Are You Ready-Hospitality

Now that we are settled into our new home and I am in the midst of this incredible business Mary & Martha, I have a renewed desire to carry out one of my passions – entertaining.  I love inviting people into my home.  I love that quiet time, set aside to focus on friends, family and even strangers.  I love the conversations, the laughter.  It’s easy to let life crowd those moments out.  It’s easy to compare ourselves, our homes, our abilities to others and talk ourselves out of opening our homes.  Little good can come from that.  Real conversations are hard to have sitting in a coffee shop or a busy restaurant.

I am challenging everyone I know.  My Mary & Martha business holds me accountable in this area.  My Mary & Martha business helps open doors encouraging other women to welcome friends and family into their homes.  My Mary & Martha business provides products to help all of us entertain with ease.  I LOVE it.

Mary & Martha is in the midst of clearing out for our new product line.  I get to go to Siloam Springs, AR next week for my first Leadership Conference.  I can’t wait to worship, fellowship and learn.  I can’t wait to get to see Dayspring headquarters (our parent company).  I can’t wait to get ready-ready for a year of growing my business, sharing hospitality, modeling hospitality and encouraging hospitality.

Our flash sale has been extended one day only.  Ends tonight at midnight, January 16.  If you have never shopped the products this is a great opportunity to sample some at great prices.

Jan2015FlashSaleJan2015FlashSale3Jan2015FlashSale2Jan2015FlashSale4

To shop go to http://www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana or click on the Mary & Martha button.

Clear Out, Clean Out-Get Ready

There are a million de-cluttering challenges happening right about now.  People are busy setting goals, clearing out the clutter in their lives, their homes, their offices.  Cleaning out the garage, the attic.  I’m doing it too.  New stuff has arrived at our home and well, we’ve got to make space.  I don’t want cluttered closets, crammed full of stuff I can’t find or use.  I’m also busy making sure I have my mind and calendar cleaned out and ready.  Ready to experience all that God has in store for me this next year.  I want to be ready.  In fact, I have determined 2015 holds to “Words of the Year” for me.  My first was Joy.(http://simplifiedorganizedstyled.com/2015/01/09/joy-do-we-even-know-what-it-means/)  Ready is clearly my second.

As I have been wrapping up my read through the Bible I have been convicted and struck by the number of times Christ directs his listeners and disciples to be ready. They weren’t ready for His crucifixion.  They weren’t ready for His resurrection.  I wouldn’t have been either.  Who could have imagined.  Who could have really understood?

I want to be ready this year.  Being ready means preparation.  I don’t know about you, but too often this is where I fall short. I procrastinate.  I lack the discipline.  I want to do better in all those areas this year.  I don’t know what the year holds.  And as my verse for the year reminds me, it may be difficulties, sorrow.  I want to be ready.  I want to experience JOY-not the giddy, happy feeling we tend to think of, but the peace, the sense of assurance that comes from JOY in Him.  I believe a huge part of getting to experience that JOY will be a result of my being READY, having prepared my heart and mind.

Things are a Part of Your Legacy

As my girls approach college years, I find myself thinking more and more about the legacy I am leaving them.  Often that revolves around memories, behaviors, lifestyle.  But things are a part of the legacy too.

I love antiques.  We are blessed to have a number of family items.  Nothing that would be of much value to anyone else, but they are a part of our family’s history and hold memories.  One of the girls has their dad’s mom’s childhood desk.  Our dining set, which I have broken up and used throughout the house, is from my mother-in-law.  Each girl has a childhood rocker passed down from my family and my husband’s.  I love those sorts of things.

I love dishes and hospitality items even more (hence my job as a Mary & Martha Independent Consultant).  I have dishes from my grandmother, great grandmother, my husband’s mother, my own collection.  Love them all, use them all, and pray my girls find enjoyment in them.

Baby Shower 003

Last year I was challenged by an acquaintance to read through the Bible on behalf of my girls.  The challenge spoke to me. I hadn’t read through the entire Bible in a year in quite a while.  I journal for my girls, but this spoke to me in a different way. What if I could take two old family bibles and read through them.  Not only would I be leaving them notes, highlights and thoughts from my own experiences and knowledge, but I would be leaving them each a Bible- read, used, loved by someone else in the family.  That makes my mamma heart happy.

I just finished reading through the first Bible for one of my daughter’s.  I chose a Bible we had purchased for my grandmother, who spent a great deal of time with me and my girls.  This particular daughter was especially close to my grandmother and had helped pick out this Bible for a Christmas gift.  Reading through the Bible on behalf of my daughter was a great experience.  On some level it was as if I was reading through the Bible highlighting and noting the things I would want to say to my 16-18 year old self.  What did I want her to take note of in scripture?  What struggles did I anticipate she might face and what scripture would I want to direct her to?  What stories were my favorite and why?  It took me a little over a year.  My old perfectionist self might have been upset, given up, but being a recovering perfectionist I chose this time to  persevere.  It was so worth it.  I am so glad an acquaintance challenged me.  I am glad I took the challenge.  I am glad my legacy includes behaviors, beliefs AND things.

In all honesty, it was an emotional journey, so I’m gonna give it a year before I read through for the next daughter.  But… I already know which Bible I’ll use.  She is named after her grandmother.  I was lovingly given one of her daily Bibles when she passed away.  It will be the perfect Bible.

Joy-Do We Even Know What It Means?

JoyBlackboard

Each year I attempt to set some goals (you can read more about that on my business blog).  More importantly, I begin in November to pray about a “word” or theme for the year.  I haven’t been doing this long, and began the practice after some encouragement from a dear friend, Shari Edwards.  As I have begun this practice I have come to realize how valuable it has been in helping me to really know WHO God is.  It is easy to know of God.  Even as a Christian I can study and know more about Him, but it can be challenging to know WHO He is, to experience Him.

As I prayed the word JOY kept coming to my mind.  Initially I brushed it aside, thinking it too trite.  Who picks the word JOY as their word for the year?  Pollyanna?  It felt too simple.  In my mind it was too close to the “blessed” syndrome of American religion-the one of prosperity and good if you love God.  Not my doctrine.  Not my faith.  So, in all honesty I began to pray really hard the word would go away.  Surely I needed something more serious, more worthy.  Ahhh, the human ego and our desires to do, to strive, to know.  In the course of those prayers, repeatedly god brought to mind or used a devotional or magazine article to put James 1:2-3 in front of me.  In those moments I began to understand what He desired for me.  I chose obedience and placed my thoughts upon JOY.

JOY isn’t a feeling.  JOY is a state of being.  JOY is one of the Spiritual Gifts His Holy Spirit gives us through our obedience and faith walk.  JOY is an attribute of Christ.  I can only experience JOY when filled with His Spirit.  I can only know JOY when I know HIM.

As I ventured through this season of doubt, fear, and anxiousness God has taught me much about faith.  How little mine was, can be and still is on too many occasions.  He has taught em to let go.  He has brought me from the desert abiding, to a deeper relationship with Him.  I know with certainty JOY is my word for 2015.  It won’t be a year of laughing, jovial moments, happy, happy, happy.  No.  The reality is life will continue to be hard.  Friends will lose battles with illnesses.  Loved ones will be lost.  Children will make poor decisions.  Persecution will increase.  But I know this to be true-when I walk in faith He will fill me with HIS JOY, an abiding peace which promises me salvation and wholeness.  He is reminding me this life is about being ready.  I want to grow this year and be the kind of woman who is ready.  Ready for the life I am living.  Ready to respond to the world in which I live.  I want to be spiritually grounded so I can experience His attributes in the midst of it all and be ready-ready to respond in deep abiding faith.

JOY-it isn’t a feeling.  JOY-a state of being.

Home Matters

If you follow my blog, you know I love home.  Having grown up moving a lot (and I mean a lot-like 24 times before I was 30) there was always a part of me that wanted to “settle down”.  However, in all honesty there is still a bit of wander lust in me and I do like a change of scenery every now and then!  Any way, back to my point.  I love home.  As a Christian woman and mother, I have always felt like home was a critical part of my role, my purpose.  Early on I spent time studying about how to care for home. Fortunately I went into marriage and motherhood pretty well prepared thanks to parents who taught and expected a lot.  I remember reading Emilie Barnes’ books and her statement that “wives set the tone for the home” impacted me, stayed with me. I have always wanted my home to be a safe haven, a quiet place for my family to refresh, regroup, share, rest.  I have worked hard at trying to create the right atmosphere-sometimes too hard, sometimes too focused on the material contents and keeping order.  These days, as a mom of teens and quickly approaching 50, I have found myself settling into a bit more balance, lowering some of my expectations, and really focusing on the tone of my home.  Tone of home is a feeling. It is that “home sweet home” sense you get when you walk in that familiar space that makes you feel safe, important, valued, loved.

8_4_9 home sweet home 2

I want that tone to extend beyond my immediate family.  I want everyone who enters to feel that sense of welcome, to know they can stop and take a deep breath.

As I was reading through Home Life magazine from Lifeway, I came across some word art in the front of the magazine.  It resonated with me.  It reminded me of how very important home is.  It made me stop and voice a prayer of gratitude for these days I am able to be at home, home school, raise my family.  It made me ask forgiveness for those nights I awaken worried about our finances, wondering if I will ever have a job of any substance once the girls leave home and I venture out to help pay for college and all the associated expenses.  It reminded me that while others may seem to have it all, be more together, have less worries, I would not exchange my life for theirs.  Our finances aren’t easy.  I walked away from a career I may never have again.  We have to make choices and our girls are a part of those conversations.  But it is worth it.  Every moment home with them has been worth it.  Home’s importance drew me to my Mary & Martha business, where I have opportunity to equip and encourage women to engage in hospitality.  (www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana).  Home’s importance is why one of my best friends and I run an organizing business.

I have posted the words above my desk-a daily reminder.  Not my words, but words that encourage and remind.  I wanted to share them with you.

We believe in the home. It’s the place where ministry starts and ends day in and day out.  We stand for dynamic marriages that beat the odds and practice commitment.  We believe in family meals and talking about your day.  We believe that your corner of the earth, whatever it looks like, is an extension of the church, a place where community is grown and nurtured.  We believe that if you change the home you change the world.  There’s a lot of life between Sundays. (January Home Life magazine/Lifeway)

I hope those words encourage you and challenge you.  Be grateful for home.  Remember it is a high calling.  The lives I impact in my home will forever impact the world.  Home matters.  It matters enough to give up some other things.  It matters enough to set aside time to invite your friends in.  It matters.  The church does not create godly families.  Godly families create the church.

Gratitude at Christmas

We move so quickly from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  We move from Gratitude to Giving and Getting.  The pace quickens and before we know it we are tired, disheartened, overwhelmed.

This past year my word for the year was “Peace”.  I wanted to experience peace.  Not just a quiet or a calm, but peace of mind. You know I struggle with the worry beast, and it robs me of peace.  So this past year I focused on peace, filling my mind with that which would encourage peace.  A HUGE part of that has been developing the practice of gratitude.  As I have sought to name the thankfulness and keep the lists, I have come to realize that it is in the seeking gratitude that life changes and peace comes. Seeking gratitude requires presence, alertness and stillness.  It requires I lean into God when I do not understand or can not find that for which to be thankful.  As I open myself up to the practice of gratitude I find myself practicing hospitality, opening my heart, my mind, my time, my home, my life to others.  The deepest connection, the deepest gratitude has come as together friend or acquaintance and I seek Him in the darkest moments.  Holding the hand of my friend’s stillborn daughter and taking in her tiny features, her precious face.  Wrapping arms around the woman so lonely she wasn’t living, yet brave enough to seek out encouragement and finding new strength, new love, new hope.

Our Savior came in darkness, to world too full, too busy for Him.  His life was short, and full of darkness, pain and suffering. Yet He came bringing Peace.  He came to give His all that we might be saved.

This Christmas I carry on the gratitude.  I don’t want to forget those holy moments with friends and family when hurt turned to joy, when peace came over us in the midst of the storm.  I want to be grateful, not just in word, but in the way I live.  I want my gratitude to continue to lead me to hospitality, to relationships deep and true.  I want Christ to know my “thank you” is not enough, but my life for Him is.

Peace.  I experience it daily when I practice gratitude-being alert, present and still.  This Christmas Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Man.  

2014-12-01 14.24.14

Slaying the Worry Dragon: The Weapon of Choice is Simplicity

Worry is my sin.  That sin I so long to rid myself of, yet find myself battling daily.  I can justify it, yet there is no justification.  I can condemn myself, yet there is no condemnation.  Like Paul of scripture, I ask myself, I ask God, “Why do I do the things I do not want to do?”  It is the nature of our lives.  We all have that sin-the one that becomes our daily struggle.

As I seek to slay the worry dragon I have come to realize simplicity is the key.  For those of us to whom much has been given, much is expected.  Yet along with the much, are things, mindsets that cause us to stumble in our faith.  With good upbringing, strong family ties, come expectations.  We are pushed and we drive ourselves to exceed the financial status of our parents, to exceed the educational levels of our family ancestors, to go beyond, do better.  We call it the American Dream.  Yet, all of that places our mind, our focus upon achievements and things.  Maybe it is my age, maybe it is wisdom gained with age, but whatever the cause, I find myself desiring to do less, be less.  I’d like to return to the days of my forefathers.  Days of gardening, hands stained by dirt, body aching and tired at night.  Days of family gatherings crowded into small, quaint homes. Days of giving beyond means and ensuring family and neighbors have plenty.  The simpler life.  Not an easier life, but a less complicated life.  A life in which things could not take hold, because things were not aplenty.

My scripture reading this morning was in Matthew.  The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.  If one read only those passages, one would understand who Christ is and how as Christians we are to live.  It becomes clear the weapon for worry is simplicity.  In the midst of the abundance around me, the busyness, the striving, the rush to carry out good deeds in the “spirit of Christmas giving”, God speaks to me yet again through the women I hold dear at Christian Women’s Job Corps.  Women who live a simple life, yet lives complicated by messy families, consequences of poor choices, health issues…

They can not undo their past.  None of us can.  Many of them born into pasts they could not control, inheriting trouble they never asked for/deserved.  Most hurt as children, used as adolescents, and exposed as adults.  Difference circumstances, different hurts, different lives, yet one thing in common.  Each making the decision, finding the resolve to choose to do something different.  Each choosing Christian Women’s Job Corps.  Each seeking to learn about Christ, put Him first.  Each finding joy in walking away from the complicated towards the simple.

CWJC-transparency-cropped

One has walked away from all she owns/had: home, belongings, man.  She has faithfully come soaking up the teachings of the pastors during morning devotion, the words of scripture during Bible study, the life skills taught by women whose lives have been easier than hers.  She has rejoiced weekly in the smallest of victories.  She has taken every word taught and believed it.  She has professed and proclaimed scripture in the midst of battle, believing it would drive Satan out.  She has accepted help with graciousness and humility.  She has found a new home, new friends, new life.  Things, accomplishments, are of consequence.  She has no bed, yet shares with all how well she is sleeping.  She has humble means, yet can’t wait to share. She has seen God provide.  She does not worry for her future.  She trusts.  She trusts Him, the Great Provider, the Healer, the Lord of Lords.

I am humbled when in her presence.  And as I sit in my abundance, clinging to my worry, I am convicted by her life and His words in Matthew.  The words come alive through her story.  Simplicity.  It is in the being, the service done in “the secret place”, the honesty, the letting go, the living life together.  Simplicity slays the worry dragon.  Her days are filled with trouble, enough trouble to fill a lifetime.  She takes each day as it comes, too many troubles to worry about tomorrow.  “Sufficient for the day it its own trouble.”  Matthew 6:34 NIV  She lives the scripture.  I long to live the scripture yet my demons are a complicated life, full of too much.  The too much brings the worry, the striving, the lack of faith.  God brings her into my life, not that I may serve, but that we both might be served.  We love one another, we teach one another.  I share my abundance, she teaches me out of her lack-lack of things, lack of knowledge.  We experience Him.  We experience true worship.  We find each other.  We find ourselves.  In that place, He finds us, we hear Him and know His presence.

christian-womens-job-corp-find-small-76799