Short and Sweet

I am thankful for many things.  The rest of this week I want to focus on being content with what I have and who I am.  Content with where God has placed me and what He is doing within me. I am thankful for this season of growth I am living in (through?).  I am thankful that God loves me enough to push me and not allow me to settle with what I see as enough.

I am thankful for all the wonderful people in my life who love me unconditionally and support me in all I do.  I am thankful that I get to live in a world surrounded by reminders of God’s grace, beauty, and majesty.

As I’m reflecting on the many ways God has blessed me this year, I can’t help but to reflect on how I can use those blessings for others.  As Josh Groban’s Thankful says, on Thanksgiving

“…we pray for

What we know can be.

And on this day we hope for

What we still can’t see.

It’s up to us to be the change

And even though we all can still do more

There’s so much to be thankful for.”

So, Happy Thanksgiving! Reflect on the many ways, big and small, God has blessed you this year. Also, reflect on the world you would pray for and know can be; the world you hope for, but cannot see. Reflect on how you can be a part of making the world a little more as it should be instead of how it is.

Jessi and I are taking the rest of the week off from blogging to celebrate gratitude with our family.  However, I want to give a preview for next week.  December 1 is World AIDs Day.  We are going to be doing a special week of blogs with guest bloggers all week.  Hope to see you then!

– S

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We’re All Babies

Chris is once again in the oilfield, so it came as no surprise that Nici had a rough night (starting at 5:30 when he pooped in the bathtub…again)

It was a first however, when from midnight until 4am, every 45 minutes he’d start crying and looking around saying “dadda dadda dadda.”

As a girl who used to cry every time my dad went on a business trip, it broke my heart. No matter how many times I held him, kissed him, whispered reassuring words that daddy will be back soon, and watched Frozen…I couldn’t stop him from hurting.

He’s 15 months old, so I cant explain that daddy wishes he was here too and is only a phone call away. He also doesn’t understand that God is our heavenly Father and is always with us, even when we long for the fleshy presence of others.

All I could do was be there for him. Listen to him. Love him. Hold him. And watch Frozen again.

It got me thinking – this is an isolated occurrence. We are all spiritual babies who need taking care of (cue Fat Baby by Amy Grant circa 1982).

We all have hard messy moments (or extended time periods) when we are crying inside to be held in love and protection.

Moments when we need to be reminded that God is right here with us, and we can talk to Him and be wrapped in His embrace instantly.

Moments when we also need a fleshy physical embrace and someone to watch our favorite movie with us (again) and give us milk and popcorn at 2am (again).

What if we did this for each other? What if we extended more grace (because we need it ourselves)?

What if we filled the cracks and held each other’s hand and just said I am here and it is ok, Daddy loves you and so do I.

What if we extended love every single day towards one another?

Even the sleepy days.

Even the too busy days.

– J

Speedy Feet

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, ‘I can’t help it. I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.” – Jeremiah 2:25

Life these days requires speedy feet! Which is perfectly fine by me, I’m a speedy person. I’m highly efficient and a fast walker. My husband, on the other hand, is not.

I would swear some days he wakes up with his feet on backwards, making him slower than our 1 year old- who has happy feet, but still takes life at a run.

I can attest first hand that few things are more aggravating than being married to a slow footed person when speedy feet are necessary.

I can also admit that speedy feet are very rarely ~necessary~

Usually, I’m just in a rush.

While I am great at slowing down and taking time to explore the world for my happy footed son…extending that same grace towards my husband doesn’t come so easily.

Lately God has been whispering, “there is no rush” to me, on repeat. I could give a list of why there is. It would go something like this:

Ikea is a mad house and I need to get that desk chair, my head is pounding because, in my rush to get there early, I skipped breakfast and just had an extra coffee, and now I have to pee, and my husband is walking backwards spinning a cart, and we have to pick up Nici from my parents in 30 minutes (which was a self imposed time table) and we are still in the show room.

And still God whispers, “there is no rush.”

I hear Him. I try to internalize it, try to control my breathing and un-knot the tension I feel growing with every twirl of the cart. I can hardly blame the extra caffeine for my lack of composure; it’s myself and I know it. Oh, how it’s easier to blame slow feet.

I want to say I was successful that particular morning, but I wasn’t. I am getting better at apologizing and calming down faster (that counts for something, right?!)

I am big enough to admit speedy feet are rarely necessary…

But I am hoping my husband will wear his to the airport to come home soon!

– J

Where is the Love?: Pope Francis, the Church, and a Call to Action

I am not Catholic.  I am firmly a Protestant Gypsy, a phrase coined by my parents.  Meaning I am firmly protestant, but do not profess to be a “member” of a any specific denomination beyond that.  Instead, following my parents example, I find churches that align with my beliefs.  I pay attention to mission statements, where they spend their money, and how they care for the least of these.  I have not found a specific denomination that always lines up with my beliefs.  So, whenever I’ve moved  or become disillusioned with a specific church, I move on in looks of a church that better matches my beliefs.

After too long of an explanation, I do have to say I love Pope Francis, though.  I’ve said numerous times that he is almost enough to make me become Catholic.  He is often described as being someone who can bring my generation and those generations younger than me back to Catholicism.  I think it is even broader than that to where he helps people my age and younger have hope in the Church again (and when I say Church in this context, I’m referring to it as the joint group of followers of Christ, both Catholic and Protestant).

I have been dissatisfied and disillusioned by the church most of my life.  It seems to be an exclusive club that extends membership and help to those who fit nicely and neatly into its image of itself, more concerned with self-preservation of its current members than anything else.  This is part of why I admittedly have found church an optional part of my relationship with God.  I don’t need a church, pastor, priest telling me how to pray, what to do, etc.  I have my Bible and Jesus for that and that has always been enough.  I have typically found the church inauthentic and hypocritical.  To quote the Black Eyed Peas, Where is the love?

Pope Francis is a very public figure trying to break many people of their comfortable boundaries of sitting in pews talking to people who completely agree with them, live their lives like them, and give their money safely to church defined missions.  Through example, he has shown that this is not enough.  People need to stand up out of their pews, walk out of the church, and onto the streets.  Christianity should be love in action.  For too many of us, it is neither love as Jesus defines it nor action.  We dutifully read our Bible, go to church on most Sundays and may even give some of our money to an organization, but where is the living it out loud?

How can we lament about the state of the world, the nature of sin, the poverty, the war, the disease, the lack of community in our cities…AND YET do nothing?  I am not saying we all need to quit our jobs and go to the mission field.  We each have different gifts and callings.  However, are we using them to their fullest impact for God?  Are we being honest with ourselves and God?  Are we asking him to use us in ways that may make us uncomfortable?  I am done with being a safe Christian.  That serves no one.  It doesn’t serve me or others and it most certainly does not serve God.  I will continue to look for more opportunities to use the gifts God has given me in ways that push  me and force me to rely on him because they are outside of my comfort zone.

In education, there is a theory about risk and learning.  It is argued that no true learning happens in a comfort zone.  In the classroom, students learn most when they are in (safely defined) risk zone.  You have to push students to do a little more than they think they can.  This is where learning takes place.  I think the same is true for spiritual growth/learning.  We cannot grow/learn staying in the same pattern throughout our lives.  We learn and grow in God as He pushes us and we run with His opportunities to fully and truly surrender to His plan.

I am not saying the church cannot have a place in what I am trying to do.  I am saying it has been difficult to find a church that is focused on this in a true way that doesn’t seem self-serving or self-gratifying.  Pope Francis gives me hope that maybe there are more people out there than I realized who are willing to step up and out for God to serve in the way that Jesus commands and shows.  Organized religion has been failing (I think failure may simply be part of its structure).  The same thing I think I need as an individual (honest reflection and action based on Biblical callings) is desperately needed by churches.  I think Christianity as a group has an opportunity to redefine itself.  Will we continue to be a good, ol’ boys club- defining membership by ranking sins on our view of their acceptableness while we safely sing and give money?  OR will it be a radical group of people pouring love on others?  Giving everything to God and His people?  Consistently pushing ourselves to become more like Him, pursue Him, and reflect on our motivations and action?

I have been a social activist at heart my entire life.  I am trying to find new ways to take this to action.  This is where God has placed my heart and where I feel like he is honing my gifts and abilities to be used.  Where is God calling you?  How is He asking you to trust Him and give?ae95e2031debee21e4478a40040b886f

– S

“Make Me” Whispers My Soul

Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.- Psalm 119:35

Sounds simple? Beautiful prayer, right?

Honestly it scares the crap out of me. I want to be brave enough to earnestly pray this, but I’m not sure that I am.

The first two words are what gets me… MAKE ME.

I’m a very independent woman. Was a very independent girl, heck I couldn’t play t-ball at 3 years old because I didn’t like people telling me which way I had to run the bases… That tenacity hasn’t left. So whenever someone demands I do something, my instinct is to dig in my heels.

So a prayer that begins with make me, that’s scary stuff. It’s coupled with truth though and I long for it.

 ‘For that is where my happiness is found’

Truer words I couldn’t have written. I only ever know true happiness when I am centered on Christ. When my life is full of His shadows everywhere because I am on His path, and they aren’t scary shadows, they’re more glittery. Yes, often dark, because God apparently thinks I have some super human strength and can handle way more than I think I can, (on way less sleep than I think I need) but the darkness is still glittery- black glitter. (Side note, I’m coining that phrase for Gods shadow on my life; black glitter. But that’s another post altogether). And glitter, especially black glitter, makes me happy. Peace is only ever present in my joyful exhausted life when I am walking with God, even if the circumstances aren’t pretty.

And it’s not the walk that scares me. I love a good hike, especially with a good friend (Jesus). It’s the ‘Make Me’. I like to think I’m good at listening to God, at least at hearing him. But as my mom would say, “hearing and listening are two different things” and “obedience isn’t just listening, it’s listening and ACTING immediately (not when I get around to it).”

So then what am I asking if I pray for God to MAKE ME walk along the path of His commands? Essentially I’m saying, be blunt and leave me no way out. Don’t provide a safe or easy route because I might be weak and take it. Lord, leave me no other option than to turn to you!

Holy cow~that’s a brave prayer! One I may not be prepared to handle, yet maybe in tonight’s darkness I’ll just soul whisper it. Does God respond lighter if a prayer is whispered by your soul?

Sometimes I hope so.

– J

The Power of Knowing You Are Loved

I’m currently reading (well actually listening on my drive to and from work) Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking  by Susan Cain.  It is excellent by the way.  As I’ve been listening, it has really affirmed much of what I have experienced and know about myself as an introvert.  It provides some of the science behind it, but also speaks to the societal pressure to act as an extrovert.

I feel incredibly uncomfortable and out of place in large groups when I don’t have a prescribed purpose or role for the entire time.  The thought of simply mingling, talking, and/or enjoying myself in these situations puts my teeth on edge and raises my heart beat.  This goes for everything from the time spent before a meeting starts to holiday gatherings with the extended family.  It doesn’t matter if it is people I have known my whole life or strangers.  (Actually sometimes it is easier with strangers.)  However, I’m not as awkward in these scenarios as I feel on the inside.  There is not actually a blinking, light up arrow pointing to me so people know I don’t fit in.  My actions (thankfully) don’t match my feelings, though.  I think I am able to pass through most scenarios without people realizing how unbelievable out of place and awkward I feel.

This book has made me reflect on this more.  My temperament, my natural stance is one of a quiet introvert.  However, I give public speeches pretty much weekly.  I interact with new people all the time in a vulnerable way through work.  I have learned and adapted how to work as an introvert in a world that requires me to be an extrovert.  How?

As I’ve been listening, I’ve also been reflecting (a classic introvert move according to this book).  I can succeed in an extroverted world for several reasons, but a main one is my parents.  I was blessed that I grew up knowing I was valued and loved.  I have known many kids who haven’t had this luxury, which is why it has become such an essential part of my identity as a human, but especially as an educator, to let people know that I value and love them.

Growing up I could write off my parents comments with “You have to say that.  You’re my parents.”  However, I knew it was true.  There is power in knowing you are loved and valued for exactly who you are, just the way you are.  My parents recognized my potential, while also recognizing my areas for growth.  I grew up hearing (and believing) that I could literally do anything I wanted when I grew up.  Okay, by the time I was 13, I realized I was never going to be a professional figure skater, but I still hadn’t ruled out president.   I could subconsciously recognize my unique value as Shauna, for just being me.

What is my point here?  God can do anything despite our weaknesses?  God uses all things for good?  All these things are true, but I think often the power we have comes from our knowledge and acceptance of God, not necessarily His undeniable might.  We have free will – both our blessing and our curse.  God can do all things, but that doesn’t mean He will or that we will let Him.  What am I willing to do?  I am willing to do a lot more, push myself more when I know I am loved and valued.  It helps me to love and value myself.  As I’ve said before, I’ve never struggled with faith or the idea that there is a God who knows me and loves me.  I believe this is one of my gifts, but I also can’t deny that it is probably easier for me because I have known and experienced unconditional love/value from my parents my whole life.  What a blessing!

I am a service-action oriented person – which is why many of my posts are calls to action of some kind.  It is just the way I think and operate.  So, what is this a call to?  It is more than a call to love and value others.  It is a call to empower others.  My strength comes not from being loved and valued, but from KNOWING I’m loved and valued.  Let those around you know they are loved and valued.  Let them know they have limitless potential because of their value.  Let them know it is their perceived weaknesses as much as their strengths that make them who they are and will lead to them becoming the person they can be.  I am as much the woman I am because of my weaknesses as because of my strengths.  My quick processing has helped me gain more leadership opportunities.  However, my sensitivity contributes to my increased empathy, which helps me work with others and build trust faster.  I could not be as effective at what I do in any capacity of my life, if I had erased things that I saw as weaknesses for so long.  Believe it or not, God knows what He is doing.  So, share with others why you value and love them a little bit more.  It makes a difference, even if you don’t see it.

– S

Just a Baby

Recently, I got the opportunity to enjoy one of my favorite activities: babysitting my nephew.  He was so well behaved.  I couldn’t have asked for him to act any better, which is saying something for a 16 month old.  As I was rocking him to sleep at the end of the night, I could help but to connect how my relationship with God can parallel his relationship with his caregivers (which I count myself as one).  I’m just going to draw out two of these parallels.

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Whenever I babysit, we always make forts.  He loves them and I love what he loves.  We made a pretty cool fort.   (Okay, it wasn’t that impressive, but to a 1 year old it was cool.)  We were playing for a couple minutes and then I asked him if he wanted his silky, which we got.  We played and then he went and got a book and brought it in.  We played and then he wanted his lion in there.  We played and then we got a snack and brought it in there.  How often do we do this to God?  He gives us something really cool.  We enjoy it briefly and then ask for something else.  Then we ask for something else.  Well, this thing would make it even better.  Sometimes, it seems like I have a hard time just stopping and enjoying what He has already given me.  In a fast paced, always moving forward world, we need to make sure we take time to stop and enjoy what has already been given/created for us.

At the end of the night, I was rocking him in the dark, smelling his clean head as we listened to his lullabies.  He was sitting facing me with his head on my shoulder.  As we rocked he just gently rubbed my arm with his fingers, which was equally soothing to both of us.  As he did this, I could almost hear the words that those fingers represented on my skin.  Love you TiTi.  Thank you TiTi.  Love you TiTi.  Thank you TiTi.  It melts me every time.  Again, I’m learning something from him.  When do I stop, sit silently with my Father to gently tell him I love you and thank you with no other purpose or agenda then to soak in HIs love and respond with my own.

So, at some point today, maybe you could join me wherever you are in stopping and just basking in His love and care for us.  Then, respond in thanks and love.

– S