Be a Grace Giver…

graceWhat if we turned things upside down today? What if we gave people what they didn’t deserve and didn’t give them what they did deserve? What if our words and actions were so infused with grace, they were able to disarm negativity, counteract conflict, and give courage and boldness to others when received?

Grace is unmerited love and mercy. It’s an undeserving gift and it’s not easy to give. It’s difficult to bite your tongue in response to a bitter comment or biting criticism. It’s hard to think beyond hurt feelings and bruised emotions and offer forgiveness. It’s tough to be a presence of grace with an offensive person. The message of the world says, “Give ’em what they deserve!” ”You deserve better than that!”

I am not promoting we go around acting like feeble, push-overs, or passive, fake happy people throwing grace around like magical, rainbow fairy dust. Giving grace is a bold, brave, intentional choice. It means choosing to respond instead of react. It means pausing, getting our thoughts together, and then speaking truth in a loving, respectful way. There are many situations that need to be further addressed, processed through, and worked on; but grace is the invitation to a pathway of respectful discussions. Grace can be a gateway to a journey of healing and restoration.

As a follow of Christ, we do not have to rely on our power to be a grace-giver. We shouldn’t. We have access to power, life-supporting love and strength through the Holy Spirit. By excepting and receiving God’s grace, we in turn can extend grace to others with God’s help.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. -Hebrews 4:16

So today, join with me in the practice of grace giving– and keep in mind, there will be a time when we are in need of grace too. ❤


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?


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)

 


“Shanna, Shanna”

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Our days are filled with urgent and important things vying for our attention. Within the day’s whirlwind of busyness, it’s easy to focus on the urgent and lose sight of the important. It can be a struggle to favor crossing items off our to-do lists to spending unscheduled amounts of quality time with people. It can be difficult, feel uncomfortable, and might seem plain impossible to stop and rest. We have become tightly scheduled and overbooked. White spaces on our calendars are a rare find.
 
And I can be the worst culprit. If I am not intentional, my pace of life can be all consuming and exhausting. I can easily fall into the race of rushing from task to task, place to place, activity to activity. Instead, I want my life to be one of making time for others, resting in my surroundings, finding beauty in the quietest places, and tuning out the voices of the world to focus on hearing His voice. I want my legacy to include, “She made time for others and she loved well.”
 
It’s true, tasks, meetings, errands and chores need to get done but not at the expense of the quiet, more meaningful, and important things in life. There needs to be a balance.
 
This is a real, age-old struggle. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus enters the home of a woman named Martha. “Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
 
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
 
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
 
Just replace, “Martha, Martha” with your name and read it again- “Shanna, Shanna, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
 
It grabs your attention, doesn’t it? If that one thing Mary was doing was stopping, listening, and resting at the feet of Jesus, I think following her example would be the best thing we can do today. I want to challenge you to take a few minutes to reevaluate today’s activities and give more attention and focus to the quiet, important things in your life. Relationships, people, listening, cheerfully helping, joyfully serving, answering with kindness- those types of things. I think we will find the urgent things are not as urgent as we thought they would be and the important things are more important and needed than what we thought. Have a great day! ❤

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.” ❤

 

 

 


The Germiest and Messiest Places

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There we were in one of the germiest, grimiest places to be-a public restroom. The three of us, heads huddled together, looked down into the bowl of the toilet. I could see it. In my attempts to protect my children from the germy seat with layers of toilet paper, my favorite earring had slipped from my ear and splashed into the “pool of germs.”  Fortunately, it had not gone down into the abyss but instead lay sparkling, mocking me from the depths of the “clear” water.

Ummm…. now what? Should I stick my hand in the water and get it? NO!! No, I could not bring myself to do it. Maybe I could fish it out with something but then I realized my purse was outside with a friend. Deciding I really needed to have my purse, if not for some gadget at least for some comfort, I sent my oldest daughter to get it for me.

As I waited, I opened the door of the stall. I felt a little loss, needed some sympathy, and possibly some help from my fellow bathroom compadres. And on a more practical level, I wanted to make sure no one  flushed the toilet. Then all hope would be gone.

I tried to make eye contact with the women who came through the door. I stated my plight loudly enough for most to hear. Some women ignored me but many women curiously andwith empathetically peeked into the bowl, shaking their heads as they left, and agreeing it was a bad situation.

And then there was Linda. Oh, Linda!

Linda was different. She heard my appeal for help. She listened to my situation and decided to do something about it.  Without giving it much thought, Linda rolled up her sleeve and heroically reached deep into the toilet waters retrieving my earring. She carried it over to the sink and scrubbed her hands and scrubbed my earring. Then she carefully dried my earring and handed it to me with care and the instructions to CAREFULLY and THOROUGHLY sanitize my earring before I wore it again. (That will NOT be a problem, Linda! I promise!) I thanked her over and over again but she just smiled and said it was really no big deal. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal to Linda BUT it was big deal to me!

You know, I cannot help but think of what it would be like if we were all a little more like Linda. I am not saying we need to stick our bare hands into germy public toilet bowls. (Although, carrying plastic dish gloves in our purses may come in handy one day.)  What I am saying is this, what if we went along our schedules and agendas with the readiness to be interrupted? What if we tuned our hearing and focused our sight on the cries for help from people around us? What would it look like to join people in their messiness?

There are a lot of people who are stuck in messy and unhealthy situations. We often worry we don’t have what it takes to help and so we ignore or walk on by. While we cannot pull people out of their situations or fix things for them, we can come around them and let them know they are not alone.  We can care for them by providing a listening ear, a smiling face, a hand on the shoulder. We can join them in their messiness by not judging them and “wash” them over with prayer, friendship and love. And then we can “wrap” them in a big hug.

Most of all, we can help people find resources, hope and the One who defeated death. After death has been defeated, is there anything Jesus can’t do? Remember, Jesus met people in the messiest places, surrounded by the germiest people and He was their hope and new life. When we come before Him with our messes or better yet, when we come before Him together with our messes, we can expect that Jesus has the power to save, to rescue, and make ways for people when there seems to be no other ways possible.

For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are called to walk in His ways and with His Spirit upon us we are called to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of the slight to the blind, and set those who are oppressed free. (Luke 4:18-19) Most of all we are called to have faith and LOVE! (1 John 3:23-24) I think love starts with listening and looking for those in need.

So Linda, wherever you are, THANK YOU AGAIN! Thank you so much for your kindness.

And thank you Jesus, for allowing me these unusual, uncomfortable, and hilarious situations I often find myself in. What I learn from these “opportunities,” I hope will always be for your glory and your Kingdom work. ❤

PS Please note that this picture is a reenactment in a thoroughly cleaned and sanitized toilet. I wish I had snapped a picture during the unfortuante event but it was the last thing on my mind. LOL


2016: Year in Review

There have been times in my life when I’ve had an overwhelming sense to do everything I can to remember the moment. Sometimes the moments have been big, life altering events like my children’s births or the death of a loved one. Other times the moments are found among mundane everyday tasks. Moments that stand out as special, holy gifts. In good and bad moments, I have commanded myself to stop, take a good look around, listen, and pay attention to the people who are with me. Then I pray. I pray my careful observations will become a memory or a lasting impression on my heart in which I can always feel.

Over Christmas break, we traveled to my brother’s house where we gathered with my family. Our family lives in several different states making times when we are all together very rare and special. It was loud and crazy. There was food, a lot of food. There was dancing, singing, praying, and playing with the kids. And food, more food. There was a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of love.

While we were together, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like for my Grandma, Mom and Dad, to be surrounded by a family they started. A bittersweet mix of the golden memories of the past and forging new ones in the present to be remembered for a future time. Missing loved ones and celebrating life in their children and grandchildren. A job well done, children reared, overcoming hard times and celebrating the good times. All this wrapped up in this thing called life.

One night my brother-in-law called us into the living room to watch a video he put together of clips he had taken of his family throughout the year. He captured the big moments and the small ones and masterly put them together complete with touching music. With my family, I watched a year fly by in about three minutes. I was struck with how much of our daily worries and what we think is big stuff, really isn’t and how the small touches, details, and love in life are really what mean the most. All those little moments collected together to mean something very big. It is not the things or even the places, it’s the people that make life worthwhile and meaningful.

My brother-in-law’s video inspired me to reflect back on my year. I went through hundreds and hundreds of pictures and picked out the most meaningful captures. When I look at these pictures, I see a common theme. My word for 2016 was community. These pictures represent so many of the special communities I am part of. God has richly blessed me through this word and my heart is so full thinking of His kindness and His gift to me in people. I was going to add captions but then changed my mind. For those of you who were with me, I hope these pictures spark a special memory or a special moment for you. Thank you, thank you all for being a part of my life, praying for me, and inspiring me to be the best woman, mother, and leader I can be. I love you dearly!  Happy New Year! ❤

January- Subways and Skiing

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February- School, Snow, Sunsets

 

March- Family

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Road trip to my brother’s house where we met up with my sister, my parents, and Gammy. We do not get to see each other often so these trips are important and special time.

April- Wonder and Discoveries

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May- New Friends and Callings

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June- Overcoming Fears and Heights

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July- Gammy on the Go

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August- ADVENTURE

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September- New Beginnings

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October- Incredible Opportunities with Incredible Women

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November-SHINE…Together

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December- Home is Where the Heart Is

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family

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Here’s to 2017….

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