I’m often asked “how do I create mental space to grow closer to God when my life is so busy?” Today I’m excited to bring in bestselling author Christy Wright for her perspective on how to find life balance and create life rhythms to support your priorities, such as spiritual growth.
Christy will be sharing from her new book Take Back Your Time which has some awesome insights on how to set boundaries and create space for what matters such as our relationship with God.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:
- [3:52] Seeking life balance in an out-of-balance world
- [7:15] What keeps us stuck in the to-do list mindset
- [9:19] Asking Ourselves The Real Reason Why We Commit to Activities
- [13:57] Rediscovering Life Balance and Priorities Post-COVID
- [19:41] Balancing the desire to grow closer to God with the reality of a busy life
- [23:56] Carving out times for silence in your day
- [25:42] Life balance looks different for everyone
- [28:06] Setting boundaries to protect your time to grow closer to God
- [32:07] Giving ourselves grace in the growing toward these boundaries
- [36:13] Mindset tips for Christian women who want to grow closer to God
- [38:03] TODAY’S LISTENER SUBMITTED QUESTION: How can I change my thought patterns when I’ve always been this way? How can I be different? Isn’t this just my personality? Isn’t this just how I was made?
[3:52] Seeking life balance in an out-of-balance world
As a business coach for over a decade, Christy shares that the number one question she gets asked is not a business question at all: “How do you balance everything?”
We all feel the stress of our commitments, opportunities, and responsibilities, she says. We tend to think the solution is to do more, to multi-task better, or to be more efficient or productive. Maybe we need to have a better morning routine, an earlier wakeup time, or more coffee. We try all of that, and the truth is we end up exhausted at the end of the day without feeling more balanced.
“Balance” is often used as a verb, and Christy points out that using it that way feels overwhelming in and of itself. You have all the analogies: the tightrope walker, the juggler, the plate spinner. “Have you ever seen a tightrope walker? They’re not happy; their bodies are tense, and I don’t want to live that way,” she says.
Christy wonders, “What if we’re asking the wrong question? When we say we want balance, I think what we really want is peace. We want to be confident in our choices and we want to enjoy life more. That is what we’re really after, and that doesn’t happen from doing more, or boosting our efficiency.”
Christy says her goal is to help women reclaim and redefine the word “balance.” She says that life balance is not doing everything for equal amounts of time. Instead, it’s about doing the right things at the right time. “When you do that,” she adds, “you end up feeling that sense of balance you’ve been looking for all along.” She adds that you can be balanced and still be busy, even in an out-of-balance world.
I loved this perspective, because it allows life balance to be something that anybody can have. No matter what we do, we often feel like we’re doing the wrong thing. We feel guilty. We don’t even know what balance is, but we’re sure we don’t have it. You can’t, however, achieve something you don’t define. Christy urges us to define it, and lay out practical steps to actually achieve it.
[7:15] What keeps us stuck in the to-do list mindset
We often get stuck in that pattern of thinking, “Sure, life balance is great, but I have a huge to-do list. I have people who need me.” How can we get out of the to-do list mindset and refocus our lives on our greatest priorities?
Christy shares that often we approach time management at the surface level. We try to move the puzzle pieces around – wake up earlier here, shove this in, carpool – but we need to get to the root of how we got there in the first place. We need to ask some hard questions, take a look in the mirror, and have some self-aware and honest conversations with ourselves. Why do we do what we do? Why do we say yes to this thing or no to that? Why do we feel guilty or obligated to do certain things? If we don’t get to these root causes, the problems are just going to come up again.
“For a short time, you might fix the calendar issue,” Christy says, “but the deeper issues will continue to resurface.” In her new book Christy identifies some common traps that we fall into. There is, for example, a temptation to prove ourselves. We feel like we have to sign up for everything to prove we’re good moms, or to prove ourselves at work, or to prove we are good people in general.
As believers, we’re called to serve others, so we feel like we have to say yes to all of these things. The truth is, we’re carrying the banner of being a good Christian, and God never called us to be a doormat. He never asked us to do a lot of the junk we get caught up in. If we would stop, seek Him, and ask what He has for us, it might be something we don’t expect. We rush into things, and we can become disillusioned or misinformed rather than truly growing closer to God.
[9:19] Asking Ourselves The Real Reason Why We Commit to Activities
It’s easy to live a surface life, focused only on our responsibilities and going through the motions. We know this kind of life feels empty, but it can also be scary and challenging to ask those deeper questions like “Why am I really here? How do I love? How do I be light?”
My pastor recently discussed this as well, advising us that we need to stop trying to love. Instead, we need to let God fill us with His love and let it flow through us. I feel like the same thing applies here with creating a purposeful life. Stop trying to make to-do list after to-do list. Instead, let God give you purpose in every moment, and then you will have the balance and satisfaction as you grow closer to God.
Christy provided an example from her own life. On the day we recorded our podcast interview, it was her daughter’s second birthday. Christy had been at work since before her daughter woke up, and she would be at work that day until after her daughter went to bed. She planned to see her for a bit in the afternoon, but they weren’t planning to celebrate her daughter’s birthday that day. They planned a big celebration over the weekend, but Christy still felt some mom guilt about working today.
She asked herself why she felt guilty, and realized she didn’t need to feel guilty. Her daughter is two and wouldn’t know that today was her actual birthday. She realized that the guilt she felt wasn’t about how her daughter might feel but that others might label her as a bad mom for working on her daughter’s birthday.
Christy encouraged us to dig a bit deeper when we are tempted to commit to something based on how we feel. Why do we say yes to being the homeroom mom? To volunteering? To coming early and staying late? Do we feel like we need to overdo everything, or to rush from one thing to the next? Christy says we may uncover some interesting motivations and solve a lot of problems with balance once we get to the root of the issue.
As Christy acknowledged, we have millions of women and men walking around every day feeling like they’re failing, and they’re not. They’re burned out, and they think this is just how life is.
Time out, Christy says. God never called us to live like this. He never called us to be busy, burnt out, rushed, anxious, exhausted, unhappy, and resentful. We’re not able to be a light in the world when we feel this way! Christy wants to help women understand this, and that is why her book isn’t about how to do more. It’s about how to set us free. It’s hard to take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves why we do what we do, but it’s also the key to the prison that we’re living in.
[13:57] Rediscovering Life Balance and Priorities Post-COVID
Christy observed that when the pandemic hit we all got a taste of slowing down. Then it went to an extreme, and we became isolated and lonely. We became anxious to get back out into the world. The temptation to rush and stay busy, however, didn’t seem to totally go away. We only know how to go, go, go, and we are likely to fall back into those patterns the moment the environment allows it. Even though we got a taste of slowing down, it is becoming a distant memory as we go back into our own ways and life begins to re-open after COVID.
In the book, Christy describes that it’s in our nature to run, do more, and check the boxes. The world rewards that with applause for being a “supermom.” We want to be the hero, because being the hero feels good. It makes us feel needed, loved, and valued. There will always be more opportunities than there will be time. If we’re not careful, these endless opportunities, needs, and demands, combined with our desire to do all the things and be the hero collide. We fall back into those old rhythms of doing more, because it’s easy to say no to commitments when there aren’t any, but that drive is still there as the world opens back up.
If we just go back to where we were, we aren’t solving the true mindset issues. We aren’t addressing the fact that we feel the need to prove ourselves, and to be the best mom. While COVID gave an opportunity to take a break from a hectic life, we need to fix the core patterns if we don’t want to fall back into the same traps.
Solving it at the root issue will then trickle into the surface-level stuff. You can make different decisions once you’ve solved the root issue, and grow closer to God as you re-prioritize your life.
[19:41] Balancing the desire to grow closer to God with the reality of a busy life
As Christian women, we know we’re supposed to be in God’s word every day. This is a huge part of what we talk about on the podcast, and yet so many of us are stuck in this pattern. The number one thing women will say to me is, “I want to spend more time with God but I just don’t know how to make it happen.”
I asked Christy her thoughts on this and she identified both a tactical side and an inspirational side as a way to answer this question.
“You need a place, a plan, and a time for your quiet time,” Christy says. “If you don’t know where you’re going to go, when you’re going to do it, and what you’re going to do when you get there, you probably aren’t going to do it.” For Christy, this looks like setting her alarm about 15 minutes before the kids wake up. This allows her to get downstairs, have a cup of coffee while it’s still hot, and have some quiet time for a Bible study.
Christy also wants people to understand that God is not a mean teacher with a report card, logging your absence. “Sometimes we get into these extremes of, if I can’t have an hour of enlightening Bible times with God where I feel the Holy Spirit come into body and I have these amazing revelations, then I can’t do it at all because 10 minutes isn’t good enough,” Christy says. “Then I feel guilty because I’m not spending time with God, and we yo-yo between these extremes of all or nothing.”
Christy encourages us not to get so legalistic that our quiet time has to look like a coffee cup, and a succulent, and a Bible with five highlighters, color-coordinating which scriptures you’re on today, like we see on Instagram. She reminds us God loves spending time with us whether we’re in our cars, hiding in our bathroom, or wherever else. She encourages us to not fall into this extreme of all or nothing because the enemy will shame us and it will put a wedge between you and the Lord. “You can grow closer to God at any time, and it doesn’t have to look any one way,” Christy adds.
[23:56] Carving out times for silence in your day
The key to growing closer to God is silence. Even if you’re not hearing from God in a very literal, spiritual way, you need the silence, Christy says. That silence is the gift of the car ride, or of the 15 minutes before your kids wake up. It’s a sacred moment because it’s silent, in the midst of our busy world. We never get silent. If you take the time to get silent, that’s what makes the time with God so powerful.
Silence can be scary, because we often feel the need to fill it. If we can just sit in it, though, that is when we can feel God’s presence, hear something specific, or feel confirmation. Dedicate time to spend with the Lord, be in the moment, and hear Him. That goes back to life balance, and to the priority of being open and aware. It is more than just checking a box.
[25:42] Life balance looks different for everyone
Christy urges us to determine what life balance looks like for us, and to pursue that. We can’t worry about what it looks like for someone else, and the same is true with our quiet time. Christy shared that she used to beat herself up because she didn’t have a Sabbath. She didn’t have a day without work. Ultimately, she had to remind herself that she has three kids six and under. This is not a restful life right now, so how can she find rest or look at rest differently?
She decided that Thursdays are her writing day. Most Thursdays, she goes to a coffee shop, spends time in the Word, and writes. During those times, she can also carve out some silence. In this season, it doesn’t feel right for her to take a Saturday or a Sunday and tell her husband that he has the three kids all day because she needs a Sabbath. Again, it doesn’t have to be legalistic. God honors the heart of these things: the heart of time with Him, the heart of rest, the heart of Sabbath.
As moms, we often have to get creative. We don’t want to push that responsibility off, because it still needs to happen. We can, however, grow closer to God and ask about our intentions. We need to prioritize this time without sacrificing other areas of our lives.
[28:06] Setting boundaries to protect your time to grow closer to God
The intention behind these things is important, but realistically we have to make a commitment and we have to have some boundaries around things so they actually happen. Christy explains, Christians often present with one of two extremes: They are so legalistic in that they have to have a quiet time every day with a succulent and highlighters, otherwise they are bad Christians and God is mad at them; or they wait for God to slow down their lives enough so that that can see him show up. They’re waiting for Gabriel to appear in their living rooms and show them what to do next, and they can’t make a decision because God hasn’t told them what to do yet.
Christy believes there is a common sense middle. That means that we should have a plan for our quiet time, a plan for our rest, and a plan for how to manage our calendars. We need to be wise stewards of our time, and prioritize the Holy Spirit. If she has a boundary that she doesn’t take commitments on Sunday nights, but God calls her to say yes to this person or opportunity that comes up on a Sunday night, that trumps all. She is not going to fly by the seat of her pants, expecting Gabriel to appear in her living room. That’s unwise and unrealistic. She has a plan, but she is also going to know that when the spirit leads her, she will submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit.
We have to have boundaries, protect our time, and know what matters. It is important to protect against those things that are not right for us in this season – not in a legalistic way, but in a good steward kind of way. Those “God moments” and the Holy Spirit will always trump our plans, but that doesn’t mean we should never make plans at all.
[32:07] Giving ourselves grace in the growing toward these boundaries
The trickiest thing about this faith walk is discernment. Growing closer to God allows us to feel a check in our spirit that no one else would feel. Seeking the Lord and being in touch with the Holy Spirit makes that discernment easier. It won’t be perfect, but the more we seek it, the more clear it will be.
Christy mentions that some Christians sit on their hands for decades and don’t do anything, and others run ahead of God. Christy admits to falling into the latter camp. God gives her an inkling of an idea, and she runs with it from there. Either way, the answer is to seek the Lord because when we seek the Lord in your actions, he will not lead us wrong. He can turn a moving vehicle, but he can’t turn a stalled car. Christy says she keeps moving in the direction she thinks based on what she knows right now. If He tells her to stop, she stops. Usually, though, it’s slow steps of faith in the direction she thinks He wants to go, knowing that if she is supposed to take a detour or a right turn, God will turn her. She is intentional about trying not to sit on her hands nor run ahead. “If you’re not seeking him, he’ll let you reap the consequences of the decisions you have made,” she says.
God does not build us up to pull the rug out from under us. Christy shares a concept from a Bible study she is doing about how God wants to be found by us. When a parent plays hide and seek with their kids, they’re not hiding from their child. They’re hiding for their child. You know that, if we seek Him, He wants to be found.
When Christy found herself battling voices in her head about ‘you should have done that’ or ‘you need to do that to be a good Christian’, she asked herself, is this how God would talk to you? And often that will cut through the voice of the enemy.
[36:13] Mindset tips for Christian women who want to grow closer to God
Christy thinks that women are really hard on themselves. In the book, she notes that women become these cruel taskmasters and beat themselves up for the two items on our to-do list of 50 things that we didn’t check off. In these moments, we can remind ourselves that this is not how God talks to us. It’s not how he sees us, and it’s not the life he created us for. That anxiety that we live with and that burden that we feel is not from Him, and we do not have to live like that. We’re actually doing better than you think, she says.
When He says, “I have come, that they may have life and have it abundantly,” Christy says He also means the here and now abundant life – a free life. There’s a very big difference between being free and living free. We already are free, but we need to live like it.
In Take Back Your Time, Christy shows us the tactical things we can do to live for the priorities we want. She encourages Christians who are hard on themselves that we are doing better than we think. God has freedom for us, if we’re willing to take it.
[38:03] TODAY’S LISTENER SUBMITTED QUESTION: How can I change my thought patterns when I’ve always been this way? How can I be different? Isn’t this just my personality? Isn’t this just how I was made?
I love this question, because I think there’s two things happening here that we need to be aware of. First of all, yes, we all have certain tendencies to respond to certain things in certain ways. That is based on our past experiences, such as traumas we’ve gone through, cultural influences, and family environment. It’s based on how we live in the moment. Things like being hungry, angry, lonely, and tired can affect us. Our physical health can affect us.
So many factors can affect how we respond to something in the moment, but we have to ask ourselves, how are we made? We were made in the image of God. We were made to be His children. We were made to be His light in this world. So if how I’m acting is contrary to how God made me and how He wants me to show up in this world, then I really need to step back and think about things.
I’m not saying that there is a certain way to respond to a situation that is right or wrong, outside of what scripture says is right or wrong, of course. In terms of personality traits, however, we all have the freedom to express those in different ways. God literally creates us differently and so we don’t have to feel anxiety about needing to perform or be a certain way. I do feel like sometimes we give ourselves the excuse to bore maladaptive behavior or things we know aren’t right because we think, this is just how I am. I can’t change the fact that I’m a warrior, or that I’m always nervous about this.
My question would be, “How can we look at this from a different perspective? If God made me to be the light and if God made me good and in His image, and He’s always growing me to be closer to Him and to be more like Him, then what can I do to begin to look at my behaviors? Maybe I need to look at the motivations behind my worrying. What is the behavior that is causing that? That is not something God wants for me. It may be the reaction I’ve always had, but what is causing that reaction?”
I was reminded again recently about the different reactions or responses we can have to trauma and how that shows up in our lives through different trauma patterns: fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. Sometimes when we have gone through a difficult experience, it creates this pattern in us, and then we act out that pattern. We think it’s us, but it’s not us. It isn’t who we are, but it’s like a piece of tape that is stuck to who we are right now. We have to ask ourselves, “Is this behavior something that is honoring God? Is it something I want to keep around? Is this something that is bringing me closer to God? Is it sanctifying me? Is it growing me? Is it allowing God’s light to shine through me?” If it isn’t, then we need to come before God realizing that He is looking at us with love and grace, and not judging us for that behavior.
It’s still important, though, to get curious and ask God to help connect the dots about what may have happened. If it was a traumatic experience that set our brains into motion to react a certain way, that makes sense on a biological level. It’s our brain trying to protect us. While worrying makes sense in terms of a brain response, it doesn’t mean that it has to keep going.
We have to be really honest with ourselves by asking, “Is this a behavior that honors God, or is it something that He is trying to help me shed as part of my sanctification?” We have freedom and choice, but we also need to be aware of our responsibility to continually let God shape and define us as He wants us.
CONNECT WITH CHRISTY WRIGHT:
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES GROWING CLOSER TO GOD:
- Ep 3: How to Connect to God with 9 Spiritual Growth Secrets
- Ep 49: Discovering True Connection with God (Not More Rules or Religion)
- Ep 67: 3 Hidden Spiritual Growth Obstacles that Keep You From Growing Closer to God
- Ep 73: How to Cultivate Daily Soul Rest by Growing Closer to God
- Ep 96: 10 Minutes to Daily Spiritual Connection with God
- Ep 99: 3 Categories of Spiritual Growth Obstacles: Pt 3: Your Relationship with God
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