Failure #21: Not knowing how to say “No”

My answering machine light is blinking red. I press play and listen to the message: Just wondering if you’ll be able to donate some baking for the sale coming up…

My heart sinks. Baking? Sale? I can’t do it-I can’t do it-I can’t do it, immediately runs through my mind. And then, I should do it-I should do it-I should do it, follows as if I’m playing a game of mental tag.

How can I tell them “No”? How can I explain that bringing baking is harder for me than almost any other job at church. That I would rather clean toilets, hold crying babies, connect with sullen teenagers, and even sing and dance than offer up a few dozen cookies.

It’s not just that I’m celiac and don’t want to work with wheat. There are plenty of gluten-free recipes I could whip up, and maybe that’s what they’re looking for. Still, it feels like I’ve been asked to jump a 10-foot wall. I will visit the sick, I will host people in my home, I will preach a sermon, but please, please don’t make me bring baking to church.

The next morning I fire up the computer. It’s another day with another failure to record. Perhaps writing about the situation will clarify how I should respond to the message left on my machine. But here I am, still tottering on the edge of “shoulds” and “nos” and “can’ts” and “I’ll do it.” I don’t even know how I’ll define this failure. Is it saying “No” and my refusal to help? Is it my inability to say “no”? Is it my poor baking skills? Or is it making a big deal out of nothing?


*I’m curious about failure. This post is part of an experiment where I observe moments I experience failure (in a broad sense) and record scenes without adding further explanation or perspective.  Read more in the introduction to the series here.

2 thoughts on “Failure #21: Not knowing how to say “No”

  1. I had a chance to catch up on your blog today. I greatly enjoy your writing. I love how you are able to make the ordinary things in life meaningful and inspirational. And, I also dread the call for baking – so much that I have said that I won’t be donating any baking anymore to church events. For me, it’s too stressful having to bake GF.

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