Category Archives: Faith and Growth

This week our family practiced saying sorry to each other, a lot. Always so much fun.  We had some words and attitudes and tones flying around that stung and caused mis-understandings.  Between my husband and me, between our children and us.  Between siblings.  Chalk it up to hormones (not just teenage ones) and stress and a lot of time together over spring break.

Words can be full of life and beauty and yet can cause deep pain.  We can talk so sweetly to a little child in a stroller passing by and then bark at our own children two minutes later. We want to be good, but our words and tone often betray what is in our heart…impatience, annoyance, selfishness, control, pride. God knows this and speaks in his word of how our tongue often plays two roles:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  James 3: 9-12

Why is this?  Because we are human and life often wears down our ability to respond kindly and with self-control in every situation.

So how do we tame this rouge tongue of ours? Especially when we use it in negative ways towards those we love the most?

BE AWARE 

Awareness.  We often have feelings and stress and fatigue and hurt from the outside world that we carry around like an overstuffed trash bag.  When someone close to us pushes on us or responds in a way that prickles our nerves we tend to dump the trash, all over them.

We are trying to learn as a family the ability of being in tune to how we are feeling.  When we are in touch with our stress or fatigue or sadness, it can help us and others to understand where our reactions are coming from.  Often our words tumble out before we even realize we are stressed or tired, but if we can take a minute to reflect on where the intense emotion came from, then we can communicate with others and seek reconciliation.

This one example of how it played out in our family this week:

One of our children over-reacted in anger towards me over a situation with our puppy. Our child’s emotion caught us off guard and the situation escalated.  When we were able to discuss and resolve it later, we found our our child had had a very difficult day of rejection from friends.  Upon hearing this we immediately moved from frustration to compassion towards them.

We coached our child on learning to be aware of when they are feeling sad or hurt and how that might come out sideways towards others.  And if it does, to apologize and communicate the deeper issue going on at that time.  This child took the coaching to heart and two other times last week apologized for a negative tone with an explanation of, “I’m sorry I spoke that way, I was really tired,” or, “I was stressed because I was running late.”   If a teenager can learn awareness, I can too.

 

BE PREPARED

In an ideal world, we become so self-aware that we are continually in tune to our feelings and have the ability to control every reaction and word no matter what comes our way….I’m chuckling as I write that.  Pretty impossible.

But not completely.

I have found something that helps me again and again to control my tongue (most of the time) no matter how stressed or tired or weary I am feeling:

I prepare my heart and mind before the day starts with spending time with God.

I have learned that spending time with God in the morning and asking him for wisdom and self- control with my tongue that day can help so much. When I invite God into my day, he takes the wheel.  He gives me strength and peace and perspective in each situation.

I especially need to ask for help when I know my tongue might get me into trouble because of life’s stresses.  Times for me that need extra preparation:

~When I have a very busy day with a lot on my to-do list

~ When there has already been conflict and my heart feels wounded

~I have a presentation or am leading something that day (needing to be “on”)

~ When I am weary of life, going through a tough or busy season

All of these situations can cause me to be sharp with others. When I am aware of these triggers, I can be all the more prepared for the day by spending crucial time with God in the morning.  I can ask Him for peace, self-control in my responses, and a gentle tone in my words no matter what comes my way that day.

It’s one of those miracles that seems to always provide when I ask.

It is inevitable that we will mess up, and when we do a heartfelt sorry is often an instant and healing salve on the wounds we have created.  We must use sorry without hesitation and with reckless abandon in our relationships.

To think about:

What situations/circumstances trigger your emotions? How can you be more aware of what is behind the angry feelings or words?  How can you prepare your heart and mind for your day?

I am thinking a lot about words and how I use them because our bible study group is reading the book Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman.  It is full of wisdom on this subject.  I will be creating a video on what we are learning each week and will post it on my Blog Facebook Community page.  Here is my video from last week:

FACEBOOK VIDEO ON USING OUR WORDS WISELY

If you haven’t joined our group on Facebook and want to hear more on this subject, CLICK THIS LINK and “like” the page to see posts.  I will be posting a new video this Tuesday on why sometimes it feels so good to lash out, and the one perspective check we all could use.

Here’s to taming our tongue, being aware, prepared and ready to say sorry.

~Amy

 

 

 

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Do you remember when we were growing up and used to play four-square at recess?  There were so many times where I’d do a double bounce and yet because we were all having so much fun someone would say, “Do over!”  Or when I served a ball that clearly landed outside the boundary and a kind friend would say, “Do over!”  I loved those moments.  The ones that kept me in the game even when I deserved to be kicked out.

As I reflect on the past year, I could certainly use a “do over” in different areas–parenting, marriage, even my blogging and design work. There are always mistakes made, but there also somehow seems to be grace in the mix, and I think I feel it the most this time of year–when in the new year I get to shake the dust off my boots (especially the cute ones I just got for Christmas) and receive another chance to do better.

The idea of new beginnings is not new. God set this into the framework of time and space-through the seasons (Earth’s tilt), the new year (Earth’s travel around the sun), and the new day (Earth’s rotation).  His word says that he has new mercies waiting for us each and every morning.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Don’t you just love that?  Whatever it is that holds us back, that weighs us down, that we wish we had done differently….we get a second chance, and a third, and a fourth. Just like the trees that get the chance to grow taller and stronger with each passing spring, so do we.

So let’s take a deep breath as the new year approaches. In what areas do you want to grow taller and stronger in 2017?

Health? Spirituality? Relationships? Finances? Marriage? Parenting? Work?

Ask yourself some questions:

1.  In what part of your life do you want a fresh start?

2. What went well last year that you want to continue?

3. What didn’t?

4. In what areas do you want a “do over”?

Invite God into this process.  What work is He doing in you right now?  What new adventures is He inviting you to take?

Maybe God is saying, “It’s okay, this is a journey. This will work itself out in time,” or maybe He has been gently convicting your heart for a while now that it’s time for you to take some steps in a better direction.

This process of reflection is so important if we are to move ahead in growth and maturity.  Take some time today to write your thoughts down, or find some quiet time to just be still and think.

If you need some help, Michael Hyatt has put together a “Life Assessment” which is a short online questionnaire to help you identify areas of strength and weakness.  I took it and it confirmed what I suspected but made it much more real to see it “scored.”  I clearly see the areas where I need to set some new goals!  There is not a follow up to this survey–the webinar he attached it to is no longer running–I just used it for my own personal assessment:

http://assessment.bestyearever.me/intro

I love second chances because it means I don’t have to stay stuck.  That my mistakes and flops and areas of partial growth do not have to be my only story.  I get to write a new chapter this coming year.  I get a do-over!

Have a good day my friend!

~Amy

In my next post I will share some more concrete strategies on how to create New Year Resolutions that stick! (more…)

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I shared in my last post about our house journey over the past year, and how unexpected so many pieces of it were, and not in a good way.  There was disappointment and questioning and difficulty coming to grips with the fact that the story I had written for myself wasn’t the story that was actually happening.

Yet, in the end, it was the best story for us. Not because of how the chapters wrapped up, but because of what change occurred in me and our family in the middle of the book, when the ending was unclear.  I am a different, better version of myself this year…more trusting in God and more faithful in my worship of Him.  Two things that are priceless to me as I continue my journey in life.

What story is being written in your life right now? Is it different than the story you had mapped out for yourself?

Just like Jesus arriving in baby flesh and total dependence instead of pomp and circumstance and royal authority, we have a story that is often different than expected. But there are great gifts waiting if we choose to embrace the story (regardless how different) our heavenly author has written for us.

Gifts of maturity and faith and total dependence on something wiser and greater than ourselves~ultimately gifts of peace.

Maybe this is why Jesus’s birth was the perfect example of dependence. He was a helpless, vulnerable babe, accepting the story his Heavenly Father had written for him. Jesus has always lived out reality for us in human form, from the very straw and night and stars and mother’s kiss that welcomed his arrival.

This Christmas, when we are in the thick if a story we didn’t write, lets remember that we have a God who only writes perfect stories.  And in His stories He cares deeply about us, and wants to draw us near Him as we learn to trust in His goodness and embrace our dependence on Him.

He will bring us peace and hope.

Have a blessed Christmas.

~Amy

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Hello! Today on the blog I am sharing a story I have been wanting to tell for months…but it just hasn’t seemed like the right timing.  And then the Christmas season arrived and I began thinking about waiting– waiting for the celebration, anticipating the excitement of the season, and the waiting that happened for the generations of Israelites in anticipation of the birth of their King.

It reminded me of my story from the last year–one of anticipation but of much waiting.  A true time of testing for me.  You may want to snuggle in for the video which is a bit longer than I wanted–it is, after all, a story of waiting.  But it is a message of hope and encouragement for those of us who are expectant of life to somehow work itself out differently than it seems, that there is One who knows us and sees us while we wait.

 

You may be in a time of waiting, and it may not be wrapped up neatly in a bow like ours was in the end.  It may take a long, long time for the story to play out.

But please hear this–it is not how the story ends that is important…it is how God changes us in the midst of our waiting.

THIS is when he pulls up a chair to talk, because we are often ready to listen. Hear what he is whispering, lean in to his voice of love and grace and trust.

He’s got this.

Merry Christmas to you!

PS:  Please join me on my Facebook Blog Community page!  I post several times a week–notes of encouragement or I share great articles and tips I stumble upon:

https://www.facebook.com/amyhayesblog/

Also, I am on Instagram @amyleehayes–would love to connect with you there too!

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The last couple of weeks have been rich in connection for me.

Last weekend I attended a retreat at an adorable Bed and Breakfast for a leadership class.  In the evening, after class had finished, we all sat in an ornately decorated dining room around a large dark wood table and played Apples to Apples and Four Corners and teased and joked as thirteen women at 11:00 pm will do.  When we all headed to bed, I said good night to my roomie that I didn’t know very well.   We turned out the lights, and then something sparked a conversation about our past teaching days. For a half an hour we laughed until our sides hurt telling really funny stories…it was priceless.

The next morning my college girlfriends were in town for a visit and picked me up from the retreat.

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We spent the day in Estes Park paddleboarding (more laughing) and then heading to Boulder for dinner.  Before dinner we drove by the house “on the Hill” where we all lived together in college, and saw there was a party going on.  Only one of the girls in our group was sane and suggested we don’t go in, but the rest of us out-voted her and when a young man outside invited us in we just couldn’t resist the chance to see the inside of the house we lived in 25 years ago.

It was so interesting how the entire house cleared out when five forty-something moms walked in…Here we are being troublemakers…the house is behind us.

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We giggled about that whole scene on the rooftop of a Mexican restaurant that evening. Along with sharing so much more about our kids and jobs and homes and lives.

 

img_0414The week before I met two friends for lunch–we gather three times a year to celebrate each of our birthdays.  We have been doing this for years and have walked through so much together.  We spent this whole lunch wrestling through some hard topics around faith and our lives…our time connecting was as rich and satisfying as the food we ate.

Then this past weekend, Jon and I invited our whole street (our new house sits in the middle of two culdesacs) over for a Fall Chili Dinner.  We don’t know all of our new neighbors and wanted to connect.  Over thirty adults and kids came and we stood and sat out back by the fire in the crisp evening air and just got to know each other.

All of this fills me up overflowing.

My guess is your life is full of dear people who you long to connect with, over coffee or a warm meal, in your home or theirs.  Couples, friends, family, neighbors.  To share your life and to know what is going on in theirs, so you can support and encourage and love each other.

We have a gravitational-like pull to be known, to connect.

I think it’s important to remember that all of these times, these connecting moments together, are an expression of God here on earth.  

He created us to know and be known.

Adam was not at his best alone, so God created Eve.  So they could be in each other’s lives and know each other.

Elizabeth and Mary, relatives and friends that helped and encouraged each other, as did Ruth and Naomi. Jesus and his disciples. They showed up in each other’s lives.  They knew each other.

And at an even deeper, richer, more intimate level, God wants this know/known relationship with us.

He knows us.  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. ~Psalm 139:13

He wants to be known.  Be still and know I am God. ~Psalm 46:10

But Why?  Because in the same way as I feel so loved and connected with my husband or children or friends when we have spent time sharing words and thoughts and feelings, God also provides us with love and connection when we know him.

He fills us up, satisfies our soul, causes all the shiny attractions of the world to fade away because we are completely, wholly, deeply known and understood by our Creator.

So the next time you are sipping Starbucks with a girlfriend, or sharing your day with your spouse, or just hugging your little one without saying any words at all, remember that this is a reflection of a God who has created us for relationship with each other and Him.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is it that you love most about connecting with others?
  2. Do you have any hesitation to being known by others?  Why do you think that may be?
  3.  What do you think about being fully known by God?
  4.  Who do you want to connect with this week?  How can you make that happen?

Today, find time to connect, to know and be known.

Blessings,

~Amy

COMING UP:  This Wednesday I will be sharing the Ultimate Healthy Bundle on my site--this is AMAZING! You won’t believe all the products, courses, printables, etc. that you can get at a super-low price that will help you and your family live the most healthy life possible.  Stay tuned…

bundle

 

 

 

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change pic

My sister posted this quote on Facebook today and I just loved it.  Not because I practice this in my life but because I usually don’t.  But I want to.

Having children makes me “change focused” already (always wanting to make them better little people), and then you add my natural bent towards attempting to control people and things around me and this quote feels both incredibly challenging and incredibly freeing.

What if I could really detach and stop worrying about the people around me?

That would feel, well, amazing.

An important question to ask those of us who graduated from The School Of Changing Others is why do we feel the need to fix people?

It possibly boils down to two main reasons:

  1. FEAR of someone making us unhappy by their actions or behaviors
  2.  EXPECTATIONS of who someone should be based on my terms (I originally wrote “unrealistic” expectations, but I think its expectations.  Period.)

Fears and expectations cause such unnecessary burdens on our hearts and minds.

So how do we let go?  How do we stop worrying and fretting and playing scenarios in our head of how things would be different if that person in our life could just evolve into the person we expect and want them to be?

For me, it requires something extremely difficult and extremely easy all at the same time:

Trusting God.

Trusting God with the people I love, their life, their journey, His timing.

I find when I bring my concerns to Him, the Wise Counselor, He calms my spirit, helps me to open my gripping fingers around the issue.  He often shuts my mouth when I am about to barrel ahead with words that just seem so important to say.

But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.  Isaiah 42:7

I am convinced that I am my own idol sometimes.  I trust in myself, in my feelings and my prideful and self-righteous convictions.  I can see it so clearly in others, when they judge while clearly having their own “stuff” to work on, but the ability to see it in myself is like a shadow that shifts and ducks.

If I can set aside myself enough to make room for God, well, that is the magic–to truly believe that He is in control so I don’t have to be.  It is the place where I stop worrying and start respecting those I love by letting them journey and learn and grow on their own terms.

Prayer for Letting Go:

God, I pray that you will help me trust you more, especially with my children as they grow up and become the people with the story you have planned for them.  Help me to trust you with my marriage and my friendships and those I work with. I pray that I can live out this scripture well:

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.   Psalm 62:8

Blessings to you today!

xoxo,

~Amy

P.S. Would you consider sharing this post?  Thank you!

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Prayer Schedule

Welcome to the third post in the War Room marriage series!  If you missed the first two, they are here: Three Marriage Lessons From The Movie War Room and The Perfect Place To Pray.  And at the bottom of this post are great free printables for you and your prayer life!

Today’s blog is about giving you strategy and tools for your prayer life–specifically for using in a War Room or Prayer Closet (see links above for more info on creating this).  I can’t figure out which title for this prayer place I like the best.  I’m pretty sure the producers of the movie “War Room” didn’t have this struggle…they knew the movie “Prayer Closet” wouldn’t be a Saturday night blockbuster.  But, I’m leaning toward Prayer Closet for my new space.  I think I will get less odd looks from my family when I say that’s where I’m heading for a little bit.

Back to the tools.  If you saw the movie, the main character, Elizabeth, learns specific strategies of how to pray in her closet.  I am a sucker for lists and bullet points and strategy, especially when it comes to prayer.  It helps me focus my thoughts and not wander to my “to do list” for the day during my time with God.

Here are the four strategies the movie shared:

Prayer Closet Steps to Praying

ONE: Acknowledge God in His Glory.  Praise God for all he is and does!

God deserves our praise.  Truly.  Let’s start our time letting him know how amazing He is. He doesn’t need to hear this from us–but it a posture we can take to move our hearts to a humble open place for praying.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”—2 Samuel 22:2-4

TWO: Confess Your Sins.

The bible says when we confess our sins before the Lord we are forgiven, washed white as snow, clean and pure to present our next requests before him.

Often we pray, “Lord please forgive me.”  He already has!  Instead, we can pray, “God, I confess my sin to you.  I confess…..”  It holds us more accountable to being truthful.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

THREE: Give Your Needs To God.

Here are some sentence starters to lay our requests before our heavenly Father:

God, I pray for ……..

Lord, please show me how to handle this situation through your eyes not mine.

Fill me with the holy spirit so I can ….

Show me where you can use me.

I need help or direction or wisdom with ….

Give me strength to endure….I want to be a woman of wisdom and courage and peace in the midst of all the chaos around me.

I feel hopeless or discouraged.  Remind me that you are in control and you are Good.

FOUR: Choose To Believe

At some point our words spill onto the floor with no power if we do not choose to BELIEVE in what we are saying.  Even a whisper of HOPE and FAITH that God is good and trustworthy can invite God to do powerful things in our lives.  Try praying this:

“God I choose to put my faith in you.  I choose to trust you and believe that you are all that you say you are.  Even when I cannot see the outcome, even when life swirls and confuses, I choose to believe you are present and working and have a good plan for my life.”

I’ve created a few PRINTABLES (I have to put that in caps because free printables are just really exciting)!   These are to help get your Prayer Closet started (remember it doesn’t have to be a closet–even just a corner or quiet nook of your home).   I hope they give you inspiration and direction as you take prayer to the next level in your life.

You can print them out and tack them to a bulletin board or tape them to the wall of your prayer area.  Use these printables to help you strategize your prayer time.  If you don’t have a prayer closet, you can use these anywhere you go to pray.

This first printable if to help you structure your prayer time:

Prayer Closet Steps to Praying

Click to DOWNLOAD: Prayer Strategy

This next printable is specifically for praying for your marriage:

Hi. It's me. I come to you today with confession, gratitude and praise. I confess _______. I am thankful for_________Click to DOWNLOAD:  Marriage Prayer

And for those of us who like a little scheduling in life..

Prayer Schedule

Click to DOWNLOAD:   Prayer Schedule

Think about how our perspective could change if we prayed the following every day:

Psalm Prayer

Click here to DOWNLOAD: Psalm Prayer

Hopefully these get you started!  I will be sharing more in future posts.

Subscribe to my email list to receive faith encouragement and decorating idea posts in your inbox once a week, and please share with your praying friends!

xoxo,

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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