What It Means to be New

New LifeAfter months of cold and ice (and more cold, and more ice) we are finally experiencing a full-fledged Spring day. The sun is shining in the bright, clear day, though the breeze still carries a bite of chill warding off any early ideas of summer. The birds are happily settling into their newly built nests and the blooms are starting to open to the sun’s gentle warmth. In my estimation, it is a perfect day.

But this perfect day is harshly contrasted with day five of my husband dealing with…well, in all honesty, we don’t exactly know what he’s dealing with, but it’s miserable. It’s that unknown which causes anxiety and worry. Then the added gift of Google is the gift of hypochondria and increased concern.

It’s easy to become consumed in worry. Whether it is due to the sickness with no diagnosis, or the stress that comes from your job, or the never-ending bills that just. keep. coming.

Worry blinds us to the beauty of the promises that should be dictating our lives.

Instead of trusting we worry.

Instead of believing the best, we presume the worst.

Instead of resting, we fret and question.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

The peace of God is an amazing gift that I feel we often neglect. We think we’re surrendering our problems, when in fact we continue to mull over possible solutions or even worse outcomes. And in doing so, we become our own worst enemy, not allowing the Spirit to offer the peace that is rightfully ours to claim in Christ Jesus.

That’s the beauty of a relationship with God, through Jesus. We have been given a new life, a new purpose apart from the anxiety of everyday life.

The idea of “being born again” is strange to be sure. But it’s used over and over again to describe the process of allowing Jesus to change us from the inside out. We are to lay aside our old selves and take on the new. We are a new creation through Jesus. We have been given a new life.

In the most simple terms, it is a change of heart and a change of mindset. When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we don’t continue to wallow in the poor choices we made prior to that decision. We don’t continue to use the same language or exercise the same responses. Sometimes it requires a complete overhaul from the company we keep to the lifestyles we chose to live. But we are assured that not only have we been given a brand new life, but we’ve been given a brand new future–we have something to live for besides ourselves and our own selfish ambitions!

1 Peter says,

Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven– and the future starts now! (1 Peter 1:3-4, MSG)

The ESV describes that “new life” as: “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”

Spring is that visual demonstration of something that has died and been made new. Each year, as the seasons change, God demonstrates this process to us in all of its beauty and wonder. Seeds that are planted have to literally die and crack open in order to allow new growth–new life–to come out.

Are you fighting that process today? Are you standing there, withering and essentially dead, but unwilling to fully let go (die to self) and allow God to nurture that new growth? Are you allowing the stress and anxiety of the day-to-day to defile that future that is waiting for you?

As my family and I continue to search for an answer to what is plaguing my husband, the idea of a life that is imperishable and undefiled sounds extremely appealing.

Our hope, our future, is found in an eternity in heaven with God. Our purpose is built in the promises of that future. Our very identity cannot be separated from the truth of our purpose because our identity cannot be separated from our Creator. 

Who we are is buried in Whose we are.

Are you allowing your identity in God to change you from the inside out?

I pray that this spring will be a time of renewal for you and this season of your life.

The life of a rose

my sister and I cutting roses with Mama Ruthie (my great grandmother)

my sister and I cutting roses with Mama Ruthie (my great grandmother)

I realize that I have gained quite a few new followers as of late. I’m ecstatic to grow that “following” (I don’t actually know what to call it. Fan base is the other phrasing but it’s weird to think of having fans.) But as the readership grows, I recognize that many of you know little to nothing about me. Of course, I recommend going to my about page, but I want to share a little of my heart with all of you.

My dream is to be an author and speaker. While my first book is in it’s final design phase (SUPER exciting BTW), the speaker thing is still in it’s infancy. As a mother of two young girls, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot going on but I will welcome the opportunities when they do come to fruition. Within both of those realms, one thing that I never want to loose is the genuine sincerity that I feel toward the things that I write about and the topics I speak on. When I write and when I speak, I ask God to reveal himself through my words. That’s the goal. In everything I say, whether through the written word or spoken, I want to bring God glory.

So I view my life kind of like a rose bush. You see, when you first come upon a rose bush it is–for all intensive purposes–a thorn bush. People are put off by it. No one particularly goes out of their way to buy, let alone plant a thorn bush in their yards and gardens. But then as it begins to mature, buds begin to develop. When they first reveal themselves, they are often muted in color but precious and beautiful. They can be perceived as innocent and untouched. Then the excitement really sets in as they open up into a mature rose. Colors radiate and astonish, varying in degrees of pinks, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, and white. The smells are unique to the variety and almost intoxicating. But I especially love as they continue in their maturity, just before they begin to wilt.

My great-grandmother loved roses. She had a rose garden on the side of her home, in full view from the Florida room so they could be enjoyed no matter the weather. Because of this, she often had roses in different vases and dishes throughout her home. A few were still just buds, but what I remember seeing the most were the ones who had been cut and initially displayed at the peak of their maturity. Though, as time passed, they continued to mature and open to that point just before wilting and eventually browning. The color wasn’t as vibrant as it once was. You can see where insects or frost have damaged some of the petals. But in that state, open to the world, there is a genuine peace that is displayed. The rose has grown, matured and fully blossomed. It’s as if it is saying, I’ve fulfilled my purpose and I am completely satisfied in the life I’ve lived.

This is how I understand my life. When I was born, I was born into a world of thorn bushes. We all were (are) a little rough around the edges and if handled incorrectly, we won’t hesitate to prick you. But when I accepted Jesus as my Savior and began to mature, innocent and precious buds began to form. They brought excitement and energy–there’s hope for her after all! But what I am so excited about is that while I am no longer a rose bud, I know that I still have yet to show the true brilliance of colors that God has designed for me. The unique fragrance of my passions and dreams. They splendor that is shown when opened up to the world at just the right moment. Even beyond that, what I look forward to is in the years to come, long after that splendor fades. I look forward to those moments, like my great-grandmother’s roses, when I have matured and allowed God to utilize me for His glory. I look forward to resting peacefully in that satisfaction that while I may have some bruises and signs of wear and tear, I have done what God has called me to do to the very best of my ability.

So as I continue on this journey, and as I invite you to come along with me, know that my desire is to be real, genuine, and sincere. Sometimes that shows itself through my thorns and for that I apologize up front (kind of–depends on what it’s about). But I want you to know that I am so grateful to have people to journey with.

Blog Hop…Why I write.

As my 3 year old gains coordination, my husband and I have had a lot of fun trying to teach her new activities.  Forward somersaults, balancing, and jumping all included.  One such game that has been introduced is hopscotch.  Of course everything in our home reverts back to a Curious George reference (who knew that darn monkey had done SOOOO many things!).  Thankfully, there is an entire episode where George conquers the most epic hopscotch ever so Samara thus loves to play the game (season 2, episode 36, just in case you are dying to see it for yourself.  I know you are).

Think of this as a slightly altered, not-really-the same-at-all, cyber-version of hopscotch.  This is called a blog hop.  I was featured (along with a couple other people) by a friend who reads my blog and I then get to feature a couple of the blogs I follow* to introduce you to all that is wonderful in blogs-ville.

*On a side note, I realized how many blogs I follow where I don’t actually know the people and have had minimal interaction, if any at all.  I think I need to work on that, seeing as many of those I follow are for future hopes towards networking.

So my friend, Stephanie Reeves, included me in her blog hop last week.  My husband and I met Stephanie through working with the youth at our church in Orlando, Fl.  She has three amazing kids, two of which were in the youth group while we were leaders.  The entire family is awesome but of course, there was a minor detail with Stephanie being a Raiders fan and Kyle being a Broncos fan, but you know…minor details 😉

Stephanie, who has worked as a writer and editor for Cru, as well as a teacher, currently has two blogs: Compelled and That Senior Year.  She says, “Compelled is a mish mash of thoughts. Most of the time I use things I come across in everyday life to draw a spiritual parallel. Sometimes I talk about parenting; sometimes I talk about current events.”  And That Senior Year is chronicling her eldest’s final year in high school.

 

For this particular Blog Hop, each writer will answer four questions about their blog and their writing.  Then I get the opportunity to introduce you to a few bloggers that I adore (and think you should too)!  Ok, so here we go.

1.What am I writing or working on? Sooo…I just submitted my manuscript for my first book (insert happy/nervous shriek), Getting Past the Start.  With the first step (or 20) completed and waiting for the next round of edits to come back, I am currently researching for my next book which focuses on the idea of being sanctified and how that shapes our identity (you’ll hear more about it as I process my thoughts/frustrations/excitement).

Then I have this wonderful blog that serves as a melting pot for my thoughts/frustrations/excitements (see above).  It’s called simply living the life because I focus on everyday issues that I encounter as a wife, as a mom, as a mentor to youth, as a young woman trying to achieve her goals, but mostly as a daughter of God.  Sometimes the posts are serious and (hopefully) thought provoking and sometimes they drip with sarcasm (my attempt at humor though it may or may not translate as well as it does in the voice in my head).

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? I think that I have a unique ability to reach a pretty broad spectrum of people.  I have a sincere passion to reach the group dubbed YA (young adult), which includes teenagers and college kids, but I feel that many of my viewpoints can be equally appreciated by older generations (no, I did not just call you old. I promise).

God’s been grooming my heart and has begun to lay a true passion for understanding our identity in Christ.  This is something relevant for every person, of every socioeconomic background, of every race, of every generation.  I pray that I do it justice in my method of communication.

3. Why do I write what I do?  My husband (and all other members of my family) would be the first to tell you that I am a verbal processor.  Sometimes it comes out as what I unattractively call verbal vomit.  Those are moments when my brain is processing something beyond what I understand but I can’t contain it so I begin to verbally think through each and every aspect of it.  Sometimes, that’s how I write and sometimes, it’s the start of an idea that I then write about once I have processed it to a greater extent.

I write because I can’t contain it.  I love sharing insight as God grants it to me and I long to reach the masses with His messages.  I try to keep it real and approachable, but more than anything, true to the verity that God has revealed.

4. How does my writing process work? see above.  Seriously though, many times my blogs are a digital print out of my thought process at that particular moment.  I don’t edit much (if any) to keep it true and real.  It allows me the opportunity to fully develop a thought as it’s happening.

For the books…I’m honestly still figuring that one out.  I’ll let you know when I know 😉

Okay, now that you know a bit more about me and my writing, let me introduce you to a couple people:

2013-05-05 13.38.02First up is one of my favorite guys in the world, my dad, Charlie Shinn.  Yes, I am slightly biased but I love how he shares his heart on his blog, Integrity Dad.

First and most importantly(by his emphasis), he is saved by the grace of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He says, “I find that each day comes with the opportunity to walk with integrity following the example that Christ set for each of us 2000 years ago.  I seek to be a man of integrity, not to position myself above those around me for it is only by His grace that I even take my next breath.  But I seek integrity to be an example to others and to do all that I can to place a smile on God’s face.  My heart’s desire is that one day I will hear Him say “well done, good and faithful servant”.

I’m have been blessed to be married to my very best friend for 33 years and the blessings overflow when I add in two beautiful daughters, two son-in-laws, and four blessed grandchildren.  I’m a Christ-follower, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a farmer, and one who loves the world that God has placed me.
 
All that I am, all that I do, and all that I hope to be … it is not I but Christ who lives in me.”  I’m proud to be his daughter and I think you will appreciate the insight that he offers.
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Next up is my friend John Fournier.  We got to know John and his wife while working with the youth.  He has an
incredible way of engaging you right where you’re at, which makes him an incredible youth leader. John is a transplant to Orlando from New England, a new husband and father, an avid sports fan, and a broken man trying to live an uncommon life through the
grace of God. He has a heart for helping others and it is evident by his passion for serving in youth ministry.
 
His blog, Who Are You?, was founded as a way to continue sharing his experiences with people of all ages, specifically youth, to try and help them figure out who God made them to be. Having traveled all over the country for his old job, he has impacted many communities and uses blogging to try and stay connected and influential. While not a self-proclaimed writer, John strives to expand the platform God has given him to reach out to as many people as possible
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The last, but certainly not least, is Jonathan DugginsI got to know his wife, Stephanie, through the moms group at our church in Orlando.  Dad to three adorable little boys, he created this masterpiece of a blog that never fails to bring a smile to my face.  The Dad Workout takes some of the monotony and exhausting side effects of parenting and makes it fun and hilarious. Taken from the home page: “This revelation brought about the birth of another baby in my life:  The Dad Workout.  The photographs and posts on this site were inspired by experiences I’ve had as a new dad with my boys.  All the families featured here are real.  Disclaimer:  If you’re looking for a serious workout plan, this is not it.  The exercises featured here were created to make you sweat a little but ultimately to laugh about what we go through to raise the next generation.  Share your stories and photos of fatherly awesomeness.  Join the ranks of men as we grab fatherhood by the love handles and bask in the glory of everything DAD. “
If you are a parent, or think that you may be at some point, or even if know for a certain that you will never ever in a million years submit yourself to that kind of torture, you need to check out The Dad Workout.
 
On a side note, my husband won second place in a contest they were doing.  You can see it here.  Yeah, I’m proud.
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Ok, that’s it from me I guess.  Hope you enjoy these 3 new blogs to explore!
 
 

Investing blood, sweat, and tears

Today, I sold a little piece of my soul.  Yup, I joined a gym.  Though it’s the YMCA, so I feel better about that part of it.  But every 15th of the month until I tell them otherwise (with at least a 5 day notice), my bank account will take a hit.  Up side, that hit to my bank account also covers childcare so I’m able to go and workout while my kiddos go share germs and toys with other kiddos, learning important social behaviors (hopefully more positive than negative).

This morning that meant 1 hour to myself, feeling completely overwhelmed by the equipment (even though I have used it before, though I am horrible as establishing a good routine of which ones to use on what days), and comically amused at the old men exercising in slacks and a button down shirt.  Really.

But in the effort to better myself, my husband, and our family, we made the decision to make the investment.

I know, tons of people have a gym membership, so what?

It’s all about investment.  I have shared my dream of having an organization that serves as a faith resource to teenage girls and the first of the 4 areas of focus is “yourself.”  This is all about young ladies recognizing that Jesus said that the greatest command was to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and strength (Mat. 22:38). To do this means investing in the relationship.  I hope to inspire a love for the word of God in young ladies that will then influence the rest of their lives.  This is done in two parts: daily devotions and a question forum.   Getting in the Word of God and growing in knowledge of who he is.

The second area is “friends.”  Jesus continued that the second greatest command is to love others as you love yourself (Mat 22:39).  Once you yourself are on a solid path, the next circle of influence is the people you hang out with.  Your friends.  I hope to provide small group materials to empower young ladies to reach out to their friends, who hopefully will jump in at the first step and have a relationship with God.

The third area is “community.”  This is where “faith in action” comes in to play.  Whether they need volunteer hours or they are looking for a service opportunity to do with their small group (see the second area of focus), we would provide a list of organizations/companies that have already said “yes, I would be happy to have some teenagers volunteer.”  Including a contact name and phone number.

The fourth area is the “world.”  We as believers are called to share Jesus

“And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)

My prayer within this section is that other mission agencies that travel around the world on short term trips will be willing to partner with us to allow students to travel and serve worldwide.  They would officially be serving through that organization (their requirements and expenses, etc.), however, we would act as a liaison and help the students coordinate all of the details that they need for the trip.

The idea behind the organization I am dreaming of is all about investing in the lives of young ladies.  It’s about meeting them where they are at in this moment, and helping to give them the resources to move forward in their faith.  Just as my family decided to invest our time and money into a gym membership for our physical and mental well being, this organization invests in teenage girl’s lives for their eternal well being.

Some areas that you can be praying for me in this:

  • Website.  Obviously this is all done through a well organized website that is easily accessible and easy upkeep.
  • Finances to be able to afford the bare necessities (the website cost and development, as well as continual upkeep, trademarking names, someday down the road a salary for myself, other writers, IT, and finance  and marketing departments)
  • Connections.  Deep down, I’m an introvert and so stepping out and initiating connections is somewhat of a challenge for me.  BUT, I need to work within the community to have options available for volunteering as well as initiating the conversation about possible partnership for overseas mission opportunities.
  • Wisdom for material to write (to get everything up and running, I need devotions pre-written to get them posted daily and curriculum for at least several small group topics)
  • Time.  Right now, I am a full time mom and wife.  My career is my children.  I would like to find that good balance between working toward this dream as well as my other writing dreams, and taking care of my home and kiddos (who are usually napping when I’m blogging).

Jesus=Everything-Nothing

Being complete in Jesus.  It’s more than just a nice idea, it is essential to Christian living.  You see, Satan has allowed society to tell us that there are an endless number of ways to feel “complete.”  Having a career, having lots of money, getting married, having kids.  Most of these are, in themselves, good things that add to life.  But none of them on their own can sustain us.  None of them can offer eternal life.

Jesus=Everything-Nothing

I grew up in a wonderful home, with a loving family and firm foundation for my faith in Jesus.  But somewhere along the way, I developed a fear of being alone.  At the time, I didn’t realize that this was in fact my fear, but several years (and many mistakes) after the fact, it became clear.  I had this fear that if I lost all the people close to me (family, friends, boyfriends), I would be lost.  But in fact, I had everything all along.

I adore my family.  They mean more to me than anything else on this earth.  But I know that if (God forbid) something should ever happen to them, I am not alone.  I can have everything that love torn away from me, and I still have everything because I have Jesus.

I love my family. I love the opportunities I have to work with youth.  I have great dreams of becoming a writer and a speaker professionally someday.  I have dreams of creating an organization that will serve as a resource for teenage girls in their faith walk.  All of it is nothing.  Solomon, said to be the wisest man who has ever lived said this,

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.

“Everything is meaningless!”
He had everything. Literally.  Wisdom, money, power, women…everything he could ever want and despite that, at the end of his life, he realized that without God, you have nothing.  Only Jesus can satisfy.  Only in Jesus can you find that complete satisfaction that your soul longs for.
Billy Graham said,
You will never understand who you are until you understand who God is.
Do you know who God is?  Do you know that he died for you, that you might live?
In the end, this is all that matters.

I will chose to worship.

Life sucks sometimes.  It’s kind of just “part of life” but what do you expect when we live our lives as broken people, in a broken world.  There are times when I get so overwhelmed by what is happening to me, that I lose this big picture.  Basically, everything revolves around me so, of course, life sucks.  But what I LOVE about the God that I serve is the constant (sometime bombarding) reminders that my life is amazing and blessed and my fervid emotions engendering problems where these is no need for one.

I’m reading Job right now and despite my phone not cooperating with me and highlighting the verses I wanted to bookmark, I remember the point that God revealed to me this morning. (impressive isn’t it?  I’m hoping it is proof that my retention is beginning to reestablish itself as I am in the process of studying for the GRE–so if you notice any odd use of words, that’s my excuse).  SO what God showed me this morning…

So if you’ve forgotten or never knew, Job is about a man who loves God and who God has abundantly blessed.  This is set in way early Genesis time frame by the way (if you cared). ANYWAY, Satan comes along and God points out how great Job is; how he honors God and loves him.  Satan’s response is kind of along the same lines as “well, duh!” (I have a couple other phrases that I’ve heard as well that may be more appropriate from the mouth of Satan but I try to refrain from speaking them from my mouth…or typing them as the case may be).  Satan says OF COURSE he loves and serves you, look at his life!  He’s loaded!  So God allows Satan to take everything from Job.  Literally everything.  All of his livestock, his servants, even his children.  Everything.  This is the point that me, in my broken human self, justify being mad at God.  But Job was so much better than I will ever be.  Proof is in one simple, albeit powerful sentense.

“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship.” (Job 1:20)

He grieves, but his response is to worship.

When I am grieving, do I listen to the canard of the world, falling victim to it’s deception?  Or do I listen to the constant truth that God has and trust his panoptic view?

On that same note, I fell in love with a song last month that was the catalyst for this post.  I heard it for the first time while driving to Pensacola and had forgotten all about it until my sister posted in on Facebook.  Listen to the words.  Listen to their truth.  Worship.

Seasonal Purpose

I have found that there are certain verses that everyone seems to be familiar with whether or not the read or even believe the Bible.  For example, “an eye for an eye,” or “judge not, lest you be judged,” or “do unto others as you would have done unto you” (sorry, certain verses I learned in New King James version so that’s how I quote them).  Some of these are found in other common proverbs, thus are occasionally misused (the three I just listed are among those commonly quoted outside of context).

There are of course others that aren’t quite so…condemning.  John 3:16 for example:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(that’s another one that I learned in the NKJ version but figured it isn’t a whole lot different than the NIV, minus a “begotten”).

Another one is Ecclesiastes 3.

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I am probably a 1/3 of the way through writing a book on discovering your purpose and what I am finding in this journey is that just as your purpose may not be a what but a who, you can have a multitude of God given purposes in your lifetime.  “For everything there is a season…a time to plant and a time to uproot.”
For the past 4 years I have been a youth leader with my church.  I have watched some of these students evolve from gawky middle schoolers, awkward at best in their faith, to young ladies who are confident in what they believe and maturing more and more each day.  Two years ago I stepped up in my role and became Girl’s Ministry Coordinator.
We had seen our guys grow and develop but our girls were stagnant.  My job was to develop our leaders to engage with the girls better, find opportunities for them to develop relationships, and to help that stagnant group start to grow.  I feel as though I have been successful in that, and through a lot of prayer I have decided to step down from my role.

I would like to believe that God has used me to plant seeds of His truth into the lives of the young ladies I have worked with but now, it is time for me to uproot myself to allow room for the newer leaders to take over the responsibility (which many already have done).  My heart breaks because I have loved working with the youth and love these students dearly, but I know that I am no longer able to give them my priority, that now belongs to my two daughters.
The work of girl’s coordinator is in many ways my “dream job” and maybe there will be an opportunity for me to serve in that type of position full time in the future.  I hope that the students will continue to be comfortable talking to me and sharing their lives with me, even if it’s only saying hi at church on Sunday mornings.  They will remain a large part of my prayers, always, as they have been such a large part of my life over the past four years.  So for that I say thank you to all of you who have allowed me to be a part of this ministry and a part of your life and/or your student’s life.