October 13, 2015

What It Really Means to Be Strong

Our culture really values strength -- especially in women.

I mean, don't we all long to be seen as a strong person, someone who can handle whatever life throws at us and make it through -- no matter how difficult the trial?

Strength has been on my mind lately, because I've been dreaming up a character who values strength in herself. She has always seen herself as strong. And it made me think -- what does it mean to be strong?

I remember when my mom was dying from cancer and people would tell me how strong I was. And I thought, really? You think I'm strong? I was sitting there doubting whether God even existed and nearly cursing His name -- but it was all on the inside. No one knew. So they thought I was strong because I was surviving.

I looked strong on the outside. But there's a difference between looking strong and actually being strong.

Then, yesterday morning, this verse popped up on my Bible app: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." (Ephesians 6:10)

Coincidence? I think not.

So what does it mean to be strong? I'm guessing it has something to do with relying on the Lord. Leaning into Him when we're too weak to stand on our own. Allowing Him to be our shield against the rain and wind that pelt us and threaten to snap us in half.

And ultimately, being okay with our own weaknesses.

I'm not so good at that last one. But admitting that we are weak actually enhances His strength in us.

For as Paul said in 2 Corinthians: "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Friend, embrace your weaknesses. They are not weakness like the world sees it. They are opportunities to rest in the Lord and in the power of His might.

*Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

October 6, 2015

To Stay in a Moment

This weekend, I rewatched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It's a movie about a guy who daydreams. A lot. His daydreams bring him into a world where he's a hero. An adventurer. A passionate artist. Someone who isn't afraid of anything.

At one point in the movie, the man Walter admires most (a photographer) says this -- and it stopped me in my tracks:

"If I like a moment...I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it."

Rephrased, this could apply to my life. I'd say:

If I like a moment, I don't like to have the distraction of

  • worry...
  • or wondering what if...
  • or thinking constantly about the future...
  • or looking to the next great thing...
  • or pretending that I'm okay with a busy schedule...
  • or flitting from one thing to the next because I have to.

If I'm honest with myself, I tend to see a beautiful moment, make a mental note about it, and move on -- far too quickly. But what if instead, I truly took time to savor it? To set down whatever I'm doing and relish in it? To put away the mental pen and simply enjoy it?

Moments like

  • playing with my son on the living room floor, even thought laundry is piled around me
  • tasting a new recipe (or new ice cream flavor...)
  • rereading a lovely turn of phrase in a book, and allowing the words to wrap around my soul
  • nestling against my husband and letting him stroke my hair, without caring what time the clock reads

Because we can't get these moments back.

A camera or worry or busyness or time or whatever it may be CAN get in the way of the moment itself.

I find myself daydreaming about a full life.

But the cool thing about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Walter's daydreams become less frequent as he really begins to live his life in reality.

So let's stop dreaming about living a full life -- and just live it.

*Photo courtesy of stocksnap.io

September 29, 2015

The Art of Hoping

I'm not a glass-half-empty kind of person. In general, I tend to be cautiously optimistic.

Except when it comes to myself.

You see, even though I've had good things happen to me before, I have this weird voice somewhere in the back of my mind. This voice likes to tell me that if I hope for something, it probably won't happen. And when the inevitable occurs, I'll be disappointed.

And disappointment, for some reason, is like the worst thing that could ever happen.

But see, I have this friend (cough, Melissa Tagg, cough). She likes to remind me that God has given us every reason to hope. And when it comes to dreaming, hope is the fuel that keeps us going. God has promised us GOOD THINGS, and when we pretend like those things don't exist, we lose something extremely precious along the way.

This is all fresh in my mind, because just over a week ago, I was up for a big award among unpublished authors in the inspirational fiction industry. I was attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas, where the winner would be announced at a gala the last night. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck whenever I thought about the announcement. I finaled two years ago and didn't win (but lost to a very deserving and dear friend), and I was preparing myself for the same outcome again. But there were several instances throughout the conference when my attitude and perspective were challenged.

Other than some great conversations with my best writing buddies, a very distinct moment stands out to me. I was attending a session led by Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck (two writing mentors of mine), and Rachel was talking about the ups and downs of the writing journey. She said, "You have to ask yourself, 'Can I allow God to handle my disappointments?'"

I can't even tell you the lightbulb that went off in my head! The day before, I'd attended a seminar on writing WITH God, and letting Him lead us in this writing adventure.

It's like God was saying to me, "Lindsay, I want you to take my hand and trust me -- wherever I lead. Don't hold onto your hope, but let it fly. If you keep it tethered to you, you'll lose steam. You'll never grow. You'll wither and eventually the good seed I planted in your heart -- the one that loves creating through the written word -- will die. I'm big enough to help you through the disappointments. Will you trust me?"

So instead of choosing the route that feels safer, that feels like I'm protecting my heart, I'm choosing a new motto:

It's better to have hoped and been disappointed than never to have hoped at all.

Thank goodness the Lord taught me that lesson. Because when my name was called as the winner of the Genesis competition in the contemporary category, my heart experienced the full effect of one that had hoped for God's best.

But even if I hadn't won, I know my heart wouldn't have shattered. Because I serve a God who is a gentle physician, healer of wounded spirits, and encourager of on-hold dreams.

Still in shock after winning the Genesis. 
With writing mentors Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren of My Book Therapy.
With my writing besties Melissa Tagg, Gabrielle Meyer, and Alena Tauriainen -- my support team!

September 7, 2015

The Lies We Believe

Yesterday my husband taught a lesson in our Sunday School class. It was about the passage in Matthew 6 that talks about worry -- and how we shouldn't do it.

There were a lot of great points made by him and others, but one thing he had written in his PowerPoint really struck me: "Worry can be evidence that we have believed a lie about ourselves, about the world, or about God." 

It made me stop. It made me think. It made me ask myself, "What lies do I believe?"

About myself? That I'm not enough. That I'm not a good enough writer to ever be published, that I'm not a good enough mom to Elliott, that I'm not a good enough wife, friend, daughter -- you name it, I've probably felt it.

About the world? That I'm all alone. That no one really cares what happens to me. Or how about, that the world doesn't need me. There's no place for me. I'm a misfit. I don't fit in. I've felt many of these things as well.

And what lies do I sometimes find myself believing about God? That maybe he doesn't really love me. Maybe I can't trust him. Maybe he won't work everything out for good -- especially when things are so, so bad.

The cool thing about this is that I'm starting to recognize the root of my worries. When we can examine the root for what it is -- a bunch of lies! -- we can replace it with truth.

Instead of believing I'm not enough, I can replace it with the truth that I am chosen. I am a daughter of the King, and THAT defines my worth.

Instead of believing that the world is full of only darkness, I can remember all the good things that people have done for me. I can CHOOSE to focus on the light -- not forgetting that the darkness is there, but choosing to place my trust in a higher power.

And instead of believing that God doesn't care, I can believe him when he says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

Friends, let's make a choice to cast off worry and embrace God's truth. Because in the words of someone I respect and love greatly (wink), you can't "add a single hour to your life" by worrying!

Your Turn: What lie do you find yourself believing that leads to worry?

*Photo courtesy of snocksnap.io

August 31, 2015

May We Never Lose the Wonder

We all have moments in our life that mesmerize us with wonder.

For me, some stand out distinctly:

Like the time I was missing my family while on a study abroad trip to Europe -- and then, as I stood a hill overlooking the Irish Sea, I felt a strong breeze ripple against my skin out of nowhere, assuring me I was not, in fact, alone.

Or the day we lowered my mother into the ground after a four-year battle with cancer -- and somehow, in spite of the sorrow, I sensed an overwhelming joy. Because I knew I'd see her again.

Then there was the time I sat beside a bubbling brook in Oak Creek Canyon and glimpsed the artist's soul of our Maker.

Or the unforgettable moment when I sang to my son seconds after birth and watched him turn his head in recognition of my voice.

As I think about these moments, they all point to one thing -- God showing me his love. God revealing his presence. God reminding me that He will never leave me or forsake me. In a dark world, I have these moments of light to cling to.

When the pain gets too hard,

the journey too long,

the climb too steep,

I know this:

that the God of the Universe cares about me. He sent His son to die for me. He walks with me every step of the way. Every aching step. Every joyful step. And every step in between.

But so often, I allow my busy life to consume those moments, to place them in a closet within my heart and collect dust. To forget about them.

I don't want that for my life. I'm guessing you don't want it for yours.

May we never stop meditating on God's grace, His love, His faithfulness, His goodness, His righteousness, His creativity, His blessings, His mercy.

Oh God, may we never lose the wonder of You.

Your Turn: When was a moment that filled you with wonder?