Dreams

23Feb

Make the Snow Day(s) Count

I have lived my entire life in the South.

We tend to freak out a bit when it snows. Or ices. Or slushes. Or rains.

Or when the temperature plunges below 60 degrees.

The last few days we have had a few inches of snow, nothing like what our friends in Boston are enduring but enough to cancel a few school days, especially in the more rural parts of our area.

Snow days keep kids home from school and many adults home from work. Snow days present us with an interesting opportunity if we take advantage of it.

5 Ways to Make the Snow Day(s) Count

1.) Do something adventurous.

Start a snowball fight. Grab a trash can lid and find the nearest hill to sled down. Build a snowman without singing Frozen! Find an empty parking lot and do something crazy.

Maybe don’t do that last one but you get the idea…get off the couch and do something awesome!

2.) Do something restful.

Maybe the adventurous route is not for you. Your life is hectic enough and the snow day presents an unusual opportunity for you to rest. One of my former students recently wrote a great article about the need to be still.

Take a nap. Read a book. Make a fire. Enjoy the silence. Draw a bath. Journal. Whatever you find life-giving and restorative, do that this snow day. The busyness of life will still be there when the snow melts.

3.) Work anyway.

One of the only things I dislike about snow days is how they can really mess up the rhythm of the week. If you’re like me, there are certain things I do every Monday morning or Thursday afternoon, etc.

Most of these tasks need to be accomplished snow or shine. As I’m able to on snow days, I just do them so things don’t fall off my plate as the week progresses.

4.) Spend quality time with family.

If you get the opportunity to spend a snow day with family, don’t waste it. Don’t do #3. Cuddle with your spouse. Throw snowballs with/at your kids. I am not yet a parent, so I do not know the parental dread that comes with hearing schools are closed.

But I do know that if you have children, you have a blessing many do not have. Don’t take that for granted today.

5.) Chip away at your dream.

You are living on borrowed time, my friend! Whatever your dream is, you have a day, today, to get closer to seeing it become a reality.

Want to write a book? Punch out a few chapters today.

Want to start your own business? Iron out the next part of your business plan.

Unsure of your next step? Find someone who’s successful at what you want to do and read their book today.

 Question: How do you make the snow day(s) count?

24Nov

The Single Struggle

Guest Post: Today’s post comes from one of my good friends, Rachel Dishner. She blogs over at Sweetly Southern Hospitality and you can follow her posts by clicking here. Rachel has a ferocious heart for the Lord and writes today about the struggle of being a single Christian in the South. Her words are vulnerable, powerful, and can be encouraging and challenging to us all.

You can read her original post, “The Single Struggle” on her website here.

At this moment there are 7 wedding invitations on my bulletin board.  I look at them everyday and 6 days out of 7 the only thing I think is how excited I am for my friends to get to share their lives with the ones they love, but on that 7th day I start the comparison game.

They say comparison is the thief of joy and they are right.  It is when we start focusing on the things in our life that seem to be missing rather than the incredible amount that we have, that we tell ourselves we don’t have enough.  That we aren’t enough.  That Christ isn’t enough.

That’s my struggle.  6 days out of 7, I live this life that is so full of joy I can hardly stand it.  I am so fulfilled in my job, in my family, with my friends, with my God at this stage in my life that the don’t haves start to fade, 6 days out of 7.  But it’s on that 7th day when I get really lonely and start wondering why I’m not enough.  What do I need to change to find love?  Why hasn’t God sent (insert name) into my life?

But you know what, those 6 days out of 7 are what I am going to put my effort, my attention, my focus on.  Because I have so much more to offer than my insecurities point out that I don’t.  I want to strive to live the life that God created me to live and you know what, if He has different plans for me than I do myself, why would I want anything different for myself?

That is easier said than done, I know.  Trust me, I know.  At almost 24 years old, the southern culture I am surrounded with screams that since I haven’t found anyone I will be alone forever.  They are wrong.  I am choosing to believe they are wrong.  But I struggle daily with saying that Christ is enough for me and meaning it.  But maybe, just maybe that is where Christ wants me.  Maybe He knows that I struggle with that and that I also am striving to mean it and He is going to push me until I get there.  I am choosing to find happiness and choosing to see beyond the single struggle into a struggle towards the heart of Christ.

You can let Rachel know what you thought by leaving a comment below.

17Nov

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

It can’t go on like this.

Adolescence cannot last from 11 years old to 29 years old.

The headlines are everywhere:

Most sociologists view adolescence as beginning at puberty (for some at 11-12 years old) but that’s not the problem. The problem is there is no longer any conceivable end to the age of adolescence.

Adulthood used to be measured by 5 major milestones (completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child). Yet these depict a cookie cutter path to adulthood that not everyone takes. (See: You May Never Get Married)

And that’s okay. Some of the most mature people I know have never had children or been married and some of the most irresponsible crazies I know have the most children. But I would argue the first three of those traditional milestones are still really important.

So are 20-somethings just up the creek without a paddle? It’s getting harder and harder to obtain financial freedom. Student loans are a necessary evil for many and that debt can shackle you for decades. Not to mention the degrees you took the loans out to obtain mean less and less all the while more and more education and experience is being required for entry level jobs. Where do you go to work to get the 3-5 years experience that everyone seems to want for you to get a job?

I know the deck can seem stacked against 20-somethings in many ways. But that’s not my concern. I see it almost everyday. Some of my friends have looked at the landscape of their 20’s and simply concluded, “This period of my life doesn’t matter.” And that’s a narrative they have bought into: hook line and sinker.

All this talk about millennials yet so few conversations with them. With that in mind…

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

1.) You’re not a teenager anymore. You’re not an “emerging” adult. You’re an adult.

While there is no denying adolescence, it needs to have a definitive ending point. Your 20’s are not simply a continuation of your teenage years. They are not a time to grow up; they are a time to be grown up. I know it can feel like you’re stuck sometimes but real life is happening all around you today. (See: The In-Between Places)

The apostle Paul wrote the following about maturing into adulthood:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. – 1 Corinthians 13:11

2.) The relationships you make and cultivate in this defining decade will shape the rest of your life..

Many people meet their spouse in their 20’s. Who you date matters because who you marry matters.Your 20’s are not a time to waste time dating losers you know you could never marry. Keep the bar high because if you lower it a whole bunch of jokers will start jumping over and then you’ll have deal with the fall out.

The friends you have in your 20’s are also different than any friends you’ve had before, even if they’re the same people. In high school and college it can be hard to tell who your real friends are because they’re picked largely based on proximity. You go to class together. You live near each other, etc. But once you graduate college and/or start working, you really start to learn who your real friends are. Friendships can be harder to maintain but ultimately more worthwhile.

3.) You’ll gain financial freedom or financial captivity.

Student loans stink. Learn to HATE your debt. Think about all you could do without that amount weighing you down every month. Work hard. Get promotions. Move up the ladder as you’re able and feel comfortable in doing so. Learn how to manage a budget. (See: Chop Wood, Carry Water)

It’s not just a financial issue; it’s a discipleship issue. Everything is God’s. We’re managers at best. Manage well. Your success or failure in this area during this decade will largely determine your financial health for the next three decades. (See: The 1 Thing We Fight About)

4.) You’ll find your sweet spot at work, eventually.

A lot of your 20’s is spent discovering what it is you’re truly passionate about. You’re young enough to switch careers and depending on your personal life situation (married/unmarried, with/without kids, etc.) you can really pursue a wide path. But don’t be afraid to settle in when you find something you love. No situation/job/boss is perfect. (See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry)

In the immortal words of Monica to Rachel, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”

5.) Your 20’s are not your own.

You don’t own any part of your life. It’s all a gift of grace. Life with Christ isn’t just for your 30’s and beyond. You’re not even guaranteed to make it to 30.

Your 20’s are a wonderful gift, given to you and me from God. Honor him with these years. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have had more to be truly grateful for in my 20’s than ever before.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (and your 20’s). – 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20  (italicized mine)

Question: What would you add to the list? Why else do the 20’s matter?

7Sep

What the Next Generation Needs from the Church

Last week our home was filled with people just like it is every Tuesday. The living room was full of laughter, genuine friendships, good food, and authentic prayer and discussion rooted in Scripture.

Our home group is comprised of a somewhat diverse group of people.

  • Expectant parents
  • Parents through adoption
  • Single parents
  • Married without kids (yes, we still exist!)
  • Single people
  • Doctors
  • Carpenters
  • 21ish-32ish year olds

Our living room is filled every week with a demographic largely missing from the evangelical (whatever that means now) church.

We have intentionally kept our group fairly simple, centered around just a few main goals/ideas. Yet our group continues to grow, both in number of attendees and in significance. I am not at all saying that we have figured out how to reach the highly coveted 18-32 demographic (when did the church turn into an advertising agency?) but I am saying that we have accidentally stumbled upon what seems to be working for the next generation.

With that in mind, I’d like to humbly suggest:

What the Next Generation Needs from the Church (3 Things)

 

1.) Encouragement to dream BIG.

  • For most 20-somethings, we’re at a time and place in life where it’s okay to take risks. It’s not too late to change careers or move cities. New skills can be learned dreams can be pursued much easier now than later in life. We need a church that will encourage us to fan those dreams into flame and call us to think deeply about how those dreams connect with the kingdom of God. We need a church that can celebrate with us in the process of figuring out what we want to do and why, not just on the other side when we have more stability and resources to contribute.

2.) Purpose

The extended adolescence of our time has no doubt become a very real issue. Teenagers are turning into futon-crashing 20-somethings that turn into 30-somethings that never quite leave the house. Part of me wonders if this prolonged emergence into adulthood could be shortened if more 20-somethings felt like their life had more purpose. In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul writes,

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

Now obviously Paul did not move immediately from childhood to adulthood but it does seem like there was a more dramatic transition than some 20-somethings are experiencing now. One of my biggest fears as a pastor is how the separation of kids from “big church” coupled with the separation of students into the “youth room/building/get the heck out of my sanctuary” affects college graduates who have always had their own space that’s all about them but then fail to adapt to the real world. 20-somethings need the Church to remind them that their lives have purpose NOW. And that they might be missing out on some of that God-given purpose by mooching off Mom and Dad instead of getting a job and starting their own life.

The most important thing the Church can do to give the next generation purpose is to give them a faith with substance.

When the fog machine smoke from youth group fades and the endless “community” of college ends, has the Church given the next generation a real Christianity? Have we (the Church, not just its leaders) passed on the radically generous, self-sacrificing, compassionate faith of Jesus or have we been peddling a counterfeit faith that screams, “It’s all about YOU!”

3.) Belonging

Your first year in college you’re told over and over again to join a club, get involved, meet new people. It’s solid advice. I’ve given it before. (See: 4 Ways to Start College Right). The goal of joining so many clubs and/or activities should be that eventually you’ll find some like-minded people united around a common goal/interest who genuinely care about you and others. Enter: the Church. The Church has the ultimate thing 20-somethings are seeking…belonging. A place to call home. I lost most of my sense of belonging/home when I was 14 and didn’t really gain it back until just now, at 25. This is due in no small part to my group of like minded-friends (who I met at church), united around a common goal/interest (JESUS) who genuinely care about me and others.

To my 20s-ish friends: What else can the Church do to equip you to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus?

To my older-than-20s-ish friends: What advice do you have for the next generation of Christians?

6Aug

I’m So Glad I’m Failing

It all started a few years ago in our Texas garage. Not as a dream, but as a necessity. A stress-reliever. A much-needed escape.

Before my wife’s growing company, All Things New Interiors, was…

  • a profitable booth in the largest store of its kind in our city
  • a professionally designed website
  • a company offering in-home interior design consultations
  • featured on one of the nation’s largest interior design blogs
  • K…wife bragging over

Before it was anything, it was a much needed creative outlet during an incredibly stressful time in our lives. At that time, there were few ways we experienced the grace of God more than in the beginning days of that dream in our garage.

On January 1st of this year I launched my own dream, www.steven-hill.me, my personal blog on faith and culture. In a post just before the official launch I stated my main goal for the blog:

I want to become a better writer this year. That’s my main motivation for this blog. It’s unashamedly for me. If it is worthwhile outside of advancing my skills as a writer, that’s wonderful. However, if it accomplishes that initial goal it will be a success in my eyes.

While my meager 50-ish posts this far have accomplished a shadow of this goal, I have mostly failed in my writing venture. My second goal came in the form of a commitment: to post 3 times per week. I checked today and I haven’t posted in almost 3 months and there were several stretches where I did not write for at least a week.

There’s a million reasons people fail at blogs, and that’s what it is: failing and the “reasons” given are nothing more than excuses.

However, I chose to fail in my blog because I wanted to trade one dream for another. Mine for my wife’s. I always knew I would return to the blog at some point, but I honestly felt (accurately) that we were entering a window for All Things New Interiors to succeed that would quickly close if we didn’t leap through it.

My evenings changed from writing and editing to updating inventory and advertising our products across various media platforms. I went from reading and researching future articles to delivering and acquiring furniture all across the River Valley.

Even though my temporary writing cessation was not the typical, slacker-blogger burnout, I am failing to achieve my original goals, and I could not be happier. It was a joyful trade of one dream for another. My blog failure was a conscious, calculated decision to place priority in the right place.

Over the last few months, saying “yes” to my blog was not worth the things I would have to say “no” to in order to make it happen.

We recently celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary and this past year has been the best year so far, due in no small part because of our partnership in this venture. I have written regularly about marriage but have learned the most about marriage from laying aside one dream for another.

I remember when we first tried to expand All Things New Interiors outside of our garage in Texas. I took some of our “top” items (terrible quality compared to the work we do now) to a local antique shop where I knew the owner. She came out to my car as I walked her through the steps we did to breath life into the old bones of these pieces, foolishly beaming with pride. She rejected our furniture time and time again.

Looking back on that time now, I am so glad we were rejected then because if we weren’t we might not be where we are now. I was commuting 2.5 hours to seminary twice a week and working full-time so I did not have time then to help make that dream a reality like I do now.

I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now. Maybe you’ve been rejected or are experiencing a setback. Maybe you can’t quite seem to get your dream off the ground or maybe you need a creative outlet like we did to relieve stress.

There will come a time when this new dream will fail as well. My sincere prayer now is that when it does fail, it dies by giving way to an even better, more meaningful dream.

Wherever you are in life today, say yes to the things that matter most, even if it means trading one dream for another. You’ll be glad to fail too.

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