the lion and the eagle

Being a human is hard.

Being a human and trying to do what you think is right is hard.

I am someone who acts. I take action. Leading is natural for me. I lead at home, at work, at church, etc.

However, has it become so natural that I do not think it all through?

I find that each time I try to do good, somehow I am left with more mess and more heavy, making me want to retreat and not move/engage/breathe at all.

Maybe you have felt that too? You try to help only to unlayer more layers of this awful onion of issues. All issues that need to be addressed and all issues that are valid. This is applicable in relationships, workplace, parenting, oh man is it applicable in parenting, and just life. You want to keep helping and keep fighting for what you think is right but you find yourself just so exhausted by the battle.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have been praying about it endlessly. What is my role to play? What do I need to do?

And then, I was given the image of a lion and an eagle.

Lions: fierce, mighty, strong, protective, leader

but lions are also terribly destructive. They leave a trail as they move to act, breaking branches or stomping on grass to make their move.

Eagles: fierce, mighty, strong, protective, leader

but eagles are also precise, calculated, observant, and leave little trail of destruction in their decisions to act. Eagles, because of the gift of flight, can swoop in and swoop out, never destroying the area around their course of action.

Be more like the eagle.

An eagle has the gift of impeccable sight, seeing eight times farther than a human and can focus in on the object of their vision. They fly from a distance, but are constantly watching around them. They soar, let’s not say hover, but soar around making informed decisions of when would be best to act and what part is theirs to play.

A lion’s roar can be heard from as far as five miles away. Talk about calling attention. What is the purpose of the lion’s roar? To know it is there. Yes, there is a time to use your voice. Absolutely. But, are you calling attention to yourself or are you calling attention to the issue? Are you listening or are you roaring? The roar insights fear, not love.

I have been thinking about this analogy for a few days and then my family and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. As we were walking, my children screamed, “Eagle!” and up above us was an eagle, majestically flying around above us. This eagle, was gliding through the air, observing the world around it, and making decisions on when and how it should act. The eagle did not interfere with our walk, just made it more beautiful by its presence, and there was a peace in knowing it was there.

I say this as a human, not the mouse or fish it was stalking.

The eagle is so unobtrusive, that you cannot even see it in this picture.
But it was there, soaring above.

It has made me think…am I leaving a trail of destruction in my effort to do good? Or am I making precise and thoughtful decisions towards the goal of love, unity, and restoration? Am I providing peace in my presence or intimidation?

I also have this thought process that all the problems are mine to solve. How heavy of a burden that is to carry and a burden I placed on myself. I have a role to play, but from a place of observation, I can see my part…and also see other people’s parts. I need to allow others to act and trust that all the pieces come into play. I cannot control my spouse’s actions, or my friend’s actions, or my coworker’s actions. I do not know what is going on in their heart and what they feel called to do. But, I have to give them space and time to do their part of the story. By trying to manage it all, I am taking away their opportunity to act.

Action is necessary. Taking out bystanders in my path to act is hurtful.

Being a human is hard enough. Thoughtful, precise, and purposeful action based upon observation and reflection might be the kinder, more loving way to move us.

Be more like an eagle and less like a lion.

Peace. Awe. Wonder.
These are the emotions that come when you spot an eagle in the woods.
And that drive that causes you to look up. Look up.

 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

For more like this, check out Surrendered, Suffer well. and Mountains and Valleys.

this Christmas.

I love Christmas. It is by far my favorite time of the year. My Grandma Fran loved Christmas. When I think of my Christmas memories so many of them involve the way she did Christmas, even though she passed away twenty five years ago. She left a huge legacy on all my Christmas traditions and my deep love of this season. The ribbon candy on my table, the Santa ornament on my tree, the appetizers on Christmas Eve, the reading of The Night Before Christmas. These are all beautiful and cherished memories that I am so grateful were rooted into my childhood and life.

I also know this post-Christmas down. Maybe you have felt it too, when all the gifts are opened and all the traditions are done, and you are left with more stuff, more mess, and a little feeling of disappointment or sadness. It gets me every year. I want the joy of Christmas to last forever.

But this year, this year looks different for me. This year, we have invited Jesus to His own birthday celebration. If you have been around my writing for more than a minute, you know that my life drastically changed a year and a half ago after I felt Jesus pursuing me for years and I finally gave my life to Him after I had made such a mess of my own doing.

So, this year, Jesus is center in our celebration. Santa gets a nice nod because I do love a good tradition and my grandma would for sure assault me from Heaven <that is not gospel truth but stick with me> if we did not bring Santa to Christmas. But, our family is doing things a bit different this year.

This year we are doing Advent for the first time as a family. I mean, actually reading from the Bible each night, not just eating the chocolate. We have been eating the chocolate for years. Advent is beautiful. Advent takes my favorite day of the year and makes it a four week celebration of hope, peace, joy, and love. Every Christmas carol I hear now, like O Holy Night brings forth such emotion because they are about our Savior coming. Advent honors the wait and anticipation we feel during the Christmas season. The wait for Jesus’ arrival and for God to come to live with us on Earth. The wait feels different this year because it is so good when He does come.

Traditional Christmas songs and philosophy gets me differently this year. I think about this concept of naughty and nice, which was something we never really brought into in our home, but still it is front and center in secular Christmas culture. We sing songs with lyrics like

He’s making a list,

He’s checking it twice,

He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Yet, Jesus came for us all. He knew we are all a mess and we all struggle with something and He came for all of us. Everyone can get the gift He brings because He came to save us all, naughty or nice.

Christmas is about God becoming fully human and living with us, Emmanuel means “God with us.” He came in the most humble of ways to save us. In a world, two thousand years ago and today, that focuses on money, stature, appearance, and power, Jesus came as a baby to poor parents, in a Middle Eastern country, to grow to be short and unattractive, still poor, and lacking governmental power. Yet, He was God. Constantly tempted, yet perfect. Feeling all human emotions, the joy and the suffering, yet obedient. He served others. He sat with the untouchables or social outcasts. He healed. He listened. He taught. He wept for the ones He loved. He wept for Himself knowing the horrible suffering He would endure to save us all and then silently gave Himself over for His own crucifixion. Jesus.

If you do not know Jesus as this loving, kind, serving, forgiving, and yet very confusing person, I encourage you to get to know Him, for yourself, not by what man tells you about Him. Read four books in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read just these four and get to know Jesus. Not religion, but Christianity. Not the laws and rules and hand-slapping of religion, but the hope, peace, joy, and love that is Jesus. If you need a Bible, please email me at ashleyelindner@gmail.com and I will get a Bible mailed to you!

This year is hard. Everyone knows it and I have written these exact words “this year is hard” in almost every post I have written this year. This is the year that we need hope, peace, joy, and love more than ever. So while I completely love the tradition of Santa and all the joy the celebration of him brings, this year I need to tie myself to the one who lasts all year. The one who truly came to town and truly brought the best gift ever. Salvation from a messy world. Isn’t that what we all want right now, to be saved from this messy world? It has come. He has come and we get to celebrate that this Christmas. Right now. This season.

On December 26th, or really, December 25th at 7 in the morning, when all the gifts are opened, because our kids don’t sleep past 5am on Christmas morning….this year, I will not feel the Christmas disappointment when it is over because the greatest gift we can get has already been given and it continues with us after the gifts are open. We are given a Savior who is hope, peace, joy, and love. This continues throughout the year and through our life between two gardens. Anchoring to Him, who is with us all the time, not just on one day, is the best gift we can receive.

For amazing resources to get to know Jesus better, consider checking out She Reads Truth.

For more posts like this, check out Surrendered, pieces, “This is why I drink.“, Rivers, Rapids, & Waterfalls, and Mountains and Valleys

pieces.

we are all made of many pieces in one really messy puzzle

vulnerability and authenticity

These are two traits that I have come to realize are extremely valuable to me.

What you see of me is who I am, in all settings. However, they are just pieces of me.

The smiling family photo.

The piles of laundry in the corner of our bedroom.

The row of degrees that fill the top of my resume.

The deep need for naps on weekends.

The methodical lesson planning.

The unkind word spew when I am tired.

The loud, energetic story teller.

The withdrawn wallflower.

The put together, trendy, and with wedged boots.

The unshowered, messy bun, have I brushed my teeth yet today?

The crying.

The smiling.

The one who is pushing through.

The one who has surrendered.

The Christian.

The human mess.

These are all true of me. Every single time.

I bet some of these are true of you too, but I also know you have other pieces.

I am not faking it. Those smiles you see are real, but so are the tears and the push through. The calm is followed by the chaos. I am all these things and each time you see a piece of it, do not think that there is not more to it.

We have a saying in my circle, “layered onion.” We are all layered onions. There is so much more there than what is first seen and it does not mean that we are hiding anything or building walls, but sometimes, you are seeing a piece. An authentic and often very vulnerable piece.

But we are all much more than one simple piece.

I have come to the understanding that being known and deeply understood is really important to me. I love deep relationships and really struggle with small talk. I love when I have the opportunity to know someone’s heart and to share my heart with them. I take it as such a gift when people lower their walls and let me in. I know that this is a huge privilege as many of us walk around with fortresses covering anything beyond weather conversations. But, we were made to know each other on much more profound levels and to be deeply known.

The only way to be deeply known and deeply loved is by letting people see the pieces. That takes a lot of courage. Vulnerability comes easy to me but I completely recognize that it is not the same for everyone. However, offer a piece.

And on the other side, when you see a piece of someone, also remember it is only a piece. We have areas where we really rock it and also areas where we completely sink. Do not allow yourself to be fooled into thinking others are hitting levels you think are not possible for yourself because of the pieces you see. When you see that person doing amazing in one area of their life, celebrate and honor that, but also remember that they probably have areas where they are really struggling. Remember, pieces and layered onions. These people who are straight up slaying it in some areas might be fighting really hard to do so and need your encouragement and still need your love because they are probably fighting some hard mental things to gain that one win.

I know this because I am this. But, I also know this is true for everyone because I have been a human long enough to know that everyone has a struggle. Allow me to share a few of my pieces to help paint the picture of how messy our puzzle pieces are:

  • I am currently mentally stronger than I have been in years but life is throwing a lot at our family, as with many of yours right now. I am still showing up at school and doing my best. I smile and encourage. I help facilitate professional development and I suppose, from the outside, I present a picture of someone who has their stuff together. I am genuine when I smile, encourage, and walk beside my peers in this unknown world of teaching in a pandemic. But also, I come home and am spent. I am quiet and withdrawn to recharge my batteries. I need weekend naps and rest. I have cut down how much I even build some of my other relationships right now because I am so worn down from trying to do something that is very new and ever changing at school, while also trying to focus on loving my spouse and our children well in a very hard season. Both these sides are very, very real and very true of me.
  • And if we take it back two years, I was coming off a huge opportunity to grow as an educator, having just done a ton of additional training out of state for a year, and was building my resume in huge ways at school, but also was privately struggling with the second largest depression of my life which lead to me having a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol, which in many ways stole a few years from me. Since then, I have grown significantly in realigning my values and have now been sober for over six months and fifteen months since my last bout with alcohol where I walked with a lot of shame. However, both of these sides are very, very real and very true of me.

We are more than our smiling faces. But, please do not dismiss the smiling face as a fake face. Rather, we can all try to see more and give grace for the more. We all have stories to tell, or to hold tight, but we all have stories. We all have pieces.

Please start sharing your pieces and please start seeing the pieces of others.

Encourage one another when they have great wins but also encourage them in the unseen sorrow.

Start looking at people as pieces and strive to help build the puzzle, one interaction at a time.

A bit more about how I got here:

I am currently thirty six years old. Yes, I did just have to stop and think about that because I have now become the age that you do not know your age immediately upon being asked. But, I am 36 years old and it has taken me 35 of these years to actually begin to know who I am and become comfortable in my own skin. I have come to this place after a series of lots of lows, some highs, lots of love, therapy, refection, Jesus, and time.

I am an 3 on the Enneagram. If you have not learned about the Enneagram yet, do it. It has opened up my eyes on how to love and accept myself and has also really helped me to love and accept the ones who I walk with. Threes are achievers. Threes often define themselves by their accomplishments. Threes struggle with feeling that they have value or are known without direct words affirming this. Threes also fear that they will be misunderstood. This is a wildly simplified explanation of a three and I am sure I will write heavily on this in the future. But, for today, to help you understand your heart and to understand the hearts of others, I really encourage you to take a deeper look at the Enneagram for yourself. But, some key things to note:

  • You cannot type someone else. This is about the motivations in your heart, not your behaviors.
  • While the tests are helpful, you do need to look deeper into each type and be really honest with yourself to help see which type best fits you.
  • You are not just a number. You can identify closely with the type, but let us also remember we are also individuals.
  • Do not weaponize the Enneagram to bring others down by being whatever type they identify with, but rather allow this tool to help you to understand people who see the world different than you.
  • This is not an excuse to keep doing the thing you do because of the type you identify with, but rather gives you the opportunity to see why you do something and help you to grow to see how to do it in a healthy way. (Example: I try to get my value and self-worth from my accomplishments. I did not realize I did this until I studied the Enneagram. Now, I try really hard to remember my self-worth does not come from what I accomplish and to be okay with who I am just based on whose I am. This is an ongoing struggle for me.)
  • This is not a “Christian thing” but rather a tool for anyone. It has become very popular in Christian culture because it allows you to see yourself for how you were designed and also allows you to lean into the grace of the gospel for all that you can grow in.

To read more like this, check out Mountains and Valleys, “This is why I drink.”, and Surrendered.