How Can This Be?

Last week, I was rereading Mary’s story in the Gospel of Luke. Mary, a young virgin, engaged to Joseph, a man of good lineage. Her engagement was part of socially acceptable plans, plans that would provide her security in life. She might have thought of her future often, preparing herself to be a wife, dreaming of what it might be like to be married. Every day that went by was one day closer to those plans coming to fruition. Then something happened that would change everything. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary with an incredible message that would challenge her plans and replace them with a new calling from God.

I can only imagine the thoughts and questions racing through her mind as she tried to process the impossible things the angel was saying- “You will conceive. You will give birth. You will name him Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High.” Although, the Gospel of Luke does not tell us her exact thoughts, it does records one of her questions. A question I think we can all relate to, “How can this be?”

Mary’s first response to this overwhelming information was a question. And her response is similar to many other people in the Bible who also had their days, their plans, their lives interrupted with what seemed like unimaginable missions and impossible callings from God. Callings that would be difficult, go against social standards, and change the trajectory of their lives in order to fulfill the plans of God. In many of their stories, their immediate response to overwhelming information was a “Who am I?” “How can I?” “I am only a….”  

I think many of us have similar first responses to when God calls us to Himself or to His work. While, our circumstances and our callings might be different, the heart of our responsive question is the same- doubt.

“How can this be, since I am a sinner?

“How can this be, since I am unqualified?”

“How can this be, since I do not have the resources?

God’s answer has been, is, and always will be the same. The answer is- “I am with you.” (Exo.3:12; Joshua 1:5, Luke 1:28) We can do the things God calls us to do because of Emmanuel, God is with us. Often, God’s callings come at times that interrupt our carefully crafted plans. They ask us to replace our doubts and fears with faith. He knows your past and your future. He knows where you are lacking and wants to equip and use you in those places for His glory. He knows you don’t have all the resources because He wants to be the One to provide them and He wants you to trust and obey in faith that He will. God fully knows, and has no doubt, that you are the right person for the mission, the job, the good work that He is calling you to do.

Mary didn’t have all the answers or all the details. She didn’t have a spreadsheet, a timeline or a budget. But she did have faith and was told the Holy Spirit would come over her to make this impossible, miraculous thing happen. And because Jesus, we also have the Holy Spirit to encourage us, empower us and remind us- God is with us. Nothing is impossible with God. Anchoring ourselves in those truths and answering God out of a place of faith, our second response can be one of trust and action. We can respond in the same as Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you said about me come true.”(Luke 1:38)


“Shanna, Shanna”

importantvsurgent

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! ❤

A Safe Place with a Pint of Ice Cream

icecreamandtheblessingoffriendship

Twelve hundred. That is the exact number of calories in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Super New York Fudge Chunk. Long before my hips showed any adverse signs from indulging in excessive amounts of sugary treats, I would down a pint of ice cream in one sitting.

I was never alone in the endeavor and I always had two pints of Ben & Jerry’s with me. One for me and one for my best friend. Eating a pint of ice cream was the extent of our high school craziness. This was one of the many reasons why I loved her. Instead of going out and partying, we were both happily content staying in, talking, and watching the TV edited versions of Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

I vividly remember the laughs, the tears over broken hearts, the questions we tried to answer, and sharing our hopes and dreams. When I think about these times, the thing I treasure the most is the feeling that has lingered all these years. I remember feeling safe.

My friend had provided a space where I could be vulnerable and authentic. She was always the first one I wanted to run to and tell the things on my heart. And she always received me with patience and kindness.I knew I was loved no matter what I shared.

I am sure we had our disagreements and differences but I seem to remember more agreements and similarities. Boys, distance, and life took a toll on our friendship and eventually separated us. Over the span of twenty years, I have thought of my friend often. At every big life event. When hopes and dreams have come true. When loved ones have passed. When I watch a romantic comedy. And every time I eat Ben & Jerry’s.

It’s because of her that I think the solution to most of life’s problems can be worked out with a good laugh, a good cry, and a pint of ice cream shared in a safe place where hearts can be exposed.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my friend and the gift of friendship. It doesn’t take much to see and hear the scary, confusing, unjust things happening in our world. In all of our interactions, I wonder if we are thinking before we speak (or post.) Are we responding to others in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?1 Or are our responses filled with hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, or envy? 2  Are we providing a safe place for hearts to be exposed?

There is a little piece of scripture I have read a thousand times but I keep going back to read. It captures the interaction of two women who were very dear to each other. Two women who were thrown into unplanned circumstances.Confusing, possibly scary circumstances that included many unknowns in the days to come.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”–Luke 1:39-45

“Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then returned home.”–Luke 1:56

This passage makes me think of God’s power, his glory and the miracles in impossible things. But I also think of God’s incredible KINDNESS. Kindness to knit two women together, to be there for each other, to support and help each other through their callings and life’s situations. I wish I could have eavesdropped on Mary and Elizabeth’s conversations in those three months. The passage highlights the joy they shared. Wonder, amazement too. But did they also share a lot of laughs and cries? Did they discuss their futures-share their hopes, dreams, and fears?  Did they expose their hearts?

I think yes to all of those questions. Mary and Elizabeth were like us in many ways and I think God shows the same kindness to us. He brings people in our life that pour into us when we need it most and who can help us navigate through callings and life together.

In a world that might not feel safe, we can be safe places for each other. We must think wisely before we speak. Pray for patience, kindness, and self-control before we hit “post.” Listen with our hearts. Speak life with our words. Find purpose in our days to use our time wisely and leave people better than how we found them. We can provide safe places for hearts to be exposed, allow raw emotions to be displayed, and with joy share in people’s hopes and dreams. And finally, we can praise God for the gift of friendship, community…and good ice cream. 😉

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1.- Galatians 5:22-23

2- Galatians 5:19-21


Advent-“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Day 16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23-24-25 Craft Ideas

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The most wonderful time of the year is here. A time of anticipation, expectant waiting, and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. One of my family’s favorite ways to be reminded of the treasures and gifts of this season is reading along with Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift. 

Last year, my girls and I crafted an ornament each day to correspond with the daily advent readings from the book. This post is the last in a series of ornament/craft ideas which I have created and collected. You can find the complete collection for Day 1-2Day 3-4-5-6Days 7-10, and Days 11-15 by clicking on the blue links.

There many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas, borrowed ideas, and ideas inspired by talented artists and bloggers. Credit for any borrowed idea is noted below the picture. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post.

day16advent

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Materials: card stock, markers, scissors, glue (hot glue), clothespin

I loved this craft idea from His Wondrous Work and thought “Why not turn it into an ornament?” I printed the templates on two pieces of colored card stock (one piece skin- tone and the other gray) and then carefully cut them out. The whale needs to be sticking out beyond the clothespin so Jonah can pop out without getting stuck. Make sure you line up the whale and Jonah on the clothespin before gluing the pieces down. I had to move the whale further up the clothespin in order to make the pieces fit properly.

http://www.hiswondrousworks.com/JONAH%20and%20the%20GREAT%20FISH%20Craft.pdf

day17advent

Materials: can, black card stock, twine for wrapping around the can, sand, paper-piercing tool , glue

Wash and dry a small can (I used an Old El Paso Chilies can.) Wrap and glue twine around the outside. Create a cityscape with black card stock. It took me several trials to get the right size city to fit into the can. Once I had the correct size, I used a paper-piercing tool to created the windows and doors. Using sand and glue,  I made desert at the bottom of the can. Then, I folded the bottom of the city so it would stand upright and glued the city to the sand.

For added effect, hang the ornament near a small tree light to add background light.

cityscape-ornament

day18advent

Materials: pipe cleaners, gems, hot glue

To make the crown, I followed the directions listed at the link below. After the crown had its basic shape, we “blinged-out” our crowns with faux pearls and gems.

http://littleinspiration.com/2014/01/diy-photo-prop-crown.html

day19advent

Materials:  toilet paper roll, silver paint, sharpie marker, gray card stock, Stampin’ Up Dimensionals.

Paint the toilet paper roll silver. While waiting for the paint to dry, cut out the top of watchtower from gray card stock paper. Once dry, draw bricks and a door on the tower with a Sharpie or black paint pen. Put Dimensionals around the top and wrap the tower paper over the Dimensionals and around to a close. This will give the paper a small lift and make the shapes have more depth. Hole punch and string to hang.

day20advent

Materials: Chalkboard paper, silver glitter gel pens or paint markers.

At back-to-school time, I had bought a chalkboard banner from Target’s dollar spot. For this ornament, I cut apart the banner and used one of the circles to write on and decorate. Super easy and cute.

Here are other craft ideas for Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story.

http://biblecraftsandactivities.com/crafts-for-zechariah-and-elizabeth/

day21advent

Materials: sandal template printed on colored card stock (see link below); something to lace with (twine, small ribbon); hole punch.

For today’s reading and craft. I decided to focus on “Prepare the Way” rather than “Thunder in the Desert.” This adorable sandal craft template has easy directions to follow which are found at the link website below. The sandal is a bit large (it might fit a toddler) for what you might think of as a traditional sized ornament but in our house the bigger the better. 🙂 It is really cute and great for lacing and shoe tying practice.

http://www.jesus-without-language.net/john-the-baptist-matthew-3-make/

day22advent

Materials:  1 rounded clothespin, 3 regular size popsicle sticks, 2 half-popsicle sticks,  half of a pipe cleaner for halo, 1 white feather for wings, paint, glitter

Paint the top of the rounded clothespin as a head with hair. (I made the angel one-sided so the side not seen does not have to be painted perfect.) Paint the bottom half of the clothespin white. Paint all the popsicle sticks white and sprinkle glitter over them while the paint is wet. Once the paint is dry, hot glue the two longer popsicle sticks on the back of the rounded clothespin. Glue them close together but slightly angled away from each other. Glue the third popsicle stick on top of the other two, directly in the middle. Glue one “wing” (half-sized popsicle stick) on at a time. Then take the feather and hot glue into place over both of the wings. Make a small ring for a halo. Glue in place.

clothespins.jpg

day23advent

Materials:  card stock (glittery silver, gray for the saw; brown or wood colored for handle); handsaw template (see link below), scissors and glue

I saved the image of the saw pattern found from the website below and made it smaller in a word document. I made it so two templates could fit on my page. Then I traced each part of the saw, glued it together, and punched a hole for the string. The hardest part of this craft was tracing and cutting out the teeth on the saw blade.

http://patternuniverse.com/download/saw-pattern/

day24advent

Materials: white card stock, paper punches (circle and ovals), straw or raffia, brown paint

Cut the card stock into a circle. Paint hand with brown washable paint and stamp off toward the side of the circle. Add “hay” and make baby Jesus with the punched shapes. Add a cute, little face. 🙂

day25advent

Materials:  glittery gold scrapbook paper, fabric scrap

It’s Christmas! In consideration of Christmas day and all that comes with it, today’s craft is a very simple one. Cut a star out of the gold scrapbook paper and a red cross out of the fabric. Glue the cross on the star and hole punch.