We have our final birthday of the year today. And it’s a big one. It represents 17 years of life and an ongoing journey with God.
Story time... I remember 17 years ago as a fresh 18 year old senior in high school telling my parents I was pregnant.
One of the hardest conversations I have ever had in my life.
That’s what I saw in my dads face and what I felt in my heart. I had disappointed myself, God, and those around me. What would people say?
I was an A student, on the honor roll, athlete, youth group attender, stay out of trouble kind of kid. But, you see, the enemy doesn’t care about any of that. In fact, he doesn’t even really care about me. He wants to smear the name of Jesus. And he uses people to do it.
How did I even get there? Well, I believed a lie, that turned to thoughts that turned to actions. And I made some choices that eventually left me pregnant. At 17. Unmarried. Still in High school. That wasn’t my plan or God’s.
The lie I believed? “I am not good enough. No one will choose me. I am not worthy.” I guess there were several. And so when someone did pay attention to me, well, I didn’t want to miss out.
The lie I believed gave way to fear. And I let them influence my decisions instead of running to the Truth, which would have set me free.
But I chose. I chose not to.
Despite my wrong beliefs + choices, His heart towards me never changed. His will for me was to walk rightly with Him again.
But I had to choose. I had to repent. I had to stop believing the lies and change my thoughts which would lead me to changed action.
His mercy + compassion. Wow. So grateful. And His grace (His empowerment through the Holy Spirit) to help me make those changes. Humbled that He would see me as worthy to fight for. Worthy to send His Son to redeem me + worthy to leave the Holy Spirit as my guide + helper.
There were consequences for believing the lie. Those first three years of being a mom were not easy.
But praise be to God + His prayer warriors. We made it. And here we are. Celebrating this 17 year journey. Celebrating the life of a young man who has brought peace + laughter to many hearts.
As some of you may know, God has moved on my heart to start teaching group fitness classes right here in our town of Ephrata, PA. What a journey the last year has been! God has moved quickly and Vibrant Fitness has been birthed. I was asked to share some of the story for a recent ladies retreat and decided to record it to share here. This is only a snippet of what transpired over the last year. If you want to ask more questions, lets get together over coffee and chat! You can also check out the Vibrant Fitness tab above to find out more information on these classes. We just finished up our first month of classes and are excited to move into a new month fully expectant to hear from the Lord and of course laugh our way through exercising!
Josh and I will also be leading and hosting a home group for the next 14 weeks. We are eager to see all that God will do in and through those who will be attending. I am most excited to watch my husband dig deeper into the Word as he spends time with the Lord to prepare to lead our group. There is something so attractive about a man seeking diligently after the Lord. :)
Our hearts have been moved in a mighty way over the last couple of years to see the church body walking in unity and true freedom with God and each other. We would covet your prayers as we take each step of obedience to walk out this call He has placed on our life. We will post more about this exciting adventure we are on over at our Team Shuman Facebook page. Thank you for all the encouragement from our dear friends and family!
May is known for spring flowers and showers. It signifies the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. May also includes one of the top 5 highest grossing holidays: Mother's Day. Over the years, this special day's meaning has evolved into different levels for me.
Up until the age of 17, this day consisted of me giving handmade and eventually bought cards and/or flowers to my mom. At the young age of 18, I became a part of the mom club myself. I continued giving cards to my mom, but now I was on the receiving end as well. Given the fact that "receiving gifts" is one of my top love languages (didn't know this at the time), I grew fond of this special day. After getting married, I gained another mom to celebrate.
Over the years, I started to have an expectation when May rolled around. You see, Mother's Day weekend is also my anniversary weekend. (Double whammy for Josh) How was I going to be made a big deal of? What was Josh going to do for me? I began to set myself up for disappointment and Josh up for failure.
I learned a difficult lesson a few years ago after Josh's mom had passed away. It was May. Mother's Day/our anniversary weekend was upon us yet again. And my expectations were not met. I was upset. Angry. Bitter. It was then, God spoke to me sternly. He said two things to me that wrecked my heart and forever changed my perspective.
1. Are you the only one who got married that day? Did you stand at the alter and marry yourself?
2. What about Josh? He doesn't even have a mom around to celebrate anymore? Have you ever thought about asking how he handles Mother's Day without his mom? Without having the ability to hug her?
Ouch! I know, right?! I was so consumed with selfishness, I ended up neglecting the needs and well-being of my spouse! I know I am not alone when I share that I was waiting for Josh to serve me. Put me first. Surprise me. Alone or not, my behavior was wrong.
Now, when May rolls around, I remember how special our wedding day was and how blessed I am to have Josh by my side. I am also reminded that his momma played a very important role in molding him to be the man he is today as well as the woman I am today.
We need to honor those God has placed in our lives, deserved or not. Husbands. Mothers. Fathers. Friends. All of them. Allowing selfishness in my life prohibited me to honor mine. Not anymore.
Humble yourself before God; let Him show you any hidden place that needs the Light. Allow the darkness to be overcome and shine bright with Light. Then be intentional to honor and serve.
Josh and I believe in cultivating a strong marriage. This is not something that happens overnight or with little effort. Having this kind of relationship with anyone, including God, requires invested time and communication. As you unselfishly spend time seeking the heart of the Father, you soon experience the rewards of your efforts. So, it is with dating your spouse. When you make the decision to unselfishly sow into your spouse WITHOUT expectations, you WILL see the rewards of your efforts. They may not come as quickly as they do with the Lord, but in time, you will see them!
Galatians 6:9 "And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint."
Colossians 3:17, 23 "And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him. Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men,"
However, if choosing to be selfless or sowing without expectations is new in your marriage, there may be some hurts that need to be addressed, forgiven, and forgotten. (But that's another blog post!)
Setting up Date Night:
1. We chose Thursday night for several reasons:
a. There were no recurring events on Thursdays
b. We knew weekends tend to fill up with family or other social events.
2. NOTHING gets scheduled on this evening.
3. First & Third Thursdays of the month are at home or close to home (do not require a sitter). We explained to the kids that this night is for Mommy and Daddy to spend together and they can play on their own. (Family Nights are Wednesday nights, so we will have just spent an evening with them.) If you have little ones (under 5), date night in may have to happen after bedtime (and perhaps bedtime is a little earlier this night.)
4. Second & Fourth Thursdays of the month are out of the house (will require sitter if no kids are of age to babysit). This does not mean we spend money outside of a sitter.
5. Set a monthly date night budget and stick to it. This may start out very small in the beginning depending on your season of life and finances. Ask for gift cards for birthdays and Christmas. Sowing into your marriage is more important than the other "things" you may want.
6. Schedule your date night details and line up a sitter (when needed). Plan out at least a month in advance. (We do it quarterly.)
20 Date Night Ideas:
Think outside the box, have fun and go on an adventure with your spouse!
1. Window Shop at your favorite home improvement stores (dream about future home or projects).
2. Coffee Shop/Mall/Book Store: (make & take your own coffee if needed) Share vision for your future as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. Talk about what God has been teaching you. Plan future date nights/days.
3. Try a new place to eat! If it turns out to be a dud, do not look at it as a waste of time or money, but as an adventure you took and time well spent together! Then head home for some better grub!
4. Take a day trip! Do some research (google and/or friends).
5. Go yardsaling/antiquing (is that even a word?!)
6. Brunch. Breakfast is a cheap date and (in my opinion) able to be eaten at any time of day or night!
7. Walk/Run together.
8. Motorcycle/Bicycle Ride.
9. Hiking and a picnic.
10. Try/Attend a teambuilding activity.
11. Test Drive a New Car.
12. Target Shooting at a Gun Range.
13. Create a scavenger hunt for the other person!
14. Send the kids away for the evening. Plan, shop for, and make a meal together.
16. Exchange massages.
17. Roller/Ice skating
18. See a local Play/Musical
19. Progressive Supper (Appetizers at 1 place, Soup & Salad at another, Entrees at another, dessert at another or home)
20. Wii Tournament
Recently, I got to share how God is transforming me from the inside out. (Notice the present tense?) I started a journey to (let's be honest) just lose weight almost 4 years ago. I did it. I lost the weight. Actually, I was the fittest I had ever been (on the outside.) I started the journey weighing 185 lbs and got as low as 128 lbs (a number I hadn't seen...well, since I was a teeny bopper).
But, want to hear more honesty? I was still concerned more about the outside than the inside. Consumed. Yes. That is a much better word. Everything I did...ate...didn't eat...consumed me. And the compliments I received from the physical transformation? They were probably genuine, but they were feeding the wrong part of me. They were feeding my flesh. My pride.
God decided enough was enough. He had work for me to do. If I was so wrapped up in myself, how was I going to fulfill His purpose? I wasn't. I couldn't. I needed a perspective shift. I needed to fix my eyes on Jesus.
He started orchestrating new people to enter my life and others to leave. The scales (no pun intended) started falling off my eyes and collecting dust in my bathroom. I experienced His passion for people in the depths of my spirit. My heart was breaking for what broke His....the lost (those who don't know Him or are living free in and through Him).
So, began my REAL transformation. I was now in a position to start really hearing from the Lord and moving forward in His calling for my life and that of my family. He filled me with fresh purpose and passion and showed me my next steps in the journey.
I am now in a place of true joy and contentment: body, spirit, mind. I love Jesus and can barely get through a day without being overwhelmed by His goodness and the opportunities of sharing that goodness with others. Each time lights a new fire within me to keep seeking, learning, growing, and sharing. I want EVERYONE I meet to find fulfillment and freedom like I have found.
It is possible. There is hope. And it starts with a man named Jesus.
Have you ever seen the movie Jersey Girl? It's about a guy who decides to move from New York City to New Jersey and into his father's house to raise his little girl. After a while, he becomes antsy, wanting his old life back. After several failed attempts, he finally lands an interview in the city giving him hope of returning. He is overjoyed, but his now 7-year-old daughter, who has fallen in love with their life in New Jersey, does not want to move back to the city. After fighting with her about it, he makes the decision to go anyway. While waiting to go into the interview, he has a conversation with a previous client. He comes to realize that the life he once had and longed for was just that…his. The life he leads now is not just about him anymore. There is a little girl...his little girl and her life to consider.
It made me realize how often we long for a life other than the one we are currently living. God has given each of us a calling while on this earth. We will have many seasons to walk in and out of within that calling. Or perhaps, He will assign us a new one after we complete the first. Some of us have been called to motherhood. But, we look at it as a lowly place to be, full of unfilled desires and disappointment. We feel like we are missing out. Guess what?! We ARE! We miss out on SO much that God has planned for us right in the middle of the season we are in. I am not saying we don't chase after those dreams and visions God put in our hearts. I am talking about placing higher priority on them while sacrificing your relationship with God, your spouse, and your kids.
If you are not walking in what God has for you…there will always be discontent. He has created us for purpose and to actually fulfill it! That discontent can often be misunderstood. We are unsettled or disgruntled because we are confusing His purpose and ours. We are, at times, unwilling to embrace where He wants us to be and try to do something He has not asked us to do. This causes us to lose our joy and miss out on amazing opportunities.
Being a mom can seem unsatisfying at times or like there is more we could/want to be doing. In those moments, let's pause and think about it from God’s perspective. He has entrusted these kids to us. and has faith that we will raise them to love and serve Him and others. He has full confidence in the Holy Spirit to help us get the job done. That, my friends, is a hefty calling in and of itself and one we often take too lightly (I know I do!). We think our daily mom tasks are just mundane chores (and sometimes they are). I know you have probably heard this before, but it is TRUTH. Those moments of butt-wiping, nose-blowing, and boo-boo kissing? Those "to-do's" are serving and learning opportunities.
It's reflection time. Do you find yourself angry? Stressed? Discontent? Miserable? What is it that has you feeling this way? It is possible for that to change? Let's make a list of things you do in a week. Include everything! What is occupying your time?? Cooking, laundry, dishes, banking, grocery shopping, church, cleaning up toys, re-decorating, workout/gym, on the phone, social media, playdates, running errands, serving others, serving the church, quiet time, work, sports, etc.
I am not saying that these are bad things or even things you should cut out. First, pray and ask God to show you what to let go of and what to keep. Be READY and WILLING to hear Him say, "Let go" of things you may have been holding onto. It may be time to lay down things that have been stopping you from fulfilling your present calling. Ask yourself these questions:
1) Are you putting God first? Are you setting aside time for just you and Him? Letting Him fill your spirit?
2) Are you a wife? Are you dating your husband? Is he truly 2nd place in your life? Are you pursuing Him? Praying for Him? Respecting him?
3) Are you taking care of you? Do you have "mom" time or girlfriend time? Do you take care of yourself mentally and physically?
4) Are you a mom?? Are you spending time with your kids? Are you really getting to know who they are as people? People who will one day make a difference and have their own place in this world? Or do you see them as whiny, needy, discontent beings in your house? (Doesn’t that last description sound familiar? Actually, maybe it sounds a lot like me some days. If I am behaving that way, aren’t they just modeling my behavior? Hmmm. Something to really think about.)
I had a wise woman tell me, "Sometimes we are our own worst enemy on influencing our hubby and kids, but that also gives us the ability to change." Your children will have all kinds of outside influences, good and bad, that you can do nothing about. Right now, their biggest influences are mom and dad. How will you choose to handle that responsibility? It's your choice!
When you look at your life what do you see? Are you thriving in your role as Jesus girl, wife, and mom? Are there areas that need some extra attention? Please know, the enemy would love for you to think my goal is to make you feel guilty. That is the complete OPPOSITE of my heart. I am sharing this because God has been working overtime with me and I know there are so many other women who need to hear this too!
I love to give to others and do things for them that will make them happy. I love to make others laugh and be joyful. I love to encourage others to be all they were created to be. I love to ________ for OTHERS. Am I doing these things with and for God and my family? They are the “others” I need to focus on first. I was once told, "No matter your calling in life, if you cannot minister to the people in your home, your “out of the home” ministry/job will not reach it's full potential." (Luke 16:10) Our first and most important ministry is within our own four walls: our husband and our kids.
The best part about all of this is that we can be find and keep joy in every season.. We can be content in our current season of life. We can be successful. We can change our life NOW!! The question is...do we really want to? And are we willing to do what we need to do to get there? Joy and contentment are choices. Will you choose them?