Love One Another

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“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

We recognize people by their uniforms, identify people by their badges, and classify people by their actions. As followers of Christ, love is our uniform. It’s our badge, our mark of affiliation. Love is the driving force behind our actions, the effectiveness of our skills. Love is our testimony to the world that we belong to Jesus.

Yet, loving others can be difficult! I believe Jesus knew just how difficult it would be. Of all the things He could have said during his last hours on earth, some of his final instructions to his disciples were to believe and to love. Believe and love, two actions with supernatural characteristics, difficult to measure, and cultivated by effort and perseverance.

Four times, Jesus uses the word “love” in these verses. It makes me wonder if He repeated the word so it would make its way from our short-term memories into the long-term memories of our hearts. Love is an expression of the heart and sometimes expressions of love baffle our minds. The depth and cost of Jesus’s love is astonishing. He loved us so much that He sacrificed his life for ours and that is an overwhelming truth. It was the greatest expression of love. A love that redeemed us, restored relationship with God, and granted us freedom that set us free. It is in this love, He calls us to love one another.

On our own, loving others can be difficult. When abide in Him and believe in His trustworthy words, He supernaturally provides what is needed through His Holy Spirit, so others can know and experience forgiveness, grace, and love too.

This Easter weekend, how can we love others well? How can we live out love like Jesus? And how can we wear love as our a uniform, as a badge, so that others would know we belong to Him?


A Small Role in the Greatest Story

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Kings came to towns with proclamation and grand processions of their riches, power, and splendor. Yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, chose a donkey for his entry. A young, humble donkey, never ridden before, specifically chosen by Jesus (Mark 11:3). A donkey born for purpose- to work and serve a master. What an honor and task this young donkey was given, to carry the King, through a crowd of joyful people waving palm branches and praising the Lord. Jesus came through Jerusalem in a humble way, to proclaim peace and love, to serve, to seek and save the lost. Ultimately, Jesus came to give his life for the penalty of our sins so that we may be restored in right relationship with our Heavenly Father and so we can experience the forgiveness, freedom, and love that comes with trusting in Him.

The donkey had a small, specific role in the grand love story of Christ.  We have roles in His story too. As followers of Christ,  we are born with purpose, chosen specifically by Jesus to serve in His name. We are carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to deliver His message of hope and love through our words and actions. Yet, some of us are still tied to the post outside the door (Mark 11:4). Tied up by our fears, insecurities, doubts, and exhaustion. Tied with things holding us back from fully living, freely serving, and fervently loving.

Let me remind you, you have been chosen.

You have been chosen to be the mother or father of your children. You have been chosen to be a friend to another. You have been chosen to be in the right place, at the right time. You have been chosen to lead and love well. You have been chosen to feed and clothe the hungry. You have been chosen as an ambassador of peace and proclaimer of love. You have what it takes because He chose you and He believes in you!

This Passion Week, I am praying we rediscover the passion and purpose of our callings in our lives. I’m praying we refocus our gaze on Jesus, seek Him out, ask Him for help in all circumstances and free us from the things that keep us bound. On Sunday morning, I pray we will praise Him as a large crowd of  people who truly, deeply know what it means to be forgiven and loved. And I pray we will embrace our roles with fullness of joy and peace of heart knowing we have a role in His story.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29.

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11


Ten Years Later- A Letter To Myself

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Dear Shanna,

I know this is overwhelming and scary. It seems like the hospital exercised poor judgement by allowing you to leave with a baby. Your baby! When those big, glass doors closed behind you, I know you were secretly hoping a nurse would come running after you and bring the two of you back to the “safety” of the maternity ward. But she didn’t come, did she? She sent you off with gentle reassurance and a complementary diaper bag stuffed with humongous maternity pads, a few teeny-tiny newborn diapers, the phone number for a lactation consultant, and a booklet called “A New Beginning.”

What an appropriate title! It feels like you’re starting life over. Any knowledge and educational degrees you’ve acquired over the last thirty years seem null and void. Things are very different than what you read in those books. Those books about what to expect when you are expecting and now you are expecting to have no idea what to expect.

I know you dream of easier days and nights full of quiet, continuous sleep and feel guilty about wishing the days away. I know it seems like time is ticking slowly by and it feels like you are stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a time warp and he keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. Except in your time warp, the day revolves around a baby- Baby cries, pick up baby, soothe baby, check diaper, change diaper, feed baby (for like hours), baby sleeps, you should sleep, baby cries and repeat. Repeat over and over again, every 3 hours or on demand, for what seems like every future day.  I know you wonder if you will live life at some sort of a predictable, “normal” rhythm EVER again.

I know it feels like you have completely lost yourself and wonder if you will ever find yourself again. I know you’re anxious, hesitant and constantly questioning yourself as you weed through a tremendous amount of information and opinions and try to make a variety of good decisions on behalf of your sweet baby. Very kindhearted people with good intentions offer you advice but since you are so overtired, oversensitive, and overwhelmed you cannot appreciate their wisdom. Or maybe more than that, some of their advice makes you feel like you are doing it all wrong or even worse, it’s a reminder that you are not enough. And even though you are surrounded by people, I know you feel very alone.

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Ten years later, I can tell you the hospital did not make a mistake. It may have been a rocky start at home adjusting to everything new but no mistake was made. God picked you to be your baby’s mother. He knows you can do it, gives you everything you need, and you can rest in that. Hold onto that truth and embrace it during the long days and nights. Repeat it constantly to yourself and especially when the hospital sends you home two more times, with two more babies.

Your life has started over but in a new and beautiful way. Those degrees you acquired in school will be used again but the type of degree you are working on now does not come from schoolwork but lifework. This is a never ending study in unconditional love. It requires time, patience, mistakes, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice and it changes everything. Through the lens of love, relationships and the world will look different. You will begin to understand the sacrifices your mom made for you and what it means to be loved by Jesus in a way that brings you to tears almost every time you think of it. And as far as the what to expect, you will never know what to expect because each day, each baby, brings new challenges and blessings. It’s a constant practice trying to be content and present in the very moment. Oh, and just when you think you have something figured out, it all will change. So, expect the unexpected and expect love.

The days will get easier, you will get more sleep and sleep is awesome. Easier is relative though. In some ways it will be easier and in others ways more difficult. The cliche is true! Time goes by quickly, much more quickly than you ever thought it could. One day, instead of wishing the days away, you’ll wish they would stay. (Maybe the trade off for sleep is fast moving time?) Your life will find a predictable rhythm again but every season will have a different rhythm. And you’ll love the changing rhythms because you do not like boring, and motherhood is far from boring.

About the anxiety and sad feelings, it was a good decision talking with the doctor. What you see as an extra burden now, God will heal through medicine and faith and use this in ways to empathize with other moms and others dealing anxiety and depression. You will always have the threat of doubts and fears but you will persevere and overcome them with confidence in His strength. You will need to work on your “perfectionist” tendencies though and embrace the imperfections and the mistakes because those will make you better not worse.

BTW, you are not enough. At least, not enough on your own. You need Jesus and community more than ever before. Let down the walls. Let others in. Ask for help. Don’t try to do life alone. One of the greatest communities you will find will be in a MOPS group. You’ll find friends, faith, and freedom there. MOPS will encourage and equip you to be the best mother, woman, and leader you can be. It will help you find purpose and give you opportunities to practice confidence in the next things that God is calling you to do.

Make time for family and friends. Embrace your church family and the women in it. Their lives and experiences, their stories shared with you, are gifts. Gifts worth more than any amount of money can ever buy. You will see the importance of their words when you are not so overtired and overwhelmed, and you will come to crave being taken care of by them, tucked under their wings, and covered by their prayers. Your heart will swell a thousand times over when your babies are welcomed into these communities and loved by your friends too because we are better together.

Shanna, you are doing a good job even when you think you are not. Take one moment at a time. Remember, the challenging moments are more valuable because they are richer in experience and make you stronger. And even though it’s good now, the best is yet to come. Motherhood is an amazing, special gift.

With Love,

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A New Look (and if you are new here, Hello!)

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“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those words were printed on a tiny, magazine clipping handed to me by a mentoring teacher. It was right after a devastating student teaching observation in which a professor had told me that I was “too enthusiastic” and I needed to “tone it down” while teaching. His words cut to my core, my very being, because by nature (and by God’s design) I am a very enthusiastic person. I have always tried to embrace learning and life with joy. After school that day, I sat in the classroom with my mentoring teacher. She took the time to listen to my every sobby, tear-drenched word. She reassured me there was no such thing as too much enthusiasm in teaching or life. Her words, compassion, and encouragement helped heal a wound and gave me the confidence I needed to continue in teaching and also to fully embrace who I am. The quote has become one of the songs for my life. Many times over the years, I have held the now-faded and battered clipping in my hand, remembering the kindness shown to me and how the smallest amounts of kindness, joy, enthusiasm, and encouragement can do great things in the world.

EMBRACE ENTHUSIASM is a blog focused on faith, learning, and purposeful living. It’s written by me, Shanna Crowell. I live in New England with my pastor husband and our three children. I am a former public school teacher and now use my education when speaking to groups, in church ministry, and in homeschooling my children. My heart’s desire is to serve and encourage women, help people find their identity in Christ, and help equip people to use their God-given gifts and talents to live life with greater purpose and enthusiasm.

Over the next few weeks, I will be working on updating, reorganizing, and creating some new things on the blog and on my Facebook page. I hope you will be encouraged by what you read and see here, join in the conversations, and be inspired to try something new.

Many blessings for a great day!

Peace and Love,

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Questions?

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For those who are brokenhearted. For Vegas. For those grieving losses of all kinds. For those struggling to find hope through difficult seasons. For those living through unimaginable situations. For those who are navigating through the uncharted territories of life. For everyone, every day with big and little questions. Questions are okay and answers are not always on-demand. Sometimes our whys do not get answered. Sometimes injustice, evil, and fear seem to have won. They do not win and will not win. Love wins. Love overcomes. Love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)

Lift your eyes and heart heavenward, trust in the One who overcame death, do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), and pray! Pray your honest, heart-wrenching, questioning prayers. Cast your cares and worries on Jesus. Find rest and refuge in Him. Jesus knows what suffering, agony, and grief feels like and He has the power to mend broken hearts and redeem lives. Pray for one another. Come alongside one another. Help carry each other’s burdens. Love one another. Be bold in faith and bring it all to Him.

 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;

    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

John 14:1 (NLT)

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27 (NLT)

 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NLT)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NLT)

 


The Brief Guide for Summer Living

The Brief Guide for Summer Living

Where have I been? I’ve been taking some time to finish our homeschooling year, wrap up ministries before the summer break, and spend time with family and friends. Time seems to be flying by faster than ever. Each moment seems more precious than the one before. The cliches about time (the ones I heard a million, gazillion times when I had newborn babies) are ALL TRUE!!!

In thinking about time, I’ve been trying to be more intentional with how I spend it and focusing on people and relationships first. This means I’ve been slowing down, sitting down, and quieting down. It’s taken a few weeks to start breaking the habits of busyness. It seems like I am hardwired to be in constant motion (sometimes due to choices and situations; sometimes due to survival of taking care of and living with kids.) It can feel strange, extending, and challenging to slow down but with each moment focused on the less comes more of the life-giving, life-enjoying, and more meaningful things. This heart work is worth it and I have been enjoying it!

Instead of a summer bucket list, I’ve written a “brief guide”  (see above) for how I want to live my summer. It’s the more and less of summer which I hope will lead to creating habits of the more and less of life. I hope you are having a great month and taking time to slow down too. ❤

 


Walking the Way of the Cross

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Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.

It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.

As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.

Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.

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This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.

Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.

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I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly.  I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!