Free To Change the World

Divorce is an epidemic that has become the norm in our world, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let God redeem the situation and put your family back together. It all starts with you!

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What is Your Strength?

Did you know that hidden within every strength, there lies your weakness? Or you can look at it the other way and within every weakness, discover your strength. When I performed this exercise, I found it to be very eye opening. Read through the list below and write down the numbers to the strengths you think you possess. Be honest with yourself. No one is going to see this but you and the more honest you are, the more you will gain.

1) Creative

2) Organized

3) Dedicated

4) Flexible

5) Enthusiastic

6) Calm

7) Reflective

8) Adventurous

9) Responsible

10) Positive

11) Realistic

12) Assertive

13) Humble

14) Self-Confident

15) Patient

16) Passionate

Now do the same thing with this list:

1) Disorganized

2) Inflexible

3) Stubborn

4) Inconsistent

5) Obnoxious

6) Emotionless

7) Shy

8) Irresponsible

9) Unrealistic

10) Negative

11) Negative

12) Intimidating

13) Weak

14) Arrogant

15) Indecisive

16) Impatient

The first tier of this exercise is to see which ones match up. Look at both lists of numbers and write down only the ones that were the same from both lists. For example, if you wrote down number 9 from both lists, you already know that your strength is being responsible. And you also know that you are boring, your weakness. The thing I love about this exercise is it reveals that sometimes it is okay to have weaknesses. Next time someone tells me I am boring, I will know that with that comes being responsible. And on the flip side, if I am being adventurous, I now know that my weakness at the moment is being irresponsible. This knowledge will help me to step back and make sure I am not doing something stupid in the moment.

The second tier in this lesson is to look back over both lists. Locate the numbers you wrote down and match them up with the correlating strength/weakness. Write the following sentence and fill in the blanks for each number you wrote down. “When I am _______, I am _______.” For example, if you wrote number 7 from the strengths list you would write, “When I am reflective, I am shy.” Or, “When I am shy, I am reflective.” Here is the list of the strengths/weaknesses:

1) Creative — Disorganized

2) Organized — Inflexible

3) Dedicated — Stubborn

4) Flexible — Inconsistant

5) Enthusiastic — Obnoxious

6) Calm — Emotionless

7) Reflective — Shy

8) Adventurous — Irresponsible

9) Responsible — Boring

10) Positive — Unrealistic

11) Realistic — Negative

12) Assertive — Intimidating

13) Humble — Weak

14) Self-Confident — Arrogant

15) Patient — Indecisive

16) Passionate — Impatient

Through analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, we learn more about who we are and why we do the things we do. This can also helps us understand why others do what they do, which can be a tremendous help in the work place as well as in our personal lives.

Plato once said…

Plato once said, “A life which is unexamined is not worth living.” On the surface, this quote sounds so harsh, but if we dig a little deeper we will find that he was very wise and right on. Our past can dictate our future if we try to move on without learning from it. We all make mistakes, but the key is learning from them and making the necessary changes to avoid repeating the same sins over and over. If you find yourself having the same issues relationship after relationship, it is probably time to determine why.

Guard Your Ears!

So apparently I have been living under a rock. Due to a small accident over the weekend, we had to take our car in for repairs. I was provided with a rental, so I got in and to my surprise it has satellite radio. I was very excited that for the next few days I would get to listen to my favorite station, “The Message.” As I was browsing through in search of this channel, I came to one titled “Radio Sex.” Call me naive, but I thought it would be an informative station where they discuss things like how having a healthy sex life can improve your overall health and such. What I heard next nearly caused me to run off the road. It was a pornographic radio station. What? Is this seriously something people listen to on their commute to and from work? I couldn’t believe it. Never in a million years would I have thought that this world would get so perverted that we would resort to having porno radio. Isn’t it bad enough that anyone can access it on the internet from their own mobile device?

This just brought to my attention how important it is it guard our hearts and that includes not only what we see but what we hear as well. We live in a day and age of media overload and just because it is on doesn’t mean we should listen to it or watch it. We have to teach ourselves and our children to turn it off and never look back because Satan is out to destroy us little by little. What use to make us cringe has become acceptable and over time we have become desensitized to hearing and seeing things that we should never be subjecting our minds to.

So next time you turn on the radio, television, or use any media device, remember that what we put in our minds today will affect who we become tomorrow. Casting Crowns says it best in their song, “Slow Fade.”

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you’re thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

I pray that God will give us the wisdom to see through His lenses and the courage to stand up for what is right when those around us have become desensitized to the things of this world that go against everything pure and noble and right.

Control-Freak

I grew up in a middle class home with my mother, father, and two sisters. My parents both worked full-time outside the home. My mother ran the pizza restaurant we owned and when my father wasn’t at his full-time job, he volunteered for the local fire department. Needless to say, they were never home and when they were, it wasn’t pleasant. Someone was always mad about something. Most of the time it was my dad yelling because the house wasn’t kept to his standards, but I never remember seeing him help out with anything. When I was about 9, my parents hired a woman that was here from Mexico looking for a better life for her and her daughter. They moved in with us in trade for cooking and cleaning. It was then that I discovered having a clean house made everyone happier.
Fast-foward twenty years and I am married with three kids and a husband that is rarely happy. Because of my childhood, I learned at a very young age that a house isn’t a home if it isn’t spotless. Almost all of my husband’s complaints were because the house wasn’t clean 24/7, and like my own father, never helped out. But I was a stay-at-home mom and that was my job.
Fast-forward another year and this is when I discover that my perfectionism in that area of my life was a very unhealthy form of control. My marriage had been a wreak for years and the only thing I could control was how clean my house was, so I made sure it was perfect. The sad thing about my illness was that I actually thought that my husband would love me more by doing what I was doing. In the back of my mind, since the only thing he ever complained about was when he found a toy laying around or laundry not put up by the time he walked in the door, I thought he would be faithful to me once I made him happy in this area. Now I know that his problem was not my fault, but I had a long road of healing that had to take place in the area of control in my life.
You see, when one area of our lives is out of control, we tend to cling to something we do have control over to make ourselves feel safe. That then becomes an obsession, which is never a healthy alternative. 
It makes me sad to think back to that time in my life because I missed out on so many things so that I could keep the house perfect and avoid arguments later. My thoughts were always focused on cleaning instead of spending quality time with my loved ones. I still struggle with this to some degree today. I have to make a conscious effort to walk away from the mess because I was conditioned from an early age to believe that a man will hurt you if you do not present your home in a desirable way. This is the first time I have actually put these thoughts on paper and as I do, tears are running down my face. One day I hope that I can finally say that I am completely healed, but right now the scars remain and every time I hear my husband comment on a mess, I find myself reverting back to that control-freak that I once was. And just for the record, my husband is amazing and is in no way, shape or form like my ex. The point is that because of our pasts, we are conditioned to respond a certain way. If we live our lives without examining why we do what we do, we will never become the person God intended for us to be. Thankfully, God is bigger than my past and with Him by my side, I am replacing the lies with His truths.
I pray for each person that reads this. May God reveal to you the areas of your life that you attempt to control to feel safe and secure. May He replace those lies with His word so that your heart can begin to heal and you can become the woman or man that He created you to be.
Our security is in God alone and His love has the power to change the world, one control-freak at at time!

Wake Me Up

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A year had passed since my divorce. I had met a man that seemed to be everything I had wanted in a man, except for one little problem. He was expecting a child with another woman. When we started talking, he was open and honest about his predicament, so I felt he was safe. All I wanted was an honest man who treated me with love and respect and so far so good. In the back of my mind, I knew better. A very small voice told me to be careful, but not only did I ignore it, I rationalized everything this man did that were huge red flags right from the beginning. And because he was honest on day one, I assumed he was an honest person. I never questioned anything he told me until he ripped my heart out by walking away.

At that moment in my life, I was attending church religiously. I was the photographer for the women’s ministry and I attended every church event that I could. I felt that there was no way for me to be going down the wrong path because I was doing everything God’s way. Boy was I blind! Church was my crutch and that man was an idol.
I was working for a local company at this time as well and everything seemed great on the surface. I had been hired as a referral and the job was a God send. I thought my life was finally getting better. But when my personal life started to crumble, my health took a downward spiral. I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t sleep at night and everything made me cry. I was depressed. I forced myself to get up every morning, take my kids to school and go to a job that promised me security. Somewhere along the way, my job security also became an idol. God was preparing me for what would be a huge turning point in my life. Two weeks before the next big blow, I prayed this prayer, “Lord, please show me what is best for me and give me the strength to go through the fire one more time if I am not where you want me.”
One month after that man walked out of my life never to return again with no explanation to me or my children, my boss fired me. Everything came crashing down. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. During that time frame I had been to see my doctor and my friend suggested that I go get something to help me get through this. The doctor recommended an anti-depressant, but God kept telling me that I needed Him, not a quick fix. The doctor suggested that he call in the prescription and if I decided to pick it up great, if not no harm done. So I agreed. I also requested a sleeping pill so that I could get some rest at night and he prescribed a Vitamin D supplement because I had a deficiency. He said he would call them in. That day I prayed about what I should take and not take and when I went to pick up the medicine, the doctor had only called in two of the medications. The pharmacy tech said there was not a sleeping pill, so I went ahead and picked up the two she had ready. I contacted the doctor’s office, but they were closed and I would have to wait until morning. I had been crying all day and at bedtime I prayed that God would let me know what to do about taking the medication. My friend called and was an answer to my prayers. She explained that she had taken the same medicine after her divorce just to take the edge off so she could get through that rough time more level headed. So I took two Tylenol PM and what I thought was the anti-depressant and laid down. I remember having a conversation on the phone with my sister. I was feeling very light headed and although I had never been drunk in my life, I felt wasted. She even said I was sounding crazy. The last thing I can recall was telling her that if I didn’t wake up in the morning, it was that stupid medicine I should never have taken. What happened next still shakes me to the core.
I woke up and all I could see was a bright light. I walked closer out of curiosity and there I was standing at a huge pearly gate that extended as far as the eye could see. It took me a minute to figure out where I was and then I knew. I was at the gates of Heaven but I was’t afraid. I felt at home for the first time in a very long time and my joy had returned. But then I heard a familiar voice. It was the voice of my Heavenly Father and all He said was, “Shannon, it is not your time.” The next thing I know, I am awakened with severe stomach pains and violent vomiting. I honestly thought I was losing my mind at this point. I went straight to the medication I had taken the night before and discovered that I had somehow brought home Ambien, a very strong sleeping pill, instead of the anti-depressant. So I had taken two sleeping pills and an Ambien. I knew immediately that I had overdosed. I called my doctor and saw him first thing that morning. I explained what happened and he said that I was lucky to be alive given the fact that I only weighed 105 lbs. and had taken what I did.
My life took a dramatic turn that day. God had given me a second chance and saw a reason for me to stay on this Earth for a little while longer. I never took another pill. I knew in my heart that God was the only thing I needed to get through the pain. He was my rock from that day forward. He proved that only He would love me the way I longed to be loved and only He would meet all of my needs. No man, no job security, nothing but Jesus could mend my broken heart and start putting the pieces of my shattered life back together again.

Matters of the Heart

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We live in a world that is constantly telling us to “follow our hearts.” We see it in movies, on television, reality shows, even hear it in the music we listen to. And for years I did just that. If I felt something, I believed that it must be God’s voice speaking to me, so I let my “feelings” be my guide. In January of 2007, I learned something that put me on a new path.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” I learned that our emotions, our feelings, are not always reliable or even accurate, certainly if damaged. Because the heart is our control center, our emotions play a major part in our reactions and decision-making process. This scripture opened my eyes to the lies I had been believing all my life about following my heart. An injured heart is Satan’s playground. When he is able to gain access, he toys with our emotions, whispering lies to our ears. Wow! That is a scary thought, certainly knowing that my heart was severely injured. I had been allowing Satan to play around in my life for way too long.

That one scripture took my life, flipped it upside down, and forced me to reevaluate everything I had ever believed. It was then that God started revealing to me all of the unhealthy relationships I was surrounded by due to my own ignorance of following my own heart instead of listening to God’s. It has taken me years to clear out the lies and replace them with His truth.

The following was my prayer to God on January 12, 2010, exactly three years after discovering this truth.

Today I begin as a new creation. My past has kept me in fear for long enough. On this day, I give it completely to you. The past few days have shaken me to the core, afraid of so many things I have no control over. Thank you God for speaking into me in ways that get my attention. You always know exactly what I need, at the very moment I need it. Three days in a row you woke me up at 5:51am. I searched for the word you had for me a few days ago and couldn’t find anything. Today started out rough. My heart is burdened with so many things. The man I love has a new baby with another woman. The man I loved for 15 years has damaged me so much that I am afraid of getting hurt all over again. My mind has become Satan’s playground for about four days now and today it ends. Satan, you are a liar and a thief. I will no longer allow you to steal my joy and peace. God, thank you for your unending love and patience. You love me like no man ever can and I need you to carry me through my fears and insecurities. So today I opened Bible Gateway and went straight to Psalm 55:1. I couldn’t stop there. The entire chapter spoke to me. It says, “This is my prayer, please hear my cry for help. Please listen and answer me, my troubles overwhelm me. Satan is yelling at me, threatening my very happiness. He brings fear and angrily hunts me down. My heart aches and the fear of hurt takes me over. Fear and trembling overwhelm me and I can’t stop shaking. I need to find rest in you. I must escape this storm.” That is my prayer.

That was my breaking point. It took me three long, painful years for it to finally click. I knew that my heart was deceitful, but I still trusted it way to often. After my divorce, I quickly jumped into a relationship with a man I thought God had put in my life for a reason. I was wrong. Satan had his hands tightly around my heart, just waiting to destroy me. His lies and schemes put me right back in a place I swore I would never return to. And it was all because I was listening to my heart instead of focusing on healing it.

I share this in hopes of helping others. If you have been hurt in the past, instead of running to the next quick fix, turn to your creator. Only He can mend your broken heart and make it whole again.