing else does. That laughing is a great stress releaser and perspective changer.

It seems my life is learning and then relearning at regular intervals the same things over and over. Again and again, and then once more. Sometimes the lessons are small, like my feet are still the same size. Not enough sleep makes me crabby. Most people respect your no. Winter is much colder than I remember. And the same song can make you smile each time you hear it.

Sometimes the lessons are bigger, like perfectionism steals your joy. Sharing and being vulnerable heals you and others. That God is bigger than our problems. That living now and here is a blessing. That people usually do the same thing over and over no matter how much I think they should change. That I can only change myself. That forgiveness does not mean letting others take advantage of you.

Round and around I go, like a merry-go-round. Passing the same real-estate and encountering different scenarios where the lessons look vaguely familiar.

Ah-ha, I think, and then stumble on with life, convinced I have finally learned that lesson, when whack, later I relearn it again.


Remembering what’s important. 


This is part of learning. Part of living. Part of being human. Part of growing.

It’s called giving yourself grace.

It’s called repetition is necessary for our soul.

It’s called learning from your experiences.

it’s called relearning the same thing multiple times but in different ways.

It’s called learning something until you really believe it.

It’s called shaking your heard and laughing at yourself. Knowing you will once again find yourself in the same real-estate somewhere again down the road of life.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.


If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.

Join the Journey: What are you relearning?

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

Why We Can’t Say No, But Must

We women can be focused driven work machines. We strive to accomplish more than possible, spin the gears nonstop until after the day is done, and are often multi-tasking like a pro.

We can change diapers with our eyes closed while planning a mental to-do list for the next 24 hours, cook dinner and give an oral spelling test at the same time, slam dunk a presentation at work and then transition to shuttling the kids to sports. Such is the skill of most women.

We are not born capable, multitasking, accomplish-all machines, but as time passes and we reach adulthood and acquire more responsibility, we hone and refine this hurry-and-accomplish-all-that-life-throws at us skill.

And this is a good thing.

But it can also be a not so good thing.

Because we women tend to overcommit ourselves, pile more on our plate than we can reasonably accomplish, carry around guilt and unreasonable expectations, and we have a hard time saying no.

We may run on guilt and “I should,” because what people think is often very important to us.

So why do we women run ourselves ragged trying to do it all, please all, and struggle with this fear to say no?

I have never seen an article aimed at men that explains why they need to quit overcommitting themselves. I have never heard men confess to each other that ‘no’ needs to be part of their vocabulary. Nor have I caught them complaining (or is it bragging) about how they are just so busy they can hardly catch their breath.  

This struggle to say ‘yes’ to often, and ‘no’ to little, seems to be more of a struggle for women than men.

So, what motivates this fear we women have of saying no?


17 reasons women find it difficult to say no.


1. Our own expectations that we can and should be able to do everything. (We often have higher expectations for ourselves then others have for us.)

2.  We didn’t hear other women saying no and setting healthy boundaries when we were growing up.

3. We grew up hearing that we could do it all.

4. We think saying ‘no’ is admitting defeat or is being weak. (And the last thing we want to be is weak.)

5. We are easily motivated by guilt. Our own and others. And this guilt to please others also doesn’t want to let others down or disappoint them, so we say yes. We think it is our job or responsibility. And as the years pass, we tend to pile more and more onto our job description.

6. We think no one else will do it. Or do it right. Or do it on time. Or do it the way it needs to be done. So, we do it.

7. We rationalize “what’s one more thing?’ One more child? One more meeting? One more committee?

8. We think we should do it because we have done it the last four years. Or is it ten years? Everyone is depending on us and we know how to do it right. 

9. We want to be strong and capable, so we say yes and then yes again. We are after all, supper women. We think super women don’t need help and don’t ask for help.

10. We have this inner nature to nurture, take care of, and help, which of course is a very good thing. Unless we can’t say no and feel responsible for things that are not our responsibility. 

11. Past or present shame motivates us. Maybe we were told by our mother, or someone else, we were not very helpful, and years later we are still trying to prove their words wrong. 

12. People tell us we should do it, or expect us to do it. We don’t want to let them down.

13. We are good at doing something, and know we are good at doing it, and it is hard to say no because we know we will do a darn good job.

14. We have been doing it for years. Why stop now? And if we stop, who will do it? And if we stop people protest.

15. We feel everyone else’s needs come before ours. Or that they should if we are a good mother, wife, sister, daughter, employee  . . ..

16. We feel we need to be busy. Our worth comes from how much we accomplish, and we feel important when we are busy. Busy is our new important.

17. Saying yes makes us feel good and keeps us from feeling our real emotions.

Although this is a rather lengthy list, there are still reasons not listed (please leave them in the comments if you think of any).

The important thing to remember is that different things motivate us to say yes, and different circumstances or people bring forth different triggers (or emotions).

One person may make us feel guilty, another person may play upon our need to nurture, while another situation may make us feel selfish if we say no.

The point is . . .

We have assorted reasons about why we say yes to often, and don’t say no enough. One reason will not cover all circumstances or people. This is also why it is easier to say no sometimes, and harder other times.

So, what’s the problem with all this?


What happens when we can’t say no enough?


When we say yes to often, and no not enough, we often fall into the martyr syndrome or the victim syndrome. Neither is very pretty or fun to live with.

What is the martyr syndrome?

A martyr does everything herself. She wants to appear as the only one good enough to do things right and silently looks for recognition and pats on the back for all her hard work and helping of others. She never asks for help (others would not do it correctly, or do it at all). When others don’t praise her efforts, or notice that she is biting off more than she can handle and step in and help her (but without her asking), she becomes bitter, resentful, sarcastic, and snippy. Guilt and shame are two of the tools she uses to make those around her feel bad for not helping her or appreciating her.

What is the victim syndrome?

A victim feels like she does it all (and often feels she doesn’t have a choice but to do it all). She feels that everyone takes her for granted and relies on her to much. She feels overworked and taken advantage of, but she won’t stand up and say no (or feels she can’t say no without consequences). Instead she tries to get others to feel remorseful for all her yes’s. She does this by serving a heaping dose of guilt and shame on those around her. Her goal is to make others feel sorry for her, while making them think she has no other choice but to continue doing what she is doing and sacrificing her happiness and time for them.

Like I said, neither the martyr or victim is pretty to live within close proximity to.


Remembering what’s important. 


There is good news. Both the martyr and victim are roles we choose to play, or not play.

Like so much of life, we can choose to be a martyr or victim. And we can also bounce between the two roles depending on our audience and time of day. Or we can be strong women who learn to make healthy choices, take responsibility for our own attitudes (and not blame others or circumstances), and learn to say no.

We can model how to set healthy boundaries to our co-workers, sisters, daughters, friends, and mothers that respect our needs and the needs of those we help and serve, or we can become victims and martyrs and make those within close proximity run for cover from us.

We can take responsibility for our own choices, life, and attitudes, or we can blame others and be motivated by guilt and trying to please others.

We can try to be super women who have it all together, and are ever ready to help everyone but ourselves, or we can be honest, vulnerable, and tender with ourselves and others.

We can try and do it all on our own (and miserably fail), or we can show more strength by asking for help from others and our creator.

We can look for the approval of others, or the approval of God.

We can base our worth on our to-do list and accomplishments, or we can base our worth on being his child.

We can give our self grace, or beat our self up. The choice is ours.   

What will you choose?

Next week’s post – How and Why We Must Learn to Say No.


Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.


If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.

Join the discussion: What keeps you from saying no? (Mine are 1, 2, 5,  6, 9, and 14.)

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).