It’s easy for schedules to fill up during the holidays. Give yourself permission to say no when you need to, so you can say yes to the things which matter most.–@write2igniteconference

After a summer that seemed to last all through October here in the South, autumn is finally creeping in. Cooler weather, soup in the crock pot, and candy canes invading the grocery store all herald the start of the holiday season. And yet, while autumn took its sweet time coming, Thanksgiving and Christmas always seem bound and determined to speed by before you have a chance to say hello.

For many of us, November marks the start of the mad rush that the holidays have become. Even as people continue to navigate travel restrictions and Covid concerns which may hinder their typical family traditions, there’s still so much to do. Planning gifts, planning meals, decking our homes in festive cheer. Volunteering at charities, helping kids with class projects, baking cookies.

Throw writing goals into the mix, such as the NanoWrimo challenge or seasonally-themed blog posts, and the last two months of the year quickly become packed. It can be overwhelming trying to manage it all.

So before the chaos hits, I want to remind you of something important:

You don’t have to do it all. 

In her book, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst reminds her perpetually busy readers that sometimes the best gift you can give yourself and others is saying no. Her book is meant to combat the everyday struggle of feeling obligated to always say yes to commitments. To never turn down a request for help. Many of us feel like we have to say yes to everything, or else we’ll disappoint someone.

This feeling of obligation often bleeds into the holiday season. We feel like if we say no to anything, our kids will miss out on something special, or we’re being selfish with our time, or we’re letting our friends and family down. To make the season perfect, we think we have to do all the holiday activities, when in reality, the to-do lists we create for ourselves make the season a chore. We burn ourselves out, and we burn our families out in the process.

We forget that what makes the season magical isn’t the activities themselves, but the purpose behind them: to spend time with the people we love. To give us time to reflect on what matters. Sitting down to a family meal, decorating gingerbread men, looking at lights–these things aren’t special because of the time of year but because of the people you’re with.

Lysa Terkeurst says in her book: “Relationships nourish us in ways nothing else can. It’s the relationships that help unrush us” (pg 182). When we come into the holiday season focused on tasks, we become stressed and frustrated with how little time we have. If, however, we enter the season focused first on the people in our lives, we’ll find that we don’t need all the activities. We can prioritize what matters most. Saying no to some of the craziness allows us to really slow down and enjoy what we do say yes to.

As we enter the holidays this year, I challenge you to have your no’s ready. Give yourself permission to leave some of the boxes on your to-do list unchecked. Unrush by focusing on your relationships with family, with friends, and with God. In the end, that’s what you’ll remember in the coming years anyway.

So how can we slow down and be more present?

One idea is to take some time this week to make a list of all the obligations, goals, and plans you can think of for this month and next. Highlight the three activities that are most important to you. Next, highlight the three that are your lowest priority. Make a commitment to yourself to not say yes to anything (as far as possible) that will interfere with your biggest priorities. Then, give yourself permission to erase the lowest priorities from your list if you need to.

Another idea is to go ahead and cut things from your list, cold turkey. Is social media too much to keep up with this time of year? Hang a “Gone for the Holidays” post on your media feed and take a break. Blogging too hard to squeeze in? Run a series of something simple, like recipes or movie reviews, or repurpose old content to make things easier on yourself. Step down from a volunteer responsibility for a little while, or don’t take on an extra freelance project if you can afford to. Choose something to let go of so you can be your best in other areas.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that your value doesn’t come from the stuff you do on a daily basis. Our God is a God of action, who calls His people to labor with Him in His fields. But, He is also a God of rest for the weary, of peace and joy and refreshment.

So take some time to rest this year. Slow down and savor the season. Say no so you have space to say yes when you’re ready.

(Also, if you’re like me and struggle with busyness regularly, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Best Yes. Terkeurst’s simple, insightful message encourages her readers to slow down and be intentional with their time. This book is a great reminder of all the reasons why saying no is so valuable.)

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