When Noonday Collection stole my heart…

When I first heard of Noonday, I thought, “That’s pretty cool and definitely something I could get on board with.”  But it wasn’t until I viewed the video below that my heart really took hold to the mission and purpose behind the business.

Here’s why I love Noonday:

We are a community in both word and deed.  We look out for each other.  We are not threatened by another’s success.  We know that we are BETTER TOGETHER.  All of us.

“Her dreams matter as much as mine.”

Noonday Collection Ambassador Manifesto from Noonday Collection on Vimeo.

 

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Shanda’s Story

My name is Shanda (it rhymes with panda), and this is my story. I love Jesus Christ with all my heart on both the good and bad days.  And on the bad days, I struggle with insecurity, depression, anxiety, and a profound sense that I just don’t measure up.

When the opportunity first arose to share my story, my first thought was, “Heck NO!”. As an extreme introvert, my life has been characterized by trying to become invisible.  Fading into the crowd and going unnoticed have been the calling cards of my existence here on this earth.

But in spite of myself and to my great surprise, God has made clear that He intends to use me and the events of my life to make Himself, His power, and His greatness known.

In Daniel 4:2, Nebuchadnezzar states, “It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.”

That’s what my life has become about. Taking pleasure in telling others about the wonders God has done in my own life. I have done nothing good apart from Christ in me.

In fact, a huge part of my healing process has been to expose my foolishness and failure, compulsions and addictions, so that God’s greatness and power can be made known.

my very first photo

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My sweet mama carried me to church at least three times a week in utero. And I can assure you that nothing changed after I made my grand entrance into this world.  I was up in the church every time the doors were open watching my mama play piano, teach Sunday school, and do the “stuff of Jesus”.  I continued the church-going well into adulthood. Even through the divorce of my parents and their subsequent remarriages (to other people), I went to church. At the age of twelve, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, and I was eternally saved from hell. There was no huge dramatic change in my life. I had always been the “good girl” of the family.

in the awkward "good girl" years

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From as early on as I can remember, I believed that if I did the right thing, agreed with everyone, and followed the rules, I would be accepted and loved by others. Therefore, I always did what I was told and followed all the rules. I never did drugs or drank. I never went to parties. I never even dated until I was in college.

I was a people pleaser to my very core, but a big problem arose.  All these different people I wanted to please all required different things to be pleased. As a result, I learned to keep my bag packed full of masks. When I was with my mom, I would put on one mask. When I was with my friends,  I put on another. You’re getting the picture, I hope.  Even as my older stepbrother began manipulating me to do things that I knew were wrong, I felt that there was nothing I could do about it. I worried about his feelings more than my own. I was so desperate to have someone care about and want me, to feel desired, accepted and loved.

how I felt 99% of the time

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I have lived so much of my life under the assumption that I must please God and others in order to be loved, and I can tell you that I have been miserable most of my life as a result. In spite of or maybe because of all this, I threw myself into ministry at an early age.  I started teaching sunday school and vbs at the age of 14. I was involved in everything my little church had to offer. After graduation, I spent a summer working in a mission church and from there went on to the christian college my church supported. I had the “good christian girl” act down to a science.

It was during my first year as a college student that I met my future husband. Even as a little girl, I had always dreamed of marrying a good Christian man. Preferably someone in ministry, because, to my eyes, they seemed to have it all together. But I know now that ministers and church workers are often struggling with their own issues behind closed doors.

Chris was (on the surface) everything I was looking for. He was a Christian man who desired more than anything to be pleasing to God. Deep within Chris, though, a war was raging. He was quietly battling epilepsy, depression, legalism, and so much more.

Hindsight is 20/20. As I look back on events, I have a deeper understanding and clarity. I can see how much pain he was experiencing. We were both wearing our own masks,  and we were in such denial that we both truly believed that our masks were who we really were.  Because of the lies I was living out in my life, I believed that noone would ever love me.  If by some favorable act of mercy from God, someone did come into my life who was willing to have me; I had better hang on to them for dear life. And, after all, my dream had always been to marry a Godly man, settle down, and be a wife and mother. My entire worth was wrapped up in that dream.

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Chris and I were married in September of 1996. We struggled both individually and as a newly married couple to live the “good Christian life”…living our lives like a big list of dos and don’ts. In my denial though, I would have told you that my life was good. After all, I was living my dream. In many ways, my life was indeed good. But I was still not satisfied. Something was missing.

In 2000, Chris became depressed- more than the norm. His epileptic seizures became severe. Fear encompassed my life. Fear of the unknown; fear that I was going to be left all alone. During that time, Chris also made a job change. In September of 2000, he met a new friend at work. This friend “enlightened” him to a whole new way of living. “Enlightened” is what the friend called it. I would use the term “brainwashed”. He shared with Chris how America, the organized church, and anyone involved in such things were out to get him and were the tools of Satan. He convinced Chris that he should, among many other things, quit taking his seizure medication. The friend believed that all prescribed medication was a device used by the government for mind control. Chris began following the teachings of this cult and as the spiritual leader of the home expected his family to do likewise.

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Fear, panic, anxiety became my constant companions in the days and months to follow. Chris had become a completely different person. Because of my legalistic background, I struggled so much during those days wondering, “Do I submit to my husband even when he is completely off the mark? Or do I submit to God first and foremost?” I was terrified of this cult’s teachings and the dramatic change it was making on my husband and my family. For me, it ultimately became about my children and their safety.

 

When Chris became threatening or forceful in this newfound belief system, I somehow mustered up the courage to leave temporarily. I would stay gone for a few days, he would call saying that he had come to his senses, and I would go back. We went through this at least six times throughout that year. Chris became very delusional. I would later find out this was the onset stages of schizophrenia.
Everything reached its pinnacle on September 11, 2001. That day has such significance for so many. For me, it will  be the day my life changed forever. It would mark the end of my marriage and my life as I had known up until then. We woke up later than usual that morning. We turned on the television and saw the second plane go into the tower.  Chris had what I can only assume was a mental breakdown. He was screaming that his friend had predicted this would happen. He was falling to pieces,and I felt helpless to do anything that might have been of any value.  In retrospect I can see that I had emotionally shut down at that point. I didn’t say it out loud, but in my mind, I was thinking, “This is it. I can’t handle this anymore. I am going to die if this continues. I cannot love him anymore. It’s not safe.”

That week was one of the worst weeks of my life. I never imagined I would ever have to live through the things I lived through that week. So many things happened that week that if I went into detail, we would be here for hours. It all culminated with the FBI escorting Chris to the behavioral health center in Tyler and from there he was temporarily committed to Rusk State Hospital. He was there for about a month.

I did the only thing I felt capable of doing during that time. I started making plans for separation. I found a job and another place to live. When Chris got out, he went to live with his father. Things really didn’t seem to be better. Sometimes he believed the lies stronger than ever, other times he was so confused he seemed to be in agony. I didn’t know what to do or think.

At the time my kids were in daycare. On several occasions,  Chris would say that he might  “come get them and take them out of this God-forsaken place”. I didn’t know what he meant by that, but the fear that he might “take the kids and run” became very real. Nothing had been done legally.  If he wanted to get them; as their father, the daycare could do nothing about it. When I heard this, I immediately sought legal counsel. As a result of that meeting, I filed for a divorce and had temporary orders put in place.

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I have struggled many years with this decision, but I can honestly say that in the moment that the divorce was final, all I felt was relief. This gave way to intense shame. I kept hearing the words God hates divorce echoing in my head, but in my heart, I believed “God hates me because I’m divorced”. I was so full of lies that I was believing, just as sick as Chris was in his lies, that I couldn’t see which way was up.

I now see that God was beginning a new season for me where I could learn to fully rely on Him as my provider and source of everything. In my codependency, though, I stubbornly clung to my friends and family for dear life. One by one, God got rid of everyone. He moved all my close friends away from me literally, until it was just me and Him. I began to wonder if God’s plan was for me to be all alone for the rest of my life.  Ironically, as time went on, I became comfortable with my life. Not satisfied but comfortable.

Sometime in late 2002, Chris started on his own road to recovery. He got involved in some intense God-driven counseling in Dallas. God was bringing truth in Chris’s life and getting rid of the lies he had believed for so long. But I absolutely did not want to see it. I had grown accustomed to my life the way it was, and there was absolutely no way we were going to get back together.

I eventually came to a point in February of 2003 where I prayed and confessed to God that I had no desire to be with Chris, he had lied to me for so long, and that there was no way that I could trust that this transformation was real. I told both God and Chris that if it were His will for us to get back together, then HE (God) would need to work a HUGE miracle in my heart.  HE would need to make it crystal clear that is what He wanted for us.

Two weeks later, after driving 10 hours to stay with a friend in Corpus Christi over spring break, I received the phone call that Chris had died in his sleep at the age of 29. Immediately, I began to realize how much I had suppressed my true feelings in order to be safe and not risk being hurt once again. My grief and my shame were so intense that if it had not been for my kids I probably would have been need it. Many nights were spent face down in the caret fibers asking God to put me out of my misery. I was not functioning well to say the least.  And so I began to see a counselor to work on my grief issues (still very much in denial about all my other issues). We worked through the grief process together, but I soon realized we were only fixing symptoms of a much bigger problem.

The definition for insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So living my life of insanity, I did the one thing I had always done. I pray that God would send someone to rescue me. A good Godly man to meet our needs and fill this hole in our family where a husband and a father should be. It was only by God’s protection that I can tell you that  no other men came into our lives during this season. It was certainly what I was wishing for.  After all, my dream had always been to be a wife and a mother; to live a picture perfect life.

I finally came to the place where I was so miserable in my life that I knew something had to change. I knew there had to be something better, and if there wasn’t then why go on? I was at a crossroad spiritually, and I had a choice to make.

I could:
1. Stay the way I was and live my life as a lukewarm Christian (more on this later).
2.  I could step out of my denial, confess my inability in all my self-effort to make things better, and choose to seek God’s healing power.

For a while I let myself believe the lie that my life wan’t really all that bad. I believed that I was doing the best I could under the circumstances. I was going to church every time the doors were open, serving in children’s ministry, trying my best to have a consistent quiet time, and dying slowly inside. Doing everything I could to change things… it was all about self-effort. If I just did a little more at church and volunteered for room mom, then I would get the relief and validation I so desperately desired. This was my insanity.

But one afternoon, a friend shared a scripture that was on her heart. A scripture that both offended and convicted me… Revelation 3:15-16 which says this: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

My half-hearted, self-sufficient brand of Christianity made God sick. Whoa. This was my wake-up call.

I finally began the process of doing what I knew God wanted from me.
I gave up.
I admitted that I couldn’t do it,
that God could do it.
I began to allow God to speak in the midst of my pain.
Pain that was the result of deeply embedded lies that I had been accepting as truth all my life.
Lies that said I could never be loved or accepted.

Then I did something that was totally foreign to me. I listened and believed not just with my head but in my heart what He had to say.

I allowed God’s truth to replace the lies.

God showed me that I don’t have to please others or even Him. I can be free of the bondage of trying so hard, because there is absolutely nothing I can do that will cause God to love me more or less. He loves me in spite of who I am enough to send His own son to die for me. I can honestly say I am not the same person today that I was.

No part of my life has been left unchanged. I look to Christ to sustain me and provide for every need. He is always faithful. The holes in my life are filled by Him.

He’s my children’s daddy, Psalm 68:5 says:
“He’s a father to the fatherless.”

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He’s my husband. In Isaiah 54 God says:
“Fear not, you will no longer live in shame. The shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood will be remembered no more, for your Creator will be your husband, The Lord Almighty is his name!”

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Today my life is finally not about rules but about my relationship with my Lord and Savior. This doesn’t mean that I have it all together, or that I don’t get stuck. But I do know that when I do get stuck, it is not because I am not doing something, but because I’m not letting Christ do something in me.

Christ in me affords the chance to be bold, take risks, do things that are way beyond my imaginings and comfort level.

I want to share two of the verses that have been especially meaningful in my life.

Luke 14:53 from The Message says this: “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple.”

This is a daily issue for surrendering for me.

Philippians 3:7-10 in the Message says

“All things I once thought were important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ- God’s righteousness….I’m not saying That I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong. By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward- to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.”

Notice the line in bold in the last paragraph. This has become so important to me. For so long I felt that all my dreams had been taken from me, but today I want to daily willingly dump my desires in the trash so that I can pursue His desires for me.

The crazy part is that the more I learn this art of embracing Christ and being embraced by Him, the more I realize that His desires are becoming my desires! That just thrills my heart.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. May God somehow use it to speak to your heart today.

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What to do when it ALL falls apart…

What do you do when the only heart you have is broken into a million little pieces and you question whether it will ever work properly again?

It’s nearing the six months mark for when all fell apart…and I feel like I’m finally ready to share a bit of the journey I’ve been on.

Here’s what you do in no particular order:

1. You preach to yourself every single day the promises of God. (Thanks, John Piper)

2. You get out of bed and go to work. Even if you think you can’t.

3. You watch every single break-up episode of Gilmore Girls. And hope that someday your Luke will come along. But you also realize that there’s Jesus. And He is way better than any guy that might come along.

4. You own your part. But only your part.

5. You grieve. You weep. You get angry. YOU GET YOURSELF TO COUNSELING.

6. You believe you are who God says you are. That the truth of who you are rests solely in HIS opinion of you. No one else’s opinion bears any weight. (Thanks, Beth Moore)

7. You buy yourself flowers.

8. You treat yourself with the same kindness and gentleness that you are always extending to others.

9. You surround yourself with people who love you enough to tell you the truth. People who will step in and protect you from your own destructive tendencies.

10. You thank Jesus that HE protected you from something HE knew would not be good for your life.

11. You accept the hugs people offer you. Unless they’re creepy. Then you run.

12. You pick up some of your favorite foods, light some candles, and enjoy the peace that comes with solitude…just you and Jesus.

13. You remember than “there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind”. (Thanks, C. S. Lewis)

14.  You allow yourself to feel the feelings even if they aren’t pretty.

15.  You rediscover old dreams. (Where are my dang running shoes?)

16.  You make new dreams.  (And maybe even a Pinterest board detailing all those new dreams.)

17.  You try scary, crazy new things. Like wearing red lipstick and green eyeshadow…for the very first time.

18. You take all the time you need. And remind yourself of this, “What others are doing should never dictate your own actions.”

19. You push forward, and you give yourself permission to live a full and amazing life without a man by your side.

20. You hug your kids, your friends, your dog, or whoever it is that FOR REAL loves you really tight, and you remind yourself that one person’s ability (or inability) to love you DOES NOT make you unloveable.

21. You believe totally and completely that you ARE loved. That you ARE lovable. Because God says it, and He is the Authority on all things Love. Because HE IS LOVE.

And a bonus: meditate on this…
The pain that you’ve been feeling CAN’T compare to the JOY that’s coming. ” Romans 8:18

CLING: The Birth of Jesus

I’ve found myself clinging to God’s Word more and more over these past months.  And as I have, I’ve felt a tugging to memorize more scripture.  This is a spiritual discipline that I have practiced very little since my much younger days.

I’ve always loved writing out scripture on notecards and posting them in various places: the bathroom mirror, the visor in my car, at my desk at work.  You get the picture…but…

Lately I’ve been enjoying taking this practice to the next level.  I’ve begun designing my own “scripture memory” cards.  I like pretty things, and I’m very much a visual learner.  This works perfect in aiding me to memorize more scripture…and even in larger chunks.  I’ve begun to print these cards and carry them with me.  I’m even giving them as personalized gifts this year.

I’m also praying about this as a way to possibly make a little side money.  That’s all still up in the air, but, for now, I’m enjoying the opportunity to create something pretty that helps me and others grow in our walk with Christ.

What is a topic or area that you might like to see a series of scripture memory cards about?

Examples: anxiety/worry, love, strength, marriage, loss

Below are my CLING cards for the story of Christ’s birth as told in Luke 2.

 

Before and After

These past 5 to 6 months have been brutal.  I’m not even lying a little.  There have been moments that I’ve barely even kept my head above water, and quite honestly, I don’t think I did.  I believe without a doubt that JESUS has been holding me up when I feel that I can’t stand up and push forward.

Because somehow, I am still here.  Standing up.  Putting on clothes.  Eating food. Going to work.  Paying bills. Reading my Bible.  Praying like a girl on fire. Pushing forward.

AFTER the bottom dropped out.

After all the bottoms dropped out.

Now I look back at my BEFORE.

And I realize, “WOW, it really wasn’t that great, was it?”

All the change and the breaking and the crushing of ME has created something.

Something good.

In me.

Through me.

Out of me.

I am David.

Sometimes life just isn’t that great, ya know?  Sometimes you just wanna crawl under the covers and stay there.

I’ve had some of those days lately.  I’ve been struggling.  I’ve been wrestling with the idea that maybe my desires for my life and God’s desires for my life don’t really line up.

I know there are some of you that have or will walk through this path of grief…a heart shattered…a dream devastated.

These are the journals of my heart even in it’s damaged shape.  Some are not pretty.  Some are ugly.  But, sweet friend, Jesus meets us there in the gutter…the pit we may very well have thrown our ownselves into.

 

 

I believed with all my (deceitful) heart that this thing I wanted was exactly what God wanted too.  But now it seems that this is not what HE wants.

It’s hard to grasp, to believe.  How is this what you want, Lord?  When I believed for SO LONG that YOU did want it?  My shame, my grief, my guilt…they want to swallow me whole.

What do you do when you feel thrown out with the trash? Unwanted? Replaced? Rejected?

What do you do when you want so desperately to feel loved, accepted, and desired.  I did for a season…for a time.  Was it all a lie?

I feel to blame.

Am I, Lord? Show me Your Truth.

Help me lay it down…let it go…let the dream die if it’s not YOUR dream for me.

Hold me up, Jesus.

Paint beauty with the huge ugly pile of ashes that is my life.

Is it really falling into place?  Really?  It doesn’t feel like it.  But, Lord, I’m ready for healing

I need YOUR forgiveness.  I’ve been selfish…wanting what I want.  I did what I wanted.  I hid from YOU.  I made the dream MY world.  I went my own way instead of going YOUR way, LORD.

I changed.  I became a shadow of my former self.

Forgive me, God.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

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

Psalm 51:1-12

When Your Heart is Breaking

I’ve been a silent blogger for these past few weeks, and there’s a definite reason for that.  I’ve been grieving the loss of something I really wanted…the loss of a dream. I initially didn’t think I would share.  It’s so fresh and vulnerable.  So tender and on the surface.

But, you know what?  It’s in those moments where we are vulnerable and we share our stories of pain, loss, and suffering that God begins to do something amazing and unexpected.

The hurt I’m feeling is a familiar hurt…one that I’ve felt in another time that feels like another life.

It’s a hurt that questions whether God really does care about me.

A hurt that cries out “IT’S NOT FAIR!”.

A hurt that sheds a million tears and still there’s more.

A hurt that’s chock full of lies that parade as truth.

 

When pain comes, I want to run and hide.  I want to avoid it and find something…anything that will relieve the pain, if even for just a moment.  I also want to close off my heart to any more dreams.

 

But I am ever so grateful for a Heavenly Father who won’t leave me to my own destructive devices.

He speaks even when I’m caught up in a net of lies of my own making.  But he doesn’t shake His head in disappointment.  No.  He wants to turn my heartbreak valley into acres of hope (Hosea 2 MSG).

In the hopes that this will speak to someone else grieving or hurting, I’d like to chronicle this journey.  What I’m feeling, what God says about our pain, how we can become captives SET FREE…more than conquerers, OVERCOMERS.

Let’s start with this verse…a salve for our wounded hearts this day:

I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. 2 Kings 20:5 NI