I Get To

“It Never Ends.”

These are the words I have found myself speaking over and over in my head. The bills. The chores. The driving. The working. The hustle and bustle of each day. They often seem never ending.

Sometimes, like the other day while loading the dishwasher, I even let the words slip out of my mouth. As I uttered those three small words, they echoed in my ears. It was almost as if the words were on repeat. Because, the truth is, the words are just an accurate reflection of how I’ve been feeling on the regular lately. I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m overwhelmed. I feel each and every syllable of this phrase, as I try to jam a cup into the top rack in between seven others. As my adult son walks by, I say the words out loud and he hears them; and this time, as they come out of my mouth, I am stopped in my tracks.

As I watched my tall, handsome, sweet, funny, nineteen year old son walk through the room, I was reminded of my other amazing boy who never got to be nineteen.

Suddenly, I was shook by my own reality that, sometimes, it does end.

It ended for my sweet son. Life as we know it here – well, it did end. I’ll never get to wash another one of his dishes or pick up his dirty clothes off the floor. I’ll never get to remind him to put on his deodorant or not to forget his glasses. I’ll never get to blow up his cell phone have a heartfelt conversation with him. I’ll never get to deal with his moods swings or his back talk. I’ll never get to do any of the things that come with loving and serving your child. Not on this side of heaven, anyway. And that HURTS.

But, I GET to do all of these thing for my other three children. I needed this reminder… that it is a privilege to get to “do the things;” the things that can feel so unappealing in the moment, the things that make us want to scream and pull our hair out, the things that are so redundant, broken records haven nothing on the repetitious motions we perform over and over again.

I don’t have to – I get to.

I would give anything to have my son here – loving me, annoying me, hugging me and driving me absolutely crazy – to have more laundry to wash and one more mouth to feed. Because that is often what parenthood is like – a heaping pile of laundry and a full sink of dishes. It is the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, the quiet and the crazy, all coexisting to make the most precious moments that go by way too fast.

I needed this reminder. Yes, me. A woman who has experienced the deepest of losses, a first born son in the prime of his life. A woman who still experiences moments of deep frustration and forgets how beautiful life is, a mom who yells at her children and misses it, sometimes. Maybe you needed it to. You are not alone. You are made to be their mother, and even when you screw up – you GET to do this beautiful thing called life.

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

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Got Plans? Yes, With Me.

Plans. I love making plans. Plans with family, plans with friends, plans for the week, the month and the future. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to planners. I love sitting down and taking the time to just sort through the days to come, scheduling dates, meal planning, deciding deadlines, setting goals, and the writer in me especially loves writing them all down – in pretty little cursive letters. But, keeping plans. Well, that’s a whole new story all together. 

Lately, I find time getting away from me. Everyone warned that would happen, especially as I get older. I truly am in utter shock that I find myself typing this blog in front of my Christmas tree, because I’m pretty darn sure that it was JUST Easter like yesterday. That being said, my calendar still screams out ‘Christmas is NINE days.’ For the most part, I keep my plans with everyone – everyone except me.

My plans this season were to watch a ton of Christmas movies. To bake cookies and cook yummy winter meals. To take that perfect family picture (you know the one that leaves the whole family stressed and barely on speaking terms) and send out the card that shows matching sweaters and perfect smiles. Yet, currently, I find myself in a very different season. It’s Christmastime, alright, but it certainly hasn’t felt like it. It’s been a season of utter chaos – a season that has brought me to doctors offices for hours on end, earned me VIP spot in the take out line, one that has me staring at an ornament-less tree, and unable to score even one picture of the five of us since September. 

But, Lord, I had some awesome plans! SO MANY OF THEM. Who can relate?!

 

Yet, barely any of my own plans have prevailed this season. When Chris got surgery in October, I never could have imagined the journey we’d have to take. It’s been a long and drawn out process to healing. Maceration, nerve entrapment, wound culture, wound vac… these are just some of the terms I’ve learned in the last month. Doctors visits have been never ending, and I’m the one driving Mr. Daisy. Working full time and being a care taker has stretched me in ways I didn’t know I could stretch! Some days I’ve beasted it and others I have curled up in a fetal position, while rocking back and forth, and sucking my thumb. Ok, maybe not that bad, but I have considered taking up thumb sucking again. 

Today, while watching Jim Carrey’s Grinch for the tenth time, (It’s my nephews favorite and makes me feel like at least I watched ONE Christmas movie) this silly part stuck out to me. Ok, it more than stuck out. I actually learned a life lesson from a fictional character in a Christmas movie. He’s thinking of all the reasons he cannot attend the Whobilation and, while looking at his calendar, he says: Dinner with me. I can’t cancel that again.

Whoa. To make plans with ourselves and actually deem ‘us’ as important as we do everyone else. That’s where I’m totally missing it. I’m the person who I never value enough to keep my commitment to. This year has been eye opening in the sense of self care and self love. I get it now. In order to care well for others, I must first care for me. And, that’s true! But, today, the Grinch, of all people, opened my eyes to something so new; and, while so hard for me to accept, so vital to self healing. I alone am worth it. I alone am worth setting time aside for. I alone and worth being with. Not just so I can be better for everyone else, but just because I AM ENOUGH. I don’t need an excuse to spend time on or with myself. It’s not about benefiting everyone else. It’s just because I need me. More than anyone else, I need me. To be whole. To be well. To be rested. To be the best me I can be. 

Often life will not go as we planned. So much of it is out of our control. So, please, make plans with yourself, and, more importantly, keep those plans as if they are a priority. Because it’s in the alone time that we hear God’s voice the loudest. When we quiet our minds, center our hearts, and just be still – God will reveal His plans; they’re the ones that matter most. In this, we will find ourselves all over again because losing ourselves – well that is most traumatic loss of all. 

“Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.”

Do Something, Even if it’s One Thing

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been around the same track of dream chasing. I start off sprinting, bold and confident, then I run out of steam halfway to the finish line. Can you relate? Why does this happen?

Well, for starters, we get tired and weary. This happens because we begin to realize how weak we really are. We forget that when we are the weakest, God is the strongest in us. We get distracted by opportunity, by the cares of this life, by good things and bad things. Distraction comes in all sorts of packages delivered by all types of people. We forget that when we keep our eyes on the prize of our heavenly calling, we will remain fixed and focused. We forget. We forget why we started and where we are going. We forget who we are and how far we’ve come. We forget that the still small voice of reassurance is more powerful than any fan or any naysayers. We look to others for validation – forgetting that we are already chosen and approved by God.

Go CONFIDENTLY in the direction of your dreams today. Whether it’s making a decision and standing firm on it, making a list of things you need to do, or spending time in the presence of God to be redirected and refocused. Maybe you’ve been putting something off until later than you can definitely start today. Share your dream with a trusted loved one and ask him or her to hold you accountable. Find a partner, if that’s what you need. Just don’t keep running from what God has for you. Run towards Him, and He’ll take you to all the places He has for you. It’ll be the ride of your life.

Do something, even if it’s one thing.

XO,

Shannon

You Have Not Because You Ask Not

I have a dream.

To help the broken, to write a book, to speak to people about the goodness of God… but, my wildest and biggest dream is to open a retreat center for broken people to come and be restored. God has literally shown me in clear glimpses what it will look like, what it will be like, and what it will do for multitudes.

I’ve spent the last two years dreaming quietly, while helping others live their dreams. But, I’m sure that it’s time to live mine, now. There are millions of hurting and broken people who have lost their hope. I want to help them find it again.

I was meditating on some of the things God has shown me and began getting ideas at light speed! I felt a still, small voice saying, ‘you have not because you ask not.’ God began to download some GREAT ideas into my mind. I started to write numbers and thought, ‘duh!’ Money is no obstacle for God!’ I believe it is time to start asking people to sow into this God-given dream. In order for it to come to pass, I need money… and, well, it doesn’t grow on trees. With our Christmas project, Stand in the Gap, right around the corner, what better time is there to become a monthly partner of From the Ruins?! And, guess what!! Literally five minutes after God resolved in my heart that it’s ok to ask Him and it’s ok to ask people to put their money where their mouth is, I got an amazing call.

A friend called and said that God impressed it on her heart to give her very first commission check to FTR!!! Love it when God confirms that He’s STILL speaking.

So, with all of that being said, will you partner with us? Will you be a monthly contributor to help hurting and broken people? If so, click the link on our home page or the donate tab on Facebook.

Xo,

Shannon

Here’s the closest picture I could find of what the retreat center will look like:

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Transformation Tuesday; One Thought at a Time.

8C69E156-01AF-4EDB-BB58-27F63E813797.jpeg“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

It’s Transformation Tuesday, y’all. What does that even mean, right?! It’s always so weight loss focused, but, in reality, we all need transforming in some area of life. If you’ve ever asked yourself, ‘where do I begin?’ – this is a must read for you.

Everything begins in the mind. It’s our biggest battlefield and the devil’s choice playground. It’s where both our wildest dreams and our biggest fears take root. As I type this, I see the reflection of my very tired face in the screen. I’ve already thought to myself, ‘Oh man. There’s a new wrinkle you didn’t have yesterday…’ and ‘Wow, I really need to pluck my eyebrows.’ Every single move we make begins with a thought. And, every move we don’t make.

Have you ever the the phrase, ‘whether you think you can or you can’t – you are right.’ It might be my favorite line in the movie Boss Baby.

For years, my mind was the place that I stored all my thoughts of not being good enough, pretty enough,  or smart enough. I spent the first half of my life thinking I was too thin and the latter part believing I was too fat. I never felt ‘just right’ for anything. That feeling only intensified after the loss of my eighteen year old son. In my mind, I became the elephant in everyone’s room… so displaced. Getting fatter only made me identify even more with that elephant, as my whopping forty extra pounds made me lose myself more and more.

My mind was grounds for the most intense battles, and I had no will to fight against my own worst enemy – myself. I was weak, tired, and broken, disguising all of that as fat and happy. Being a good person, a good Christian, a good wife and mother – well those were way more important then my physical condition, right? WRONG.

In most cases, our physical condition is the clearest picture to the condition of our true self.

If we are overeating, it is because we are stuffing our faces in hopes to fill our empty hearts. Physical food was never meant to fill the places that only God’s love can. Unless we become aware of God’s great love for us, then receive and accept it, we will never be able to truly love ourselves.

Just as we must to learn to take the negative thoughts captive and find a way to displace them and disqualify them, we also have a grave responsibility to take our good thoughts captive. Thinking good thoughts will never produce actual results in your life. You’ve got to put action to those thoughts in order for them to impact your life.

I’ve by no means arrived. I still have sooooo much to work on. I’m not some fitness guru, nor am I saying I’ll never struggle in this area ever again. However, I’m aware. I’m aware of the lies I’ve told myself. I’m aware that the devil wants me to be defeated. I’m aware that I have a part to play.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12

I’m going to tell you something the world won’t. I’m going to also tell you something that even your closest friends won’t.

You are beautiful. You are enough. You are loved. Period.

Now start telling yourself this.

Take your life back, friend. One thought at a time.

Xo,

Shannon

 

The God Who Sees

Recently, Chris and I took seventeen of our youth to camp. I had no idea what to expect. Since I didn’t grow up in church, ‘Christian Camp’ was foreign to me. All I knew was that I was excited for our kids! Chris and I prayed for months leading up that our young people would EXPERIENCE God for themselves… that He would individually meet each one and each one would have an encounter with the Living God. He did that and soooo much more. I watched young person after young person  encounter the Lord for him or herself. It was incredible. 

Each day during devotion God spoke through Chris and I specifically for our youth, whether it was a word for an individual or something collective for our whole group, He never ceased to amaze me. 

I’m not sure why, but I hadn’t really come expecting anything for myself. Maybe because I was just praying for strength to be all our teens needed, maybe because I was so hungry for our kids, as a youth director, to get all that they needed. I guess I just felt it was FOR them, and seeing them receive was honestly the best gift to me. However, each day during quiet time, God was speaking so much, to me, personally. I was hearing Him louder than I had in months. Life can be very loud, almost deafening at times. There really is something beautiful about shutting yourself off to hear only the voice of God. I began to get answers to questions I’d forgotten I even asked. I think it’s easy sometimes to settle… to say “I’ll get what I get and make the best of it.” I had almost forgotten what a big God I have. He’s a Father who wants me to have everything He came to bring. Not half, not some; ALL. 

The preacher, Pastor Nate, opened the week up with this idea of an all inclusive resort… how if we went there and didn’t partake in all the amenities, then we weren’t really experiencing what we came for. We were actually shortchanging ourselves. It’s hard for me to admit, but I’ve kind of been living there for awhile now… I’m in this all inclusive resort that offers everything, yet I’ve been ok with just the scraps. God sent His Son to make all things new, yet I’ve been living on hand me downs. (I mean I love me a good second hand store, especially Plato’s closet, but that’s not the point I’m making.) God gives new days, but sometimes I bring the pain of yesterday into them. God gives me great joy, but sometimes I feel broken beyond repair. He has restored my soul, but can I just tell you how exhausted I am lately?! Why?! Because I’m not entering in to His joy, His rest, His mercy. 

Christiano passing away was obviously the hardest, most painful thing… it still hurts all the time. I’m not saying that will ever go away. What I’m saying is that, on this journey, I’ve experienced crazy amazing joy even with the deepest, most intense, heartache. That’s the all inclusive deal… that even when things around you are falling apart, you can still have everything that Christ made available on the cross. 

There are sharks even in the most beautiful oceans, but that should never stop us from swimming. 

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

But, I know it can sometimes be hard to just keep swimming; it’s almost impossible to tread water when you’re already drowning. It isn’t easy to keep dreaming of things to come and hoping for a turn around… to keep trusting and believing that somehow, some way, God will make a way… especially when nothing can be seen on the horizon and there is no clear vision in sight. When it just looks like miles upon miles of dry and barren land, an endless landscape of ruins. 

Ruins – there’s that word again.

One particular area of pain for me has been my lack of clarity with our ministry, From the Ruins. And, yes, pain is the right word. When God births something in you that you are so certain of, then you begin to feel it slipping away, it’s hard. Especially when that thing is created out the very agony of losing your first born child. Of course, an alternative to the way you wish things had been, but something beautiful out of the ashes . . .

It was almost miraculous the way if first took off. People jumped on board to support, we began helping grieving families right away, I was speaking in churches on a regular basis, our grief support sessions were producing real and lasting fruit… then, it just stopped. Literally like a game of freeze tag that I never wanted to play. It’s been two years of just sitting and waiting on God, while still giving it everything I can. Honestly, it’s been like grieving Christiano all over again. This mother needs to believe… needs to know… his death is for something greater, something that will bring God the glory and keep our son’s beautiful memory alive. But, as I’ve had to do with everything in this life… I’ve spent the last two years laying it down over and over again. I don’t meant that I ever really pick it back up, but boy can it get into my feelings and start to mess with me… that’s when I have to audibly say, “Lord, I lay it down at your feet.” It’s hard, but nothing in this life is really mine… even my children. 

On the third day, I happened to be wearing my From the Ruins T-shirt to a worship service. Honestly, I wear them a lot because, still to this day, I have never found a T-shirt so comfortable. I don’t even think about it when I put it on anymore. A boy named Donovan from another church came up to me on our walk to activities. He said, “Miss, your shirt really spoke to me today.” I looked into his eyes that were filled with tears and said, “Really? I’m so glad to hear that. Can you tell me about it?” Through tears, he said “I felt like God was telling me to open my bible and read the scripture on the back of your shirt, and so I did. I really believe it was for me. I believe I’m called to help people out of the Ruins.” Wow. 

For those of you who don’t know, the scripture for our ministry is Isaiah 58:10-12. It says:

“And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. “And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”

I wasn’t even asking the Lord to show me anything. Yet, God used a boy I had only known three days to confirm that From the Ruins is still very much alive and well. Chris and I prayed with him and encouraged him. But, what it did for me personally, just wow.

 The next day the preacher spoke about how the people in Jesus’ hometown rejected Jesus’ healing. They just couldn’t get past the fact that he was a carpenters son. Sometimes, I feel like that… like it’s those closest to us who can’t get behind the vision of this ministry. But, I have processed that hurt over the last couple of weeks. If Jesus went through something that I feel a similarity to, then hallelujah I’m becoming more like Him! Jesus didn’t let that stop Him from doing many, many, many amazing things. He focused on the work of His father, pleasing Him alone, as He only leaned on His close few. I’m learning to do the same. 

What if Jesus decided to stop his ministry because of the few who didn’t support it? Because of the few who didn’t believe in Him? Where would we be?

Another bible story came to mind this week for me. It’s the story of Hagar. What if she chose to keep running? What if she never had her encounter with the Living God?

“Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?””

When we believe God sees us, it’s so much easier to see Him. 

I am incredibly encouraged after last week. Encouraged to keep going. To focus my heart and fix my eyes on the One who sees me! The One I’ve also seen. I’ll take this ministry anywhere God says, anywhere the people want it. Not on my terms, but on the leading of the Lord.  

Xo,

Shannon

Don’t Lose Heart

What happens when “one of those days” becomes one of those weeks? Or, one of those months? What happens when you’ve been stuck in a rut off and on for years? When one bad thing happens after another, and you don’t know how much longer you can take? What do you do then? This is the place I’ve found myself more times than I can count… it’s discouraging and disheartening. But,   today the Lord reminded me of what the psalmist, David, said…

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me?”

I find myself thinking and asking this question so much lately. It’s so frustrating, and I’m over it. I want to feel happy all the time. I know how amazingly good God is, and I literally get annoyed with myself for not being at that mountaintop level that I believe I always should be. It’s like I’m constantly waiting  and expecting for something amazing to happen – for some major life breakthrough – only to be disappointed again. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve experienced some major mountaintop moments… but, they don’t last. Why? 

Because we are made in the valley. 

The valley is the place we are most vulnerable… where we look up to our rescuer. It’s the place where we learn to trust the most, the place we are truly changed. We are made in the valley. 

The scripture goes on to say…

“Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.”

In the valley, we learn to master the art of waiting expectantly. 

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you…” 

In the valley, we learn to stand on the truth we know. Even when it’s simple. Even when it’s just three little words – God is good. 

My life is nothing like I expected it to be. It’s better in most ways, but it’s heart wrenchingly tragic in others. But, in all of it, there is one thing I’m certain of – I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Thanks to Pastor Ray for the reminder!) 

Don’t lose heart. Keep going, and, like Journey said, “don’t stop believing!” 

Xo,

Shannon