Pouring In-Pouring Out

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I have had the best time with my girls the past two weeks.  As we await the finishing of our home in our little furnished apartment, we are finding we take more time to be together, do together.  In all honesty, sometimes just to get out of the little furnished apartment, but none the less.  Last week we drove to the northern part of Arkansas to visit one of our favorite people and her precious new baby girl.  For me, the trip was almost overwhelming.  Many, many emotions surfaced, but the greatest of these was love.

You see, this favorite person has been a part of lives since she was in 7th grade.  Hard to believe and a part of the story that left me feeling a little overwhelmed about my age!  My husband and I began working with the youth in our church shortly after we were married.  I lucked out and got this incredible group of girls for 7th grade Sunday School.  I was blessed to have them again in 9th grade! During this same time period my husband and I were going through infertility issues, the death of his mother, and health issues with my mother.  All that to say, I wasn’t at my best every Sunday.  But this incredible group of girls rallied around me and for every ounce of love I poured into them, they poured it right back on me seven-fold.  We ALL learned a great deal about prayer and in many ways this group of girls was my accountability group.  When I wanted to scream, when I wanted to give up on God and answered prayers, I knew I had to stay strong, hold to my faith and have hope.  I owed it to this group of girls.  You can rest assured the day I got to tell them I was not only pregnant, but pregnant with multiples we ALL cried.  When the two precious twin daughters were delivered early on December 29, 1998 that group of girls beat everyone to the hospital.  Within months, they were not only pouring love back into me, but they wrapped themselves like a little army around my precious miracles and held on tight.  Two in particular, became a part of their families.  And right along with them, came their siblings and parents.  Together these two young girls, best of friends, became our “official” babysitters.  Believe it or not, I left my two premature babies in their care at 4 months.  They were only 14!  I look back now and wonder what I was thinking!  The truth is, I never doubted their abilities, their love for my girls.  I knew deep in my heart special, life-long bonds would be formed.  And that is exactly what happened.

The picture above is one of those two precious, now young women.  She is with my daughters and her three month old bundle of joy.  We got to babysit for her.  Even as I write this my eyes well up with tears, tears of joy.  I’m not sure anyone else but us will really know all that picture holds.  It is a picture of miracles.  It is a picture of pure, unconditional love.  It is a picture of what it means to pour into others, filling them, so they can in turn pour out into others.  It is a picture of the mentoring cycle come full circle.  It is a picture of what it means to be a Christian and to love like Christ.

If you are a young mom I pray today you will consider expanding your circle to include a young babysitter or two.  Trust.  Have faith.  Think more about the investment into relationships than the cost.  If you are yearning for children and/or struggling with infertility, trust God to answer your prayers according to His will.  And as you wait, love.  Pour into someone or a group of someones. Don’t let Satan use your hurt, sorrow and struggles to squelch your ability to love and minister.  I promise, when we pour out, God has a way of pouring it right back into us.  And that is how we carry on. That is how we can face the sorrows and struggles still to come.  That is how we handle the answers.  It’s all about relationship.  It’s all about loving others.

Under Construction

We are still in our little two bedroom, furnished apartment.  NO   LONGER   FUN.  As I went to the house under construction to meet yet one more sub, I must confess I was NOT FEELING IT.  The words running through my mind were not positive, chipper words.  NOPE.  I was having one of my “I am DONE” conversations.  Done walking the dogs, who are done being tethered to a leash.  Done trying to get laundry done with no place to fold, iron or store.  Done trying to plan meals using an apartment size refrigerator, electric cook-top and borrowed pans.  Done with the soft, too small mattress I am sharing with my husband.  You get it.  Just DONE.  Then I pulled up to a house almost complete.  I thought to myself, “We are so close, and yet so far.”  The muscles in my neck tightened, my grip on the steering wheel began to turn my knuckles white, and my right leg began to twitch.  In that moment I stopped.  I knew  I needed a moment.  A moment to stop and breathe, to collect my thoughts and reign in my little pity party.  What did I have to be so “DONE” with?  Here I sat in front of a new home.  A home my family has spent a year planning and 4 months tending to.  A home where we have already begun to envision family, friends and strangers being served and entertained.  A home in a new neighborhood full of new friends to be and new opportunities.  So I decided to stop and utter up a word of thanksgiving and ask God to breathe new words into my mind, to refresh my spirit.  I just sat, in the quiet of my car looking at the house under construction.  In those minutes God reminded me of two things:

1.  Quit striving.  Over and over this past year God has convicted me and disciplined me regarding my tendency to strive.  He reminded me I need to enjoy the process, the journey and conserve my energy.  Striving does nothing but deplete me of my energy and deprive Him the opportunity to carry out His works in His might.

2.  I too am under construction.  Under construction is the only way I can be on this world.  Completion only occurs when Christ takes me home.

Talk about a change in perspective and attitude.  By the time I got out of the car, I had a new outlook.  Yes, my house is still under construction.  So much is done, yet all around lies dirt, trash, and so much more to be done.  The big things are complete, but all those details that bring the house to life, are just being installed.  They take time.  They must be done in specific order.  The house won’t be perfect, either due to budget constraints or human error.  And, that’s OK.  As I walked around each room checking on installation, taking measurements and just stepping back to look at the progress I could not help but think of His words whispered so quietly in the solitude of my car, “You too sweet daughter are under construction.”  I had to smile as I thought of my Heavenly Father looking down on me.  Oh the mess He must see: the discarded baggage; the piles of tears and disappointments.  Yet at the same time I know He sees beauty.  He sees the laugh lines engraved upon my face from those just right moments with family and friends.  He sees the freckles upon my arms and face from days spent playing in the sun.  He sees the frayed finger nails from scrubbing toilets and washing dishes all out of love for those residing in my home or visiting.  He sees the readers perched on nose’s end as a result of late night and early morning reading, letting the encouragement of another’s prose sink in or His words come to life.  Yes, I am under construction.  I am so close, and yet so far.  I have grown, some big things have been worked out and worked through, but I’ve still got a ways to go.

My house will be completed.  Turning it into a home will take years to come.  Hopefully my journey to completion will take years to come.

Here are a few shots of the new home for those of you who have asked to see a few shots.  In the months ahead I have no doubt I’ll be asking for some advice on decorating.

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Beauty in the Brokenness

I have been in the midst of preparing a session for a women’s conference.  My topic is “WMU & Women’s Ministry: Incorporating the Two and Bringing Women Together.”  It’s really about leadership and reaching the heart of women.  I love the array of information available through other blogs, Lifeway, Family Life etc…  I also love the incredible women of faith God has placed in my life full of wisdom and incredible leadership qualities.  Most of all I love God’s Word, the Bible.  I love the way He takes a story and breathes new life into it as we seek to find wisdom and words to share.

God spoke to me through the stories of Mary and Martha.  Two incredible sisters whom Jesus loved and spent a good deal of time with.  Their home was often His resting place.  This time through though God opened my eyes to the strengths and weaknesses of each.  Mary didn’t spend enough time taking care of work/duties, but Martha didn’t know when to set the work/duties aside and enjoy the moment. Both, however, clearly loved the Lord.  They believed in Him.  They trusted Him.  When their brother, Lazarus, fell sick, they didn’t hesitate to run straight to Jesus.  They didn’t hesitate to ask for his healing.  They didn’t hesitate to let Jesus hear and see their raw emotions.  And Mary, with her sensitive spirit and obvious gift for discernment showed the depth of her understanding when she took the alabaster jaw of fine perfume and shattered it at Jesus feet, using the expensive oil to wash his feet in an act of pure humility and sacrifice.  They got it.  These two sisters understood who Jesus was.  They understood His significance and they gave of themselves freely to worship Him.  They didn’t let critics stop them.  They weren’t concerned with what others were doing.  They didn’t spend their time at the city gate or the water well talking about how well they knew Jesus, when He was visiting next.  Their focus was on Him.  Their focus was on serving Him, worshiping Him.

As I have pondered their story and thought about how important it is for us to just be real, to let our broken hearts, spirits, dreams, bodies… be an offering to Him, I have realized how foolish it is, and how often I seek to hide my flaws, mistakes, fears, from others.  We all have them.  We are all fallen sinners living in a world full of heartache.  Yes, we also have victories, strength, talents… but most often those are developed through trials.  We are able to connect, to use our whole lives (the brokenness and the victories) to be a testament.

Having spent the bulk of my childhood and formative years living in Japan, I loved this picture and message.  I am more beautiful because I have suffered damage and have a history.  You are more beautiful because you have suffered damage and have a history.  Let’s share those stories.  Let’s be real.  Let’s honor one another’s stories by being faithful to respect each other’s stories.  Let’s allow each other the opportunity to have our own story, not try to create the same stories.  As women God created us to be beautiful, to create beauty.  Be beautiful today.  Embrace the damage, your history and see the beautiful person it has created.

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful” – Billie Mobayed.

"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful" - Billie Mobayed

Italian Sausage Penne with Tomato Cream Sauce

It’s what’s for dinner.  

Cooking in a furnished apartment is proving to be a challenge.  I must admit I’m spoiled.  I am used to my pots and pans, my large fridge for storing foods, a pantry etc…  Tonight was time to improvise-create something new out of what was on hand.  It was a hit, and shall be a “keeper” recipe.  I didn’t get a photo, and so wish I had.  It turned out a beautiful pinkish color.  One of the girls made a kale and romaine salad with Asian pear and fresh blueberries, topped with grated Parmesan and a berry vinaigrette.  It turned out to be a fresh, pleasing to the eye summer supper.

Italian Sausage Penne with Tomato Cream Sauce

Brown 1 lb Italian Sausage, then drain.  Add 1 tsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.  Saute.  Once the flavors have blended, add 1/4 cup half and half (I used Non Fat Land O Lakes) and 6 oz cream cheese.  Stir until the cream cheese is melted and blended with the other ingredients.  Once blended, pour in one can of diced roasted diced tomatoes with garlic.  Stir and let simmer.

While the Italian Sausage mixture is cooking, cook one package of whole wheat Penne pasta according to directions.  Drain.  Pour the Italian Sausage mixture over the Penne Pasta, adding one half cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until all the noodles are coated.  Serve onto plates (as we did since we have no serving platters) or “dump” the Pasta-Italian Sausage mixture onto a serving platter.

Nice blend of sweet from the tomatoes and a hint of spice from the Italian Sausage (I like to use hot Italian Sausage).  

Just a reminder dinner can be quick, simple and still delicious.  it also means my family can spend an evening around the table-and that is the ultimate blessing in my book.

Living the &

I think navigating life is a little harder for women than men.  I base this on conversations with friends and acquaintances, not scientific data.  Like me, most women I know feel a constant pull/tug of war. We long to help in providing for our families, and yet we have an innate desire to create-whether it be pro-create or create beauty in our homes, through meals, hobbies etc…  We are also drawn to relationships.  We long to have girlfriends with similar interests, struggles, family situations.  We are bombarded with mixed messages.  I have often told my husband if he could hear all the conversations going on in my mind he’d know why I’m so frustrated or hard on myself.  It’s the voices of dreams gone by, the task I didn’t complete, the blog post from the mom that cooks only organic meals, the weight loss report of the last friend to start Advocare or Plexus.  It’s the note from the school about the end of year activities.  It’s the last page of the last book I started (which may have been 6 months ago!). Everything that comes into my line of vision seems to take on a voice in my head.  Some days it immobilizes me.  Some days it spurs me on to accomplish great things.  Some days it drives me to my bed in a heap of hurt feelings and disappointments.  Some days it overwhelms me to the point loud, harsh words come out of my mouth aimed at those I love most.

So, what’s a girl (woman) to do?   I find I have to still my mind and delve back into God’s word, studying His prescription for Biblical Womanhood.  I fell in love with the Proverbs 31 woman towards the end of high school.  I have made it a point every year since, to read through those scriptures at least once per year and to read one biblically based book built around the Proverbs 31 scripture.  I have journals full of notes, insights and directives.  The reality is God gave us a blue print.  Like many things He calls us to, it is unattainable in our humanness.   It is perfection.  It is the bar by which we can assess ourselves.  It is the end mark to strive for.

In more recent years I have begun to study more in depth the women of scripture.  So often we glean the story for a main idea or truth and move on.  We know the story from first glance.  But, if we delve into each story, dig deep, we find that every woman in scripture is an example, a living out of the Proverbs 31 woman.  When we step back and let God unfold before our eyes the big picture, what I like to call His tapestry, we see that we are called to be the &.

Recently in scripture God used the stories (yes, there is more than one) of the beloved sisters, Mary & Martha, to teach me much about Biblical Womanhood and the &.  In the faith walk, I have found that little is about doing this or that.  Instead, I find He calls me to keep adding to.  Not adding to my schedule, but adding to my skills, my knowledge, my character, my faith.  He calls me to the &.  I am not to be more Mary, I am to be Mary & Martha.  He didn’t chastise Martha for her planning, preparations and provisions.  He chastised her for not knowing when to stop and enjoy the fellowship.

God used this story and others to show me my life story is about all the &.  All my experiences are a part of who I am.  Each one plays a role in my story, in who I am becoming, in my faith walk.  I so often want to move past the mistakes, the failures, the broken heart and think only on the good, share only the mountain top experiences.  When I do that I rob others of my testimony.  God’s handiwork is not evidenced.  I rob myself of the confidence and joy that comes from growing, making it through, moving forward.  I am the good & the bad.  I am the joyful moments & the heart wrenched moments.  I am the insecure wife & the wife growing in confidence.

Less than 30 days ago, after having a real aha moment regarding brokenness and pouring myself out in order to really be a testament, a business opportunity came across my path.  the company is called Mary & Martha.  As I read more about the opportunity I read where the & is key to the company’s philosophy and mission.  The company is a direct sales company selling home decor products with a faith message.  The purpose is to use the business to engage with women helping them learn to entertain (entertaining made simple) and use their homes to minister to others.  I LOVE it!  I love the message of the company more than I love the products, but let me tell you, the products are incredible.  They are above and beyond what one would think they would be.  They are quality.  They are built to last.

It’s been a journey the past few years.  One I wouldn’t trade.  I am learning to live the & and I am going to treasure it all.


If you are interested in Mary & Martha please go to my website:  www.mymaryandmartha.com/SHANA


House Construction Almost Done, Home Construction Just Beginning

The journey to our new home continues.  While I have continued to use my trusty Home Building Binder and Expandable Folder, let me assure you not all has gone as planned.  Add to that our crazy moves (two to be exact), and well, it’s been all we expected and more!

My husband and I have built 5 personal homes, counting the current house under construction.  We love the process.  We get along during the process, which some would say is a testament to our marriage.  Of course, there are those who say we are crazy and I am sure there are those who would judge us for spending the money.  No comment.  We love the process.  We have learned from the process.  We look forward each time to the construction of the house, but even more to the construction of the home.

Paul and I share the gift of hospitality.  We truly believe our home is meant to be used to entertain, welcome, serve, heal and encourage others.  We love guests-so yes, if you are reading and want to come visit-COME ON!  We have sought to teach our girls to love home-to care for it using principles of biblical stewardship; to spend time in it; to entertain friends; to create in it…  We have not built extravagant houses.  I have yet to get my Viking Range in my dream kitchen.  The Moroccan tile bathroom got nixed.  The pantry turned out smaller than planned.  One closet was negatively impacted by a failure to realize the door needed to be off center.  There are moments of disappointment.  There are moments of frustration.  So why do we do it?  How do we survive it?  Simply focus on the home you want to build, not the construction of a house.  The house construction will go awry.  Subs will make mistakes.  Subs will be late.  Concrete, boards, sheet rock, duct work, etc… are simply the framework for the house.  Yes, it requires planning and attention to detail.  But if your focus is on the framework, you’ll end up one frustrated, disappointed, angry person.  However, if you focus your attention on the outcome-how you want to LIVE in the home, you’ll be able to let the little things be little things.  I can still prepare delicious meals without a Viking.  My kitchen can still be filled with light, laughter and love without a Viking Range.  The clothes will still fit in the not so perfect closet and it can lead to an opportunity to scavenger the area for a worn armoire to paint, adding some pizzazz and style to a daughter’s room.  As we walk through our imperfect construction, we talk about the events we want to host, we talk about where friends will sleep, we talk about pool parties and family holidays.  The joy of building comes in dreaming about all that will take place in our home.

We are nearing the end.  Three more weeks!  We are excited.  We are grateful.  We are ready to get back to normal-if such a thing exists.  But most of all, we are ready to share our home.  We are past the little mistakes.  We are past the frustration and disappointment.  We have our eye on the prize- a framework of a house turned into a home as we live, laugh, play in it.  We can’t wait to welcome family, friends and even strangers.  We are almost done with construction, but the journey to constructing our home has just begun!


5 Tips for Surviving Construction

1.  Plan, plan and then plan some more (see previous post)

2.  Communicate with your contractor daily-even if just a short text.

3.  Walk through your home with plans in hand every day.

4.  Expect mistakes and delays.

5.  Spend more time talking about how you will live in the home, than what you want it to look like.

The BIGGEST Mistake Women Make in Managing Time

Managing our time is one of our biggest challenges.  Our choices and opportunities are infinite and yet our time is finite.  For most of us, our organizational issues are really nothing more than time management issues.  None of us wants to be disorganized.  None of us wants to be late.  None of us wants to miss a friend’s birthday.  We have good intentions.  We want to do right.

I think women struggle with this more than men.  In part because many of us do not work outside the home, or if we do, it is not full-time. We take on primary responsibility for our children and our homes.  As a result we find ourselves with multiple schedules to manage, and often our time is not our own-in terms of using it for ourselves.

I realized years ago, when I first transitioned from full-time work to staying at home with my twin daughters, items NOT getting taken care of or completed were typically items I had never written down in my calendar.  Outside appointments, volunteer projects, girls’ events/play-dates… all got written on the calendar.  However, the bulk of what I needed to get done, wanted to get done, failed to ever make it to the paper (or electronic organizer if that is your preference).  Cleaning the house, making a meal plan, buying groceries, organizing the Christmas decorations in the attic, weeding the flower bed…  As a result I often found myself with a full day transporting kids, handling volunteer phone calls, playing tennis, attending bible study, but failing to get dinner on the table, or snapping at my husband because I felt frazzled and disappointed in myself.  I found myself running to buy a last minute gift or card. I’d get stuck in the house all day on a beautiful Saturday cleaning or doing 8 loads of laundry.  Not what I wanted.

The hard truth is this:  If we want to get it done, we MUST write it down-not just on a list, but we must decide what day and what time.

Some people like to have a weekly schedule.  I personally don’t do well with a weekly schedule.  I work for myself and serve clients, so I rarely have two weeks alike.  I prefer to have a list of the things I know I need to get done each week.  I then transfer those items to my weekly calendar on Friday or Sunday.  I rarely mop the floors or do the laundry on the same day any given week.  However, what I do commit to is getting it written down on my calendar that week.  Why is this important?  One, it reminds me.  Two, if an invitation to an event or a client work opportunity arises for that particular time slot I see what I am going to say NO to in order to say Yes. Sometimes it is worth it.  Sometimes it is easy to move the task to another time slot.  Sometimes I realize I simply can’t say Yes.  if I don’t have it written down it clutters my mind all week and/or I treat it as less significant than other items, and then what do you know?! It never gets done.  On occasion that is fine, but week after week it is not.

As women we need to schedule what I call the MUNDANE/the WEEKLY.  Whether you work out of the home, from home or in the home, you need a calendar.  You need to note appointments, but just as importantly, you need to write down the mundane/weekly.  Treat those items as appointments.  Block the time.  Don’t schedule anything on top of the mundane or weekly unless you can reschedule the task or are willing to give it up that week/that day.

As I began to practice this I began to feel more confident as a stay at home mom.  Even now, it helps me keep my family first.  I know what is important to my family.  I know what I need to do to feel like I am taking care of them and meeting their needs.  I see where my time is going and I can appreciate it.

Don’t make the biggest mistake women make in managing time.  Get out that calendar.  Write it down.  When are you going to clean the bathroom.  What day and time works best this week for doing laundry?  What are you going to feed your family this week?  You get the picture.  It all needs to get done.  It’s all important.