It was hard work, but it was well worth the effort.

Beyond The Veil

My floors didn’t look bad.  Most would not have noticed the dirt.  Still, I felt I should run more than just the vacuum over them this time, so I pulled the mop and bucket out and gave them a good cleaning.  As I look at them this morning, I realize they really did need that deep cleaning.  Admittedly, while taking another sip of my fresh and steaming coffee, I gave myself a verbal pat on the back.  With a pleasing gaze at my freshly polished floors I said, “You look great!”

Often we don’t see the need to clean up because our eyes have grown accustomed to the veil of dust.  It happens in our individual home and spreads throughout our culture.  It’s easy for me to watch the news, see all the horrific things, and then feel I’m doing ok.  After all, I don’t do that!  The same happens to our spiritual eyes.  We get caught up in the “I’m not so bad”* that we fail to see the areas of our own heart that do need tending to.

I know I can’t reach perfection while here on this earth, but I don’t want to settle for just ok.  It’s not about me working to obtain God’s love, but because He loves me I want to live in a way that makes Him smile.  He often needs to show me that my eyes need to come into focus, the frequency of my ears needs to adjust from what sounds good to what is true, and my thoughts need more than just a quick sweep.  They need an all out scrubbing.

Ephesians 5 tells us that we are to, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.”

It’s true that most people never would have viewed my floors as dirty, but what they didn’t know is what my floors had been exposed to this week.  I knew about the dirty work boots that had walked across them, and I knew how the gusts of wind carried pollen in from the outside.  Then, there’s Coady.  No matter how hard I try to keep him clean, my little dog tracks things in and leaves his subtle prints all over.  Life happens, and exposure to the elements is inevitable.

Subtle prints will become imprints.

Throughout our days our eyes and ears are exposed to the elements of this world.  It’s unavoidable.  We’ll pick up thoughts and habits that should be evaluated, and sometimes scrubbed from our character.  It’s easy to let the dust of this world’s view reside, but the longer we do the less likely we are to notice it and the more harm it could possibly cause.  If left alone, the dust that was once harmless will scratch the wood floors and leave deep grooves.  The same is true for the debris from our culture.  Those elements, if left unchecked, will cause deep wounds in the heart of our foundation.  The compromise that was once unseen will become seen by all, and all will feel the damage that comes with it.  Like the feet of my little dog that carries dirt in from the outside, they too will carry some of the debris with them.

The “How To” Instructions.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).  We renew our mind by thinking on things above, not on earthly things, (Colossians 3) and we do this by getting to know God through His infallible and unchanging Word.  Only then, will we be able to “imitate Him”.

What needs to be scrubbed from your life?  It will be hard work but well worth the effort.  Let me encourage you with one last truth.  You can’t do it.  That’s right, you don’t have the strength to clean yourself up.  But, once you make the choice to surrender your dust, God will give you the tools you need to begin sweeping away the debris.  He gives you an endless supply of Himself, and “His power is perfected in our weakness.”**

“Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”

We have an unceasing supply of the Spirit!

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but it’s by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.  Who are you, O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!” – Zechariah 4:3, 6-7a

Cleaning up is hard work, and we don’t always see instant results, but if we keep pressing on, keep enduring, and keep sweeping away the dust, we will wake up in the morning to hear God say, “Well done.  You look great!”  I personally think God will be sipping some fresh steaming coffee when He does!

Now what are you going to do with your dust?


*Luke 18:10-14
** 2 Cor. 12:9

EXPOSED -written while in France 9/22/2009

For many reasons I’ve delayed sending this, but the biggest reason is probably the fear I sometimes tell too much.  I’ve come to the realization that people are going to form and have their opinions of me not matter what I do or say.  Some will understand my words and others may take them in a completely different tone than I myself intend.  My only job is to just be me.  So, Here you have me…

Sunset In Cannes

It’s September 22, 2009.  We went walking along the boardwalk downtown Cannes tonight.

The beauty that surrounds me causes my heart to swell with emotion.  The air is so fresh I purposefully breathe deeply to fill my lungs, then let out a slow steady exhale.  I peer out into the bay where the boats are anchored for the night.  The reflection of their lights dance off the soft ripples of the sea as the water gently rocks the vessels and their captains to sleep.  The number of people are fading but the street musicians continue to play.  I can see many young and old lovers cuddled together gazing out to the vast water, watching as the moon rises in the sky. I know their minds are focused on each other, but their hearts are being summoned by a great eternal force to recognize the gift they each hold in their arms.  I wonder if they realize what they posses? Maybe there’s a rekindling of a fire that’s lain dormant for a while due to the trials of life?  Maybe there’s a second chance being offered?  Maybe that person sitting alone in the distance knows a sorrow like I know, of a gift once had but so quickly gone?  Could it be that any among them are ones choosing to risk all again?  Do they dare to love?

I’m walking here with my friends and their three year old son.  I’ve watched them for the past week in their home, in the business they run together and in conversations over meals.  Their interaction with each other tugs on a place in my heart I almost gave up on.  It’s very rare to witness eyes that tell each other from across the room, “I love you,” but theirs do.  Their decisions are made together.  The choice in they way they raise their son is joint. They allow God to govern their lives and for this they have been blessed.  God’s peace is present in the home of this young family.  This is true beauty to behold.

Since my husbands death a few years ago I have clung to God for strength and grace.  I have needed His faithful and mighty arms to help me weather the storm life has thrown my way, and He has helped me with every step.  I have prayed for God to be my covering and protection as well as asked Him to hold my heart.  When I handed Him my heart for safe keeping, I asked that He would only give it to the one He chooses, if it be His plan that I ever remarry.  I’ve gone on a few dates with wonderful godly men, but that little tug in my heart seems to keep saying no. In human logic I can’t give you a reason because these are good men.  As Jentezen Franklin, a pastor from Gainsville, GA, says, “You’ve not received the nod of God.”  That is, you’ve not been given the go ahead to step forward here.  In trusting God, I wait.

I remember coming home from dinner one night completely frustrated.  It was a good evening.  The conversation was pleasant and full of deep thoughts well balanced with laughter.  This person seemed genuine and he was attractive, but I knew right away that he would only be a friend.  You would have thought me to be crazy if you could see the way I walked around my house that night in conversation with God.  It was fairly early when I walked through my door.  I took my shoes off and carried them to my room.   I then changed my cloths washed my face, and sank to the floor as the talk began.  “God, Is it me? Am I the problem? Am I even capable of loving again?”  I was sitting up against my bathroom wall with my hands in the air, truly asking God to search my heart and show me.  I was fighting every urge in me that wanted to build walls around my heart and become a recluse.  I knew this would be a huge step backward, so I chose to honestly go to that painful, lonely place and face it.  My questions were very direct and sincere and God answered.  He said, “You asked Me to hold your heart until it was right and safe.”  His answer did not make my feelings any less intense at that moment, but His reminder did allow me to take a deep breath and thank Him.

I’m doing my best every morning to view this journey and new life with all it’s new normals as an adventure, and with doing so I am choosing to live.  With living comes dreaming again and hoping again.  It also will bring seasons of disappointments and sorrow, as most of us know.  But won’t these moments of struggle find us even if we choose to close off our heart?  If we hang a sign around our heart that says, “No Trespassing,” there will still be storms that beat against it.  If I’m going to have to get wet when the rain falls I might as well dance in it.

A couple of years ago I had a person whom I have a great respect for ask me a question.  He said, “So Shannan, Are you living?”  Each time I’ve wanted to pull the covers over my heart, I remember this question and I get up.  My answer to him was, “I think about this and believe the answer is yes, the best I know how. What does it mean to “live?” I think we learn to live until the day we die. My “normal” has been redefined, so with each step I am learning to live.  Even in Warren’s death I have learned to live. I now realize just how precious a moment is, how each person I come in contact with, whether for a season or a lifetime, is to be treasured. I’ll tell you what I told my brother earlier today.  There’s joy beyond my tears! I can say with complete confidence that God has given me an amazing peace. The only way to explain it is, it’s God. I know God holds my today and my tomorrows. Therefore, I am okay and I live.”

I still believe my answer to be true but after recently reading John & Stasi Eldredge’s book, “Captivating,there’s been a deeper understanding added to which my heart cries out, “Yes!”

“God does not always rescue us out of a painful season… Knowing the parting was soon to come did not diminish the beauty nor our delight in being together.  No, it heightened it.  It made us more alive to the moment.  More aware.  More present.  And so it is with a heart awakened to it’s sorrow.  It is more aware, more present, and more alive, to all of the facets of life.” ~’Captivating’

That tugging I felt while walking with my friends tonight, seeing the beauty in them and observing the relationships around me, may be the awakening of my heart.  I’ve been asking God to transform me and to give me a passion and dream for whatever it is He as for me.  I want to walk the path that God has ordained for me, Shannan, since the beginning of time.

There I was walking along a beautiful seashore in Cannes, France, feeling truly open to the possibility of love again.  Yet I wondered, “God, how can this be? Am I just wishing and hoping like a little girls fairy tale?  But He whispers His reassurance that it’s Him stirring my heart for something; no, someone.  “Do I know this person already?”  That question He will not answer.  All I know is, I’m open to loving at a new depth, a deeper love than I’ve ever experienced before. Don’t get me wrong when I say this.  Warren would understand completely and be happy for my growth.  I believe it goes back to the prayer of transformation.  How could I experience this love without God transforming my heart?  If I am the same person I was four years ago, then four years has been wasted.  “But the experience of sorrow in no way diminishes the joy of living.  Rather, it enhances it.” ~’Captivating’  Praise God the sorrow causes me to love deeper today.

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death and coming through the other side should change me.  Isaiah 61 is coming alive!  God is the restorer of every aspect of my life, both here and for eternity.  I see through different eyes.  People are more valuable.  Time is ever so precious.  Food tastes fresh and distinct.  The world is small but endless to explore.  I’m learning it’s okay to be me, but the biggest part of the adventure is discovering who me is, who God is, and who God is molding me to be.  This is a never ending process.  We will never be able to say, “I have arrived,” until we are physically sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Until then He continues to melt us so He can mold us to reflect His image through us.

I’m not sure what all this means yet, but I am aware it’s not an invitation for me to rush out and try to make something happenCertainly not! It’s simply God awakening my heart.  He still holds it.  My only job is to continue to seek Him.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33).  This must be my focus.  I’ll let God handle the details of my life.  I will continue to thank Him as He restores the broken pieces of my heart.

God, help me never fall for a counterfeit.  Keep my heart so buried in You that he will have to seek You to find me. Until then and even after, You are my first love.  Thank You for guiding my every step!

Shannan Parker
September 22, 2009