Sunday, March 11, 2012

Marriage Makes Jesus look More Beautiful

This isnt a post to tell you how perfect my marriage is, and how I have it all together to make you feel like you dont. I wrote this in hopes to encourage you to Adore and Cling to Jesus no matter what kind of marriage you have or dont have. Aaron and I are going through a Book Called Real Marriage and it has been So Amazing for us in so many areas. We love this book because the authors get real about their own mistakes and failures. This gives every reader the liberty and freedom to acknowledge their own failures and areas in their lives that need growth. In doing that, your marriage gets stronger and life and happiness blossom causing more intimacy with the one YOU chose to love, cherish, and stand by until death.

I have wanted to write on marriage for a few months, but have hesitated as I have only been married 6 years and felt inadequate to write on the subject. I actually wrote a blog on it last week, and I waited to post it. I’m so glad I did because God showed me a lot on our night away and I ended up erasing most of what I wrote.

We all have expectations going into marriage. Some of them are appropriate while others are just not realistic. Most women wait to find the “perfect” man and they are disappointed in the first year of marriage when they realize they have married a flawed man. Men do the same. I went through a lot in my dating years and my mission was to find a man who wasn’t going to hurt me. Do you think I accomplished it? Don’t get me wrong, Aaron is a loving and kind and my best friend, but it didn’t take long for him to fail me and me to fail him.

This is what I do know in my humble experience of 6 years of marriage.

1.       Forgiveness became a frequent act in our marriage and bitterness had to be consciously kept out for us to stay best friends.

2.       A “good” Christian wife does not mean a compliant, quiet woman who never gives her opinion. But, it does mean a gentle woman who chooses her words wisely when she has to confront an issue that needs to be addressed. Sometimes it means not saying anything at all and using one of the most powerful tools to change a heart…prayer.

3.       Feelings come and go. There are moments I am obsessed and in pure awe of Aaron, and to be honest, there are moments when we look at each other and I know we are both praying for the strength to “tolerate” one another. You choose to press on in those moments.

4.       We are a team. The house does not run smoothly if we forget this and concentrate on what the other person is or isn’t contributing to: housework, kids, money, emotional support, etc.

There are times we have to remind each other verbally in humor that we are on the same team. This is vital in staying connected and not falling prey to self-pity.

5.       It takes work to make time for each other, especially when you have children. Fatigue, business, and sometimes plain selfishness get in the way of our quality time together. Our closest moments aren’t hours of watching TV but usually the 15 minute catch up times in our bed at night, or on the couch when we share our hearts. Make time for those moments each day if possible.

6.       The kids are a priority and demand constant care; however, most of our married years will be just us two. The sooner you realize this, the better for the long term of your marriage. One day those sweet faces will have their own lives and families and it will be just me and Aaron. Don’t wait until then to know your spouse.

Life is hard, marriage is hard too. Aaron and I really love each other and are committed to each other, yet it’s still a challenge to keep a good relationship. My heart aches for the people who have given up instead of working things out. I’m not Na├»ve and I know there are times when Divorce is the only option left. I grieve for that too.

Whether you are showing each other Christ’s love in unconditional love and support, or in a hard challenging time in your marriage, Jesus always looks more beautiful. This is because when we are showing unconditional love, we are showing our spouse Jesus.

I actually thanked Aaron for being human and having flaws this weekend because in his weakness (and my own) Jesus becomes more beautiful to me. If Aaron was the perfect guy I thought existed in my teens and early twenties, than God would be nothing more than just my creator. In our brokenness and failures, I am reminded that Jesus is full of beauty because he will NEVER fail me, hurt me, or act selfishly. My eyes will remain on Him. I will continue to surrender my emotions and heart back to Christ and in my surrender I find peace once again.

Ecclesiastes promises us that God Makes ALL things Beautiful in His time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

He Loves Me Still

It's no secret, I love to write. I also love to journal because it is unedited and raw and purely me. I decided to share my entry tonight, but this will be a rare thing. I’m thinking there might be others who share the same struggle. I pray this will encourage you, and cause you to cling to Jesus:

My heart and my soul, I give you control. I need you; I want to love you from the inside out, yet I don’t.
I have so many pulls in different directions and in the eye of it all that spins around me is this desire to be perfect, to never fail. I aspire to be the perfect woman.  I fail miserably.
Yes, I admit, I want to look perfect, respond to people perfect, love Jesus perfect, and be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I desire man’s approval. There I said it, it was hard yet as I did this tremendous weight lifted off of me like Christians bag in Pilgrims progress.
I confess I need Jesus to save me from me. I can’t possibly be perfect and I am tired of feeling horrible about myself when I am not. I want to be set free from that burden. I can’t possibly be perfect in every area, and if I am honest with myself, I am not perfect in any area most days.
I cant help but wonder why He loves me?! One of the many things that draw me to Aaron is that he is many times the closest thing I have to Christ on earth. He knows my flaws, yet he loves me still. I know Aaron will fail me as I do him, but God never fails me.
The song How he Loves Us swirls around in my head. I am reminded of the first moment I saw my son and two daughters. Their beauty captivated me, and I was in love forever. They have all sinned against each other and me countless times, but I still adore them. It’s in those moments I am able to grasp that Jesus Insanely loves me like I love my children. My love for them does not diminish in their failures. There is nothing they can do to change my heart towards them…nothing.
He loves you, adores you, disciplines you, desires you, and thinks of you more than you can comprehend.

Matthew 7:9-11
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him stone? Or if he asks you for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Set Free

Watch this video first before you read my thoughts...

Do you identify with this man…Barabbas?! I do.

I may not be a murderer, but I have been guilty of hatred.

I may not be a liar, but I have been guilty of lying.

I may not be a thief, but I have taken things that weren’t mine.

I may not worship idols, but I have been guilty of worshiping other things besides my Savior.

This guilty man went free while the innocent Christ died in his place. Un-fair right?

The truth is, we all crucified Jesus that day. Barabbas was just the first example to be used in this God ordained Crucifixion. The Bible tells us that through one man sin entered the world (Adam), and through one righteous man (Jesus) sin would leave this world.

 Sadly, even though I know what Christ did for me and I love him so, I will continue to be broken, guilty, and a sinner for the rest of my life. But Jesus stands next to me every time others have wanted to put me on trial. It’s as if I rise to take my defense in front of the righteous God, and Jesus instantly gets up and stands next to me. I picture my sin read out loud in my shame. He firmly and graciously says to our Father, “Shannon is mine! “ The room falls quiet.  I wait for a cross examination, but the room remains silent. The room is filled with my accusers, and they came to see a just sentence given, but instead they witnessed Grace. This scenario doesn’t happen once or twice in our lifetime, but it happens often. It is a plight we all face every single day.

If you have Jesus then you have to know that He stands with you. You don’t have to carry shame. You don’t have to live under the power of addiction, and you no longer have to face judgement…ever.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

13 Lessons in 13 years

I recently read a blog that a mom posted about what she had learned in her 7 years of parenting, so I decided to write my own. Take it or leave it, but I hope you are encouraged by at least one. I love Facebook, mainly because it makes me feel connected with old friends, and I get to keep Aarons midwest family updated on our lives. But, it has it negative effects as well. For example, everyone edits their photos and lives to look perfect. Its like we want the world to have this fa sad that we have it all together, our kids are perfect, we are successful, and life is just perfect. Dont get me wrong, there are the Debbie Downers who depress me by their continual negative thoughts and negativity. Honestly, I dont read those people's posts, but I do take a minute to pray for them. The other 98% of FB can depress us all in a different light. It gets us in the pit of comparing our wealth, jobs, kids. houses, and just about anything else. This can be dangerous. I found myself wondering why I dont post pictures of my kids with snot on their face? Or the ones where you cant see my eyes cause I smiled so big. I am thankful that I dont have poperazzi taking photos of my daily routine because it would expose my hectic days or failures. I realized that everyone else seems to do the same thing...only post perfect pictures of their lives. This is not a reality, but I will tell you what is a reality to me when it comes to parenting:

         1.Know your limits! You are asking for a disaster if you force your kids to run errands at nap time, lunch time, or any other time of day you know they tend to have melt downs. This may give you only a small window everyday so prioritize and do what you can. The rest can get done tomorrow. Nothing gets done when you push your kids past what they can handle. This will cause you to lose your temper or humiliate you both in public. Remember: There is no shame in leaving if things get crazy (this includes grocery shopping, parks, and even play dates.)

          2.Plan ahead: Those few extra minutes it takes to pack a change of clothes,  grab toys, books, or DVD’s for entertainment, snacks, ect… are so worth the minutes of sanity you will be saving yourself. Try to think ahead to what future catastrophe’s could come in your way if don’t have the proper essentials to carry out the day. You wouldn't leave for work without your lap top or iPad right?

        3.Parenting has fads! The sooner you realize this the better off you are. Parenting styles of discipline, health, and education change drastically from year to year. If you follow each trend, you will send you and your family on a unstable, confusing, and frustrating roller coaster. I'm not saying you cant change your parenting, sometimes this is essential. I have learned a lot by watching other moms, so be open just not easily swayed. Trust Gods word, and find good parenting tools from books that don’t have a “HOW TO GET GREAT KIDS” recipe. Those doesn’t work, and it will leave you feeling more of a failure after trying those methods.  A book that really helped me was “Give them Grace” by Elise Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.

          4. Celebrate each child’s differences. Don’t hold any expectations with one child to the next. God created them uniquely different…celebrate that! For the challenging personalities, ask God daily to give you his grace and patience for them, and most importantly how to mentor that strong personality into an incredible strength in their life. Life would be boring if they all were the model child. Take joy in the different aspects that make them who they are, but please don’t be afraid to discipline them. The book of Proverbs was written by the wisest man who ever lived…Solomon.  It says that a parent who hates his child does not discipline him. Need I say more?

           5. There is always something that needs to be taken care of: Laundry, dishes clean up, discipline, play dates, Dr. Apt.’s are never ending, and yes fun time! The flu does not take Christmas or birthdays off…learn to be flexible with what you have planned and always have a Plan B, C, & D. Don’t get caught up in the business of life. Take time to read to your kids, explain things in more than one sentence, look them in the eyes, and just sit and watch them play and interact. Breathe!

         6.Time management is key. Don't be afraid you wont get everything done today…you probably wont but that’s OK! Accept that. If you do happen to get it all done…bonus! Strategize the most imperative things for the day to get done first, and then add to it things you would like to get done if you can. Don't be held captive by the expectations of others. This will prevent  frustration when your 2 year old poops their pants or dumps the gallon of milk on the carpet right as you are about to leave house. If we are honest, we get frustrated because of expectations of ourselves or others. Let it go! Choose peace over anger or frustrations.

       7.Actions really do speak louder than words. Even my two year old watches, takes notes, and delivers what she see’s. It’s a humbling but good reminder to think before you speak, act, or scold. Yes, this applies to the  way your deal with your husband or friends too. I am not perfect at this by any means but I am constantly reminding myself this when my temper starts to rise against another person, driver, or family member. You will fail, repent, and move on. No parent models 100% of the time what they want their children to be. Jesus is the only one who has ever and will ever do this perfectly. Doesnt that give you a relief?! It sure does for me!

           8. Which brings me to this hard but so important one: APOLOGIZE Often! My kids know when I blow it. They are a whole lot smarter than we think, and they really do pay attention to what I do & say. They need to know that repentance is an everyday thing, so that they will grow up to be humble adults. Also, they need to know that your love for them is unconditional and it models perfectly how God loves us. Don’t expect from them what you cant deliver.  I mess up way more than they do at age  33. 

 9.Its OK to take a brake! Know your limits and don’t try to push past them. Look for times in the day when you can sit, read, or just enjoy nature to bring solitude to a hectic day. Whatever it is that relaxes you and refreshes your heart, do it. Some days I get a couple hours of this and some days a few minutes. I celebrate both!

         10. Let your kids see you serve. The times I have taken the initiative and the extra minute to help an elderly woman at the store, pray with a friend, or talk to a homeless person and offer them lunch, speaks volumes to them. Justus still talks about the time years ago when I put my favorite blanket on a homeless man on a dark, cold, and rainy night. My mom modeled this to me, and it came natural to do it as an adult. I don’t tell this to you to brag, the sad thing is that was 7 years ago and I haven’t done it since. Look for opportunities to love others the way Christ loves us in front of your children.

11.   Its OK to say no, later, not now. This rule applies to people in our life as well as our children. Obligations are part of life, but don’t ever get in a habit of letting your family suffer because you said Yes to everything that week.  I know we want to give our children the world, but saying yes to them all of the time is not a reality of how life is, nor does it do anything but produce selfish adults who can’t accept life’s No’s in the future.

12.   I have been a working mom and a stay at home mom. Both are hard and both have their own stresses & challenges. I choose to be an at home because they are small for just a short time, and then they are gone at school.  I have plenty of years ahead of me to work. Being a full time mom can often bring feelings of failure, or that I am going to “mess them up” somehow. Aaron and I often joke about what therapy our kids are going to have to endure in their adult years because of our failures.  In all seriousness, by God’s grace, in our weaknesses they will survive. Yet, that doesn’t mean I give into my weaknesses….I press on! My most successful days as mom have started with this prayer, “God, help me today to have love, patience, and wisdom in dealing with my family.”

13.   The last but most important one is that I don’t know it all, nor do I have parenting figured out. The longer I have been a mom, the more I realize how much I need to grow and learn. My kids are constantly changing and growing in a way that keeps me on my toes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I have learned to put my pride aside to ask for tips, prayer, or ideas with many things. I weed out the bad, and celebrate the good for there are always people willing to give advice.

Parenthood is a journey. You press on with the hard days and celebrate the successful ones. Encourage other mothers who are earlier on in their journey than you and seek out moms that are more seasoned than you are and learn from them. Make prayer a daily routine and seek God with your whole heart . It says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2nd Chance

It was only a week ago that I rushed my precious Stella to the ER after Poison control told me to get her there ASAP because she drank around 40ml of Albuterol. I have had to call poison control numerous times for this little person. Some of the items on her consumption list include: toothepaste, deodrant, neosporin, All Purpose cleaner (thank God it was All natural), chapstick, hydrocortizone cream, random berries at the park, and poop. Yes, her poop and a some unknown dog poop. Yes, I watch her and dont let her just "roam" the house, and yes she does this right under my nose. She's quick and quiet but does mass desctruction in minutes just like the Stealth Bomber.
Last Thursday was no different, I had taken her to the batheroom and I walked out before her assuming she would follow me to the living room. Our house is small so there arent many place to go. Instead, she took a detour to the kitchen, took her stool, climbed up onto the counter to get the medicine left on the high counter from just 30 min. before. It took just 2 minutes....thats all. It was quiet and she was not around so I went into the kitchen to check on her only to find her cute cheeks filled with her 2nd helping of Albuterol.
By Gods Grace she escaped this emergency with a temporary speedy heart rate, high blood sugar, and dangerously low potassium. She is fine now! Praise God! Aaron and I made her sleep with us that night and haven't stopped kissing her round face since.
Its funny though, this past week Stella has had an extra hop in her step, and she has been extremely affectionate since then. She tells each family member multiple times a day that she, "Loves us sooo much!" Her eyes are brighter and her smile bigger! Its as if she knows she got a 2nd chance at life.
It got me thinking, why is it that we have to get sick, or have someone around us battle cancer, or pass away for us to wake up and enjoy each day?
My heart broke as I read about another child who went to be with the Lord today after a fierce battle with cancer. I am blessed to know others who have battled cancer and won. Their outlook and joy inspires me! They all say the same thing...they look at life differently and live differently. They appreciate all the little things we all take for granted daily.
I want to live my life differently now...not just in tragedy. I want to love people and appreciate every little thing in my life now...not then. I believe that is how God desires us to live.
I challenge you to search your heart for those who you have held forgiveness from, and ask God to give you the strength to forgive them. You are only hurting yourself, and bitterness can be smelled a mile away. It sends off a stench that repells anyone to get close to you.
Love those God has graciously placed in your care with all your heart as the priviledge it is, and live your life every day dont just EXIST. You were created for a purose, so ask God to show you what it is, and DO IT!
God has you here, today, so fulfill your purpose and let go of whatever it is that you feel you have the "right" to hold onto. I am not saying this will be easy, it wont. It is only possible through Jesus Christ to truly forgive and let bitterness go. It is only through Him that I have been able to forgive certain people in my life, and when I did it was extremely liberating.
Do it now, dont delay, for tomorrow is promised to no one.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas is over and we have all moved onto our New Years resolutions and goals, but this is a story that should live in our hearts all year long. Its Grace in its purest and most tangable form.
To be honest, I was feeling numb to the whole Christmas story, and I desperately wanted to feel God. Truth was, I wasnt feeling very "Christian".
 I go to a wonderful church and I am blessed with many godly people around me, yet I just wasnt feeling it.
I was feeling gulity for my apathy to what is suppose to be the greatest story to every Christian.
I was sitting at church this Christmas not expecting the Lord to show up but He did.
I left with tears in my eyes and a joyful heart, the Christmas story had come alive to me in a new way after 33 years.

I began watching this video clip of Mary finding out that she was to give birth to the son of God. Just think about that for a moment...

 I never really thought about how she felt claiming to be a pregnant "virgin". I can only imagine what scorn and rumors she endured to fulfill this God ordained task.
I was instantly taken back into my own story 14 years ago.
I don't think about it often, its in the past and forgotten.
I remember walking around just like Mary probably did. I could feel the stares and glares against me like a black cape. I could see the eyes shift up and down my growing belly, and I could hear the silent harsh words that echoed all around me from those I called friends.
I wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out! I felt like everyone around me yelled, "Unclean! Unclean!" every time I went by.
The church I grew up in was the last place on earth I felt loved and accepted. Its a sad, harsh but true reality.
 I felt as though the world had slapped a Scarlet Red letter on my chest, and I would wear it forever.
To think that Mary felt this too: betrayed, alone, and humiliated.

 The difference between her and I was she was guiltless and I was guilty.
No excuses, it was the truth.
The difference between my accusers and God was that he accepted me anyway and loved me still.
All Mary knew was that God was on her side and He would be faithful. She clung to that, breathed that, and counted on that every day as she took each step with her head toward the ground. As I endured a similar yet justified sentence, I clung for dear life to the promise in The Bible that says God is Faithful even when we are faithless, For He cannot deny who he is.
Whenever I talk about that time in my life it brings an instant lump in my throat and tears in my heart. It is not because I live in that shame anymore, I dont. I know I am forgiven and I live in that Grace.
Talking about that part of my life brings an instant reminder to me of who Jesus is, and who He is to me. Tears.

He is Beautuful, peaceful, forgiving, loving, and gracious in every way. He looked my accusers in the eyes and then gentely looked at me and said, Woman where are your accusers, go and sin no more!
A good friend of mine gentley reminds me of this verse. Romans 14:4 "Who are you to pass judgement on a servant of another? It is before his own Master that he stands or falls."
What a honor yet huge responsibility to be accountable to the Maker of the Universe.
I encourage you to let God into those dark parts of your life. He will forgive, heal, and restore you as he continually does for me..
God loves you, adores you, thinks of you often, and WILL be faithful to you even though you have been faithless.

Here is the short clip I watched that provoked my heart to speak.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

More of YOU and Less of me

I remember singing this song in Church as a teenager. Clueless and Naive, I couldnt grasp the reality of the words "More of You and Less of me."
 I do now.
I have come to believe that being a wife and mother is one of the most humbling jobs on the planet.
Its not just because I clean toilets and floors, or because I have scrubbed puke, snot, pee, breast milk and poop off of beds, floors, couches, walls, ceilings, car floors/seats, and anything else you can imagine. I have also been covered in all of those things.
Yes, I am in charge of the household nastiness & I am to somehow make it all look pretty:)

Its mainly because I have realized in this job that I am not very patient, nice, loving, or selfless. This is a painful reality but not one I will accept. I need more of Jesus and less of Shannon every single day!

My attitude is not always pleasant, I thank God that he didnt give us the abililty to read minds.
Shamefully, my family of 5 has seen the worst in me.
However, I know that Gods strength is made perfect in my weakness! I cling to that and depend on that with all my breath in my lowest points.
My prayer today and every day forever is that I will not be who I am today, tomorrow. I  am a work in more no less.
In order for me to find pure joy in an every day job that can me taxing and hard. I need to cling to Jesus. I need His patience and love.
When I look to Him for strength, I am truly able to LOVE LOVE what I do and LOVE my family in a way that brings honor to God and puts a smile on their face. No complaining, no short is in beautiful.