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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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.

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~

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