I’ve painted for ten of the past twenty-four hours. Not on canvas, but over the old wood window casings and that orange fake wood door that’s been bugging me for the past year and even that hutch that has needed a fresh coat of paint since 2012. I didn’t plan to paint. I simply planned to not do other things. Painting all those things was incredibly rewarding and embarrassingly fun for me. Funny what comes out when you give yourself the gift of time.

The only reason there was a glorious gap in my to do list was because I fought for it. No one else will protect you from your to-dos.

A few weeks ago I took a vacation and simply stayed home. I gave myself permission to do whatever I wanted. I expected I would read a bunch of People magazines, watch HGTV during the day and eat out every night. That’s not what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I read a novel, I watched funny movies and TV shows, I took naps, but I also cooked a lot. I read a ton. I went out to some antique malls armed with a cherry vanilla diet coke from Sonic. What surprised me was that I was drawn to my work that I love, I wrote some and made some business plans–all because I wanted to.

I thought I was longing for lazy days of being mindlessly amused, but really I just needed the rhythm of life-giving work and true rest. That’s my sweet spot and I bet it’s yours, too.


For the past two years my life has felt crazy busy. We all have seasons like that. Not the the life-giving kind of busy where for me that means creating pretty things and planning baby showers with my friends, but life-sucking, soul-clogging, mind-numbing BUSY. Curse word busy. Sometimes you need to do the crazy busy for a time. That can be part of life. But once you do that, you have to recognize the need to be crazy unbusy.

I’ve noticed that it’s more difficult to convince people that I’m okay when I’m recuperating in a time of crazy unbusy. Everyone is fine if I schedule myself within an inch of my life. But start saying no and people get all uncomfortable and concerned. Really, they should be concerned if I stop un-busy-ing myself.

It’s unnatural to say no so much. Unless you’ve given an unnatural amount of yesses away. Then it’s your duty to start saying no.

But even as I start to feel the balance of my yesses and my nos, the inbox, the possible Pinterest-worthy baby shower decorations, the opportunities that might turn into other opportunities, the news I’m missing out on still keep pouring in. They pour in different ways for all of us, but the online world has made it faster, more urgent and everywhere.

msmith july 2014

“The biggest deception of our digital age may be the lie that says we can be omni-competent, omni-informed, and omni-present…We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance–and choose wisely.”

Kevin DeYoung // Crazy Busy

I love the idea of intentionally choosing my absence, inability and ignorance. Because whether or not I choose it or I allow it to choose me, there’s only so much I’m able to do. God made it that way on purpose, with purpose.

Instead of worrying I’m missing out, I’ll flip it around and decide to choose be absent.


  • http://www.snoodlings.com whimzie

    Oh, my stars. Yes! Yes! Yes!! That just scratched an itch I’ve been trying to find for months now! In my story, I allowed myself to get so busy that I compromised my health. I was going as fast as I could go in every direction and I let myself get completely run down. I’ve been sick with this stuff I can’t shake for over a month now. I didn’t enjoy feeling as nasty as I did, but I have to admit, I’ve truly enjoyed having life come to a screeching halt for awhile. On one hand I’m bummed that my summer plans were turned upside down, but on the other hand, I’m excited that I have to be very intentional with the little bit of summer I have left. And now that I’m finally feeling like doing stuff again, I’m choosing to do stuff I never would have thought I’d have chosen and am loving the feeling of accomplishment over little projects I’ve wanted to do that kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list because I was working off of everybody else’s.

    As I plan for this next year, I’m going to have to have more white space. The white space makes the colorful space so much more colorful and I can appreciate each better when the two are balanced.

    Thank you for putting my feelings into words so beautifully!

  • http://walkingwellwithgod.blogspot.com Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God


    I’m getting ready to go away with my husband to a business conference in a lovely destination…my chance to get away. I love, however, your point that we don’t have to physically remove ourselves from our surroundings in order to be absent; we can choose to be absent and physically stay where we are. Not only CAN we, but we NEED to choose “not to do” for a day, a week, maybe even a season. God created us to need rest and rejuvenation. We can’t run in 5th gear all the time without burnout. Thank you so much for a well-worded reminder to give our body and our soul the rest that is needs by disengaging. I will do well to remember your words!!

  • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy Robinson

    Ooooooh, yes, I love the concept of choosing my absence! So many talk about digital sabbath or boundaries around devices. Sometimes we need to just say, I don’t need to know that, or be involved in that. Love it! Thank you!

  • paula

    Wonderful idea! Sometimes I feel guilty for my down time. I feel that if I’m not doing something, then I must be lazy. And that was a bad word when I was growing up. I now see that even God took a day off from his work and that’s a good enough example for me!

    • http://thenester.com The Nester

      I struggle with that same thing, feeling guilty for my down time, even when it’s exactly what I need.

      • http://joditt.com JoDitt

        I’m so glad you wrote about this, because our culture is so messed up in this area. My husband and I are learning that we need times to rest, relax and be refreshed. And what is restful, relaxing and refreshing to me may or may not be the same thing as it is for my husband. I am learning not to feel guilty for resting, but I think my husband still struggles with that because when we are taking a day to rest and someone calls and asks what we are doing, he will say, “just being lazy.” I find myself correcting him. We are not being lazy… we are resting, which is a commandment from God. I think a lot of people struggle with that, but there is a difference between being lazy (not doing what you should be doing) and intentionally resting (doing what God has commanded us to do) or, in your words, choosing to be absent. Thanks for shedding more light on this. :)

  • http://www.chattingatthesky.com emily p freeman

    One of my favorite posts at (in)courage ever.

    • http://www.beckykopitzke.com Becky Kopitzke

      Mine, too.

  • http://www.murmursofmyheart.wordpress.com Kristen

    So good! I was just expressing to my husband the other day that I was frustrated about all the projects that I cannot seem to get done. I realized that the reason is because I am so busy just doing the general maintenance of house and home and meals, that I cannot find the time to do the things I *want* to do. One day I chose to work on a project but it meant that dinner did not get made, lol. So, how to find that unbusy place? How to say ‘no’ to things so that I can say ‘yes’ to my projects? Definitely still working on this. Thanks for your post. I hope that I can continue to find ways to ‘plan to not do the other things’.

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com Shelly Miller

    I couldn’t love this more. I’m sharing it with my Sabbath Society peeps this week. I do think people find a strange curiosity in our ability to say no. They’re intrigued because being unbusy seems to be counter-culture and when we are brave to swim upstream, it’s inviting.

  • http://www.anneoftheinternetandbeyond.blogspot.com Anne

    I think it’s neat you are saying no. Saying no will lead to more space for creativity, which you will likely share here and there.

  • http://www.adandeliondiary.blogspot.com Mindy

    Oh yes and amen! Over the weekend my crazy, busy life caught up with me in a way that took a physical toll on my body that could not be ignored. So this week, I inentionally cut back on physical and emotional overload. And just like you, I found myself not sitting still but thoroughly enjoying work in the garden, harvesting, preserving and “puttering”. I also found myself feeling more creative than I have in months, planning an art project even. Love this post!

  • http://www.katiekump.com Katie

    Oh man, ouch and amen. Thank you for sharing! What a gift it would be to foster a community where we gave each other the freedom to say “no” and the support to encourage it more often than not. I want to be this kind of friend and mentor. Thank you for leading the way!

  • http://www.autumnmacarthur.com Autumn Macarthur

    I love this post, exactly what so many of us need to hear.

    God created us for true Sabbath, life-giving, soul-restoring rest in Him every week, yet we feel guilty if we aren’t filling every day with activity and making “progress”.

    It’s sad that we need permission to slow down. But thank you so much for the blessed reminder!

  • http://www.joyfullmom.com Andrea

    Yes! I am on an intentional blogging break, and while I really want to get back at it already, I am choosing to continue to rest because I need it. I know it is good and beneficial and I will be so glad I waited later. Saying no takes more discipline than I thought it did, but it’s really, really worth it!

  • http://www.heseesme.wordpress.com Danelle

    Beautiful and ever so timely. My husband and I are in the car talking about this very subject on our way to Nashville. I read it out loud to him, both of us nodding that God is sending us a beautiful message through your words here. Thank you:-)

  • http://heresmytakeonit.blogspot.com/ Kelly Blackwell

    You will never understand fully how free you have just made me. I needed this so much. I tend to plan too much until I am finally paralyzed by my inability to do it all. Then of course guilt rolls in. Thank you!

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com Marty

    “We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance–and choose wisely.”


    Thank you so much for sharing this. :)

  • http://holleygerth.com Holley Gerth

    Amen and amen and amen to this friend. You’ve taught me so much about how saying “no” actually lets us say a bigger, louder more beautiful YES to what God has for us. Thank you! XOXO

  • Sylvia Marie

    Took me a long time to even consider say no!,and when the urge to take on everything,I’m trying yet again to say no, sorry i can’t!

  • http://www.faithbarista.com Bonnie Gray | Faith Barista

    “you have to recognize the need to be crazy unbusy.” It’s true, why do we find ourselves apologizing for time off, but not for being too busy? :) One of my favorite post of yours, Nester! You’re speaking my soul language! here’s to crazy unbusy! #spiritualwhitespace

  • Marla

    Saying, “No,” is scriptural. Jesus, was our perfect example. Look at how He avoided the crowds/towns. His “Yes” was to His Heavenly Father, not to the world.

    Now, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us in the obedient “Yes” to God, and the ‘sanctified No’ to the rest of the world.

    May we desperately pursue our “Yes” to Him!

  • http://shechosethebetterpart.blogspot.com Wendy

    I just Tebowed in solidarity.

  • http://multicolouredsmartypants.com Sandy

    Yes! So encouraging to read of someone else who is also learning how to say ‘no’. I am learning that ‘yes’ can be in small doses. In essence I am learning to be disciplined. How cheered I was to find that the root of the word ‘discipline’ is, of course ‘disciple’. God is good :-)

  • Holly

    Thank you for putting words to what I have been feeling. . . the need to be crazy UN-busy. . .

  • http://google Ruthann Lewis-Martin

    Beautiful powerful expressions of endeavoring to choose the BEST over the GOOD ! Grateful for all the comments. Somehow I received confirmation and understanding through these ” conversations ” . With gratitude I ask God to bless you . May HIS ” To Do List” be your “To Do List !”

  • Ellen

    “Everyone is fine if I schedule myself within an inch of my life. But start saying no and people get all uncomfortable and concerned. Really, they should be concerned if I stop un-busy-ing myself.” You hit the nail on the head with that remark, in my opinion. A few years ago,I was impressed with a need to slow down, and I’ve been blessed with wonderful times with our Lord as a result. I’ve also experienced everything from one friend offering me a job because “I noticed you don’t do anything” to another friend constantly asking if I’m okay. I have a very happy home life, church life and job as a writer. I’m also considerably less stressed than I used to be, which is better for my health and attitude. So, I’ll take constructive no over automatic yes any day. Thanks for your encouragement!

  • http://www.reneeswope.com Renee Swope

    Gosh girl I needed this. Im thinking about taping a copy of it to my mirror, fridge, laptop and phone. :) And I {{LOVE}} the idea of taking a vacation, staying home and doing whatever you feel like doing. Why have I never done that?

  • http://www.myhearthiswords.com SATIN

    I just absolutely love & completely relate to this post! As I Journey to Rest, blogging through Bonnie Grey’s book “Finding Spiritual Whitespace”, I am finding out so much about myself. Love your post & how your time of rest proved to be one that encompassed the very things you love the most. What a wonderful reminder that rest doesn’t require utter silence, as much as it requires feeding our soul with the One & healthy things it longs for most! Love to you! ♥

  • http://tiredchristianworkingmom.wordpress.com Kate Carman

    This makes me smile. I have to tell you that your choice of words and phrases just connected with me. Can I tell you that I laughed when you said “curse word busy”
    That cracks me up, because I can relate and because it is real. I often wonder how to merge the real me with the glorifying God me. That phrase does that. Lol

  • Samantha

    This was so beautifully written, Myq! Absolutely something that spoke to my heart today! xo

  • Beth WIlliams


    Love the idea of saying being physically absent. My hubby and I take “staycations” a lot. I just love them. We plan things to do during the week, but mostly it is about resting and regenerating. Even Jesus took a day of rest. Why can’t we?

    This year has been super busy and stressful for me. I take time away from computer and gulp in(Courage) and just rest and do me stuff. When I’m up to it I come back, almost daily, to In(Courage) and read the wonderfully written posts. It helps to just “veg” out and do fun things!

    Blessings :)

  • Julie Joiner

    Amen! Just the topic God has been working out in me. I believe we women struggle with guilt when it comes to the “NO” word and about the idea of taking care of our own things. It is hard to accept we need to refuel to serve. It is also hard to accept that we were meant to have time to feed our families well, keep house, etc. So often we feel pressures to live as others expect. Good for you! Thanks for setting an example. Blessings on this journey.