April 7, 2014

Choosing Gratitude

A few weeks ago, I sang offertory at church. I had to pick a song, so I went through the list of songs in my repertoire.

When I came across Nichole Nordeman's "Gratitude," I started to cry.

Because we may make all sorts of plans for our lives -- but God might not have those plans for us.

And in those cases, we have a choice: to curse him or thank him for what results.

To curse him is easier. Way easier. We can kick and scream and ask why, why, why?

Or...we can make the harder choice. We can thank him for teaching us to trust him.

That doesn't mean we don't question or express our anguish or uncertainty. I think God always wants us to be honest with him.

But it does mean approaching him with humility, with open hands.

Listen to this powerful song and the lyrics -- and be challenged as I was challenged. To be thankful in all things.



Your Turn: What are you grateful for today? 

March 24, 2014

An Honest Post About Prayer

I'm going to get real here for a minute. Because I think too often as a Christian, I shove my struggles under a mat and pretend like I'm fine.

But no one ever said living the life of a believer would be easy. Jesus least of all.

So, I realized something about myself recently.

I'm not sure I believe in the power of prayer.

Yes, that sounds blasphemous. What I mean is...I know it's true. But I'm not sure I pray like it's true. I'm not sure in my heart of hearts that I really believe it makes a difference.

And that scares me.

I know there are all sorts of Bible verses and passages about how prayer changes lives, how when two or more are gathered, there the Lord is. I know He listens to our prayers, that it's good for us to pray so we communicate and build a relationship with Him.

I know all that in my head. And I pray, because I love talking to God.

But when it comes to praying for someone to be healed, or for someone's heart to change, or for there to be peace -- I hesitate.

I recently noticed this hesitation in myself and despised it. Because that's not what a Christian should feel, right? We should be offering to pray for others and praying that God would change us.

Here's the thing.

I ABSOLUTELY believe God has the POWER to change lives, to heal people, to ensure peace.

I'm just not sure how me asking for it makes a difference.

I know it does. The Bible says it does. So I believe it to be true (and that's not a blind faith...I've seen it happen).

But...I don't know. I still struggle. I think the root of that struggle is definitely the fact that I'm not naive about things. God will do what he sees is best, even if we don't understand it. He didn't heal my mom from cancer -- his answer to that prayer was no. Why? I don't know. I'm not God.

So it's hard for me to really ask God for something and expect him to change his mind. Because why should my asking for it switch his course of action?

I realize I'm opening myself up to criticism. Again, I'm NOT saying I don't think prayer matters. I know it does. But I still struggle with praying, because I'm still reconciling his purpose for prayer in my own life.

I know many times, the real purpose for prayer is to change us. To bring us closer to him. To remind us who is God and who is not.

I get that, and I keep praying because of it. It's only through communication with my God that I'll ever understand how all of this works anyway.

Your Turn: Have you ever struggled like I do? I'd love to hear a time in your life when you felt prayer made a difference! 

*photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

March 17, 2014

Friends Are the Best Medicine

I'm so incredibly blessed to have amazing friends. Truly. I don't deserve such blessing!

One of my best friends happens to be a writer I met online. Crazy, isn't it? Melissa Tagg and I became critique and craft partners nearly two years ago, even though we'd never met in person. She lives in Iowa. I live in Arizona.

But I truly believe God gave us to each other! She is one of the coolest girls I know, and I'm so blessed by not only her writing expertise but her friendship, accountability, and the truth she speaks into my life over and over again.

Melissa came out for a visit this last weekend -- and we had so much fun! We did a little brainstorming, but mostly, we spent time relaxing, taking walks/hikes, sitting around in the sunshine, playing with my dogs, watching Boy Meets World (best show ever!), meeting up with other writers, and having deep conversations about our faith and our writing.

It was an amazing weekend! We also both got revitalized and plan to hit our writing/revisions hard this week. We'd love your prayers as we head toward our deadlines.

Here are a few pictures from our awesome weekend!

Melissa and I (middle and right) got to meet up with Texas author Anne Mateer!
We also had a fun dinner with author Tari Faris to celebrate this last year's
writing accomplishments!
The amazing white chocolate brownie we ate after dinner. Yum!
I introduced Melissa to Grimaldi's pizza. Mmm. Interestingly, the former baseball
coach Tommy Lasorda sat at the table next to us! 
Being from Iowa, where it's cold right now, Melissa enjoyed sitting in the sun. A lot.  
My dogs hung out with us most of the weekend! So of course I had to post a cute picture
of Pascal. ;)
Your Turn: What did you do this weekend? Happy St. Patrick's Day!

March 10, 2014

There's Beauty in the Wait

Me and Mike at dinner before heading to the opera.
My husband loves the opera.

I'm more of a musical theater girl myself, but I can appreciate the skill it takes to compose and perform an opera well. Over the last several months, Mike has taken me to three separate operas. My appreciation has grown, even if I still prefer things like Wicked, Oklahoma!, and Sound of Music.

Anyway, last week Mike checked out from the library the score to Tristan and Isolde, a tragic opera by Wagner*. He told me how the entire opera -- all four hours of it -- is written in unresolved chord progressions. Yikes! Chord progressions almost always resolve, which gives that satisfying feeling at the end of a measure of music, or a song.

I told him I couldn't imagine sitting through a four-hour opera that had me on the edge of my seat, feeling unsatisfied the entire time! That would be torture to have to wait for that long-awaited resolution.

I don't even know if I could fully appreciate the beauty of the music since I'd be so focused on reaching the end and feeling that satisfaction I'd been waiting for.

But he said something to me that really stopped me in my tracks: "Wouldn't that make the satisfaction at the end all the greater because you'd waited for it?"

Wow.

Because suddenly, we weren't talking about Tristan and Isolde. Suddenly, we were talking about life.

How often do I want life to speed along so I can get exactly what I want, now, now, now?

How often in life do I want the reward without having to experience the trial, the hard work, sometimes the heartache it takes to get it?

And how often do I let life slip by without gratitude and appreciation for what I have -- because I'm so dang focused on what's at the end of the tunnel?

Too often.

I'm praying today that I can stop, be grateful, and remember -- there's beauty in the wait.

Your Turn: Do you like the opera or are you more of a musical theater person like me? And how do you find beauty in the wait?

*The love story may be a bit controversial, as is Wagner, but that's not the point of this post! :)

March 3, 2014

Breaking Free of Winter

 
I don't think it's any secret that this has been a long winter.

And yes, I know I live in Phoenix and haven't been deluged with snow and horrible weather. But my winter has been more of a metaphorical one.

For some reason, I have had a rough few months. All I've wanted to do is curl up and watch television. And escape. Endlessly. And yet, it's never been enough to satisfy me (go figure!). There's never enough rest to be had.

I knew I should be working on my writing or my teaching or heck, cleaning my house! But I couldn't make myself do it.

Perhaps it really is because it's darker and chillier (for me!) than usual, and I've felt slightly depressed. My energy levels have been low, and I haven't felt motivated or inspired in the ways I'd hoped I would. Perhaps it's for other personal reasons that have me all emotional.

But this last week, I was given a gift.

I attended my second Deep Thinkers writing retreat in Florida with My Book Therapy. Basically, it's five days of immersion into my craft. Five days of being encouraged by incredible mentors and teachers. Five days of searching and praying for just the right story.

Five days that were oh-so needed in helping me come out of my proverbial winter.

See, it had nothing to do with the beach or even the warm weather (since we're starting to get that here now). I think it had to do with taking time away to focus on my passion. I realize that the last few months have felt so bogged down and busy. So full to bursting with things on my to do list -- and then my own failure to complete them weighed me down more.

And I think that's the thing. We can't all get away for a week -- believe me, I know what a blessing that is.

But we can stop beating ourselves up for what we consider failures in our life. 

Sure, maybe we can only get in 30 minutes a day of writing time -- or time to focus on something else you're passionate about. Or maybe that's not even possible with this time of life. But let's remember who determines our time and where we should be looking for help.

I tried taking it all on myself -- I didn't lean on God like I should have.

I told myself I was failing and I didn't know how to stop. But really, what if I was doing exactly what God had for me to do (well, not the TV, but you get my point)? What if I was only failing by my own standards?

I think that a lot of times, I need to reconsider what the true meaning of success really is.

Your Turn: Do you need to break free of winter (metaphorically speaking)? How has it happened for you in the past?

PS - Here are several more photos from my retreat!
Ashley Clark, a dear writer friend who lives a few hours away, stopped by for dinner!
Me and my roomie, Jeanne Takenaka. Love this lady!
The ever-adorable Kimberly Buckner and me. So glad I got to know her better!
Incredible mentors and teachers Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck!
So blessed by all the hugs and prayers of my dear friend, Beth Vogt.
Who says writers can't be goofy?
And again I say...

February 17, 2014

When There's Never Enough Time in Your Day...

We're all busy people.

Some days are busier than others, but lately I've felt like I'm going a mile a minute -- or more.

See, I work three jobs: as a copywriter at my full-time job, as an online English instructor, and as a fiction author. Not to mention the jobs of wife, friend, daughter, and sister.

And a lot of times, I'm super organized and get lots accomplished in a day. Other times, not so much.

Lately, I've been feeling really down, almost depressed about this elusive thing I seek: rest. It's like I'm going, going, going and look forward to the day when life won't be so busy. But who am I kidding? Life will always be busy! Yes, I can eliminate some things, and simplify a bit -- but I'm pursuing a dream, and that always takes extra time and energy. Plus, life just happens!

I came across this quote last week in Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts that just totally resonated with me and where I'm at:

"I don't really want more time; I just want enough time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy and just enough time in a day not to feel hounded, pressed, driven, or wild to get it all done -- yesterday."

I wrote this in my prayer journal after reading that:

I love these moments in the middle of my day: when I get to be quiet and enjoy the sunlight and bask in You. When the puppies are still and quiet with me, when I leave my cell phone in the other room, and I just am.

How rare these moments are, what with so many things crowding out my day. It's easy to get so busy -- or just make my priorities different than they should be -- and forget to spend time in quiet. Sometimes I really wish hard for a simplified life, one where I work one job and focus on time with Mike and cook good meals and walk the dogs. 

And some days, that IS my life. 

But many times, my days are crazy busy and I don't know what to cut or how to balance. I'm sick of working three jobs but I know there are certain times that's necessary. 

There will always be something I'm not happy with, won't there? Oh Father, please -- I want my life to be filled with joy and contentment. I do. Help me to have joy and gratitude even when there are hard parts of life -- which there always are!

God, carry me. I'm pretty lost without You. I need to focus this week, relish life, and take joy in time with Mike and friends. I should stay away from the TV and read more. I should find the things I love and take more time for them. 

I'm finding that life is lived one day -- sometimes, one moment -- at a time. And I'm grateful that God knows what each one will hold.

Your Turn: How do you deal with the busyness of life? 

* I'll be taking off next week from blogging, since I'll be in Florida at a writing retreat!
** Check out my recent guest post on Casey Herringshaw's blog. I talked about what I would tell the pre-married me if I could!
*** Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

February 10, 2014

Gratitude: What's Going on in Lindsay Land

Lately, I've been feeling a little down. I have my reasons, but suffice it to say that I've been discontent with some things in my life.

But I've also been reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Amazing book! Seriously. Her prose is exquisite. Plus, it has been teaching me a lot about gratitude.

I'll probably write another post about how this book has challenged me, but for now, I'm choosing to focus on the great things in my life. Because I'm blessed to have many.

So here's a little glimpse at some of the joys of my life lately (in addition to the obvious things like awesome friends and family, etc.):

New reads
I've got some great books in my To Be Read pile, like Rachel Hauck's latest release, Princess Ever After! I'm so looking forward to digging in, enjoying the journey, and learning from the greats.

New habits
I'm trying really hard to change my eating habits. That doesn't mean I don't fall off the wagon occasionally (especially when I don't feel good!), but I've been trying to eat more "real food" -- aka, food without artificial preservatives, dyes, etc. -- and make more food from scratch. A few weeks ago, we had homemade pizza (complete with homemade dough) and it was one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten! Yum!!

Lots of musicals!
Mike and I got season tickets to see four different shows at Gammage, our local theater that produces really great Broadway-style shows. Just this weekend, we saw Wizard of Oz and it was wonderful. The little dog that played Toto stole the show.

Cute puppies
My puppies Chloe and Pascal always keep me laughing. Pascal fell asleep like this last week and it was adorable!

Revisions and a retreat
I'm working on revisions for my book, The Song Inside. It's going to take a lot of work and butt-in-chair time, but I've already got the first three chapters rewritten. That's something, right?

And at the end of this month, I get to go to Florida for a writing retreat (the picture above is me and a few friends at the retreat last year). It's just what I need to get recharged! I plan to soak up the sun (if there is any this year!) and as much knowledge as I can from some women who have played a huge role in my writing life.

Your Turn: What's going on in your neck of the woods? What are you grateful for today?