March 29, 2013

The Real Meaning of Passion

If someone were to ask you what you're passionate about, what would you say?

Me?

I'm passionate about
  • Family
  • Spreading God's love by my actions
  • Sharing God with others through my writing
  • Singing and worshipping
  • Justice
Want to know what God would say He's passionate about?
  • You
  • Me
  • All of us, even those you can't stand
How do I show my passion?
  • I spend time with those I love.
  • I work hard to show God's love, by being deliberate about serving, by spending time improving my craft.
How did God show His passion?
  • He gave up a throne for us.
  • He took responsibility for stuff He didn't do.
  • He challenged the status quo for our sakes.
  • He met us -- meets us -- where we are.
  • He died a brutal death.
I think I know what passion is, but I honestly have no clue.

Except this. GOD defines passion.
In fact, He is passion itself.

Your Turn: What are you passionate about?

March 27, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Waiting for Tomorrow



"Waiting for Tomorrow" by Mandisa is -- simply put -- an anthem of hope and determination.

Makes me wonder...how many times have I said "I'll do that later"?

Am I waiting for tomorrow to
  • Tell my neighbor about Jesus?
  • Spend time loving -- really loving -- my husband?
  • Understand the passions that drive me?
  • Invest time in people?
  • Follow my dreams?
  • Take care of my health?
  • Learn that thing I've always wanted to learn?
  • Commit my mornings to prayer?
Whatever it is, don't wait until tomorrow.

Because life...well, it's happening NOW.

And we're not guaranteed tomorrow, anyway.

I want to live life with no regrets. And I'm realizing that, for me, that doesn't always mean I have to go go go.

Sometimes, in my life, it means slowing down.

Savoring the joy.

Kindling a flame.

Watching it grow into something beautiful.

Your Turn: What does living life with no regrets -- not waiting for tomorrow -- mean to you? 

*Yesterday, I posted about The Art of Not Rushing on the American Christian Fiction Writers Blog. I talk more about this whole slowing down thing, specifically in relation to my writing. 

March 25, 2013

One Word 2013: For the Simple Joy of a Thing

Have you ever loved doing something?

Like, really loved it? Had a deep passion for it?

Then, you figure out what it will take to get really good at this thing.

You work hard.

And at first, the hard work is glorious. You're invigorated, because finally you're following your dream.

But then, after awhile, life finds a way of nudging in at the edges, reminding you that you have other responsibilities. Reminding you that this thing you do is going to take some blood, sweat, and tears to defend.

But you do it. Because you love it.

And you stick with it. And you get better.

But then, you start to become stressed out, because you're taking forever to get better -- or at least to get to where you want to be.

And soon, that "want to be" turns to a "need to be," because who are you anymore if you don't become the best you can be at this thing you love?

Except...do you really love it anymore? Or has it simply become another thing that you strive for -- and you've forgotten why?

Have you forgotten the simple thrill of doing the thing you were made to do?

Where joy once was, now stress and pressure and fear and doubt have taken up residence.

How did you get here, so far from the reasons you started pursuing this thing you love in the first place?

It's so easy to fall away from that first joy, but you can rediscover it.

Lay off the stress. The pressure. God is leading you where He wants you to go. It may take longer than you'd like to get there, but if it's the route He wants you to take, He'll make enough light for the next step. And the next.

Because I'm learning that I'm most alive when I'm doing what I was made to do. But I wasn't made to stress or have fear or doubt.

Instead, what I was meant to do is "rejoice in the Lord always."

I find it so interesting that my word for 2013 is rejoice. I thought the Lord gave it to me as a promise of sorts, that there would be much to rejoice about this year.

Instead, I'm thinking it's a reminder.

To stop.

To focus.

To return to my joy. 

Your Turn: Have you ever allowed yourself to lose sight of your initial joy for something you love? How did you get it back?

*Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

March 22, 2013

Freaky Friday: Switcheroo

One of my favorite movies in the last ten years is Freaky Friday with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. (Yes, I know this is a remake but I've never seen the original.)

If you've never seen it, it's about a mom and daughter who mysteriously switch bodies for an entire day.

So, since it's Friday, I want to know...

Who would you trade places with for a day if you could? 

I'd definitely trade places with a singer, like Kari Jobe, or a Broadway star -- just to know what it felt like to perform in front of thousands. To touch thousands.

What about you?

March 20, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Strangely Dim



This song -- "Strangely Dim" by Francesca Battistelli -- takes my breath away.

Because it's the anthem I WANT to be mine.

In fact, my critique partner Melissa Tagg and I have decided it's our writing theme song, because it so clearly expresses what we want for our lives...especially our writing lives.

Because it's so easy to get distracted.

To forget why we do what we do.

That's why the lyrics of this song -- which give me an answer for all of that -- resonate with me so well. They talk about fixing our eyes on Him and not looking around. When we do, we can forget all the rest. Everything but Him.

I want my life to be so filled with God and His purposes for me -- which DON'T include worry, fear, or doubt -- that seeking His face is like breathing.

I can't live or do anything without it.

Your Turn: What song has blessed you this week?

March 18, 2013

Bless the Lord Reason #19: He Gives Me the Choicest Cuts

Before I dive into today's post, I wanted to announce the winner of Katie Ganshert's new book: Amy Leigh Simpson! Woohoo!

I've never been a big steak girl.

I mean, I'll eat it. But it's never been a huge favorite of mine.

But this weekend, we went out to celebrate my stepmother's birthday at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. I chose the petite filet because I couldn't imagine eating a larger portion. After all, most steak I'd had in the past was slightly tough, dry, and had to be doused with Heinz 57 sauce.

So imagine my surprise when I cut into my filet, stuck it in my mouth -- and about died. Heaven. On. Earth. Joy in my mouth. Oh my goodness. So much flavor. And the waiter had said they only seasoned with salt and pepper, and then butter after it was seared.

I started wondering why it was so good. Obviously, this was the steakhouse's specialty. Obviously, we spent a lot of money for this steak. But what made it so darn delicious?

I asked my dad why this steak was so different from the steak I grew up eating, and he said the steak we ate back then was likely inexpensive. In other words, not the best cut.

Ah. I never really knew that the cut of meat mattered.

And here I'd been living my whole life THINKING that the steak I was used to was how steak was supposed to be.

Same thing goes for life...the life we are living and the life God wants us to have.

Life as we live it -- especially when it's downright rotten, and sad, and overwhelmingly dim -- is not how we were meant to live life. We're often living it full of worry and heartache of our own making.

But God doesn't want us to live like that.

Instead, He wants us to depend on him, to let ourselves marinate in His goodness, to let the juices of who He is be seared into us, and sealed in us.

Furthermore, He doesn't want us living off the fatty cheap meat.

No, He wants to give us the choicest cut.

Don't just accept that "it is what it is" -- live life instead according to the way God wants us to live it. For me, that means living according to this verse: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

Your Turn: What does living with the choicest cut of life mean to you? And any steak lovers out there?

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

March 15, 2013

Fun Friday: St. Patty's Day Pinching

As you know, Sunday is St. Patrick's Day.

My family had the fun tradition of pinching anyone who didn't wear green on St. Patty's Day. The fun part came when we'd try to wear just a little green that someone wouldn't see--because if someone unjustly pinches you, you get to pinch him or her back twice.

Sneaky, right?

Your Turn: Do you wear green on St. Patrick's Day? Do you have any fun St. Patrick's Day traditions?

March 13, 2013

Held Back by Fear: Guest Post (and Giveaway!) by Katie Ganshert

In 2011, I stumbled across a website by this writer named Katie Ganshert. She was on the verge of having a book published. I thought we had a lot in common, and decided to email her. I was new to the online writing world and was shocked when she actually took time to write me back.

Since then, Katie has been such an amazing example of what a writer and friend should look like. And her latest release, Wishing on Willows (which come out next Tuesday!) is just as beautiful and poignant as her first, Wildflowers from Winter. See the bottom of the post for your chance to win an advanced reader copy!

Katie was kind enough to post today about a theme that plays a large role in Wishing on Willows: fear. Take it away, Katie!

My husband was watching an online sermon the other day and the pastor said something that surprised us both.

The most prevalent command in the Bible is Fear Not.

I don't know about you, but that wouldn't have been my guess.

I thought it would be something about love or obedience.

But no.

It's about fear.

I don't think that's a coincidence.

I don't think God got lazy or forgot to edit out a few redundancies.

I think all of us deal with fear. And I think more often than we care to admit, we let it hold us back from experiencing God's best for our lives.

Just look at the Israelites.

They spent two years in the desert before God told them to turn and take their journey. They wandered through the wilderness and when it finally came time to take hold of the Promised Land, they hesitated.

They were afraid.

What lay ahead of them was scary and unknown and foreign.

The desert was safe, familiar territory. After two years, they knew how to survive.

But man, God wanted so much more for them than survival.

He wants so much more for us than "good enough."

Yet how often do we miss out on God's best because we'd rather play it safe? How often do we miss out on fully experiencing Him because we're afraid to let go of the familiar?

The Israelites said no to God and spent the next forty years wandering in the desert. An entire generation of people missed out on the Promised Land because they let fear rule the day.

A year and a half ago, my husband and I found ourselves in a similar position. God was nudging us toward adoption, but the whole thing felt very daunting and scary. Life was good with our son. We were comfortable. We had a routine. Did we really want to mess that up?

We found ourselves in the same place as those Israelites. The same place as Robin Price in my second novel, Wishing on Willows. Staring at the mountain, afraid to step out of the familiar. Afraid to consider the possibility that perhaps God has a blessing out there for us in those uncharted territories. A blessing that would only be ours if we stepped out in faith.

Thankfully, we read our Bible.

We know fear is not from God.

So we have taken our steps. We're in the middle of an adoption and I won't lie. Quite often, it feels like I'm on shaky ground.

But in the midst of all that is uncertain, one thing IS certain.

We wouldn't trade where we are for the world.

God has been with us every step of the way. Pruning us. Sanctifying us. Drawing us ever closer to Him. Showing us daily, sometimes hourly, to fear not. To let go. To trust Him.

Come what may.

Your Turn: Do you let fear rule the day? Or are you trusting God to take whatever scary steps He's asking you to take?

**Lindsay here again. We are giving away an advanced reader copy of Katie's second novel, Wishing on Willows. The drawing will be random and is only open to U.S. residents. The drawing closes at midnight on Saturday, March 16.

**Those who pre-order Katie's book will receive 7 free devotionals, which includes a snippet from the book and touches on a theme from the story. Just go here to register once you've pre-ordered.

Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender?

A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa,  she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.
                                     
So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight.

As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.

With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances.

March 11, 2013

Why Gilbert Blythe Makes the Perfect Hero

Recently I watched the Anne of Green Gables series, one of my favorites. Who doesn't love Anne and all her antics? Besides all that, I relate to Anne's desire to be a writer.

But one of the best parts of the movie is the romance between Anne and Gilbert Blythe. It's quite swoon-worthy, I assure you. Of course, I'm partial to the idea of a romance formed from friendship, since I married my best friend (in fact, I guest blogged about it at Melissa Tagg's site last year).

But I began to think about other reasons I love the romance...and one of them is because Gilbert is such a perfect hero. By "perfect," I don't mean he isn't flawed. I mean he has all the characteristics I like to see in a hero--whether on the screen or in a book.

Some of those characteristics are:

He knows Anne's faults...and loves her anyway.
There is no question that Anne has a temper. Gilbert sees it firsthand when she breaks a slate over his head just because he calls her Carrots. He also sees she can hold a grudge. For years, she is spiteful toward him and competes against him because of this one incident. But he is able to look past her flaws and see the amazing person she is: she's intelligent, loyal, and creative, to name a few.

He risks Anne's anger in order to be honest with her.
I see so many heroes (or leading men, anyway) be big ol' wusses when it comes to standing up to the heroine. I like a strong hero--not one who walks all over the heroine, but one who can use firmness, gentleness, and honesty to speak truth into her life.

Even though he knows it might upset Anne, Gilbert tells her she should write about people she knows--who speak everyday English instead of "high-falutin' mumbo-jumbo"--instead of these nonsensical romances she favors. He truly is trying to help and doesn't just remain silent when she needs a good dose or reality.

He sacrifices for Anne.
A good hero gives up what he wants for the heroine. That is the ultimate love to me--such a picture of what Christ did for us. Gilbert gives up teaching at the school in Avonlea so Anne can have it and live with Marilla, since she cannot manage the farm alone. That means he has to board in another town, which means he has to spend money he is saving for medical school.

He waits for her.
When Anne originally rejects Gilbert's proposal, he tells her he will wait for her. Again, there's that hint of sacrifice, since he is willing to be lonely for a time if she needs space.

These are some of my favorite qualities in a hero, and because Gilbert Blythe possesses them all, I find him to be the perfect hero.

Your Turn: What are some of your favorite qualities in a hero, whether it be on TV, in a movie, or in a book? Who is one of your favorite heroes?

March 8, 2013

Obsessed with the Trash

This is Chloe. She likes garbage.

This is Pascal. He thinks he's innocent.
I have two dogs, Chloe and Pascal.

Chloe is about 20 months old. She's a year older than her little brother. They're both adorable, fun-loving, sweet-as-can-be golden retriever puppies.

And they are obsessed with the trash.

We recently bought a new garbage can that we thought would better contain the garbage, since they can't seem to stay away from it. Our old can didn't have a lid and it was just too much of a temptation. We'd have to put it up on the counter every time we left the dogs alone downstairs.

Much to my annoyance, they found a way into the new garbage can.

I'm sick of coming home to find pieces of torn plastic or napkins or food scattered on the floor, on my couch, all over the backyard. Sometimes, the garbage is really gross. Like when my friend and her baby lived with us and they got a diaper. Yeah. Blech.

But to Chloe and Pascal, the garbage is exciting. Intoxicating. They can't get enough of it, even when it makes them sick. Doesn't matter. They go back for seconds the next day (if we forget to put the garbage can away again).

I just don't understand it. I mean, we feed them great, high-quality puppy food and give them fresh water every day.

Now's where I get spiritual. Yes, about dogs.

Though not so much about dogs, but about what I learn about myself through them.

Because I've been the dog. I've gone for the garbage. It looked enticing. I didn't care that it made me sick because I wanted it and it was there and I HAD TO HAVE IT!!!

Even though God has given me amazing food, sometimes, it isn't enough for me. It looks boring. My appetite isn't sated. The thrill of what could be in the garbage makes me take the risk without even knowing it.

It's not until I step back and consider my actions that I realize I'm eating...um, yucky stuff--and that I don't like it.

My dogs may never learn not to eat the trash, but I'm praying it's not the same with me. I know God has so much more for me, and I want to have exquisite taste that doesn't falter at the sight of something shiny.

Your Turn: Any practical tips for keeping dogs--and ourselves--away from the trash?

March 6, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Whom Shall I Fear?


Feeling small?

Worthless?

Abandoned?

Listen to this song ("Whom Shall I Fear? by Chris Tomlin).

The chorus gets me:
I know who goes before me,
I know who stands behind.
The God of angel armies,
Is always by my side.

Hear that? The GOD who leads legions of angels surrounds you, going before you, standing behind you, supporting you, loving you.

He's by your side when you need a friend.

He lifts you up when you're faltering.

He'll carry you when you're weak.

You are never alone. Never abandoned.

He is faithful.

Your Turn: What song blessed you this week?

March 4, 2013

Bless the Lord Reason #18: He Gives Me Chances to Walk Away

When I dream, I dream big.

Then, I make plans to achieve those dreams.

Then, when those plans don't work, I re-evaluate and make new plans--though often reluctantly.

I may question the plans I made, but rarely do I question the actual dream. Somehow, questioning the dream feels wrong, as if I'm growing weak and backing off. I guess I figure that if I question it, then maybe I'm not strong enough to ever get there.

But that's simply not true. Sometimes, we need to question the dream in order to reaffirm our commitment to it.

Those of you who have read my blog for any length of time know I want to someday be a published author. Last week, I attended the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers retreat. It was an intense five days of learning about the writing craft.

So good and yet--overwhelming.

Because I found out just how much I have to learn. Actually, I probably only scratched the surface of it.

And I've gotta be honest. The thought discouraged me. Made me question whether this is really what I should be doing.

The doubt immediately made me feel like maybe I wasn't a "real writer." I mean, "real writers" stick with it no matter what, right? And they never feel like it's not what they should do. In fact, "real writers" just HAVE to write, even if they knew they'd never be published, yeah?

Maybe some writers never doubt their calling or their dream, but this one does. And I fully believe that's okay.

I think that sometimes, God allows these doubts to attack us because it's only through fighting against them that we reaffirm the surety of our dream. In other words, He gives us chances to walk away from the dream.

Questioning why we stick with it despite all the rejection and feelings of failure reminds us of why we do what we do, why we're pursuing the dream we're pursuing.

And that makes our resolve all the stronger.

So today, I'm thankful for those moments of doubting, because they've brought me full circle to realize this: I AM a writer, and this dream IS achievable if God wants it for my life.

Your Turn: Fill in the blank: I am a __________, and my dream IS _____________.

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net