One Word for 2017: INSTRUMENT

instrument

 

There are too many good words to chose from and I went back and forth before deciding on THE word. The one word which will serve as a lens to view life through and a word to focus on in 2017. It’s a word I will explore and ask God to use to help me to grow in character and in faith. My word for 2017 is INSTRUMENT.

It wasn’t a word I had considered. I could have missed it. I discovered the word while watching a scene from a TV show aired on the Hallmark Channel. I know, I wish I could say I was led to the word in prayer or while studying my Bible or reading classical literature written by some famous, great author, or even heard the word from a motivational speaker or pastor. No, it was through a TV show.

In this one particular scene, a character held a worn Bible in his hand (at least it was a wholesome TV show) and carefully turned to the inside of the cover. Holding his breath in anticipation, he found what he had hoped would be there and thoughtfully read the inscription (the following prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.) The words sparked new resolve in him, renewed his faith in himself and his mission. In classic dramatic action, he took off running with his Bible in his hand, sprinting to bring healing to a situation and leaving me to think about St. Francis’s prayer. The word INSTRUMENT lingered in my head all night and the following day.

stfrancisblackwhite

The next night, I was watching another television show. This one about a group of nuns and midwives from London who traveled to a struggling mission hospital in Africa. I know it is just a TV show but I was inspired by the characters and story lines. Each character using their gifts and INSTRUMENTS, whether faith-based or science-based, to bring hope and healing to lives. By the end of the special, I was ready to buy plane tickets to Africa, move my family, and join some mission field hospital!

Granted these shows are fictional, the settings staged, the characters imagined, but the story lines are not all that different from the true stories and realities of our world. There are lost people. People who have lost their faith and faith in themselves. Hurting people who need light and hope. People with physical needs- food, clothes, a roof over their head and emotional needs. People who need to be heard and loved. People who need someone to come alongside of them and need to know they are not alone or forgotten. And I want to get in there, in the middle of it as an INSTRUMENT, as a tool in God’s hand.

Whether that means working in the little things, everyday life with everyday people or building something big, with new people, outside of my comfort zone, I am praying that God will use me for his glory. A tool by itself is useless. It is only effective in the hand of one who knows how to use it. For me to be an effective tool, I need to know the One who is using me and for what purpose. Part of my 2017 plan is to read through the Bible and focus on the gospel. Particularly, I am feeling led to the gospel of Luke. Some of my blogging, writing, and speaking engagements over the next months will be on my study of Luke.

I hope your new year is off to a great start! I am looking forward to studying, learning, and trying new things in 2017. If you have a word or goals for the new year, I would love to hear and pray about them for you.

Until next time,

xoxo

Shanna 

 


The Empty Bucket

The Empty Bucket

Drop, drop….drop! On December 31st at 11:59 pm, one last drop filled your bucket to the brim. Not one more drop could fit.  No time was left. Nothing could be drained out, replaced, changed, or fixed. As the clock struck 12:00 am, your year was done and you were left with a completely filled bucket. A finished year.

Reflecting into the full vastness of the bucket, the combined swirling drops of different experiences, interactions, and relationships. What do you see? Are you pleased with how your bucket was filled? Do you see drops of happiness, sadness, love, challenges, blessings, or drops of faith? Do you see stressed and broken relationships or healed and restored ones? Drops of wise choices or misguided actions and judgments?

Maybe you had a great year. You accomplished personal goals, learned some new things, and you were a good, decent person.  Store and treasure those things in your heart. Build on the good work that has been started in you.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Maybe your year was anything but great! Maybe it was a year full of disappointments, regrets, hard decisions, instability, loss, too many shattered dreams and lost hope. Maybe it was a year you wish not to repeat.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.  Isaiah 43:18-19  

Out with the old and in with the new.

It’s a new year. You have a new bucket. A shiny new bucket. A bucket waiting to be filled up one drop at a time by future experiences, interactions, and reactions.

What are you going to start to fill your bucket with? Will it be a bunch of resolutionsMost of which end up being things that we have to do and do not accomplish. Or should we fill our bucket up with revelations? Revelations that include pleasant, enlightening surprises, and noticing the divine interventions in our every day life.

When January 1, 2017 comes along and you are looking into the full, deep bucket of 2016, I hope that you will see more revelations than half-completed resolutions. I hope that they are the types of revelations that have caused you to shift your perspective, stretch and grow you. I hope that you will find strong currents among the filling drops which will include good relationships, hope, joy, peace, and love.

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12 

Do you have a spiritual focus for the new year? A focus word for 2016? I would love to hear from you.

 

 


Happy New Year!

our hope new year

Our family is starting 2016 off with a bang! Tomorrow we head out on our first adventure of the new year, a trip to New York City. Big plans have been made for our short vacation including a night tour of the city’s lights, Radio City Music Hall, and a visit to the American Museum of Natural History.

We will be traveling in the car for several hours. In between the “are-we-there-yets” and entertaining my two-year old, I plan to (try to) reflect on 2015 and start goal setting for 2016. Yes, I realize that this first goal of the new year might not work out the way that I plan and a car ride might not be the best place for quiet reflection. But I am a mom and I take what I can get. Besides, I choose to remain positive and optimistic that I will be able to get at least a few reflections scribbled down on paper.

Years ago, I gave up making resolutions. It was always the same thing- exercise more, eat healthier, save money. I always started out committed but by the second or third week of January I was back to the same old thing. I think part of the problem was that I never really reflected on the previous year or made any specific, attainable goals. The resolutions were vague and I never included a time line. I should of known better coming from a career in teaching where goals are part of daily instruction and success.

Last year, I focused on one word- LIGHT. Having a focus word was the best strategy for me. It was easy to remember and I was able to link a lot of daily life and prayer to it.  In 2015, I  wanted to be lighthearted (aka fun), a bright light of love, joy, and for Jesus, and I wanted to lighten up in weight. I think I did fairly well with the first two things but the last one was too similar to years past. Any “lightening up” in weight has been put back on by my terrible weakness for holiday sweets and treats.

Two resources to use in my car-office tomorrow:

To reflect on last year, 20 Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection from The Art of Simple is a great resource. You can find downloadable questions for adults and children.  The questions  can be used as conversation starters or for personal journaling. I love what the author, Tsh, says about reflecting on the past year, “Honor the past year by celebrating your joys, mourning your losses, and shaking your head at the wonder of it all.”

There are many free goal setting worksheets available to download. This year, I came across this cute printable. I like that it is one sheet of paper and it covers different areas and topics. It will be a great starting point for more detailed goals.

So there you have it! Here’s to reflecting, goal setting,  a new year of exciting adventures, opportunities to learn and grow, and relationships filled with love and peace.

Happy New Year!

 


Happy New Year!

Back To School

Happy New Year!  Today was the first day back to school for the public school teachers and the students in our town. I love this time of year. A mixture of hope, nervousness, excitement, and anticipation. To me, “Back-to-School” feels much more like a new year than January 1st ever will.

There has been a “Back to School” time as long as I can remember. For the most part, I really liked to go to school. And as early as third grade, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. The church my family attended met in a school. On Sundays, during coffee hour, I would wander around the school, looking through the class windows at bulletin board displays and classroom set ups.  One fortunate day, my sister and I rescued some old teaching manuals out of the trash in the school. I was ecstatic to find those manuals and can remember thumbing through each page imagining what it was like to be a teacher. Most days, I could not wait to get home from school so I could PLAY school. I created worksheets for my imaginary students and corrected”their” work.  I would take “them” to imaginary assemblies and field trips. And I kept a Teacher’s Record Book and Attendance!

As I got older, my imaginary students turned into real ones. I started taking care of children in the church nursery and teaching Sunday School.  In high school, I participated in our high school’s preschool program as a student leader. Deciding that I wanted to be a teacher was one of the easiest decisions that I ever made and when it was time to go to college I knew exactly what direction to go in.

My first teaching job was a dream job!  It was on a small island accessible by ferry. I had five students. I was fresh out of college with a degree in special education and I was ready to inspire, motivate, and lead my unknown students to success. I can vividly remember sitting at the teacher orientation breakfast. It was held in an island hotel, the wind was whipping against the building, postcard ocean views could be seen from every angle. Staring out to the ocean, I felt so extremely thankful and blessed. It was almost too good to be true. I was a teacher! From that moment on, I told myself to try to never take things for granted and every day try to take in as much life as I could.

Over the years, my teaching experience has grown and my life had taken me many places. In those seven years between my first job and staying home with my children, I had the privilege of teaching in three different states to three very different populations of students. In each state, in each classroom, there were no two things the same except ONE- my feelings of gratitude and the excitement for the start of the school year.

This year is just like any other, the same feelings of excitement and anticipation for a new year are flickering in my heart and mind. My classroom is no longer housed on an island or in a public school. My classroom is my house and my students are small in number. Only two this year! Everything still feels the same. There is a room to be rearranged, school supplies to buy, desk name plates to be carefully and lovingly written, a new curriculum to be excited for. And a bulletin board to create!

Years of teaching and motherhood have brought me to this point. It is such a blessing to be able to look back on your life and see God’s hand connecting the dots. From the earliest desires to teach, to small group instruction in public schools, to holding my babies in my arms, and now to teaching them at home, God has been with me through every step and allowed me to gain knowledge to be used for the next one. Every day, I strive to do better than the last and to improve myself and my attitude.  So with that, here’s to another year of TEACHING and LEARNING! It is going to be great and I cannot wait to see what is in store!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a]and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11, English Standard Version (ESV)

PS We are extending our summer. Our first day of homeschool will be September 1st. Homeschoolers privilege. 🙂