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Learning to Say No

It was Monday night. Late at night. We’d just waited through a two-hour mechanical delay at the Denver airport, a rare thing for Southwest, we feel like. Or maybe those are just our rose-colored glasses talking. We were wearing wrinkled clothes, too, the last best option in our suitcases that’d been weathered and worn by the last twelve months of travel. Jordan boarded the plane first. A47. Not bad for checking-in between salad and dinner service at the wedding reception the night before. He grabbed an aisle seat, because he gets a little claustrophobic being trapped by the window. Plus, he always feels bad making other people get up if he needs to stretch his legs. Amy doesn’t care where she sits, as long as she can lean on him when her eyes get tired. She can curl up and sleep anywhere in her black leggings, too, a real travel cat.

we’re exhausted, you guys

So, here we are. Row 10. Seats D and E. Our tray tables are both popped open with our laptops fired up. Jordan’s in Microsoft Word. Amy’s in Lightroom. We’re listening to whatever Christian songs we still have in iTunes from high school and college. Not because we only listen to worship music (we do a lot), but because it’s soothing to us, and because we are exhausted, emotionally, spiritually and physically if we’re being honest. And why shouldn’t we be? We’ve always been honest with you guys. Why stop now, right? We’ve committed to sharing our lives with you, even the not-so-pretty stuff.  Because we’re just two imperfect people who love a perfect God giving life everything we’ve got…and then some. That’s what the
last year has been, really. The “then some.” Ever since we left for Europe almost twelve months ago, it’s been a whirlwind. A constant game of saying “yes” to everyone and everything all the time. Of running from one thing to the next. Of running ourselves ragged. Ridiculously, ridiculously ragged. Yes, it’s possible to function on 5 hours sleep for months at a time, and the body truly can do remarkable things on just 90 minutes at night if you hit the REM cycle just right – and drink lots of coffee – but we don’t recommend it. For long, anyways. There’s a time and a place for hustle. A season for throwing everything you’ve got and the kitchen sink at your dream. How we do know? We just did it. For two years.

And we’re exhausted, you guys.

Would we trade it? No way! Would we do it again the same exact way? We probably would! Would we encourage others to do the same thing? Absolutely! Because, friends, there’s just no substitute for good-old-fashioned hard work. Grinding it out. Getting things done. We are so, so thankful for this business, this life, these blessings, and all the people that have come into our life because of it. But, just like a racecar driver making his way around a track, there’s a time to rev the engine on red, and there’s a time to lay off the throttle and ease into the turns to prepare for the next big push.

That’s us right now. To a “T”. That’s where we are. We’ve spent a season saying “yes” to everyone and everything all the time – and we’re so glad we did, because the people we’ve met and the things we’ve done in the last 365 days have been some of the most rewarding and fulfilling in our life – but it meant a calendar that pushed us to the breaking point of mental, physical, and, most importantly, spiritual exhaustion. Confession time: we can’t remember the last time we went to church, much less our home church. We can’t remember the last time we’ve been in town (or not shooting a wedding!) on a Sunday! We’re finally able to go again this Sunday, and we can’t wait, friends. We really can’t!

A few months ago, we saw a gap in the calendar, a chance to block off time – for the first time in a long time – just for us. To be home. To avoid planes. To not schedule much and to just, well, be. A few weeks of resting, of getting back on track, of knocking out some big goals that can’t be done in an airport terminal or from a Starbucks in a city we can’t remember the name of because we’ve been in so many. To see our families. To cuddle our cats. To get groceries. For Jordan to cook. (For Amy to watch!) And to end our workdays before the sun goes down so we can see it happen, outside, or even from the pool, preferably, instead of stuck inside behind our computer screens.

But that meant we had to say something we just haven’t much lately. A powerful word, that still feels hard to say every time we say it. The word?



Ah! We hate that word. For us, the word “no” is so hard. Really hard! Because we loooove people. A lot. And we never want to say no to anyone. If we could spend all day every day with people, we would. If we could get a full-time career in coffee house hangouts, we’d be all over it! We’d have a latte conversations every day, if you will. But we can’t. And the lesson from the last year was this: every time we said “yes” to one thing, we said “no” to something else. And do you want know the hard part? The yesses were always good things. Dinner with friends. Coffee with a co-worker. A job. A trip. This. That. You name it. It was all good.
As one of our good friends says, “Which one of these great things would you say no to?” It’s an impossible question. And we feel so blessed to be in that position, but we realized that the stretched-too-thin feeling couldn’t become a permanent way of life, because if saying “yes” to something good today meant saying “no” to a family get-together or a friend in need or just dinner together without our phones and a good night’s sleep, then we just need need to start making intentional changes to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. So that we can help as many people as possible, without running ourselves ragged in the process.

So, for this July and August, as hard as it was, we protected each day on the calendar. We scheduled less than we have in years. It’s sparse compared to previous summers – and we’re so glad – because, for the first time in a long time, we have what our pastor calls “margin.” We’re going to cut our blogging down to a few times a week instead of five for the summer, and we plan on using that time and the time we’re getting back from saying yes less for all kinds of things. To cross off big-dream goals, and to revel in the little moments in between. But all the time doing things because we want to, not because we feel like we have to just because it’s on the calendar. And that’s an exciting place to be, friends.

And that’s why, as we sat there on that plane that had a two-hour delay, we were exhausted, but not angry. We’re not upset or discouraged. We’re not anxious at all. Because, for the first time in a long time, we know that now we’re home, we get to stay home, and we’ve got a calendar that’s welcoming us back instead of telling us where to go next, and it wouldn’t be that way if we hadn’t said “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to the right things.

So, friends, here’s our challenge. We’re pretty sure we’re not alone in this! What’s one thing you need to say “no” to this week so you can say “yes” to something else? We know it’s hard because we’ve been struggling with this! And maybe not just this week, but this month? This season? What can you say no to, too? We encourage you to join us in a summer that’s less scheduled and more sane!

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(Photo by Melissa Jill)




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We help people take great photos and build profitable businesses that change lives. Get our free photography and business coaching delivered straight to your inbox every week.

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  1. Corry Frazier

    July 1st, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I encourage you to read lysa terkeurst’s book The Best Yes….God really spoke to a busy season of my life through her book. I’ve walked this path and you are making very wise decisions to make your best yes count!! Blessings to you guy in this season of rest!

  2. Amy & Jordan

    July 1st, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you SO much for this recommendation! We’re getting the book right now! It sounds like it could be EXACTLY what we need this summer 🙂 Big hugs, friend!!!

  3. Sara Nevels

    July 1st, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    This makes me heart so happy!! We’ve all been watching you hustle and doing amazing work, and while I’ve always been SO happy for & proud of you guys, a part of my heart started to worry. I worried for your health – mental and physical. Work/life balance is never easy, but you guys sooo deserve to say no after all you’ve given to so many others, because you deserve balance just like everyone else. I know it’s hard, but I’m relieved to know you guys are being more intentional about this. Sending you all the love in the world these next two months! Enjoy your time off! Big hugs!! 🙂

  4. Amy & Jordan

    July 1st, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Sara!!! Thank you so, so, SO much, friend. This means more to us than you’ll ever know. Today is July 1 and it’s the first day in as long as we can remember that we’re sitting down to strategically figure out how do less, but better. Anyways, we love your heart and feel so thankful to have someone like you as a friend in our life. We love you 🙂

  5. Cole

    July 1st, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Yep! Just say no. It’s what they teach us in grade school – remember? 🙂

  6. Amy & Jordan

    July 6th, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    In the D.A.R.E. program! How could we EVER forget that?!

  7. Jessica

    July 1st, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    You two are the cutest! I can’t stop staring at this adorable image! Also, I am right there with you – I have SUCH a hard time saying no, but after attending your workshop and seeing you speak that Thursday night with Katelyn James, you guys have changed my life and I am now finding myself with my ideal clients now more than ever. It is such an amazing feeling being able to say no when you know it’s not the right fit.

  8. Amy & Jordan

    July 6th, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Oh, Jessica! You have NO idea how HAPPY this makes us for you! We LOVED having you at the workshop and Come Together and we’re so, so, so excited about what’s ahead for you! Keep dream-chasing, girl 🙂

  9. Aaron

    July 1st, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Does this mean you are free to just hangout with friends on a fun night out, just relaxing, and listening to great music at a local Irish Pub? 🙂

  10. Amy & Jordan

    July 6th, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    This might just HAVE to happen 😉

  11. Sarah Bradshaw

    July 3rd, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I’ve experienced this kind of exhaustion several different times throughout my life— the worst was just before I started my business. I worked for a non-profit, and worked myself to a point of exhaustion that it took me almost two years to recover. I’m all about the hustle, and sometimes it’s tempting to put in those hours to try to pull ahead (let’s be honest… I would be SO more established as a brand if I worked 70-80 hours a week instead of my usual 50!), but at the end of the day, I want a business that works FOR me and supports MY lifestyle and values, not the other way around. Yes, yes, there is a place for sacrifice now so we can have later, but I realized a few years ago that I was always living in the “sacrifice now” phase, and never getting to the “later” part. So I decided to make changes and live NOW with the same habits and values that I want to have 10 years from now. It means a LOT of “no” when I want to say yes, but at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure I won’t regret the decisions I’ve made. I’m sure you won’t either!

  12. Amy & Jordan

    July 6th, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Hi, Sarah! This is SUCH great insight and wisdom! It’s so tempting to work ourselves to the bone all. the. time and finding any semblance of balance for two recovering perfectionists is challenging, but our pastor in church yesterday (we went for the first time in months because we’ve been on the road, which is NOT an excuse!) talked about priorities and we REALLY needed to hear that, because he explained that sometimes we can do right things or even have the right motives, but be totally missing the point at the same time. It’s like Greg McKeown says in Essentialism, you can’t have priorities. There’s just one priority. Then decide what it is! Thanks for your sweet comment, friend! Lots of love from Arizona!

  13. Cindy D Vest

    June 19th, 2017 at 6:08 am

    As a full time flight attendant for Southwest Airlines;)!!! I THANK YOU for letting us serve you! And as a FULL TIME PHOTOGRAPHER this hit me square in the face! I too do not have a NO in my body, but my body finally said NO .. TO ME. I just was so bummed bc I didn’t get this GREAT GIG. Or so I thought. But, like the two of you our Lord chooses the slow down. And he helped me to be still… catch up. With HIM. Thank you for this most perfect post!;) I’ll be looking for the two of you on board????

  14. Amy & Jordan

    June 20th, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Hi, Cindy! Thank YOU!! You’re so sweet! We’re so happy this post was encouraging to you! The Lord does that, doesn’t he? Hugs!! <3

  15. Danielle Smith Photography/ Whitedove Graphics

    July 18th, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    Let me begin by saying that I love your blogs. I’ve learned alot from you guys! Thanks for that. I really appreciate that you show your faith… Sometimes it’s easy to get to caught up in “making it” and lose sight of what God intends in our lives. I also have a hard time with no. I have also given that discount not sure if that was the right decision (fortunately both times worked out well). Thank you for the insights here. You’re a blessing to freshly starting photographers like myself.

  16. Amy & Jordan

    July 21st, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Hi, Danielle! Aw!! Thank you so much for sharing that with us! That means everything to us! We’re so glad our blog has been helpful and encouraging to you! We’re cheering for you! Hugs!! <3

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We help people take great photos and build profitable businesses that change lives. We’re high school sweethearts, former elementary school teachers and professional photographers who believe education is serious business, but learning should be fun.


free shooting class

3 Proven Tricks to Shoot Better & Edit Faster

connect with us


The Amy & Jordan Store

Courses & Tools for Photographers   

hey, we're amy & jordan!

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