In Defense of the Indoors

I would like to set the record straight. It’s no secret that my relationship with wildlife and the wilderness isn’t amicable. If you know me well, you’ve seen me run away from something living or refuse to go somewhere that many people love to go and commune with nature. Because I am secure in myself, I haven’t felt the need to explain my phobias and concerns with the public until now…purely for clarification reasons. The philosopher Jim Gaffigan once said, ‘If it’s so great outside, why are all the bugs trying to get in my house?’ Here are the completely feasible reasons the outside is terrible.

  1. It’s beautiful, but there’s always something acute that ruins it.

    For example, a sultry summer sunset being ruined by mosquitoes. A magical fresh snow coupled with a power outage and frostbite. A colorful autumn matched with leaves you have to rake and then pay extra for your garbage to pick up- and then if you don’t do it in enough time all of your neighbors judge you and you have to avoid social shunning from people you barely know. Come on, people. Yeah, nature is gorgeous. But then nature slaps you and laughs and SOME of you keep coming back for more. WHY.

  2. Animals are covered in germs.

    Birds = Avian Flu. Pigs = H1N1 or Swine Flu. Mosquitoes = Zika. Racoons/possums/squirrels/any furry rodent = RABIES.

    You get the picture. I understand if you own a pet that you think that your specific animal is clean. But what do you think your animal does during the day? Did you see the ‘Secret Life of Pets Movie’? For all you know, your pet could get lost in the city, dumped in the sewer and make it back before you get home. To clarify, I am not hostile toward pets. I would love a canine companion to protect me from a potentially hazardous situation. But no, I’m not going to be super overjoyed when some tells me that they recently saw some type of vermin nearby their residence. I’m not going to want to come back without some pepper spray or like…some really big stick or something.

  3. Animals mess with your stuff.

    Squirrels eat the copper from under your car. Mice chew through wires and turn off things in your house. Birds poop on your car right after you wash it. If you garden, rabbits eat your food. If you’re in Alaska, moose look at you like you’re the strangers (which I completely agree and respect because they are huge and would trample me) If you have peonies in your yard, ants will attempt conquest and remove the humans from the house. And then you have the audacity to tell me they’re CUTE. BYE.

Now just because I firmly believe all of these indisputable facts, it does not mean I am an animal or nature hater. I would describe myself as an avid animal and nature respecter.

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Me being forced into the wilderness surviving the perils of nature.

My favorite animal is the Orca because it’s they’re intelligent and powerful. I’ve watched every documentary about Orcas on Netflix. I love watching the National Geographic episodes about the ocean, the savannah and the jungles of the rainforest.

And it’s solely because I’ve watched these documentaries, that I’ve created my own set of vows that nature and I will uphold as long as I keep my side of the bargain.

 

  1. I WILL NOT GO INTO THE OCEAN ONLY TO BE EATEN BY A SHARK, STUNG BY A JELLYFISH, OR PINCHED BY A CRAB. I WILL SIT ON THE BEACH AND RUN AWAY FROM ANY AND ALL SEAGULLS.
  2. I WILL NOT GO ON A SAFARI TO END UP LIKE THE GROUP OF NEW YORKERS IN MADAGASCAR 2, FIGHTING TO SURVIVE THE WILDERNESS. I WILL NOT POSITION MYSELF TO END UP RUNNING AWAY FROM HIPPOS, LIONS, ELEPHANTS ZERBAS OR OSTRICHES.
  3. I WILL NOT GET LOST IN ANY JUNGLE TO GET CAPTURED BY MONKEYS AND FORCED TO LIVE WITH WOLVES AND A COOL LOOKING PANTHER JUST SO THAT A RUDE TIGER WON’T EAT ME.
  4. I WILL NOT GO CAMPING IN A PLACE WHERE I CAN NOT BE FOUND IF I LOSE CELL PHONE RECEPTION AND GET ATTACKED BY A BEAR AND END UP LIKE LEONARDO DICAPRIO IN THE REVENANT.

I am not an idiot. Sure, lots of people have great experiences viewing the lions in Kenya or the poisonous frogs in Brazil. But I’m not taking any chances. I believe animals should be free to inhabit the spaces that God created them for. I believe that we should protect the environment and find sources of renewable energy. I also believe that I belong indoors, away from all the dangers that I know would overtake me.

Like in an apocalyptic situation, I’m toast. That’s why I’m honing my leadership skills, maybe people will keep me around for something. If you’re outdoorsy, I’m not trying to convince you to stop. Just don’t try to convince me that “IT’S NOT THAT BAD”. As the great orator Jimmy Fallon says, “Stay in your lane, girl.”

Coffee Talks| How to Last in Ministry

Have you ever heard these things before from your Christian family members?

“I don’t really connect with church anymore.”

“__________ is wrong with the church I attend and I’m waiting to find a place that supports this.”

“__________ in church leadership did _________ and I can’t respect them anymore.”

“I just don’t believe He’s real anymore.”

“I’m pursuing my own spiritual path right now.”

“I don’t think I heard God right…I must’ve made it all up.”

Offense. Unbelief. Temporary pleasures. Consumer-minded churching. Doubting. Let’s be honest; we’ve all been there at some point.

Being a faithful member of any church is not for the faint of heart. It requires the sacrifice of one’s agenda and trust of the leader in charge. Being a faithful leader in any church?

Well, that’s even harder.

I recently spoke with a role model of mine about this simple question,

‘How do you last in ministry?

Continue reading “Coffee Talks| How to Last in Ministry”

Hello From the Other Side

Look, we need to talk.

I feel awkward when there’s tension. It’s like there’s a perpetual elephant in the room (while editing, I realize that this could be taken as a political jab. It’s not…but I guess it kind of it reflective about how I feel about talking about politics lately), taking up space and waving at me. I PRETEND it isn’t there, antagonizing me, but it is.

I feel tense a lot more lately…blame it on race relations, accuse American politics for shaking us up, but either way, there’s a HUGE amount of tension in my relationships lately, and I’m over it. It seems disingenuous to me to ignore the tension, but in the name of ‘peace’ we paint over the issues and ignore them so that no one feels uncomfortable.

(I cringed typing that.)

Let me tell you…if you haven’t heard, the comfortable ship has sailed. It’s long gone. I lost that luxury the moment I discovered being an African-American female was different. I lost that luxury when I heard about a young man that decided to shoot up a well-known, historical African American church at a bible study. I lost that luxury when I noticed gender pay gaps, discovered world hunger and learned about a water scarcity issue on the rise. Big surprise, all of this is uncomfortable.

You know what’s worse than being uncomfortable? Being complacent.

Being okay with being passive about uncomfortable issues = complacent (in this context).

We REALLY need to have a conversation about this.

I need to apologize. I am sorry for pretending like everything is okay. I’m sorry for downplaying my emotions. I’m sorry for my own ignorance that I’m positive displays itself in my actions and things I’ve said. This tension is my responsibility too.

I feel like I’ve settled a little when it comes to this.  I settle for passive aggressive remarks that one can only detect if they can sense my irritation. Avoiding people that I disagree with has become an all too common practice, and is the easy way out for me. I settle into the mindsets that say, ‘I don’t want to make a big deal out of this,’ or ‘I don’t want to bring up this topic because it makes people shut down’. Honestly, my experience as an African American female growing up in Nebraska has been a series of ‘pick my battles’ with what I choose to discuss or not, ultimately making me the one who loses.

Whether I lose a close friend, someone’s respect for me, or lose my hope in the consideration of others- I lose. I lose the freedom to honestly process all of the offenses dropped into my lap because it makes people uncomfortable. And because of this discomfort, I have felt more alone, powerless and voiceless in the last year than I have in my entire life.

In the words of Nacho Libre, ‘it sucks to be me right now’.

It isn’t the extreme bigots that have made me feel this way. It’s not primarily a certain age or political group ; it has been people I’ve seen at church… friends, people I do life with. That is why this healing has to happen; I’m not okay with the notion that I am not allowed to be myself, or to feel, or to express my frustration at the thought that it makes you ‘uncomfortable’.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter to clergymen from a jail cell in Birmingham:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

You can read the rest of the letter here: Letter from Birmingham Jail

What a luxury that is. To live in a world that is void of all conflict, void of soul-disturbances that may cause you to take action. It must be nice to not have to wake up in the morning wondering about what racism or other political ignorance you will see in the news. It must be nice to only speak up when your demographic has been affected, and not someone else’s. Goodness, I guess anyone would opt for that existence.

We don’t become unified this way. We can’t bridge polarization with a half-understanding of each other. We won’t even get anywhere if we don’t actually want to understand. We need both- the desire to understand and accurate information in order to have an effective, empathetic, two-way conversation…on any side of any issue. We must walk with courage into our discomfort in order to make progress.

To be clear, this is not about white guilt or republican guilt for that matter. There’s no need to apologize for all the things your ancestors or others may have done that you had no control over. I’m sure that the people from your heritage have incredible, God-given traits that make them more human than most make them out to be. I’m not saying you need to apologize for what they did. But MAYBE…possibly, you could apologize for something you HAVEN’T done; like, create a safe space for others to voice their concerns about their experiences. Or to honestly acknowledge the subtle, systematic forms of racism in our society. Or to speak up when someone makes an inappropriate joke or comment. Or to recognize that the President-elect and his appointments have a lot of Americans disheartened and discouraged about the future.

I know, I sound angry.  It’s because I am angry…about a lot of things.

THAT’S WHY WE NEED TO TALK.

I don’t want to stay angry, I want to be reconciled to my friends and family. I want to feel comfortable being myself in church or at the mall, like I feel at home. I need you to hear me. I need you to see my hurt and not just say, ‘how sad for you’. I need you to feel the deepest part of my hurt and hurt with me. I’m not satisfied letting myself appear fine while my heart is breaking for my people, my gender, my fellow Americans and my church. I am done with pretending with people I love that I am not hurt by things they have said (or haven’t said) on my behalf. Talking about unity, whether racial or political, doesn’t help me if I know that I am isolated in my heart.

Please, hear my heart. Please know I am STILL sad and hurt and mad about the condition of this country, as many others are. But I want to be about unity, not just the warm fuzzies it gives you when people talk about it.

I’m ready to talk. I’m ready to listen. Let’s start a conversation about why you voted or didn’t vote for Trump. Let’s talk about race. Let’s talk about gender discrimination. Just start with, ‘hello’. Let’s fix this. If not with me, fix it with someone else.

But for the love of God, with honesty and empathy, let’s just talk with each other.

 


If you’re an action person too, check out these resources:

 

 

Dealing with Disappointment 

Man, I hate being disappointed. It sucks. I think that’s a generally agreeable sentiment.

I consider myself an optimistic person, a ‘glass-half-full’ person. If I had my way, I would have a cloud of glitter that goes ahead of me and rainbows that stain the sidewalk wherever I walk, declaring positive platitudes that annoy the people around me. Disappointment ruins my positive, glitter-rainbow dreams faster than you can say, ‘ugh.’

Disappointment is like a flat tire, a rainy day without an umbrella, a bird pooping on your shoulder. That’s it. To me, disappointment is like life’s metaphorical bird pooping on your shoulder. No one likes to have a poop-stained shoulder.

 

In my thinking on this topic, disappointment hits me deeper than that. When asking people how they deal with disappointment, most said they just ‘move on’. Those people are better at this life thing than I am because disappointment causes me to question my capability and my worth. Disappointment isolates me and sets me on edge with others. It can lead to a sense of powerlessness or discouragement. It is easily avoided yet it happens to everyone. Every single one of us has experienced the shock and the pain of an unfulfilled expectation- whether it was self-inflicted or not. My preferred method of dealing with disappointment is avoidance, but I’m definitely not above some good, old-fashioned self-pity. Because I am not the best example of how to deal with disappointment, I’d like to look to see how those in the bible dealt with bad news.

There are two scenarios that I’d like to explore. Two kings, two grave situations, two responses that we can use to learn from.

Scenario 1:

King David | When You Make a Mess in Your Life

“7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for[a]the Lord, the son born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:7-14

King David was the Lord’s anointed. He was God’s golden boy and he’s described in the bible as a ‘man after God’s own heart’. King David made a huge set of mistakes, one that would have repercussions throughout his entire lineage as long as his family was alive. David, the young man who had trusted the God of Israel in the field and became the greatest king in Israeli history, gave in to lust, greed, and murder and he ALMOST got away with it. If you were to read the 1 and 2 Samuel, you would read the amazing story of David, and how God promised to establish David and his heritage forever. This sin was not without consequences, and I’m positive that many can relate to this situation.

No one forced you to make the choice you made. No one told you to say what you said, or act on a lack of information. No one knew how it would all turn out when you took that wrong turn, and you are still paying for that decision or lack thereof to this day. You may have given up hope that your circumstance will change for the better, but David shows us how to respond when we make our own mess. In Psalm 51, he cries out to God in humility and repentance.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

When his wrong was exposed, he did not deny it. He did not excuse it. He acknowledged his sin was first against God and confessed it. Then, he turned to the God that he had grieved and asked him to restore him.

What I’ve gathered from this situation is that if you had made your own mess (whether you sinned or not), and you are disappointed in your decisions and their consequences, these are the steps you take:

  1. Humble yourself – Pride will keep you from experiencing the restorative power of God. You can’t handle your disappointment without this step first. Let this situation bring you to a place of clarity with God and his plan.
  2. Confront your choice(s) – Do not avoid or make excuses for why you did what you did. Take responsibility. Don’t pretend that it didn’t happen or that it didn’t affect you. It happened; see it for what it is and learn from it. Nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Pour out your honest feelings to God – God is merciful. He delights in showing mercy to those who genuinely come before him as His children. He knows what you’re thinking, honesty from you is a step toward intimacy with God.
  4. Allow God to restore you – You may be living with the consequences, but God’s restorative power can bring everything back to you in a moment. Hold on to hope.

When we make a mess in our lives, the restorative power of God can turn the biggest disappointment into the most powerful display of God’s kindness.

Scenario 2:
King Hezekiah | The Brunt of Bad News 

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” 2 Kings 20:1-4

King Hezekiah served the Lord faithfully as king of Judah since the age of 25. In 2 Kings 18, it says that there was no king that was like him in all of Judah, before or after him. He trusted God and he depended on Him for the deliverance of Israel many times. This guy was pretty much perfect. In 2 Kings Chapter 19, God had rescued Israel from their enemies and they seemed to be coming off from a ‘mountaintop experience’ with God.

Hezekiah must have felt pretty optimistic about they way things were going for him and his people.

Have you ever been blind sighted by bad news? Were things going really well for you and then someone close to you passed away or you were burdened with something financially? Those things come out of nowhere, sometimes. No one can explain it, no one can give any real advice on how to handle it…it just seems like there’s nothing anyone can say to make it better. It feels like getting punched mercilessly in the gonads of your soul.

Let’s be honest. Getting terrible news is not easy to swallow. Dreams can disappear. Hopes are deferred. Your expectations for your life and the way it would go seems to be ‘up in the air’ as you scramble to try and find something firm to stand on. Hezekiah understood that. But Hezekiah also knew how to respond to his disappointment in a way that would evoke a response from God. Here’s what we can learn from Hezekiah:

  1. Emote – Let it out in a safe place. Don’t suppress your hurt, pain or frustration. Find an outlet and pour your emotions into that outlet. Be sure not to let it out ‘on’ another person, but in a healthy way, find a way to feel the gravity of what is happening to you. King Hezekiah wept bitterly. If he was a man and leader of his country, I’m sure you can do it too.
  2.  Converse with God intimately and honestly– The significance of Hezekiah turning his face to the wall to pray was to get away from spectators. Even though he had devastating news, he knew who to bring his concern to. He did not avoid God or wallow in self-pity. He brought his concern before the Lord because he believed this truth: God cares about the way you feel and desires to respond to your heartbreak.
  3. Trust in the goodness of God – though we can ask the question ‘why’, God may not always give us the response we are looking for. Here’s how Hezekiah’s prayer was answered:

“4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.” 2 Kings 20:4-7

God sees and hears us when we pray. It doesn’t always turn out like this, but God is able and willing to intervene in a situation. I know that He would move heaven and earth to communicate to us that He is not heartless or idle, but that He is active and involved and desires to care for us when we need it.

Disappointment is a universal feeling. I’ve learned in my own life that disappointment, self-inflicted or not, is not a dead end. Disappointment is a doorway.

A doorway to a better me, to a different situation, to a deeper relationship with my Father in Heaven.

Treat it as such. Walk through the muck of your disappointment into the restoring, attentive arms of God and His plan for your life.

 

The Perfect Gift from Jesus | Eli’s Birth Story

October 12th was a hard, but rewarding day.

Cle and I were at Starbucks the night before going into labor, chatting about nothing and everything. I faintly remember us engaging one of the employees on the topic of ‘Barista’ vs. ‘Bro-ista’, to find that Urban Dictionary had taken the time to create a sufficient definition for them both.

And unbeknownst to me, I waddled on out of Starbucks that night with my sweet husband as we concluded our last date as a family of two.

We checked into the hospital at 4 a.m. and I wasn’t scared, though my eighth-grade memory of childbirth should’ve scarred me for life. I was ready. [To clarify, I don’t mean that I was prepared for everything, but I was seriously ready to be done being pregnant.] I didn’t have a strict birth plan, but I knew I wanted a few things…like my exercise ball and the whirlpool room. Oh, and of course the famous God-given gift to womankind: the epidural.

*Praise break for the epidural.*

I honestly can talk about the beauty of the epidural for ages. In my best TD Jakes voice, ‘I need someone to get up and give God a CRAZY praise!’ I respect all the women in the world who have given birth to their babies without the meds, but I am thankful that I didn’t have to be one of them.

Labor was progressing beautifully. I had my water broken, a ‘fun’ time in the whirlpool and then the epidural. By noon, I was dilated to 8 centimeters and I expected to have baby around 1:00 p.m. Everything was going amazingly.

The keyword there is ‘was’.

We stalled in labor for a few hours and his heart rate began to periodically drop. At about 4 p.m., the nurse called our doctor to let her know that we would have a C-section. Cle and I both had the same look of concern, the same look of fear. We didn’t know how to handle the news as we were worried for our little one…and for me.

Through all of this, I remember seeing Jesus… he stood across the way, cradling my son with and excitement in his eyes for this gift he was going to give me. He came close and gave me my little boy and I knew he was a gift… especially meant for me.

Through the scare, I whispered, “I trust you, Jesus” because I knew that he would be there and help little Eli to come out without any complications.

Right then, I felt an idea pop into my head. We were out of options and almost out of time. The nurses had shaved the surgical area, and they had even put their hairnets on. No one had any other suggestions, so I piped up and asked if I could get into a different labor position. It was the last thing we could try, and my doctor agreed to give it a go. Thankfully, I still had some feeling in my right leg so I was able to change positions and 20 minutes later, I was completely dilated. I had a brief period of rest and then my doctor arrived. 20 minutes and 5 contractions later, Eli Thomas Mangram emerged at 5:31pm.

I will never forget the first time I saw him…or the first time I heard his strong cry.

Jesus was faithful to us…and to me. We are thankful and elated with our baby boy.

Soon after birth came the first test of motherhood…jaundice.

As if it’s not enough to go through hours of pain and trauma, you have to deal with other issues that arise with your little one…while trying to heal from uncomfortably placed stitches.

After Eli’s first week of life, I was besotted with my son… but even more besotted with Jesus. I have felt inadequate, and intense worry for my son as we have been at the doctor or hospital everyday, including today.

Eli had an increasing bilirubin level in his blood, and though everyone told my husband and I that it was common, it didn’t ease our feelings of concern for him. Eli had to get his foot pricked for six straight days. I was anxious, and the slightest thing could send me into loads of tears… just wanting Eli to be okay, wanting my body to heal faster and to master this mom thing ASAP.

One night when we were tired and overwhelmed, my sweet mom came over and let Cle and I escape for a bit. As we turned on the worship music in the car, a line stood out to me ‘This love won’t leave you to walk a road alone’ and I began to open my heart again to the goodness and faithfulness of God, who reminded me that he can be trusted to take care of my son. Not having control over the things my son goes through is easier to deal with when you know God is the real care taker. I left with a sense of peace.. and the faith to believe that that day would be the last day of Eli’s increasing bilirubin levels.

I don’t know what you believe about God, and I honestly don’t know if I could convince you that God is real. All I know is that Jesus is alive, and He is incredibly kind and incredibly capable of calming the storms inside. He is my peace and my strength.. and though this new mom thing is full of challenges- I would not dare go through it without Jesus. We prayed for Eli, and we prayed for wisdom and had some good friends pray with us as well.

On the 7th day, we took Eli to get checked and his count went down. We took a picture at the park, where we thanked God for his faithfulness to us and to Eli. But more than that, in the face of uncertainty- God gave me the peace and hope and joy to endure, and I am thankful for that.

Continue to pray for Eli. But also pray that Motherhood produces the trust and confidence in God like I’ve never experienced before. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 💕

I still can’t believe he’s ours. We are blessed beyond measure.

#teammangram

 

My Journey with Bitterness

img_5321Mercy

At church tonight we talked about bitterness. I wasn’t going to go as I have been battling sickness this weekend, but I’m thankful I did. [Vulnerability ahead]

Believe it or not, bitterness is one of the great struggles of my soul; and I’ve been hard-pressed to find a way to manage it. Maybe because bitterness is easy to hide. It is easily hidden by obligation, and monitored by a good filter. Bitterness is the self-righteous sister to anger, and in my life and in my relationships it has unleashed a brokenness that even now brings me to tears.

I believe in justice. I believe that someone should acknowledge and see their destructive tendencies, and then create a ten-step plan to stop that behavior, checking in with me every week to make sure that change is happening. Justice in the guise of bitterness has caused me to doubt God’s ability to defend my heart as His daughter.

Part of the reason this happens is because I generally trust people and their intentions. When they break that trust, it is an incredible feat to get it back. I am awkward and avoidant, trying to force myself to “forgive” when in my heart I am struggling to “forget”. I want to get things back to the way they used to be. But in my experience, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I have heard many messages on bitterness and how it is like ‘drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. In your head, you say, “Okay. I’m over this.” In your heart you say, “God, why did you let this happen? How are you going to fix this? How are you going to stop them from doing this again?” Justice. I want justice. I have been perplexed in my spirit for so long about how to finally let go- and “get over” deep offenses. How can I not be upset about this if “they” haven’t changed? Or if they don’t even want to change? I say to myself, if God is a God of justice, I will wait until he performs his justice and fix this person. Until then, I will avoid them and not fully engage to protect myself. [Newsflash: I’m a jerk sometimes, too]

I had been living in the awkward, hard space between choosing to forgive and feeling like you’ve forgiven for a long time.

But in all my years of struggling with this, I never considered MERCY.

Mercy. The gift God gave us all- and it was like I discovered it for the first time tonight. I’ve heard of it many times. I’ve heard the parables, but I’ve never connected it to my need for justice. I’ve sang songs about mercy, from God to us- but not thinking for a moment that it applied from me to others.

I suddenly realized that mercy was the avenue in which we display the forgiveness we have chosen in our hearts. For me it wasn’t necessarily calling every person I’ve held a grudge against [I may need to do that in some situations], but it was about sentencing people to the mercy God gave me and then taking myself off of the metaphorical throne of justice in my heart to let the King sit there.

When I thought of all the people i held hostage, when I thought of all the time and energy I wasted, when I thought about how wretched and prideful I am, I was grieved. I was so broken for the way I had postured myself toward others. I have hurt people by being judgmental, and I thought about all the times I had named myself judge and jury. Amanda Cook wrote a song called ‘Mercy’ and she sings ‘You delight in showing mercy and MERCY triumphs over judgment’.

When I thought of this song in service, I believe God freed me from myself. It freed all of the people who have offended me. Hallelujah.

Mercy. It’s such a sweet word to say now. It’s what I want to hang onto, it’s what I wish to practice. I desire mercy not because it is easy to show, but because it is what sets me free from offense and leads me toward sincere love. I look at some of my relationships and I know I have work to do, but I’m thankful tonight. So thankful.

Pray for me. Have mercy on me, even if I haven’t shown it to you… to which I say I’m desperately sorry. I love you, and I’m trying.

💕Shan

Turning over an old leaf…

I used to write a lot. Writing has always helped me accurately display my feelings and thoughts in a very ‘put together’ way. I am re-starting a habit that I had long ago….

The Blog. 

This isn’t really for anyone else. This writing, this expression of myself is for my sanity-if you can relate, you can join the imperfect persons party. #letsgo

As of late, my life has taken on a completely new form. I am a newlywed, with an unbelievably awesome husband. I am a young professional, trying to build a career. I am a singer/songwriter, with aspirations to eventually use music to touch lives. I am an idealist, who lives to create a world closer to that ideal. I am a Christian, with an ever-growing knowledge of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I am also incredibly broken, in more ways than you could ever know.

The last five years of my life have been absolutely unstable and great. Five years ago, I was single-and it was the second semester of my freshmen year of college. God had done a radical move in my life, speaking purpose and hope into my world and I had changed completely. Some people would say that I’ve always been ‘Shannon’…but something different happened on the inside my freshmen year of college. God got ahold of my heart and my life has literally never been the same.

Long story-short, I pursued Worship Ministry aka “My Purpose” ever since. Singing has always been a way that I have connected with God and I was determined to go after it. I attended Hillsong International Leadership College for a year for Worship Ministry and returned to participate on my home church’s worship team. When I got back from Hillsong, serving in church wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I served nonetheless to steward the gifting that God had put on my heart. If you know me, you know that meaning and significance is something I crave. I think all of us do, to a degree. The purpose God had given me acted as my salvation from a meaningless, empty life. #mistake

As I said previously, my life has taken on new form. I am unable to participate on my church’s worship team as a leader, so I am trying to rediscover who I am, and who I’m striving to be. It’s been brutal. In some ways, God has stripped my access to the purpose He gave me. My voice doesn’t soar like it used to, reaching places that I didn’t even know were possible. My songs don’t pour out of me as frequently as I would like. My schedule just doesn’t allow for anything else but working and serving people in small ways. I have wondered in the last few months, ‘Why do I even bother?’ or ‘He never meant for me to do this anyway.’ I feel as though I have been ‘benched’ as a Worship Leader and thrown into the life of every other boring adult. My emotions have been on a roller coaster for months as God is replacing my idea of salvation from My Purpose to Jesus himself.

Jesus…Oh, He has done it this time. He has and is loving me through the time where I feel as though the dream He gave me has vanished. Just this weekend, I led worship at a Women’s conference with one of my sweet friends. It was the first time I had led worship for ANYONE since August 2014…and I was terrified. Terrified, that I was going to mess it all up, terrified that God had honestly given up on me as someone who could serve him in this special way. I offered a small, broken gift to the Lord this weekend-afraid, imperfect, and insecure. It amazed me when women came up to me and told me ‘Thank you for offering your gift’ and ‘Your worship is so sweet’ and ‘You really made me think about what I was saying to God’. I was completely overwhelmed! He came through. I am still called to this amazing purpose. However, my perspective of it has changed. Before, I lead worship out of a desire to gain respect for myself as a musician and as a woman. As a means for validation in my Christian life, doing exactly what I was called to. But these last few months of inactivity were not less important, they may have been more important in order to refocus on the God who has redeemed my broken, empty life. #itsallaboutJesus

He is the reason I live. Jesus is the only reason I have hope, security and purpose. This blog isn’t about my career or my dreams, this is about my story with Him. He has called me daughter, and though I am nowhere near being back to my old self, that truth and this writing is helping. TONS.

#relentlesspursuit