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Dream With Me

In life it is most common for everyone to be about themselves; achieving more for themselves and their family, and using social media as a platform to share about them.

After all, that is what I do. But it isn't really what I want to do. I want to connect with people and hear their dreams.  I want to join forces with great causes and cheer loudly for those running the race of life.  I want to be a voice of hope and encouragement for those that get lost along the way.

The truth is, I get so caught up in what I am doing that I forget to stop and listen and see the dreams of others.  I know my dream matters and it matters a lot. If this world was just built on my dream, we would miss opportunities to make a difference in so many other ways. People would be overlooked, worthy causes ignored, and differing opinions, which often lead to profound creativity, would be unheard.

Jon Acuff says that one has every moment of everyday with themselves but limited opportunities with others to hear their stories and share in their dreams. I want to embrace that thought process. I want to hear about your dream. What is the big plan for your life? What purpose are you or do you hope to fulfill?

So leave a comment or connect on Twitter.

Can't wait to hear more about you!




Full of Compassion and Mercy

This started off as a quick Facebook post and turned into a much longer status than intended. I decided to spare Facebook and just write here. Your welcome!

I keep going back through the book of Exodus in my reading trying to soak a few things in. I am in chapter 34, right after the people had created an idol to worship while Moses was seeking God. The idol worship led to Moses getting angry & breaking tablets that God had written his instruction on ... Long story short Moses meets with God after the idol worship and broken tablets. God instructs Moses to go and cut two stones identical to the ones Moses had broken and bring them the next day. God was going to redo what He had already spent time doing once (parents take note). When Moses comes to meet with God on the next day, God introduces himself. He calls out His own name "Yahweh. The God of compassion and mercy" And there is where I stopped. I am still floored. Of course the scripture goes on, but I am stuck trying to wrap my mind around the fact he started with compassion and mercy.
Seriously had an entire group of people just rejected me and broken the project I had taken the time to do by hand, I am certain "Shante, the woman of compassion and mercy," would not have been my opening introduction. It would have probably been more like "Shante, the woman whom you rejected and disrespected. She will now remove herself from your presence." Entitlement? Absolutely! The crazy thing is that God is more than human mind can fully grasp and yet He chose to start off identifying himself as the Lord of Israel full of compassion and mercy.

Here is my take away: If God can can identify himself in such a way, I need to strive to be "Shante - woman of God full of compassion and mercy." I am sure my husband, children, friends, blog readers, and prefect strangers will be better for it.

My Peace Experience

Brokenness seems to be a part of life we can't escape.  Experiencing utter brokenness myself, I know it is so nice when we can find beauty and resolve.  Today was one of the days that I found some of both, and it was topped with peace. You can read about it on Our Frantically Relaxed Life: A Strong Reflection  

Simple Food and Decor

I enjoy occasional days spent in my home crafting, cooking, and decorating
Looking through magazines, Pintrest, or just scouring the internet for ideas sometimes takes me to a far away land where all of life is beautifully displayed. There is perfect food, perfect decor, and crafts that end perfectly each time. The land seems so relaxed and so at ease. I think to myself, I could stay for a while and enjoy all the eye catching surroundings. Then I wake and go off in attempt to create my own magazine worthy creations complete with the peaceful effortless environment that I just dreamed up in fairy tale land. My dream world abruptly turns to reality when I look around at a kitchen splattered with an array of ingredients that lead to a sink piled with dirty dishes. Let's not to even mention the craft table that is over run with odds and ends and projects that don't closely resemble the magazine pictures. This would be a good time for a cleaning service!

None the less I enjoy putting my hands to work in my home and I appreciate nice decor, mouth watering food, and crafty projects so I have just resolved to do it my way, the simple girl way. This means that if it has too many ingredients, too many steps, or is overly complicated I will leave it to the masters, or I'll get the main idea of the creation and see if I can adjust it to meet my guidelines of ease. This being said I have added three new pages to my blog - Crafts, Recipes, Decor.  My goal is to keep it simple and fun so you can enjoy the leisure of creating.

And there are many DIY decor projects coming your way ... I just have to finish them :)











Simply making the world beautiful,
Shante



It's Worth the Work!

I love eating healthy and making wise food choices to serve my family. One of those choices happen to be natural peanut butter. You know kind. The jar packed with the clay like mixture of pressed peanuts with a two inch layer of peanut oil on top (completely as a side note ... I have a tendency to pour some of the oil from the jar because it just freaks me out). The instructions are simply this: just stir and enjoy. Yeah right! If you have ever tried this method you know that oil sloshes out the jar runs down the side and covers your hand and counter surface. This leads to a slippery unsteady jar and at times some slight frustration. Then there is the fact that the "stirring" most closely resembles jabbing and edges on a upper body workout.

Knowing that I wanted natural peanut butter for my children and my celery, I decided to find a new method to tackle the peanut butter. I emptied the peanut butter (with clean hands) into a mixing bowl and pulled out my hand mixer. Then on low speed, I blended the peanut butter and returned it to its original jar. Yea all that work to have natural peanut butter when I could have opened a jar of regular stuff and made 20 plus sandwiches and cleaned the kitchen in the same amount of time. Why go through the trouble? Because to me, it is worth it. Now you are probably wondering why I shared the story. What's the point? Here it is: everyday we are inundated with images and text speaking into our lives. Many of those show pictures and tell stories of perfection yet they most often leave out the work, the failures, and the frustration that it took to get to success. You see anything worth having is worth working for, but sometimes we get so caught up on the prize and highlighting our strengths that we give people coming behind us a false belief that the journey is as simple as just stir and enjoy. I'm not saying there isn't a place to celebrate big, but let's not forget to inspire others to keep pushing by sharing our journey even if it means uncovering some fears, failures, and obstacles that you overcame along the way.

Oh and go eat some natural peanut butter  :)

Shante

On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause

Dirty Pants

So here it is, the ugly truth. I looked down at my son' s light colored khaki shorts, and they were covered in red mud, grass stains, and spaghetti sauce.  Now some of you reading are shouting a "hooray" for the boy covered in mess. The dirt means he was active and alive. Believe me that is where I wanted my mind to go too, but like I mentioned there was an ugly truth. The truth is I was highly frustrated. The shorts he was wearing were good shorts, and I am a huge advocate for caring well for the things we have. Now there was a dilemma "allow my son the see my level of frustration or celebrate him being full on boy." Since neither fit me well, I chose to walk away. As I walked to grab the wonder cleaner Zout, my frustration was embarrassing even to my own mind. I looked at the shorts and thought about my own life. Every day starts out clean. Then I wake and begin staining it with poor choices, snappy words, unkind thoughts, and wasteful habits. The truth is there are times that I take a good life and don't practice caring well for it. Ouch! Gut punch!
Thank God for Jesus and His forgiveness, love, and grace.
So if you relate to my frustration with my son for wrecking his shorts, know you are not alone. May the attitude of grace and forgiveness spring up in times such as those. Maybe you too have struggled with caring well for the "good" life. Would you take a closer look at Jesus and the forgiveness, love, and grace He gives? It really is worth accepting.


MOM (Mothering Over Mess)
Shante

A Place of Refreshing

We know life gets chaotic and without a break, a time to refresh, we may give into the temptation to be short tempered, constantly frustrated, and a kill joy. With all the demands in our society, it is important we take time to ensure we are the friends, coworkers, parents, spouses, and people, we would like to be. I have found that a place of refreshing in the day to day routine goes a long way in relieving stress.  It offers a new perspective of a cleared mind and renewed spirit.
Here are a few must haves in that special place
  • You must enjoy the surroundings
  • There should be no demands of you in that place
  • It has to be easily accessible to you during the week
  • It shouldn't strain your family relationships.

For example, I go to a beautiful lot of farmland surrounded by wooded trails and open air that is within 5 minutes from my home.  I love open spaces and nature. There is no work for me there and my senses awaken. My family finds joy there as well.

Find a place you can go and be refreshed. You will be better equipped to handle life as it comes.

Get another perspective on rest!

Shante


On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause.

Kid's Fun in Charlotte, NC This Week!

Take the kids and do something together this week! 

Also check out  Cool Table Ministries, a children's program hosted by my family. You can follow on Twitter @cooltable4life and post your fun family pics. Make sure to hashtag #dosomethingtogether #ctm . Check out our videos on You Tube cooltable4life channel.

Tuesday 9/10 
11:00am: Grey Seal Puppets at Carolina Place

Wednesday 9/11
5:00pm:  Free admission at Mint Museums


Friday 9/137:30pm:  Stargazing and treats around the campfire at Reedy Creek Nature Center

Saturday 9/14
Free admission to all Discovery Place museums for educators and a guest


10:00am:  Family Fun Day at Sports Junction in Harrisburg

11:00am:  
Kids’ craft at Lakeshore Learning:  Make and Play Guitar 

12:00pm:  
Musical petting zoo at ImaginOn

8:00pm:  Outdoor movie at Kilgo

When Life Gets Chaotic

When life gets chaotic, because we all know that it does, how do you respond?  Do you feel like pulling a blanket over your head and running in circles screaming at the top of your lungs? No?  You mean I am the only one that does that.  How embarrassing.


Chaos, also known as real life, can overwhelm us. So many factors affect our day to day; many of which we have no control over.  We do have control in how we respond; however when life comes at full speed with no break, even the most balanced person may respond inappropriately.  How many times have you heard a friend, colleague,  family member, or yourself say, “I need a vacation!”  In that statement what is realized is that a break is needed.    

Now look at this, a vacation is finally taken and ends.  Then you hear, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” Oh yeah, it happens.  The reality is that we can not escape life no matter where we go.    There will be demands of our time, conflicts to resolve, and other chaos to handle.  Life happens daily and waiting a year to take a 7 to 10 day “break” from the other 355-358 days of life doesn’t seem like a good ratio to me.

Instead of living for an extended break, I have found that having a continual accessible place of refreshing helps with life’s chaos and renews my spirit and creativity .  It gives me a new perspective on the daily demands of life, allows me to dream, and gives me strength to take steps to fulfill those dreams.

What refreshes you?  Is there a place you go to renew? In the next post I will share more about the place where refreshing happens.

In the chaos of life may you find peace,

Shante  

Princess in Training

Have you ever been treated like royalty?  If so, it is hard to go back to “normal”, and if no,  it is hard to accept “exceptional”.  So here is a little blurb about ladies becoming Princesses.  Let’s first get a healthy outlook.  I am not talking about a Prima Donna who demands, gives harsh orders, and is downright selfish. I am talking about a real Princess.  Think about Princess Diana. She was filled with class and humility and admired around the world.  She used her position to bring good, and she treated all people with respect. She most definitely left a mark on society.  

Now that we have a proper image of a Princess, let’s talk! There is no doubt that Princess Diana was served and had the finest of things.  In a crowd she was set apart and treated extraordinary. So go and do likewise and be a Princess. Oh wait, you weren't born into Royalty? You didn't marry a Prince? My apologies. What shall one do? Start training. Yes, train, or practice if you will.
Any lady at any age can become a Princess. What does that look like? Surround yourself with people that encourage you, believe in you, and motivate you. Look in the mirror and truly see your beauty. Carry yourself in such a way that others can’t help but to respect you, and when criticism and chaos visit you, handle it with grace. Be the best version of you possible. Admit your wrongs and lend a hand to those in need. If you are unfamiliar with the royal life, it may be awkward at first, but hang in there you’ll start to love it.
Now, I want to take this a little further and speak about raising a Princess. If you are a parent and have a daughter my hope is that you will teach this “Princess mentality” to her at a young age. Fathers, respect and honor your children’s mother that you may set an example of a lady’s worth to your daughter. Mothers carry yourself in a way that promotes a healthy self image, respect yourself, and speak kindly of others. Finally, tell your little girl every day that she is a Princess.  Chances are if you model the behavior, demonstrate the actions, and speak the affirmation, she will grow into a beautiful Princess leaving it hard for her to ever go back to being “normal”. Not to mention that living the Princess life just may keep her from settling on a toad instead of waiting for Princess Charming. So fill let’s fill the world with more Princesses and less Prima Donnas because that is a world worth leaving for future generations.
Go live the Princess life!
Wishing you and the little girls in your life tiara sparkles,
Princess Shante

Can't view the video on mobile device click here


The Trade Off

I was reading today and came across the most interesting story about a devastating trade off. As I read I thought to myself, “How stupid! Don’t these people realize what is going on right now? How could the leader allow such a thing, and for what?”


Finishing up my critical thoughts I realized I had just smacked myself right in the face! Impatience, losing sight of the goal, and even an unhealthy idea of self worth can all cause a devastating trade off.  I am pretty sure that I have made some trade offs in my life based on the same criteria. Chances are you have too. The trade off often leaves us with trinkets and forgoes the treasure that was waiting. It’s like trading a Bentley for a beat up Pinto … not even this simple girl would knowingly do that!


Think about impatience ... You see the treasure only to find out that it is much farther than you realized and in the moment it seems like forever. But wait! What’s that, oh it’s a little trinket to pass the time and gain some instant gratification. You know like setting an entire bag of Oreos in front of a child and telling him if he can wait 4 hours you will give him the entire bag, or he can have one right now and forfeit the bag. Impatience would tell him to go for the one because 4 hours is forever. Quite frankly when we are talking about a bag of Oreo cookies versus one Oreo this mom would say go for the one too, but that is solely from a health conscious view :) I thought about using broccoli for the example, but it just wouldn't have worked.  Or how about this ... save for several years and be able to book a dream vacation paid in full, no debt incurred, or put it on the credit card, go this coming summer, and pay on it for the next 20 or 30 years.  You get the point!


Losing sight of the goal ... Has this ever happened? The cards are stacked against you, your fears are on high alert, and your friends have jumped shipped, but there was a reason you started and it was because you had a goal, a treasure to reach. The only problem is that a million things have blocked your sight and you no longer know why you are here. You want accomplishment, you need something to move so you lay down the pursuit of the goal and settle for an easy “win” only to find out that it was no win at all. You made a trade off.


Now on to self worth. Do you find yourself valuable? Are you worth the prize or do you just find solace in the trinkets? Chances are that if you are constantly settling for the trinkets, you are going to find yourself unfulfilled. This could play out through an array of relationships, constant change of careers, or even placing yourself in degrading and unhealthy environments.  If you don’t know your value, please take a moment to read an earlier post I wrote highlighting your worth. Unless you believe that you are worth it, chances are you will never hold out for the treasure.


So here is what I was reading, found in the Bible, the book of Exodus, chapter 32. Moses had gone up on the a mountain to meet with God.  He had been away for a bit so the people became impatient and asked for a golden calf, an idol to be made so that they may worship it. Casting off their gold jewelry and the gold jewelry of their household, a golden calf was made.  The people brought sacrifices and offerings and worshiped this thing; celebrating it as if this idol had released them from bondage in Egypt when in actually it had been formed by the hand of man.  Now maybe you don’t acknowledge God or believe in the bible, but stay with me and to see the point. This congregation of people had seen mighty works from God.  He had feed them, released them from bondage, and split the Red Sea. Then they traded that power for a golden calf made by the hand of man.  That most definitely is like trading a Bentley for a beat up Pinto.

Final point, be careful of your trade-offs.  Know the difference between treasure and trinkets.

A Simple Girl's Dream

I have tried to dress it up, but it seems that I always come back to the fact that I am a simple girl. Not simple minded, not uneducated, but just simple in the joys of life. I like front porch swings, wooded trails for hiking and running, waterfalls, and the sound of crickets chirping in the night air. It seems that I crave a slower pace of life than our current society offers and therefore I constantly wrestle with being accomplished versus being filled with joy.  I mean let’s face it, hanging out on a creek bed off a wooded trail mostly likely isn't helping to provide for my family unless of course I were there catching dinner AND that’s not the case.


It isn’t often that you will find me decked out in jewelry or wearing the latest fashions.  I’ve tried because there are some gorgeous designs out there that I wish I could rock!  Every time I try I feel overdone; yet just being “simple me” seems to be less than this world says that I should be. Now please understand, I love women that can pull off great fashions with matching accessories which is why I continually try to make it happen. It just doesn’t work for me. I’ve found that I could seriously take some flip flops, couple them with a comfy tee and some jeans and call myself dressed up. Now this doesn’t mean that I run around town in a sloppy manner or carry myself without dignity.  Me being not overly accessorized, just happens to be the place I feel most confident and most real.


So I got to thinking about all of this and how each of us are different.  There may be some that would never step foot on a wooded trail or step out of the house without being completely accessorized, and that’s awesome. It is okay to be different. It is okay to have your own style. It’s okay to enjoy a different pace of life. It makes you who you are!


Here is what is not okay.  It’s not okay to diminish a person’s worth because they choose a different style than you. Press in and listen up!



Here is an excerpt for Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”


This quote made me think how we as ladies discriminate against one another and it is often merely by outward appearance. The stay at home mom can’t understand why the mother of two is a CEO of a major corporation rather than home with her children. The girl sitting in her running shoes is looked down on as the lady in stilettos walks by. The slim toned fitness minded chic at the gym has no empathy for the overweight lady attempting to walk a mile on the treadmill. And the list could go on.  I know that was brutal. It hit me hard too, but here is the truth: our world would be much better off if we would reach out a hand of support rather than offering up a glare of judgement. Now there is much to be said about surrounding yourself with friends that support you and do not cause your insecurities to flare and be on high alert, but that is not what I am talking about here.  I am merely talking about taking a moment out of your day to share a smile, listen to someone’s story, or give a shout of encouragement.  One simple act really could change the course of a person’s day!

Reach out and lift others up … it’s just a simple girl’s dream!

Be Stripped Away. Let the Real You Shine.

  

While out running last fall, I came across a tree that caught my attention. Among the many gray leafless trees stood one pure white. I stopped running to take a closer look. Initially I thought that someone had defaced the tree with paint. As I got closer I realized that it had just been stripped. The bark was gone. This may have come by the strong winds that we recently had or maybe just time. Whatever the cause, all I could see was what had been left. A beautiful eye catching story stood before me, and the message it gave intrigued me. 

Could it be when we become stripped from all that we think makes us safe it is actually the point when we have the greatest ability to standout and make a difference? Is it when the beauty of what is underneath becomes visible that we truly have a platform for success?

Maybe safety has evaded you lately or maybe the thought of plunging into the unknown has you paralyzed with fear. Consider the tree, and let the thought settle within... this could be your moment to shine; your time to make a difference.

Maybe you are hiding under the shell of what you think you should be or what others think you should be. Hurt, rejection, failure or a number of other things could have caused you to pull the cloak over yourself and never again allow it to be stripped away. Again I say, consider the tree, when it's covering was removed it revealed a inner beauty that literally stopped me in my tracks. 


No longer did this tree just get counted with the hundreds of others just like it; it became "the tree." 

Could it be that it is your time to remove the cloak and stand with your inner worth on display? You just may be surprised the impact that it could make.

"I CAN"

I believe that at some point in many of our lives most of us have struggled with negative self talk and self doubt which originates in the mind. The mind is a very powerful tool which sends signals to our body indicating the needed responses. For example let's look at a lesson from exercise science. If a person were asked to move a specific weighted load the brain would send a message to the muscles indicating the required muscle contraction needed to move the weight. In the same way, when there are goals before us in life the mind comes into play.  The “I CAN” mentality signals one to plan and dream and motivates the body to act.  In the face of obstacles, the “I CAN” mentality taps into creativity and resourcefulness to overcome the obstacles.  Negative self talk and an “I CAN'T" attitude signals one to focus on all the obstacles, cling to fear, and tells the body no to react.
Let me share with you how this played out in real life. Recently while coaching a girl’s running program the group’s goal was for everyone to complete 3 miles.  One girl in particular believed that she could not meet this goal.  As she ran she said these words over and over “I can’t.”  As you can imagine, each time she said that she couldn't, she didn't.  She stopped running and slumped along.  I noticed the cycle so went to run alongside her.  Then the words came again, “I can’t.”  So I set goals for her and told her that we had to break the mindset because  at that point I knew it had nothing to do with her athletic ability, but her mind.  She had been infected with a mind virus which spread to her entire body! I stayed along to encourage her and push her forward a little.  Once we stopped for water, I told her a story about my daughter who had turned her own “I can’t” into “I can”.  In short, my daughter went from crying “I can’t” to running full speed screaming ‘I can.”
The story was quite amusing for the girl in my group. She shrugged it off and ran along; however before she left I set a goal for her to run a portion of the field, take a brief walk, and then run the final stretch.  After she took off I went to take pictures of the rest of the team.  I noticed that she was sticking to the plan and I was glad.  Then something remarkable happened, she turned the corner for her last stretch and screamed out “I CAN DO IT!” Then I let out the loudest “YES!” that I could find within me.  Not only did she discover that she could do it, she finished her goal running! 
What is it in your life that you need to look at head on and scream “I CAN DO IT!” 

Bragging or Confidence?


I have the privilege to coach a running program where the goal is to encourage positive self image in girl’s through curriculum that promotes physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health.  Recently we dealt with the subject of having positive body image with a focus on inner beauty. The assignment had the girls celebrate things that described their inner beauty.  Some girls took off on the mission and completed it with ease while others struggled.  Both responses were to be expected; however there was one who seemed to be overly perplexed.  So finally she asked the question “Isn't this like bragging?”

It stopped me as I began to process my own thoughts.  I too, deep down, have felt that if I find any beauty or any strength in me then it means I lack humility. So went my response, “Bragging is building yourself up, often with the intent to tear others down.  Having a positive self image is becoming a confident person who is able to be kind and help others.” Whew, there it was.  The truth had been spoken from my lips which created a challenge.  I must now live according to the truth I spoke.

A positive self image truly does create confidence that allows one to be free to help and encourage others. There is freedom from the insecurities that cause wars within one’s self and with others.  There is strength that allows one to reach out into a misunderstood or unpopular situation without concern of losing popularity.  Then there is peace that allows one to live with purpose and be a catalyst of hope, and that my friend is BEAUTIFUL!

Shante

On a side note: You will find affiliate and other general links within my blog. I work hard to keep them relevant and useful. One reason I use affiliate links is to support the daily activity of a non-profit children's program. Check out The Cool Table to learn more.  If you use Amazon to make any purchases please bookmark our link and painlessly help support the cause.








Live Like You Have Value



As I evaluate my own life and interact with others, I have learned that the worth we see in ourselves directly relates to how we lead our lives.  It impacts us in the relationships that we choose, the careers we pursue, the chances we take, and even the compliments we accept. So what is your worth?

Here is how I see it - There is only ONE you. That in itself makes you a rare find, and rarities are valuable.

Let's think about this in regards to family heirloom that is worth millions. How would you handle it? I hope that you wouldn't toss it aside unguarded, leaving it vulnerable to damage and devaluation, with no plans for its future. Instead, you'd care well for it. There would be a plan on how it will be passed down through the family. You may even encase it for safe display knowing that it must be protected.

Although we'd normally care well for an expensive possession, many times we toss our own personal worth aside leaving us unprotected against the mindsets, habits, and surroundings that diminish our value and leave us with no plan to reach our potential.  Why is this? Maybe we have forgotten that we have great value.

Let this be a reminder:
You are priceless. More precious than the most expensive heirloom. You are irreplaceable. 

In the words of Britt Nicole, in her song "Gold", you are worth more than gold.


Now let me encourage to you to live like you have great value because you do! 


Who is the Lord That I Should Obey?

There has been the conflict for a while with how our American society has turned further and further away from the things of God.  This is represented in our government, our laws, and our homes.  It seems the natural response for a Christian in these times is to point to the bible to correct those that they feel are outside of God's will or are "sinning against God".  For a long while I have struggled with this method.  If a person does not have faith in God then what does it mean to them if the bible says that they should or should not participate in a certain act, or how to treat their fellow person?  I have often said that we are fighting the wrong fight.  Yes we should stand against principles that seek to rob our freedoms as Christians to live out our faith and share that with others.  Yes we should have a voice in how we want our world to look and we should work to protect those that have no voice.  However, there is a fine line on how we go about it.  Arguments and rants to a society that has no trust in God are ineffective and in many cases push people to a more hardened state than where they began. You see the initial step for change has nothing to do with if a law or an action is right, but rather the state of the heart.  It is difficult to convince a person that does not have a relationship with Jesus to follow the commandments of Jesus and build a society that represents the principles of God. 
Now like I said this conflict has been within me for a long while.  There is the pull that says you have to "fight" for what you believe in but then there is the understanding that I can't make a case for change in someone's life based on something they do not believe. 
Let me give you an example of how I see our society's response. There was a time that the people of Israel were enslaved by the Egyptians.  God called a leader named Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell Pharaoh that the Lord had said to let his people free.  Pharaoh's response found in Exodus 5:2  "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go."
Now I am looking at Pharaoh's response, "who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?" I believe that this is the response of many in society today ... "who is the Lord that I should obey?"  And guess what! That is a great question!! Who is this Lord that one should obey? 
Now speaking to Christians that may need to hear, myself included: There is the step that I believe we have long skipped.  We have been fighting a fight to get people to change to God's ways before we have even introduced them to the One we are asking them to follow.  I am not saying to stop living and speaking of the principles of God.  As a Christian you should do these things.  You should live in such a way that people ask about the hope that you have.  (check out 1 Peter 3:15) If however, you are bitter and unapproachable and care only to point out another's fault then those that are without Jesus will never see that hope and most likely will want no part of what you have.  Don't skip the introduction.  After all, for a Christian, Jesus is the example and He was constantly introducing Himself. Some of the ways He introduced Himself are as followed: The light of the world, the son of God, the way, the truth, the life, the living water, and eternal life.  Let someone see how Jesus has been these things in your life, how he changed you from a lifestyle of destruction to a path of hope, or how He restored you after a great fall. Introduce Jesus.  He will change hearts and lives.
I understand that there can be a whole debate on the fact that Moses approached Pharaoh with "the Lord says." To that I say Moses had a direct word from God and he was obedient as should you be if God appeared to you in a burning bush or gave you other direct instruction. Followers of Christ have been given direct instruction as well . . . "Go and make disciples (followers of Jesus)..."  Matthew 28:19  See we are called to teach others Jesus.  

Introduce them, help them follow, and know that in the following freedom is found. 

Where Healing Begins

What holds you captive? An intriguing question isn't it!
This morning I read the following:
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
Grace, captivity, captive, and gifts ... oh my! It seems scandalous and redemptive all at the same time.  A mess with a grand solution.  
The first thing to note is we all have a measure of grace according to Christ’s gift. Or in other words, we have something we don't deserve because of the selfless sacrifice of Christ.   

In John 14:26-31 we see a little more about Christ’s gift.  These verses highlight two principles. The presence of help through the Holy Spirit and the death of Christ in which He took the punishment of the world’s sin (John 3:16). 

So we have a measure of grace, God’s presence, a helper through the Holy Spirit, and a perfect sacrifice through Christ. Sounds like a pretty stout arsenal!
The other thing I see is that there is captivity. A state of being imprisoned or confined. What about you?  Is there something that imprisons your heart, your mind, or confines your life?  Maybe it is anger, fear, unforgiveness, pride, depression, addiction, control issues, laziness, or something unmentioned. 

Whatever imprisons you be sure of this, it will remain until it itself is brought captive. The good news is that Jesus has already freed you. You just have to make the journey from the place of captivity to the open door of freedom. That means healing.  That means bringing the hidden areas of your life out of hiding and revealing the imprisonment. That means truth and transparency, facing the unknown and the uncomfortable. For some, it could mean learning a whole new way of living.  

Although you do have to initiate that move towards freedom, you don't have to walk it alone. In you and those around you were placed gifts that are meant to work together to free captives. 

If you need release from captivity and already have a relationship with Jesus, take a moment to thank Him for bringing your captivity captive. Then ask Him to show you how to use the gifts in you and those around you to walk in the freedom He has provided. 
Unsure about this whole Jesus thing? If there is someone in your life that you know who could fill you in then please reach out to them, or I would be happy to talk with you more!

Your First Step:
What holds your mind, heart, and/or life captive? Write it out. Confess it in words to God. Ask for wisdom in the resolution. 

Healing starts by uncovering the hidden places of the heart where pain, fear, and bondage reside. 

Peace to you!

Revelation of a Simple Girl

Recently I had this revelation: I am a simple girl trapped in a warp speed society.
I mean there are so many voices that call out on any given day. Some are welcomed and others just barge their way into life. 

There is Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pintrest, e-mail, text, blogs (which I am thankful for), news, magazine, advertisements, and the list goes on...  There is no lack of information and no lack of opinion, and it comes at lighting speed. It also comes with contradictions and competition.  I mean seriously think about: For the fitness minded, do I eat my weight in protein or only consume .8g of protein per kilogram of my body weight?  For the business minded, do I pursue success without end or do I break for the moments that truly matter? For the relationship minded, does love and friendship have boundaries or is it to give without limit? And finally is the one who leads greater than the one who serves?
With so much information at such rapid speed there is a possibility of distraction and derailment from one's individual goals.  There is a chance one could be chasing the noise from all the voices that pour into the day rather than staying on track with the goals and tasks that line up with one's individual and unique life and purpose. 

I woke up one day and realized I was trying to be a high class city girl wanting to ride the subway,  wear designer dresses, attend Hollywood parties, book speaking engagements, write books, and be a master in all things. In reality,  I am a simple girl who loves outdoor adventure, sweat, workout clothes, traveling in my car, small gatherings, not a public speaker, I do love to write; however I will never master all things! So I guess I got lost in the noise and the contradictions and competition of all the different voices that fill my day.  Now let's be clear, I am not against ambition, learning, or growing but I believe that one should stay true to themselves and be honest about strengths, weakness, likes and dislikes. Then live in that sweet spot where passion and strength cross even if it means you forgo the "Hollywood life" for the "Simple life".

Shante

More Than Junk

On my nightstand there is a pile of scraps that my daughter arranged into a special sculpture just for me. You see she has a knack for picking up junk with the desire to later craft it together into a masterpiece. Often times I discourage this habit because it means I find bottle caps, string, nails, candy wrappers, and all sorts of unattractive stuff lying around the house or in the car. And with that admission I realize I may have just taken myself out of the running for World's Greatest Mother. So let's continue ... What my daughter sees as pieces to a brilliant piece of art, I see as a heaping pile of trash. Wow, what a creative optimistic genius I am! On the bright side, I bet you are feeling better about yourself right now, huh? It is worth saying that I do not see my sculpture as trash because I know the heart from which it came.
So what is all this about?  I had a day (ok, a string of days) that I felt like junk. You know the uncool parent, the unaccomplished adult, the unproductive servant, and well just plain ill. Then, on my nightstand, I found a note from my husband highlighting my worth; reminding  me that even though my days had not been as joyous and easy as hoped for, I was on the right path, and I was making a difference. That resolved it! My husband said it so it was true; no questions asked. Problem solved ... until next blog. Yeah, so that isn't completely the truth.  There was a letter. It was nice and made me smile, but truth is, he is my husband and adores me even with my flaws. You remember that sculpture, the one made from the junk I usually discourage my daughter from gathering ... Yeah that one!  There it too lay on my nightstand, and as I looked at it, these words filled my mind' "you are not junk."  What I feel like junk?!? My kids clearly do not like my rules, my big plans are fill filled with potholes, and my accomplishments aren't impacting the world. Then  the words came with more force "You are NOT junk." Huh? Really? And then the understanding:


Sure we have all been challenged by life, some of us even left in pieces, some dreams unfulfilled and some bad choices that linger, but the truth is that if the broken unattractive pieces are picked up and arranged by the right artist our junk can be a masterpiece. For me that artist is Jesus Christ. He has picked up the pieces and reminds me that I am not junk.

    Ephesians 2:10For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
And as for my passionate little girl ... She now has a collection bag and will begin putting her findings together into a masterpiece.
You are a masterpiece in the making,
Shante
                                                         

Lessons from the Trail


After dropping the kids off for the first day of the new school year, the husband and I headed to the Greenway for a run.

Being a country girl, the first step onto that wooded trail awakened my senses and made me truly feel alive! There was an excitement that could not be contained.  I found myself shouting “This is awesome!”  Although not marked by girlish screams, my husband shared in the excitement as well.

As the run progressed, I started noting several lessons the trail was teaching me, and they are worth sharing. Here are a few:


  • The terrain is ever changing. If you fail to stay engaged in the present you just might trip.

  • The journey is sweeter when shared with the ones you love.

  • You never know what may block the path, but there is a way around it or through it.

  • Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places.

  • Sometimes you have to get a little dirty. (Thanks to many muddy spots I learned this well)

  • The beginning is exciting; the end is welcomed, but it’s the journey on the trail that grows you.

Life is waiting … go live it to the fullest!

Shante