We can’t be all things to all people. But, oh, how we try! It’s easy to get caught up in the expectations or demands of others. Performing, people-pleasing, and striving for praise can be exhausting and leave us feeling empty. It’s just as easy to think we can do it all, and for a time maybe we can—until we can’t.

I know, because I’ve been there. Several years ago, I was homeschooling my three young children, racing to numerous activities, training for a marathon, and leading a drama team at church. I was exhausted but didn’t know how to jump off the treadmill. I feared that if I stopped things would fall apart.

Not everything that is good is good for us. Every day we’re offered choices, some seemingly insignificant and some life-altering—both for us and for those around us. Our choices almost always impact others, especially those in closest proximity. All the while I was saying yes, my kids were getting less. My husband was getting the leftovers. I had limited time to connect with friends.

I was busy and productive, but completely out of balance. My life was full, but I was running on empty. Since I had been careless about my priorities and trying to do it all, my life just happened. I expended time I could never recover and said yes to many things I shouldn’t have, hanging on to many things I should have let go. I didn’t consider the impact my yeses had on me—physically, emotionally, or spiritually—and certainly not the impact they had on my loved ones.

Eventually, I decided my life needed decluttering. I called this reorganization “The Year of No”. This was me saying no to everything. I made a short list of the most important things in my life and decided to expend my energy only on them. I was deliberate about my choices and wrapped-up the many things I’d been saying yes to—things that had either passed their season or that I should have said no to in the first place—and before long my plate was completely empty. I now had ample room to fully embrace the life that truly mattered to me.

There comes a beautiful peace with letting go and saying no. In doing so we create space and clarity in our lives. By avoiding the need for approval from others and thoughtfully choosing how we spend our limited time on this earth, we build room to breathe and fully become the person God created us to be. This uncluttered place is where God’s promised peace, joy, and love is more fully nurtured. It’s where we come face-face with who we truly are—apart from the expectations and applause of others—and find our identity in Christ.

Melanie Stevenson is a blogger, author and artist. One More Tomorrow (Summer 2019) is Melanie’s debut novel, the first line of which was conceived in an airport terminal. Her second book, Soul Focus (coming Fall 2019), is a selection of devotionals written over a span of ten years. www.scentofheaven.me/about