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!

The Joy Bombs

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History has proved New Englanders to be revolutionaries, passionate and determined people, overcomers of all types of difficulties, including wild weather. If there’s one prerequisite to being labeled a “New Englander,” it is the skill of talking about and complaining about the weather. You really can’t blame us. If you have spent any amount of time in New England, you know our weather is unpredictable and always changing. It could be sunny and fifty degrees one day, only to wake up to an outrageous, snowy nor’easter the next. Mark Twain accurately summed up our weather, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

Well, we’ve been waiting more than a few minutes and the weather seems to be stuck on the winter channel. Even though the calendar says it is spring, snow is in the forecast AGAIN. It appears the snow in unaware of proper seasonal boundaries.

My daughter tells me the recent snowstorms are a test of our patience and joy. That’s a great way to look at it. We will persevere and when spring weather FINALLY comes it will be even sweeter. BUT until then, it seems (from Facebook feeds and the word on the street) not everyone feels the same. Most people are pretty bummed about this winter weather and I get it. So, the kids and I thought we should do something about the low morale and cheer people up.  We came up with an idea to go out into our community to help people find some joy and give a few people something else to talk about instead of the weather.

We grabbed some balloons at the dollar store, purchased some cookies and hot chocolate at Walmart, and made bundles of joy (or as my youngest daughter called them, “joy bombs.”) We tied a poem to the package, prayed, and followed wherever the Holy Spirit led us. Our goal was to make people smile and brighten their day.  The following is our “adventure log.”

 

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JOY ADVENTURE LOG:

1.) Left one “joy bomb” by a car in a parking lot.

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2-3.) Brought two “Joy Bombs” to a local breakfast cafe. Asked the waitresses if they would pass them on to two customers. They seemed happy to do so.

4.) Stopped an older couple pumping gas at the gas station.  I am not quite sure if they heard or understood what we were doing (or if they thought that I was slightly off my rocker.) Regardless, they took the cookies, hot chocolate, and the balloon. As I was driving away, I saw a huge smile on the woman’s face as she pointed to the bag and explained something to her husband

5.) Pulled into the parking lot of my hair salon. Saw one woman getting into the car next to us. (Let her get in the car first so the snow did not wreck her freshly styled hair.) Asked her how she felt about the weather. She looked a little suspicious and a bit confused. We explained what we were doing. She said something like, “No, that’s not me. I am fine with the snow.” Well, that’s great! Save “joy bomb” for someone else.

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5.) Left one for Lala, my fabulous hair stylist. I figured Lala would be hearing all about the weather and people’s problems while styling clients’ hair. Asked the receptionist to tell Lala to pass the “joy bomb” on to someone who really needed it.  Will follow-up.

6.) Stopped a dad and his toddler who were walking through a parking lot.Told them the balloon and cookies were just for them. My daughters thought I knew them because of the way I spoke to them. It touched my heart that my daughters observed and commented on this. This project isn’t just about blessing community members but also about meeting the people we share our town with and modeling interactions for my children.

5.) Coffee house. (Seriously, how have I not been to this place before?) Very friendly service and the two young men working the counter happily took the “job bomb” and will be passing it on to someone.  Side note: How cute is this little journal area? I have lots of thoughts and dreams I could add to one of those journals. I will be back soon.

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7.) Brought one to a church family. My girls asked if they could bring it up to the door by themselves. And they did! 🙂

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8., 9., 10. ) Left three at neighbors’ doorsteps. The only other time we come to these doors are to receive something- candy at Halloween. It’s feels good to give and not just receive.

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11. 12. 13.) Town Hall- I gave each kid a “joy bomb” and we walked into town hall. There were three beautiful, friendly, women to receive joy from each child. They were so touched, they gave us balloons leftover from someone’s retirement party. One balloon for each kid and then four more to pass on to others. We happily took them and promised to pass them on. One of the ladies asked if I was the one that did the kindness rocks. I love that connections are being made.

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14. 15. 16) Retirement Home- My girls decided they wanted to give their balloons away to the residents. At first my three-year old was adamant about keeping his balloon and that was completely fine with me. My oldest bent down next to him and quietly explained who and why they were giving their balloons away and before I knew it my son wanted to give his away too! Kindness was multiplying before my eyes and my daughter reminded me of the power and influence of using soft, gentle words. What a blessing this stop was! We walked in and residents’ faces lit up. We stayed for a few minutes and talked with some of them. Then they surprised us with a cookie and told us we were welcome anytime.

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17.) Brought a “joy bomb” to the pastor at the Episcopal Church. I drive and walk by this church often and I always think it would be nice to stop by and say “hi.”  Well, today seemed a good day to do it. 🙂 (Why did I wait so long?)

18.) We brought one to a church friend.

19.) My kids had it on their hearts to bring one to a fellow homeschooling family who lives down the street. We left the “joy bomb” on their step along with the rest of the balloons from town hall. My kids were thrilled that they had some say in this project and their voice mattered.

20.) The final balloon, we brought to a neighbor who we do not know well but know they could use some joy. We left the “joy bomb” at their door.

All twenty “joy bombs” prayed for and delivered. Throughout the morning, I kept thinking about what this adventure was teaching my children. We had inadvertently worked on project management skills, math skills, map skills, conversational skills, and teamwork. We had witnessed the power of prayer and kindness within our interactions with each other and with other people. As a bonus, we met new friends and found new places in our town to visit.

When we pulled into the driveway, one of my daughters said, “Mom, I feel like I have been hugged ten thousand times.”  That’s a pretty great and accurate description of how I felt too. The weather seemed so insignificant when we placed our sights higher and on other things. I don’t think winter weather is quite over yet and that’s okay. It’s a pain to deal with but we are New Englanders. We’ll get through it and how we wait “the few minutes” matters. Let’s try to be cheerful, spread some joy, and help where we can. If you are able, grab an extra shovel and help clean off cars and walkways, take cookies to a neighbor, smile to those you meet. You never know how the smallest interactions will influence someone’s whole day.  Stay warm and stay positive. Spring will be here “soon.” ❤

 

 

 

Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti-The Podcast

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Photo Credit: MOPS International

I am so excited and honored to have one of my talks turned into a podcast! I gave this talk during MOPS International’s Coach training in Milwaukee last fall. The whole experience was humbling and surreal. I praise God for leading me out of my comfort zone and stepping into new things for His glory. I thank MOPS International for believing in me and allowing me to share my heart. I hope you will listen, be blessed and be encouraged. If you would like to know more about MOPS International and what they do, I would love to talk with you.

(Google Play link to the podcast below. It is about 12 minutes long.)

https://play.google.com/music/m/D4xz4cy52fqhn2d3gfdnv76c2im?t=Throw_Kindness_Around_Like_Confetti-Connections_Podcast 

“When Shanna woke up on her 38th birthday, she had a to-do list that didn’t excite her much. So she threw it out and made another list full of kind things she wanted to do that day. With her new list and a new attitude, she spread kindness around like confetti. All year long, we should strive to walk in grace and do good works and love each other in the name of Jesus.”

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One Word for 2017: INSTRUMENT

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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.

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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 Power of Words and Opinions- My Reflections and Thoughts of MOMcon 2016

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Oh, how easily and quickly words can spark suspicion and uncertainty. How quickly can suspicions catch ablaze, words and opinions spread like wildfire and gain the attention of a divided audience. How easily are relationships strained (some destroyed) and alliances built by thoughts and opinions. How quickly do we forget that we have great influence and our influence is best used in building up and not tearing down.

I have been thinking a great deal about people who share their strong opinions in very public ways. Strong opinions seem to be everywhere- in politics, in ministry, in the world- and with the opinions come conflict and disagreements. I strongly dislike conflict and disagreement. (I could never be a lawyer.)  After much thought and consideration, I have decided I am truly grateful for those who boldly share their opinions because they prompt me to think strongly about my own beliefs and convictions. These people challenge and inspire me to read the Bible for discernment and wisdom. I may not agree with their opinions or their methods of sharing but I am finding out there is always something to be learned. By listening to each other, being careful to not react rashly, and always leaning toward the side of grace, I am realizing people with different opinions help me to be a better leader and person. I call these people fire starters sometimes helping to reignite holy sparks and keep them on fire.

MOMcon (MOPS International’s Leadership Convention) was a blaze of gracious, wise words that outshined and burned down walls that were built by harsh opinions and questions MOPS has recently received. The words given by speakers and MOPS staff and received by leaders were life-given, Holy Spirit driven, and love oriented. MOMcon reestablished MOPS vision and mission and propelled leaders to embrace Jesus and others. MOMcon equipped us to release fear, walk boldly in faith, and be prepared to think differently and creatively to reach those who need the hope of Christ. I cannot help but wonder if the opinions and criticism of fire starters acted as a catalyst for such a passionately driven conference. Last week, many holy sparks were ignited and to God be the glory for the great work to be done.

Just as easily as words can produce uncertainty and suspicion, words can also spark reassurance and confidence. Words can help unite an audience with facts and ignite enthusiasm of a shared purpose and calling. Relationships can be mended, strengthened and refined by truthful, gracious answers and humble responses. All these things were evident to me at MOMcon.

MOPS International has been and always will be Jesus followers, kingdom enthusiasts, advocates for motherhood and the influence of women, expansive in inclusion that every mom has a place, multilingual, and sisterhood cultivators. In five years, MOPS International has a vision to see 1,000,000 moms reached with the hope of Christ. I am so excited to be part of this vision in my role as Co-Coordinator in my own MOPS group and as a MOPS Community Coach to the MOPS groups I coach in New England.

My MOPS calling has been reignited. I am comfortable in my skin and confident in my faith. I feel more equipped than ever before to lead in love and use my influence to cultivate and build communities of women who love each other and who can make a difference in this world. I want to love people just as they are and in every messy way they come. Most of all, I will not be defensive of other’s opinions (in all areas of life) but plan to use misunderstood information and perceptions as a challenge to make sure that the way I am living is one in which others can see Jesus. A holy spark was ignited and fanned to flames and I am so excited to see where God will make room for the flames burn.

****The views expressed on this page and blog are mine alone and they do not necessarily reflect the views of MOPS International. They have not been reviewed or approved by MOPS International*****

 

 

 

Keeping It Together-Part 2- How are you?

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I love talking to people. My favorite part of a conversation is when it moves away from the polite “Hi, How are you?” to a deeper level of sharing.  I love when people open up and talk about the unique challenges they are facing, what they are interested in and share their hopes and dreams. It allows me to feel like I am not alone and inspires me to move towards my own interests. Conversations like this do not happen overnight. They are built on trust and authenticity. Today, I want to invite you to be honest and ask yourself “How are you? How are you really doing?”

The first step in “Keeping It All Together” is stopping. Let’s hit the pause button for a moment and start to evaluate where we stand physically, mentally and spiritually. This is an opportunity to be completely honest. Let’s allow ourselves some grace in this process too. Our responses will serve as a starting point for our work in finding a better balance in life.

Let’s begin….

According to research conducted by the Barna Group 1,  

 56% of moms feel overcommitted.

62% of moms are dissatisfied with work/home balance.

70% of moms are tired

80% of moms are stressed out.

95% of moms want to be better in one area of life.  

You are not alone! The world is filled with overwhelmed, exhausted moms and I do not think we were created to live life this way.

Ask yourself the following questions. If you can journal your answers, great. If you only have time to read and think about one or two of the questions at a time, that’s great too. There is no right or wrong answer. Remember no pressure or judgement. We are working on lessening the burden not adding to it.

  1. On a scale from 1-10, how tired are you? Can you pinpoint the reasons why you are tired- baby in the house, lack of sleep, dealing with stressful circumstances….?
  2. On a scale from 1-10, how overwhelmed do you feel? Can you identify sources of stress? 
  3. Is your current schedule working for you? Are you satisfied with it or do you wish for a change?
  4. Are you using your gifts and talents wisely?
  5. Are you overcommitted? Are the commitments things that you once enjoyed but now wish you could get out of?
  6. Are you surrounded by family or a community that supports you and you can depend on for help?
  7. How would you describe your relationship with God? 
  8. Is life what you thought it would be? Are you enjoying your life?
  9. Are you making time to take care for yourself or explore an area of interest?

Every couple of months or so, I go through these questions again. Each time, I hope the changes I have made in my life or family’s schedule will be reflected in my answers. If not, I don’t stress it. It just means there is more work to be done or that I am in a particular season of life. Remember GRACE is key here! I would also encourage you to pray as you work through the questions. Ask God to give you eyes to see dissatisfaction and areas that need His strength and healing.

Now that we have taken a good, honest look at ourselves, we can move on to the next step. In the next post, we will work to identify what our priorities are and look to see how we are spending our time. Do our priorities and time match up?

PS  If you can find six minutes, watch the following video clip from Barna Group. I do not think you will be disappointed.It’s for every woman trying to maintain the perfect everything and still falling short.