The Poison Of Comparison

Does anyone else struggle with comparing themselves to others? Goodness knows that I have fallen into that pit more than once! I have looked at some person that I admire (usually someone that I do not know well, if at all), and wonder why I can’t be like them. Why can’t I be that attractive? That smart? That inspiring? That loving? That successful? That strong? That “put together?”

I hope that you are encouraged; there is comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There is even more comfort in knowing that you don’t have to forfeit your deep-seated peace and happiness to the comparison game any longer.

It’s time to jump out of the comparison rat wheel.

Recently, I felt the gentle nudging of God reminding me to run my race. Run to win. Run hard. Running to win requires focus on the path in front of me. If I were running a road race, my focus could not be on any other person if I expected to run well. Horses running races have blinders put next to their eyes to block out distractions.

We need some blinders!

When we focus on what we think we lack in comparison to others, we lose all perspective of what we have. We become depressed, and obsessed with idolizing another person in our mind, rather than praising the perfect God that formed us uniquely (He calls us His masterpiece, by the way. We aren’t an etch-of-sketch drawing; we are wondrous marvels of creation!). When we idolize others, we place them on a pedestal, and an unrealistic one might I add.

When I compare myself to another person, ruthlessly judging myself against them, I am not loving them. I am unfairly expecting them to live up to my expectations of who I think they are. I do not allow that person to be real. They need grace too.

The people that I idolize and measure myself against are imperfect, sometimes selfish, not always dressed up, and yes, they too struggle in marriage and other relationships. They get stressed, they fall short. They very well may be looking to jump off of the comparison rat wheel too!

Comparing ourselves to others is emotional suicide. We forfeit the fight for true peace and Comparisonhappiness by throwing away our God-given value. The enemy of our souls rages against us and robs us of all joy by whispering that seductive lie: “If you were only like HER, you would be happy, content, joyful. If your husband/wife looked like THAT. If you had THAT talent. If you had THAT personality. If you had THIS many facebook friends. If you held THAT title, or made THAT much money then life would be good.”

Dear friend, hear me now: let’s put down the vile of poison. Let’s put up our spiritual blinders and run the race set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith.

Peter compared himself to John. He saw the disciple that Jesus loved, and after all that Jesus had done to restore Peter personally, still asked Jesus, “Well, what about that guy? Why can’t I do what he is doing.” Jesus, direct as He is, cut to the chase. He looked at Peter and said, “Don’t worry about him. YOU follow me.”

That is our call. YOU (me) follow Him. Today. Now.

Scripture reminds us that we are equipped for everything that God has for us. We have been given everything for life and godliness. Seek the shelter of the Good Shepherd that fights off our enemy that steals, kills, and destroys life and joy. Claim what has been given to you in Christ, and know that you are uniquely and wonderfully made.

Let us pray for hearts that understand what Christ has accomplished for us. Let us look to Him and stand in awe at who HE is, rather than the life of another fallible person. Let us be amazed that He is intimately involved in our lives. He loves us! THAT is truly worthy of gratitude and self-acceptance. Let us pray for understanding of what this means so that we are no longer tempted to be ungrateful for the lives that we as individuals have been given, or to idolize the imperfect lives of others.

Be encouraged. Your life is precious and unique. Own that truth today.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

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The Connection Between Carpe Diem and Your Happiness

I turn thirty this yeaquotescover-JPG-36r. It’s not “old” by any means, but I’m still taken aback that “thirty” is upon me. It seemed so far away when I was in college, and yet here I am.

Three decades of living, and I can still smell the leaves on the tree that held up my tire swing. I remember the taste of watermelon by the pool, and the smell of Georgia summer nights, lit up by the twinkle of fireflies. Some days I feel like I’m fresh out of high school or college; I can remember those days so vividly that it seems impossible that 10 years have passed.

Alanis Morissette famously wrote the lyrics, “I have no concept of time other than it is flying.” I think of that line so often these days. Time is flying by, and there is nothing that I can do to slow it down. The best that I can do is to savor it all: the sweet, the bitter, and everything in between.

This series has been all about becoming healthier, happier people. One terrible habit that hinders our progress is wishing away our days. Are you as guilty of it as I am? When work is draining and unsatisfying, when the hours are long, when we are tired, when kids are screaming, the house is a mess, when you’re waiting on a promotion, or a big move, or something “bigger and better” it is too easy to fall into the trap of wishing away our days.

The really tragic thing is that if we don’t intentionally break the habit of wishing for what’s next at the expense of today, we will never really live fulfilling lives. Eventually the hourglass will run out, and we will be left grasping at the wind for the times we wish we could relive. We will have lived an entire beautiful lifetime, and we will have squandered it by wishing it away one day at a time.

In my last post I opened up to you about my past struggle with anxiety and panic. I look back on my journey of healing with joy, not because it was easy. It was brutal. I had to face my worst nightmares as though they were my reality, and I had to go into the darkness with the Lord for Him to lead me out to true freedom. But I walked away with the gift of a greater desire and stronger resolve to live today. I want to taste my coffee, and sing along to the music. I want to look my son in his beautiful blue eyes and to soak up each moment that I have with him. I want to tell my husband that in spite of everything we have been through, he is my hero.

To be sure, there is nothing like facing the reality of life’s frailty to appreciate that tomorrow is not guaranteed. It took me believing that my tomorrow’s were gone for me to stop wishing away my todays.

Dear friends, I urge you out of a deep desire for your health and vibrancy to take a deep breath and to find the beauty in your life today.

I realize that some of you are facing battles that I can’t even comprehend. You are in the thick of a war that seems impossible, and every part of you is screaming that you just want out; you just want the pain to be over. Oh, friend, I wish that I could look you in the eye and tell you face-to-face to hold on. I would tell you that you are not alone, and that one day the pain will be but a memory.

Soon after I had given my life to Jesus, one of my dear friends, and author of www.holymisfit.com, made me a CD that included a song by LaRue called “One White Tulip.” I still have the CD, and still cherish that particular song. I will let the lyrics speak for themselves:

I was just thinking
About how time flies
And that we’re all drifting
Like clouds in the sky
And you have always been there
And now we have all changed

And it’s been one Beautiful life

I was just wondering
On how to recall
The wonderful memories
And how they all fall into place,
Like the smile on your face
Like the kisses and the tears that we’ve shared

It’s been one beautiful life
And I know it’s tasted it’s trials
It’s been one beautiful life
And I know it’s tasted it’s trials

And it’s not over
It’s only begun

We’ve always been different
But never alone
Like one white tulip
That stands on it’s own
And you will always be here
And we will stay the same

It’s been one beautiful life
And I know it’s tasted it’s trials

Join me today in resolving to no longer wish away life this side of Heaven, hoping for whatever is next. Breathe deep. Feel the moments. Continue with me as we “do life” together, all the while seeking to grow into a vibrant group of people living life becoming who we were made to be. Living life beautifully.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

The Truth About My Struggle With Anxiety

I have a confession to make (I can’t believe I’m telling you this). For the last year or so, my guilty pleasure has been watching One Tree Hill on Netflix. There are lots of themes that I appreciate about the show: redemption, reconciliation, and great music to name a few (I am actually listening to a radio station that is based on music from the show right now. “Run” by Snow Patrol is currently playing).

As I was planning this series, I knew that there would come a point when I would have to really expose myself and be very vulnerable in order to be effective. That day has come. Before I go further, check out this short clip from the final season of One Tree Hill to set the stage for the next part of our journey to becoming healthier, happier people:

Clay had experienced an incredibly traumatic event when his wife passed away. Years later, the effects were still haunting him (although he couldn’t see that). To him, he just had a sleeping problem that a few pills would solve. Something in him was either too afraid to acknowledge that he needed more help than he could give himself, or too afraid to uncover what the real issues were for fear of what he might discover. Later in the season, his counselor tells him that he “has to go back in order to leave it behind.”

In order to grow healthier and stronger, there are times when we must acknowledge that we need professional help. If our bodies are sick, we do not hesitate to call a doctor, but for some reason if our minds are sick, we ignore it and try to tuck it away. Maybe we are afraid of what others will think. Maybe we are afraid that if the people that love us really knew what was underneath the “I’m trying to keep it all together” smile, they would leave. The truth is that if we don’t own up to real issues, and seek the proper help for them, we are perpetuating the damage, and we are in fact hurting the people that we are so afraid will leave. If we are not healthy, we cannot offer our loved ones ourselves.

I believe that the best art comes out of an artist’s personal story: their joys, their pains, and all that has made them who they are (cue Brandi Carlile’s incredibly powerful song, “The Story”). So, dear friend, I want be raw and honest with you. Today’s topic comes out of tremendous healing that I have personally experienced in my life, and that I so deeply desire for others to experience as well.

A few years ago, my husband and I put our son to bed and then sat down on the couch to watch a tv sci-fi/mystery/crime show that we had recently gotten into. The show had never bothered me, but something in the plot line that night hit a trigger button that I had ignored for months. Suddenly my heart started pounding, I started sweating, shaking, and crying.

I had a full-on panic attack, and was suddenly thrown into a journey that was dark, ugly, and very long.  But it was absolutely necessary. There was so much baggage hiding in my closet that I had continued to pack down for years. The warning signs were there: I had become increasingly afraid of the world that we live in, irritable, distant in relationships, guarded, and more. But it took having a major panic attack, weeks of being unable to sleep, nightmares, and obscene levels of irrational fear for me to be willing to seek help through professional counseling.

I believe that there is a place for needing medication to assist with some mental well-being situations. In my particular situation, however, I wanted to combat my sickness without any medication unless a doctor found it absolutely necessary. I committed to attending my counseling sessions as scheduled, and doing my part outside of appointments to get out of the pit I had found myself in.

I want to emphasize something here that is absolutely essential: mental and emotional healing require being brave enough to look at the real issues in the face and fight back. We must be willing to face the fear, feel the fear, and move forward anyway. Baggage has to be unpacked that is dirty, filthy, scary, and even debilitating. The journey of mental and emotional well-being can (and most likely will) get messier before it gets better.

I had to reach a place where the pain of healing was less than the pain of staying the same. I was already living in what felt like my worst nightmare, so I was finally willing to unpack the “junk” in my heart that I was so afraid to face. It took me two years of intentional, intensive counseling to finally see the sun again in my spirit. With the help of a skilled counselor, and pressing hard into the Lord–our Creator and Healer–I was able to walk away with an entire toolbox to fight back against the fear, against the anxiety, against the panic.

And today, I am still living free.

As the video I shared above shows, there is a huge stigma about professional counseling. Most of us would prefer to be physically sick, with tangible reasons why we are broken than to acknowledge that there are some illnesses that are not fixed with physical means. I’m here to say that there is no shame in asking for help. Athletes don’t apologize for needing a coach to help them. Physically ill people don’t feel shame for needing a doctor. There is no shame in accepting help when some issues are too big to deal with alone.

If the weight of your world is unbearably heavy, and you feel yourself sinking, please don’t ignore the warning signs. Seek out a licensed counselor that shares your values and faith, that you feel comfortable talking to, and that has a track record of effective treatment.

 

Run Hard. Love Strong.

~Haley~

Fight for Freedom.

I’m writing this post on Monday, January 19. Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and all day I have been deep in thought about his legacy. When I consider how he fought injustice with such courage, compassion, and love I can’t help but be moved.

And broken. Broken that oppression is still a very real struggle for entire people-groups. Broken that each one of us is wounded, and capable of wounding others. Broken that none of us are exempt from the painful effects of hatred and selfishness in our world.

But we are not broken without hope.

Today,  I want to look at how to be free people. Our souls are set free through radical forgiveness. It is in that freedom that we become the people we are aiming to be. It might not be pretty, but stick with me. We must first feel the weight in order for the chains to be broken.

Dr. John Perkins is an African American author, teacher, civil rights leader, and Christ-follower. He was born in 1930 in Mississippi, and at the age of 17 his brother was murdered at the hands of a local marshal. He experienced first-hand the abuse and oppression black people endured when Dr. King was marching in peaceful protest. He became a Christian in 1957. It was then that a man who should have been filled with unimaginable hatred, hurt, and anger was changed by radical grace.

Dr. Perkins has since fought for justice through love, forgiveness, and a deep dependence on the Screenshot 2015-01-19 21.28.41Holy Spirit of God to breathe into him, and to reign down justice. You can read Dr. Perkins’ story in his autobiography, Let Justice Roll Down.

The thing that has gripped my heart with such force is the intensity of Dr. Perkins’ forgiveness. He fought not only for civil rights, and social justice for blacks, but also for whites to be set free from their own hatred and self-destruction bound up in their racism. Dr. Perkins’ saw past his own pain, and saw the pain of all of humanity trapped in sin.

Forgiveness is a powerful force capable of destroying calloused hatred and apathy. Forgiveness is fighting a broken world, and individual broken hearts with active love and compassion. Each one of us, dear friend, needs to both receive and to offer forgiveness if we are to be truly free.

The thing that Dr. Perkins learned that many of us don’t want to acknowledge is that forgiveness hurts. True forgiveness comes at a high cost. When we forgive, we forfeit our own hatred in exchange for our oppressors’ freedom. We give up the right to punish someone else at the cost of our pride, our wrath, and the risk of our own emotional pain. Dr. Perkins once said that “for repentance and forgiveness to work in my life, God had to see me through months of agony and pain.” It wasn’t a quick decision that felt good; it took time. He wrestled with the Lord through bloody wounds. He continues on to say, “The Spirit of God kept working on me and in me until I could say with Jesus, ‘I forgive them too.’”

Dr. Perkins’ story is a powerful one, and it is one that we all need if we are truly going to become the healthy, happy people that we are aiming to become together. And like Dr. Perkins, our ability to forgive must first start with being forgiven.

Jesus came into this world 2000 years ago, taking on the form of mankind, and lived a perfect life. He was beaten, He was spat upon, He was hated and reviled, and ultimately He was crucified—nailed to a cross, a crown of thorns digging into his skull. He could have called down a legion of angels to rescue Him, but instead He gave the soldiers swinging hammers the breath to keep going.

And for what? For forgiveness. For me. For the parts of me that I am so ashamed of that there have been times when I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.

For you. For those things that make your stomach turn when you think about them.

It’s all been paid for. Our freedom has been purchased at a high cost by the Maker of the Heavens that says we are worth it.

Once we have truly accepted that we have been set free and are forgiven, we can learn to forgive those that have caused us the most hurt. I don’t say that lightly; believe me, if we could sit across the table from each other, I would share with you the times that I have been so broken by others that I could not see straight. But I would go on to tell you that fighting to forgive them in response to being forgiven myself has set me free. It is for freedom that Jesus has set us free.

True happiness can only be found when we live as free people. Free people accept that their debt has been paid. Free people fight to forgive others, regardless of the offense. It is a fight. But “John Perkins said it right: ‘Love is the final fight.'” As you go into the rest of your day, take three minutes and enjoy the video below:

Run Hard. Love Strong .

~Haley~

4 Ways To Take Back Your Time

The last few posts I have written about reducing chronic stress and cultivating greater margin in our lives. Part of the problem is our constant intake of data and information, which is why it is critical that we monitor our use of modern technological conveniences to ensure that they remain tools rather than controlling forces of our lives. Have you tried any of the tips I suggested? Did they help?

Today we are going to talk about budgeting time. Wise financial management means telling your money where to go, not looking back and wondering where it went. Wise time management functions the same way.

I’m a driven person. I thrive when I’m busy, when I have a to-do list, and when I feel like I am contributing to something meaningful. But I’m a “busy junky.” I get caught up in the momentum of constant activity, and suddenly find myself out of control of my time and quickly burning out. I get stressed, tired, overwhelmed, snippy, short-fused, and I lose sight of my priorities.

Any of those symptoms sound familiar to you?

Maybe you have a laundry list of New Year’s Resolutions. Most of those resolutions probably involve some kind of time commitment. I’d like to propose an additional resolution: instead of adding more activity to the calendar, what if you strategically added more space? More time? More room for when things aren’t going according to plan, more rest, more intentionally saying, “No,” to overload, and, “Yes,” to margin?

Here are a few ways to invest into your time bank. The rewards of having increased energy, enhanced moods, and deeper relationships will pay off! Try these, and share your own tips by leaving a comment below:

1. Identify your time wasters and work to keep those at a minimum. 

Are you on Facebook too much? Are you like me and get stuck reading articles on Huffington Post and seemingly can’t stop? Do you oversleep…every single day? As I mentioned in my previous post, if you cut out 30 minutes of one time waster every day, over the course of one year you will have banked a full week—178 hours—of time!

2. Once you’ve identified the time wasters, invest in the right use of your time.

Time is currency that we all spend. It’s either wasted or it’s invested. Choose to be a wise investor of your time. Over the course of a few days or weeks ask God what His priorities for your life are. What are your few (key word: few) areas of strategic focus? Write those down. Seek counsel from your trusted community that you’ve been working on developing (see Part 2: Fight the Battle of Loneliness), and ask for their insight (Proverbs 24:6 says there is safety in seeking wise counsel).  As you are presented with opportunities, weigh them against your priorities. Schedule events and activities (or don’t) accordingly.

3. Exercise  your “no” muscle.

People who use their time well have realized that the word “no” is not a dirty word. It’s not an offensive word. It is a healthy term used to establish a boundary, and apart from learning how to say “no” to those things that don’t fit within the priorities that you have processed with the Lord, you will not have the energy or enthusiasm to say “Yes” to the best things.

4. Plan for nothing. 

 When my husband, Adam, and I find that we are starting to spiral out of control with our calendar commitments, we plan “nothing” weekends. We block off a sacred chunk of time to intentionally have nothing planned or scheduled. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to have these times periodically marked out. I encourage you to try it!

Are you enjoying this journey? I sure am! Be sure to like, share, and invite others to join us along the way! Stay tuned: next week we are going to dive deeper into some major heart issues. I look forward to continuing to walk with you as we seek to become healthier, happier people.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

6 Ways To Beat Your Tech Addiction

I have a confession to make. The only way that I remember how to correctly spell and use the words “desert” and “dessert” is to remember a cross-stitched pillow I saw on a couch one time that read, “Stressed is dessert spelled backwards.” There you have it folks. My secret to correct spelling and grammar is a cross-stitched pillow.

Now that I’ve lost all credibility as a writer, let’s talk about a different word on that pillow: stress. It’s January 13. We just started 2015 about two weeks ago. Are Woody and Buzz stressedyou worn out yet? Stretched thin? Working too much? Moving non-stop? Giving, giving, giving, and seemingly never getting what you need? Then this week’s posts are for you.

How do we reduce chronic stress in order to become healthier, happier people? Notice I said chronic stress. We want to focus on the stress that never lets up, even when the deadline passes, the project ends, the party is over…lifestyle stress. This week we are going to deal with the importance of cultivating margin in our lives. Today is all about getting a grip on technology.

Modern technology is absolutely incredible. The advances we have seen in just our lifetime alone are enough to boggle our minds! I remember being so excited to buy my first cell phone fifteen years ago. Remember this bad boy?

Nokia 6110

That’s right. That’s the Nokia 6110 phone. I thought I had reached “cool kid” status when I got that phone with my prepaid minutes plan. I never could have imagined that in just a few short years I would be able to text, take pictures, have a navigation system, check email, and so much more on a smart phone. I’ve found myself more often wishing I could have that phone again.

(Hash)Tag on the advent of social media, and it’s no wonder we move at light speed! We have access to nearly endless information at our fingertips. We can stay in touch with more people than generations before us simply because of Facebook newsfeed. I can easily access what at least 30 of my friends had for lunch today, who has a birthday (by the way, I do love that function! I’m notoriously terrible at remembering birthdays), and so much more.

We have a lot to be thankful for. But our blessings of information and access can quickly cause our demise if we do not intentionally and strategically establish boundaries that protect our time, and protect our minds from overload (I’m sure I’m not the only one that has had the “my brain feels like mush” meltdown at the end of the week after being constantly available to the world around me, right?).

Here are a few practical tips to regain control of your time, your mental focus, and your information intake:

1. Put your phone away during meal times.

Savor your meal. Enjoy the company around you. Look an actual person in the eye. Read a book if you’re dining solo.

2. Use that fabulous little “do not disturb” feature on your phone. 

I had no idea that this function existed until a few months ago, but once I Do Not Distburbdiscovered it’s awesome powers, I have not looked back! If you want to listen to music from your phone, but you just want some time to detach from being connected you can press this little button to send calls to voicemails and to hold text messages until you turn the function off.

3. Delete email applications from your phone. 

I am a creature of habit. I have developed muscle memory that naturally scrolls to my email inbox when I touch my phone, even if it’s a weekend, a holiday, or if I’m on vacation. I can’t simply tell myself, “No. Don’t open your inbox.” I have to go cold turkey if I’m really going to enjoy my vacations, so I have been known to completely delete email from my phone, and then re-download once I’m back “on the grid.” Try it. It works.

4. Take a real break. 

Take a Saturday morning, leave your phone somewhere far away from your person, and get a cup of coffee. Turn on your favorite music, and just sit there. Just sit. For 15 minutes do nothing. Breathe deep, take in the moment, and sit still. Take time each week to consciously rest and do nothing but enjoy the moment.

5. Turn off anything with a screen. 

Turn off the TV, the computer, the iPad, the telephone, and anything else with a screen.  If you cut just thirty minutes of screen time each day, in the course of a year you will have gained an extra 7 DAYS of time to fill! Cutting an hour of screen time each day yields TWO WEEKS of freed up time. What could you do with that?

6. Try a media fast. 

Whether you take one to two weeks to unplug and disconnect from social media, TV, or anything else that has started controlling you, or whether you make it a weekly routine to take a day or two “off,” I encourage you to regularly take time away. Just because people can access your profile 24/7 doesn’t mean that you personally have to be available at all times.

I want to hear from you! How can you tell when you are overloaded with information and need a break? What do you do to ensure that technology remains a tool in your life, and not a controlling force?

Run Hard. Love Strong.

~Haley

5 Ways To Fight Loneliness

Tuesday was one of those days. Like, one of those “ugly cry” kind of days. My husband called me on his way home from work, and I fell apart. Maybe it’s lonelypregnancy hormones (have I mentioned that I’m expecting baby #2? Well…I am, and I’m excited, but I’m also a hormonal mess some days…). I just felt so…alone. This is a blog about becoming authentically happy, healthy people. Is it okay for me to admit that yesterday I didn’t feel happy? Pull up a chair and a cinnamon spice latte and let’s chat.

Do you remember in my last entry when I said that we were going to talk more about intentionally investing in community with other people? It is a critical branch to the proverbial “tree of happiness” that we are aiming to become. Our security and the root of authentic happiness, joy, and contentment is rooted in the unchanging God that made us and loves us. But soon after God created man, He declared that it was not good for man to be alone (see Genesis chapter 2 for the whole scoop).

In college it was so easy to be in community with people. I lived in an all-girl dorm, and so more often than not there was some kind of social event happening, some group of people to be with, etc. My roommate, Rachel, and I got along really well and built a great friendship and still keep in touch. But I wasn’t prepared for post-college, adult, real-world friendships.

Maybe adults in my life at the time warned me, but I wasn’t prepared for friendship to become hard.  Real life hit, and suddenly it became much more challenging to have time for friends. Work, family, chores, errands…sometimes it’s all I can do to brush my teeth, let alone have meaningful time with other grown ups! Can I get a witness? But it’s important. Hear me: in order to be truly healthy people, we need to be intentionally invested in developing relationships with other people.We all need a safety net when “life happens.” We need people to celebrate our greatest joys with us, and to surround us in our deepest hurts.

So back to Tuesday. I was a hot mess. But it was Tuesday, which meant that in the evening I would get to be surrounding by some of the most accepting, loFriendship handsving, compassionate, gracious, hilarious people that I know; Tuesday night is Life Group night. It was such a relief to be surrounded by people that I have grown to trust with the most hurt, most raw parts of my heart and to look them in the eyes and say, “Man, today was rough.” Without blinking, those people just loved me, prayed for me, and said, “We’re with you.”

We live in a world full of people, and most of them feel alone. I’ve personally felt so alone at times that it drove me to really dark places that I never want to go back to. Most of us fear being rejected, fear being abandoned, fear being manipulated, or abused, or worse. But in order to truly break free, we have to fight the battle of loneliness, and “go all in” for the rewards of living in community with other people.

What are some ways that busy, tired adults can move beyond superficial relationships, and move into meaningful, supportive, safe friendships? Feel free to comment and share your own experiences and suggestions for other readers, and let’s have a conversation! Here a few suggestions that have helped me tremendously over the last few years to cultivate authentic, trusting relationships:

1. Commit to being the type of friend that you want to have.

A few years ago, Tim McGraw released his ballad “Live Like You Were Dying.” In it, a dying man says that if he could do his life all over again, he would be the type of friend that a friend would like to have. Whatever you think of Tim McGraw’s music, the man has a great point! Are we sitting around expecting from other people what we aren’t willing to give of ourselves?

2. Make the time. 

Like most things in adulthood, we will never have enough time; we have to make the time. Invite someone over for dinner (I’m a firm believer that food is one of the best ways to build relationships. Break the ice while breaking the bread!). Once a week use your lunch break to make a phone call. Creativity might be needed, but the sacrifice produces incredible dividends!

3. Be available.

We live very scheduled, hyper-structured lives. Coming up in this series we are going to discuss building margin into our days in order to allow for the unexpected (I’m really excited about that conversation, by the way). If you really want meaningful relationships, you have to be open to the reality that some of the most important events in people’s lives are unscripted, unscheduled, and unexpected. Plan to be inconvenienced, but it is worth it.

4. Learn to be a great listener. 

We have all had those friends who tap on the table, anxiously waiting to tell us all about their most recent events, while we are sharing the joys and hurts of our own lives. It’s irritating, isn’t it? Let’s break that cycle and cultivate listening ears and hearts. Are we really interested in our friends enough to lay aside our personal agendas in order to hear them, support them, and let them know that they are not alone? Trust me. This is one attribute that you want in a friend, so for the love of friendships everywhere, be willing to develop this in yourself too.

5. The little things matter. 

Simple, thoughtful gestures can be the difference between a Facebook friend, and a meaningful friend that really “does life” alongside of you. A quick text or email offering sincere encouragement, remembering a birthday or major milestone, really being happy for their successes, or taking a cup of coffee to their office on a rough day…those kinds of things add up!

What about you? What means the most to you in a friendship? How do you battle loneliness in your own life? Let’s talk!

Want To Be Happy? Start Here.

Happiness. That word sometimes feels like a dangling carrot, doesn’t it? We all want it. Marketing is driven by telling us how to buy it. Media is driven by telling us how to look like it. Anyone who has ever lamented with John Mayer singing his song “Something’s Missing,” or Kid Rock singing “Only God Knows Why” can tell you that our temporary fixes are not working.

Is lasting happiness even real? Or is it just another elusive fairytale that teases us from time to time, and then slips away again?

Yes. It is real. And over the next five weeks we are going to explore how we can actually become happy people, as well as many different “branches” of what that means. Today, we are going to focus on the root issue.

Fleeting happiness is rooted in experiences, attaining success and/or wealth, and So You Want To Be Happy Image 2positive circumstances. By contrast, lasting, sustainable happiness is a state of mind that is experienced when we are rooted in peaceful contentment, regardless of our circumstance or achievements. That kind of happiness can only come when our roots are planted in the right soil. If we don’t have healthy roots that are pressing into healthy soil, focusing on healthy branches is futile.

Just like trees must have roots that are buried deep in healthy, nutrient-rich soil, we need to be connected to our life source, constantly pressing our roots deeper in order to survive and thrive. We were created by an infinitely amazing God that invites us into relationship with Him, no matter who we are or what we have done. Throughout the Bible we see that God didn’t just create us, and then leave us to let us be on our own; He created us to know Him, and to sustain us in a loving relationship with Himself.

So how do we dig our roots deeper into our life source in order to truly experience lasting happiness that transcends circumstances, levels of success, amounts of wealth, and fleeting experiences?

In his best-selling book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan says, “We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.” I’d like to offer a few practical ways to intentionally pursue depth, growth, and life:

1. We need to acknowledge our need and desire for true, lasting happiness. 

We start by first opening up the conversation. We simply confess to God               openly that we are desperately broken, and in need of Him and the life He offers us through His son Jesus. We must admit and acknowledge our true need, and that we too often look to fill it with the wrong things. Only God can satisfy the hunger of our souls.

2. Be Intentional About Cultivating A Deep Relationship With God.

Just like dating, simply saying, “Hello,” to someone isn’t enough to cultivate a deep, meaningful relationship. It takes time and intentional effort to really know someone. It’s like that with Jesus. Truly following Jesus does not stop at acknowledging our brokenness and asking for forgiveness and new life; that’s where it starts. Take time daily to open your Bible and slowly read the words that God has spoken to us. Put it to the test; God’s Word is alive and active, and when we encounter His presence, we can’t help but be changed.

*If this is all new to you, here’s a simple study plan that I use each day: 1 chapter from Psalms, 1 chapter of Proverbs (there’s one for each day of the month, so you can read Proverbs 12 times in a year!), and one to two chapters from another book of the Bible (I recommend starting with the book of John, then Romans).*

3. Plug into authentic community with other Christ-Followers.

Find and cultivate community among other Christ-followers. I cannot stress the importance of living life in community, whether that’s through plugging into a church, or a local Bible study; we are sharpened in our relationships with others. (We are going to look more at this topic in this series, but for now simply know it is vital).

4. Document your personal story. 

Keep a journal of some kind. No matter where you are in your journey, your life will not suddenly be perfect when you choose to turn to Jesus. There will still be hard days, and there will be days when you wonder if it’s worth it. I have huge storage bins full of journals that I have kept over the last 12 years that I have walked with Jesus, and when I feel discouraged or full of doubt I look over those journals and see God’s faithfulness throughout my life. It’s like an energy drink that reminds us that even when we can’t see, God is with us and is for us.

5. Be patient with yourself.

We are discussing deep, abiding happiness and contentment, not perfection. The goal is not to be perfect, but to be deeply rooted in The Perfect One, knowing that our security lies in God who never changes, and not in our circumstances or fickle emotions.

Now that we have addressed the root of true and lasting happiness, join me for the next five weeks to discuss supplemental elements to becoming happy people. We are going to look at a wide variety of topics including relationships (both platonic and romantic), health and nutrition, money management, building margin in our days to avoid burnout, and more.

I hope that you will continue on this journey with me. Invite your friends. Share, subscribe, repost, pin, and let’s become a richly sustainable, authentically happy group of people…together.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

~Haley~

Going Deeper:

Watch:

Living With Joy, message by Francis Chan

Listen:

“You Invite Me In” by Meredith Andrews

“Afterlife” by Switchfoot

“You Are My Joy” by The David Crowder Band

Read:

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

New Year. New Journey. Let’s go!

It’s January 1, and as promised, we are going to set out on a new journey. I’m glad that you’re here, and I hope that you will continue along with me!

I can look back on the last decade of my life and tell you that I am not who I was “back then.” Are you? Probably not. We are created as dynamic beings; we are becoming something. The question is hand-holding-plant-ftrnot are we changing, but instead how are we changing? Are we becoming more bitter and resentful because of past wounds, or are we becoming more gracious and forgiving?Are we becoming more complacent, or are we becoming more intentional?  Are we becoming more afraid, or are we becoming more free?

I’d be willing to bet that none of you are looking to become more cynical, more hateful, more terrified of what this world can throw at you. If you’re like me, you want to become someone brave, someone kind, someone selfless, someone that leaves a mark on this world for the better. If you’re like me, sometimes you just don’t know where to start, or how to escape the slavery of all that is terribly wrong in order to be truly liberated and free to be what we were made to become.

So, if you’re eager for authenticity, if you are ready to grow, if you are ready to move forward, if you like obscure song lyrics that inspire your soul, and if you like quirky jokes that might, if we were face-to-face, at least gain a courtesy laugh out of you, then this blog is for you. You can look forward to bi-weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, all centered around becoming who we were made to be.

We are going to dive in together next Tuesday on a series focused on happiness. What is it? Is it real? Why are so many people unhappy, unfulfilled, disillusioned, and obviously missing it? Join me next Tuesday for So You Want To Be Happy? part 1. Invite your friends to join you for the ride, subscribe for email updates on the right-hand side of your screen, and let’s move forward…together.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

~Haley

Going Deeper. Check out these resources:

Watch and Listen: Brandon Heath, “I’m Not Who I Was” 

Read: The Complete Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford