Author Archives: Hanna

Living intentionally

collegeagainWhen I transferred my sophomore year to James Madison University, an upperclassman named Kristi, took me under her wings.  She helped me navigate JMU, but more importantly, she helped me navigate relationships and provided a safe place for me to be myself.  She encouraged me, challenged me, and continues to do that way beyond our college years.  A few months ago, I asked some of my wise friends to answer the above question. My friend, Kristi Fletcher, answered.  I can’t think of anyone better who’s advice I would heed.  Kristi’s thoughts are below. 

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Now that I have reached my 30′s there are so many reasons I would not want to be 20 again.  I suppose hardships and a lot of growing up has a way of knocking sense into you.  When I look back at my college years, there are some things I wish I had done better.  I have to admit that a lot of my friends had it WAY more together than I did.  Despite believing that the best we can do in life is just to do our best in that moment and walk it all out in faith, here are some of the life lessons I wish I had practiced a bit more in college.

1. Invest for the long haul.

I truly believe that the miracles in our lives start with a change in perception, mentality, worldview, or paradigm.  How we think about life is often more important than how skilled we are at putting those convictions into practice.  One of the foundations I am still learning is how to live for the long-term in the present.

After graduating, I spent a lot of years overseas.  Every once in awhile, I met someone who had lived in a country for nine years and still couldn’t speak any of the local language.  Their reason was usually that they didn’t plan to be there for so long, so they never took the time to learn.  So what, they can’t speak the local language? It’s not that they didn’t gain a skill that could have made their life easier.  They missed out on relationships, cultural nuances, and the ability to live at a deeper level on a daily basis.

But I do that too.  It’s hard to put all of your cards on the table and risk being totally engaged.  The thing I miss the most when I move (and I’ve moved a lot) is people.  My heart breaks every time I have to leave my friends, my local coffee barista, my neighbors, all the familiar faces and acquaintances from my daily routine.  My heart breaks, but planning for the long-term frees me up to be present in the here and now, and those people are totally worth it.

I had one friend in college who built amazing relationships with her professors.

I had one friend in college who was super intentional with her close friends and carved out time to spend with them each week.

I had one friend in college who scoured sales to invest in work clothes in hopes that she would one day have the career she was working towards.

I had one friend in college who studied 8 hours a day because her dad told her she should treat school like a real job since that is what she wanted in the end.

I had a friend in college who joined the local church and one of the regular bible studies instead of staying in an all college-student bubble.

Those people were way better at investing than I was.

2. Reciprocal relationships.

One of my friends recently said “the best relationships are those composed of two givers”.  By this she meant that each person gives and doesn’t try to match the other person’s investment in the relationship or just let the other person do all the work.  Maybe I have some sort of complex but for me college was a time where I loved the community so much I just wanted to hang out with everyone.  It was great in the sense that I learned how to be friends with all different kinds of people and had some great memories from spontaneous hang-outs.  But in retrospect I think I left my real friends alone too often.  Part of college life is having to exercise choice over how to spend your time and energy.  Relationships are definitely part of this.  Take some time to reflect on your community and your friendships.  Does the other person really care about you?  Does the other person demonstrate grace?  Does the other person see God in you and believe He has a plan for your life?  Does the other person give?

I’m not saying these are the only type of people to invest in or to only have a few relationships.  I think people should always be open and hospitable to whomever they have in the here and now (see #1) but I am realizing as I get older that these people are rare.  They are precious.  And they’re worth that special attention, devotion, and extra effort.  Pull them in and hang on to them.  You’re going to need some people to walk through the rest of life with post-college, and you’re going to love being one of those people for someone else.

3. Develop excellent relaxation skills.

Being an adult sucks sometimes.  The stakes are higher, the responsibility greater, and you never feel equipped enough to do what is in front of you.  At some point freaking out is inevitable.  In college, you have an opportunity to develop some relaxation skills during stress points and see what works.  Let me clarify what I mean by relaxation skills: a practice that enables you to slow down and find space to rest and be at peace.

Most of us have been taught how to process.  We talk things over with friends, we journal, we write poetry, whatever.  But at some point in life you will be so tired and so overwhelmed that before you can process, you need to stop and breathe.  This is what I mean by relaxing.  Only after you rest and regain some mental and emotional space can you even have the energy to process.

When you get overwhelmed by multiple deadlines and high expectations and friend drama, what do you do?  Sleeping may not always be the best strategy.  Rushing through things and pulling all-nighters may not always be possible.  How can you slow down enough to find peace as you navigate through the stress? 

The great thing about college is there are lots of opportunities to try new things and most of it is free.  Try out a yoga or pilates class at the gym and figure out if breathing exercises or stretching helps release tension and calm your mind.  Many university gyms also offer massages.  Seriously, those are way more effective than you probably realize.  Spend some time meditating on a verse or walking through the park and pointing out all of the beautiful things to yourself.  There are a lot of different ways to help your mind and emotions slow down.  Perhaps my experiences after university were a little more extreme than normal, but I learned quickly that my coping methods were no match for life.  Equip yourself with some proven strategies so you have a plan for when the shit hits the fan.  It will.

Time is a gift in any season.  How are you stewarding it? Are you living intentionally in the present?

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I wanna see you be brave.

A few weeks ago I sat down with my friend–we’ll call her Sam–who wanted to share a major life decision.  Sam has dreamt her entire life of living in Nashville and working in the entertainment industry.  She is incredibly talented, driven, and creative.  I fully believe she will find success pursuing what she loves.

But Sam has come to the point where she has decided to move away from Nashville, back to her home state.

To a lot of people, this is going to look like failure.  It’s going to look like Sam has given up on her dream, or worse– that she is a fool for moving back home.  But it doesn’t stop with other people’s judgement.  It will be easy for Sam to give other people’s opinion a voice in her own head. Fear will breed off of those voices, and before she knows it, Sam will be hearing lies played over and over in her head.  You’re a quitter. You’re not good enough. You’re walking away from your dream.  You’ll move back home and fade into oblivion. 

That is the risk she is taking.  She has made a decision that in her gut, heart, and mind, she knows is right.  And she’s going for it.  Despite what other people may think.

Far too often, we cower from making a difficult decision because we fear how others may perceive it.   We shrink back from doing what we know is right, because we’re afraid people around us will judge it as wrong.

I’ve noticed this more and more in my own life. Most of the time, for me, being brave means making the right decision in the face of judgement from others. 

I put way too much stock in what other people think.  And that, my friends, is bondage.  When I care about the judgement of others, I enslave myself to them.

I love the Sara Barielles video above.  Those people are recklessly dancing and enjoying themselves in a public space, where everyone around them is laughing, pointing, perceiving them as strange, weird, and worse.  I bet when they recorded themselves dancing only 1 or 2 people, walked by and thought, “That is awesome.”  But if those dancers had let how others may perceive them influence their decision to dance in public, they never would have done it.  And they would have missed out on an incredibly exhilarating, fun, and freeing afternoon.

So what decision are you cowering away from because you’re worried about what others may think?  Be brave, my friend.  Be brave. 

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How do I keep my heart open?

heartopenWe’ve all been there.  After one too many heartbreaks, we don’t know how to keep our hearts open any longer.  It’d be much easier to put up walls, become calloused, bitter, and unwilling to let another person in, to really care for someone again.  It’s something I’ve fought at multiple points in my life.  My dear friend, Anne, penned a perfect post about this last week and she kindly agreed to let me share it here.  Her writing is a delightful mix of sarcastic wittiness and heart-felt truth. You can read more by Anne at wordswithwomack.blogspot.com.

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During my early twenties I was lucky enough to live with my best friend.  We walked through the ups and downs of the start of post-grad life together, and I learned a lot from her.  One of the main things I remember was that any time I had disappointment or heartbreak, be it relational, vocational, personal, or spiritual, she would pray for me.  And one of her primary prayers would be that my heart would stay open.  “Anne,” she would say, “I’m going to pray that God would heal your wounds, but that your heart would not close or become calloused.  That it would remain open.”

I remember thinking that was a nice sentiment, but not necessary.  Practical prayers like “God, please help Anne find a job” or “God, please let that guy who just dumped Anne gain 100 lbs unexpectedly” seemed more appropriate.  I didn’t need prayers to keep my heart open.  I wasn’t some hard-hearted bitch who shut down every time she was hurt.  Or so I thought.  But as I continued to live life, I found her prayer to be a little more important.  With each blow life dealt, I found it to be a bit more of a struggle to continue to put myself out there to new people, opportunities, and places without holding back.  It was easier to close off parts of my heart to prevent further injury.

After one particularly tough heartbreak, I remember telling my friend “hey, please keep praying that my heart remains open.”  I had come to the end of myself.  I was ready to close off and self-protect but remembered a quote from C.S. Lewis that I had always found to be true:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

And I realized that the only way to prevent this was desperate and sincere prayer.  I didn’t have the power to keep myself open.  Only God could do that.  So I joined my friend in praying this for me.  And it worked.

I hadn’t thought about this concept in a while because my heart hasn’t been broken in some time.  But recently I heard a song with which I quickly became obsessed.  Foy Vance sings “I tried to do what I felt was right. And I know I f*ed it up sometimes. But at least my heart was open.”  I have not been able to get this refrain out of my head, especially that last line: “At least my heart was open.”  It has become somewhat of a mantra of thanksgiving and encouragement as I remember past heartbreaks and disappointments yet examine where I am now.  I was vulnerable and let someone know me, and that person disappointed me, but  “At least my heart was open.”  I tried for something I really wanted yet didn’t get it, but “At least my heart was open.”  I put myself out there in a way that was uncomfortable and didn’t see any good from it, but “At least my heart was open.”

So now, as I’m in a season of waiting and having to take risks and be vulnerable, I am thankful for this song and the reminder of the prayer my friend taught me to pray years ago.  I am thankful God has answered that prayer and continues to do so and that by His grace I can continue to say “At least my heart was open.”

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Getting back into the swing of things.

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Some years, I was ready to dive back into school after the holiday break.  Other years, not so much.  The same tension continues when you start working full time.

For those of you struggling to get back into the swing of things this January, I’m with you.  And this post is for us.  Three ways to help us get back into the swing of things.

1. Plan your semester at a glance.

I’m not going to knock your New Years Resolutions, but I think something far more effective is simply planning out your semester.  Schedule a coffee shop planning session with your best friend.  Grab breakfast this Saturday morning with your paper planners or online calendars and map out your semester.  Write down all your assignments, due dates, work schedule, etc.  Set aside a weekend or two to go hiking or take a 1-2 hour Saturday road trip.  Map out everything you have to do and want to do.  This always helps me get into the right frame of mind.

2. Create something that will encourage you.

For me, this meant deciding to host a dinner at my house for all my student leaders. I always feel encouraged and have a full-heart after spending informal, quality time with them.  So, I knew if I opened my home and had a bunch of student leaders over for dinner, I would feel more invested and excited about digging into other aspects of my job that I am struggling to reconnect with.

Maybe for you this means planning a cosmic bowling night with friends.  Or maybe you’re an introvert and need to plan a Saturday retreat where you hunker down by yourself and journal or read.  I don’t know what fills you up– people, trying new things, being alone– but whatever it is, create the space for yourself to experience it and put some wind in your sails!

3. Be positive.

I often find when I am struggling to get back into the swing of things, I am whining a lot.  Be cognizant of your attitude and choose to be positive.  Stop saying you “can’t”, “don’t want to”, and cut out your whining.  When we talk negatively (even internally), we make it so much harder on ourselves.

On of my best friends and I started helping each other with this by dubbing our negative persona “Negative Nancy” and our positive persona “Positive Pam.”  So when I was complaining about something, she might interrupt and say, “I am so sorry to hear that Nancy, I thought I would get to talk to Pam today!”  It was a strong but silly reminder– Hey Hanna! Stop your whining and choose to be positive!

What about you? How do you get back into the swing of things after a long break?  Send me your questions

 

When life gets boring.

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When my youngest sister was 3 or 4 years old, she’d walk around the house saying, “Mommy, I’m boring!”  What she meant was, ‘”Mommy, I’m bored!” but she hadn’t figured out the nuance of correct grammar yet.  We’d all chuckle and never corrected her, because it was so darn cute.

Last week, I was driving home from work thinking about what I should write for this blog.  I couldn’t come up with anything good.  I keep spouting off ideas that didn’t excite me and the words came bubbling up.

I’m bored.

“Wow, that’s true,” I thought. I’m just bored. Nothing exciting or inspiring has been happening in my life.  I’m bored.

And then I heard the faint echo of my baby sister’s sweet whine…

I’m boring.

And then it hit me.  That’s the real problem.  It’s not that nothing around me has been exciting or inspiring.  I am not exciting or inspiring.  I am the boring one.  It’s not an external problem; it’s an internal one.

What risks have I taken lately?  What person have I scheduled a coffee with because I know they need encouragement?  What great book have I recently read?  Heck, what inspiring article have I recently skimmed?  When was the last time I tried to live a great story?  When was the last time I stepped outside of my comfort zone to do something daring?  When was the last time I did anything relatively interesting, meaningful, exciting, or adventurous?

The worst part is that a lot of things have happened to me recently that are awesome or major change.  My boyfriend proposed; I’m experiencing a lot of change and transition at work.  But the change at work isn’t occuring because of anything I did and my fiance is the one who created an incredible engagement story.  If I’m honest, I don’t remember the last time I took initiative to do something great.

What about you?  Are you bored?  And if you’re honest, is the real problem that you are boring?

Several months ago, my boss started encouraging me to take a risk every day.  A risk doesn’t have to be grandiose.  It could be asking a difficult coworker out to lunch.  It could be confronting your roommate on some issues you’ve been having.  It could be to reach out to an estranged friend.  It could be to buy coffee for the person behind you in line when you’re at Starbucks.

When was the last time you took a risk?  Reached out to someone who needs encouragements?  Sought out to learn something that is challenging or inspiring? Did something outside your comfort zone? 

I don’t know about you.  But I’m tired of being boring.  I’ve got 14 more days of 2013 and I’m going to choose risk, excitement, adventure, and discomfort.  What about you?

Don’t be boring.

 

 

 

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End of the semester blues.

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I so remember this feeling. And believe me, I’m in a similar place in life right now. There is way too much to do and truly not enough time.

1. You are not alone.

EVERYONE feels like this during the end of the semester.  If you have friends that don’t seem stressed, they either a) have a super easy final exam load or b) have found their zen-like-state.  If the latter is true, ask them to share their secrets.

2. Make a list of everything.

I mean everything, you need to accomplish before the end of the semester.  I had a roommate in college who would do this frequently.  We’d make lists at any point when we were frantic with stress.  Then, we would tack it to the wall in the middle of our dorm room so we could assess it each day.  Any time we got to scratch something off the list, we’d have a mini (or major) dance party.

3. Find little ways to celebrate the small victories or relieve stress. 

Speaking of dance parties, find little ways to celebrate the small victories or relieve stress. Dance parties, going for a walk or run, Dove dark chocolate, whatever.  Don’t wait until absolutely everything is done to celebrate or blow of steam.  And if you can’t remember the last time you had a good laugh, fix that.  Laughter always seems to lighten my load.

4. try a breathing exercise.

If you are legitimately, physically struggling with anxiety, try this breathing exercise at least once a day.  (There have been times in my life I’ve had to do this when I wake up, mid-afternoon, and again before going to sleep.)  Lay down on the floor, cut noise, low lights, etc.  Breath in for 10 seconds, hold for 10 seconds, and blow out for 10 seconds.  The goal is to do this for 5 minutes, but that can be hard when you first start out.   So go for as long as you can.  This will force your body to physically relax and hopefully help with those knots in your stomach.

5. Make a detailed plan

Make a detailed plan of how you’re going to tackle it all.  You’ve got your “hit list” from #2, but you need to get nitty-gritty and show yourself that there are enough hours in the day to get it all done.  I suggest printing out a paper calendar, starting with due dates and working backwards.  Don’t give yourself 2 days to write a 15 page paper.  Instead, plan out small blocks of time (1-2 hours) over several days to work on that paper.  Then, spread out a number of hours over those same days to study for your biology exam.  You’ll do better if you give yourself a few papers/projects/exams to work on each day, rather than just focusing on one project for an ungodly amount of time.

6. Constantly adjust your plan of attack.

At the end of every day before you go to sleep, reassess your detailed to-do list or plan.  Did you accomplish what you needed to that day?  If not, just adjust your remaining plan.  No need to beat yourself up.  Adjust your schedule and then go to sleep.  Tomorrow is a new day!

7. Have fun.

Schedule time to grab dinner with friends., watch an hour of TV, go to the gym, or whatever re-energizes you.  It’s easy to feel guilty doing this when you know you have a ton to get done.  But you will be more productive if you are kind to yourself and give yourself a break once in a while.

8. Eye on the prize.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, remind yourself: This is just for a few more days and it will all get done.  Nothing you are working on is life or death (even though it might feel that way).  Take a deep breath (or if you want to be serious, do the exercise in #4), let out some steam (laugh, run, chocolate, an hour of tv), and then keep chipping away.  Eventually, your to-do list will be to-doNE.

When I find my place in the craze of stress, I often hear Jesus’ words rattling around in my head. And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [Luke 12:25]  That pretty much shuts me up every time.  Anxiety, stress, and worry only weighs me down.  Instead, I can choose to adjust my attitude, find joy, have hope, and not let my to-do list weigh me down.

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My friend hurt me.

friendexpectationsWhen I received this question, I immediately thought of a friend who has lived this out and could respond better than I could.  Her name is Leslie and what began as high school ministry (Leslie was 15 when I first met her) developed over the years into a mutual friendship.  Now, I’ll let her tell you a piece of her story.

Most of the time in life, it’s not circumstances that refine us—it’s relationships.

That sentence comes from an email I have had saved in my inbox for over 2 years from my sweet friend, Hanna, in response to a situation in which one of my very best friends had unintentionally hurt me.

I have had two opportunities to live out situations just like the question above.  The first time, I handled it poorly.  The second time, I had a chance to do it right.

The first time, I was in college and had asked a friend (who was few years older) to disciple me. Neither of us were really sure what discipleship should look like. I thought she looked a lot like Jesus, and I wanted to look that way too. We met regularly for about four months before the summer break. When we got back to school in the fall, we picked back up right where we had left off. Then one night, I had her over for dinner. To this day, I honestly couldn’t tell you her exact words, but what I heard was “you’re not good enough. I’ve spent all this time with you—and you haven’t changed.”

My knee-jerk reaction was to shut down. I started crying and told her to leave. The only way I knew how to deal with this kind of hurt was to pretend she didn’t exist. I completely ignored her for two months until she finally convinced me to talk to her. But first I sought advice from Hanna who gently reminded me in her email:

“I know you feel like you are the one wronged, but we don’t get to be victims when we know the Truth and live for Jesus.  We get to love people well–especially those who have harmed us.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t love that “friend” well. In fact, Hanna’s advice went in one ear and out the other. I handled the conversation and situation miserably because my heart was hardened. I expected her to know that she had hurt me because of what I heard her say. Because of my unspoken expectations, our friendship completely fell apart. I never expressed to her the true cause of my hurt, so my heart was never healed. It wasn’t until recently that I was finally able to forgive her.

We don’t get to pick our circumstances, but we do get to pick how we react.

Then more recently, the same situation happened again. Another close friend failed to meet my expectations.  She made a decision in our friendship that sounded a lot like “you’re not good enough.” And once again, my knee jerk reaction was to shut down.

I don’t think I called her once over a 10-month period. She occasionally reached out and I rarely replied. I had every intention of telling her she had hurt me, but I backed out at the last minute every time. For almost ten months, I expected her to apologize. I expected her to read my mind and know she had hurt me.

After a long journey and God literally dragging me to a meeting with her, I finally gathered the courage to tell her: “You hurt me and because of that, I shut you out.” I had to be honest. I knew she could never live up to the expectations I had placed on her if she didn’t know how I was feeling.

Two major things I learned from the second go around.

1. I had to evaluate my motives and my expectations.

Many times leading up to the conversation I had prayed David’s prayer from Psalm 139:

“Search me Oh God and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting.”

Before I could ever have that conversation, I had to evaluate my motives and my expectations. The first conversation that I had back in college, my motive was to hurt my friend as badly as she had hurt me. The second time around, my heart was broken, but I chose to react in an entirely different way. I wanted to move past the communication issues (she saying one thing, me hearing something entirely different), so that I could have my friend back. But in that conversation, I had to take responsibility for my role—for my unspoken expectations and my poor reaction.

So what are your motives and expectations?  You need to be able to clearly articulate and evaluate them.

2. I learned that I had to communicate well.

Often times our expectations are not met because we don’t communicate well. I had very clear, unspoken expectations of both of those friendships.  Both failed to meet them and neither knew how badly they hurt me, so it was completely unfair for me to hold a grudge over something they didn’t even know they did.

People, much like things, are best held loosely. When you hold them loosely, you free them to play the role they were meant to play in your life. Often times friendship are for a season, sometimes they’re for a reason, but every now and then they’re for a lifetime. It’s ok to have expectations, but you only set yourself up heartache when you don’t communicate them well. However, your expectations of another person do not free you from your own responsibility.

You have to choose to communicate. You have to choose to pursue. You have to choose to love the other person well.

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Tyler proposed. Hanna said yes.

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Well, I didn’t post last week and I don’t have a good excuse.  But perhaps you will be forgiving since I have major news to share…?

Last Tuesday, I flew to NYC with 11 incredible Belmont students to work the Billboard Touring Conference & Award Show.  I was there to chaperon, connect with our students studying at Belmont East (our NYC program), and work remotely.  Little did I know all of that would change.

Wednesday morning I had plans to meet up with my good friend, Lana, take a stroll around Central Park and grab lunch.  About 30 minutes into our Central Park stroll, I turned a corner and there he was.  Tyler Seymour standing under a tree with a little box.  You can watch the whole story below.

I will do my very best to never be that married girl who spouts cliche advice to all the single ladies (insert puking sound here). But I have to insert one thought.

Please don’t settle for second best.

To steal and severely edit a CS Lewis quote, don’t settle for a mud pie when God has a chocolate mousse pie in store for you.  Far too often, I dated mud pies.  I’m not saying they weren’t good guys; they just didn’t come close to the chocolate mousse pie that is Tyler Seymour. (okay, gag, I know.)  I could have so easily settled for something less than the incredible story God had in store for me. My prayer for you is that you will hold out for God’s best.

So here’s a glimpse into my best story that God so graciously wrote for me.

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My friend is making a bad decision.

friendsettlingOh yes. The ever occurring question: What’s a girl to do when our friends make decisions that we don’t agree with?

If you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said

you must intervene!

If I had a friend going down a bad path, I felt it was my duty as a good friend to stop them and save them from further damage.  Some of you are nodding your heads.  Yes! This is what it means to be a good friend!

Part of the reason I felt this way, is because I was in one of those “what is she doing with him?” relationships.  I dated him for over a year and it wasn’t until after we broke up that all my girlfriends came out of the woodwork to say, “you were majorly settling” or “he’s not even that great of a guy” or “no one could figure out why you were dating him.”

I was shocked.  WHAT?!  WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS BEFORE?!  I wondered if my friends had spoken up, would have saved me a lot of emotional turmoil and pain?  Perhaps I would have reconsidered the relationship and broken it off well before it got so messy.  Or maybe I wouldn’t have listened to my friends and pushed them away out of resentment.  I don’t know what I would have done, but I do remember being sad that no one spoke up until after it was all over.

However, the other part of my “you must intervene!” response was a savior complex.  If I’m being brutally honest, I used to think that I could live my friends’ lives better than they could.  I believed I could make better decisions than they could.  Therefore, it was my job to help them live their lives. 

Um hello! Do you hear how narcissistic that is?! It is not your job, as a good friend, to fix your friends’ lives or convince them to make certain decisions.  Once I realized this, I swung to the other side of the pendulum.

It doesn’t pay to talk someone into or out of a big decision.

Chuck Swindoll said those words in a sermon a few years ago and I took it to heart. Never again, I committed.  I will never again talk someone into or out of a big decision because I think I know better. It’s not worth it.

Well, God put me to the test when one of my best friends got engaged to a man that I knew with every fiber of my being was a bad choice.  I was so confused.  I knew I wasn’t responsible for her decisions, and couldn’t act as her savior, but I also couldn’t just sit back and watch her make one of the biggest mistakes of her life.

And this is when I decided there is fine line between taking responsibility for your friends’ lives and being a true friend who voices concern when necessary.

It’s always okay to ask questions.

This is where I start.  If your friend has made a decision you think is a horrible idea, don’t just sit back and keep your mouth shut.  However, you can’t just jump in and yell your opinion from the roof top either.  Ask her questions to help her process her decision.

So y’all got back together. Tell me about that decision.  Why do you think he’s changed?  Do you think someone can truly change in just a few days?  How is it going to be different this time?  If our roles were reversed, what advice would you give me?  How can I support you?

When asking friends questions, all you’re doing is asking.  You don’t insert your opinion, unless asked.  You ask questions to help her process.  She may have great, smooth answers to all your questions.  She may stutter on all of them.  She may even get frustrated.  But  you’re just asking.  Don’t worry about how she responds.  The point is to offer her space to think through her decision.  Those questions may lead to her processing more and more on her own.  Usually, this will result in her asking, “Well what do you think?”  This is when you weigh your words carefully.

I never want to talk a friend in or out of a decision but…

I do wonder if he’s changed.  I wonder what it needs to look like from here on out, for you to really see that your relationship is better than it was.  I want you to be with a man who is worthy of you, who adores you.  I would love for it to be him, but I wonder if it is. 

Here you get to voice your concern, but not in a judgmental or “I know better than you” way.  You are voicing concern in a “I want what’s best for you” way and I’m here to support you.  You’re not convincing her to breakup with him, but you’re also not totally keeping your mouth shut.  However…

Sometimes you have to go on record.

Sometimes asking questions isn’t enough.  In the case of my best friend heading into a tortured marriage, I started by asking questions.  I moved to voicing concern without pressing my opinion.  However, as we got closer and closer to the wedding day, I knew I had to tell her I thought she was making a mistake.  I didn’t want her to come to me after 3 months of marriage and say “why didn’t you say something?! I was blind, but you could have warned me!”  So I did.  I told her that I loved her and would stand by her side on her wedding day no matter what, but that I thought she was making a huge mistake and rushing into a marriage that she wasn’t ready for.  It didn’t surprise her, but she married him anyway.  It broke my heart, but my conscience was clear.  I couldn’t make the decision for her or force her to break the engagement, but I could go on record and be bold in asking her to consider her decision.  Today, our friendship is still intact and her marriage isn’t.  By going on record, I didn’t change how it all went down, but I do think I did what a true friend would do, which is speak the truth in love and stick by her no matter what.

So start by asking questions.  See if you can’t help her think through her decision a bit more– she may come to the same conclusion you have on her own.  Voice your concern if asked.  I’ve learned that sharing your opinion when unsolicited is usually not helpful.  But occasionally, we have to go on record.  Out of love, we beg our friend to reconsider the path they are on.  Ask God for wisdom and discernment in how to approach your friend.

“My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.” (Proverbs 2:1–11, NLT)

Keeping the main thing the main thing.

focus

I totally get it.  Your “TO DO” list is 10 miles long.  You have papers, group projects, reading, clubs and organizations, leadership roles, internships, jobs, and more.  Not to mention you have friends you want to spend time with, maybe even a boyfriend you’d like to see, and let’s not forget taking care of yourself physically- eating, sleeping, working out.

It’s a miracle we get all of this done in a day!  But how do we keep our focus on what’s important?  Or–as some of my friends say–keeping the main thing the main thing.

1. You have to identify what’s the most important thing. So, what’s your main thing?

It doesn’t have to be ONE.  For me it’s my walk with Jesus and my relationships.  Relationships for me is a deep and wide category.  My family, friends, boyfriend, college students, high school students, coworkers… they all go in there.

I also don’t think you can have more than 3 main things.  Frankly, 2 is enough for me.  Whether it’s 1 or 3, you have to have the “main thing” easily identifiable.  Otherwise, you are are going to drown in the details while endlessly search for meaning.  And that’s just a horrible way to live.

2. You have to let go.

“One of my core fears is that someone would think I can’t handle as much as the next person. It’s fundamental to my understanding of myself for me to be the strong one, the capable one, the busy one, the one who can bail you out, not make a fuss, bring a meal, add a few more things to the list.” – Shauna Niequist. “Bittersweet.”

AMEN SHAUNA.  This is a reoccurring battle for me. I want to be superwoman and I want everyone to know it.  But the truth is, I have limits.  We all do and, frankly, I just can’t do everything.  In the same chapter of Bittersweet, Shauna repeats advice she received from a wise friend:

“And this is what Denise told me: she said it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about. ”- Shauna Niequist. “Bittersweet.”

So what are you going to give up?  What are you going to cut out of your list in order to keep the main thing the main things?  I’m honestly still trying to figure this one out.

3. And then you have to practice focusing on the main thing. Over and over.

So, this is the “easier said than done” part.  You have to start recognizing when you’re letting your to-do list dictate your life, your focus your priorities and you have to be intentional about realigning yourself.  When my to-do list gets overwhelming, I’ve trained myself to stop, take a moment , and ask myself “where is Jesus and where are my relationships in this?”  Again, I know what my main thing is.  It’s also never hard to find the main thing in my to-do list.  And then, when I reorient myself on the main thing, the details seem less overwhelming and more manageable.  And it’s easier to find joy in them.

Below is an entry from Jesus Calling that I keep taped to my desk.  I hope it helps you as you practice keeping the main thing the main thing!

JesusCallingquote

 

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