The Day I Gave Up To Do Lists

I am an organizer at heart. Nothing excited me more as a child than when the time came for back to school shopping. The crisp notebooks, the never before opened markers, and the new sets of colored index cards made my heart flutter. They still do if I am being honest. There was something about the promise of a new season, a bright new school year that I always held dear. As I grew that desire for organization stayed with me, especially as I entered into extremely busy seasons of undergraduate and then graduate school. When things felt out of control, I knew my color-coded to do list would get me through. THE DAY THAT I GAVE UP TO-DO LISTS And, for the most part, it did. But I found myself in a weird place emotionally and spiritually at the beginning of 2015. I was armed with my yearly goals broken down into months and various other lists of things like books I wanted to read and restaurants I wanted to eat at. I was looking for a more meaning in my life after I had had some time to recover from graduating Seminary the previous May. Being who I am, I immediately made those lists and set out to get them accomplished. But something about it felt follow and I was overwhelmed. Yet, I just kept organizing and organizing. I was sure that I could get it all in there if I just used my planner and highlighters to their full potential. Then one of the books I was reading (from my to read list of course) hit me right in the gut. If you haven’t read The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst, I would highly recommend it because it really changed my paradigm for looking at my schedule. In the book she talks about how we should see saying “no” as a positive thing because it meant we were reserving our “best yes” for the things that are truly important. It was in that moment, however, that I realized that I truly had no idea what the important things were anymore. That was a sobering moment. I was so caught up in making my life more “meaningful” that I was missing the point entirely. For some women, taking control of their schedules means grabbing a beautiful planner and colored pens. For me, it was the opposite. To have the type of life I wanted and that I knew God was calling me to, I had to let all that go. So I gave up to do lists. I intentionally cleared my schedule of everything that wasn’t an absolute commitment and let myself have space. I did what I should have been doing all along… and asked God what He wanted me to do, what He was calling me to. I knew that what I was naturally drawn to in this intentional time of rest when I didn’t have to do anything would help me see the things that I actually wanted to do, was gifted to do, and was called to do. And a truly beautiful thing happened. I found time for both my friends and for finally getting my house in order. I found time to work on my crafts and Bible Journaling. I found time to do so many things I forgot that I enjoyed simply by letting go of my own to do lists. And because I had intentionally given this time over to the Lord, I let Him guide my path in a way I had never before. And He showed up and showed me so any things about myself and who He has called me to be. Months later, I make an occasional daily to do list, but I am still largely unscheduled. I have come to see that my schedule is not my own. When I gave my life over to Jesus, I gave him my whole life and this experience has taught me to seek His guidance in even the smallest areas of my schedule. Because when I don’t give Him control over those small areas and learn to hear His voice and sense His movement in the small moments, it is no wonder I can’t always sense His direction in the big ones. It took tossing my to do lists to get to that place of intimacy with Him and I would trade a brand new pack of sharpies for that any day.

About the Author

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Jessica is a perpetual student preparing to begin to her PhD work in Septuagint Studies. When she is not studying Greek or Hebrew, you can find her exploring farmer’s markets with her nephew, Bible Journaling, or documenting her life with Project Life. You can follow her life of random interests on Instagram at @jessellertson.