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Friendship Ladder

Have you ever meet that person who will tell anyone the details of their life story trying to either make instant friends or run off the ones that would later hurt them? I am that person ... well a recovering form of that person.

I have always felt that if I do not empty every crevasse of my life and thoughts then I am being dishonest which is totally unacceptable to me. Give me a break! The heart was in the right place. It just lacked wisdom.

Recovery from unhealthy relationships has been a process, but there was a point where it started to go into overdrive and finally rooted deep into my understanding which is what I'd like to share with you.

While doing a study, I stumbled across the idea of intimacy in friendship.  And yes, although it was intentionally placed there by the writer, I still stumbled. This whole concept blindsided me yet brought so much understanding.

Here are just a few of the lines that grabbed me:

"Be careful with instant intimacy!"  "Revelation is God's way not exhibition."  "Authenticity with all, Transparency with most, Intimacy with some"

Can you image the weight of these words on a person who had sought instant friendship? It was like a slap in the face and a kiss on the cheek all at once. I hated the words because they stung, but as soon as the sting wore off, it was like a sweet healing! There was hope. I had just been following the wrong protocol.

Then the point was driven home with this wonderful illustration:


The lesson: Picture two people carrying the "relationship" up a ladder. In order for the relationship to stay balanced and not topple each person has to climb the ladder in sync in regards to both height and speed. The relationship can only go as far and fast as one is willing to progress. In conclusion, the truth was stated that some relationships are indeed only first and second step friendships. 

This teaching may be basic knowledge for you, but somewhere along the way I missed the lesson. I thought it was top rung or nothing.  I am sure I have raced to the top of the ladder and left people dangling for their life. Maybe I should climb back down the ladder and rescue them, but that discussion is for a later time.

If you needed this lesson, I pray that it would sink deeply into your spirit and bring freedom. That you would find time to slow down and take steps to build real friendships. That you would know that everyone does not get an all access pass and it's okay.  Above all don't be afraid of revelation. It really is a beautiful process.



An Angel Tree Gift

I recently volunteered to help with some administrative tasks with a community Angel Tree. One responsibility assigned to me was to call a couple families and get the children's wish list. I wasn't sure what to expect.

I made a call, and the father answered. I briefly told him why I was calling. His voice was filled with a mix of embarrassment and humility as he answered my questions about the children in the home and their "wish list".  I probed for specific desires in regards to brands, styles, and the most wanted toys. His response "No, no, really this is enough."

I was left with a list of basic things. There was not one fashion label, electronic, or sought after toy.

After the call ended I tried to explain the conversation to my husband, but rather I just burst into tears. Past the typical clothing, I couldn't utter the first "wish" on the list. A mere soccer ball. Each time I tried to say it I cried. I cried a hopeful cry.

I am not sure what the phone call meant to this father or what he received, but he gave me a gift of joy. Something so sweet burst forth because this father knew his children. He was able to tell me about each one and what activities were enjoyed outside of school. Just listening to him was beautiful because what I noticed was that each activity he mentioned required family interaction, imagination, sharing of talent, and the preparation for a brighter future.

I called in efforts to give, but instead I received. My joy was renewed as I witnessed the strength of this family through a relationship with their father.

Where have you found unexpected renewal of joy lately?

Are We Skipping Thanksgiving?

If you have been on any form of social media or followed any news lately, you have heard this question: "Are we skipping Thanksgiving?"

There are two distinct crowds. The Christmas Crusaders and the Thanksgiving Faithful.


The Crusaders have lit the tree, decorated the house, downloaded the carols, and prepared the gift list.

Then there are the Faithful. They've bought the turkey, dusted off old recipes, started the casseroles, added more harvest decor, and vowed not to sing a carol, light a tree, or check the shopping ads until the turkey has settled and the thanks has been given.

Personally, I have struggled with all the banter. Traditionally, I have made a big deal of the recognized holidays in the manner that is most commonly accepted. As I get older, I find myself on a new path. A path less about living for special moments and more about finding something special in every moment. I more readily reject the pressure to perform as once expected. I prefer to give gifts to friends and strangers throughout the year rather than having to give on a specified date. When it comes to giving thanks, I desire to make it my lifestyle rather than just a moment within the year. This isn't to say that I will not or do not participate in the holidays. I am just more aware of "why" I celebrate rather than "how" I celebrate. It is a process of discovery. A process that currently has fall decorations garnishing my entryway table and a Christmas tree lit by the fireplace.  The mismatched decor is an unintentional result of my efforts to enjoy more free time this season. Looking at it today I no longer see a unmatched mess, but rather a thing of unity. One group of decor represents a season of thankfulness and the other a season of hope. It speaks to me and says "You can give thanks because you have received the hope of Christ."


So with that revelation, the day, the season, the decorations, and the calendar matter little because the magnitude of thanks and hope that should be celebrated transcends time.

Here's to hoping that we never skip another time of thanks giving regardless of the season.




Righteous Anger

I discovered a small known truth that I just had to share.

If you ever desire to have a laugh with God, tell him that your bitterness is really just righteous anger. 

How do I know? I did it once and what came back to me was this image of uncontrollable yet correcting laughter.  I was quickly reminded of righteousness and in no way did it even closely resemble my heart.  I sought for the offense to be rectified rather than the offender be healed. 

So I realized, there is absolutely a time for anger. Be angered by the sin, chaos, and injustice in our world knowing the tremendous hurt that others face as a result, but never act out of anger or hold onto to it so tightly that it roots bitterness in your heart. Instead let it move you to compassion that you may lend a hand, an ear, or speak a prayer that opens a door for healing.  

So will you choose to have a laugh with God today or just admit what He already knows? 

Do this one thing and be encouraged.

I just wanted to take a moment today and say be encouraged.

Maybe you are not where you want to be, but if you are reading this there is hope. It means that you still have life within you to be lived. 

What is just one thing you can do today that will get you closer to where you want to be? How about this, what is one that you can do today that will get you closer to not a thing you want to obtain but rather the person you desire to be. 

Look outside yourself today and serve someone else. Make someone else feel special. Give to those who can't give back. 

Do one thing today for someone else taking no account of how it will benefit you, and I can assure you that you will be filled with hope, encouragement, and purpose. 

Be encouraged today by being an encourager! 

Defining Success

Success. It seems we all seek it, but do we really know what " it" is?

The word success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. 

Great, we have a definition. Now we can all go on with our life finding much success. Well, except for one little problem. We need to know our aim or purpose and how we measure accomplishment. Geez, so much for a simple definition! 

Ok so success still needs to be personally defined filling in the blanks of what is to be accomplished and how it's measured. 

The blanks are left up to you. How will you fill them? Is it about finances, family, fitness, missions, service, legacy, relationships, or something even more personal? 

However you choose to fill your blanks I challenge you to do so with an honest knowledge of yourself, your passions, and your dreams. Doing this will allow you stand firm even when others doubt you. It will allow you to focus on the treasure of true success rather than the trinkets of the now.

One last thought. Success is personal and fulfilling. If you think you are on the path to success and find yourself empty, chances are YOU didn't fill in YOUR blanks with an honest knowledge of yourself. You may be chasing someone else's success only to find you never reach your own.

Define your success and live to the fullest!

The Past Weighing You Down?

What does your past look like? Was it filled with success and joys, or overrun with failure and heartache. Maybe it was a mixture of both. Regardless, the past can be a huge weight that hinders forward progress. Whether you were surrounded by success or ridiculed by failure the truth is that carrying too much of the past can stop you from running towards the future. Here are two scenarios:
Living and dwelling on a past of failure and/or heartache could lead to a paralyzing fear of moving forward thinking all that awaits is more of the same. On the other hand spending too much time focusing on a past of success and joy could lead to a mind and attitude of apathy believing that enough has been accomplished.
No matter what is behind, there is life ahead of you that beckons to be lived (great example here). The past has already made it’s impression so there is no need to relive it or carry its baggage. Instead take the moments of today and live them in such a way that will inevitably forge the path to a future of success.  
Not that I have achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13

Live life forward~

Encouragement and Challenge in a Cookie

My objective in blogging is to encourage people to live life forward.  I am passionate about living life well, defining success as it relates to my unique purpose on this earth, serving others, and being a good steward.  I like to share ideas and stories that will challenge people to embrace new mindsets and habits that improve the scope of their overall life while encouraging them to live with purpose. So today I will stick with that theme of encouragement and challenge but I'll do it through a cookie.

Of course this is no ordinary cookie. It's better than the average cookie.  I have found that in caring well for my body through both exercise and nutrition, I have seen tremendous growth in other areas of my life.  So today, take a look at what you are using to fuel your body and ask if it could be better. Then when you desire a treat, really treat yourself.  Forgo the trash and get a healthy alternative!

Check out the recipes below. They just may do the trick!

Flourless Oatmeal Cookies
I often experiment with a variety of different snacks in order to meet my dietary needs.  Sometimes it works great and other times not so much. When I do find a great mixture, I often have no idea how to recreate it.  I never measure. I just mix and go. Today however I have measured, tested, and gotten approval for what I am about to share with you.  I have three different variations and of course you can try the recipes with your own add-ins as well.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bites:
2 c Old Fashioned Oats (not quick cook)
1/2 c Natural Peanut Butter
1/4 c Honey
1 egg
Splash of almond milk

Take 1 1/4 cup of oats and grind them into mill using a food processor. Mix the ground oats with the remaining 3/4 cup whole oats, add peanut butter, honey, egg and milk to mixture. Stir well until the mixture forms a ball. Drop by spoonfuls onto an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes. Cookies are done when slightly browned. They should be firm on the outside and slightly moist in the middle.

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bites 
2 c Old Fashioned Oats (not quick cook)
1/8 c Honey
1 Ripe Banana
1/4 c chocolate chips (I perfer dark chocolate)
1 egg

Take 1 1/4 cup of oats and grind them into mill using a food processor. Mix the ground oats with the remaining 3/4 cup whole oats.  Mash banana then add it to mixture along with honey, egg and chocolate chips to mixture. Stir well until the mixture forms a ball. Drop by spoonfuls onto an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes. Cookies are done when slightly browned. They should be firm on the outside and slightly moist in the middle.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bites 
2 c Old Fashioned Oats (not quick cook)
1/4 c Honey
1 Apple
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 egg

Take 1 1/4 cup of oats and grind them into mill using a food processor. Mix the ground oats with the remaining 3/4 cup whole oats.  Peel and core apple. Cut apple into chunks and puree apple in food processor then add it to mixture along with honey, cinnamon, and egg. Stir well until the mixture forms a ball. Drop by spoonfuls onto an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes. Cookies are done when slightly browned. They should be firm on the outside and slightly moist in the middle.

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

A Birthday Tribute to Reverend Billy Graham

Reverend Billy Graham celebrates his 95th birthday today 11/7/2013!

Wow, ninety-five years. Can you imagine the stories one would have after that lifetime?

How does he mark his time? With the release of "The Cross", begins airing tonight or you can watch online here. Check your local listings! This is quite possibly (very probably) his final sermon.  Here is a man that has never lost sight of his purpose, and an amazing example of how God can work regardless of age.

Billy Graham has often been called the Nation's Pastor and for good reason. He has addressed tens of thousands of people at stadiums around the country. He has offered spiritual counsel and prayer for numerous Presidents throughout history, and he has been called, on more than one occasion, to give an explanation of the hope he has. The title of the Nation's Pastor is fitting, but his legacy doesn't stop there.  He has preached in more than 185 countries which in my mind makes him the World's Pastor.  He has been invited by leaders to speak in countries where Christianity was not allowed. At times condemned for his "simple doctrine", it may be that very simplicity that draws so many people to listen.  His claims aren't rigid and self serving. He merely knows that he had found a life changing truth and wants to share it with the world. He shows himself as friend, a servant leader, and above all a man of unfailing integrity.

For me, Reverend Graham stands as a symbol of hope and consistency.  A man so enthralled with Jesus Christ, so changed by that love, that he truly has but one wish: to see as many people as possible experience the same hope he has lived for so many years.  There is something refreshing that happens within my own spirit when I think of the legacy of the entire Graham family. A family that has set out with pure heart to share hope with a suffering world. A legacy worth living!

So today I celebrate with a heart of gratitude all that Reverend Graham has done for our world. May those who were impacted by his words, sermons, and prayers continue to carry out his legacy.

Reverend Graham, may God's richest blessings find their way to you today.  Happy Birthday! 

School Zoning Where is the Value

Here we go, a sensitive topic! I have pondered, processed, and figured out that I will never make everyone happy with my thoughts :)

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a rather sensitive issue wrapped in a package called "school zoning". 

The zoning had not been much concern for our family because we had plans to move before the next school year so our children would likely be changing schools anyway. Furthermore, I had not been a fan of the school we were zoned to when we first moved to our town. It was located in a wealthier neighborhood in which we did not live. Knowing this, I felt I did not have a "right" to complain about a reassignment now! 

Back then, I feared that my children would experience the "poor kid" mentality or believe that they should be entitled to more than I would allow regardless of our income level or the price tag on our home. My fears were later removed as we went about our school experience. Four years at the school and I can say that I have been nothing but pleased with every single teacher my children have been assigned.  I also found that there are other parents who live in the neighborhood that hold true to my beliefs on being modest with the things our children have while teaching them to respect others, be generous, and to be grateful. More importantly, I have learned that every family and every child regardless of their address has value.  I have grown to love the place my children call school.  Having a familiar face smile and say hello or classroom children with whom you have volunteered run to hug you in the hallway is priceless. This being said, because I am comfortable where I am, I don't necessarily want to move schools, but I will without argument or grave concern. Now for the real story.

The heart breaking truth is that I know people on both sides of the zoning issue that have offended someone or been offended. The Herald wrote an article about one school in particular where I have family and friends who attend. The article did a great job highlighting the success of the school, children, and families. The place that it seemed to go wrong was the fact that in light of the successes noted much negative text found its way into the article. The negative text took away from the terrific child aspect and allowed attention to be drawn to naysayers. Why not just celebrate the accomplishments and not over shadow them with debates! After all, our actions will always win out over words. Unfortunately the underlying debate did come into the text and left me with mixed emotions. Underlying text and later comments that spawn from the article attacked people, whom I loved and/or respected, on both sides . They were either labeled poor and under-educated or wealthy and harsh. One group was praised for being present for every school event while the other was berated for working. It was like a reenactment of the Civil War. People in the same community, with many of the same hopes and dreams for their children, and yet a nasty battle erupted. 

Now here is the truth! Neither "side" is correct. Labeling one's character based on their income level, test scores, or skin color is wrong! We are individuals and all come from various backgrounds leaving different values, goals, and beliefs woven into who we are today. Sometimes we see the world from a different angle but it never gives us a right to devalue another person, and quite frankly the ugly that came from this was just that. People on both sides were devalued. 

Have your opinions, work for what counts, but for the greater good of people everywhere do it all from love. Somehow the real value of re-zoning was not seen. Maybe it's not the first choice, but it is an amazing opportunity to make a difference.  Feel like a school will not have enough parent support, then lead the way.  Concerned that money replaces quality time, then be the example. We never have to shrink into our surroundings when we hold the key to making that environment a more beautiful place. Look for the value in others and compliment it with the value in yourself! 

In the end, we, as parents, have the greatest influence in shaping our children's future. Where ever you are, make it great! 

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.

Handle With Care

Oh, the lessons we can learn from teaching our children! I have found that in an attempt to hand down all my wisdom, I often find myself learning. Have you experienced this?

Recently, the children were being treated unkindly and their things went missing after playing with some others in the neighborhood. I had spoken to the other children involved and even set some ground rules for my children. The rules set were not followed. My children chose to ignore the safe guards.  They continued to surround themselves with people who disrespected them so they had to face the consequences. More items were taken and the responsibility was now on my children's shoulders. They had decided they were okay with the mistreatment and continued to put themselves in unhealthy surroundings without any boundaries.  It was a painful lesson because they were hurting, but I knew it was a lesson they must grasp or future lessons could be even more disheartening.

After they realized that their actions allowed the latter consequences, I was able to share with them that we tell people how to treat us by what we allow. If we continue to surround ourselves with people that disrespect us and our belongings, what we are saying is that we don't mind being disrespected. And quite frankly we show that we don't respect ourselves either. The truth we should be showing others is that we all are valuable and must be handled with care.

I explained that we can not force someone to treat us a certain way.  There are times that we will be wronged and will have no control over that particular instance. What we do have control over is our response. We should never respond with the same hurt that was put on us because regardless of the situation you always treat others how you would like to be treated. It is just another example of how your actions tell someone what you will and will not accept. Although the response does not have to be harsh or hurtful, it should be firm and filled with truth. Sometimes a conversation is all it takes to resolve a wrong. Other times the disrespectful behavior will not stop. At that point you can choose to remove yourself from that environment or group of individuals.

Then I shared this: Proverbs 18:24 There are "friends" who destroy each other, but a real friend friend sticks closer than a brother.

Finishing the "lesson" my heart was pierced and mind pondered. You mean it is okay to remove yourself from hurtful surroundings and toxic people! I get to have boundaries and everyone doesn't get an all access pass. It turned into a very enlightening conversation for me.  I can only pray that it will be one that sticks with my children.

What about you? Was this lesson for you or maybe you have experienced a lesson while teaching others?

I would love to hear from you!
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.

Shed a Little Light

Recently I heard this quoted:

I have had foolish people in my life, but no one has ever been more foolish with my life than I have - Beth Moore (and is echoed by Shante Kiefer)

Those words left an imprint on my heart.  I knew that I had the same confession from my own life, and many of you reading may as well. The joy is that it doesn't have to be that way going forward or for those who come after us.

What Beth Moore learned, what I learned, and what you have learned does not have to lay waste. Beth Moore is a living example we can pick up those failures, short comings, embarrassments, and dark secrets and shed light on them. We can not allow the darkness to trip us up any longer. We can't believe that we are the sum of our past mistakes because it is a lie! Each of us were created for greater. The future is bright and sometimes that brightness is because someone cared enough to shed a little light on their past foolishness so that another may be spared from experiencing the same fall.

Is there a lesson you learned the hard way? Maybe it's buried in a vault of secrets and is causing torment to your soul. Release it!  There is a God who can carry it away. Then you will have freedom to share your wisdom (not every detail of your mistakes is needed) and more importantly your compassion with another and maybe light up a darken path.

Though sorrow lasts for a night, joy comes in the morning!

Go shed a little light,
Shante