Project 7: Stress

“It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus.”– St Therese of Lisieux

How often do we find ourselves worrying and stressing about life and all the little details of it instead of resting? How frequently do we get wrapped up in concerns about things we can't change, wondering what we will do if x, y, or z happens, wasting precious time and energy trying to create a survival plan for the future instead of really living in the present?

I just got back from a family trip to Nebraska and Colorado, and while I was gone I noticed something: I was an entirely different person on vacation than I had been at home. I was more flexible about what time I went to bed, what time I got up, how I spent my time, and I was fully content living out of a duffel bag. I found it easier to be cheerful and positive. I had more fun. And I was more fun.

And coming back to "the real world," I knew I didn't want to fall back into my old patterns. Yes, I have a new house full of projects. Yes, I have to return to work and get caught up on everything I missed. But that doesn't mean I have to become a bundle of nerves.

In the spirit of Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and my own Project 7, I am endeavoring to reduce the number of things I fill my calendar and my to-do list with. I don't want to be stretched so thin and weighed down by so many things that I can't enjoy my life or feel held back from the things I really want to do. I want to be free to experience all that life has to offer.

I know I need to learn how to prioritize and set boundaries. I can't expect to get everything done in a single day, and I shouldn't try to. Nor do I have to say yes to everything that comes my way. I found some helpful guidelines for figuring out what to say yes to and what to say no to, and I thought I would share them.

The Courage of No

1 – Know who you are. It’s tempting to tie our worth to our yeses, our hustle, and our ability to get ‘er done. But women who have a clear sense of purpose and identity in Christ are able to say no without letting it prescribe something about their worth. Take time every day to affirm your truest identity — the one you have in Jesus.

2 – Know your priorities. The clearer your priorities, the easier your decisions. Filter every request through the prism of your core values and calling. If it doesn’t pass the priorities test, it might be a sign that you should decline.

3 – Be resolute. Sure, it’s polite to offer some explanation for your “no,” but don’t feel like you have to give a drawn-out justification, even if you know that your “no” will disappoint the asker. As Jesus said, “All you need to say is simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’” {Matthew 5:37}.

4 – Keep perspective. Remember that a “yes” to one thing means “no” to another.

5 – Remind yourself that your “no” is someone else’s “yes.” Your “no” may open the door for another soul to learn, lead, and serve.

6 – Hear God’s big yes over you. There is wisdom in knowing when to walk away, but it takes courage to take that step. Know that when you need to say “no,” God is still in your corner, pouring all kinds of yes down on you! -Jennifer Dukes Lee, (in)courage

We can't do everything. But we can do some things. The key is to be willing to say no to the things that, although they may be good, are not the best-- the best for us in this current season, location, circumstance, and step in this process called life.

Here's to learning to make that distinction. May you and I both stress less and rediscover the joy that can be found in saying yes and no to the right things.