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.
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
First, I want to thank everyone who commented yesterday. I am constantly blown away by the ways that God works in and through the body of Christ. Thank you for standing alongside; for the virtual hugs, the Scriptures, and the encouragement that was offered. He is renewing me with His love and grace - part of which flowed through many of you in the comment section yesterday. This past weekend my husband and son went on a "Wild Heart Weekend." A group of men and their boys from our church retreated to a lodge away from the business of everyday life and spent some time being intentional about bonding - with each other and with God.
I don't believe enough can be said about the impact this kind of weekend has on the lives of fathers and sons.
Surrounded by a company of men, my son was inspired to attempt things he had never accomplished and became more confident in things he was already familiar with. He got to see grown men singing praises to their Father around a campfire, sharing burdens and praying with one another, and just goofing off and having fun together.
He came home a little braver, a little stronger, a little more independent, and along with some very large bug bites; an increased knowledge that he was loved and valued by his father.
Here is my son climbing the rock wall: Making it to the top: Coming down: Here he is crossing to do the zip line: A part of the company of men, my husband was encouraged and inspired in his roles as a man, a father, and a son himself. He was refreshed, energized, and at peace with the wild heart that God has bestowed upon him. There was time on the drive to talk and to listen to the heart of his 7 year old. There were moments to be able to praise, encourage, and speak life into his son. There were opportunities to speak openly with other men about the struggles of this life. There were moments to gaze at the stars and know the presence of His Heavenly Father.
He came home a little braver, a little stronger, a little less dependent on the voices of the world, and along with some very large bug bites; an increased knowledge that he was loved and valued by his Father. More "retreat" thoughts to come in Part 2.
May you be strengthened through His love & grace today!
Tonight I've been struggling with discouragement. And probably, if I am honest with myself, jealousy as well. The crazy thing is that I've just recently written posts on "where is your focus?" and also one on "encouragement."
The second part of the irony is that I realized that I had just posted on those two topics and laughed out loud. In the midst of discouragement; laughter. Although there wasn't any real happiness or joy to be had in my heart in that moment; I laughed.
I'm not normally one to get discouraged or depressed. My mind tends to operate in more of a logical state than an emotional one. So why the discouragement? What is at the root of my emotional state? As I sat and reflected, asking myself that question, many things flooded to mind.
I want to be further along with the curriculum for girls than I am.
I wanted to have lost more weight than I have at this point.
I can't seem to get the entire house clean at the same time and although I know that isn't the most important thing in life; it's kind of driving me crazy!
I sense my husband's building frustration with his work and I can't fix it for him.
The over-riding theme - failure; with a hint of hopelessness.
Will I ever finish this curriculum? And even if I do will it be any good?
Will I ever lose this weight or will I have to concede and buy larger clothes?
Will I ever get my house back in order?
Will my husband get a new job or will this one ever turn around?
As I delved deeper it hit me. These thoughts are not from God. This heaviness of spirit is not of Him. I know truth. I know hope that far outweighs the struggles of this life; why am I dwelling here in this discouraged place? It's not making me feel any better. It's not solving anything. Most likely it is the enemy of my soul trying to distract me from something that God has to show me...
So I began to pray. I prayed for forgiveness for allowing myself to agree with these negative thoughts. I prayed against the enemy of my soul. I prayed specifically for each of those areas laying them anew at the feet of the cross. I began to pour out my fears and my hopes before Him about each area. I prayed for my husband. That God would encourage his heart. That He would allow me to be an encouragement to him and that our house (regardless of it's complete cleanliness) would be as an oasis in a desert to him each day as he came home. That God would make a way - whether it would be a new job or through this job- for him to enjoy his position and I thanked God for providing for our needs. I had a good cry (which I almost never do - except when I am at MOPS...;) ) and I just rested in His presence and His covering for awhile.
Then I realized it was getting late and I hadn't written a post for tomorrow yet. I began to pray that God would give me something to share and He prompted my heart with one last glimpse of irony; He already had.
What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever)Write your own "Titus 2 Post" (linking back here somewhere within the body of your post) and enter your link below!
Today my thoughts are drawn to a sweet friend, Nikki. She is someone who just exudes joy and faith. I have known her and her family now for a few years. We were pregnant together for a brief time and I have greatly enjoyed watching her family grow. They have three adorable little boys.
Recently, my husband and I were surprised by an announcement that she and her husband made: they are being led to adopt! They are walking this adoption journey in faith, trusting that God has a perfect plan for their family and for this sweet girl who will be becoming a part of their family.
While I have known other families who have gone through adoption to ensure that they would have a daughter added to their mix; I can say with confidence that it is more for Nikki and her husband than just "making sure they have a girl." They are passionate about God's leading their family and they are taking each new step in faith. The love that God has already given them for this unknown daughter is beautiful and it is exciting to be able to be a part of His move in their lives.
It has prompted me to be open and seeking His will for my life (our families lives) even if the direction is different than I may have been expecting.
Thank you, Nikki, for sharing the journey with us and being such a beautiful reflection of God's love for each of His adoptive children!
What have you learned from another wise woman? ALL of us can learn something from one another. Join in and then go read these posts!
It seems now-a-days men have (or perhaps had) a "man card." I've heard references to "the man card" on a few movies/shows along the way - normally, "the losing of a man card" when a man chooses to leave the "manly world" of sports, parties, shows emotion or chooses to go do something that their wife has requested or to take care of their children. The idea that somehow a man has to earn his right into a card carrying fraternity of "real" men and then must follow a set of "manly rules" or their card is revoked.
This postby Billy Coffee got me thinking about "Man Cards." Basically, Billy got "told off" for holding the door for a woman at the mall. She didn't just exchange words with him; she was LOUD. She was intentional about causing a scene so that others might see the display and perhaps it might cause other men NOT to hold doors for women as if it were an insult to the female gender to need someone to hold the door for them.
As you can see, the post got me thinking and down right bothered that the voices of those who are in opposition to all that is good (and often holy) are so much louder and intentionally projected for all to see and hear. That what is meant to be good is becoming so distorted.
If I were a woman of means, I believe I would have went out and bought a slew of gift cards (maybe to Home Depot, a Bass Pro shop, a good local eatery, etc.. Somewhere that most men might enjoy going to) and I would have gone to the mall in search of men who would hold a door for me.
I'd smile and thank them and pass out my modified version of "man cards" to encourage men that although we may not be loud; there is quite a large group of women who still greatly appreciate the behavior of a gentleman. No, we probably don't need for you to hold the door open for us; but we appreciate the respect and kindness that it is meant to be to us.
But since I'm not a woman of means...I guess I'll have to settle with smiling, thanking, and writing.
To the men who may read this post: I pray that God would reveal to your heart that He alone holds your masculinity. No man (or woman for that matter) can remove that gift from your Heavenly Father to you. May you embrace the strength, power, and love that being a Godly man brings. This world (and feminine hearts) need husbands and fathers who will embrace their masculinity as the head of their households through Christ's love and grace.
Take a risk: be intentional about opening the door (be it the door at work, the store, or the car door for your wife.)
To the ladies who may read this post: I pray that we would all (myself included) learn more fully what it means to respect the men in our lives. May we appreciate the masculinity that God has bestowed and build it up rather than tear it down. May we embrace our own feminine hearts and come alongside of our husbands as they take risks as leaders in our households. May our households be strengthened through Christ's love and grace.
Take a risk: The next time a male opens the door for you; smile and thank him. Not because we are too weak or need them to do it for us; but because they have taken the time and made the effort out of respect for you.
An excellent book for both men and women to read on the masculine heart, "Wild at Heart" by John Eldridge.
If we do not take a stand for that which is good (and also for that which is holy); who will?
"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1
"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." I Corinthians 11:3
What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever)Write your own "Titus 2 Post" (linking back here somewhere within the body of your post) and enter your link below!
I'm late out of the gate this morning! Littlest One was up and down all through the night last night. Hopefully he is not coming down with something.
"Back to School" is in the air! As I was prayerfully considering who to write about today; it seemed fitting to honor one of the wonderful women of faith that my children have the opportunity to learn from at school.
As a bit of a side note; one of the reasons we have continued to send our children to Christian School is the fabulous role models that are ever present before them. Not only the faculty and staff; but our school connects some of the older students to the younger ones to encourage, pray for, and to be an example to. My daughter especially has been deeply impacted by these relationships.
Today I will be honoring the Principal of my children's school, Mrs. Underwood. I love this woman for so very many reasons, but especially because she is passionate about the children coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ and growing in His knowledge and grace through His Word.
She is intentional about forming relationships with the children. Every morning she meets with them all in the gymnasium before school begins and she does fun trivia questions and challenges with them and they pray together before dismissing to their classes.
She is often their chapel speaker (they have chapel once a week.) The "theme verse" for this past year was:
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Colossians 2:8
Mrs. Underwood spent several chapel times going over the application of that verse in practical ways. One particular day, she focused on "The Hollowness of Outer Beauty." As an illustration, she brought in a Barbie-type doll and several magazine covers. She showed the value that is placed on our outer appearance and how many spend most of their money and time in pursuit of a beautiful outer appearance (with their person and belongings.)
Then, she cut the doll in half.
Yes, you read that correctly. She definitely had my attention - and every child in the room. She called one of the children up to tell everyone what was inside of the doll. "Nothing," the child responded.
She proceeded, in her soft and tender way, to talk to all of us about how the world deceives us. We are bombarded with images and messages that tell us that if we can obtain outer beauty that we will be happy. Be fulfilled. Be complete. And yet those claims are hollow. Those things alone are not enough to bring us contentment and joy.
True fulfillment comes only through relationship with our creator. While outer beauty is not wrong; it is not enough. On it's own, it is empty.
She then proceeded to discuss with the children how we can be filled by God's love for us. That His love shines brightly inside of us and causes us to be beautiful from the inside out. When we know His love and peace, we can offer beauty to all that we come in contact with. Not the hollow beauty that only makes others feel less about themselves; but the kind of beauty that brings peace and love to others.
That was a message I desire for my daughter to take to heart. To learn young so she is not constantly striving to be someone or something that she is not; but that she can embrace thebeauty that God has created her to be. And honestly, it was a great reminder to me as well.
I am looking forward to reading your Titus 2 Posts!
*It is important to note that chapel is separated by grade levels so although this message was deeply meaningful to my second grade daughter; it may not be appropriate for a younger child who could not grasp the accompanied meaning.*
What have you learned from another wise woman? ALL of us can learn something from one another. Join in and then go read these posts!
**Please write your "Titus 2 Post" linking back to this post first and then enter your link below.**
Dayspring has launched a new website to (In)Courage Christian Women. There are several amazing writers that will be contributing to the site and I am sure it will be a tremendous blessing to many! You can check it out here!
Today they are inviting bloggers to answer the question, "What Encourages You?" You can link up and enter for a chance to win a limited edition t-shirt. ---- While I am often blessed by the smiles, laughter, and words of others; I was intrigued by the way that the title of their new site plays on the word "encourage." The emphasis is placed really on "what brings you courage?" As I thought through what it is that brings me courage each day in the many roles that I hold, the following things came to mind:
The example of Godly men & women in the Bible. Currently, I find myself drawn to Daniel, Esther, and Abraham. Each of them were faithful and obedient in their walk with God. Each took a stand in the face of danger and/or the unknown. They looked to God for their approval and were willing to die rather than to walk away from what God had called them to do. Their courage stands as an encouragement to me.
Other Christ followers who I know IRL and on the internet. I am blessed to have amazing Christian men and women in my life who speak life and truth to me. Those who allow me to be real and open and who are transparent enough to be real with me as well. Transparency requires humility; but it is so worth it in relationships.
My Husband. One of the prayers that I pray daily for my children is that they will marry someone who will draw out their gifts, support them in developing them, and push them to be all that God intended for them to be. (I pray that my children would do the same for their spouse as well.) My husband encourages and pushes me to be courageous and step out in faith when I am prompted and he does his best to equip me for success.
Our marriage has gone through ups and (some very large) downs. But as we have grown in our relationships with the Lord and one another; it has given us courage to push our "marriage" to being all that God designed it to be. If you are needing encouragement in your marriage; click here. God is a God of restoration. Through Him all things are possible!
I greatly enjoy photography. Although I am not an excellent photographer; occasionally, I am able to capture amazing pictures. One day, (when I no longer have a two year old...) I hope to pursue this hobby more fully. One thing that God recently revealed to me has to do with my focus.
In photography when you are using a higher range/grade lens, you can only focus on one image at a time. Take a look at the photos below that my husband took of me while we are at Ruby Falls. I was closer to him; the falls were behind me.
He had focused in on the falls here hoping to catch me on the side...Now look what happened when he focused on me with the falls in the background:
(Yes, this is me in all of my "camping glory" a.k.a. NO make-up...feel the love here people that I am willing to post a non-make up photo... ;))
As you can see; he was unable to focus in on both the falls and me. Either the Falls or myself lost clarity respectively. Yes, if he were further away from both myself and the falls he could probably have captured both together; but the walkway only went a short distance back AND the photo would have lost the details that only a close up can bring.
What God revealed to my heart was that when I draw close to Him; close enough to rest in the Shadow of the Almighty, I must choose what I will focus on. Am I going to focus on His outstretched hand - as a demanding child only looking for His provision. Or am I going to focus on His face - locking my gaze with His and trusting in His love for me; trusting that He will perfect and provide for all that concerns me?
When we are up close; we must choose our focus. When we are far enough away to see both; we are too far away to experience either fully.
My husband's job is going through a lot of changes right now. Many of us are walking one step at a time right now, waiting for God to shed His light onto our next steps. But let's face it; most of us have difficulty waiting for God's provision. We pray, cast our cares upon him...and then when it seems that God is not providing right away, our focus shifts and we find ourselves staring at His hand wondering if He has forgotten somehow to provide for us.
He recently reminded me to lift my gaze. To keep my focus where it needs to be. To allow Him to perfect that which concerns me because He is at work and He sees the bigger picture of what we (my family & I) need.
In the book of Daniel, we catch a glimpse of a Godly man who has petitioned God daily seemingly without a response. For three weeks Daniel humbles himself and prays daily. Then(Chapter 10) an angel appears to him. The angels tells Daniel, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. From the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before the God, your words were heard and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty one days." (10:12-13) The angel goes on to answer Daniel's petition to the Lord and he tells Daniel to be at peace and to be strong.
When we "set our minds to gain understanding and humble ourselves before God," He hears our petitions. He is at work even now answering.
Part of what God was revealing to my own heart, was that when I get so focused on His hand of provision; I am NOT walking in humility. Instead, as a demanding child, I just continually ask the same question without allowing my father to respond. In those moments, I am not "setting my mind to understanding His will;" I'm simply demanding my own.
While this post is not "pretty," revealing my own shortcomings in both a Spiritual and physical sense; I pray that it would draw you to lift your gaze to the beauty of His face and to trust in God's love and provision in your own life.
Today I spent some time going through the bin of left over school supplies to see what we could recycle for the upcoming school year. Then we waded through "the list" that the school puts out of required items. Either I had no clue what my parents did for us each year or things have gotten a lot more complicated over time!!
After spending almost an hour sorting and making my combined grade level shopping list, the kids and I set off on the official "school supply shopping trip!" It is always fun for me to see how excited they get about finding a composition notebook with flare, a cool looking (flexible) ruler and Kleenex boxes with unique designs!
They are about to begin fresh once again. As Billy Coffee so eloquently put it, "...summer vacation is the Great Eraser, three months of sunshine and play that put enough distance between me and the previous nine months to suggest the next year might be mine to own."
Thankfully, their school experiences have been mostly positive up to this point. Although there are some lingering apprehensions about who they will play with, who their teacher will be and what they might be like, etc. they basically know what to expect and what will be expected of them. So for now, they are enjoying all of "the new." Simple as it may be.
Shoes were also purchased; and as they were excitedly plodding around in them (breaking them in), this verse came to mind: "... because his compassions fail not.They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." I was reminded that God blesses me(us) with "new" every morning.
I needed that reminder.
That visual that I could excitedly plod around in the newness of God's grace and love toward me. That although I often fall short as a parent, spouse, friend, and in my walk with the Lord; that He invites me to start fresh again filled with His grace and love.
Thank you God. I pray that you will fill me anew with Your presence. I lift up my soul to You.
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." (Psalm 143:8)
As I mentioned before, our "Back Home" moment earlier this month turned into more of a "landing, re-fueling, and take off!" My husband had a two week training class that ended up getting re-scheduled. The location of his training also changed so we were provided the opportunity of driving him to his training location (gas paid for by his company), dropping him off, and then continuing south to visit more family and friends. The cost effectiveness of the trip was amazing (fuel paid for, hotel paid for on the road, staying with family and friends, energy & water consumption minimized at home...)
It ended up being an unexpected gift that we prayerfully considered and chose to receive!
I don't believe we have ever been away from home for almost an entire month before (with children.) It definitely has it's ups and downs. The positives include things like being able to connect with people we love and rarely get to see and spend time with, along with fun new experiences and foods. The negatives proved to include a bit of exhaustion, indigestion, and enhanced sibling discord.
All in all; it was wonderful month. But never have our own beds and showers been such a luxury. I am behind in almost all things "home" related; so please bear with me as we unpack and get into an established family routine again.
We will be re-focusing on our "family verses," Philippians 2:3-4
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Do you have a "family verse" or any kind of a "theme Scripture" for your household?
Blessings to each of you as we enter the last month of summer!
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