I am the Other Brother.

Growing up, I was the “good girl”. Good grades, hardly ever caused trouble at home, school, or church. Never went through a wild phase, at least not outwardly. I tended to hold everything in. I believed that in order for God and others to love me, I must perform. I MUST BE GOOD. I MUST DO GOOD. More than anything, I sought validation and love. I still struggle with this daily.

Somewhere along the way, I morphed into a condemning, judgemental Pharisee. No one would have thought it looking at me from the outside. I was outwardly what every other Christian looked like. Inside, thoughts swarmed me. The thought that I was better because of my behavior. Thoughts that they were getting what they deserved because they chose to do the wrong thing.

I didn’t become judgemental and condemning overnight. It crept in, here and there. An inner struggle overcame me. I was jealous and yet also judging.

My own sister and I were polar opposites. I was fearful and shy….she was outgoing and loud. I secretly wanted to be like her, even though she was almost always in trouble.

(Flash forward to today)

A while back, I was in a church where the preacher taught on the story of the prodigal son. He asked us to find ourselves in the story. I could identify with EVERY role in the story, but the one that resonated so strongly…the other brother. I am the “other sister”. I recently learned that the role of this other brother should have been to go out and find the young brother and help to restore fellowship between the Father and the son. 

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Wow…My role was to love my brothers and sisters in spite of their choices. I think many Christians are guilty of doing what I have done. We come to Christ. We attend our churches. We get involved. We make church friends. We have socials and parties and fellowships with those friends. We forget those who are not in our church friend circle. We become afraid that their “unholiness” might smear off on us. Or we just get too busy with our churchy activities that we have no time for anyone else. We confuse being in the world with being of the world. Somewhere along the way I got too busy to pursue a relationship with others who aren’t “like me”.

Over the past few years, God has been on my case. He’s been moving me into areas and communities where everyone isn’t “just like me”. And I am so thankful. I want to be a different kind of “other brother”…one who restores and rebuilds what was lost but now has been found.

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I am Moses.

Moses and I have a lot in common. Moses and I struggled with many of the same things. Insignificance. Insecurity. Insufficiency. Inadequacy. And yet look at how God used Moses.

Moses made excuses because he felt inadequate for the job God asked him to do. It was natural for him to feel that way. He was inadequate all by himself. Just like me.

Moses couldn’t do much until he was replaced with “God with Moses”.

Shanda (that’s me) is utterly inadequate until she is replaced by Christ in Shanda.

Nothing good lives in me apart from Christ in me.

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

That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes let Shanda get in the way of Christ in Shanda. I do. In fact, here some’s proof. I wrote this in church one Sunday in response to God speaking to me through His word and His messenger.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned to do well in my walk with HIM, it’s to be honest and transparent. Authentic. So if I’m scared, I’m gonna tell HIM. If I’m mad, I’m gonna tell HIM that too. After all, He knows it already. Why not just acknowledge it instead of trying to hide my face from HIM?

Sometimes, pretending gets really old, ya know?  So let’s get real with God and others, especially those we know and trust.  Let’s be who we are without the masks, shall we?

When you think on the statement “Nothing good lives in me apart from Christ in me.”, what feelings or thoughts do you have? I would love to chat with you about it.  Feel free to comment, email, track me down on social media, send me telegram…whatever works!

I am Gomer.

Who is Gomer? Do you know? If you do, I imagine you are the one who always win at Bible trivia. If you don’t know who she is or that Gomer is even a she, well, don’t feel bad. I’m sure that many would admit that though she’s a person from the bible, we don’t often hear her story. It’s not a pretty and sweet story.

It’s aggressive.  It’s graphic.  It’s violent.

It shows a side of God’s character that most of us don’t want to look at.
We want to imagine a God we can fit in our God-sized box.
We want a God who is always exactly how WE think He should be.

But HE is not.

And the truth is: God is God. He can do whatever HE wants. Because HE’s God. It doesn’t matter what we think.

We find the girl Gomer in the book of Hosea. Go ahead and look it up. I’ll wait. Head on over to chapter 2. If you have a Message bible, well, prepare yourself. It’s rather intense for what you expect from your Bible.
I’ll be honest.
I AM GOMER.

Did you read the chapter?
If you did, I imagine you might be confused.

No. I am not outing myself as a prostitute.
Well, not really.
Oh, maybe I am.
Just not the type of prostitute you’re thinking of.

The dictionary says that prostitute means to sell or offer (oneself); to put to any base or unworthy use.

Well, when you put it that way….

I really am Gomer.

I given myself over time and time again.
Offered myself over to idols.
Given my time and energy away to someone…something unworthy of it.
Given my affection and attention to things of this world.

Did you read the part where HE rips off her clothes, exposes her, and dumps her in a field of thistles?

You might be thinking that’s pretty harsh, huh?
I know I did.

But listen to what I’m about to say…
She needed it.
It was for her own good.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom.
Sometimes it takes being wrecked and brought up short.
But then, guess what?

HE does the unthinkable.
HE gives a brand new start.
HE woos.
HE courts.
HE gives flowers.
HE speaks tenderly.
HE brings hope.

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HE is no longer the master- slave driver. HE is the HUSBAND.

He gives her a life she doesn’t deserve.

Gomer is made new.
Gomer is loved.
Gomer is HIS.

I am Gomer.

Hosanna Revival review

Attention, attention: You are going to stop whatever you’re doing to read this post.  Not because it is eloquently written but because it’s my new FAVORITE thing.  Of. All. Time.  

About a month or so ago, I discovered a small etsy shop called Hosanna Revival . Katie custom paints bibles. I instantly fell in love with her style. I feel pretty sure you will too. 
My new bible is an ESV journaling bible that has been recovered by Katie and was customized with the colors, scriptures, and design that I chose. The Bible cost me under $65 shipped. In my opinion, this is well worth the price!  

Hosanna Revival is all about “exciting women about the Word by making the actual book as beautiful and personal as the words inside of it.”
Oh. My. Word. I am in love. 
FYI:  I’m receiving no kind of compensation for this.  I just really love this Bible! 

   
    
 
Find out more:

www.hosannarevival.com
Hosanna Revival on Instagram

Embracing  Imperfection

I don’t know about you, but I want everything to be perfect. 

I want my house to look like one you would see in a darling little neighborhood  in Waco, Texas.

I want my kids to have adorable matching ensembles for Easter so that I can capture that perfect candid shot before we all happily make our way to the Easter Sunday service. Early. (Never mind that they’re 18 and 15 years old. I still want them in pastels I picked up at Gymboree. Let me dream, okay?)

I want to create meals from scratch with all organic ingredients that were gathered at my local farmer’s market.

But…that is not my life. 

My life looks like three loads of unfolded laundry covering my lovely new love seat. 

  
My life is pizza delivered and Sonic happy hour 99 cent corn dogs. 

My life is opening a cute little Easter banner purchased at Target and finding this. 

  
Life is not perfect. For anyone. But we each get to decide what we will do, how we will react when we are faced with all those pesky imperfections. 

I’ve decided to be like Max. My puppy embraces the imperfect. In fact, he revels in it. 

  
What if, instead of constantly trying harder, we choose to accept and even embrace the imperfections of our lives? What if we gave ourselves some grace? What if we decided that “Happa Easter” is really quite funny, especially when your 15 year old adopts it as his new holiday greeting and sounds much like a mobster when he says it?

Sometimes joy can’t be found until we let go of something. For me, it’s the striving and straining, the constant need for perfection from myself and those closest to me. 

So this day, I resolve to let go of the things that don’t matter. I choose to embrace the imperfections. I choose to count it all joy. 

Let this be my prayer, my goal in this, to:

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you at all sides.” James 1:2 MSG

Linked up as a part of #tellhisstory

Naps are good. 

Flashback post originally written October 28, 2008:

It happened on a Sunday afternoon. I knew I should have opted for the nap. Instead I found myself surrounded. Held captive by two little people with pleading eyes and a love of the game. Endless choices. Would it be Life, Monopoly, or the favorite family classic…Scene IT Disney edition?
How could I have known? Could this travesty have been prevented? Only God knows.
Scrabble. We had never attempted the likes of Scrabble before. Scrabble was reserved for people with a modicum of intelligence. Individuals whose vocabulary went beyond “poop” and “fart”. But being the fantabulous edu-funtational mom that I am, I suggested it. How hard could it be? So we would use smaller words…We could do this thing. I knew we could. We would conquer Scrabble, and prove our intelligence to one another and the world beyond.
I was wrong. So very very wrong. I learned an important lesson that day. A lesson I shall never forget.
Naps are good. Scrabble is bad…especially when playing with a seven year old who can’t spell.

I won’t: I will. 

**originally written 5/20/08

When others look away

I won’t.

When they laugh at you

I won’t.

When they blame you

I won’t.

When they assume you can’t

I won’t.
When they forget about you

I won’t

When they disown you

I won’t

When they treat you like dirt

I won’t.
When they don’t treat you with respect

I will.

When they won’t come near you

I will.

When they don’t keep their promises

I will.

When they won’t sit by you on the bus

I will.

When they don’t see your value

I will.

When they won’t acknowledge your achievement

I will.

When they won’t love you

I will.

**I wrote this poem in response to the compassion that wells up within me for the people I serve every day, people who struggle with mental illness. It began as my call to action, but as it took shape on paper I realized that I am not capable of doing these things. Only Christ in me can. So this is how I desire to be, but reading it back now, I come to realize that this is what HE does for us all every day of our lives.