Monday, March 30, 2015

One Word, Five Voice: Live

This moment you're sitting in right now will never ever happen again, and frankly, I feel blessed that you chose it to read this blog entry. This moment you're living in is precious—we only get so many in this one beautiful life we're living.

I started today with that thought in mind, and already, so many moments have blessed my day: the soft, warm snuggle of a sleepy toddler, the giggle of a friend, shared prayers for my Monday night crew, the generous act of a co-worker, the taste of perfectly steeped tea . . . and this is only the beginning of the day!

There will be so many more moments to live in fully today—to be blessed by. Let's live in our blessings today instead of all the other crap that drags us down.

Look around and live as if you're blessed—you are.
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Seek


Paths Straight Proverbs 3:6 Watercolor Wall Art
Image credit from this Etsy shop.
 I'm so bad at this you guys. Seriously, THE WORST. Here's the story of my life:

     Me: "La di da . . . life is good. Yay for me."
     Problem: "I'm comin' at cha!"
     Me: "I've totally got this. I've mapped out the perfect plan to handle you measly little thing.
             Problem shmoblem."
     [Proceeds with "perfect" plan and fails miserably.]
     Problem: "Ha! You thought I was big then? Now you really better watch out!"
     Me: "Oh shit. What the hell am I supposed to do? My plan did not work. My plan was an epic
             fail. Hmmm . . . maybe I should pray about this?"

Aaaand scene.

Alright . . . clearly I'm being a little cavalier here, but sometimes when I look back on things, it's kind of amazing to me how easily my problem could've been handled had I just sought after what God's plan was first.

Because his plan for me is always good. It may not be what I want, it may not be easy, it may not come in the timing I'd prefer—but it is always good.
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Truth

There's an art to sharing truth—especially hard truth. It has to be done with grace, caution, and a shit-ton of love. When you know someone is struggling with something, but they won't admit the truth to themselves, the last thing that will help that struggle is bluntness, right?

That's because sharing the truth in love takes time. It means investing in someone, caring about them, and standing beside them in the tough stuff. It means being a loving supporter and encourager when that tough stuff threatens to tackle them. It means telling the truth when the truth is hard to tell.

Sharing the truth in love comes from true community.

When I know I'm loved and supported and someone has invested time in a relationship with me, I'm much more likely to listen to what they have to say, even if it's hard. Because those people—they're the ones who know me well enough to call me out when I need it.

And in case I haven't told those people enough . . . thanks for the occasional spiritual ass-kicking.   



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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Mercy

I've always thought about mercy as a benevolent act. It's not about pity—it's about showing love and compassion in a situation where none is expected or deserved. It's powerful stuff.

The last time I was in Russia, I got to sit with our older kids who were getting close to graduating out of the orphanage and have a pretty deep conversation with them. Truths were shared and trust extended like I'd never seen it before with these kids. They were sharing candidly, as was I, and at one point, one of the girls asked me why I come to see them in Russia. "Because I love you," I said without missing a beat. "You've become family to me."

I will never forget the look on her face as I looked into her eyes at that moment and truthfully told her she was family. She sat up straighter and beamed ear-to-ear. That declaration of love had been unexpected for her, and it changed how she felt about herself.

Mercy is powerful, friends. Let's not use it for pity's sake, but instead, learn to lift others up to see themselves as they were created to be.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.
 —Micah 6:8


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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Monday, March 23, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Forgive

What grudges are you currently holding?

I certainly have a few. At certain points in my life, I could have been an Olympic gold medalist in grudge-holding. Forgiving someone is hard, especially when you like to be right [raises hand slowly]. But forgiving someone means letting go of "rightness" to someone who was so clearly wrong. It's the opposite of how you feel, and yet, in the forgiving, there is this bitterness that leaves you instantly, and you realize that holding that grudge was really just you imprisoning yourself.

Forgiveness sets you free.

Still, we hold grudges. Remember those few I mentioned earlier? It's hard—and someone telling us to just "get over it" isn't fair. Sometimes it's not that easy. But you know what is?

Breathing.

That's how forgiveness starts—taking a deep breath and unclenching our angry little fists long enough to accept an apology, give someone the benefit of the doubt, give the person who's wronged us some grace. All it takes is that first deep breath . . . and eventually, forgiveness comes just as easily.

Take a breath . . . now who can you forgive today?
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Still

It's hard for me to be still—to just be.

I'm a doer, a fixer. If there's a problem, I want to start working on it immediately. I want to solve it, fix it, patch it up and make it right. For obvious reasons, this all becomes an issue when the problem isn't something I can solve on my own.

Occasionally I'll be forced to be still and rely on God to show me the answer. It's in those moments that I realize that's what I should've been doing all along. That's what I should always do first—be still. Let God's voice be heard.

Be still and know I am God.

a.k.a. . . . I've got this, Lindsay. Chill out. Just be.

The answer always comes when it's supposed to come. It's not always when I want it to come, and it's not always the answer I'd like it to be, but when I sit in the stillness knowing it's from God, how could I want anything else? 

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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Light

What has been your darkest hour? Perhaps it was a rough patch at work or struggle with depression. Maybe even a divorce or the loss of a loved one. In those dark places, what was the light that broke through?

Love.

In all the times I've been in a dark place in my life, the light that breaks through that darkness is always love. The kindness of a stranger, the support of a friend, the help of a neighbor. Love is the light that can reach through even in the darkest of nights.

How can you be the light to someone else today? 

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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Believe


I’ve always loved the quote “Believe there is good in the world,” but over the last couple of years, I’ve been seeing the quote pop up on Pinterest with “Be the good” highlighted within the phrase, and now I love it even more!

It’s such a simple thought, but so profound at the same time. If I want to believe there’s good in the world, I need to BE part of that good. The same holds true to other things I believe, right?

I believe bullying should come to an end means I will strive to raise boys who put others first, and stand up for those who are being bullied.

I believe marriage is forever means I will continue to love my husband even when it’s hard, and always stay committed to what we’ve built.

I believe human trafficking is appalling means I will work to fight the injustice of slavery through raising awareness and giving money and time to the cause.

I believe kindness matters means I will attempt to be kind to those who treat me poorly.

I believe orphaned children should feel loved means I will go out of my way to love on orphaned kids to fill that gap in their lives.

Believing something isn’t just about saying you believe it—it’s living, active, and full of motion in your life. Believing is doing.

This artwork available on Etsy.
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Endure

Endure is such a harsh word. When spoken properly, there's even a drawn-out length to the second syllable. Appropriate, I think, considering it means to hold out, tolerate, suffer patiently, or even . . .
to become hardened.

In life, we have to endure pain, unfairness, hardship and suffering. These are the things that make us who we are once we overcome them. But somewhere in the mess of all of that struggle, I think it's easy to just start enduring life itself.

Here's the thing . . . I don't want to just endure life. I want to live it! I don't want to just go through the motions every day—I want to feel and experience every bit of this life I've been given. Matthew West has a song called "The Motions," and the chorus speaks to this same idea:

I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything
instead of going through the motions?" 


We are made to be living—really living this messy life we've been handed. When my everyday starts to feel like a grind of work, feed kids, love husband, call friend, sleep, repeat . . . well, that's just me missing the point.

To quote Jen Hatmaker, I'm just going to "go ahead and live [my] one wild and beautiful and spectacular life." Simply enduring is not an option.
This print available on Etsy.
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Monday, March 16, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Wilderness

The wilderness and I do not get along. I like running water and air conditioning and Starbucks. I've even only been camping exactly once in my entire life, and when I woke up in the middle of the night to an ant army parading inside the tent, I quickly decided to forever loathe the out of doors.

Alright . . . maybe loathe is too harsh a term. Let's just say I'm not a fan.

Not ironically, I'm not too fond of metaphorical wilderness either. Being alone in a time of hardship seems terrifying. I need my people to hold me up, surround me with prayer, and show up at my doorstep with Ben & Jerry's if needed.

I need community like I need air in my lungs.

That's how we were created to go through life—together. None of us is all alone in the wilderness of life—we've got each other to lean on, thrive with, laugh with, love. Whatever is going on in your life today, I pray that you understand you are not alone in it . . . because no wilderness is a match for the community God has placed around you.
Italian Hydrangea
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Search

Searching for something isn't all that hard these days, is it?

A few weeks ago, I was trying to remember the movie Ryan and I saw on our second date, and the name was escaping me. I remembered the actors, even the premiss, but could not pry the name of the film out of my brain. One 20-second Google search on my phone and success! (It was American Outlaws in case you were interested).

There's really no longer much struggle in searching—at least for little daily things. What was that recipe my kids loved so much last month? Google. How long would it take to drive to the beach? Google. What was that verse my friend shared with me about hardship? Google.

It's easy to find the answers we need to most things now, but is that always better? Recently, I heard a radio host cite some study where researchers said smart phones were making us bad problem-solvers. When all you have to do is pull out your phone for an answer, the study concluded that most people don't even try to think critically.

It made me wonder if the "easy search" is hurting us in other ways, too. When there's no struggle over searching for something, what do we really learn in the process? Sometimes, struggling through something can build character, make us stronger, help us learn, grow our faith.

Now I don't know how much searching through a cookbook for that recipe my kids loved would build character as opposed to doing a Google search, but I do know that searching through my bible for that verse from my friend is going to help me learn more than Googling it.

Sometimes, being made to search teaches us more than we even knew we needed to learn.


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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.


Friday, March 13, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Practice

Practice what you preach.

That one sounds simple, doesn't it? But sometimes, putting into practice something you believe is harder than it sounds. It's why so many Christians get labeled as hypocrites. Love thy neighbor doesn't mean love only the neighbors who are nice to you, or only the neighbors you deem to be worthy. It means extending the same amount of love to those you truly love, and those jerks who treat you like crap.

That's hard. Who among us hasn't said one thing and done another at some point, right? But here's the thing . . . I don't want to be remembered as a hypocrite who couldn't really practice what I was preaching. I want to be the person, the wife, the mom, the friend that others look at and wonder, "What's different about her?" I want people to look at me and see the one I serve.

I sure as hell am not going to get it right all the time, but the willingness to try is also part of how I'll grow in my faith. That's essentially what practicing faith is. I'm never going to get it all right. I'm never going to be perfect. I can't—I'm only human. But that's okay, because I'm willing to try . . . and grace will cover the rest of it.  
This print can be purchased here.

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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Stop

Lent is such an obvious time for stopping something, isn't it? It's when people give up chocolate, Facebook, radio/music in the car, the elevator at work, etc. It's a time to stop doing something so you can fit other things in more easily, like prayer, study and time to focus on God.

It's why I love Lent. It's extra time to focus on what matters, and put aside things that distract from that, or add something in that helps me focus more clearly.

That's what can make Lent a dangerous time, too. When the ritual of giving something up every year starts to get in the way of the reason for doing it—that's when faith becomes less about the heart, and more about the rules. And that's never good. That is something that should most definitely stop—not just during Lent, but every day of the year.

Faith isn't about the rules because we don't serve a God who works on technicalities. Faith is too important for that. We are too loved for that.

Whatever it is you're stopping for Lent, I pray that it draws you closer to the knowledge of how truly loved you are, and draws you away from a list of rules followed out of guilt. Because that, my friends, is not how we were created to be living.
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Wise

Sometimes, you can have years of study, research and knowledge about a situation, but still not be wise enough to handle it.

I felt that way before I became a mom. I read books on breastfeeding, talked with experienced moms about what to add to the registry, and made lists of milestones and dates they should be hit. I stuffed myself full of knowledge in preparation for his arrival and still didn't feel ready. The thing is . . . wisdom didn't come from any of those places—it came from an ability God gave me—the fact that I knew my baby better than anyone.

True wisdom is proper discernment. It's knowing when something just doesn't feel right and having the moxie to change course if needed. It's being able to trust, and for me, have faith to hear what it is God wants me to do in a situation.

That's hard sometimes. Usually what God wants me to do is uncomfortable, or at the very least, not what I would necessarily choose on my own. Sometimes it means going against the status quo, which can be even harder. But what I continue to learn is that on the other side of whatever that situation is, I am always wiser, always stronger, and always more faithful.

So do I still gorge myself on information when I'm unsure about something? Sure. It's in my nature. But the more faithful I've become, the more I realize I must also indulge in a heavy dose of prayer and discernment as well.
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Knowledge

Today's word had me thinking about how much we truly seek to understand and learn about those around us every day. What knowledge can I say I really have about my co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances?

Maybe that lady at work who always seems so cranky and quick-tempered has an aging parent she's caring for that's stressing her out. Maybe that goofy guy who won't shut up at the library has no one else to talk to. Maybe the kid who's picking on your kid at school gets beaten every night when he comes home. I'm sure every single one of us can pinpoint at least one person who is a thorn in our side at times, but how many of us can say we seek to understand why? And furthermore, how many of us try to reach out to that person and get to know them better?

I'm as guilty as anyone when I say, "Yikes! Not me!" It's human nature to protect ourselves and stand up for ourselves when we've been wronged. But when we start to learn about who someone is, scars and all, something happens. We gain knowledge. We start to care more. Community is built and somehow, the things that drove you crazy don't bother you as much, or they start to not happen at all anymore, because instead of hurting and lashing out in anger, the other person softens . . . because now they feel known.

The famous philosopher G. I. Joe told us that "knowing is half the battle." I jest here, sure, but in reality, that's so true! The more you know about someone, the less likely you are to get angry at them over silly things, and the more grace you extend to them when those little things happen. So here's a little challenge I gave myself over Lent: get to know someone I can't stand. Who knows what might happen by Easter!

Who can you get to know a little better?
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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Monday, March 9, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Sabbath

When Ryan and I were newly married and still trying to figure out how this eight sides of family thing was going to work, we felt awful saying no to family engagements or dates with friends, especially when we had no official plans. But as time went on, our Saturdays and Sundays started to get booked up week after week. Several weeks would go by before we realized we hadn't had a free weekend to rest and recharge in recent memory. It wasn't until some friends invited us to dinner and our next open time was more than two months away that we realized something had to give.

We decided some "Days of Nothing" were in order, and started actually scheduling them into our shared calendar. They are what you might imagine days of nothing to be—restful, jammie-clad, take-out-consuming kinds of days with no plans of any kind . . . other than the "nothing," of course. When someone asked us to do something, it was easy to say, "sorry, we're all booked up that day" because it was actually scheduled in our calendars.

Today's word, sabbath, reminded me of our days of nothing. A sabbath is intended to be set apart. There should be no work, just rest. It's a time to recharge from the week that's passed and get ready for the week ahead—true relaxation.

I'll be the first to admit that days of nothing became harder with little ones around, but the older our boys get, the more we'll try to foster this sense of rest in them. And from the multiple requests I get from my oldest for a "jammie day," I'm guessing it'll catch on just fine.

When's your next day of nothing?
Recent jammie day fun with the little man.

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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Speak

Have you ever noticed how quickly you can diffuse a situation by speaking kindly? When you know someone is pissed at you, whether you've done something wrong or not, give the other person a little bit of grace and you can almost physically see the walls come down around them. It's kind of amazing. 

So many of us walk around with defenses up, ready to fight for ourselves at the first opportunity. That guy dinged your car at the grocery store? Speak love. That friend ignored a kindness you extended? Speak love. That bully was a jerk to your kid? Speak love.  

What would happen if we chose to speak kindness and love into the lives of those who have wronged us? What if those we've wronged chose to show us kindness instead of anger?

Though it's crazy, amazing
we can turn a heart with the words we say.
Mountains crumble with every syllable.
Hope can live or die . . .
So speak life, speak life
to the deadest, darkest night.
Speak life, speak life . . .
when the sun won't shine and you don't know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted,
watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
you speak love, you speak life.

Toby Mac, Speak Life

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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Friday, March 6, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Beloved

Beloved means so much more than just your plain, everyday type of love. I can love tacos, but they're not beloved. I can love watching ridiculous reality TV, but those shows are far from beloved.

Beloved conjures a slew of mushy words—cherished, precious, adored—but it's a love that has a certain intimacy and closeness that run-of-the-mill love can't come close to. It's a deeper, more spiritual love that can cover a multitude of wrongs.

Though I'm sure we still have a lot to learn, 11 years of marriage has taught Ryan and I that even when we don't like each other, we can still love each other. But loving in spite of ourselves doesn't come from us—it's something we can't do on our own. Loving each other when we can't stand each other comes purely from God. It's when we sit in His love that we are able to look at each other the way He sees us.

Because He first loved us, we are able to love each other fully.
I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.    —Song of Songs 6:3

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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.





Thursday, March 5, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Follow

The word "follow" has changed definition with the rise of social media in the last several years. Think about it—I "follow" lots of people on Pinterest or Twitter, but really, it's only because I think that meatloaf recipe sounds good or they have a knack for comedy in 140 characters or less. It has nothing to do with giving my allegiance to something as Websters defines the word.

In a way, social media has weakened the term "follow" by making it a much more casual interaction. In biblical times, the word "follow" meant to drop everything and quite literally follow someone wherever they went—live their lifestyle, eat the same foods—essentially, you immersed yourself in the life they were leading.

What is it that we follow today? So many of us say we're believers, Christ-followers—but when something becomes a challenge and things get a little tough, we forget what it was we were following in the first place.

To truly follow this Jesus guy means to love always—when it's hard, when you don't want to, when you don't think you should, when it's not fair. Everything we do as believers should be covered, surrounded and fortified with love.

How will you follow today?

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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One Word, Five Voices: Poor

What would you say your definition of "poor" is? Living in a shack with dirt floors and no food in your belly?

I'd say that was probably my only definition of poor as well until I started serving people who live in those conditions. That definition of poor is the only definition most Americans have. After all, the American dream looks more like a two-income household, 2.5 kids and a home in the suburbs with a white picket fence. If you have all that, you couldn't possibly be poor, right?

What I've realized over the last several years is that being poor isn't just about money. That kind of poverty exists, yes, and is something that shouldn't be ignored, but the poverty I'm talking about has more to do with the heart. Some of the "poorest" people I've met by American standards are some of the richest I've ever known when it comes to love, family, friendship, and faith.

Oftentimes, money gets in the way of the most important riches of life, and I am no exception to this. Serving people who have little money, but are rich in love is a great way to remind myself of what really matters in life, and where my riches truly are.


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 Check out what my friends think of today's word on their blogs: ShawnHeatherSteph and Brian.