The "Yes" of No

Life Lived Beautifully

My head was spinning. All at once it seemed like every ball I was attempting to juggle came crashing down. I sat in the living room staring at the intimidating notifications on my phone. Sitting next to my phone was a lengthy to-do list I kept rearranging each day, hoping to finally make some headway on it. Instead, I sat there paralyzed with fear that I would make the wrong decision and waste precious time. I was enslaved to the feeling that I had to do "everything" so I ended up accomplishing nothing. 

Even typing this I feel like a weight is sitting on my chest. There is so. much. to. do. Do any of you reading this feel like you have an endless to-do list and like you are being crushed by the expectations of this world? This is not living. Feeling overwhelmed by life is really no life at all. It is mere survival in the wilderness of the day-to-day grind instead of thriving in God’s grace in the midst of it all. I’m through with it. For most of my life I’ve been a “yes” girl, never questioning an offer to participate in something and rarely addressing my schedule to see if my commitments are actually doable. When it comes to planning, I tend to have a “thanksgiving” mentality. 

Let me be clear when I say “thanksgiving”—I am referring to the kind of planning and committing that is similar to the gluttony our eyes take part in on Thanksgiving Day. We pack our plates full, to the brim and overflowing with delicious, mouth-watering food, overestimating how much we can actually fit into our stomachs. After this hefty, overwhelming meal we are left feeling sluggish, tired, and full. That’s how I feel when I look at my planner—full and tired. I keep having to preach to myself that it is okay to leave things undone at the end of each day and that my identity doesn’t revolve around what I do but, rather, it is in Christ. Just the other day I was reminding myself of this truth and I realized that I don’t have to live in this continual cycle of feeling “overwhelmed.” If I’m going to escape from drowning in all I have to do and truly thrive in God’s calling for my life, I have to start learning the “yes” of “no.”

Last fall I read “The Best Yes” by Lysa Terkeurst, and like many others, it flipped my decision making paralysis and overwhelmed schedule upside down. These wise words of Lysa stopped me in my tracks: 

“Don’t get so locked in to your overwhelming schedule that you haphazardly spend your soul. It’s time to flip that. Never is a woman so fulfilled as when she chooses to underwhelm her schedule so she can let God overwhelm her soul.” (p. 32)

That’s exactly how I have been living - overwhelmed by my schedule and to-do’s, swallowed into the “urgent” of life, and spending my soul on stress and anxiety. As a result, I have become underwhelmed with how wonderful my God is and have been drowning in my lists and various roles. So, I have been mining the Proverbs for wisdom, searching for the ways of God and how I can be freed from the tyranny of the urgent and plan my days according to His ways. I long to produce kingdom fruit and use the quick, vapor-like moments of each day for God’s glory. However in order to do this I have to be able to discern what is necessary, what is my own desire, and what is Spirit-led. 

The Lord led me to Proverbs 14:1 in my search—“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” I want to be wise, and my guess is, you long for this as well. I don’t want to drown in my overflowing planner and I don’t want to miss my calling by attempting to be everything for everyone. These self-imposed limitations and unmet expectations rob me of joy and purpose. In many ways, I’ve tried to build an entire city when all God has called me to do is to “build my house.” Brick-by-brick, moment-by-moment, day-by-day, building takes effort, planning, and intentionality. It requires the right materials and a daily determination to work for the Master of the day. Jesus talks about the wise ways of the one who builds their house on the rock verses the sand. When the waves of life overwhelm and the trials of life shake the house, this house still stands because it has a firm and steadfast foundation (Matthew 7:24-27).

When I attempt to do all things and my various roles of life bleed into each other, everything in turn suffers. Ministry, my joy, my purpose, my marriage, my friendships, my home life—all of it crumbles when I try to build a whole city instead of being faithful to build my house. I’ve been overwhelmed by all I “need” to do instead of being faithful in the small things God has called me to in the present moment. The Lord has led me to one conclusion through this revelation, I need to learn the “yes” of no. A wise woman is careful about her schedule and her commitments. She is focused and hard-working. She is faithful and forgiving. Grace marks her calloused hands and joy envelops her heart. Not because she has nothing to do, but because God has called her to a mission and she will not allow anything else to distract her from it. The walls of her home create boundaries that cannot be crossed and the inside of her home is a haven, filled with the presence of Almighty God.

With a growing business and ministry, I have felt the overwhelming pressure to be constantly present and available…to everyone. The doors, windows, and any other opening to my “house” have been constantly open slowly draining me from my mission—to know Jesus and make Him known. Emails, texts, comments, messages often distract me from my ministry in my home as well as my calling to create tools to equip women to grow in their walk with God. It is with great joy and holy fear that I tread the narrow road of running a business and ministry. I have realized how quickly our hearts can idolize numbers, sales, and growth and forget the pure, unadulterated love of God that first called us. If the words that I share on my blog and social media do not align with my behind-the-scene life, I am living a life of hypocrisy that does not please Jesus. By the grace of God, I will not allow this to happen. I will not spend my days pouring out and filling others up while allowing my home life and personal walk with Jesus to dwindle. Some of the best wisdom I have ever heard is to “Refuse to let your public affection exceed your private devotion.” If I write Bible studies, create journals, and share Truth each day, but do not live it out on a daily basis, I am living like a Pharisee, doing deeds to be seen by others while having a heart that is unclean. God forbid that this happen in my life.

I want to build my house, the domain and ministry God has given me, more than I want to grow the numbers or my following or my business. As a ministry team, we will not allow the desire to grow this business to threaten the health of our families and steal our passion for the gospel. If our business grows and our families and walks with Jesus suffer, we have done the church and bride of Christ a disservice. One day I will stand before the Lord and will have to account for how I spent my days and how I built my house. I want to be able to say, “Jesus, I did the best I could with what You gave me and I did it for Your glory.” And in order to do this, I must learn that Jesus has not called me to do everything and to be everything. He has called me to be a faithful follower and disciple of Him, and, in turn, to go and make disciples. That is the calling I want to filter my decisions through.

In order to build my house, I am setting up clear boundaries in my days so my work and mothering don’t collide in a furious storm, leaving my soul suffering and joy waning. With discretion and wisdom, I am going to run each decision and commitment that comes my way through a decision filter to make the best use of the time that God has given me on this earth to make much of His great name. By saying “no” to some things, I will be able to do the things that God has called me to do well, with an undivided heart, and for His glorious Name.

If you are feeling full to the brim or like you are drowning in your lists and commitments, consider the weight of God’s glory and the purpose of your life. Consider His calling and the life and mission of Jesus. Ask yourself if you are building your house or if you are trying to build the entire city? Faithfulness begins in the depths of your soul. It grows in saying “yes” to what is good, what is acceptable, and what is pleasing to the Lord. We need to admit that we are not God and we cannot do everything. But what we can do is say “yes” to following Jesus whole-heartedly and living these days we have been given for His glory. By saying “no” to the urgent and to the “everything” you feel you must do, you are saying YES to life a fullness and joy in Christ. 

I’m picking up my hammer and grabbing some wood and am going to build my house, for Jesus and for His kingdom. I am letting go of the overwhelming pressure of feeling that I have to do it all, because my Savior already did it all for me. Are you with me? Let’s say “yes” to following Christ and build His kingdom.

building with you,

Gretchen