The Unreasonably High Cost I Paid For A Clean House

I enjoy having a clean living environment. It’s borderline compulsive. I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day analyzing my affinity for neatness, maybe tying it down to a need for structure resulting from a chaotic childhood, blah, blah, blah…whatever the reason the fact remains that I am the epitome of a neat freak.

Unfortunately my neat freak nature clashes—hard—with the sticky fingers and muddy shoes that are my two sons. Mamas everywhere are sighing as they read this. You get it, right? What’s the point in even trying to clean when three seconds after you wipe the smudged glass on the sliding door five more hand prints appear with bonus chunks of who-knows-what leftovers from lunch.

Last week I lost my mind over it. Friends, I freaked out. I blew a gasket. I fell apart, tears and all, because I just couldn’t do it. I felt so tired from the battle of trying to balance enjoying motherhood with enjoying a clean house. Keep laughing, all you well-seasoned mamas. You told me that I could either have a clean house or a happy one, but that both are darn near impossible. Did I believe you? Nope. I embraced it as a challenge, silently shouting a battle cry in my head: “Tawanda! Don’t say never to me!” (Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone?)

My husband saw (and heard) that I was losing it. God bless that patient man. He swooped the kids out the door to go play and get takeout for dinner. I was left alone to clean. And clean I did. I scrubbed, and sprayed, and wiped…I pulled out an old toothbrush to get into the bathroom vents and everything. I mopped, and dusted, and exhausted myself from the exertion.

When I finally sat down it hit me how much my clean house cost me. My house was clean; no sign of life anywhere. And I was alone. And I was sad because of it. I wasn’t anyone that my boys wanted to be around, and I chose rage-cleaning over them. I essentially communicated to them that they were ruining my–not our–environment. My house. My rooms. My stuff.

Yikes.

That’s not the home I really want. I want the “our.” I want the memories, and the laughter, and the music, and the conversation that comes from being in relationship with my husband and children. But that night I forfeited it all. I made it pointedly clear that I would rather have a museum than have them.

That’s not the dream. That’s not what I’ve longed for. I dream of a family that plays games together, and builds blanket forts, and has movie nights, and laughs, and cries…together. But together exists with fingerprints and muddy shoe prints, and who-knows-what in the powder room sink (guess I’ll be cleaning that up later).

There’s nothing wrong with cleanliness. I’m not planning on letting entropy reign supreme. But in my freak out moment I believed a huge lie, and I allowed my motives to be obsessively selfish. I bought into the lie that I clean for myself. The truth is that I clean for us. I clean for our family, not my comfort.

So I’m presented with opportunity cost. I can either choose to pay the price of an immaculate home at the cost of a safe relational environment, or I can pay the price of a healthy family at the cost of less-than-pinterest cleanliness.

I’ll choose the latter. I want to choose them over spotless glass. I want to choose the “us and ours” over the “me and mine.” I want to choose the beautifully chaotic mess of family over the pristine loneliness of isolation.

Help me, Jesus.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

 

 

 

Has It Felt Like You’re Sinking?

Hello, friends. The summer is over, and I’m sure that you are like me: trying to get back into the swing of fall routines.

The summer was so beautiful in many ways. I tried my darnedest to relish the minutes, days, and weeks that I got to spend with both of my boys.  We went (lived)  outside, we rode bikes, we planted a vegetable garden, we went to the ocean, we read books, we played games, and laughed, and snuggled up close.

But this summer was also painful and full of need and loss and defeat. Adam and I have felt like our heads have been spinning from all that happened in just a single month. Emergency home repairs, vehicles breaking down, savings accounts being drained, and excruciating situations with my mother who is very sick left us looking to Jesus and asking Him to multiply resources, strength, and healing.

This summer has been a reminder that God owes us nothing, but has given us everything. He’s not a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of God. He’s far too good for that; instead He’s interested in who we are becoming, and our knowledge of who He already is (and if you don’t already know Him, He is so good that I just can’t breathe when I really think about it). Just like I want my own kids to grow up to be men of character, integrity, honor, and faithfulness God cultivates character in us as His kids.

But the hard seasons of tilling the soil of hearts, ripping out dead roots, and pruning away diseased parts hurt. This season has sure hurt for me and my husband. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that without doubt, or the possibility of sinking, there is no such thing as trust. Without questions or needs bigger than we can meet ourselves we have no reason to look to God for what only He can provide.

One quiet morning a few weeks ago, before the sun was up, before little feet ran through the halls, I got up, snuck downstairs, poured a cup of dark-roast coffee, and sat down to pray, journal, and read my Bible. At the time I was studying the book of Matthew, and I came across a passage that might be familiar to you:

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” -Matthew 8:23-27

I’ve read this passage so many times since I started following Jesus. It’s such a powerful reminder that when all seems lost, our God is Lord over the mighty waves. We can trust Him, even when our souls start to believe He is sleeping.

But this particular morning was different. Something new jumped out at me that I had never paid much attention to before: it was JESUS’ idea to get in the boat in the first place!

Did you catch that?!

Do you know what that means for you and for me?

It means that sometimes the problems of life, those things we fear the most, the stresses, the turmoils, the pain, the loss…sometimes we can be following Jesus and still end up in the middle of the raging sea!

It means that sometimes the storm is right where we need to be in order to see who Jesus really is–the able one. The One whose words are so mighty that the torrent of the sea obeys! As a writer, I hope my words move people. But Jesus’ words move oceans!

So, friend. Maybe you’re in the middle of a crisis. Maybe the days are long, the weeks are unending. There’s no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and you’re asking Jesus why He’s asleep in the boat while you are going under.

And maybe, just maybe, you’re right where you need to be in order to witness who God is in the middle of it all. Keep your eyes open. Stay watchful, and press into the truth of who He is.

Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust and was subsequently arrested for her actions, put it this way: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

Wherever you are, I encourage you today to press in and trust the God that isn’t finished with your story yet.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silly Putty And The Power of God

Did you ever play with Silly Putty when you were younger? The pinkish-beige putty that came in a red egg-shaped container? I always had high hopes that it would be like Play-Doh…soft, malleable. But Silly Putty is the black sheep of the putty family, and really no fun to mold at all. The most fun I had with Silly Putty was pressing it against the comic strips of newspapers to see it reprint on the the thick gummy goo.

The last month or so I have felt like most everything has been hard. It’s been a season of one-thing-after-another problems, stresses, and disappointments. I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to push forward, but I find myself tangled up in circumstantial Silly Putty.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re right there with me now. Solidarity, sister (or brother, as it may be).

I’ve been trying to process it all. My head feels like it’s spinning from some of the issues that have come up, some relational, some financial, some small but weighty in light of all of the other mess.

It’s those moments of loss, heartache, and disappointment that we are faced with the choice to hold onto what we believed when things were going well, or to forfeit belief and attempt to “go it alone.” It’s the hard seasons that make the difference in who we become as people of faith.

Do we really believe that God is good when life is hard?

Do we really believe that God is our rock and refuge when everything else falls apart?

Do we really believe that He is with us, that He hears us, that He has our best interest at heart?

Habakkuk reached this place. As his nation faced impending invasion and tremendous loss He had a choice to get angry with God, or cry out to Him. He chose the latter when he declared:

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Habakkuk 3:17

This morning I wrote my own little version. It went something like this:

“Though I forgot to prep the coffee pot, and my morning cup is empty.

Though our well holding tank has rusted out and needs replacing.

Though the baby is screaming, and I didn’t sleep last night.

Though the mini-van engine has gone kaput.

Though I can’t get caught up on chores to save my life.

Though a loved one said such hurtful words.

Though the blueprint of what I think my life should look like is far from what my life actually looks like.

I will rejoice in who God is. I will trust in His love for me, and that my security is found in Him alone.”

There are seasons in all of our lives when everything falls apart. The end is far from view, and we march on through what feels like endless Silly Putty. These are the times when God teaches us where our security truly lies. When everything starts crumbling, He is our steady foundation. When we are afraid of catastrophe, He is our fortress and hiding place. He doesn’t change even when our circumstances do. So while we can’t celebrate the brokenness, we can celebrate who He is in the middle of it all.

Psalm 46 is such a powerful chapter that calls for our rest in the middle of Silly Putty moments (worse, actually). You most likely are familiar with the verse that says, “Be still and know that I am God.” But what’s so powerful about that verse is that it’s a commandment in the middle of global catastrophe! The images used in the whole Psalm are ridiculously scary! (Did you see 90’s movie Deep Impact? Yeah…legit Armageddon stuff. Walls of water, mountains crumbling, and the like).

It’s right smack in the middle of chaos and catastrophe that God declares, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Drop. The. Mic.

Wherever you are. Whatever you are dealing with. Whatever chaos is surrounding you. Stop today and consider the bigness of God. Consider His promises that He never changes, and that He is very present with you (even when you can’t see, feel, or hear Him).

Take this moment right now and consider that in the middle of your Silly Putty He is powerfully moving. He is rock steady.

Be encouraged, dear friend. The story isn’t over. Our God is mighty, and the floods of life do not threaten or intimidate His position or authority.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

The #1 Thing You Should Teach Your Children About Compassion

We often ask children the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our intentions are good; we want to inspire dreams, encourage goal-setting, and cast vision for what their little lives can become. But sometimes we ask this question and inadvertently teach children to believe that until they are “grown ups” they have to wait to do anything significant.

As we seek to instill compassion into our children, the number 1 thing they need to hear from the adults in their lives is that they do not have to wait to make a difference. There is no “magic age” that a child needs to reach before they can impact the world.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Children perceive that the world is not as it should be; injustices exist, and needs are real. But children can also be equipped with a deep-seated belief system that tells them that heroes are also real, and they can be those heroes.

Last summer my then five-year-old son found me crying on our back porch. He asked what was wrong, and I tried to muster up words to explain the Iraqi and Syrian refugee crisis to him.

I will never forget his teary-eyed response to me: “Mom, I want to help them.”

He knocked on the door of compassion, and I could have chosen to say, “That’s so sweet of you, buddy. But the problem is too big, there’s not a lot we can do.” I saw the desperation in his eyes—the hurt he felt for kids like him who can’t go to school, who have no shoes or warm coats—and instead I invited him into the story.

My son spent weeks making beaded bracelets to sell to raise money for refugee relief efforts. He named the project, “The Green Refuge Project” and raised $150. That’s a drop in a bucket for such an incomprehensible social justice issue, but my little boy did something big before he even stepped foot into a kindergarten classroom.

Something miraculous happens in each of us, regardless of age, when we decide to act. Our hearts seem to somehow grow, our courage and resolve strengthen, and our belief that there are things worth fighting for is renewed. Imagine the possibilities if we invite the current generation of children into the bigger story now while their eyes are still bright-eyed and not yet jaded by the brokenness of the world.

Here are five ways that you can engage your children in acts of compassion:

  1. Invite your child to join you in sponsoring a World Vision child.

By sponsoring a child with World Vision, you not only make a huge impact in the life of a child in need, but your own child will be opened up to—literally—to a whole new world. Your child can draw pictures, and write letters to your sponsored child. They can also help you pick up little treats to send your sponsored child (stickers, pencils, notebooks, personal photos, etc.).

  1. Have your child help you pick out food items to donate to a food pantry.

1 out of every 5 children in America does not receive enough food to eat. Your children go to school with other children who may not know where their next meal will come from. Talk to your child about this, and then engage them in being a helper by going to the store to pick up nonperishable items that can be donated to your local food bank, or directly to your school to be distributed to other children in need.

  1. Get crafty for a cause.

Make bracelets, sell lemonade, hold a bake sale, create greeting cards…whatever creative bug your child has, fan the flame and show them how they can use their interests to raise money for something they care about.

  1. Invite your child to join you for service projects.

Compassion, like most character traits, is caught rather than taught. Your children are watching your lead, and when you volunteer to serve you show them you mean what you say about the importance of taking action.

You can take this a step further by inviting your children to participate with you in service. You will not only bond closer to your child, but you will provide them with memories, and cultivate their heart for help and service.

  1. Pray together.

Prayer is critical to instilling compassion in the heart of a child. God is the author of justice and compassion, and it is He who equips us with His heart in order to be His hands in the world. Praying with our children is a powerful way to ask God to use our children to meet needs in the world, as well as a great way to model a life of faith for your children to follow.

As a practical bonus, World Vision has a fabulous new resource called the “Play It Forward Guide” that will help you leverage this summer with your child as an opportunity to change the world.  Be sure to check it out, and watch your child flourish as their compassion for others grows.

The hearts of children are large, and full of dreams. Let them dream of who they will one day become, but teach them that they do not have to wait to be heroes in the bigger story. They are little people, but powerful forces in this world.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What To Do When You Want To Give Up

What is it that you regret in your life? Maybe an opportunity you passed up? Maybe words you said in anger? Maybe the extra helping of Oreo Cheesecake at the 4th of July cookout you attended (yeah… I’m just going to fess up to that one)?

I regret the times in my life when I gave up too soon; the times when I threw in the towel because things got too hard and the excitement of a new adventure wore off. Those are the moments in my life that I look back on and wonder what would have happened if I had pushed past whatever discomfort I was experiencing. What “wins” have I missed out on because I gave up?

I regret those times when I failed simply because I forfeit.

This year I have set out to run my first half marathon with Team World Vision. I am aiming to raise $2500 in order to supply 50 children with a lifetime of clean water.

Today I wanted to quit. For a variety of reasons it’s been difficult to press on, whether it’s been a conflict registering for the race itself, personal injury, or otherwise frustrating circumstances I wanted to say, “Forget it. This just isn’t for me.”

I’ve made it my aim over the last few years to slow down on the decision making process when there are strong emotions involved. I’ve tried to stop and allow myself to feel the emotions without reacting to them. It’s definitely a work in progress, but progress has been made. When I have felt the monster of defeat and discouragement rear its ugly head I have given myself the space to feel those emotions, but then I pull back, breathe, and ask God for wisdom.

You know what I’ve found? God is speaking to us, and He wants to show us the way of life and wisdom. He wants to lead us often more than we want to follow Him. If we stop and ask for His breath of discernment through His Word (The Bible), and His Holy Spirit in us then we can determine a course of action that is not led by fickle emotions, but is led by a strong, faithful, and good God.

So today I did just that. I felt the weight of defeat, and the strong desire to quit. I allowed myself to feel the feelings, but I refused to make a decision in the middle of them. I opened my Bible, and listened to worship music. I took some time to think through a few things so that I could make a wise decision in the midst of raw emotions:

  1. Who Is God? What is His proven character?
  2. Who has He called me to be?
  3. Why did I initially set out to reach my goals?

As I dug into God’s word and prayed,  Esther chapter 4 came to mind. Esther is positioned to be the deliverer of the Jews from a recently passed law that ordered their death and annihilation (no pressure, right?). Esther had her doubts about her role. She was scared, and she wanted out. Her calling was weighty, and there was much at stake. She wrote a letter to her adoptive father, Mordecai, about her feelings. His response was direct, to say the least:

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 13-14)

Mordecai calls Esther to the carpet, lays out the consequences of her backing down, and then reminds her of her royal position. It was no accident that she was where she was, and it was up to her to step forward and own it. She would be the one to experience loss if she quit.

But she didn’t quit. She felt the emotions, she sought counsel, she prayed, and then she obeyed. Feelings and all, she stepped out to finish what she was called to do. She rescued the Jews through wise obedience and follow through.

I want to be like that. I want to punch fear in the face and press on, one foot in front of the other, continuing to do each “next right thing” all the way to victory.

So what is it in your life that you are discouraged by? What is hard right now? What do you want to quit? Is it a job? Or your weight loss goal? Or that dream you’ve been trying to run down? Maybe it’s your marriage? Or maybe it’s a bad habit you’ve been trying to break, but can’t seem to get a handle on?

Dear friend, don’t give up! Keep going!

Feel the feelings, but don’t act out of them. Stop. Pray. Read God’s Word. Listen. Seek counsel. And keep your eyes open.

One foot in front of the other, one moment at a time. Your story is being written, and you are in the dark, hard parts. But just past the pain is victory if you press on.

I’m with you in the trenches. Let’s soldier on, fight for noble good, and press on together.

I leave you with a favorite passage from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: 

Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

What To Do When You’re Stuck In Life

I love my husband. One of my favorite things about him is his ability to keep going through adverse circumstances with focus and consistency. He feels discouraged sometimes like any of us, but you would never know it. He’s a “one foot in front of the other” kind of guy, and he is dependably steady.

I, on the other hand, can be a hot mess of emotional decision making (can I get a witness?) If I’m in a bad mood, by golly my husband is going to know about it, even if I can put on a pretty face for those outside of my house.

If I feel discouraged or defeated I can easily fall victim to quitting because of bad belief systems, poor self-talk, or otherwise discouraged feelings.

I’m a writer and a speaker. I also happen to be training for my first half-marathon. I’m fairly certain that the phrases, “Running is dumb; writing is stupid,” came out of my mouth more than once last week (sorry, Adam. I didn’t mean it. You already know that though.)

My husband is good for me. He challenges me in a way that I need to be challenged. It’s irritating how right he is most of the time (ha).

Adam says something to me on a regular basis when I’m not sure what to do next, whether it’s figuring out how to best structure a day’s to-do’s, or whether it’s monumental, life-changing decision making: “Do the next right thing.”

After being married to Adam for going on 8 years I now hear his voice in my head anytime I feel discouraged or stuck: “Do the next right thing.”

The next. right. thing.

When I don’t know what to do, when I’ve lost vision for the moment, the day, or the season of life, when I’ve lost vision, or feel discouraged by the goal(s) I have, what is the very next right thing?

Saturday morning at 6:15am the last thing I wanted to do was get up and run 5 miles. But as my husband snoozed on next to me, I once again heard his (loving, irritating, but oh-so-right) voice in my head, “Do the next right thing.” In that moment the next right thing was defying my feelings, and choosing to lace up my shoes.

I have never regretted following that advice. I’ve often regretted ignoring it.

Sometimes we use the phrase “don’t just go through the motions.” I agree that we don’t want to coast through life going through motions, or being disconnected from passion. But there are times when going through the motions is exactly what we need to do. Our hearts and feelings can so quickly deceive us, and we convince ourselves to do what our hearts tell us to do, when wisdom says to choose–not feel, choose–the next right thing.

We don’t have to know every step. We don’t have to give up. We simply need to show up, and choose the next words, the next attitudes, the next actions that are right, and then after that take the next right step, and so forth.

Next time you feel stuck–whether it’s stuck in a bad mood (ah hem…totally me on Saturday), stuck in reaching your goals, or stuck any where else in your life…what is your next right step?

Open Letter To The Fatherless

I have had 5 step-dads in my life.

Five.

Only 1 of them has stuck around, and that’s a weird, undefined relationship.

I didn’t know my biological father until I was 29 years old (that’s a miraculous story that I will share a different day).

Father’s Day used to be such a painful holiday for me; a reminder to me that I was fatherless. I recall skipping church at least once in my adult life on Father’s Day just to avoid it altogether. And the Father-Daughter dance at my friends’ weddings…forget it. I cried every time, and usually not tears of joy.

I never was “daddy’s girl,” and there was always a painful whisper in my heart telling me that I never would be. I wasn’t worth sticking around for; I was abandoned…over, and over again.

My heart was broken.

When I chose to follow Jesus, I started studying the Bible to find answers to this question: who is this God? I have spent 13 years chasing after answers, and somewhere along the way  the truth has healed my heart.

Oh, friend. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you don’t know your father, or maybe you’ve lost your father, or maybe you’ve had an abusive father. I don’t know your story, but you do. I want to tell you that God calls you “daughter.” He calls you His.

I know that can feel so unbelievable. The cynical side of your broken heart might be saying, “Yeah, whatever.” But beautiful one, you are treasured beyond compare…if only you knew.

Over and over again God has revealed Himself to us as “Father to the Fatherless, defender of the weak.” God cares about the role of dads, and He weeps with us when that relationship is broken.

One of the most healing verses of scripture that God has spoken over my heart is Psalm 68:6

God makes a home for the lonely. 

Nothing can replace the role of a father in a daughter’s life. But for those of us whose dads are absent for whatever reason, God loves us and makes homes for us.

There are men worth admiring. There are men worth learning from, and allowing them in enough to show you the type of love that God has for you as a daughter.

We have to receive that. We have to be willing to let that kind of love in, and to look for the hidden treasure found in men that might not be our real dads, but who are worthy of paternal affection.

We must learn to recognize what a godly older man is, and celebrate that. No, they aren’t our real dads, but God shows us His love—what it looks likethrough the lives of such men.

We should celebrate men who are dads by choice. And we should embrace that some of them want to love us as daughters. It is good to allow Godly men to love us like fathers—to offer wisdom, insight, and speak truth, value, and dignity to our hearts. It is good for us to admire, respect, trust, and love godly men like these.

There are these types of men in my own life; godly older men that have forever changed my life, and have been a part of God healing my fatherless heart. Men that didn’t have to be paternal figures, but chose to be anyway. Today, I want to celebrate them:

  • My grandfather. My hero. He is the only man who has remained constant in his role in my life from the day I was born. He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, and I love him as though he were really my dad.
  • My uncle who adopted me when I was 10 years old. His own children were already grown, and yet he said “yes” to being a dad again.
  • My father-in-laws (Adam’s dad and step dad) have taken me in as their own daughter, have prayed with me, cried with me, counseled me, and so much more.
  • So many other men who love Jesus, and out of that love people. Men like my high school band director, former bosses, pastors, and others who have shown me through their lives what it means to love younger women as daughters, to protect them, give them dignity, give them value.

Sweet sister, God calls you His daughter.

I want to see your happily ever after; that you know in your heart that you matter; that you are royalty. 

You. Are. A. Daughter. Of. A. King.

And one day the tears will be wiped away, and your heart will embrace fully the truth of that statement. Until then, let’s celebrate those men who show us the love of the God who made us—the God who says we belong. The God who calls us to life, to freedom, and to stand with heads held high.

May that God–my God, and yours–sing this song over your heart today:

 

 

Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
    forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.
    Since he’s your Lord, adore him.

-Psalm 45:10-

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Is Not In The GOP

I feel the tension. Debates, cuthroat politics, polarizing facebook conversations based on which candidate should be the next POTUS. I stay on top of current events, and I follow candidates to know who is running, and what they actually stand for (not just what they say they stand for).

Elections are tense. Scary even. Who will our next leader be? There’s so much weight in the decision. I catch myself thinking things like, “If it’s so-and-so, God help us all. We’re doomed.” Or on the flip-side, “I hope so-and-so wins because then we all live happily every after.”

We as Christians can get really caught up in politics. We can get flat-out ugly to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Sadly, modern American Christianity has often elevated politics above the Gospel instead of filtering politics through it. We have made “liberals” the enemy, rather than holding fast to Ephesians 6 which says that the real battle isn’t against people at all.

I’m going to just come right out and say it: Jesus is not in the GOP (collective gasp). Jesus is also not a Democrat. He Himself is King, and His Kingdom is built for all of us that would surrender to His authority, regardless of our political affiliation.

Early disciples believed Jesus was planning to rule with an iron fist and overthrow the Roman occupation. They wanted him to come into the world and show Rome who was boss. They were chomping at the bit for redemption, for freedom, for renewal. They were patriots eager to see their beloved nation restored to its glory.

But Jesus flipped their expectations upside down. Jesus didn’t intend to stick it to Rome. He didn’t come to be the type of revolutionary that the Jews were hoping for. Instead He chose to bring His Kingdom through staking His claim on individual hearts. He didn’t raise the flag of His kindgom over Rome; He raised it over human souls. He raised dead people to life, literally and figuratively. He called ordinary people to change the world, not with swords and spears, but with truth, justice, and compassion.

His work and purposes have not changed, and we would be remiss to believe otherwise.

God doesn’t want to overthrow our current government so much as He wants to overthrow each of us from the authority-seat of our own lives.

Yes, God cares about our government.

Yes, He wants our nation to turn to Him.

Yes, He wants our nation to be ruled with truth and justice.

But our hope for this nation is not found in the POTUS; it is found when we the people choose to BE THE PEOPLE.

I have been asking myself why we have such a tendancy to place all of our hope in the position of one man or woman. Sometimes I think that we get up in arms about who goes into office because secretly we want them to take all of our God-given responsibility for social issues and delegate it to someone else. We want to put all of our hope for the future into one person’s hands. We want social justice issues to no longer be our responsibility. We would rather vote for change rather than be the change ourselves. We expect one person to do what we are unwilling or afraid to do ourselves.

I believe that if all of us who say that we love Jesus commit to loving our neighbors regardless of  race, religion, political affiliation, or otherwise, if we step outside of our comfort zones to executute compassion and justice in our everyday lives, if we speak up for the margianlized and oppressed, practice generosity, and allow the Kingdom of God to come through us then we can once again see a world flipped on its head. That is when we will experience a revolution.

Revolution will not come through the 2016 election. Revolution will come when we choose to be people equipped with love in our hearts for our fellow man, courage to step beyond ourselves to love and to serve, a willingness to allow God to radically transform us and redeem us from our prejudices, our hatred, and those things that divide us from one another.

This election is important. It is. I don’t deny that. We have an incredible privilege of being able to participate in selecting our leaders. The majority of people in the world cannot say they have such a freedom. And if we forfeit our freedom to choose, and if we opt out of voting, then we slowly tear apart and will eventually lose that freedom.

We must vote responsibly. We must educate ourselves on the issues, and cast our vote for men and women who have strong character, a proven track record, and a genuine concern for serving the people of this nation.

However, we must not place our ultimate hope in the position itself. We must instead step into our God-given authority to bring about world change by being people reflecting His character in our everyday lives. Only then will we see the change we are so hungry for. We cannot forgo our personal responsibility of being conduits of the Kingdom of God in hopes that one powerful leader will do it us.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

We All Have “That” Friend

Have you ever found yourself in a one-sided relationship? You set out to spend time and get to know another person, but over time you realize that you are the one doing all of the listening. You are the one being asked favors. You are the one giving all of the advice to help and comfort.

When you start to share your heart and invite your “friend” to care about your dreams, concerns, and joys you are met with a blank stare. Or maybe you received a trite pat on the back, and a “there, there,” or the ever-popular, “I’m happy for you,” but no sincere concern or overt excitement.

It hurts to be in a relationship that is one-sided, parasitic, and unhealthy. We want relationships that are meaningful and comprised of shared stories, comeraderie, solidarity, and closeness. This type of intimate friendship cannot exist when one party is self-absorbed.

Sadly, I have often been the narcissist in my relationship with God.

I want God to love me. I want God to see me, to hear me when I call out to Him. I want God to care about what I care about, hurt about what I hurt about, smile at what I am happy about, and to be present in my life.

But if I’m honest, sometimes I would prefer if God kept His hurts and concerns to Himself.

Children traumatized by war? Change the channel.

Water crisis in Guatemala (or Flint, Michigan for crying out loud)? No thanks.

Maimed beggers in the streets of India? Steer clear of that.

Women and children overtly soliciting themselves in the Red Light district of Thailand? Just keep walking.

Abused, neglected, hungry children? Yikes.

My neighbors’ lives falling apart? Shut the blinds.

Give me what feels good and comforting about God, but let Him keep the heavy stuff away.

But if I really want a relationship with God like I say I do; if I really mean it when I sing “Oceans” at the top of my lungs, then I must love Him for who He is, and not just what He gives to me.

To love God is to love what He loves, and to weep over what breaks His heart.

He hurts over this broken world. He hurts that millions of men, women, and children have fled their homes in Iraq and Syria for fear of what ISIS will do to them. He weeps that 100 million children in the world suffer from malnourishment. He abhors the epidemic of human trafficking. The evil that exists and is expressed through war, oppression, abuse, neglect, and our own selfish hearts breaks the heart of God.

So today I am challenged to consider if I am “that friend” to God. Do I only want the feel-good parts of Him that help me? Or do I really want all of Him? Am I willing to love God for who He is, and to open my heart to the things that break His?

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

 

The #1 Lie We Buy Into At Christmas

I’m not sure if this year is any different, but I feel more aware of my wantDec 21 blog post photo.jpgs. I have always
appreciated beautiful things—the shoes, the purses, the clothing, the Chip and Joanna style home—but for some reason this year feels heavier. The weight of the wants has been tripping me up a lot in the last few weeks, and the inability to have it all has left me feeling defeated.
 
During a recent trip to Target I was looking at the shimmering Christmas decorations, daydreaming of elegant parties around my table, stories being shared over a perfectly adorned meal, music playing, classy cocktail dresses, stilettos, and wine stems beneath twinkling white lights (Friends, I own dresses and stilettos, but my typical wardrobe is skinny jeans, a t-shirt, and flats. If I’m honest, my fantasy is flat out dillusional given my reality: mother to two young boys, freelancer, Lego-cleaner-upper…).
 
My daydream was abruptely interrupted by a  surprising, but crystal-clear thought: “Don’t believe the lie.”
 
In an instant my visions of sugar plum fairies fell away like a shattering television screen, and I was once again standing in Target wearing my aforementioned jeans and t-shirt.
 
Those words echoed in my mind. “Don’t believe the lie.”
 

What lie?

The lie that I somehow need more to live better; that I will never experience life apart from satisfying my endless list of desires. The lie that my worth is tied to my wallet, and that Christmas is going to be miserable unless it looks magazine perfect.
 

It’s all an illusion. And I buy into it. Often.

This lie has a strong grip on my heart. Its tentacles wind throughout the arteries and cavities of my soul. A one-time realization of the lie doesn’t fix it. I have to fight back moment-by-moment. I can’t simply say, “I see you in the corners of my mind, Mr. Lie,” and then walk away. I have to pick up a sword and start swinging, and keep swinging, and when that ugly lie rears its head again I have to swing some more.
 
One of the more powerful and effective weapons to win the war is to remember the plight of those living in nations oppressed and wartorn. When I see the images of children walking among tents because their homes have been overtaken by militants I am reminded of how much I have. Then I get to tuck my children into their safe, warm beds with filled tummies and two parents watching over their welfare. These are the moments that I am so overcome with gratitude for all that I already have that I can choose to be satisfied and give out of my abundance.
 
Side note: it’s tempting to feel false guilt when we remember the plight of those oppressed and wartorn. It’s tempting to feel guilty for the blessings and resources we already have. But that’s not what should happen either. God does not give blessings with a side of guilt. He gives generously, and we can fully receive the gifts that He has given to us with full, glad, and sincere hearts.
 
However, we are to hold with open hands the bountiful resources we have, even if the bank account doesn’t have a surplus. We can choose to not believe the lie that marketers want us to believe. We can be satisfied. Our appetite for more can be satiated by embracing the fullness of life given in Jesus, whose kingdom will not be thwarted, altered, or overthrown. Because of His coming, our broken cistern-hearts have been fully mended and are capable of holding onto authentic joy, gratitude, and satisfaction.
 
So this week, as you tie bows on packages, check off those final names from your list, and enjoy delicious meals around tables, drink deep. Take it all in. Refuse to believe the lie that you must have more. Christ has come for us. This fact means that we do not have to forego fullness, satisfaction, and joy, but instead can embrace and receive them.
 Rest. Be Merry. Be bright.
 
 
Run Hard. Love Strong.
Haley