Photo by Nathan Johnson @nathanjohnsonNY

You might wonder what Bethany Joy Lenz has been up to since her days of starring on One Tree Hill. Between touring with her band, acting in new shows on CBS and USA, running a website, writing a screenplay, supporting non-profit organizations, and launching a jewelry collection, all while raising her daughter as a single mom… it’s safe to say Joy Lenz has been keeping busy. I had the chance to talk to Joy about her various projects, her strategy for juggling them all, and how she uses her role in the spotlight to make a difference.

Best known for her role as Haley on One Tree Hill (2003-2012), Joy is no stranger to the struggles of the acting business. Post-OTH Joy has had her share of exciting opportunities, her most recent being reoccurring roles on CBS’s American Gothic and USA’s Colony, but with each success also comes pilots that get dropped and prospects that don’t work out. “I feel like going through these experiences is making me a lot stronger,” Joy says. “For anyone who goes through these kinds of experiences, you get a better perspective on what’s important in life, what your priorities are, and how to say “no” a lot more. People will always be knocking on your door asking you to be a part of something, and you need to have your vision and your priorities in place to know where am I going and what path is right for me. It’s hard not to get distracted by things that seem ‘good enough.'”

Amidst flying across the country for TV shoots and touring the east coast with her band, Joy Lenz & Her Firepit Band, Joy still manages to keep herself grounded and focus on her daughter and the things that matter to her most. When asked how she juggles so many projects without going crazy, Joy attributes her mindset to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. “Something in me really shifted – the ability to embrace resistance and to understand that that’s normal helps take off some of the pressure of not getting every single creative project done. You need to find a way to make money and then you create your art on the side. When new opportunities come up, I now have a much better perspective and ability to gauge how much energy is that project going to take out of my life, and is it worth it? It’s freeing not to feel this pressure to constantly create for money. You can create just because you can, and then you make your money elsewhere.”

One of Joy’s many creative outlets is her website: Modern Vintage Life. Formerly called “Wish You Were Here,” Joy describes her site as “combining the nostalgia, values, and grace of the bygone era with our modern ideals and aesthetic – how do we learn from the past and move forward into the future.” Joy uses this site to showcase her work, such as her recent Buffalo-inspired jewelry launch that supports Native American communities, but also to blog about things that are important to her. A recent post entitled ‘What are we doing…’ served as an outlet for her frustrations and sadness toward the recent tragedies around the world. In this post Joy urges readers to be aware of such issues and to acknowledge that awareness by praying.

Joy tells me, “Faith has become a very personal experience for me, and I don’t want to be afraid to speak about it in fear of offending someone or someone not being able to relate or understand me.” From the posts in her comment section, it would appear that many people were able to relate. One commenter responded to Joy’s post: “Thank you. You have an outlet that most people do not. And you use it to its greatest potential. It is very much appreciated.”

When asked about this – about using her status in this world to make a difference – Joy was very humble.

“I don’t know why I’m here, in terms of why I got put in a position to have a voice that gets heard. But I feel the weight of that responsibility. So I take it seriously.”

Aside from speaking out about social issues on her blog, Joy is also an active supporter of several charities. She supports Love146, an anti-sex trafficking organization, and Equality Now, a human rights organization for women around the world. Even when it comes to philanthropy, Joy admits that it’s hard to know where to start.

“There are so many things that can tug at your heartstrings. You want to do everything, you want to help everyone, you want to adopt every cause. But I think it’s better if individuals commit to one or two things that really mean the most to them, and focus on those things. And making differences in those areas. I feel really passionate about kids, and about the innocence of children. There’s a lot of other things I really care about, but I have to zone in on one or two areas and do the best I can with those.”

An hour of conversation with Bethany Joy Lenz left me feeling wildly unaccomplished – there seems to be no end to the passions and projects in this woman’s life. And she still manages to fit in morning quiet time – “praying, having coffee, reading, and feeding my spirit before starting the day” – to help her stay focused on what is truly important to her.

Joy’s advice for staying true to yourself and staying focused on your path? Spend less time on social media.

“It perpetuates a constant comparison between your life and someone else’s, and you feel this constant panic like ‘I’ve got to do something, I’ve got to do this and that’ and you get so overwhelmed that you don’t end up doing anything at all.

“Instead of spending time scrolling on social media, use that time to shut off your phone, close your eyes and get quiet. That still, small voice that’s inside of everyone will always speak. That’s the best voice to follow, because it’s always not the voice that’s screaming. It’s the smallest, quietest voice inside of us that’s whispering which way to go. The more you can get quiet and figure out what you really care about and what you really can do, the easier it will be to focus on that, and the more you’ll believe in your vision and walk in that direction without distraction.”

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