Thursday, June 11, 2015

A turtle's role in building a beautiful life

A few weeks ago, I saw a beautiful thing.

I was heading east on one of the main arteries of our town when I saw a turtle making its treacherous journey across traffic. I was relieved as every passerby swerved around the little guy in attempts not to crush him. It was human kindness in action...

...but then I saw a different, more fulfilling, more beautiful type of kindness at play. A black truck with those ridiculously sized wheels approached and merged into the center lane as the emergency flashers began to blink. A big burly man in a cut-off tee and converse shoes jumps out, darts across the street, picks up the fierce, yet slow traveler, and delivers him to safety. My heart cheered as my jaw dropped and I literally exclaimed, "He has to be a dad!"

I didn't pass too many blocks ahead before I began questioning my own assumptions about the turtle hero. Maybe he was a dad, but maybe he wasn't. Maybe he was just a turtle lover, or an animal rights activists, or a religious man who places a high value on all life. Or, maybe he was just an average, ordinary guy who chooses to live a beautiful life, and live it well. I'd like to think of him as the later.

I'd venture to imagine that this man isn't too caught up in the grand scheme of life that he often ignores the glorious details. I might even guess he isn't driven by a harsh schedule or the demands of his dashboard clock. He probably isn't enslaved by the opinions or perceptions of others, and he probably embodies the qualities of a valiant warrior.

Yes, sure, I'll admit, I'm praising a man I've never met. He could be the dirtiest, most self-absorbed and disillusioning person in town, but he had to be motivated by some intrinsic driving force, and I wouldn't instantly suspect foul play or selfishness as the driver.

The whole scenario stayed with me longer than most day-to-day happenings, and honestly, it has motivated me to continue my quest in building a beautiful life. I've previously shared similar thoughts and inspirations, and as I reread them today, I'm reminded that life isn't something to be conquered in a day. An extraordinary life isn't built overnight, but rather slowly, one choice at a time. How hopeful!

I don't always choose well, but as long as I continue to breathe, I am simultaneously afforded the opportunity to choose better. The same is true for you. Extend some grace towards yourself, and run like wild towards a happy life. It's out there, and it's yours for the taking.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

I'm breaking up with social media

Might sound crazy but it ain't no lie, baby, bye bye bye (bye bye!)

I know I'm not the only one who sorts out life with a little help from 90's boy bands. It's okay to admit it- you liked 'n Sync, too, and now you're singing the jam right along with me. You're welcome for that free Sunday sing. :)

I'm not all that much into dramatic build-ups, so I'm going to cut to the chase, though you may have already guessed where this is going.

I'm breaking up with Facebook. Gulp! Gasp! Sigh!

I like Facebook.

I like the people who I share Facebook cyberspace with.

I like to write on your wall without being ticketed for graffiti.

I like the concept of social media.

But I don't like the places it takes me.

You've read those threads. The ones where common sense and kindness aren't so common. The ones where judgment is cast so quickly and blame is diverted fifteen million different times. It pulls my baffled mind in like a bear trap, and I log out feeling disappointed in humanity.

There's other threads, too. The posts that paint a beautiful, one-sided picture of a reality that just isn't. Or the status updates that leave a proverbial line in the sand and you're forced to choose a captain and a jersey. The comments that call for all things good and holy, but promise eternal damnation if you don't mass share in the next five seconds. Those fight for my attention and energy, and I don't have much extra to spend, yet I lie in bed at night and scroll through the nonsense until my eyes burn. And then, sometimes, I scroll some more.

And then, then there's me. My life. My pictures. My family. My friends. My battles. My shares. Somehow, someway, I've fallen to this warped idea that I can glean validation, strength, honor, encouragement, empathy, and love from an online community of people with their own lives, pictures, families, friends, and shares. I've inadvertently given you an identity-shaping responsibility that you were never meant to carry, much less able to provide.

Life is crazy big, and it's crazy good, but it's also really, really messy. Kind of like finger-painting with a toddler...or eating fried rice with chop sticks...or bathing my Sheepdog after she's rolled around in the mud.

So sometimes, it's alluring to post the struggles when I'm alone in the fight and wait expectantly for your encouragement, as if I'm relying on the world wide web for strength or resolve. You people, as good and as grand as you are (and you really, really are) weren't designed to be my counselors or comforters or guides. This is really good news for you, because as life unfolds and demands wisdom beyond my years, I seem to need a lot of counseling.

By the same flip of the coin, it's super tempting for me to post pictures of joy and gladness and victory and wait like an anxious little kid in a candy store for your comments and likes when I could be soaking in joy and gladness and victory with the people that surround me on this side of the computer screen. It has become second nature to me to reach for my phone when somebody says something hilarious. That's all fine and good, but I think it's time that I start relishing in those funny moments and celebrating with a good belly laugh rather than playing the part of a narrator for an audience that may not always understand the humor.

Hear me; I'm not breaking up with you. I'm breaking up with the Mark Zuckerberg version of you. I'm going to use all my new found free time to write more, to love more, and to communicate "for real," so follow my blog, shoot me a text, or show up on my front door step. I keep a healthy stock of peanut butter and decaffeinated coffee, so at worst, we could sip on a cup of joe and marvel at my adorable four-legged kids.

Thankfully, I haven't figured out how to permanently delete a Facebook account, so when curiosity overwhelms me, I promise to stop by and say hello. I can also promise I'll feel the overwhelming urge to post a bunch of cute pictures of all things happy, so prepare yourselves for imagery overload every now and again.

Finally, if you want to do something really impactful, keep me in your prayers, even when you don't see the daily tidbits of the Lindsay life. If you need a few ideas, I might recommend the following:

  • Pray for the approximately three pounds of gray matter located between my two ears. Pray that it continues to do all the things brains should do, and nothing that it should not.
  • If you're going to pray for my thinker, go ahead and pray for the rest of my shell, too. I'll fly to Denver in July to see the specialized spine surgeon. Pray he has a plethora of answers, none of which include surgical intervention. Pray that my blood starts looking like blood is supposed to look underneath a microscope, and pray that I don't run out in the mean time. Hahaha. Okay, maybe that was at least a little dramatic.
  • Pray for my future. I don't know what my family portrait will look like in five years, or even in one, but I'm trusting He who does. He's given me a heart to love discarded, broken, and beautiful children. I'm only about three toe dips into the waters of that journey, and it is absolutely, hands down, the hardest thing I've ever done. Loving these babies (of all ages) requires an absurd amount of bravery and unwavering confidence in the character of God. Pray that I love these children well and point them to Jesus, regardless of what official title I'm ever given.
  • Pray for the business. We're growing and evolving at an exceptionally exciting pace, and it is beyond all we ever dreamed. Pray for my daddio, my grandfather, and I to lead well. Pray that we'll have the wisdom to navigate the mountaintops and the valleys low. Pray that our contractor finishes the second office bathroom quickly, and by all means, pray I don't have a nervous breakdown as we navigate the busy season OR another hospital admission twenty-four hours before one of our big events. My employees covet your fervent prayers over those last two. :)
  • Finally, pray that God continues to center my often joyous, yet sometimes frightened little heart. In the middle of, and despite it all, I just want to love Him and be loved by Him. Simply, fully, and down to my core, I want to stay "all in."
Until our next chat,

Monday, April 27, 2015

Convicting creatures

If you've ever spent any time with a child, it comes as no surprise to you when I say they can be convicting creatures.

"Go pick your shoes and socks up off the floor."

"You forgot to use your manner words?!"

"I did, you're right. Go pick your shoes and socks up off the floor, please."

Then there's the moment when you drop a glass cup on the tile floor, sending shards of glass and streams of water e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e...

"*&^%!," exclaimed ever so softly, with a firm hope nobody caught that outburst of frustration...

"Neanea! Remember to only use nice words, even when you're made or sad."

Fifteen more explicative words roll across my mind as I reconsider a less stringent "nice word" policy and simultaneously confess, "You're right. I should try really hard to use nice words, even when I'm upset. I'm sorry I said that."

Least I forget those nights when I'm worn out from cooking a healthy meal and juggling life and I'd desperately like to substitute my own protein and vegetables for a cup of coffee and a tablespoon of peanut butter...

"Ummm, remember Neanea, if you don't eat a good dinner, you won't grow to be big and healthy and strong and I want you to be healthy with me forever!"

"You're right, let's eat together," I say as I roll my eyes with resignation and wonder how kids can possibly be so *&^% observant. There went the "nice word" policy for the tenth time today.

Being an appropriate role model and trying to instill values in children is so much easier said than done. I really wish I could live by the, "Do as I say, not as I do" conviction, but I'm afraid it doesn't cut the mustard... at least not with the kids I'm blessed to be around. I'm convinced kiddos either make you better, or they make you bitter, and I want to be classified with the later group.

Friday night, I had a seven year old with an upset tummy. He was in tears, and I tried every desperate trick in the book to relieve his pain. It finally occurred to me that we should pray. Now, don't imagine me with a gold crown yet, because I have to be painfully honest... I wasn't exactly praying because I had the faith to move mountains in that moment, but because I've taught him that we can and should talk to God about everything. The "everything" on Friday night happened to be an offer of prayer for his tummy troubles, because that was the "right" thing to do.

We prayed and continued our snuggles, and it wasn't five minutes later that the crying subsided and little man pipes up, "Well! It looks like our prayers worked. My tummy feels better. I think I can go to bed now." Just like that, very matter-of-fact, as if I should have expected any other result, the seven year old recognized the God of his moment, and I recognized the shortcomings of mine.

Kids are convicting creatures.

I don't know what it is that keeps kids so genuine, so tender-hearted, and so true, but it inspires me. Obviously, it inspired Jesus, too:

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 18: 1-4

I need that, you know? I need that child-like, humble faith that believes God for the mountains and the mole hills; the impossible and the insignificant; the Friday nights and the Sunday mornings.

The past four weeks I've seen trials and tribulations in my life and the lives of those around me. Collectively, we've tasted death and sickness and addiction and brokenness. We've walked lonely and seemingly devastating paths. We've cried out to God for answers, and we've pleaded with God for mercy. Friday night was a reminder that He sees all of it- not one minute of one day has escaped Him the last month. He's not surprised or caught off guard or taking the summer off.

We matter to Him. Our families matter to Him. Our hearts matter to Him. And despite all of our shortcomings and frailty, He invites us to His lap. Just like the boy so many years ago, we can sit on His lap, in the arms of our oh-so-good Daddy God. The "becoming" child in me accepts His invitation.

Thank you, God, for those convicting creatures you've filled my life with.

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Life happens today

The timeline of life is sometimes a thing to be grasped. We're born, we grow up, and we cease to be. For most, that progression occurs over decades; for others, that time is seemingly too short. Yet, no matter the lifespan of any one individual, we all share the common thread of time. Twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and three hundred and sixty-five days in a year. How is it, then, that a month or a year can pass us by so quickly? How many times have you asked, "Where has the time gone?"

The answer is simple. Life happens, time passes, in the moments. It is in the mundane and the extraordinary, the quiet and the chaotic, the sweet and the sorrowful that our life unfolds. I think if we could truly frame each moment of our day as worthwhile, we might live out our days differently.

I've been wresting this concept for weeks. Often times I get too carried away by the items on my agenda and the demands of life that I neglect the art of living and the blessing of being alive. I navigate through the week by going and doing and completing and achieving and acting and intervening, and then meet the weekend with a sense of exhaustion and dread. Monday always rolls back around and I often feel as though I've depleted all my energy, but incurred no substantial gains. It's an endless, vicious cycle, and I found I had to deal with it before it wasted me.

Somehow, I feel like I'm not alone. The advertisement industry has made billions from our "Western way of life." Just yesterday I was half listening to a commercial promising to eliminate the stress of preparing dinner with one simple meal gadget. "Feed your family, fast, with this new thingy-ma-bob, and you'll have extra time to spend on those  more important things that lack." It struck me wrong. I wrote a college essay once about the importance of the family dinner table, and my opinion hasn't waivered; husbands and wives and moms and dads and kids need to eat at least one meal together each day, period. Why is it that American families allow themselves to become so pressed for time that "more important things" trump honest communion with the ones we love? What is that thing that steals your moments?

You must understand my intentions; I'm not attacking busy lifestyles...I live one. I simply think we're losing so much life and vitality in between the pages of our day timers. I think our love, drive, and service are misguided. I think it's okay to admit that we can't do it all. I think we need to give ourselves permission to thrive instead of merely navigating through life in survival mode.

To help manage the juggle, I've implemented a few "house rules," which I gleaned from Kerri Weems book Rhythms of Grace. For the record, it's totally worth the read.

  1. I disable the e-mail on my phone when I'm done working for the day. Our business is across several time zones, so cutting everyone off at 5pm central isn't exactly feasible; however, putting a start and stop time on my e-mail responses has freed up more of my evenings
  2. I set daily goals- not unrealistic goals or a rigid to-do list, but a manageable list of things I'd like to accomplish. This keeps me focused while simultaneously freeing me from the from the relentless striving with which I'm too familiar. Once I've tackled everything on the list, I allow myself to relax instead of forcing myself to get ahead. I think it's also worth mentioning that I list a bedtime as the "end all" goal of the day. Whatever doesn't get finished gets rearranged, and I still get sleep. It's a beautiful setup.
  3. I try to set aside one day where I don't have any goals. It's called "rest," and I think God had it right when He took a day off. If we're being honest, this whole concept intimidates me greatly, and it's still very much "in process," but I'm gravitating more towards it everyday. I can say with complete assurance that I don't regret a single day I've taken to rest, or at least not in retrospect. It's hard to say no. It's hard to be still. It's hard not to feel wasteful while sitting on the front porch soaking in sunshine and reading a good book, but it's redemptive, energizing, and restorative to my often times overwhelmed heart.
Life is a gamble, folks, and time is our great wager. May you and I play our cards well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An every day Easter

Easter is over.

Jesus has risen.

The kids are hyped up on sugar.

You survived one more holiday meal with the in-laws.

Now what?

I'll be honest, this particular post has been a tricky one. It started days ago,  and after several revisions and real life moments, I'm starting over. Primarily because this Easter changed me; it's been the most impactful and relevant Easter of my twenty-something years, for a host of reasons still too precious to share. Still yet, this blog draws transparency out of me like a salve.

Eight days ago, I began to frame my week with a mindset of "Easter actually." I yearned to move beyond the typical, dearly held religious traditions and into something deeper. Something real. Something personal. Something that extends beyond Lent and Passover and Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. My honest longings brought me to a place of examination. I began to weigh the delicate balance between the crucifixion and the Easter Bunny, and I pondered how to address it in my home. I read these flagrant articles about the woes of pagan traditions, and then decided maybe the religious dogma wasn't for my family. I've seen lots of artistic interpretations of Jesus and children, and not one of them gave me the impression that Jesus was the anti-joy, anti-egg-hunt type of guy. I just about had it all figured out when I decided maybe I was wrong. Too irreverent. Too laissez-faire. Too simple in my appreciation of the risen Savior.

So day by day, I sat quietly and waited. I soaked in the Easter story over and over and over. I wept over its implications. I basked in moments far too grand for words. And on Thursday, when the revolving door of children started its spin, I didn't have a clue how to handle things, but I had peace. We studied together; we talked together; and we dyed eggs together. We made cookies for the Easter Bunny. We opted to do a balloon release so Jesus would receive our "thank you" letters all the way up in heaven. We did church in the park. Still yet, I still doubted myself. I doubted my methods. I doubted the vastness of God to overcome any of my well-intended shortcomings...

...and then God stepped in.

I was doing a few dishes Sunday afternoon and the house was relatively calm, all things considered, when a precious seven year old boy wrapped his arms around me and said, "Neanea, I wish we could celebrate Easter everyday."

Pause. Consider that for a moment.

Easter everyday? I think that's precisely what we've been missing.

Easter is wonderful, but what about the other 364 days of the year? Why do most people, myself often times included, live as though the power of the cross is only effective on Sundays? Or maybe even the Sunday? When Christ muttered, "It is finished," I think he simultaneously breathed hope into the universe, and sometimes, I miss the boat on that enormous truth.

Sin is finished.
Death is finished.
Hopelessness is finished.
Torment is finished.
Sickness is finished.
Loneliness is finished.
Despair is finished.
Addiction is finished.
Brokenness is finished.
Defeat is finished.
Satan is finished.

Jesus came to redeem us, ransom us, and restore us. He deliberately stole the keys of hell and the grave,  and He reigns victorious still, despite what it oftentimes looks like. Yes, our final restoration is coming, but I don't think we have to wait for heaven to experience any of it. I think He desires us to pursue that "it is finished" bit here and now. Friends, He's won the war. Let's go to battle against the darts of a tangled life. Let's taste and see that the Lord is good. Let's stand up to the lies of the enemy. Let's own our identities as King's kids.

And most of all, let's live Easter every day. White fluffy rabbit and absurd amounts of candy included. Obviously, Jesus can handle it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The story of your life

I promise, I'm not quoting any One Direction lyrics today, though I must say, the thought did cross my mind. Actually, I'm not giving you anything original this time, but I am about to gift you with an awesome spark for your idea bank, so it's not a total bust.

I heard the coolest project idea on the radio earlier this afternoon. It's called the "Storybook of My Life," and of course, you're the author. Each week, you decorate, write out, draw, or use any other method of depiction that you can imagine to describe the events of your life during the previous seven days. This probably goes without saying, but at the end of the year, you'll have a unique and otherwise irreplaceable history book that delivers your raw and unfolding story.

I quite literally have a closet overflowing with notebooks and journals, and I'd guess I probably have 1000 pages or more of my various writings, so it could be the nerd in me, but this is one of the top ten coolest ideas I've ever been privileged to hear. It's so adaptable and practical that it's ideal for singles, newlyweds, forever marrieds, young families, old families, and grandparents alike. The possibilities are endless and the memories will be priceless.

I'm all in. Time to make more shelf space in the closet :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas through a new lense

Merry Christmas Eve, readers and friends!

I promise to be short-winded today, really.

I was reading through the Christmas story today. Not out of religious duty, moral obligation, or self-imposed guilt, but simply because I needed the focus. The holidays are lovely and well, but I gotta be honest; they're also demanding, chaotic, and exhausting. I don't want to just survive another holiday this year. I want to really grasp the magic and wonder and joy of the season. I want Christmas in my heart more than I want any Christmas under a tree or in a stocking.

That foundation being laid, I'm going to take you to Luke 1, and we'll start in verse 39:

Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment. Wow.

I'm not going reiterate the miraculous virgin birth for you, or the beauty of a baby that would deliver the world from sin and death. I'm pretty sure that picture has been amply painted. But what about you? What about your Christmas? What about God's promises to you? What heaven-ordained fulfillments are you still waiting on? Do you still believe?

Christmas is the season of believing, and I'm all for it, but December 26 will be here shortly. Don't let the hope of Jesus die with the tree or the lights. His word is full of promises, and the promises are ours for the taking 365 days a year. Elizabeth was old and barren when John was conceived- I would imagine that hope was a far off feeling. God's word may have appeared null and void, but it wasn't. He didn't forget Elizabeth, He didn't forget Israel, and He didn't forget Simeon, just like He hasn't forgotten us. Let that truth sink into your heart. His personal word and promises to you still stand. He hasn't forgotten you.

Merry Christmas, friends. May hope and peace be yours in abundance.