February 29, 2012

What I Learned About God From Playing With My Dog

Last September, we brought home a beautiful golden retriever puppy. 

Chloe at 9 weeks
Chloe was an adorable bundle of fur. Who bit. And jumped. And chewed. But I figured, golden retrievers are great dogs, right? She’ll learn. She’ll grow out of this in no time.

Fast forward 5 ½ months. Chloe is 7 months old. 

She's a lot bigger here...
She’s still an adorable bundle of fur. Who weights 50 pounds. And yep, you guessed it…she still bites and she still jumps and that’s right, folks, she still chews. Everything. In. Sight.

Sigh.

I’ve never owned a puppy before, so I didn’t really realize how much work they were. I know, I know, people told me they were a lot of work, but I didn’t realize it until she was here and I was at my wit’s end.

As soon as I get home, I’m tired. The last thing I want to do is deal with a jumping, biting, chewing puppy who can (and has!) knock me over with a thwack of her front paws hitting my chest. She gets so excited that she literally cannot contain her energy. She wiggles and jumps and springs and writhes and won’t. sit. still.

For awhile, I’d get angry. I’d yell. I’d tell her to sit (I’d kind of growl it, really). I’d grab her by the collar and throw her outside.*

Last week, I had a different idea. I grabbed her ball and threw it. She fetched it and brought it back to me. Over and over again, I threw and she retrieved. Her energy became focused on a game, and suddenly, she was the amazing dog I’d always pictured having. I thought, Yes! There’s hope!

All I had to do was pay attention to her instead of getting frustrated. Love on her. Listen to her inner cry of Spend time with me! Don’t you love me? (K, not sure dogs have insecurities, but roll with me, here.)

And then, it hit me.

I am just like my spastic, immature puppy.

I know I need something. I have so much anxiety and things inside me just bursting to get out, but it needs somewhere to go. It sometimes comes out like rants or complaints. Sometimes like tears. Other times like false joy in the wrong things, because I have to latch on to SOMETHING.

But if I can focus on the one activity I should be spending time doing, the one Person I should be spending time with, then I will blossom. Suddenly, I’ll run the straight and narrow, right after that ball, with all the intent focus of a sprinter running a race. I’ll grab that ball, bring it back to God’s feet, sit there, content and smiling, and stare up at Him, asking Him to affirm me and keep playing, keep spending time with me.

And the great, amazing thing about God?

He never gets frustrated. He never yells. He never gets angry when we jump all over, when we slobber a little, when we pout and moan and cry about life.

He just smiles, picks up a ball, and says—over and over again—“Come and spend time with me. We’ll work through those things together.”

Your Turn: Are you a dog person? Cat person? What has owning an animal taught you?

How can you not love this face?!
*For all of you animal lovers, please don’t hate me. I do love her…I just really didn’t know how to handle her! So glad that one week from today, she will begin obedience training!!
**Photos by my amazing mother-in-law, Nancy Harrel!

February 27, 2012

Getting Inspired

Earlier this year, literary agent Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Agency wrote a blog series about creativity and ways to get the writing juices flowing. Lots of writers chimed in with their favorite creative activities, and it got me thinking.

What inspires me?

And I’m not just talking about what inspires me to write. I mean, what inspires me to live a full life? To jump up and down (figuratively or literally) with joy? What things bring a contented sigh from my lips and remind me that life. is. good?

Several things come to mind. Here are a few:

Reading a Bible verse that resonates to the tips of my toes.

A good book with real characters who learn something I can apply to my life.

Belting a worship song and dancing with abandon in the confines of my room.

White chocolate melting on the tip of my tongue.

The sound of flowing water.

Swinging at the park, pretending I’m soaring toward the stars.

Imagining it’s possible to reach the stars.

Arizona summer storms with warm rain and brilliant lightning whisking across the sky.

Being wrapped in a friend’s embrace.

Getting a pedicure when my toes finally emerge from hiding all winter in closed-toed shoes.

Starbucks one-on-one dates with a friend I haven’t seen in ages.

Hosting a party and seeing smiles on my guests’ faces.

Watching old family videos and hearing my mom’s voice again.

Feeling well rested when I wake up in the morning.

Praying all night and knowing, with all my being, that God heard me.

A good belly laugh from one of my nieces or nephews. Or all five of them.

Forging a new friendship.

Snuggling against my husband’s chest.

Hearing God whisper, “I have good plans for you. And you’re on the right track.”

Your Turn: What inspires you?

*Photo by Marcus74id

February 24, 2012

Fun Friday: Dreaming of Another Time, Another Place


Have you ever seen the latest version of Pride & Prejudice, with Keira Knightley? If so, you probably can’t forget the scene where Elizabeth Bennett stands on a precipice in the English countryside, the breeze whirling her hair around her face and speaking to her.

It’s a beautiful moment.

Ever since I visited England myself and then saw this scene, I have loved the idea of living in the English countryside in a little cottage somewhere tucked away, with a white picket fence and vegetable garden.

In the early 19th century.

I’m not sure what about this appeals to me, especially since I’m such a city girl. There just seems to be something so peaceful, so serene about it. Something unrushed and poignant about that place, during that time.

Obviously, there were a lot of disadvantages to living back then, and in the countryside to boot, but I think I would have loved writing and reading all day. (And besides, there are advantages and disadvantages to every time period.)

Oh well. The Elizabeth Bennett in me can still dream, right?

What about you? If you could live in any time period, in any place, when and where would it be?

February 22, 2012

Three Things I Learned About Marriage From Painting With My Husband


Last weekend, my husband and I painted an accent wall in our bedroom.

Now, I will have you know that, despite my desire to be, I am not artsy or crafty at all. My mom was. Me? Not. So. Much.

Therefore, painting…even painting a wall…seemed like a slightly intimidating task to me. So I asked my husband to help. And like the amazing guy he is, he agreed to give up his Saturday and Sunday to work alongside me.

Me caulking
Roll it, baby!
Voila! The finished product.
All things considered, the wall turned out pretty well. And I even learned a few things in the process, not just about painting, but about marriage (and relationships in general) as well.

Quality time together does not just come in the form of face-to-face, intimate chats.
If you’ve ever read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you know that spending quality time with friends, family, and your spouse is one way that some people feel loved. This happens to be one of my primary love languages (so if we ever have a chance to talk face-to-face, beware! I may ask you enough questions to know your life story by the end. Ha!), so I love those times when Mike and I get to go on dates and have long talks about our dreams, our frustrations, what we love about each other, etc.

But when working alongside him all weekend, there was a strengthening there as well. We hardly talked. We listened to music. But we’d give each other little pep talks and sideways glances that bonded us too.

So I’m learning to appreciate those types of quality moments as well.

Sometimes fights occur because we are frustrated with ourselves, not our spouse—yet our spouse takes the blow.
So, I was in charge of taping the baseboards before we painted. Can we say major frustration?! I’d think I had it right, and then it would come unstuck where I’d just made it perfect. I’d grunt and get all mad, and when my poor husband asked what was wrong, I picked a small fight. My frustrations over my imperfection made me mad—and he was there, so he took the brunt of that anger.

Now that I realize my tendency to do this, I can be more intentional about asking him to help me instead of becoming prideful over my struggles.

For the best results in marriage, we should encourage each other’s strengths.
My husband is such a good encourager, and this trait really shone through this weekend. He kept telling me what a great job I was doing, particularly with touching up the paint, and I honestly think it made me try harder and do better. He admitted touching up wasn’t his strength, and asked me to do it instead.

If we can admit when our spouse has a strength we don’t have, and encourage him/her in it, then the overall result will be so much better. For when one is weak, the other is strong…

Your Turn: What lessons about marriage or relationships have you learned from working alongside your spouse, friends, or family members, or just in general?

February 20, 2012

Longing to Be Worthy: A Prayer From My Journal

Sometimes, when I just don’t know what else to do, when I don’t even know what I’m feeling, I journal. But these journal entries are not just words written on notebook paper; they are prayers from my heart to God’s.

Last Monday, I talked about how I handled rejection (and how I wanted to handle it), specifically in regards to my writing. But when I thought deeper about why such rejection can sting so much, this is what poured from my fingers onto the page. I pray it touches your spirit and reminds you that you aren’t alone.

*****

God, my heart feels worn out today, and for some reason, I just feel sad. Like I’m a failure. I know that’s a lie Satan whispers to my heart. Please, Lord, help me to replace the lies with Your Truth.

This writing dream—sometimes I get so impatient. I want to move quickly and learn and BOOM have an agent NOW and get published NOW. But so much of this process is about learning to rely on You, learning to trust You—learning that I can’t live a day without You.

But how often I forget that very thing.

It’s why I can so easily get depressed when I don’t get regular comments on my blog. I think, “Uh oh, do they see through me now? Do they think this post is dumb? That I don’t know what I’m talking about?”

Lord, when will I stop basing my self-worth on what others think of me and how others treat me?

When will I start to truly base my self-worth in being Your daughter, and not on what I do for a living?

On what I achieve?

On whether or not I ever get published?

Why do rejections have the ability to deflate my spirit? I don’t want them to.

Why do I base my self-worth on being pretty, or skinny, or stylish?

Why do I compare myself to others and think I’m not good enough?

I know this is not how I was meant to live.

You made me to live like a STRONG, BEAUTIFUL, VICTORIOUS Daughter of the King—something I don’t deserve one bit but a place of honor You’ve given me anyway.

Please keep reminding me that no matter what anyone says, You love me. I am Yours.

And that’s enough.

Your Turn: Have you ever based your self-worth on something other than being His? Have you ever used a prayer journal to get your thoughts out or just as a way to record your prayers?

February 17, 2012

Fun Friday: Career Choices AND MY FIRST VLOG!



Well, folks, I’ve done it. I vlogged.

Now mind you, this is by no means a professional vlogging job. I know my face looks kinda orange-y and I say “um” a lot, but hey, um, that’s me. And that’s what vlogging is all about, in my opinion. Me. I mean, you getting to know me. Hehe. Riiiight.

OK, I’m feeling a little goofy as I write this…but it’s Friday (well, it will be when this gets posted), so that’s OK!

In case you don’t have time to watch my somewhat scary excellent vlog, here’s the basic premise.

My question for you today is: If you could do anything career-wise that you’re not currently doing (even if it’s not logical for you to pursue it), what would it be? (So all of you wannabe ice cream taste testers, now’s the time to speak up!)

February 15, 2012

There’s Just Something About the Rain


Yesterday, it rained in the desert.

I live in Phoenix, Arizona, where the annual rainfall is less than 10 inches. So when it rains here, it’s a novelty. It’s refreshing.

And it’s strikingly beautiful.

Something about the way God brings water to dry land is just such an amazing metaphor for life.

Like when there are rough, ragged times.

And when we can’t understand why there’s a drought.

And when we don’t think we’ll make it through the drought.

It’s funny. I love the rain, but I don’t think I’d love it so much if I lived somewhere where it rained all the time.

Because here, in the desert, when it happens, it’s special. It’s specific. It’s powerful.

Just like God’s hand in our lives.

Your Turn: Do you love the rain or hate it? Why? And if you love it, what’s your favorite thing to do when it’s raining?

* I’m not sure why, but whenever I see pictures like the one above, of people frolicking in the rain, this verse comes to mind: “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)

February 13, 2012

Musings of a (Rejected) Writer


Even though you know it’s coming, somehow it can still sneak up on you.

Even though you’ve been warned of its ominous presence, its fierce winds can still knock you off your feet.

And even though you’ve done all you can to prepare against it, sometimes, it just doesn’t matter. The storm will come regardless.

No, I’m not talking about a hurricane, tornado, or some other natural disaster—but this has as much destructive capability.

I’m talking about rejection.

One of the first things you hear other writers tell you is that everyone in this business experiences rejection on some level. I’ve even been told by an author of 25+ novels that she still experiences rejection from publishers, editors, etc. So yeah, I know in my head that rejection is part of the biz.

But then it happened to me.

Friday night, I received not one, but TWO, rejection letters spaced about an hour apart. They were from completely different publications for completely different entries (one was an essay/article, one was a poem).

Uh, yeah, let’s just say that didn’t feel good. Receiving one? OK, I can maybe chalk it up to “that’s not my expertise” or “it’s all who you know” excuses. But two? Yikes. My self-confidence took a nose-dive.

And if I let it, rejection has the potential to derail this dream of mine.

I’ve realized that rejection can do one of two things to us: make us so discouraged we quit trying, or motivate us to do better. It’s our choice.

I know that receiving two rejection letters doesn’t seem like much, and it’s not, but I have to decide RIGHT NOW how I’m going to handle rejection. Because it’s going to happen again. And again.

I mean, it’s easy to get so discouraged I wonder why I’m subjecting myself to this. Why not just pursue those things in life I know I can succeed at?

But a mentor of mine encouraged me on Saturday to remember why I’m doing this in the first place. And then she reminded me of Hebrews 12:

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Regardless of what obstacles I face, no matter the rejection, will I run with perseverance the race marked out for me?

With all my heart, I long to say, “Yes!”

Your Turn: Ever faced rejection (in writing or otherwise)? How did you handle it? What did it teach you?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

February 10, 2012

Fun Friday: What Valentine’s Candy Are You Hoping For?

I thought for awhile about what question I could ask today and then it hit me. Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday! Obviously I had to ask something related. :P


So, my husband and I are cheap. Perhaps it’s a remnant leftover from college days or just part of our personalities. But we. like. discounts.

So every year, we buy each other candy the day AFTER Valentine’s Day. Because it’s half-priced. Yeah, baby.

Normally, I request Sour Patch Kids or Skittles or some other non-chocolate candy. (I know, I know, what? My mother would be ashamed of me.)

But this year, I’ve discovered a new treat: Dove white chocolates.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Sooooooooo good!!

I’ve already informed my husband that THIS is my candy of choice this V-Day. Maybe I’m making Mom proud after all. J

What about you? What candy are you hoping to get from your significant other on Valentine’s Day? (Or what candy are you buying for yourself? It doesn’t matter how you get it!)

February 8, 2012

For the Good of Those Who Love Him

I’m in that stage of life: baby explosion. Friends left and right are popping out kids. I still have some fellow holdouts (don’t abandon me quite yet, I beg you!), but I’d say the majority of my married friends either have kids or are pregnant with their first.

Since I haven’t yet experienced pregnancy, I can only go by what others tell me. But, um yeah, it doesn’t seem like a fun prospect. At all.

I mean there’s the swollen ankles (cankles, right?). The aching back. The nonstop cravings that plop on the pounds faster than you’d like. And let’s not forget the lovely morning sickness that may or may not strike in the A.M. as the name suggests.

But according to my friends, it’s totally worth it. Every last moment of pain is swept away from a mother’s memory when she holds her baby in her arms for the first time.

But what about pain—whether physical or emotional—that isn’t “worth it”? What about those things that just make you cry? Those experiences so awful you can’t possibly see any good in it?

What if there seems to be NO silver lining?

In these situations, it’s so incredibly easy to get discouraged. To doubt God. To wonder if He’s real or if He really loves us at all. If life will ever be good again.

I’ve been there. From the time I was 15 to the time I was 19, my mom suffered with cancer.

I watched her struggle to maintain her dignity as she used her walker to sweep the floor that no one else could get quite as clean as she could.

As she cried because she was sorry her pain was “interrupting” MY life.

As she lay there in pain, wasting away, trying to eat for our sakes but not able to keep much down.

I was helpless to do anything but rub her feet and give her the next round of 25 tiny pain pills.

And my heart cried out to God: “Why?! What good is there in this? What silver lining?”

I still don’t know exactly why God allowed my mom to leave this world on September 10, 2004. But I do know this: “…in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  

I’m not sure I could fully, truly say that before I experienced what I did.

And maybe that, right there, IS the silver lining.

Your Turn: What’s the silver lining in what you’re going through today or what you’ve gone through in the past? Or, how has God used something in your life to teach you His truth?

February 6, 2012

Exposing the “Big Lie”

In his book Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell talks about the “Big Lie.”

No, I’m not talking about the fact that Santa isn’t real. And I’m not talking about something that spewed from one of the Presidential candidate’s mouths.

I’m talking about the lie that tells us writing can’t be learned.

When I read the introduction to this awesome craft book, a bell (pun based on author’s last name fully intended, even if it’s lame) went off in my head.

Because I’ve believed the Big Lie my whole life.

Yep, I was one of those people born with a pen in one hand and paper in the other (my poor mother…well, you know what I mean). The quirky little kid with ink stains on my fingers who folded a stack of paper in half and stapled it at the edges. Who wrote and wrote and wrote. Whom everyone said was a born writer.

I was the high school sophomore who always exceeded the required page count on papers and creative writing assignments, because, well, I was a writer. That’s just what I did. (Later I learned that longer does not always equal better...)

And I was the college journalism major who practically crumbled when I got a poor grade on my first reporting piece.

For me, this was devastating. Miss-Perfectionist-Teacher’s-Pet-Straight-A-Student got a bad grade on a paper! It didn’t even make me feel better that that paper could be rewritten for a higher grade.

But that’s just the point.

I’d never written a news story before. All I’d written were essays, poems, short stories. But there’s a certain format for news stories (inverted pyramid, anyone?), just like there’s a certain format for essays, poems, and short stories.

Did my bad grade mean I wasn’t a good writer? That I’d never be a good writer? That because I wasn’t born knowing how to write news articles, I had epically failed and would never ever be published?

No.

Because that’s where exposing the Big Lie comes in.

Once I learned how to write a news story, I rewrote that sucker and got a higher grade.

I learned. How to Write.

I came. I learned. I conquered.

I try to remember this as I fumble along this path of novel writing, which is completely new to me.

I will come. I will learn. I will conquer.

Because I can.

Your Turn: Have you ever believed the Big Lie that Bell talks about? If so, how does hearing it exposed change your outlook on writing? What is one of the most important things you’ve learned about writing?

February 3, 2012

Fun Friday: Does Your Name Fit?


When I was little, I was a drama queen. Bossy. A bit of a know-it-all. (OK, OK, probably not all of this is entirely in the past…nobody’s perfect!)

And guess what Lindsay means?

Peaceful isle.

Bahaha.

I always thought that was the utmost of irony. But as I grew, I became calmer (well, relatively speaking). Less bossy and more of a listener. More of a peacemaker.

Funny how I grew into my name.

On a side note, for years, I thought that I should have been named Elizabeth—not necessarily because of its meaning (God is My Oath), but because I read a book series (Sweet Valley Twins, anyone?) with a key character who resembled me in terms of looks and behavior. Plus, hello, Elizabeth Bennett, anyone?

But you know what? I think my parents chose well.

Because I just can’t be anyone but Lindsay.

What about you? Does the meaning of your name fit you? What name might fit you better or what name did you always wish you had been given?

* For the record, a recent post by Beth Vogt got me thinking on the subject of names.
** This topic of names makes me think of Anne of Green Gables: “Would you call me Cordelia?” He he.
*** Photo from freedigitalphotos.net

February 1, 2012

Desperate for Intentionality

As we all know, the holidays can be rough. In terms of getting stuff done, that is. There’s so much to do, so many people to see, that it’s understandable when we don’t get much crossed off of our to-do list.

But then, January hits. We should be fresh, raring to go. In my case, I couldn’t wait to dive into editing my first novel and outlining my second.

People, I’m here to tell you that I’ve done a crummy job so far. It’s February 1 and where is my motivation? Oh, that’s right. It got buried under all the Christmas presents. It’s shown itself occasionally, but likes to play hide and seek with me. While I watch TV.

But I’m through playing games.

For the month of February, I’ll be fasting from TV and movies*. Yep. No bemoaning Regina’s evil schemes in Once Upon a Time. No anticipating what crazy stunt Shawn will pull next in Psych. No finding out which girl Ben is gonna boot off The Bachelor next.

So, why am I doing this? I guess I’m sick of my daily go-to-work, come-home, sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-TV-because-I’m-tired bit, especially when my goal had been to write 1,000 words. Or spend quality time with my husband. Or read a craft book that will help me improve my writing. Or blog. Or exercise. Or, you know, spend time in God’s Word (yep, hate to admit that I’ll sometimes choose the glowing box over this).

I’m not saying TV is a bad thing, but too much of it is. And sometimes, for me to gain control over a certain area of my life, I need to quit it cold turkey for awhile.

I’m hoping it will give me perspective. I want to be indulging in my OWN world more often, not the fantasy world created by the television.

I probably watch about 5-7 hours of TV on average per week. It doesn’t seem like a lot at the time—only an hour a day at most—but if that translated to word count instead, and I was able to crank out 500-1,000 words an hour, well, my goodness, I’d have anywhere between 2,500–7,000 more words per week than I do now.

That’s 10,000–28,000 more words per month! (Cue jaw drop.)

Now, I don’t plan to spend all of my extra time writing (there were those other things I mentioned as well), but I am hoping this little fast of mine helps me to focus again on my goals. On my family and friends. On God. On the things that are really important to me.

I want to live my life to the fullest, not wasted. I think that’s what God wants for all of us. It may look different for each person, and it may look different in each season of your own life, but intentionality is of utmost importance.

Your Turn: Have you ever given up TV or something else in order to make more time for your goals? How did it go? If you haven’t, could you see yourself doing something like this in the future?

*I will make two exceptions for pre-arranged movie dates with friends, but that’s it!