Through the years I have increasingly realized the value of having a teachable heart. Esther 2:15 beautifully summarizes the blessings of that to me: "When the time came for Esther to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her." Because Esther was willing to receive and heed council, she not only won favor, but became a queen who God used to save His people.
After being away from blogging for so long it is difficult to know where to begin!
Seriously, I've typed, erased, typed, erased...so I think I'll just begin with a story!
I was at a Christmas party awhile back. One of those with a gift exchange where everyone receives a number and then gets to choose or steal their gift. Each time a gift was opened the person who brought the gift would stand, introduce themselves, and tell why they brought what they did.
A gift was chosen. It was a beautifully decorated and potted miniature pine tree. The woman who had brought the gift stood and introduced herself and then shared from her heart why she chose to bring this beautiful tree...
2009 had been a difficult year for her. As each new trial or difficulty presented itself; she began to feel buried in her circumstances. It was as if a new pile of dirt were being shoveled upon her head over and over with each new issue and emotional hurt. It was difficult to breathe or to see clearly and she began to cry out to God asking why He was allowing these suffocating circumstances. Then she read this verse:
"...and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow upon them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called, "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:3
She realized she wasn't being buried; she was being planted. Planted by the Lord, for the display of His splendor. He was inviting her to to be rooted and established in Him rather than gasping for air on her own.
This was the first moment that I heard God's "sacred echo" (as Margaret Feinberg calls it.) God's drawing me back to writing and blogging. Not so much because I was feeling buried in the moment; but because He has taken great care in planting me, as He has you, for the display of His splendor. It is my prayer that His splendor would be displayed here in these electronic pages and with every word that I write or type.
Since that day there have been increasing nudges and echoes within; releasing my pen/keyboard. But it will most likely not be something scheduled for quite awhile; just as I am led.
Thank you to each of you who has reached out, prayed for me, and encouraged me throughout these months off of blogging. Your e-mails and messages have blessed me greatly.
If you find yourself struggling for breath; buried in your circumstances or hurts, take heart. God may be at work, planting your roots deep enough to reach the steams of His living water.
I remember wondering exactly what people meant when they would say things like, "the Lord showed me..." or "God told me..." But gradually, over time, I have experienced it for myself. As I sought the Lord and prayed for eyes to see and ears to hear; I have gained some understanding. (Only some...there is always more to learn.)
Today as I share something that God has spoken to my heart; I am inviting you into a bit of my conversation with the Lord. Prayer, to me, is like an on-going dialogue. There is still great reverence as I enter His presence; but just as a child enters their father's presence, it is not all formalities.
As I have come to know God more; I want for Him to guide my steps. I desire to be completely in His will so I talk with Him about many things. Things perhaps that might seem trivial to some.
Just this morning I was going out for a walk/run. As I reached the end of my driveway, I asked, "Which way should I go this morning, Lord?" It has become as natural as breathing to ask simple things like this. Then I pause and wait for a direction to be impressed upon my mind. If neither direction seems to be popping into my mind, I test it a little. "This way Lord, should I take this path to the hill?" and then again, I wait (it only takes a few seconds though...not like I am standing at the bottom of my driveway for 5 minutes in indecision.) If I feel no specific leading, I choose on my own. But there are days when I will feel impressed to take a certain direction. Many of those times, I run into a neighbor that I haven't seen in awhile and I make it a point to stop and speak to those God brings into my path.
I attended the Beth Moore Simulcast this past weekend. The woman is blessed with insight from the Lord and I always walk away from studies she has written, etc. wanting more of God so I was excited to go. Friday night was awesome. God had given her a message about our hearts desires (Psalm 37) and how there are times when He moves past our hearts desires to get to the heart of our desire. Good stuff. How if our hearts desires line up with the Word of God and have stood the test of time but have not yet come to fruition that it either has to do with God's glory or our destiny. Timely encouragement for many; myself included.
Saturday morning I was tired. The air was heavy with humidity and it was all I could do to get out of bed. As Beth moved through her sessions, I began to mentally drift....(Sorry Beth! You were awesome! It was just me!)...thoughts of a birthday party my daughter and I were going to attend, wondering if I had hung up my shirt to dry that I had just washed or if it might end up getting shrunk in the dryer...but as I drifted in and out of focusing on the message, I began to want to get to the heart of something that has been on my mind.
I have been feeling that God has been wanting me to take some time off of blogging. But I haven't wanted to...so I was praying about it. "Lord, do you want for me to slow down with my blogging? Maybe just post on Mondays or maybe just the Titus 2 Tuesdays?" I prayed. All kinds of thoughts about what I would miss if I stopped blogging and reading blogs rushed to my mind. "Surely you don't want for me to completely stop right now...I'm really enjoying these relationships you've led me to develop...I can see how you are using this blog for good...a couple of these bloggers really need encouragement right now; I don't want to leave them hanging..."
Right then, (I kid you not) Beth Moore yells (as she was making a point), "STOP IT!!! Don't slow down; don't do it a little! STOP IT!!" She was defining the meaning of "Be still" in Psalm 46:10 vs. in Psalm 37:7 and showing how the definitions differ slightly in the Hebrew. I sat there stunned for a minute and then silently prayed, "That was for me wasn't it Lord? That is what you've been trying to tell me. To STOP blogging for awhile and to be still before you more?"
Aren't you glad that God isn't sarcastic? If He was you can bet His answer would have been, "You think?!?!?! How much louder could I have said it for you???"
Instead, it was as if I were released from something and peace flooded my soul. This verse came to mind:
"See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me." Song of Solomon 2:11-13 (emphasis my own)
Since that moment; this Scripture has been affirmed to me three times. My husband mentioned to me on a walk that God had given this Scripture to him. (The first part...not the "darling/beautiful" part ;) I had not mentioned it to him and quite honestly was surprised that he would mention a verse from Song of Solomon!) And two of my blogging friends that I know IRL and on line both used this passage in a post since then. Each time I have read the verse I feel the same peace that this is His path for me right now.
So...I am choosing to follow where He is leading with this - beginning immediately after I hit "Publish." This will be it for awhile; until He leads me back here to write again. I am not sensing that this is meant to be a "forever STOP," but rather a block of time.
I will no doubt miss our conversations and I do anticipate that I will continue reading posts here and there. I just won't be commenting as regularly as I normally do. You are welcome to leave me messages (or e-mail me), prayer requests, etc. here off and on if you choose or want to respond to a comment I leave on a post.
I have asked Bethany at Happyascanbe to host the Titus 2 Tuesdays in my absence. I know she will do an amazing job and if you don't already "know" her, I encourage you to stop by and introduce yourself.
May God bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and give you peace!
Much "Bloggy" love,
*I will be speaking at the upcoming MOPS International Convention (at a break out session.) If you are going to be there; I'd love to meet up with some of you!
My life has been touched by so many here in the blogging world. I know many of us have said this, but it is simply amazing how connected you can feel to those who you have never met face to face! Today I am honoring several of you who have been a blessing in my life in one way or another throughout this past year.
Thank you so much to Christy over at The Secret Life of an American Wife and Mom for passing on the True Heart and Loyal Friend and Visitor awards to me. She has such a heart for the Lord and for her family I can see why someone passed them on to her! Thank you again girl! I'm blessed to call you my friend!
"those who receive this award are of the sweetest nature. they are kind, friendly, funny, loving, eager to share their love for Jesus with others, and brave in their efforts to reflect Him to this darkened world. they are the kind of folks you're blessed to know, even if it's only in the bloggy-sphere." These ladies are all fabulous and I hope that if you see an unfamiliar name/blog that you will stop by and get to know them! You'll be glad that you did!
Jeneil at Autism in a Word - Her husband has just deployed to Iraq; if you have a favorite Scripture I would love it if you'd leave it in her comment section and show her some extra "blogger love" today!
I've spent a lot of time in waiting rooms this week. Many a television was on - some with sound; some without. One in particular stood out to me. It was turned on to a "reality" t.v. show. Have you ever watched a reality t.v. show without sound? With sound it can be bad enough; without sound and reading the closed captioning...wow. Try it sometime. There is something about words being written down rather than carelessly spoken that amplifies the negativity and harshness.
It got me thinking about the words that I speak to my family. All throughout the day as I spoke I would "see" the words (in my mind) that I had just spoken as if they were in closed captioning...powerful stuff. It was as if God were revealing to me the messages that I was writing on the hearts of those that I love. Some were powerful in a good way; while others were messages that I would never intentionally write on their hearts.
There are so very many Scriptures on the power of the tongue. (All listed are NIV)
"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21
"The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment." Proverbs 10:21
"For, Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech." I Peter 3:10
Of those verses that I listed (and there are so very many more!) the first one jumped off the page to me. I am so careful about the foods I prepare for my children. I wash their fruits and vegetables; we eat hormone and additive free as much as we can. But what about the fruit of my words that my children are digesting?
This has been a humbling week for me in many ways. God is at work refining me - it is a continual process - as it is for all of us. His love and grace are ever present and offered freely. I need not strive in my own strength; but rest in His. I am thankful for the process. The words my children are reading on their hearts from my lips are important.
"He must become greater; I must become less. " John 3:30
"My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long." Psalm 35:28
(Rachel & Keystone~God has brought you both to mind several times in this thought process of mine!)
It seems I am taking an "unintentional blogging break" this week! It is a combination of running around town to Dr., dentist, and eye Dr. appointments and my husband trying out a partial "working from home" option...sounded awesome until I realized that meant no computer time for me... ;) So please be patient as we find yet another "new normal."
In the meantime, I've had a chance to be re-reading (in the waiting areas) Francis Chan's book "Crazy Love." In one section of the book he is discussing what God's definition is of "love" and he lists I Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 (ESV).
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends... faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Then he asks us to insert our own names in the place of the word "love" within those verses.
"Shanda is patient and kind; Shanda does not envy or boast..."
Go ahead, try it with your own name...
Much like Francis, I realized my "lack of" as I inserted my name. For me it was between the "does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful..." PERFECT reminder for me as we (our family) moves forward into the "new normal" of school, partially working from home, etc.
We cannot, in our "human" state, love perfectly without knowing the true love of Jesus Christ and allowing His love to flow through us to others.
Tonight I am praying for His love to flow through me anew.
"He must become greater; I must become less. " John 3:30 (NIV)
My kids just went back to school. It always amazes me how they want to both "fit in" and yet "stand out." They want to be noticed as unique, cool, or special in some way...but still not stand out too much. If you "stand out" in the wrong way at school; you get picked on. Although those days were long ago for me, I find that I occasionally still struggle with the same thing-socially and as a Christian.
We want to stand out for Christ; and yet maybe not so much that we are looked at as an "alien" but as unique, cool, and special. However, even in the Bible we are told that this world is not our home. "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world..." I Peter 2:11a (NIV) I don't think it will be long before those who are living for Christ will look a bit more like the "alien" in this world.
Just today on the phone my husband and I were talking about how it is easier to "let your light shine" a little. (Especially at work.) You know that old kids song, "This Little Light of Mine?" by Bill Harley:
"This Little Light of Mine, "
"I'm Gonna Let it Shine..."
"...Hide it under a bushel?"
"NO! I'm gonna let it shine!"
We were discussing how sometimes it's easier to tip the bushel up a little and let just the light flow out here and there - you know, when you 're talking with other believers in Christ. Then to conveniently let the bushel drop back down a bit when you're speaking with others who might not believe in Jesus. Not that you are cursing or telling crude jokes; but that you are being more of a "subtle" Christian.
It is a fine line to "fit in" and to "stand out" isn't it?
Can you really be yourself when you're trying to do both?
The irony here is that most of the "cool kids" (socially speaking) are those who are just being themselves. They aren't concerned what everyone else is thinking about them all of the time; they are just themselves. That is what makes them cool. There is no one else who can be them no matter how they try. And people sure try, don't they?
The truth is that we can't "fit in" and "stand out" as Christians in this world. We aren't meant to completely "fit" here.
"Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives." I Peter 2:11-12 (The Message)
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. I John 2:15-17 (NIV)
God created each of us as an original masterpiece; "just be yourself...you'll be great!" And let the light that is within you shine...
Shanda On our way to school this morning!
"Just be yourself; you'll be great" taken from Grace Talk With Daveda
Lives near Washington D.C. with her wonderful husband of 15 years and their three precious children. She is the Co-Founder of Bloom! (a ministry for 4th/5th Grade Girls,)and she enjoys speaking at ladies events. Shanda is a Proverbs 31 Ministries "She Speaks" Graduate and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org