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?

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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

 

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

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.

10 Characteristics of A Healthy Church

Hey there! Thanks for tuning in again this week as we look at “this whole church thing.”

As we saw last week, the Church is not limited to a building and the pastoral staff; the Church is every single person that places their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus calls His people “the Church.” Worldwide, the Church meets in smaller environments (some not so small…) called “the local church.”

If individual Christ-followers make up the Church, then we are responsible for the health and well-being of it. The non-exhaustive list below outlines a few habits of healthy local churches. As believers, we need to critically assess if we are contributing to the health of the local church we call “home.”

A local church is the sum of its parts. Every. Single. Person. Matters. So let’s not only use this list to evaluate the health of our home/local church, but to more importantly ask if we are contributing to it, or hurting it:

Healthy local churches are striving towards the following:

1. A healthy Church is focused on God Himself as revealed in His Word, The Bible.

A church that is not focused on worshiping and serving God is just a feel-good club. There are lots of fun community groups that meet regularly, share meals, serve the needy, and more, but have no spiritual component whatsoever. There’s nothing wrong with that in those places, but if a local church is not actively teaching about, talking about, talking to, and surrendering to God it is not healthy.

2. A healthy local church is a safe place to ask hard questions.

I was so heartbroken recently when a friend of mine told me that she sat down with members of a local church and shared her authentic questions and doubts, and that she walked away feeling ashamed and criticized rather than embraced and supported.

A healthy church allows room for questions. We serve a Big God that is mysterious, and the idea of some things being real can be really scary and down-right hard to buy into. A healthy church not only allows room for people to struggle through real questions, but also encourages the seeking out of answers. There are tons of great resources outlining reasonable defenses of the faith (i.e. Josh McDowell’s materials, Lee Strobel, and more…).

Two words of caution here: be cautious of any person/place that claims to have answers to every single hard question. The truth is that we all have questions, and there is a level of mystery that we may never fully know or understand.

On the other hand, don’t be so skeptical and cynical to think that no hard question has valid answers.

It is ok to ask tough questions. God is not threatened by our questions; He is insulted by our unwillingness to seek Him out in the middle of them.

3. A healthy church promotes deep unity and community, while also being a safe haven for new people.

I’ve heard this called the “open chair” policy; there should always be an empty chair that can be filled, whether that’s in a small group or a large congregation. Avoid causing or creating cliques and “popular crowds” within church walls at all costs, and avoid the appearance of being closed off. If the local church is a spiritual hospital for the sick and the broken to find refuge and healing, its doors should be open wide with receiving arms.

4. Healthy churches are led by healthy leaders.

Healthy churches are led from the top-down. Good leaders are servant leaders that care more about washing feet than about being known and popular. Leaders in these churches are displaying in action what they teach from the pulpit. Like parenting, many actions (or inactions) are “caught not taught.”

A few questions to ask: How does the leadership treat other leaders and staff members? Are they practicing what they are teaching? Is healthy conflict resolution being practiced?

5. Healthy churches commit to the well-being of the surrounding community.

Is there a park clean up day happening? Is your church represented among the volunteers pitching in to help? What about servicemen/women appreciation? Has anyone stepped out to thank the police force, firefighters, EMS teams, etc. that work around the clock to protect and serve your community? Do volunteer teams reach out to tutor at-risk youth, or meet the physical needs of people within the community?

A healthy church is made up of people that get in the trenches with the community around them.

6. Healthy churches are theologically sound.

I’m not going to go into detail about this right now. But a healthy local church is rooted in the Bible—Old and New Testaments—and worships God Himself as displayed throughout it. Healthy local churches preach one Gospel—the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that alone has the power to save mankind.

7. Healthy churches are equipping disciples.

Are new leaders being developed and raised up? Are people becoming more and more independent and able to study the Bible on their own? Are disciples being trained up to follow Jesus the way Jesus said to follow? Are people growing in spiritual and emotional maturity?

8. Healthy churches are united with the global Church.

Healthy churches don’t play the “church competition” game; they want to support other churches in winning as well. Healthy local churches aren’t slandering other churches on the same mission for the same Gospel. There is room for healthy disagreement on some levels, but healthy, Christ-Preaching churches have each other’s backs.

9. Healthy churches are engaged in raising up disciples that GO.

Rick Warren has oft been quoted as saying, “A church’s health is measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.” Christianity is anything but a call to comfortable living. Jesus didn’t stop at commanding His disciples to reach Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but He also said to go unto all the world. ALL of the world. There are needs in every community, city, state, and country throughout the world. Is your church engaged in sending people—short and long term—to other regions?

10. Healthy local churches are fiscally responsible.

This is two-fold: do the individual people that call a local church “home” give of their resources to the church (their tithe)? And is the church budget managed with integrity, uprightness, and responsibility? Are there ever business meetings for the church to gather and be updated on what is happening financially?

No Church is perfect. This non-exhaustive list reflects characteristics of healthy churches, but no single local church is perfect in every one of these areas. The biggest questions to ask are a) Is the church that I call “home” striving to be a Spirit-led, disciple-making, Christ-preaching church with outstretched arms to the community and the world, and b) Am I, as an individual Christ-follower, contributing to the health or the lack of health in any of these areas?

I’d love to hear from you! How do you see churches “winning?” How can individual believers strengthen and support the health of their local church body?

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist.

Admittedly, I am a recovering perfectionist. I have a history of giving almost April 20 Post Photo
everything I do or experience some sort of “grade,” and anything short of “just right” has left me dissatisfied. The problem is that real life doesn’t translate well to the perfectionist mindset, and for the longest time I allowed myself to be robbed of true, rich satisfaction because I was looking for it in places that it doesn’t exist.

Two things I have learned as I have intentionally focused my efforts towards moving beyond perfection, and into real living:

1. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. The world is not perfect. And it won’t be. If I live setting the expectation that my world should be perfect I will always be set up for disappointment, frustration, and deep dissatisfaction.

2. The second thing I’ve learned (and am learning) is that I can rest knowing that God is perfect. He is outside of my frazzled attempt to create my own perfect world. When I fix my eyes on who He is, I can rest in the middle of my little mess and know that the most important part of my life is not found in a clean house, completed chores, the perfect writing environment, ideal work situations, or perfect relationships. My peace is found when I fix my eyes on the perfect, unchanging God that paid the ransom for my life through the blood of His own Son.

I can live in tremendously rich satisfaction found only in relationship with God. I can let myself off the hook that my sink is currently full of dirty dishes, and that instead of a quiet writing environment with a hot cup of coffee in my hand Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is on in the background capturing the attention of my husband and son. I can enjoy this moment regardless of the fact that it isn’t my “perfect” writing environment because I know the God that is giving me the breath I’m breathing, the beautiful men I love so much sitting next to me, and the passion to teach and equip others to chase after Him above all else.

What imperfections in yourself, in situations, or in others have you been allowing to rob you of the satisfaction that only God Himself offers?  Where do you find yourself thinking things like, “I’d be able to rest if only _________(you fill in the blank…),” or “I’d be in a better mood if _______________”…?

One of my favorite lyrics written by my all-time favorite band, Switchfoot, says, “Manmade never made our dreams collide…we’re awakening.” I want to really live. I want to live awake, and that can only happen when I’m not looking for life among dead things. I must look for real life in the Author of Life, and in the One that conquered death. I need to live a resurrected life found only in The Resurrected One.

Will you join me in that?

Friend, I have been praying for months over this blog. I have been begging God to give me clear direction for where we are going together in this cyber-realm, and after a few weeks of my own intentional silence, I believe God has shown me what He desires: He desires for us to seek Him above all else. Our attempts (and failures) at recreating Eden are exhausting. He desires for us to re-channel all of that wasted energy into knowing Him, and finding that He alone will satisfy that ache you and I feel—that “something’s missing” feeling.

He wants you to be inspired, not with feel-good fluff, but with deep-seated Truth found in the Word of God that has the power to change us.

He wants you to be equipped with Bible study know how. God forbid I should ever become another person that you listen to without you also being strengthened in how to study God’s Word for yourself! Lots of people will post their opinions and thoughts about Scripture. I firmly believe that God is calling all of His followers to rightly handle His word. That requires learning how. 

He wants us to become more and more like His Son over time. This is not simply a passive change on our part; we must actively endeavor to learn, to change, to grow–just like a child learns over time, and eventually becomes an adult who is (hopefully) equipped with the necessary skills and character.

He wants us to grow in our compassion and love for one another, and for the broken world around us.

He wants us to be actively and intentionally engaged in a community of other believers (Church), not just filling seats each Sunday, but serving and being served. Church is not just a place to sing songs and “be fed,” but it is a place that we have a responsibility and commitment to be actively involved in.

He wants us to move beyond complacent, comfortable, feel-good belief and into actively following Him. He is calling us to be a generation that seeks His face above all else.

So, that’s where we are going. Life Becoming is all about what it means to be a disciple, equipping a generation of Christ-focused leaders that change the world through ordinary acts of bravery and kindness, teaching skills needed to study the Bible for ourselves, and strengthening the Global Church by offering quality resourcing for disciples of Jesus worldwide.

I’d like to invite you into this cyber-community. Let’s stick together as we run forward, cheering each other on all the way. Be sure to like, share, invite your friends, and sign up for email updates as we dive deeper together.

See you soon, dear friends. I’m looking forward to it! I hope you are as well.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

With Joy,

Haley

Give Yourself Grace

I am very impatient. I struggle with processes. I want things done yesterday. I have very little quotescover-JPG-64tolerance for waiting for something to be completed when it is in my power to complete it. When I have moved from one house to another, I stayed up late, got up early, and did not stop working until boxes were unpacked, broken down, and thrown away. I like things to be settled. I like things to be neat, tidy, and completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I’m being refined day by day, but patience in imperfection is a toilsome struggle for me.

You too?

Faith and deep growth don’t work that way. We are accepted by God and called His children apart from our own efforts, good works, and best intentions. But He loves us too much to leave us unchanged. He is the Master Gardner that prunes, cuts back dead and dying (and sometimes healthy) branches of our lives so that we can grow into healthy, complete Christ followers. That process takes our entire lives. I’m grateful that He never gives up on us. He promises to finish what He started. He’s in it for the long-game with us.

Becoming a parent has so greatly affected my perception of God and myself. Parenthood is an amazing earthly shadow of what God’s love for us really is like. It is beautiful to me that my son acts like a little boy, but it’s essential that over time he grows into a man. He’s still new to this life, and it is my job to teach and train him to be a mature, responsible adult.  This is a LONG process with a lot of repetition, a lot of discipline, and a lot of humor required. While he is not perfect, or grown up yet, he is 100% my son. He has access to me, my home, where I am. I provide for him. I love him unconditionally.

We are, in the same way, fully accepted into the Lord’s home as His children once we have authentically placed our faith in Christ. But as a perfect Father, He teaches us, He disciplines us when necessary, He loves us, and ultimately He changes us to be like Him. He reaches deep into the pit of our heart and starts to root out weeds that choke out His spirit from within us so that our work may be increasingly fruitful and abundant, and our hearts and lives more and more healed and set free.

Miles J. Stanford has a fantastic book about Spiritual growth called The Green Letters. In it, Stanford states that, “many [believers] feel they are not making progress unless they are swiftly and constantly forging ahead.” He goes on to quote A.H. Strong: “When God wants to make an oak, He takes an hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months.”  Growth and progress take time.

We are wonderful works in progress. What a liberating opportunity to be set free from our expectations of immediate perfection in ourselves and in others. God is working, shaping, deepening, strengthening, pruning, and creating healthy, fruitful followers. Give yourself the grace to be where you are, and allow the Lord to have His way with shaping you more and more over time.

 

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

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