Habits of friendship I've learned from my husband
My friends today might find this shocking but I wasn’t a great friend before I met my husband, Alex. I was socially awkward, distant, and aloof. I struggled with building strong lasting friendships. Let’s put it to you this way I was only a bridesmaid in one wedding and that was for my sister. (Obligatory maid of honor position) There are a few habits I picked up from Alex who is a master at making and keeping friends!
Alex has a habit of reaching out to his friends. When he thinks about them he sends a text or calls. He doesn’t wait for an opportune time because he knows he will forget. Even if it has been awhile he braves the awkwardness. This one habit has helped him maintain friendships for decades. He proactively communicates with his friends. He also interacts with their social media feeds. He doesn’t just “like” their posts. He comments so they know he loves what they are up to. This is the lowest level of reaching out though. If you want to be a real friend you must communicate directly with them.
Not sure what to say? Here are a few go to phrases that I use just to let someone know I’m thinking about them.
Be responsive and answer the phone.
The second part of communicating is responding. When a friend sends you a message, reply right away. There is nothing more annoying than sending an invite and hearing nothing. A quick, “Sounds like fun, let me check my calendar.” is perfect. Or if it is just a nice message send an appropriate emoji. Responsiveness also calls for you to pick up the phone when someone calls you. I was the worst at picking up the phone when anyone called. I waited to see what they wanted before I called them back. Alex picks up the phone every-time no matter whether he recognizes the number or not. This habit makes your friends feel important.
Invite them to be part of your life.
Alex is incredibly invitational and includes people in the things he loves to do. I always worried whether someone would want to do the stuff I was doing so I didn’t invite them. Rather than be rejected I withheld the invitation. What I have learned is that MOST people will come along just to be with you and have something interesting to do. Creating a habit of inviting people to do life with you helps build stronger friendships. Shared experiences create a pattern and culture of doing life together. Inviting people to do stuff with me is still the hardest habit for me...but I am getting better.
Alex is one of the best encouragers I have ever met. He has helped me continue to pursue my dreams when I felt my lowest. He champions his friends’ dreams and goals. He listens carefully to their ideas and gives honest feedback but ultimately encourages them to go for it. He is genuine in his encouragement which is why it is so powerful. The habit of lifting up your friends is key in building solid and lasting relationships. An encouraging friend can help us keep going when we want to give up.
It goes without saying that friendship should be fun. However, some friendships are taxing, hard, and draining? It’s time to set boundaries and choose friends that you enjoy spending time with. Life is too short to waste time with people that are boring, sad, and cranky. Alex doesn’t spend time with people he cannot have a good time with. That’s not to say we haven’t had experienced tear-filled evenings with friends going through tough times, it just means that those are not the norm. We, like most people, prioritize hanging out with friends that are fun.
Alex is a fabulous friend. I am eternally grateful that he has helped me become a better friend. I attribute my incredible friendships with my girlfriends now to the habits he has shown me. I am a proactive friend and reach out when I think of someone. I try to respond to text messages and phone calls. I’m working on including people in the events and activities I like to do. Alex and I cheer for our friends and celebrate their victories. Because we have healthy friendships we laugh, cry, play games, talk politics, and everything in between. Friends are what make life enjoyable so choose some good peeps and practice these habits to build and maintain these life-giving relationships. Which of these habits is hardest for you?
People ask me regularly what I do for exercise. My typical response is, “I do lots of things including weights, hiking, running, and yoga.” The response is usually a confused defeated look. As though I were hiding the magical routine that keeps me in shape. The real reason I stay physically fit is because I am DISCIPLINED in exercising between four and five days per week. I choose different types of exercise so my body never gets complacent. It makes sense that my body stays in shape when I maintain this habit.
Our spiritual body just like our physical body. It needs a workout regime to stay strong. Spiritual disciplines are the activities we practice to strengthen our faith. They are habits we develop to live a full life. When we don’t practice spiritual disciplines we can expect weak spiritual performance. Even more than being physically fit I desire to be spiritual fit. Here are five of my favorite spiritual disciplines that will strengthen your faith.
Five Spiritual Disciplines That Strengthen Your Faith
#1 - Study the Word
This is by far the most important of the spiritual disciplines because it’s the foundation of spiritual fitness. Studying the word of God is like training your core. When your abs and back are strong you can accomplish a lot more and you are protected from injury. The same is true of studying God’s word. It strengthens your spiritual core and protects you from harm.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. (Proverbs 3: 1-2 ESV)
When I say study I am not just talking about reading the bible although that is a good start. When you were in school how did you study? You read, took notes, then memorized facts that you knew would be on the test right? This is how I study God’s word.
#2 - Prayer
Prayer is spiritual communication between man and God. It is the practice that allows us to share our needs as well as our thankfulness with God. It also is how God shares His thoughts with us. This is the spiritual discipline that we are to practice at all times.
...pray without ceasing, (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
God wants to communicate with us at all times and about all things. Prayer is like lifting dumbbells. At first we might start with a 5 minute session. It’s lightweight. However as we get stronger in our prayer life we will increase our time, power, and breakthrough we experience. Don’t feel the pressure to start a habit of prayer that is three hours long. Start by creating an intentional habit to pray. Just start lifting the weights. Here are some great resources on prayer that have helped me grow in the area of prayer.
#3 - Worship
Worship is the act of honoring God. This is our workout mixtape. Have you ever tried to workout to slow classical piano? No? Me either. So don’t try to lead a dynamic power-filled spiritual life if you are not prepared to praise. Worship changes the atmosphere. It ushers in an attitude of gratitude, awe, and humility. I find it difficult to worship when I am angry, frustrated, or sad. Emotions the enemy to my spirit would love for me to wallow in. However, when I choose to worship those toxic emotions roll off easier. Don’t be intimidated if you are not musically inclined. God inhabits the praises of his people, so to Him you sound amazing! #carpoolkarokewithjesus
#4 - Generosity
Giving our time, money, and resources is a challenging spiritual discipline. It requires us to trust we will have all we need. It’s like signing up for a marathon. We don’t know how we are going to finish 26 miles but we start with one. When we practice generosity we mirror the nature of God. It can be daunting at first. I believe God wants us to adopt a generous lifestyle because it sets us apart. It points people to Him. I heard one pastor say, “I’ve never been able to out-give God.” I couldn’t say it better than that. Just imagine if every Christian in the world decided to try to “out-give” God? Our world would change overnight.
The world of the generous gets larger and larger; (Proverbs 11:24 MSG)
If you are looking at your bank account and there isn’t anything to give, ask God to show you where you can begin to become generous? Trust me when I say that we ALL have something to share, which leads me to my final spiritual discipline that strengthens your faith.
#5 - Serve Others
Jesus came to serve. He could have come as a mighty king establishing his reign with power and might, he chose to humble himself. If you want to be first in the new kingdom, be the least in hierarchy here on earth. If you think you are too sick, poor, or unskilled to serve here are just a few of the thousands of ways you can help others.
This list is infinite, because God’s servant-hearted spirit is infinite. You might be asking “how” all these spiritual disciplines will strengthen your faith? They all stretch us in some way. Whether it is in understanding, focus, rest, trust in resources, or in humility. These five spiritual disciplines when practiced regularly will set your feet on a solid foundation to change your life and the lives of those you influence. How do I stay spiritually fit? These are my five favorite exercises. Don’t look confused...remember it’s not WHAT I’m doing, it is being DISCIPLINED in practicing them regularly.
How to determine an opportunity from a distraction.
Life presents us with many paths. It can be challenging which direction to go when the options are similar. I have often been asked the question, “Would you be interested in...?” From starting a small group, joining a mission trip, or moving to another country this question is often followed by excitement or uncertainty. Some decisions are easier than others but I have learned a few ways to determine an opportunity from a distraction.
Prayer is how we communicate with God. It seems obvious that we would pray about opportunities that are being presented to us. However, I am guilty of asking a friend what they think only for them to ask, “Have you prayed about it?” I cringe at that response but I know praying is the first thing I need to do when given a chance to step into a new thing. I’m not talking about flippantly saying, “God what do you want me to do?" I'm talking about strategically seeking input from God in prayer. Here are a few questions to consider.
Does it align with the word of God?
God is not contradictory. God-opportunities align with his mission and purpose found in the Bible. You might be saying, yes but the Bible doesn’t have a section that outlines exactly my situation. It’s true that finding your exact situation might be challenging but it is worth digging in. If you are considering a new job do a search for “New Job Scripture.” I’m confident that one will stand out and resonate with you. God is not about confusion. If you seek to know His will and follow His plan, He will make it clear.
Seek counsel from trusted friends.
When you are considering whether something is an opportunity or a distraction it is helpful to present it to a trusted friend. Be careful you don’t select someone just based on what you suspect they will say. In other words, if you dislike your current job and you really WANT this new opportunity to release you don’t ask your best friend who lives in the neighborhood of the new job. They will not necessarily give you an unbiased opinion.
“Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” (Proverbs 11:14 NLT)
Choose someone who you respect and who will be honest with you.
Does it align with your goals?
If you have a dream or goal that you feel God has revealed to you it is important to evaluate whether or not this new opportunity will bring you closer to it or delay it. Sometimes we have divine detours that teach us new things that ultimately lead to our goals but we have to be careful not to slow our momentum by saying yes to every new chance we are offered. Your vision or purpose that God has buried inside you is a very good guide to determine whether something is a God-opportunity or a distraction.
Refuse to believe the TIME lie.
I squirm when a “chance of a lifetime” knocks on my door but has a deadline. I have to fight hard against the lie that if I don’t jump right away that I will NEVER have this chance again. God exists outside of time and space. His opportunities are not limited by a superficial deadline. It is important that we move into actively deciding whether we are going to move forward or pass. However, evaluate the timeline on the weight of the decision. For example, deciding whether or not you are going to serve at the food pantry tomorrow shouldn’t be a big decision. However, deciding whether or not you are going to move your family overseas to start a mission is a massive decision and needs ample time to confirm. I love the story of Gideon because he needed extra time and confirmation to step into a big opportunity. If you are facing a big opportunity, take your time.
Being a follower of Jesus has opened so many doors in my life. Some have been God-ordained opportunities that led to amazing growth in my own life and the lives of those around me. Others were cleverly disguised distractions that led to frustration, delay, and unnecessary stress. I’m much better at determining whether it is an opportunity or distraction these days. I pray strategically and benchmark my answers against what I find in the Bible. If I am still unsure I ask trusted friends and evaluate if it aligns with my God-breathed goals and dreams. I don’t let time pressure me into making a rash decision. God gives me all the time I need to proceed with His plans enthusiastically and with confidence. How do you determine if something is a God-opportunity or distraction? If you found this helpful I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Happy decision-making!
Some women wear joy like a jacket. They effortlessly smile, wave, and embrace others with a genuine sense of happiness. I admired people like that from afar but never thought I could be one of them. I wished I could order up joy like a side of fries. Ironically, today people would probably say I am one of those people. That I always seem so joyful. Let’s just say it took a few wardrobe changes before joy became an easy fit. There are a few habits of joyful people I learned through the process.
5 Habits of Joyful People
They eliminate behaviors and relationships that steal joy.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)
Jesus came so that we can have a full life. This includes our relationships and behaviors. When you get together with your friends for lunch do you feel refreshed, inspired, and encouraged, or do you feel depressed, sad, and disgusted? If it is the later it is time to FIRE a few friends. I’m being serious. Don’t continue to hang around negative people just because they have “always” been your friend. If you are trying to become a joyful person it helps to surround yourself with positive people. Just let go of those cranky hooches.
Also, are there habits that make you feel depleted? Here are a few things that deplete me:
If you are feeling cranky, check to see if your social circle or your habits are creating a positive or negative atmosphere. We always have a choice about what we watch, listen to, and spend our time doing.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Joyful people understand the freedom that forgiveness brings. They move from grudges to reconciliation quickly. This doesn’t mean that they don’t get hurt, it simply means they make an intentional effort to move past hurt quickly. Jesus calls us to continue to forgive. Now that doesn’t mean that we set ourselves up to continue to be hurt by careless people. We need boundaries...see the first habit of firing negative people from our lives! However, holding onto bitterness, resentment, and hurt just robs us of joy. Forgiveness and grace for others ushers in restoration and wholeness in our own hearts.
They are generous.
The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. (Proverbs 11:24 MSG)
The Bible tells us that being generous expands our life. According to Forbes and Entrepreneur generous people are happier. The habit of being generous in our time and our resources help us to feel a sense of purpose. When we help others it gives our brain a surge of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine which helps us to feel good. The more we serve others especially during high-stress times the better we tend to cope with the situation.
They celebrate the everyday moments.
So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NLT)
Joyful people understand the beauty in savoring everyday moments. My husband is one of the most enthusiastic people I know and he celebrates even the smallest victories. He watches sunsets, kisses his daughter on the forehead, cuddles with his dog, and tears up when he counts his blessings. This is what I am talking about relishing the common moments in life. I’ve learned from him that celebrating what can seem normal actually creates a habit of seeing extraordinary things every day. It builds a mindset that expects amazing things. Joyful people celebrate the ordinary with extraordinary enthusiasm.
They take care of themselves.
Joyful people exercise. I’m not suggesting you must become a world-class athlete, but you should do something to move your body. Here is a list of things to do for exercise that don’t feel like exercise. Exercise gives you a dose of endorphins that make you feel good. Get enough sleep. Every person needs a different amount of sleep to feel rested, but it is typically between 6-8 hours per night. Make a habit of going to bed at the same time every night. This will help you go to sleep faster and have higher quality sleep as well. If you ever have tried to pull an all-nighter you know that the next day or two is hard to be full of joy. Exhaustion makes us irritated. Taking care of your physical body helps us feel healthy, strong, and energized.
Habits of joyful people aren’t based on circumstances they are a choice. It was a hard lesson for me to learn as I considered all those people that seemed effortlessly joyful. We determine our friends, where we spend our time and how quickly we forgive. We can choose to give freely of our time and resources to help others. We decide to see and savor the moment by moment beauty of life. Lastly, we make a choice of how we treat our bodies. All these habits don’t guarantee joy in your life but I promise if you commit to doing them regularly you are going to feel a shift and it will be positive. How do you choose joy? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
How I'm dealing with disappointment.
Anyone else ready to wave the white flag and give up on trying to DO anything during a global pandemic? I am. My family and I just got word that the third vacation we had planned has been canceled. It was set for October so we thought we were in the clear. Nope. Vacation has been denied...again. Dealing with this disappointment led to some extensive, albeit, pointless internet research on how long we would need to wait to actually go on a trip. Scientific estimates point to 2022, without a viable vaccine. Waiting two years for a vacation gives me that sensation that you pregnant, have to pee, at a women’s conference, and you are like 15 ladies deep. I’m gonna storm the next stall for real!
Disappointment is a part of life, that’s not news. However, the amount of disappointment we are dealing with these days feels a bit overwhelming. I needed some help in how to deal with yet another complication in our life thanks to COVID. I turned my thoughts to the one thing that always gives me hope. The word of God. Here are a few ideas I’ve found to help to deal with disappointment.
Trust God has a plan.
When I have missed important events in the past I reminded myself that God is in control of my life and I trust that his way is better than my own. For example, when I turned 30 I registered for a triathlon with my sister. We were rushing to get out of the house with all of our gear etc. We finally got in the car and headed out but got stuck in a traffic jam for hours. We missed our race time. We found out later a man had streaked the interstate and an 18 wheeler overturned killing the man and injuring the driver. I chose to trust that God had saved my sister and me from an injury that morning. Divine delays create disappointment but placing my faith in God’s plan helps me more easily see the silver linings through the circumstance. I may not understand at the time why something is happening but I can still trust in an almighty God that doesn’t work the way I do.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
Grieve but don't stay stuck.
When you lose something you have permission to grieve and process that loss. I love what Women’s Health says, “Acknowledge your gloomy emotions and then forgive yourself.” When you lose a job it’s hard. When you lose a loved one it’s devastating. When you must cancel a trip, concert, birthday, graduation or wedding it’s sad. It is appropriate and normal to take a moment to grieve. The key is not to stay stuck there. Don’t allow a losing moment to turn you into a loser for life. I know too many people who are blaming their ex-wives or husbands for their inability to move forward years later. If you are struggling moving forward, seek out a certified counselor or therapist that can help. Don’t tell yourself just to “get over it.” Sometimes we need to talk through our grief with a friend or professional to move on in a healthy way.
“The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” (Psalms 30:5 MSG)
Praise through the pouting.
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5-6 NIV)
When we feel disappointed it is often due to circumstances that are out of our control. It is especially difficult when we saw it coming and tried to stop it but alas we were still disappointed. I have close friends who were furloughed then laid-off during this season. They knew it was likely but still felt the sting of ultimately being let go. I am so encouraged that we can go through hard times and come out on the other side victorious because the example Jesus gave us as he went to the cross. The ultimate disappointment. He didn’t use his might or power to stop what he already knew he would endure. He said, “My Father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He surrendered control of his destiny into the hands of God. Jesus is our ultimate example of what to do when we are disappointed. Give it to God.
Even though I am still in the grief phase of missing my vacation, I know that I’m only one good worship session away from reestablishing my trust and hope in God’s plan and his ways. I am sure other disappointments will come up as we navigate this global pandemic for the foreseeable future. I’m not waiving the white flag yet! However, I know who to look to when I need help surrendering control. #jesustakethewheel Are there other ways you are dealing with disappointment? I’d love to hear your suggestions. Please leave them in the comments below.