Get low. Get free.

The beginning of 2017 started with me praying a simple prayer, “God, teach me how to love. How to really love.”

Learning to love means learning to get low. Choosing to serve. Choosing anonymity. Choosing to stop evaluating the value of work based on applause or approval. Choosing to do small things with great love for the people around me.

All my life I have felt a tremendous amount of pressure to excel. I have spent my days striving to be acceptable and pleasing.

That life is exhausting, and has left my soul tired. In my search for the approval and adoration of others, I have been chasing after a mirage in a desert, never arriving, all the while getting thirstier and thirstier.

Chasing satisfaction in the praise of people will always leave us thirsty; we are wasting our energy chasing after something that isn’t even real! We buy into the lie that apart from the praise and adoration of people we are invaluable, unloveable, and invisible.

I place my identify far too often in what I do instead of whose I am. But I am learning that there is tremendous freedom when I let go of the need to earn my place.

The reality is that I am not enough. I will never be enough. But Jesus is enough for me. His enoughness is all I need, and in Him is the freedom to stop striving.

When we stop long enough to look to Jesus and ask Him to satisfy us with His enoughness, we can stop chasing desert mirages and experience rich satisfaction and healthy souls. It is in this place that we experience the freedom to embrace who we are simply because He calls us His.

Out of our satisfaction we begin to learn what real love and service are.

We can rest when we stop trying to earn our place. We can experience the fullness of peace God promises when we accept that He really does mean it when He says that we don’t have to earn His favor or love. We can start to enjoy our work when we don’t tie our worth to it.

Living low allows us to find tremendous fulfillment and joy in both the mundane and the extraordinary. Whether scrubbing dishes, changing diapers, working in a cubicle, or  speaking in front of thousands, we can fully embrace our moments with gratitude and a heart full of love because our activity does not define our value or worth.

We can be free to serve without recognition, and we can accept recognition with humility.

I’m learning that living low is the only real way to be satisfied. On my own I will never be enough, but Jesus is enough for me. He is enough for you. He is enough for us.

Get low. Live low. Stay low. That is where rich life, and soul satisfaction are found.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Rejoice, weary world. Rejoice, my weary heart.

My soul is weary. I’m so tired of being heartbroken by what is happening around the world. I’m tired of being sad. I’m tired of being scared, and feeling guilty for being scared because it means I don’t trust God…right? Or is it ok to feel scared of all the horrible things that seem to be hitting closer and closer to home? I don’t know.

I just know that I feel increasingly out of control of everything, especially the safety of my family. Everything from people texting and driving to ISIS has me on high alert these days.

I don’t want to become suspicious of people. I want to have deep compassion and love them. I don’t want to be scared. I don’t want to question if everything that I believe is real or not. I want to have unshakeable faith that looks fear in the face and shouts, “This world is not my home! You can hurt my body, but you cannot have my soul!”

But I’ve got questions, and lately it’s been really hard to combat them.

And I’m weary. Oh so weary.

But then I look to my right, and I see a beautiful 8 foot Christmas tree with white and colored lights. We’ve always had white lights, but this year my oldest son wanted to add color. I’m glad. It was a good choice. It’s a happy tree. And it’s a tree that reminds me that it’s Christmas time. And Christmas means remembering my Savior.

My righteous King.

My King that rules with justice and compassion.

My King that promises that while we will experience pain, it will not last forever and one day the wrongs will all be made right. He sees what is happening, and He is hurt by it. But He is patient, and one day He will make it all right again.

My King that is strong and brave, and meek and humble.

My King who whispered my name 13 years ago, and called me to real life; who knows my name, and who loves me beyond measure.

My King who came, and who knew suffering, pain, and willingly endured the cross for me. For you. For ISIS combatants. For us all that we would be set free from the fear of death.

My King who conquered death once and for all in victory.

This season my weary soul rejoices at the thrill of hope found in King Jesus. He has come for us.

May this season strengthen us all to fix our eyes on Him; to run hard, and to love strong.

Merry Christmas, indeed.

My Anger Isn’t God’s Fault

I don’t cry often. When life is challenging I generally default to anger. On the fight-or-flight spectrum, I certainly lean far to the “fight” side. When my life feels out of control, and nothing seems to be going my way, I fight for control and I usually wind up feeling exhausted, defeated, and angry.

Friends, can I be bare and candid with you? That’s what I have been recently. Angry.

There have been so many life changes in the last year that my head is spinning. Lack of sleep compiled with even more changes in the last six weeks have thrown me into a desperate attempt to somehow regain control. In my futile efforts, I have been angry…a lot. And in my anger I’ve been short-tempered, rude, and sometimes downright mean to the people that matter most to me.

I’ve been asking God to make me feel better; to take away my angry feelings. I’ve been asking God to show up and remind me that He’s with me, and to show me some glimmer of hope that He hasn’t forgotten my plight; that He sees, and hears, and cares, and is working.

But secretly I’ve been blaming God for my feelings. I’ve bought into the lie that He is the cosmic-kill joy and has left me alone in my anger without care or compassion.

I’ve been begging God to fix the circumstances in my life that I’m so frustrated by.

During my time pouring over God’s word, Ephesians 4:31-32 struck me like a knife:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It turns out that God doesn’t want to fix my circumstances as much as He wants to fix my heart, and that I have a responsibility to choose how I react when I don’t like what’s going on.

God is a gentleman. And like a parent observing their child throwing a temper tantrum, God has been with me, allowing me to throw my tantrum. All the while, He’s been waiting for me to let go of the anger. He didn’t make me feel this way. I’m a sinner. I’m capable of terrible things, and hurting people, and hurting myself, and running away from the God I love dearly.

This morning, He quietly stepped in my space and told me, “I have not made you feel this way. You have been choosing to hold onto it.”

Reality check. A harsh one. A needed one.

God’s discipline and correction always comes from a heart of love. He hasn’t enjoyed me feeling burdened and angry. He hasn’t relished me squirming through life’s challenges and stresses. But I have to be willing to take ownership of  how I deal with circumstances I don’t particularly like. Do I run to Him first and choose to trust in His good name, character, and proven faithfulness? Or do I fight for control and wind up angry, exhausted, and deafened to the voice of love of my heavenly father?

Today I choose to take off the old, dirty rags of anger, bitterness, resentment, and frustration, and I fix my eyes upon Jesus.

Today I choose to put on thankfulness for all that I have to celebrate in my life; thankfulness that wages war on my frustrations.

I put on joy in the unchanging character of my God.

I put on peace as I trust in His goodness and good will towards me.

If we are sons and daughters of the Living God, believing in the reality of the life, death, and resurrection of His son, Jesus, then we are no longer slaves to our former selves. We do not have to be bound by anger, by fear, by the need to control in the midst of stress and frustrations. We can live free, run hard, and love strong, trusting in the great love of our God that carries us through it all.

I hope that you will start your week of right and join me in letting go of the old and putting on the new.

With Joy,

Haley

With Us In The Crazy

God With Us In The Crazy Blog Photo

I’m adjusting to having a second child. He’s only six weeks old, so I’m still in the newborn fog part of everything. Some nights are ok, but others are rough. Last night was one of those.

I was exhausted, and frustrated, and completely freaked out that I am back to work. There are lots of chores that need to be done around the house, I have a five year old that needs my attention, and there’s exactly one of me.

In the darkness, in the depths of heavy exhaustion, I couldn’t help but know that while my plate is full at the moment, it is right where I am supposed to be. And it’s not up to me to “succeed” (whatever that means or looks like). It’s up to me to be faithful. To show up. To give it my best and my all, and to trust God to do what He will with my little self.

Recently my friend and fellow writer, Emily Meyer (she’s awesome, and you should all follower her writing at www.emilypmeyer.com), reminded me of two important facts:

1. When I can’t, Christ can. When my to-do list is overwhelming, and when I don’t have the strength or time to do it all, much less do it well, Christ can.

Our God is the God that multiplied fish and loaves for the masses. He provided one of his disciples’ tax money by having him find a coin in a fish’s mouth. He made the sun stand still to bring His people to victory. Our God provides for all of our needs, including the time and energy to accomplish what He has called us to do. Surely the God that multiplied one small boy’s lunch to feed a multitude can take my little life and use it. Our job is to hold our to-do list up to Him and ask, “What of this is from you for me to accomplish?” and then walk in obedience trusting Him to make our ordinary extraordinary.

2. If love is not my primary motivation behind each task on my to-do list, what is it worth, and why should I bother doing it?

1 Corinthians 13 tells us that if we do not have love, we are just a clanging cymbal. Emily put it so well:

“The world does not need more noise; it needs music.”

That’s powerfully beautiful, isn’t it? I don’t want to be an obnoxious cymbal standing alone making a bunch of additional noise; I want to be a part of a grand symphony playing rhythmically and strategically. I fear that more often than not I get more of a high from the little checks next to each item than I do loving the God and the people I should be doing each thing for.

So, when we’re tempted to feel overwhelmed by the many hats we all wear, when we feel afraid of our inability to do it all, when we actually CAN’T do it all, when we’re multi tasking writing a blog with a baby sleeping on our chest (ah-hem), we can trust that God is with us. Let’s start by evaluating our motives for each item, asking if love is the “why” behind the item, and then let’s walk in brave obedience, trusting God to sustain and accomplish what only He can.

These Small Hours

These Small Hours Blog Photo

For those of you wondering where I’ve been, I’m thrilled to share that my husband and I welcomed our second son, Chase Remington, on June 24. As you can imagine, our lives have been consumed with feedings, diaper changes, and nights filled with frequently interrupted sleep. Here’s to new life, and moving forward with our journey together!

Having a second child has been very different for me than having the first. It’s one thing to be told before you have children that being a mother means putting your child’s needs before your own. It’s another thing to experientially know it; to feel the tension of dying to yourself for the sake of your child is very different from hearing it from others. Going into having baby #2, I at least knew to expect discomfort and the pain of sacrificing my immediate wants for my children’s needs (my morning cup of coffee is often delayed until 10am, for instance).

But the five years between the births of my children has also taught me that infancy, the toddler years, and preschool pass by faster than I wish they did. They are exhausting years, but they are precious and so beautiful. For my oldest those infantile years are passed and he is now a “big boy” starting elementary school. I celebrate that with him, but it has also created such an acute awareness of just how short a time I have my boys at home with me.

Rob Thomas once sang, “Our lives are made in these small hours; these little moments…”. This second, and this one, and this one… make up the minutes that make up the hours that make up the days, and before we know it we’re at the end of our life. These days of no makeup, yoga pants, and spit up in my hair count. That job you’re in that you wish you were done with…it counts. Those times when we spend too much time looking at our phones or tablets (let’s admit it: most of us have to be aware of this…), that time counts too. And while God gives incredible, amazing grace, there are no do-overs. When all is said and done, what will we have to show for the time we have been given?

God desires for us to invest our time well. So in a world with so many choices, how do we choose well? I am becoming more and more aware of my great need to simply stop and ask God for the wisdom, and then for the courage and strength to obey.

At any given moment, there is a full list of to-dos to complete. You too, huh? What would life look like if we stopped and surrendered our days to the good hands of God, and simply told Him, “Yes, Lord. Whatever you have for me today, my answer is yes”? I’ve been trying to practice this more and more, and I’m finding out that sometimes my to-list has to go out the window because my little boy needs his mom to play catch in the back yard. Sometimes I have to buckle-down and get the writing done. Sometimes I have to scrub a toilet, or sweep the floors with a baby strapped to me.

And sometimes I need to just sit still and consider the goodness of God in the middle of it all.

Daily–even moment-by-moment–let’s stop and ask God what is best. At any given time we all have choices for how we invest our time. It might hurt–when the thing we want to do in the moment is not the best choice. Sometimes we must work when we want to rest. Other times we must choose to rest when the to-do list is overwhelming. Both have their place.

But God loves us like a Father, and He has given us His Holy Spirit as a great counselor. So take advantage of it! Let’s ask Him, “Lord, what would you have me choose to do with the time you’ve given me today? How about this moment right now?” And then let’s walk in obedience and let the Lord handle the rest.

At the end of our lives, we will not regret choosing obedience to the wise counsel of God. The sum of these small hours is a lifetime. Invest well.

One CRUCIAL Way To Prevent Spiritual Atrophy

I enjoy exercising. I have exercised regularly for years. I feel better when I exercise. I’m happier. I’m not as anxious. I am more alert and awake to do the other things I love. I choose to exercise because I see the evidence that it prevents physical atrophy and helps me to be a better “me,” which ultimately helps everyone around me too.

In a similar way, giving of myself to the church promotes personal growth, servingauthentic discipleship, and prevents spiritual atrophy. Giving of ourselves–our time, giftedness, and energy–is actually healthy and good for us, and for everyone around us.

I committed my life to following Christ and was baptized when I was 17 years old. For several years after that, I was growing and changing rapidly from the person I was before, but I never chose to step up and serve in the church. I would hear recruit teams share the needs their areas were experiencing, and I would hope to avoid eye contact so that I didn’t have to make up some reason why I couldn’t give of my time to help.

If I’m really honest, it wasn’t that I didn’t have time; I just flat-out didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to make the time to give of myself. I didn’t see how I could add value to my church by serving, and I didn’t see how serving would add value to my life.

Fast-forward a few years. I was a college student in Virginia attending Brentwood Church in Virginia (big shout out to my Brentwood Family. I love you guys!).  I love that the DNA of Brentwood Church is simple: connect and contribute. Connect through worship on Sundays and in a small group of believers (“Community Group,” “Life Group,” etc.), and contribute your time, energy, giftedness, and resources to the well-being of the church.

If I called Brentwood Church “home,” I was taught consistently and often to be an active participant, and not just an anonymous attender on Sundays. This  didn’t come from a perspective of legalism, or expectation, but rather of love and invitation. This church really honed in on the God-given gifts and skills of the people that were there and invited them to use those skills to advance God’s kingdom right there.

How many of you out there would say that you want to be valued, part of something meaningful, and as though you “belong?” I would be willing to bet that most of you responded with an adamant, “Yes!”

During my years at Brentwood, I began to feel wanted. I quit believing that I was expendable, and I and started to realize that as a Christ follower, I wasn’t just called to believe, I was invited to be intricately woven into God’s family. Serving wasn’t just for the people that had “arrived,” it was for me too—broken, flawed, imperfect me.

I decided to sign up to work with this church’s children’s ministry. I started out just filling in when someone would be absent, and then steadily I became more and more involved. Now, years later, one of my greatest passions is God’s people—all of God’s people—evaluating their God-given skills, talents, and interests and finding a place within the body of Christ to use those gifts. Not everyone gets excited about holding babies every week. Not everyone is comfortable leading. But everyone has something to bring to the table.

Whatever “it” is for you—that thing that you LOVE to do just for the sake of doing it—find where you can use THAT in your church. I dare you to test this for a year. Use your skills and passions consistently and often within your home church, and see how you experience deeper satisfaction, deeper feelings of connectedness within your church, and tremendous connection with others serving with you.

I think that as people we are wired to weigh opportunity costs. We can’t have or do everything, so we make choices. Sometimes these choices are based on pure motives like what is best for others. Sometimes our choices are based on what has the most value. Sometimes our choices are just for the sake of preference and what we would enjoy the most. I know I am not the only one that struggles against the clock every day. I think that most of us would say we want our time to matter and count towards something; life is too short to waste. Some of you might be like me 10 years ago, and maybe you just don’t see the benefit of giving of your time to your church.

But what if I told you that stepping up to serve all those years ago changed me? What if I told you that for the first time, I belonged somewhere? What if I said that plugging in and intentionally saying “no” to other things (including my Sunday afternoon nap) grew me into someone that finally had a place to call home? Serving in the Church enabled me to really connect and develop relationships with people. Serving was the catalyst to me honing in on who God created me to be. I  have a deep desire for purpose and meaning. Don’t we all? And what is more meaningful than owning our salvation purchased by Christ, and embracing the Body of Christ called “the church?”

Some of you may legitimately be unable to serve during traditional times like Sunday mornings. It’s ok to think outside of the box on your role in your church family! Maybe you attend a house church and there isn’t a major organization to jump right into, or maybe you live abroad and culturally the dynamic of church is very different than “American church”. To all believers reading this, I boldly declare that the Body of Christ transcends culture and time restraints. Serving means giving of yourself to meet the needs of other believers out of your abundance of time and resources. I cannot tell you what this looks like for you personally, but I certainly encourage you to search God’s heart on the matter! He loves you and you were made with purpose!

With all of my heart I believe that we each have a vital role. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that we are all equipped with different gifts, and we are called to use them. Can you imagine if your stomach quit working because it said, “This body doesn’t need me; the lungs have got this one.” How crippling! In the same way, we are all a vital part of the global, eternal Body of Christ.

You are invited to be all in and more than someone that watchers from the sidelines. Let’s all get in the game and thrive.

Like exercise, it may mean carving out the time because you see the value added. But I promise that God uses your energy, time, and talents to change the world when you commit them to Him, when you humbly submit your time and energy to Him to be used up for His glory. Serving impacts your community, your church, your peers, your family, and it impacts YOU! Give it a try. Commit to giving of your time in an area that you are interested in. Give it more than a few weeks—a year?—and see how your own heart changes as a result.