Letter #687: Death at Christmas

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Dear death,

Few things in life are certain. You are one none of us can avoid. It’s simply a matter of how long each of us gets before your impending end to life on earth.

This week has been a week filled with you. Several dear friends of mine lost loved ones as well as my own Grandma Rother. According to Hollywood and our unrealistic expectations, Christmas is supposed to be filled with carols and cookies, family and friends, not the details and decisions that come with death. Reality is that life keeps happening whether it’s the week of Christmas or not.

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The last family photo with Grandma…Christmas 2015! We were also celebrating her 88th birthday!

Regardless, we can all agree that Christmas is a magnifying glass. Right or wrong, the sweet moments shine all the brighter and sorrow seems to be felt a little deeper. Whether it’s death that happened this week, this year or 20 years ago, people all around us are feeling the emptiness of a seat at their holiday table. Celebrate big this Christmas, but also don’t miss reaching out to those around you who just need a moment to grieve.

A week ago I received a phone call that my Grandma had passed. Death is never easy, but she had lived a beautiful life. Naomi Rother was the mother of 9, grandmother of 29 and I’ve lost count on her great-grandmother number! Wife, mom, grandma, great-grandma, friend and so much more, she had 89 years of a life well lived. It was her time. Alzheimer’s had gotten the best of her in her latter years, but through it her smile remained!

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A few days ago we had the opportunity to celebrate her life. I’m not the most emotional, but as I sat surrounded by a hundred of my aunts, uncles and cousins (yes, when you have 9 kids the result is 115 and counting immediate family members!) emotion flowed from every direction. Whether it is somebody’s time to go or not, watching the men you’ve grown up looking up to your whole life grieve the loss of their mom is a moving moment. Thankful for the legacy my grandparents created to make family a priority. To this day, the entire family still gets together a couple times a year…all 115+.

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Grandpa and Grandma with their NINE kids! My dad is the oldest (top left) rocking that Indiana t-shirt…he probably lived during the actual Hoosier days!

I was also reminded of the power one life can have. At this particular funeral, the family remained seated while the rest of the church filed one by one to the front to pay one last respect to my Grandma in her casket. The way my seat was positioned, I had the chance to meet eyes with every person present as they departed the church. As I watched people of all ages, some who knew my Grandma and others who know her kids, pass by, all I could think about was ‘the power of one.’ Death is the ultimate end we will all face, but life is a gift we’re all given. We get to daily choose how we position ourselves. I won’t be at my own funeral to know what it’s like, but I sure want to live my daily in a way where I steward the life I’ve been given to positively impact those around me. Death is coming for us all, but life has the ability to ripple through other’s lives well beyond a person’s time here.

Death is certain, but so is life. We can’t number our days, but we can know the God who does. We can’t determine our circumstances, but we can trust the God who does and find hope through Christ despite them. We can’t know the day of our departure, but we can live with purpose and in a way that impacts the people around us long after we’re gone. Death is coming, but when there is genuine surrender to Christ, life after death is eternal. That’s the life I was reminded that I want to long for even more than this life here on earth.

So while Christmas magnifies the sweet and the sorrow, I pray it would also magnify the Savior we all need. The Savior that brings eternal perspective to the sorrow. Merry Christmas can be true this season no matter the circumstances. For this, I am thankful!

Lindsay

Letter #686: 2016 Election Perspective

Dear perspective on the election,

Full parking lot. Packed auditorium. Unified purpose.

There aren’t many places that fulfill this description. A sporting event or concert would top the list of possible answers. Last week I found a new answer to the above description.

Traveling in Kansas City, I drove into a full parking lot. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to, but when we pulled in I knew it was significant. I piled out of a van and headed inside. Again, I really didn’t know what I was walking into.

Walking in, I was overwhelmed. The auditorium was packed, and the theme of significance inside me echoed louder. I stood stunned, searching for an open space to sit. After gaining my bearings, I made my way through the crowd. Standing in an aisle searching for a seat, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to a woman offering me the seat next to her. I slid in and sat for the next hour of my life. My world was rocked.

You see, the night before my co-workers and I decided to spend an hour of our day in Kansas City at a place where 24/7 prayer has been going on since 1999. 17 years. I was excited for an opportunity to have an hour of time where I was forced to be still, but I didn’t expect what ensued.

I sat in my seat as people from every race, age, economic status and religious affiliation surrounded me. Nobody told me this. Nobody had to. It was more than evident as I scanned the crowd surrounding me. 60-year-old Korean woman, a 35-year-old massive black man with dreads, a 35-year-old white woman with her baby, a 35-year old white man, a 21-year-old black girl and a 70-year-old black woman. These were the people in my direct line of sight. None arrived here together, however, every single one of them were present for the same reason.

I walked into a room filled with 700-800 other people unified with one purpose: To pray for revival in our nation. Not for a particular candidate or even party to win, but to pray for the heart of the American people to turn to God. The prayer gathering isn’t normally this large, in fact it’s normally in a much smaller venue. But people came in droves to pray leading up to maybe the most controversial election in American history.

I thought I was walking into an hour of opportunity to simply be still before the Lord. In reality, I walked into a sea of fellow believers committed to praying boldly for the hearts of the people of our nation to be softened to the things of God. Salvation was boldly prayed for by hundreds.

And as I sat there as a nobody among the sea of believers, I began to weep. As I observed the room, I witnessed unity among believers the way it was intended to be. Every tribe, nation and tongue at an American level represented. There was unity underneath the banner of God, His Word and the saving power of Jesus Christ. And for an hour of my life I believe I had a brief and beautiful glimpse into heaven. Unity-where Christ’s blood brings people together and sends people on mission to share with anyone we encounter.

For an hour of my life I sat and prayed for the salvation of our nation and our world. I didn’t pray for the outcome of an election. I didn’t pray for a party platform. I didn’t pray for equal rights, taxes, healthcare or the Supreme Court. I prayed alongside hundreds of strangers that the finished work of Christ on the cross would be revealed and understood by the people of our nation. And this is what I continue to pray for today.

God “removes and establishes kings” (Dan. 2:21). He is in control and will not be surprised by what happens in the outcome of this election. Where there is great darkness, light is able to shine all the brighter. Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow, Christ follower (and I’m speaking to myself), I am convinced we will have more opportunity than ever to declare truth in our nation’s history. I am also convinced that it will come at a greater cost than ever.

So after two years of news coverage, it’s time to go vote. And vote I shall, but I’ll also be continuing to pray. For my own boldness and confidence to stand firm in my faith as well as for the softening of hard hearts toward the things of God.

To God be the glory because no matter the outcome we have hope in Christ!

Lindsay

Letter #685: Initiating Community

img_2203Dear ‘community,’

I was in a wedding a couple weekends ago. It was one of those weddings you genuinely looked forward to and nearly knew every attendee. What a joy to be a part of!

As I chatted, and let’s be honest danced, my way through the reception, nearly every conversation came back to you. “Nobody prepares you for life after college.” “Making friends is hard.” “I’ve been in my city for a year and I’m just now starting to break through in some authentic relationships.” “I’ll never have community like I had in college.”

This got me thinking. You really can be challenging. I began assessing my own life in this area. I’m 29 and live in Branson, the “Mecca of the Elderly” as I endearingly call it, where three months of my year are spent at summer camp where 97% of the people I interact with are 12-14 or 19-23. Nearly three more months are spent traveling in a 15-passenger van recruiting college students to come work at camp, where I am typically in a city for less than 24 hours at a time. My life is inconsistent and my friends literally come from all walks of life: older, younger, engaged, married, single, with children and without, some who live near and other who live really stinking far. I’ve also grown immensely in knowing how to be alone and have learned to find contentment in solitude.

I give you my current life resume not to elicit sympathy, but rather to create credibility in what I have to say next. Community hasn’t been something that was handed to me. Rather, it’s been something I’ve learned about because it hasn’t been easy.

Reality check: college dorms, Greek houses and summer camps are not real life. Having hundreds, even thousands, of people at your fingertips in your same life stage to be friends with is a thing of the past. This will never happen again. Enjoy it while it lasts, create lifelong friendships with the people you get the privilege of doing these seasons with and work to keep up with them after, but don’t live in a dream world that this is normal. These relationships matter and can be ‘your people’ forever. But we can’t just have friends from the past or friends that live hours away. We must have you in the flesh and in our daily.

I’ve either been one or worked with college students for the last 11 years of my life, and I don’t think a single one I worked with was ready for what comes with graduation. Sure there is a learning curve concerning life skills, bills, retirement funds and insurance, but I’m simply talking relationships. Nobody prepares you for the dramatic shift that happens in forming you in a totally new way. Co-workers and neighbors come from every life stage. Intramurals, coke dates and socials/mixers are no longer handed to you. And if you’re brave enough to move to a new place entirely, there aren’t many mutual friends or connections to count on. Every coffee shop you enter, church service you attend, restaurant you dine in, or catch happy hour you catch is basically a cold call. You must initiate. Make the first move, there are no promises anybody else will.

You must be fought for. But what does that actually mean? I’ve decided it means three things:

  1. Change expectations: Friends are going to be different than you now. Stop thinking they can only be in your life stage. Single? You can have friends who are young and married, married with kids, single parents and even people who are decades older than you. Married? With kids? The same is true for you. You can, and I’ll even go as far as saying, you need to make friends outside of your life stage and comfort zone. People different than you make you better.
  2. Be an initiator: Nobody is coming to your front door with cookies, a dinner invite and an envelope with a letter inside asking to be their friend. This might happen, but chances aren’t good. Step up and invite someone you think has potential to be a friend to coffee or a meal. Everybody has to eat…and this is not strange. Everybody is looking for friends. Friendship has to start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to take the lead.
  3. Get creative: You’ve gone from thousands of people at your fingertips to maybe 20-100 you see on a regular basis. The girl working out at the gym you see three times a week, engage with her. The barista you order from who is near your age, talk to him. Get involved in something to open up an opportunity to meet people. The day of walking downstairs in your sorority house where 100 potential friends live to find people to hang out with is over. Think outside the box and engage with people…I think you’ll be surprised by what happens!

I have great friends, but it’s only because I’ve worked for it. And these three things have played a significant role in the process. I’m incredibly thankful for friends I’ve had for years, but I also know that as people come and go I’m going to have to continue to fight for new ones who can do life with me in the flesh.

Community has become a buzzword in our culture especially in Christian circles. I think most would say they want it, but are we willing to step up and create it? I don’t just want people to hang out with, but it has to start here. I want people to do life with. People who will celebrate the highs and mourn the lows. People who will walk through the best and worst of times with me. People who are for my good no matter how hard the conversations have to be in order to communicate truth. This is true community.

But this doesn’t just happen. You have to work for it. You have to lead with vulnerability. And it starts with finding people you can just hang out with. Then that has to transition into conversation of significance. But it all starts with you making the ask, “Hey, would you like to grab breakfast?” Odds are, they’re looking for friends too. They just weren’t brave enough to ask.

Don’t be afraid to ask,

Lindsay

Letter #684: Europe Lessons

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Dear Europe,

Four weeks is a long time. A person can learn quite a bit in that span. Being in foreign countries adds even more layers to the lessons.

Being months removed has made me even more thankful for my time visiting you. I honestly don’t know if a day goes by where I don’t look back fondly on my trip, think about a site I visited, laugh at a hilarious moment or reflect on something I learned. I am the greatest advocate for people to save up and go see the world. There are things you will learn that you just can’t by staying here in America. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:

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This is not a green screen, I promise! Go to the Swiss Alps…it will instantly be your favorite spot in the world!
  • Nobody speaks English, what are you going to do?! Trust me, you figure it out. You have to.
  • You have no option to pull out your phone in lull times (unless you want to pay astronomical fees, and we already know I ain’t about that life!). I learned to do other things in moments of waiting. I grew to become more purposeful, but I’m already fighting falling back into this trap on the reg.
  • If something goes wrong, you are completely responsible. There’s no blame-shifting, calling home or getting out of it; you have to own it and figure it out. Decisions must be made in confidence and awareness of your safety at all times is vital. An intangible layer of responsibility is gained here. In other words, you just grow up.
  • Follow the local transportation rules precisely. You’ll pay for it (literally) if you don’t. I left a 50 euro donation fine in Paris! In all seriousness, it’s easier to take a train from Italy to Switzerland than for me to drive from Missouri to Oklahoma.
  • I think I learned the healthiness of a sabbatical at an early age! Time off and getting away is a win. We should enjoy life along the journey. But if we’re honest, it’s hard for us to truly ever shut off completely. A week off, and it takes 3 days to unwind and by day 5 your mind is preparing to get back again. A week of vacation is valuable, but I tasted something I had never experienced before. I was truly able to step away from work. I couldn’t pick up the phone and make a call. I only had Wi-Fi access occasionally. I tasted rest like most Americans never will, and I will do ‘vacation’ in a different way from now on because of it.
  • Clear vision casting to the right people can make dreams come true! This trip started as a pipe dream, but a little over a year ago I crafted an email that captured people’s attention and created buy in in a way that I’m now looking back at photos and telling stories from the trip of a lifetime.
  • Never let fear dictate your decisions. There are a million reasons I shouldn’t have gone. Safety, money, work, responsibility, the unknown. I could have believed them, but if I had I would have missed out on one of the greatest experiences of my life. Fear wants to win. Let’s not let it. Life’s way better when I don’t live in fear. I have pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and in the Swiss Alps to prove it!
  • Stop waiting to live your life. If I’m honest, I waited for years before I made this trip happen. I’ve wanted to go since I was in college, but in the back of my head I knew it would probably be cheaper and for sure safer to do Europe with my spouse…it’s just easier to travel with a male, you assume a different level of risk. I never verbalized this but it was in my subconscious. Well guess what, I’m not married and it’s not on the horizon. So why in the world was I waiting? Not sure, but I’m done waiting to live my life.
Such a fun day! If you go, take a Fat Tire Bike Tour while you’re there! Pretty surreal to see this area on tv now, but may we not live in fear.

Europe, you were good for so many reasons, but these simple and practical lessons were for sure eight of them. I will live life differently because of my choice to visit and travel you. Thanks for a great adventure, the trip of a lifetime. Thanks for all you taught me that I just wouldn’t have learned in America. And in the same way I refuse to operate in fear, I beg you not to either in the aftermath of Paris and the refugee situation. May fear never paralyze us, but rather may fear remind us to face them, to make the right decisions rather than the safe ones and to rely on the One who brings hope despite circumstance.

Until next time Europe,

Lindsay

Letter #683: Six Months of Adventure

Last 6 Months

Dear six months,

Half a year…182ish days. At times you can seem daunting or really long ago; other times you fly by faster than Blue Bell’s flying off Texas shelves right now.

I’ve lived 57 sets of you but when I think of my last set of six, in many ways it feels like a dream. I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully put into words what’s happened in my last six months. You have been hard, fast, exciting, exhausting, life giving and unexpected while being filled with firsts, adventure, fear, opportunity and life lessons I’ll never forget.

  • Beginning of March-Beginning of May: served as a Chick-fil-A team member as Branson’s first store opened; balanced two jobs and while I didn’t mind the extra money I was really doing it to learn more about how CFA trains their employees as they continue to set the industry standard in customer experience.
  • May-August 8th: summer 10 at Kanakuk K-West; hardest of my 10 summers in that place but so fun at the same time as I was able to laugh a ton and learn a lot as I got to sit front seat as the Lord showed up how only He can.
  • August 11th-September 6th: four weeks on the trip of a lifetime; the timeliness of my European Adventure couldn’t have been more perfect. My prayer was for it to be restful, reflective and purposeful…all three and more occurred.

In the span of time a viable baby can be formed, I fit all the above in and more. There will be few seasons in my life filled with more diversity and adventure, and as I look back I can’t help but laugh. Did all of that really happen?! If I were in any other life stage, I couldn’t or at least wouldn’t have done it all.

And I wouldn’t trade my experiences for a different life stage. I need to remind myself of this as it’s so easy to compare and dwell on what I don’t have. Even in just the past few months I have been able to do incredible things. Rather than wishing for things to be part of my life, I want to genuinely celebrate all I already have and am getting to do. I just did things people dream of doing their whole lives. I saw pieces of creation most will only see in photos. My scope is broadened, eyes opened and life changed because of it.

My last six months have been so fun, so adventurous. I may never have six that rival you in a row again, but I am incredibly thankful for the journey and always want to live willing to take risks.

Cheers to the beginning of travel season at work and the start of set 58 of you!

Lindsay

Letter #682: Life Nuggets

BdayDear life,

Last week, I turned 28. I don’t understand how time goes so quickly, but with each passing year I feel like you get more fun and I gain more perspective. I was reflecting on you in the last week, and I found it fitting to celebrate another year by sharing a few things I’ve learned along the way. Somehow at Kamp ‘throwing nuggets’ has become one of my things. My staff mocks me for it, but it’s become a simple way to share life lessons, tips of advice and biblical wisdom. So in reflection of my 28th year, here are some ‘Rother Nuggets’ in written form in no particular order:

  1. Age ain’t nothin’ but a thing. If you think and say you’re old, then you are. If you simply live life and don’t worry about your age, you’ll never be old.
  2. Life’s way more fun and much easier when you live open-handed with it rather than fists clenched tight.
  3. Enjoy the metabolism of youth! Something changes inside of you between 21 and 26.
  4. Be someone who tries new things. Life’s an adventure; don’t live like it’s boring.
  5. You’re capable of far more than you think. Believe in yourself.
  6. Pick up the phone and call. Better yet, get in your car and go. Texts are fine, but there’s nothing that can replace real conversation and authentic relationships.
  7. I’m 28, living in Branson (the Mecca of the Elderly), single and working a second job at Chick-fil-A. What is my life?! Never in a million years would I have guessed this is where I’d be and what I’d be doing. It’s far better.
  8. Live purposefully. Every day. Every moment.
  9. Refuse to waste your life. There’s nothing more freeing than this. Nothing.
  10. Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. I’ve been more humbled through my hot yoga/barre classes and having 20-year-olds giving me direction at Chick-fil-A this year than maybe ever. It’s a really healthy place to live.
  11. You don’t need as much sleep as you think. But remember, being disciplined in the morning starts by being disciplined at night.
  12. You have the ability to make people’s day every time you interact with someone. Choose joy. Choose to encourage. Smile. It’s always worth it.
  13. Bust your rear now to instill financial disciplines. Get out of debt. Live below your means. Don’t buy stupid stuff. Save so you can go on adventures. Give…none of it’s yours anyway.
  14. Whether they have something to offer you or not, people matter. Look every one in the eye, show them dignity and be kind.
  15. Living life with 1000s of people in your life stage isn’t real life. Enjoy college while it lasts, but be ready to fight for community. And know it’s worth fighting for. We weren’t built to go at it alone.
  16. Friends come in all types. Surround yourself with people different than yourself. People who make you better. Forget stereotypes and just do life well with the people God puts in your path. Married, single, younger, older. It doesn’t matter. Don’t let life stage dictate friendship.

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    Birthday celebration with the Wiebe clan…beyond thankful for this crew!
  17. There are few things more attractive than a strong work ethic. Work hard. Do your best.
  18. Feelings change often. Don’t rely on them solely. Anchor yourself in truth.
  19. Opportunity is everywhere. Open your eyes and stop sulking. Make the most of what’s in front of you.
  20. Don’t run from questions. Ask yourself hard ones. Surround yourself with people who push you to wrestle by asking them. Who am I? What am I good at? What are my weaknesses? What do I believe and why? Is what I’m spending my time on worth it?
  21. Show up. Being present matters. Have integrity and be a person of your word.
  22. Laugh. A lot. With others and at yourself.

As I was writing these, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I longed for these not to just be bullet points on a page, but pillars my life is built around. Honestly, praying that my heart would be centered in Jesus and that the overflow of how I live would reflect that. It’s been a good 27 years…looking forward to the 28th and all I will learn!

28 going on…….,

Rother the nugget thrower (hypothetically and now literally!)

Letter #681: My Pleasure

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Dear Chick-fil-A,

For years I have been a raving fan. Your food is good, but it’s the above and beyond service you provide that truly sets you apart. I took you for granted though. You were part of my hometown, college town and nearly every city I’ve ever visited. Then I moved to Branson where your nearest location was 45 minutes north.

You became a must stop restaurant, almost daily, as I traveled the country recruiting college students to work at Kanakuk. State after state, location after location, I began to realize there was something different about you. You weren’t just excellent in the few Oklahoma locations I frequented. After visiting 100+ locations in nearly 13 different states, I have yet to find a poor experience.

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Eat Mor Chikin. Dedication dinner at the Keeter Center days before it opened. Chick-fil-A does a great job valuing it’s team members.

I was fascinated and impressed and desired to know more. As I declared stories of excellence in conversations, statements like this began to surface…”If Branson ever gets a Chick-fil-A, I’m going to work there.”

Rumor after rumor was squelched about your arrival…until fall of 2014, confirmed arrival!!! #Bransongamechanger

I remembered my statement…would I really be interested in getting a job?! After some thought, I said, “What do I have to lose, I’ll just call and see what happens!”

You see, I’m drawn to things that are different, things set apart by work ethic and integrity. I was fascinated by you. How did you manage to get thousands of employees to believe in valuing and serving people…it’s fast food for crying out loud?!

I was fascinated enough I didn’t want to just hear about your training program, I wanted to go through it.

So I called, chatted with the operator, explained my heart, told him why I was a terrible hire for him because I already had a full time job that relocated me in the summers and ended with why I thought he should hire me anyway. What did I have to lose remember?!

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The paparazzi came STRONG on opening night!!! Snaps, texts and comments were flying around like crazy!!!

A week later we met and I was offered a job as a team member of your newest store: good ole’ Branson, MO!

March 5th, 2015, the newest chapter of my adventure more frequently called life began. And an adventure it has been! Balancing two jobs and maintaining excellence in both is going to be tricky, but figuring this out has already been worth the things I’m getting to learn.

Maybe I’ll post more of my takeaways later, but for now I’ll leave with this. I always knew you were different, but I had no idea you were this different. I’m not sure what I expected walking into the employment piece of you, but my thoughts of how you operate were pretty high. My expectations have been exceeded. Immensely. On every level I’ve been blown away…in the best of ways.

This will hands down be one of the craziest seasons of my life, but I am excited for the adventure and the lessons I am already learning.

Come to Branson, it’d be my pleasure to serve you,

Lindsay

Letter #680: Work Despite Greatness

Christin

Dear moments,

We live for you. The Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Finals. Graduation, wedding day, childbirth. The next date party, conference or vacation. We love to live our lives highlighting and longing for you.

What I’m learning is that life’s a lot less about you and much more about everything else.

Life seems to be much more about daily alarm clocks, laundry, the 8-5, fighting for community and paying bills. The normal, every day occurrences.

This might seem boring, but I would argue that the way the average tasks are approached matters. That these are what makes or breaks an individual and ultimately the moments.

We celebrate the moments of greatness. The playoff games, the speaking engagements in front of thousands, the promotions. But rarely do we celebrate the daily sacrifices it takes to get to the moment. The weight room, the 5am wake ups, the quiet of study and prayer nobody will ever see. We tend to long for the spotlight without wanting to pay our dues backstage.

Last month I had the chance to go to Catalyst Conference in Dallas (great conference, highly recommend!). While at the conference, this idea hit me afresh. It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not a concept I naturally want to accept.

My takeaway wasn’t one of the speaker’s topics, but as I sat in a sea of people the moment was sucking me in. It’s so easy to see the speakers who’ve sold thousands of books and get paid to travel and speak and be consumed by their success. Envy. Jealousy. Appreciation. Reverence. The way we view ‘celebrities’ varies, but more often than not our view is similar. Incorrect.

We long for what they have or maybe we quiver even thinking about the responsibility that comes with it, but either way we rarely stop and think about what sacrifices had to happen before their moment of greatness. And even when we do realize it, we rarely want to work on our own.

But even when we are willing to work, when we do wake up early, fight against complacency and press into eternity, we have to be ok with the fact that we still may never achieve greatness. At least in the world’s eyes. We may spend our entire lives going unnoticed by the masses, but this doesn’t mean we are in the wrong or that we aren’t serving faithfully.

Work hard. Invest well. See people. Live purposefully. Not because you’re waiting for your moment of fame or greatness to come, but because there’s no other way worth living. Work despite greatness.

While at Catalyst, I was reminded not to live idolizing the success of others. Celebrate their highlights, but live my own moments…no matter the size. Serve. Work. Love. Live well in the dailies because they are filled with some of the most important moments we’ll ever have.

On the daily grind,

Lindsay

Letter #679: The Power of Influence

Dear influence,

You fascinate me.

Louie Zamperini. Katniss Everdeen. Meghan Trainor. Amal Alamuddin.

Names most of us had never heard of a year ago. Now, names that have changed culture.

A World War II veteran whose story was brought to life on the big screen by Angelina Jolie.

A literary hero bringing hope to a nation as the Mockingjay in Hunger Games and fame to Jennifer Lawrence.

The girl who left everyone wondering how does one become “All About that Base.”

A name you’re still unsure of, but let’s cut to the chase…she’s Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating Person of 2014 and mostly famous because she married George Clooney.

All four have fallen into the public eye in America, maybe even the world, for different reasons. But the thing they have in common: you.

2014 looked different because of the impact those individuals had on it. Sure, they’ve had books written about them, TV segments centered on them and have made millions of dollars. Yes, they’re famous and their voices and impact seem to have great reach.

But when I really step back and think about you, these aren’t the people who’ve directly impacted my life the most. Hair styles, musical choices and box offices might look different because of them, but direct life change seems to actually come from every day you and me types.

And this is what fascinates me. You can happen on giant scales or individual. You can be vast or small. Expensive or free. But you always hold power.

The power of influence is real. We all have it, some more than others but we’re all influencing and being influenced in some capacity. The question is what kind? For the good or the bad?

What if we allowed you to be used for something greater, something bigger than fame, power, money or success? What if we built into and encouraged people? What if people started believing in themselves because we believed in them first?

Influence, you are fascinating, impactful and have the ability to change the trajectory of entire lives. Celebrity status is great and all, but we each must choose in the moments and measure you with one word: How?

Striving for more positive than negative influence even without being on Barbara’s list,

Influencer of the average, normal and daily…and so are you

Letter #678: New Year, Same Life.

Top of the Rock

Dear new year,

New number, same life.

I wouldn’t say I’m a cynic, but I am definitely a realist. You’re the holiday of high expectations yet readily under-deliver. We make our resolutions and quickly revert back to our old ways only to do it all over again the next year. Amount of Blue Bell purchased decreases. Gym attendance rises. Read more. Be a jerk less.

It’s crazy to me how many eggs our culture puts into your basket.

True confession: you’re my least favorite holiday.

Maybe it’s because you’re more fun if you’re dating someone or married. Maybe it’s because I really am more cynical than I like to admit. Maybe I’m just doing you all wrong, but I’d choose any holiday of the year before you.

However, in the midst of being the holiday of unmet expectation, you also do have a certain allure to you I just can’t deny.

It’s as if rolling one number at the end of the year gives us a sense of power and belief. You allow us to really believe we can accomplish, overcome and start new.

It’s all a mental game. A choice. The same decisions and life changes can be made in August, but there’s just something about you that makes it different.

You bring us the holiday of anticipation, excitement and renewed hope. While you aren’t my favorite holiday, I do love how you bring renewed energy and hope to people.

I haven’t made a bunch of goals or resolutions for this year. Instead, I’ve chosen two words I will fight to keep central to my year. Purpose and discipline. So much is entailed in these two words. So many things I believe will make me more than any resolution ever could.

New number and year, same life. My life. The one I only get once. The one I pray I will choose to live with more purpose and more discipline than ever that will then overflow into every area of my life from physical health to sleeping habits to simply how my time is spent.

More content, kind, loving, patient, forgiving, joyful, passionate, faithful, eternally focused.

Less self-centered, discontent, envious, materialistic, controlling, temporary-minded.

New year, same life.

Here we go 2015,

Realist with a side of cynic