“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
– Mother Teresa

Psalms 146:5-10

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Anointed Calling

     I may not be the wisest or oldest person but I know that happiness is not what any of us truly desire. The world tells us it is what we should strive for and many have convinced themselves that happiness is all that they are after, but if it really was our heart desire to simply be happy, we would be. Instead we are constantly unhappy and unsatisfied with what we have, because nothing makes us happy enough. 
     I've met people in life who are happy, but their happiness is not based on their circumstances, their financial means, or anything that they have acheived. They are happy because it is not their end goal and they have allowed themselves to enjoy the moments of today. Maybe coincidentally, the happiest people I've met seem to be children who have nothing. But I don't really believe in coincidences, these children have accepted that life is hard and choose to laugh and play all the same. We could learn something from them. 
     See I think that we assume that happy and easy go hand and hand, but happiness is not based on anything but our choice to be so, and therefore can be one of the hardest things to obtain if that is what we are after. Our warped view of happiness is that it should meet all of our hopes, expectations, and dreams, and therefore it must be costly and hard to reach. As if we could ever gain happiness from striving after it. Happiness is free and limitless, it comes naturally with knowing and accepting who we are and opening our eyes to the depth of God's love towards for us. But again, I don't think that this is what any of us truly desire as our end goal, we have a heart after God's own and we know that we were created to be more than just happy.  
     So, why do we live our lives like that is what we are after? Do we not realize that whatever it is that we choose to devote ourselves to becomes the most important thing to us?
     I don't want to be happy. I want to be so much more than that. I want to live, not how anyone else thinks I should live but exactly how I was created to live, fully alive. I want to dance, not only when the time is right, but always, in each and every moment of life. I want to worship, and not depending on any circumstance of life but solely on Christ's unchanging love, therefore it should be my only response through eternity. I want to know and see God, not just know about or be waiting to see, I want to really know Him and really see Him, now. And I want to be, like a tree just as God created it to be; ever-changing, always growing, dependent only on God, standing tall, rooted deep, blooming exactly where God planted it, and always pointing upwards at it's Creator. 
    No, happiness was never meant to satisfy us or to be our end goal, because that would mean it was filling the place that only God is meant to stay. No, I don't want to be happy. I want to be loved. Not by anyone, but by Someone, and see the wonderful crazy thing is, that I am. Already, nothing I can do about it, never going change, end goal, done.
    We were never meant to be happy, because we were anointed to be loved by God our Father, and it's way better to be loved than just happy! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Joy of His Presence

"You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." --Psalms16:11

      I have found that it can be easy to be taken in by your surroundings and the situations that you are facing, and easier still to forget to consider the bigger picture. When you are committed to and fully engaged in something that you consider good, it's very hard to disengage yourself and leave. But no matter how good something is, it is only meant to last for a time. As my time here in Uganda comes to a close, I thank God for the time that I have been given and choose to continue on the path that God has laid before me. 
     When you spend fourteen months away from your home, your friends, and your family you are forced to hold on to something, and that is God. You can't spend each day serving others without finding peace and strength in the Lord. You can't spend each day seeing the consequences of poverty  without first letting the Lord's joy fill your spirit. Unless you choose to seek the Lord presence and put your trust in Him you will never find what you are looking for, no matter where you go or where you are.
     I am so excited to be coming home and to be continuing on the journey that God has ahead of me. I will wait on God and let Him direct me each and every day, letting His presence fill me with joy and strength.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven"

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven..." -Ecclesiastes 3:1
Life is never as clear cut and simple as we would like it to be; there are always tough choices to make and disappointments to be had, there are always goodbyes to be said, and time sometimes flies by too quickly and other periods drag too slowly. Yet the beauty of life can be found: in the moments of those important choices we make; in the hope we show through our disappointments; in our willingness to open ourselves up to future goodbyes; and in our ability to cherish the time we have, minutes or years.
In the past couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about living in and valuing the time that I am given. It’s never easy when your heart is divided (in my case between two separate countries) because it is always yearning for what you don’t have, but instead you can choose to focus your heart fully on what you do have. In doing so you will find that what you have is always better because it is made for you at that moment. At least this is what I have found to be true. When I am here in Uganda, I dearly miss those at home, and when I am home, I dearly miss those in Uganda.
With June arriving my time left seems so short and my departure already upon me. And that means it’s almost time for me to say goodbye to all that I so deeply love. I know that it is time for me to go home and finish school, and I am excited to do so, but I know that it is going to be incredibly hard to leave the life that I’ve been living here in Africa. It’s hard to imagine just picking up and leaving after working so hard to build a life here with people that I genuinely care about, and it’s hard to visualize myself going home because I’ve grown since I left and I’m not the same person that I was.
Yet these are nothing in comparison to the anxiety I feel when I think about having to leave those that have become my children in the year that I’ve spent here. While it’s difficult being away from the children that I love back at home it’s made easier because I know they have families who love them and will take care of them. The same is not true for these children. And though I will be saying goodbye with every intention of returning, I am still leaving them. I think especially of the three that call me “Mama Shannon,” Nettie, Ziyada, and John. They think of me as their mother, but what mother parts from her children?
My dearest  Nettie (four years old) still avoids talking to anyone but me and her brothers, refuses to smile or laugh without first being held, and is unwilling to participate in anything without first being reassured. What will happen when I leave her, will she continue to blossom or will she retreat even deeper into herself? Who will be the one to visit her on Saturdays at boarding school, to bring her juice and biscuits, to sit and hold her, to show her that she has been remembered? Who will whisper into her ear, “I love you very much, Nettie?!” And when she in the village on holiday, who will make sure she has eaten and is alright? Nerima has started transforming from the broken, bitter, and lonely child that she was when I met her a year ago, and is becoming a beautiful, whole, tender, and loving girl whose future is open to all opportunities. My heart is already breaking when I think that the day is coming when I cannot see her, wrap her in my arms tightly, and protect her and calm her fears.
My sweet Ziyada is still just three years old and only just began school but already is so mature and wise beyond her years. I will have only known her for under six months when I go but she captured my heart that first day I met her. An orphaned child living with a relative and her many children, she was unable to go to school, and was without hope for her future. I am amazed by how quickly she has begun to pick up English and with how happy she is, for my sweet Ziyada is always smiling. This precious girl whose joy is contagious and hugs are to be treasured has changed her name to Ziyada Shannon because she says she wants everyone to know that she has a muzungu (white) mother who loves her very much. I don’t even know how to wrap my mind around the fact that God could use me in such a way that a three year old girl would want to forever be associated to me. My time with Ziyada is just beginning and already it’s ending, even if it’s only for a couple of years it will be far too long. I want to see her grow and more than that I want to be a continual part of her life. I want to be there as she celebrates each day and every year of her life, and so knowing that I will miss the next few weighs so heavily on my heart.
My precious John Trevor is eleven years old and has such faith in God that it rivals anyone I’ve ever met. He is a boy who has nothing in the world’s eyes and who would be pitted by most people, yet he has what we all long for and really matters, a deep unconditional trust in God. I first met John when I was teaching English in his class at the school New Brainstorm. He caught my eye not because he was the only one who knew every answer *which he did) but because of the deep respect and eagerness to serve that he showed me. I have never known an eleven year old boy whose behavior could only be described as a child of Christ. In fact he constantly is an example to me of how we are all meant to live our lives. But I remember the day that God laid John on my heart and I knew that I was meant to be a part of his life, I came to his school one day and he gave me a letter in which he thanked me for bringing cookies to the previous class, his words were, “My dearest teacher, I wanted to thank you for bring food to class last time, because of you I did not go hungry that day. Most days I do not have food because I am alone and have no parents but that is alright because God brought you to me so that I would not be hungry. May I call you mother? I have no mother and you are like my mother because you care for me and feed me.  I want to be your son. May God bless you because you have loved me.” I cried reading his letter. I had done nothing but bring some cookies and popcorn to class as a celebration for my students hard work, and yet without my knowing it had meant something so deep to this young boy who was used to going to school without food all day. I know that even his faith was being tested around this time and somehow the simple act of me giving him a cookie was God encouraging and speaking to him. I don’t know why God choose me to be the one who could bless this child but I do know that He loves John very dearly and would use anyone and everyone to let him know. My John who loves to play soccer, has a beautiful touching voice, who will spend his holiday drawing twenty seven pictures for me, and whose smile melts my heart every time. My dear John calls me “Mama” and doesn’t want me to ever leave, but I must. I can’t imagine when I can longer visit him, when I can’t bring him food, or write him a letter. When I won’t see his whole face light up at the smallest things and see his great kindness towards others. How hard it will be to say goodbye to my precious son.
So you see, saying goodbye will not be easy and leaving will be even harder, for my heart has found a home with these children. But I know without a doubt that I was not the first to love them and that God’s love for them will always be greater than my own. That though I may not be the one to hold them, provide for them, and show them that they are loved, God will. In fact, He will do so in ways that I cannot even imagine and that will means so much more to them than anything that I could ever do for them would. He will be the one whispering to them; not to give up, that they are loved, and that He will never leave them. He will hold them tightly and calm their fears, He will celebrate each and every moment of their lives with them, and He will be their Father.
He is my Father too, and so I know that cares for me and my heart as well and will care for them enough for both of us. I entrust them into His capable hands, for I know that I will also be close to Him, looking to Him for strength and courage to face each morning without them.
L'absence diminue les médiocres passions, et augmente les grandes, comme le vent éteint les bougies et allume le feu.
Absence extinguishes the minor passions and increases the great ones, as the wind blows out a candle and fans a fire.                                                                     
-Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld



Saturday, May 18, 2013

Simply Trust God

       I really love that God has plans for me that even I don't understand, that His timing is always perfect, and that I can't rush the will of God. I know that if my life were in my own hands I'd be in trouble because I always live in the moment and never have any idea of where I'm going till I arrive. But God knows us better than we know ourselves and He has seen the past, is with us now, and knows the future. There are certainly many times when I have no idea what God is doing or why He is leading me in a specific direction, but I've learned that in those times it is vital for me to simply trust God. I don't need to always know why things happen the way the do or why they change, instead I should be rejoicing in the truth that God is always faithful and knows when it is time for me to do something else.
       It's May 18th today, which means that I've been away from home for exactly one year. It's seems so long and yet the time has flown so fast. When I came here I really didn't know if I'd be able to make it this long, if I would be able to say goodbye and leave everything that I know and the people that I love and just serve and love the Lord. But it's been a lot easier than I thought it would be and it has been an incredible year. It seems like an even bigger landmark for me because I know that I'm going home early now, in two months. Suddenly, my time is almost over and this journey is coming to a close. I'm excited to be going home but it's so unreal to realize that in a very short amount of time I'll be living in the States again.
      This past month has been one of the hardest that I've had since I've been living here in Uganda. It's been a time where I've really had to look to God for direction, clarity, and wisdom. There have been times that I've had no idea what is going on and had to trust that God knows everything and He knows my heart.  If I'm being honest I still find it hard sometimes to accept God's will in my life, even after a year of being completely out of control. I can very easily get caught up in whatever I'm doing and not hear the quiet whisper of the Lord. In fact sometimes it seems as if the God has to hit me on the head with a hammer to get my attention. Then again, I've always been pretty headstrong. When the Lord started laying it on my heart to go home I wasn't so sure how I felt about this idea. I had my plans, my little schedule of my life, and I was comfortable with that. I didn't want to just let it go because to me it seemed like taking a step backward. So, I prayed. I prayed and prayed until I was sure that there was no way I was staying here in Uganda or going anywhere else but home. With prayer comes conformation and as soon as I knew that this was where God wanted me I felt peace and excitement. If this is what God has for me than I'm moving forward by trusting Him and obeying. I don't have to understand all of (or any) the reasons because it's enough for me just trusting in God. He knows so more than I do and He always has a purpose. In fact over the past couple weeks He's been opening my eyes just a few of the things that He has waiting for me and I am looking forward to the next few years so much!
   God is God and I am not, and I am so glad that it's that way!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Living Out A Vision

There is such a difference between being passionate about something and living out the life God has placed on your heart. Passion is feeling something burn deep inside but that in itself is not enough, you have to be brave enough to let that fire lead you to do something. I am not content to keep the dreams and visions that God has placed in my heart hidden away from the world. He has called me to live them each day.
                I was fourteen when God began to tell me that He was going to send me out all across the world.  I thought He was crazy. Why would God chose me to speak or to go to anyone; a person who wanted nothing more than to hide from everyone and not be seen?  But I continued to dream of living overseas. It led me to start pursuing Christ because I wanted to know who God was that He would send me. And as I began to find God I began to see who I was in His eyes. And it set me free from the fear that I had let rule my life. And once that fear was gone I couldn’t find anything that was holding me back from living out that vision.
See God’s heart burns for justice. And He wants nothing more than to use His children to bring that justice to the ends of the earth. As His daughter my heart burns for the same thing. Often I end up over my head in something because I cannot hold myself back from moving when that passion is ignited in the deepest place within my heart. I have not been called to bring justice to the world just to be willing to open my eyes to the ones around me. I will serve faithfully and humbly and let God be in control of everything.
When I see a child, I see God. God is all around us and shows Himself in different ways, and to me I often see Him in the purity, honesty, and faithfulness in children. When they smile I know what God meant for beauty. When I hear them laugh I can hear God laughing along with them and celebrating in their joy. So, I’m not surprised that when I gave my future to Christ He chose to use me in a way that I would always be aware of Him. To serve a child is to let God to do great things. God has told me things about the future and where he is leading me but for this time the vision He has given me is about staying where He has placed me and loving unconditionally. I have so many dreams about Africa, about starting orphanages, about teaching the uneducated children in remote villages, about seeing a generation of children confident and steadfast in their identities in Christ. Yet, today I am simply meant to be here in Uganda with my heart open to voice of the Lord and my eyes open to see the people around me. So, when God tells me that a child needs a mother figure, or that a deaf boy should be given a voice, or that there are children who need a chance to learn, that is living out the vision that God has placed on my life. Putting myself after others and putting God first, so that He can do the work. It’s His hand that will lead people to His Son, it is His voice that will change hearts, and His love that will redeem lives. I am just here to serve Him and to love those around me.
And so daily, I ask God that He would help me to become more faithful, more humble, and more willing to do anything for Him. My hope and trust are in Him and He will always be in control of everything, including me.
I’ve included some pictures of a few of the precious children that God has placed on my heart and are part of the vision that God has given me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Our Pursuit

In our pursuit to know God more what is it that we are searching for? And are we waiting for something to happen or are we allowing each day to change us? Do our lives look different because we know Christ and are living for Him? I often ask myself these questions and I'm not sure that I have the right answers, but I know that I will continue to search out His truth and I know that one day I will be with the one I am seeking. 
First, I have to ask myself honestly, am I on a journey to know God more? To me this simply means that I desire to being walking towards the Lord and that I would rather see, hear, and serve Him more than I wish to see, hear, or serve myself. Is this the case every moment, maybe not, I struggle every day. But even though I lose focus sometimes my heart still yearns for Him and I will continue to seek Him through the end of all things. If I ask myself what I would want most in life, the answer is clear and unvarying, I want Christ. I have found that earthly pleasures do not last and bring no joy or peace, yet the love of Christ lasts through eternity and brings complete joy and peace. Why would I spend my life searching after anything less than truth and why would I choose to serve anyone other than my Savior? I give my life to know Christ and to be changed by His great love and to be filled by His uncontainable joy.
I don’t believe that we are just waiting for Christ’s return. Nor do I think that each day doesn’t matter. If God didn’t have something for you to do then you wouldn’t be on this earth. If you still wake with breath in your lungs then God is not finished with you. It is simple to wait for the future, it is easy to remember the past, but it is harder to live in the present. Instead of looking towards what is ahead of you, we should be a part of Christ’s work here on earth today. And often He begins with changing you. How can we expect to serve Christ when we have not surrendered our whole lives to Him? If we don’t allow God to change us each day than how can He draw us closer to Him? I know that God has really been working in my life through the past few years and has changed me as I’ve grown closer to Him. But at the same time I know that I have a long journey ahead of me and I and my reflection often looks more like me than like my Savior. There are many things that I can feel the Lord chipping away at and refining so that I do not stand in the way of His perfection.
If I could learn to have a humble heart and unwavering willingness to love and serve every person that I see, than I would know that I have finally begun to follow Christ unconditionally. Living in a third world country has taught me that you can always go farther and do more to love than you thought you could. And while I try to live my life out of a servant’s heart and with generosity, I fall so short each day. My pride and competitiveness get in the way so often and I ignore the voice that is telling me to be humble and to simply love. Simply love. Such and basic and beautiful idea but so much harder to grasp onto and live out. I want that to be my life, full God, truth, love, compassion, and humbleness. We are changed from the inside out and I believe that this is a lifelong practice. I won’t change overnight, but if I follow Christ then each day I will become a little less self-serving.
Yes, my life is different than the average person that you might meet in a coffee shop or at the gym, but my life is far from as unusual as it could be and I believe will be some day. Just putting my education on hold and moving to Uganda for two years isn’t anything special or radical, but choosing to live my life solely for others can be. This is only the beginning of my walk with Christ and I know that my journey is far from over. In fact, this might be one of the moments that I look back on and think “wow, I really had it easy and normal back then.”  Life can be rough but when you are in God’s will and are trusting in His goodness, you receive more joy and peace than if you had been in control the whole time. I’d follow to the ends of the earth if He asked me and I’m not quite sure that He won’t, but wherever I am I hope that I am living my life differently and that God is being glorified. My life is pretty messy but with God all things are possible. And I believe that all things will happen in my life. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Life With God

It’s not uncommon for me to feel knocked down. Whoever first said that “life isn't easy” had it right. Of course, they probably missed all the good that can come out of life being anything but easy. But being in the middle of life’s mess and feeling as if you are continually being punched while you’re down, doesn't make you want to think of all the good that might come if you ever reach the other side. The truth is that when we are discouraged, frustrated, disappointed, or overwhelmed it’s easy to let ourselves continue down that path. It also makes us a very easy target for more heartache.
A few weeks ago, when we were coming home from the village I lost my bag out the back of the car. What bothered me the most was that I also lost my journal and my bible. The journal was only a few pages from completion and carried everything from my time in Uganda thus far. The bible I've had since before I started pursuing Christ and was probably more highlighted and filled with notes than not. To lose two things so personal really made me feel like I had been punched in the gut. And sort of without realizing it I became discouraged.
I’m not that great at hiding it when something is bothering me. I just stop talking, or stop acting like myself, or both; which then frustrates me that I’m not able to control my emotions better. Little things start getting on my nerves and I suddenly am completely overwhelmed. That is about when I got sick. I hate being sick, especially here. And it makes me disappointed when I have to miss projects.

Then about a week ago I realized that financially I’m short this month. Short a lot. To this point (about eleven months) I've never had to worry about meeting my monthly bills. I always had enough and sometimes more through the generous support of others.  In fact last month, I used everything that I had been given and been able to save for the past months to sponsor six children for a year. I had really felt God led me to do this and without a second thought done so. These children go to one of the schools we visit and were according to headmaster six children really needed some help.  Then this month comes around and I realize I’m really short. I know that I was meant to help those kids and I am sure God will provide just as He always has. It’s almost time for me to get a work visa and I’m sure God will work that out and provide financially for that as well. I guess that I've have just learned that He is always in control and worrying about anything is pointless because He will always come through.
 I've learned that God works in ways we don’t expect and just have to trust Him unconditionally. If I let the situations or people around me dictate how I live my life than I simply will have lived “life isn't easy”, but if I choose to thrive in God when I cannot stand on my own than I will be living  “life with God”. After all, that is what life is about here on earth. Not me or my crazy life, but God and His unending love. So, if you are feeling discouraged, frustrated, disappointed, or overwhelmed, spend some time with God and let Him strengthen and encourage you. Because He is always enough.

 “For if my God is for me, than who could ever stop me. And if my God is with me, than what could stand against.”