Actions Speak Louder

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli

In life, there are things you can change and there are things you cannot change. God is constantly reminding me to release my desire to control my circumstances to Him. But what about the things I can change?

I have recently felt very burdened both emotionally and spiritually by some circumstances that are out of my control. (surprise surprise) Fortunately, this time around I have also been met with some things in my life that I can change. Having something constructive to focus on somehow helps ease the pain of being wronged. I am always looking for what God is trying to teach me through trials, and He couldn’t have made it any more clear to me this time.

You see, I can’t control what people do to me or the people I love. I can control how I react to it. I never want to be known as the girl who gave up without exhausting every option possible. I was once crippled by fear of what would happen if I rocked the boat, but my Father has freed me from that. I have been called to live with purpose- a life without fear of being let down.

 “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about you.”
Titus 2:7-8

In the end, your actions will speak louder than your words. There is really no way around it. Note that Paul says we are to “set an example by doing what is good” not “set an example by saying all the right things”. If you love someone, by all means say it, but don’t just say it! Show them that you love them. Ultimately that will be what they remember.

People are paying attention. Don’t ever think they aren’t. There have been so many times in my life that God has sent me a reminder that any choice I make could influence someone else. It breaks my heart to pieces to think that my actions could give others a license to do something wrong. God has called me to a higher standard. He has called me to live intentionally. I never want to lose sight of that.

As cliche as it may sound, I can’t seem to stop thinking about a quote from Gladiator. “What we do in life echoes in eternity”. I believe that with all my heart. You and I have the power of life and death in our hands. We can build someone up with our actions and words, and we can tear them down even easier. We have a choice. We can talk, or we can do.

“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.”
-Alfred Adler

The Cure for the Pain

I’m not sure I can put into words the effect the last few months have had on me. My life has changed in so many ways- both for the good and the bad. I try to take each opportunity I am given to learn more about God as well as to learn more about myself. I am a firm believer that no one has “arrived”, nor will we ever. I’m not afraid to face my faults and work on them.
Though I’ve always strived to find what God is trying to teach me in my circumstances, I’ve noticed lately that I seem to deprive myself of one very important thing: feeling. I think somewhere along the way I have stopped allowing myself to truly experience my emotions. As psycho-babblish as that might sound, I think it is really important. Somehow I’ve gotten the idea that admitting how much pain I’m in takes away from God’s faithfulness. In reality, God created me with these feelings for a reason.
As I sat in church yesterday, I listened to my pastor discuss Psalm 77 and found that I really related to it. This particular psalm was written by a man named Asaph. In the first half of the chapter, Asaph pours his heart out before God. He is not afraid to admit to the pain he is in. He wonders where God is and if He has deserted him. Then, something amazing happens. Each line of the second half of this psalm recounts a time that God proved His faithfulness. Asaph experienced the deepest of sorrow, yet still trusted in God to deliver him.
I’ve prayed a prayer recently that may have been a dangerous one. I’ve asked God to help me feel again. I want to experience the richness of every circumstance He throws my way. My life has taken some unexpected turns lately that are both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. My first reaction to changes like this always seems to be anger. Anyone that knows me would tell you that I can be a firecracker. But in all reality, I have to learn to accept that I cannot control the choices of others. I can only control how I respond.
Today I’m choosing to move forward even if I don’t have all the answers. I’m choosing to feel. I’m choosing to remember my Father’s faithfulness.

Never Once

I am a woman who takes pride in practicing honesty. The last week or two I have been reflecting on 2011, and if I’m being completely honest, it has been the worst year of my life. This has been a year full of loss. In fact, it has been so full of loss that at times I can hardly keep all the stories straight. I have lost friends, relationships, and job opportunities. I have had my trust betrayed more times than I can count. My life looks incredibly different from what I expected it would.
This post is not intended to be a pity party, rather an honest reflection from a broken woman. As I was talking to my mom the other day, I told her that this year had been so devastating that I could hardly find the good in it. There have been times that I have felt like what I was going through was completely pointless. However, I am here to testify that my Father has never left my side. I have doubted everything surrounding me except for God’s faithfulness. He never let me walk alone. When I became most weary, he carried me. When the path in front of me was pitch black, he lit my way step by step. This may seem like a very basic truth, but it has been hugely significant to me this year.
Personally, I am looking forward to 2012. I need something to change. I need a change of attitude; a change of heart. I need a year full of more gain than loss. Most importantly, I need to continue to hold my Father’s hand. I have no idea what this year will have in store for me, but I know that God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). I am standing firm on the belief that He will do that. No matter what happens, I know He will sustain me.

Mysteries to Be Unraveled

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a detective. My brother and I spent many an afternoon “spying” on people and taking notes about it. We would watch anyone! I clearly remember spying on my neighbor one afternoon and making a note of how weird it was that he was planting flowers in March. I even had an entire backpack full of my “spy gear” (which was really a bunch of useless junk). 
As funny as it is to think about my childhood ambitions, I still find myself playing detective sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hide in the bushes in my backyard watching my neighbors plant flowers anymore. I do, however, want to know why things happen. I find myself constantly trying to figure out what I can learn from my circumstances. If things go badly, I want to know the reason. I want to know if there was something I can do differently in the future. More times than not, I can figure out what God was trying to teach me. 
I think the real conflict arises when I cannot figure out the purpose of events in my life. You know, those times when you ask God “why?” over and over and over again, but nothing makes sense. I want to learn something about myself at the very least. I want to grow and change and come a little bit closer to being the woman God wants me to be. 
Lately I have been wrestling with some situations that are out of my control (surprise surprise). But not only are they out of my control, I can’t seem to get anything out of them. The other day, my mom suggested to me that these events may have actually happened for someone else. Maybe there wasn’t necessarily anything for me to learn. That has been such a hard pill for me to swallow. I feel so selfish for struggling with that! I want things to fit in my nice, neat little boxes so badly.
The bottom line is this: I’m discovering that I may not always understand God’s reasoning. As hard as that may be, I have to trust Him. I have to believe that He has a purpose. I have to be willing to give up my need to understand everything. That is SO hard for me, but I’m working on it. 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

A Heart in Need of Renovation

I have always loved God’s Word, but lately He has sparked in me a new passion for it. He is working on my heart in ways words can hardly describe. In the midst of uncertainty, He has given me joy and peace. I came across a passage of Scripture this week that has absolutely been ripping me to shreds:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13
I have read these verses dozens of time, but for some reason when I read them this week it was as though I was reading them for the first time. I am to love others deeply and honestly. One of the lines that stood out to me the most was “give preference to one another in honor”. How often do I do this? How often do I find myself making choices based on what will be best for me with little regard for others? Actions speak louder than words. I can tell someone I love them all day long, but it means so much more to show them. 
I am also called to “abhor what is evil; cling to what is good”. Being a lover of words, I was interested in knowing the exact definition of “abhor”. It means “to regard with extreme repugnance : loathe”. Again, I have to examine my own heart. How often do I settle for mediocrity? Do I really loathe what is evil? 
I know this post is scattered. I know my thoughts could never do this passage justice, but I feel so compelled by the Spirit to write about it. I want my life to be branded by the words in these verses. I want to be a woman who is “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” I want to love my brothers and sisters so intensely that there is no room for hypocrisy. I want to be a woman who gives others preference over myself. 

A Crown of Beauty Instead of Ashes

I often yearn for moments where God speaks so clearly to me that I can’t ignore it. This morning, I had one of those moments. The weighty reality of my human nature came crashing down on me in ways that words can’t describe. I was sitting in church like I do every week when God’s voice spoke so clearly to me: “Lindsay, where has your focus been?”
You see, the last few weeks I have been struggling. I have felt so out of control. I’ve been angry and downright unpleasant to be around. I have reacted to situations in ways that are completely uncharacteristic of me. As I sat there wondering what had changed in my life, it dawned on me. My life started looking different when I took my focus off of Christ and began boasting in the fact that things were finally going my way for once.
Perhaps an even more painful wake-up call came when I began looking at how I’ve responded when things don’t go my way. How quickly I fall apart when I have no control over my circumstances! It’s embarrassing, really, to see how easily I let my sinful nature take over. My focus has changed and I haven’t even realized it. 
In all reality, I have been in a season of harvest that was not of my own doing. Things began changing when I took my gaze off of my Father and began centering my life around the blessings He has bestowed on me. To make things even worse, I have found myself trying to handle my day-to-day life alone. As a result, my world comes crashing down when I lose control of my circumstances.
My heart breaks over how self-centered I have been lately. It is my deepest desire that God makes beauty out of these ashes I’ve created. Life should not be about how things are going for me. I have to take the focus off myself and place it on my Father. Words cannot express how thankful I am to Him for this revelation. I need to make Him the center of my life daily regardless of what is going on around me.
“When Thou didst say, 
‘Seek my face,’
my heart said to Thee, 
‘Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek.'” 
Psalm 27:8
“To provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair. 
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the LORD,
to glorify Him.”
Isaiah 61:3
“My soul, wait in silence for God only, 
for my hope is from Him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold;
I shall not be shaken. 
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
the rock of my strength,
my refuge is in God. 
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.”

Psalm 62:5-8

To Know and Be Known

This weekend was very healing for me. It could not have come at a more perfect time in my life. After struggling through a week full of anxiety and stress, I was looking forward to spending some time with a few of my dearest friends. One of my best friends is getting married in a few short weeks, and we were getting together for her bachelorette party. Even in the midst of all the excitement, I was thrilled to have a few minutes to really talk with some of the girls.

It seems like God has us all struggling with the same things at the same time. Our conversation that night turned to a particular theme several times: there is a difference between knowing someone and really knowing someone. My best friends and I have such a rare connection with one another, yet we find ourselves in completely different cities more often than not. It is so easy to spend time with people and still feel completely alone. Some people would say laughter is the best medicine, but I beg to differ. For me (and I think I also speak for most of my close friends), the best feeling in the world is knowing someone and being known by them.

Sometimes it’s hard to have my best friends scattered all over the country. Our time apart makes me appreciate our time together so much more. But I was reminded of something so important at church yesterday morning. No matter how much I miss them, and no matter how rare it is to find someone who wants to truly know me, my Father desires me. He cherishes me. He wants to know every part of me- the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is such a comfort in such a time as this.

Lessons Learned from a Puppy Named Ellie

This week, we got a puppy. Ellie was sweetest, cutest, most precious little puppy you will ever meet. Unfortunately, our dog Gordon didn’t think so. After two short days, we had to take her straight back to the adoption agency we got her from. It was simply the best decision for both dogs. 
I wont lie, I could hardly hold it together when I handed her back to the lady at the shelter. I cried my eyes out the second I got back in my car to make the long drive home. It might sound silly, but I already felt so attached to her! I am, admittedly, very tender-hearted towards animals… and this situation was no exception! For months (years, really) I have wanted a puppy. I was so excited when we decided this was the right time for our family to get one. I’d planned to take road trips and visit friends with her before we even picked her up.
It dawned on me today that this grief was a little deeper than being sad to give a puppy up. It related so directly to things I have been struggling with for months now. The whole scenario represented giving up my plans. My mom said something so simple, yet so profound to me today: “I think God had a reason for not letting it work out”. Interesting.
In that moment, I realized that while I loved that little puppy, we made the right decision. My sadness was far more about the loss of my vision for the future. God has been trying to break me of my desire to control the future all year. This was simply another opportunity to learn. 
Its hard. I never want this lesson to sound cliche. Though it may seem simple, it is something I wrestle with every day. I am so far from perfect, and I still hand God my to-do list: complete with detailed plans for my life. He never fails to show me that my plans are complete rubbish when compared to His plan for me.
So today, instead of sadness, I am choosing to be thankful for that sweet puppy. Her brief presence in my life was a reminder that sometimes God’s ways are not my ways… And when it doesn’t work out, He has a reason for it.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

"Do You Want to Get Well?"

When I left for Colorado two and a half weeks ago, I knew it would be an earth-shaking trip. We’d been planning it for months- deciding which cities to visit, finding condos and cabins, and coming up with activities to do each day. The planning process was so much fun to me! (Imagine that! Ha!) I went on the trip expecting to hear from God. After all, could there be any better place to hear from the Creator of the universe? Somehow I just knew I was going to hear from Him. I halfway expected it in the form of gaining direction in my career search, but what I got instead was far more valuable to me. 
One of the last days we were there, I woke up in an unusually down mood. If you know me well at all, you know it is pretty uncommon for me to feel quiet and sad. It all seemed to start when I woke up crying in the middle of the night. That afternoon, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the many events this year has held so far. To be completely honest, it left me feeling very frustrated. I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a hard time with it. I thought God had healed me.
As I was getting ready to go out for the day, I began praying and thinking about the pain I was feeling. In a whisper so loud it was nearly audible I heard, “Daughter, do you want to get well?” I was startled. I generally hear the Lord through a still, small voice. This time, the words I heard were unmistakably His. In fact, Jesus asked the same thing of a man who could not walk (John 5). He knew I wanted it. He knew I wanted it so badly, but I told Him I did anyway. And then… Silence.
I left my room that day feeling discouraged, quiet, and vulnerable. In the days before this one I had been overwhelmed by such a sense of peace. But for some reason, I simply couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of heaviness that day. Later on, my family and I decided to take a drive to see if we could spot some wildlife, but we ended up seeing something else. Though it had been cloudy and rainy all day, the sky had turned into a fiery hot pink backdrop to a perfect rainbow. It brought tears to my eyes. 

For years, God has allowed me to see a rainbow when I needed a reminder of His faithfulness the most. If I had been alone, I probably would have wept. Instead, I simply basked in the peace that washed over me for the first time that day, and silently thanked my Creator for that gift to me.

Lessons Learned by an Inexperienced Traveller

The beginning of 2011 marked the beginning of the biggest roller-coaster ride of my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was getting ready to learn some lessons that were pretty hard to swallow. Here are a few of the things (both hard and not-so-hard) that I have learned so far.
1. When it comes to spaghetti, vodka sauce is really undeniably the best. But for how good it is, it is equally as hard to find one the whole family agrees on.
2. There are some things you just shouldn’t say unless you are 100% sure you mean it.
3. For everything there is a season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
4. Sometimes, God’s plan and my plan aren’t the same. His plan is always better.
5. When on Accutane, Chapstick, eye drops, and water become your best friend.
6. Sometimes, God wants you to leave when it would be easier to stay.
7. Macs are worth the money. I never thought I’d hear myself say that.
8. Never never NEVER pick a canister of grits up by the lid. Never.
9. There is no relationship- romantic or otherwise- that is worth losing a friend over.
10. God will meet you in the deepest, darkest valleys and carry you through. He is so faithful, and His love is steadfast beyond imagination. (Psalm 13:5-6)
11. Amy Grant’s song “Takes a Little Time” is right on the money.
12. Chacos really ARE as amazing as everyone said… maybe more so.
13. My life happens in themes. This season’s theme- “God builds into you during the wait” -Mike Harder.
14. Ginger tea is liquid magic, and Singer’s Saving Grace throat spray absolutely lives up to its name.
15a. Be where you are, and be with who you’re with. Life is far too valuable to be wasted on half-hearted relationships. 
15b. When your power is out for 6 days, you realize how much the simple things matter.