4 Reasons to Have Hope When You're Hurting This Holiday Season

4 Reasons to Have Hope When You're Hurting This Holiday Season

I love the holidays with all those picture-perfect moments and photo-worthy family gatherings. I love thinking about and planning for the fun activities and festive meals we’ll participate in. Most of all, I love savoring the birth of the Savior - Christmas is such a wonderful time to reflect and think about all that Jesus did on my behalf.

But maybe you’re not eager for the holidays this year because you’re hurting. Maybe a recent loss - or a loss associated with either Thanksgiving or Christmas - has dampened your joy, and you’re not really sure how to feel happy when, inside, you’re still suffering deeply.

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How to Preach Truth to Yourself During A Hallway

How to Preach Truth to Yourself During A Hallway

“How are things going?” I asked a friend who was walking through a very dark hallway.

“I’m surviving because I’m preaching truth to myself during this valley,” she replied.

Her response both encouraged and challenged me. I was thrilled to hear that she was taking measures to find her hope in the Lord, but I was also convicted about the way I handle my own struggles. When I’m hurting, how often do I forget to remind myself of the truths in God’s Word? Do I even know how to preach truth to myself?

Maybe you’ve wondered the same things. You know you should be dwelling on God’s faithfulness and preaching truth to yourself, but how do you go about doing it?

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How to Read Revelation with Enjoyment

How to Read Revelation with Enjoyment

Revelation has long been one of my favorite books in the Bible.  But it wasn't until very recently that I learned just how rare that makes me - many people find Revelation too gruesome, too weird, and too difficult to enjoy.

While I definitely understand these aversions to the last book of the Bible, there are at least three things we can keep in mind in order to read Revelation with enjoyment as well.

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How to Start A Coffee Tradition with your Struggling Son

Jon and I used to watch Locked Up Abroad, a documentary on Westerners who have been incarcerated in another country.  (I don't necessarily recommend the show; I seem to remember some pretty gruesome details at times.)  Most of the stories were about men who had decided to do drug runs once or twice to earn extra income and who had been caught in the process.  Without fail, what they all regretted most was having hurt their mothers by their poor choices.

And it made me realize something important:  we as mothers have a profound influence over their children, even when we don't feel like we do. 

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Can There Be Beauty in the Hallway?

When we moved into our current home a little over a year ago, I was a bit apprehensive about having a house with a hallway.  I've shared before that hallways, whether literal or figurative, aren't my favorite things.  But as I've grown used to my new home and as I've walked down my new hallway countless times, I've begun to notice something totally unexpected:

I'm falling in love with my hallway.

Honestly?  I can't believe that I'd ever even like a hallway, let alone love one.  But as I walk through my hallway multiple times a day, I've come to realize some important things about it:

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Day 22: Remember Christ's Sacrifice

Day 22:  remember Christ's sacrifice Welcome to Day 22 of the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!

When I was at college, we heard the Cross preached almost daily.  In fact, I almost grew tired of hearing, "Christ died for your sins."  That's a little hard for me to admit, but it's true.  And isn't it sad?  We as believers should never take for granted the work that Jesus did by dying in our place.

I think part of the reason I struggled so much during my college years was that it seemed to me as though the Cross was most often presented to unbelievers needing to be saved, and I as a believer wanted more than just being told of Christ's death on the Cross.  There is so much more to His sacrifice.  It goes so much deeper than merely a man being executed for something He didn't do.

But one pastor did speak of Christ's sacrifice from the standpoint of the believer.  "Remember Calvary every day," he told us.  It's excellent advice.  If you've been a Christian for a long time like I have, it's easy to fall into complacency.  As terrible as it is, it's easy to forget all that the Lord did for us.Today, I want you to remember Christ's sacrifice.

As I just mentioned, there is so much more to Christ's death than merely a man dying on a cross.  From the fall of man way back in Genesis 3, God orchestrated the substitution of His perfect Son to die in our stead.  He first created the original-but-imperfect sacrificial system of the Old Testament that gave way to Jesus' ultimate, perfect sacrifice.  All through the Old Testament, God promised to send His Messiah, and in the New Testament, we see that promise fulfilled in Christ.

The Cross - and Christ's resurrection that followed - spans the course of history.  And we need to stop and think on this amazing act of God's mercy and grace, lest we grow hardened and forget.

More than that, the more time we spend to remember Christ's sacrifice, the more we fix our eyes on Him.  And the more we fix our eyes on Him, the smaller our hallways become.  Everything we do in life needs to be focusing more on the Lord and less on ourselves.

Admittedly, this is something I really, really struggle with!  I like thinking about myself.  A lot.  It doesn't matter if we think of ourselves too highly or too lowly; either way, we're still thinking of ourselves too frequently.  Turning our eyes back to the Lord will be a constant battle for all of us, but it's one of the best ways to praise Him even when life is hard.

Today's action steps:  Read Old Testament passages on the  Jewish sacrificial system.  Then go through the Gospels about Jesus' death and resurrection that ended the animal sacrifices.  It's incredibly powerful to see how God wove His perfect plan of salvation through the entire Bible!  We can praise Him for His amazing sacrifice.

Day 22: remember Christ's sacrifice

Day 17: Know Your Enemy

Day 17: know your enemy

Note:  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here.

It's Day 17 of the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!

When Turbo was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, the hospital staff gave us some excellent advice:  "Don't Google anything right now.  There will be time for that later.  For now, just let the doctors explain."  And you know what?  That advice was perfect.  The internet is FULL of conflicting information, opinions, and even evidence.  Having just one set of doctors at the hospital to listen to helped cut out all of the controversy.

When we knew nothing about Type 1 diabetes other than that our spark plug had just been diagnosed with it, we felt completely helpless.  It was only after talking with the doctors, being trained by the nursing staff, and pouring over the literature the hospital provided that we began to find a foothold to stand on.

And once we were out of the hospital and had adjusted a little bit to our new "normal," we were able to do more in-depth study.  Although the hospital didn't recommend any change in diet, we read about other diabetics that were having better blood sugar control with a healthy lifestyle.  While that information would have been absolutely overwhelming at diagnosis, we were now able to properly digest it.

So, today's assignment, if you're ready for it, is to know your enemy.

For example, if you're going through a financial squeeze, start researching money-saving ideas.  My personal favorites are Money Saving Mom, Living Well Spending Less, The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and The Total Money Makeover (purchasing used copies or finding them at your local library are great ways to save on the cost).

If you've been diagnosed with something, learn about it from doctors you trust.  I highly recommend also researching for holistic or natural remedies to help combat it, but be wise with this information.  (We've had people tell us not to give Turbo his insulin and just to use natural remedies to treat his blood sugar.  While some Type 2 diabetics have been able to manage their disease through diet and lifestyle alone, a Type 1 cannot.  We use diet and lifestyle to help him in other ways.)  The Truth About Cancer, though very controversial and far from mainstream, is eye opening (but please use caution with this, as always - there are some things they teach that concern me).

If you're struggling in your marriage, seek out Godly, wise counsel.  Talk with couples who have made it through a rough patch.  Read Scripture.  Two of my favorite books on marriage are You & Me Forever and Feminine Appeal.  I know there are many others that offer sound, Biblical advice on marriage, too.

Even if it might seem easier to bury your head in the sand, facing your trial head-on and being armed with knowledge can go a long way toward helping you get through it.  Your trial might be pretty scary, and the facts about it might be difficult to take at first.  But there's nothing worse than not knowing.  When you know your enemy, you'll be better able to confront it.

Today's action steps:  Determine what your current hallway is - financial, relational, spiritual, etc.  Begin looking for Biblical information on your hallway that will help you understand it better.  Don't obsess, but do try to spend a few minutes each day learning more about your situation so that you are as prepared as possible and can know your enemy.

Day 17: know your enemy

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Day 16: Be Thankful for Your Glass

Day 16: be thankful for your glass Welcome back to the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!  Let's jump into Day 16.

"Is the glass half full or half empty?"

We've probably all been asked this at one point or another.  This question is supposed to help people determine whether they're optimists (those who see the glass half full) or pessimists (those who see it half empty).  I'm sure the person who first created this line of thinking hoped to encourage people to take a positive outlook on life.

Personally, I'm almost always a glass-half-full kinda gal, at least at first.  When storms hit my life, I try to take a positive approach.  But if a hallway ends up being long and drawn out, I notice that I begin to wander into a more pessimistic mindset.

In fact, sometimes it seems that the glass isn't half full OR half empty; it's all I can do to be thankful that I even have a glass at all!

Have you ever found yourself in a similar position?  Maybe you're there right now as you're reading this post.  Or perhaps you've gone even further and are starting to wonder if you even have a glass.

I can promise you:  no matter what you're experiencing or what you've already gone through, if you are alive, if you have been saved by grace, if you have a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father, you definitely have a glass.  And it's overflowing.

Maybe your marriage is in shambles.  Maybe you're broken over a wayward a child.  Maybe you've lost a child.  Maybe you're in a season of depression.  Maybe you've just been diagnosed with cancer.  But no matter how bad your Earthly circumstances are, you have a Father in Heaven Who loved you so greatly that He sent His Son to die in your place.  Compared to that rich blessing, everything else is a "momentary and light affliction" (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

I don't mean to joke about serious trials.  Many of us are facing grave circumstances.  I know.  Sitting in an exam room, listening to the on-call doctor telling you that your child has a life-threatening complication of a terrible,  life-long disease, all the while knowing your husband is about to get laid off and that you have an insurmountable medical deductible to pay, it's pretty hard to be thankful for your glass - full, empty, or otherwise.

But dear friends, even in the most dire of circumstances, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus.  We need to continue praying.  We need the support and encouragement of the church body.  We need to be reminded of all our spiritual blessings.  Those don't go away with suffering; rather, suffering often enhances them.  That's one of the great ironies of the Christian faith.

Maybe you're not currently in a season of waiting or hardship.  How can you be a blessing to those believers around you who are?  You can help them to be thankful for what Christ has done on their behalf.  You can remind them to trust in God's goodness whether or not they can see it at the moment.

You can remind them that they have a glass, and it's called Eternal Life.

Today's action steps:  Read through your gratitude journal.  Remind yourself of all the "glasses" the Lord has given you, especially the gift of Eternal Life.  And be thankful for your glass.

Day 16: be thankful for your glass

 

Day 15: Clean Something

Day 15: clean something We're half way through our 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!

I've mentioned before that I'm a terrible housekeeper.  I don't know why I didn't inherit my mom's cleaning gene, but I didn't.  Sometimes cleaning feels overwhelming (probably because I go way too long in between cleaning sessions); other times, I have non-cleaning related chores I'd much rather be doing.  Whatever the reason, my house is often a mess, to the point that it becomes depressing.

Thankfully, through a lot of prayer, determination, and help from Jon and the spark plugs, I'm slowly overcoming my allergy to cleaning.  Our home is no longer a complete disaster all the time.  There are moments during the day when the dishes are all in the dishwasher and the sink is shiny.  At times the carpet is vacuumed and the floors are swept.  While I will never have a spick-and-span home, more often than not, nowadays our house is within 15-20 minutes of being company-acceptable.

And I've noticed something about myself that has a direct correlation between my disposition and my cleaner home:  I'm much less stressed during the day.  When my environment is tidy, I feel calmer.

Because of this, today's assignment is to clean something.

You don't have to clean your whole house (unless you want to and have time).  You don't have to deep clean the bathroom or kitchen (a simple wipe-down of surfaces will suffice just fine!).  But I do want you to pick one item or spot to clean today.  Choose something that will have a big impact but that won't take a ton of time or make you frustrated in the process.  Some ideas:

  • Clear and wipe down the counters in the kitchen
  • Get the homework and dirty dishes off of the dining table (bonus points for wiping up the crumbs and spilled milk)
  • Vacuum the living room and/or hallways
  • Sweep the kitchen (it's okay to sweep around the dining chairs instead of removing them first)
  • Collect all visible paper clutter into one contained spot to deal with later
  • Organize all of the shoes in the mud/laundry room, tossing out any pairs that are too worn (and passing on anything that's been outgrown)

Cleaning won't make you more spiritual.  It won't bring an end to your hallway.  But it can help improve your mood and give you a little something to find joy in.  Not only that, but because we Christian women are called to be homemakers (see Titus 2:5), cleaning our homes (even just a small part of them) is something that honors the Lord.  There is great satisfaction in knowing that we're doing what He's called us to do even when we're waiting for the hallway to end.

Today's action steps:  Choose an area to clean, preferably something that can be done in 15 minutes or less but that will have an impact on our daily routines (like clearing the kitchen counters or getting all the dirty dishes into the dishwasher).  Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and challenge yourself to see how much you can accomplish in that time.  You might surprise yourself with how far a few concentrated minutes can get you!

Day 15: clean something

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Day 14: Find Your Barnabas

Day 14: find your Barnabas Thank you for joining us for Day 14 of the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!

Do you have someone in your life who consistently encourages you?  In Acts 4:36, we learn that a man named Joses was renamed Barnabas, meaning "son of encouragement," by the believers around him.  What an incredible testimony about this man!

We all need a Barnabas - someone to lift us up and point us back to the Lord.  When times are tough and we find it easy to become overwhelmed with our struggles in life, we need believers to come alongside us to help us fix our eyes on Christ.

If you already have such a person in your life, let your Barnabas know how much you appreciate his impact in your life.  If you haven't yet found your Godly encourager, start praying and ask the Lord to provide you such a person.  (Note:  if you are married, your Barnabas could well be your spouse.  If you aren't, I encourage you to find a Godly woman to be your Barnabas.)

As you try to find your Barnabas, though, there are several things to be careful about:

Be content until the Lord provides your Barnabas

As wonderful as it is to have a son of encouragement in your life, be patient until the Lord brings him or her to you.  It's great to want such a person, but not everyone has the gift of encouragement, and it might take some time to find your encourager.

Don't become dependent on him

Having another believer to support you and point you toward God's goodness is a desirable thing.  But you can't depend on him to lift your spirits every time you go through heartache.  We are all human, and no one can flawlessly encourage you every single time.

Do return the favor

Think about how you can be a Barnabas back to the person who ends up encouraging you.  Better still - look for ways you can Biblically encourage every person in your life, those who encourage you back and those who don't.

Become this person in your spouse's life

If you are married, ideally, your Barbabas will be your spouse.  Not all people are naturally gifted with a positive outlook on life, though.  If you aren't, you're going to have to work at this to be your spouse's Barnabas.  If your spouse isn't gifted with encouragement, maybe this will be an area where you both can grow as your both your marriage and your relationship with God deepen.

Today's action steps:  Think about the people in your life.  Does anyone stand out as being an encourager, someone who is often reminding you to keep your focus on the Lord?  If so, that person may well be your Barnabas.  If you don't have someone like that in your life already, how can you find someone?  Is there someone at church who has such a reputation?  If you live in a rural area, you might want to start by finding an online person who could encourage you either through a blog or podcast.

Day 14: find your Barnabas

 

Day 13: Find Your Timothy

Day 13: find your Timothy It's Day 13 of our 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!  Thanks for continuing on with all of us.

Yesterday, we discussed finding your "Paul" - an older lady who can help you grow in both your spiritual walk and in your household responsibilities.  Along those same lines, today I want to encourage you to find your Timothy.

Your Timothy will be a younger lady whom you can take under wing.  When we're facing a trial of any sort, it is so very, very easy to become so focused on the hardship and on ourselves that we sometimes forget about others.  Just as the Dead Sea is stagnant because it has no outlet, we all need a ministry outlet lest we become stale, too.

However, we also need to be careful when finding our Timothy that we don't shove advice onto someone unsolicited.  I've done that before, and it's not fun for anyone.  So, when you're considering whom you can minister to, think about whether or not someone has already asked you for advice.  If so, that's probably a good place to start.

Prayerfully consider whom your Timothy might be.  If you're not mature in your own faith yet, now might not be the time to pour into someone else.  But be praying about growing your own faith so that when the opportunity to shepherd someone else does come up, you'll be able to graciously step into that role.

If you're a young mom, your little ones might well be the Timothies that God has for you.  Or you might have the opportunity to mentor someone who is new in her faith.  If you're older and have been walking with the Lord for many years, you might be in a position to train up someone who is fairly mature in her own faith, too.

Helping someone else to grow in her faith is a big responsibility and shouldn't be taken lightly.  Go through with this only after much thought, prayer, and counsel from your husband.  But if the Lord allows you to enjoy this kind of ministry, what a wonderful thing to help nurture another's faith!

Today's action steps:  Prayerfully consider whether or not you're in a position to mentor someone.  If you're already a mom, the answer is yes - you need to be mentoring your little ones, no matter how inadequate you might feel at times!  If you are ready and haven't yet found your Timothy, pray about who it is that the Lord would have you come alongside.  Once you know who your Timothy is, continually seek the Lord's leading and wisdom as you shepherd this new relationship!

Day 13: find your Timothy

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Day 9: Read the Psalms

Day 9: read the Psalms I have a confession to make:  when I was younger, I didn't care much for the Psalms or for King David.  He came across like a "woe is me" kind of guy, and I thought his Psalms sounded like he was whining.

I wasn't terribly sympathetic, was I?

When I was growing up, we lived comfortably.  My parents weren't wealthy, but my dad had a steady job, and he and Mom enjoyed a rock-solid marriage (they still do!).  Certainly, there were hardships - my grandma developed a fatal brain tumor; one of my brothers ended up needing an emergency appendectomy; and my other brother underwent several surgeries when he was little.  But compared to many people, I was blessed with an easy and ideal childhood.

When I was younger, I just couldn't relate to someone who had gone through the difficulties that King David experienced.  Now that I've been through a few hallways in my adult life, though, I find so much solace and comfort in the Psalms and in reading through David's life.  I have a much better understanding of the trials he experienced and why he wrote about them the way he did.

If anyone knew what it was to experience hardship and heartache, it was King David.  He had marital problems.  He had sin issues.  He lost a child.  His enemies were constantly attacking him.  He was at odds with his grown son.  He was wrongly accused.  His best friend was killed in battle.

The Psalms he wrote show the wide range of emotions he experienced.  But even the Psalms written at the depth of his despair end with, "I will choose to praise You, O my God."  (See Psalms 56 and 142.)  No matter what he went through in life, David chose to find his hope in the Lord.

No wonder he was considered to be "a man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22)!

We can read the Psalms to help us follow David's example of finding our hope, joy, and peace in God even when circumstances aren't what we wish they were.  We can pray through the promises we find in the Psalms.  And we can take comfort in knowing that God placed the Psalms in His Word as a means of comfort for us.

Today's action steps:  Read the Psalms.  You can read one a day or several in a sitting.  It's up to you!  As you read through, jot down the ones that impact you the most so that you can re-read them later on.  I hope you'll develop a life-long love of the Psalms!

Day 9: read the Psalms

 

Day 8: Make Time for Exercise

Day 8: make time for exercise I can hear the groans now.

Make time for exercise?  Really?  Like anyone has time for that!  Besides, isn't this series about spiritual matters?

Yes, exercise.  Really.  We all can - and should - make time for it.  And yes, our goal for this 31-day challenge is to develop our spiritual muscles and create habit of praise even when circumstances are difficult.  But believe it or not, exercise can help toward this goal!

Because our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, staying healthy can be a spiritual discipline as well as a physical one.  This will be easier for some than for others, given health issues, body types, and things of that nature.

When I was growing up, I ran.  A lot.  Even though I hated it.  But then I developed a painful, pregnancy-related condition that made running impossible for several years.  Now, however, the pain has subsided, and I've been running again.  I can't run far, and I certainly don't look pretty doing it.  I can only run once or twice a week.  But I'm trying to be faithful to exercise on a limited scale instead of just throwing in the gym towel because I can't exercise every day.

I thought running would get easier.  For me, it never does.  I honestly don't know how much physical benefit I'm getting from running, but I'm certain that it's better than not running at all.  And it's done worlds for my spiritual growth.

  • I can pray for others as I run
  • I get to spend time with my spark plugs while running
  • I get to take in God's amazing creation
  • I feel happier as a result of exercising (I'm pretty sure this is due to endorphin creation that exercise causes)

Running doesn't have to be your choice for exercise.  I once saw a documentary on a woman who could only move her arms from her elbows her to wrists, so her form of exercise was clapping.  She kept at it, even though she admitted to feeling very silly, and with a lot of hard work, diligence, and determination, she got to where she regained mobility.  She started where she was.

I chose to run because it's free, it's something I can do with my kids, and it gets all of us outside.  Something else may be a better fit for you.  Just start where you are (and get your doctor's okay to begin exercising if you're not already active).

It's not easy to make time for exercise, but if you're willing to make it a goal, it can benefit both your physical body and spiritual mindset.  

Today's action steps:  Begin a physician-approved exercise regimen that fits your needs and lifestyle.  Whatever level you're at, start there.  Then, once a week or once every other week, slightly increase the intensity or duration, taking care to listen to your body's cues (please don't overdo and injure yourself).  With slow and steady diligence, you'll see progress!

Day 8: make time for exercise

 

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Day 7: Stay in Church

Day 7: stay in church Welcome back to 31 Days to Hallway Praise!  Today is Day 7 of the challenge!

For some of us, it can be tempting to skip church when the going gets tough.  Whether it's difficult to be open about our struggles or whether we're afraid of people asking questions we'd really not answer, my flesh understands and sympathizes with those who fall out of fellowship during a hallway.

However, staying away from church is one of the worst things we can do when we're hurting. 

Fellowship with other believers is a necessary component to the Christian faith.  And it becomes even more needed during times of struggle.  Without regularly meeting with your brothers and sisters in Christ, it's easy to let the discouragement overwhelm you.  Not only that, but if you're not meeting with your local Body, you may very well be missing the opportunity to encourage someone else, making lack of attendance a double tragedy.

Put bluntly, we need to stay in church!

There are definitely times to be alone; Christ often went away to solitary places to pray.  But He also ministered in the synagogues, to His disciples, and to the crowds.  The writer of Hebrews commands us not to forsake meeting together with the body of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25).

It's been said that human beings were created to need community.  This is true no matter what your personality type.  I'm a complete introvert.  I have no out-going tendencies, and yet even I need the fellowship of other Christians.  Talking with other believers, singing together in hymns and songs of worship, and hearing the Word preached are all vital to my spiritual growth.

And as I mentioned earlier, if I don't stay in church, I'm missing out on opportunities to minister to others.  Maybe someone else is going through something similar to what I'm going through (or have gone through).  Perhaps the Lord wants to use me to minister to that person.  If I shy away from going to church, even if my reason seems valid in my own head, I'm missing out on a wonderful opportunity, and the person to whom I was supposed to minister misses out, too.

So, even if it's hard, even if you don't always feel like it, make sure you're staying in church.  Make sure you're fellowshiping regularly with the body of Christ.  We all need one another to grow in our faith and to get through our hallways.

Day 7: stay in church

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Day 5: Fix Your Eyes on Christ

Day 5: fix your eyes on Christ We've made it to Day 5 of the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!

Today's goal is a big one:  Fix your eyes on Christ.

It might seem odd that I've kept this one for Day 5 instead of using it on Day 1.  I mean, isn't fixing our eyes on Jesus the number one goal in our Christian faith?  Yes, it is, but I've saved this gem for today for a purpose.

On the first day of our challenge, we made it a goal to pray every day.  On Day 2, we decided to memorize Scripture.  (By the way, what passage did you choose to memorize?  Leave a comment and let me know!)

Prayer and Scripture memory are two excellent ways to help keep our eyes focused on the Savior.  Now that we've had a few days to start making these part of our daily routine (for those who weren't already doing them), we've built up some spiritual tools to help us fix our eyes on the cross and not the crisis.

Friends, it is so - SO - easy to do what Peter did in Matthew 14:28-33 and let the storms of this life prevent us from looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).  We need to spend time in prayer and in God's Word in order to forget about the wind and the waves and to think only of the Lord.  It's not an easy task.

My trials loom largest when I'm staring them in the face.  They seem most overwhelming when I fully focus on them to the exclusion of everything else.  And I feel the most overwhelmed when I allow them to engulf me.

How about you?  When are your hardships the most difficult to handle?  I'd guess that the same is true for you: when they take your complete focus, they appear to be insurmountable.

Thankfully, there is a way to combat the overwhelm:

Fix your eyes on Christ.

Take your gaze away from your trials and look to Jesus.

But we can only do this through the help of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, and through feasting on the Word of God.

Today's action steps:  Start focusing on what God can do and stop worrying about what you can't.  Continue to immerse yourself in prayer and the Scriptures.  Fix your eyes on Christ.

Day 5: fix your eyes on Christ

Day 4: Make Your Bed

Day 4: make your bed

Note:  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here.

We're on Day 4 of the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!

A year or so ago, I watched an incredible graduation speech given by Admiral William McRaven.  Not surprisingly, it was well-thought-out, concise, and expertly delivered.

What surprised me, though, was his first point:  make your bed every morning.

(You can fast-forward to 4:35 on the video if you want to get straight to his 10 points.)

It seemed so simple, almost too lowly.  But as he explained his choice for this first recommendation, I saw the wisdom in it.

Will making your bed every morning change your mood?  Perhaps not.  But what it will do is give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  It will teach you about routine.  It will help you take pride in your environment.  And it can set a precedent for the rest of your day.

Because of all those benefits, I'm recommending it now.  There is a lot in life we cannot control.  We don't know what tomorrow holds; we don't know what the Lord has planned.  But we can choose what we do with the time we have today, and we can choose to make our beds.

In full disclosure, I'm terrible (TERRIBLE!) at making my bed in the morning.  (Please don't tell my mom.  She definitely taught me better than that.)  I think it started way back when Jon worked nights - he was rolling into bed just as I was getting up, and making the bed wasn't really an option for many years.

But I'm also bad at keeping routines, too.  I think if I were to start making a conscious effort to make my bed, it would naturally lead to an improved morning routine, which would then, in turn, help my evening to go more smoothly.

So, for this challenge, making my bed every morning is something I am aiming to do.  Will you keep me accountable?  You can leave a comment asking how I'm doing, you can fill out the blog's contact page, or you can send me an email at julie(at)hallwayinitiative(dot)com.  I'm going to need all the help I can get!

If you're a veteran bed-maker, today's assignment will be really easy.  Maybe you could add in something else just for this challenge, like wiping down your bathroom mirror or cleaning out under your bed.  And if you already routinely do those things as well, just write down in your gratitude journal how thankful you are to have this assignment already completed!

Making your bed is just a small step, but it is a pretty easy one.  Let's commit to making our beds every morning for the next week and see if there is any improvement in our day.

Today's action steps:  Start making your bed each morning.  If you're feeling really ambitious, you can begin by washing your sheets.  Clean sheets lend themselves toward easier bed-making.  Why, I don't know; the just do!

Related:  If you've not tried either the Make Over Your Mornings or Make Over Your Evenings courses, I highly recommend them.  At just $17 each, they are a fantastic investment in streamlining your day.  They would go a long way toward helping you remember to make your bed!

Linking up at Faith 'N Friends, Grace and Truth, and Sitting Among Friends.

Day 4: make your bed

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Day 3: Keep A Gratitude Journal

Day 3: keep a gratitude journal

Note:  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here.

Welcome to Day 3 of the 31 Days of Hallway Praise challenge!

Developing a consistent habit of prayer and memorizing Scripture are two great ways to help you as you seek to praise the Lord during hardship.

Another excellent step is to keep a gratitude journal.  (You can choose something as fancy as this, or you can do what I did and just grab a $0.50 composition notebook from Wal-Mart.)

I started keeping a gratitude journal for the first time this year, and I've loved it.  But I'll be honest:  while many days (maybe even most) I find it easy to think of multiple things to be joyful about, there are days where I'm scratching my head, searching for even one thing to be thankful for.  But without fail, if I take time to really think through my day, I can find at least one thing to write down.

If you're going through an extremely trying time, the first few days of your gratitude journal might be really, really hard.  But if you've eaten that day, you can be thankful for nourishment.  If you have a roof over your head - even if it's not your own or even if the bank is threatening to take it away - you can be thankful that you have it today.  If you've lost a loved one, you can rejoice that you had the time with your loved one before he passed away.

Start small if you have to.  But do start.  It may not be easy, but cultivating an attitude of gratitude will go a long way toward helping you choose to praise the Lord no matter what your circumstances are in life.

If you're not in the middle of a trial, this is a great time to get into the habit of writing down things you're grateful for!  Chances are good that you'll have more struggles down the road, and if you're already in the practice of looking for the blessings in life, it will help buoy your faith during a later hallway.

If you need more encouragement or just want something uplifting to read, I'd love to introduce you to Laura Coppinger's Gratituesday.  She comes up with amazing things to be thankful for!

Today's action steps:  Get or create a gratitude journal.  You can even start jotting down things on the back of an envelope (I use junk mail envelopes) if you don't have the resources for an actual journal right now - just snip out your words and collect them in a glass jar to read over.  You might want to mark down the date for reference.  Try to write down at least one thing every day this week!

Linking up at Faith 'N Friends, Grace and Truth, and Sitting Among Friends.

Day 3: keep a gratitude journal

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Day 1: Pray Without Ceasing

Day 1: pray without ceasing Welcome to Day 1 of the 31 Days to Hallway Praise challenge!  I'm so thankful you're here.

If you've been around my blog for very long at all, you know that prayer is my number one recommended action when it comes to handling hardship.  So it should come as no surprise that it's the first step in our challenge.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we're commanded to "pray without ceasing."  That seems like a huge undertaking, and it is.  And when put into the context of praying without ceasing during a time of crisis, well, it seems insurmountable.

But my goal is to encourage you, not to overwhelm you.

If you're new to prayer, start small.  Pray first thing in the morning when you wake up; before your meals; and before bed.  Those are pretty standard routines for almost everyone, so they're easy places to start adding in prayer.

If you have an active prayer life already, you can always go deeper.  If you need some ideas, there are some excellent pins on my prayer Pinterest board.  Or you can read about my new discovery on prayer right here.  I pray a lot throughout the day, but for this challenge, I want to commit to purposeful prayer every morning instead of my usual way of praying haphazardly as prayer requests come to mind.

I would also challenge you to start your prayers with praise and thanksgiving to God for Who He is and what He's done for you (sending His Son to die in your place, giving you life, caring for you) before asking Him to remove the trial at hand.  Or, if He's already brought you through your most recent trial, praise Him for sustaining you and for what He taught you during the hard season.

Even though the commandment to pray without ceasing may seem impossible, we can cultivate a constant attitude of prayer where we're willing to pray at a moment's notice.  We can develop the habit of turning to the Lord in prayer for any and every circumstance.

If you need more inspiration, be sure to visit ArabahJoy.com.  Arabah encourages Christians to pray through the promises of God's Word.  A pop-up should appear on her page where you can sign up for her next Praying the Promises challenge.

Prayer is an amazing gift that the Lord has given to us as believers.  Because of Christ's work on the cross, we have direct access to the Father through Jesus!  We no longer need a priest to intercede on our behalf, because Christ has done it all.  That right there is cause for celebration, and it's the first step toward praising God during a hallway.

Today's action steps:  Choose a time to spend in prayer.  This could be in the morning when you first get up, in the afternoon when your little ones are asleep, or whenever it fits into your schedule.  Remember to thank the Lord for His blessings!

Don't forget to check in tomorrow, when we'll talk about the benefits of memorizing Scripture.

Day 1: pray without ceasing

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31 Days to Hallway Praise Challenge

31 days to hallway praise Rejoice always.

Give thanks.

Be content in all circumstances.

At first glance, these Biblical mandates might seem simple enough.  But for those going through tremendous hardship, it can seem impossible to find joy of any kind, let alone being able to praise the Lord through it all.

If you're a Christian struggling with a trial right now and feel like you've lost your joy, may I offer you some encouragement?  It may not seem like it right now, but with the Holy Spirit's help, you can find joy in Christ.  In fact, during the month of October, I'm going to tackle this very topic with my newest blog series:  "31 Days to Hallway Praise."

My goal is to offer you 31 ideas to help you praise the Lord during hardship.  It won't necessarily be easy, and it will require a lot of work, but I'm convinced that no matter what you're facing right now, you can choose joy.  You can choose to praise God.  You can choose to give thanks, not only for what appears to be good, but also for the very trial itself.

I'm not an expert in praising the Lord during hardship - far from it.  But with the Holy Spirit's help, I know it can be done.

Are you willing to join me on this journey?  If so, I have just one challenge for you today:  decide that you'll finish the challenge, all 31 days.  Some of the assignments might seem simple, especially if they're already part of your normal routines.  Other tasks will be more difficult, but none will be impossible if you rely on the Lord for the strength to do them.

If you're in a season of life where things are going well and you're not facing hardship at the moment, I would still invite you to join us as well!  There is always room to deepen your faith, prepare for the next trial, or become better equipped to help out someone else who is suffering.

This is the post where I will be adding each day's link.  Feel free to check back here any time you want to re-read a day's post or catch up if you fall behind.

One last thing:  will you pray for me as I write out this challenge and go through it with you?  Sometimes it's easy to think that bloggers have everything together, and maybe a few really do.  But I'm not one of them!  I've worked in advance on this project, but it's far from finished.  I'm eager to see how the Lord uses this in both your life and my own.  But I'm also nervous about committing to writing each day for 31 days straight, too.  Your prayers mean the world to me and will help me to stay diligent to this commitment.

I'm so excited about this 31-day challenge.  Let's do this together!

Day 1:  Pray without ceasing

Day 2:  Memorize Scripture

Day 3:  Keep A Gratitude Journal

Day 4:  Make Your Bed

Day 5:  Fix Your Eyes on Christ

Day 6:  Drink Water

Day 7:  Stay in Church

Day 8:  Make Time for Exercise

Day 9:  Read the Psalms

Day 10:  Participate in A Bible Study

Day 11:  Do Something Lovely

Day 12:  Find Your Paul

Day 13:  Find Your Timothy

Day 14:  Find Your Barnabas

Day 15:  Clean Something

Day 16:  Be Thankful for Your Glass

Day 17:  Know Your Enemy

Day 18:  Find Bible Characters You Resonate With

Day 19:  Serve In Some Capacity

Day 20:  Try Something New

Day 21:  Read Revelation

Day 22:  Remember Christ's Sacrifice

Day 23:  Sing Out Loud

Day 24:  Declutter

Day 25:  Read Missionary Stories

Day 26:  Read Uplifting Books

Day 27:  Read Uplifting Blogs

Day 28:  Read Through Hymns

Day 29:  Remain Faithful

Day 30:  Choose to Wait Well

Day 31:  Track Your Progress

Linking up at Faith 'N FriendsFresh Market Friday, Grace and Truth, and Sitting Among Friends.

31 days to hallway praise

 

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How God Enables Us to Forgive After Hardship

How God enables us to forgive after hardship Hardship can either help us grow spiritually or make us bitter. What we do with difficulties in our lives is up to us, but how beautiful when we allow God to use hallways for our good!

Today, I'm excited to introduce blogger Jessica Cornell.  She's sharing how God enables us to forgive after hardship if we're willing to let the Holy Spirit work through our trials.

Hardship and Forgiveness - by Jessica Cornell

What do I know about forgiveness and hardship?  I'm only 26, after all.  What would I know about overcoming obstacles and staring fear in the face and moving past pain?

Well, my childhood, in a nutshell, would be described as lonely.  No one was ever there.  Lots of doors were shut to keep us from bothering anyone.  Separate rooms for the adults (if they were there).  My brothers, sister, and I usually had to break into our own home when we got home from school.  There was never any physical abuse, but there were lots of things I had to overcome from trying to figure things out on my own.

And over time, my heart naturally hardened from the lack of life and love I was surrounded by.  I had to become someone who didn't need anyone else to survive.

Funny enough, we grew up in church.  I always believed in God, but He always seemed so far away or like this God who demanded worship within four walls.  After Sunday, just do whatever you want.  Go ahead and judge.  Go ahead and look down on others for not following certain rules or expectations.  Go ahead and gossip.  Be sure to look nice in service.  In regular life, work as hard as you can to get ahead and leave everyone else behind.

One day, I heard a message that was different than anything else I had ever heard before.  I don't remember what was spoken.  But for the first time, my eyes were opened to how close and personal our precious Father wants to be.  For the first time, I understood how The Lord has been pursuing me from the moment I took my first breath; how He wants to walk with me through everything.

One of the most important things, I believe, that a Christ follower needs to know is that God wants to walk with you in every moment of your life.  You don't have to be a certain way for Him to love you.  You don't have to do certain things for Him to be more pleased with you.  It doesn't mean you can do whatever you want.  The key is getting to know His true nature and things will naturally fall off.

A long time ago, Jesus died on the cross and bore that pain you've been holding on to before you were even formed.  He died and took on the suffering that we really deserve, so that we can have life and peace and joy.  Death couldn't hold Him down and Scripture says that He's sitting at the right hand of the Father, praying for us, on our behalf.  He did it all for you!

It doesn't mean we won't have hardship or go through things.  But we do have a Father that can replace pain with joy and fear for peace that passes all understanding.  So when we understand the heart of the Father, we realize that whoever has caused us pain doesn't know the true nature of our God.  This is where forgiveness comes in.

If we want people to know the Lord, we have to be a mirror image of Him who forgives and loves people exactly where they are at.  This does not come easily, but God is so much bigger than we are and can guide your heart and ways.  You don't even have to do it in your own strength.  It will truly set your heart free of bitterness and pain.

There's nothing better than releasing your hardened heart to the Father.  He knows exactly what to do.  He knows exactly how to heal.  He knows exactly how to love.  And He is everything you need in every moment of your life.  Just ask Him.

Jessica Cornell is fascinated with frugal fashion and has a heart for helping women see themselves as the Lord sees them:  timeless.  You can learn more about the Father's heart for you at You Are Timeless or follow her on Instagram here!  

Linking up at Faith ‘N Friends, Grace and Truth, and Sitting Among Friends.

How God enables us to forgive after hardship

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