post 005 – invest.

Recently, I started to binge watch Shark Tank. I suppose I was intrigued by the amount of money that these sharks would give to business owners and claim their portion. Or, maybe it was the way the business owners’ stories would capture a piece of my heart. Many of them shared what drove them to create their business and push through the odds to be where they are today. As most shows go, some would get deals and others wouldn’t. In order to be deemed successful on Shark Tank, the owner/s would need to get at least one shark to invest in their work.

Given the example before, that type of investment particularly deals with money. However, when we talk about the word invest, it doesn’t necessarily always have to equate to finances. When I think about the word invest, I think about how we are called to invest in many areas and assets of our lives. This could range from our family to a current project we’re attempting to complete. There’s an endless list to what we could invest in, but the important looming question begins to be whether or not whether or not our investment will be worth it in the long run. I’ve compiled a list of five areas of our lives that we can reflect and think about.

  1. Invest in your relationship with God.
    • In Luke 5:16, we see, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (NIV). Through the life of Jesus, we are able to see His heart and how He invested in his relationship with His father. He didn’t let anything stand in the way of taking time with God, not even his own tiredness, his to-do list, nada, nothing. It makes me think of the countless times I’ve neglected to invest in my own relationship with God. I have often chosen a T.V. show, hanging out with friends, finishing up tasks on my to-do list, etc. over spending quality time with God. It says something about my heart. And, it’s not a really good thing. What are areas in our lives that could afford to see a little less of us, so we can see more of God?
  2. Invest in your church.
    • As I grew up, the only places I was extremely familiar with included church, school, and home. These were the 3 places you could find me. The majority of the weekend was given to church because of Friday night Bible study, Saturday’s choir practice, and Sunday’s service and Sunday school.
    • The lessons and ways I was able to grow and serve in my home church molded me into the person I am today.
    • The 3 days of VBS, years spent in Sunday School, and relationships formed with the youth set my foundation as a believer. It served as a component of completely changing the trajectory of my life.
    • No matter your age- I think there’s a place and way to invest in your church. Look for and identify ways you can serve. Is it through assisting as a Sunday School teacher? Does it mean helping set up the coffee for morning service? The list is endless, but there’s a place. It’s simply waiting to be found.
  3. Invest in your relationship with your family.
    • In the last 9 years, I’ve had the chance to live at home again just once. Even as I write that number nine, it’s kinda crazy. It was from 2014-2015. Although it was a rough year because I had to relearn and adjust myself to living at home again, it was a year I cherish dearly. Since I haven’t been home, I’ve had to celebrate some milestones from afar, cheer them on from a distance, and miss out on some important memories. Missed birthdays, Father & Mother’s days take a toll on you once you sit back and really think about it all. That’s why I encourage you to take the time to invest in your family.
    • As this summer continues, I am praying and hoping that I am able to do so whether that is during my two week break or other pockets of time I can catch a flight home. It isn’t easy. By no means. The takeaway? Family matters.
  4. Invest in your relationship with your friends.
    • Sometimes your circle decreases in size, but increases in value.”
    • This resonates me so much as I’ve found it to be true through the years. The older I get, the more loudly this speaks. Friendships are extremely important as they play a part in shaping and molding you. Find and invest in friendships that prompt you to think deeply about Jesus, ask you the hard questions, and share some of your best and worst moments of life.
    • As I think about some of my dear friends, they have been the same ones to stay even when life was really hard. Their encouragement to turn to Jesus was and remains unmerited.
  5. Invest in your life’s work.
    • As a person who has had 3 jobs in the past five years for a variety of reasons, I am learning to really live and breathe this truth. 2 years in Houston as a 4th grade teacher, 1 year in Garland as a 3rd grade teacher, and 2 years in Houston as a 2nd grade teacher definitely teaches you a lot about yourself and the work that is at hand.
    • If there’s one overall message I’ve learned, I have come to the understanding that our life’s work isn’t always easy. In fact, I know each job comes with its own difficulty. People always commend me for being a teacher, but honestly, each job should be commended.
    • Along with this, one of the parts of investing in our life’s work includes investing in the people at our work.
    • Do we know the people who clean our office/classroom? Do we take the time to engage with our co-workers and their lives? Have we stopped to take a listen to their story? Have we taken the time to share about Jesus & the Gospel story?

Our turn: What area of our life is God calling us to pay a bit more attention to? Where do we need to invest our love, time, energy, etc. ?

post 004 – community

When you look at your friend group, what do you see? Rather, who do you see? I’ve used this post to highlight distinctive qualities of a Christ-centered community and what that could look like. These opinions have been developed based on my own experience with our missional community and everything I’ve gathered in the past couple of years.

  • Prayer.
    • The specific mission of our missional community is to ensure that we are pointing one another back to Christ. This is first done through the pursuit of prayer. We pray to place our focus solely on Christ. We eagerly pray for the veils of self to be removed. Along with this, we set apart time to share our joys and any prayer requests. Following this, we ensure that adequate time is given to pray over these subject matters. For me, the most beautiful unfolding of this has been the times of check-in. We are able to see how God has faithfully answered or how we can continue to press into prayer to keep interceding for those requests. Prayer keeps us rooted in who matters most. Jesus.
  • Scripture Study.
    • Currently, we are studying The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and can I just say… it’s been one of those books that cut through the flesh and straight into the heart. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I highly recommend it. With that being said, we have gone through the seasons of discussing topics from appropriate T.V. shows, God’s will, and everything in between, studying the book of Revelation, and are currently studying the aforementioned book. Through this, we are able to hear from God and have honest conversations about what God is specifically calling for our lives. I love it because it really pushes us to examine our own personal lives, which leads me to the next characteristic.
  • Sharing.
    • In our group, there is freedom to share honest, real, and raw feelings and thoughts  while sparing any judgment. I think this has been the most liberating aspect. We are all free to share, and are met with honest conversations about what God says in the Bible. In my opinion, this serves as one of our strengths because we meet each other with respect and point each other back to what the Bible says. This is so critical. Instead of simply providing our own advice, we are building each other up and challenging one another against the words of God. This pushes for growth over and over again.
  • Wholesome Talk.
    • We make it a point to abide by Ephesians 4:29 which states, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV).  This includes limitations on the kind of words we are speaking to each other. It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of sarcasm and write it off as nothing big, while it may actually be a big deal. Granted, we are a work in progress, but we are learning!
  •  Relationships.
    • From where we were to where we are now, our missional community looks drastically different in regards to the depth of our relationship with one another. I will say that the most seamless aspect of this group includes the building of relationships. Over time, we have devoted the energy and time to getting to know one another through sharing meals and stories. For me, this has been such a fun part getting to know the different ways that God has created His people. Each person of our group is distinctly different and it’s been incredible to see each personality shine.

All in all, we aim to abide by the simple but wise command from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Are we perfect? By no means. As we meet weekly, we are growing weekly and it’s been humbling. We are currently seeking to find a place where we can serve and identifying ways to branch out and reach others. Along with this, we are continuously challenging to keep one another accountable and ensuring we are walking according to God’s will. I am so thankful to do life with these people. Seriously. They’re the best.

And, as always, if you are seeking a community in the Houston area, our doors are wide open! Feel free to message/comment: I’d love to hear more characteristics and qualities that could be added to the list.

Post 003 – transition

In a span of 48 hours, I have managed to move into a new apartment and workplace. These steps were not surprising. I had been anticipating them for many weeks now and the time had finally come. Tennis shoes on, boxes packed, car loaded. This was it. It was finally happening. But first, let’s rewind to the past few months of sitting still.

During this day and age, I don’t really know if I’m very good at sitting still. There’s always something to occupy my attention. This could range from checking my phone to checking    out the latest addition at Five Below. (I know. I need help!) All that to say, God has been faithful even though I didn’t spend a lot of time reflecting and thinking about that during my season of transition.

I think it’s difficult to reflect and be thankful when your season of transition remains just that. Starting in March, I began to make plans to move from the classroom to becoming a literacy interventionist. This job would allow me to coach reading teachers and pull small groups for reading. This was the dream, friends!

I interviewed to get into the pool of applicants. I made it. Then, the e-mails came.

One email after another came clobbering through my inbox. As each email came expressing the school’s interest in my ability, the level of pride increased simultaneously. Fast forward. That pride translated into being present in my first two interviews. I had it. I knew I did.

But, what do you do when those schools decide to hire someone else?

The first school never called and the second school politely expressed the fact that they had gone with someone else. As quickly as a popped balloon deflates, my pride immediately vanished.

The season of transition continued to be just that. A season of transition. Nothing. Nada. Silence.

As it goes, I began to retrace my steps and question whether or not I had heard God correctly. I doubted the fact that He had indeed called me to move to this position. I suppose you conjure all these thoughts and false truths in times of uncertainty. With two rejections, I had one last interview. Would I be 3 for 3?

Sitting in my car before my last interview, I cried tears of sadness and expressed my uncertainty to God. In that moment, I invited Him in and let Him take control of the pain, the sadness, the uncertainty, you name it. Should this have been my first step? WITHOUT A DOUBT. But ah me, human me.

Long story short, I stepped into the interview and shared my answers to their questions. As I listened to their responses, I heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit say, “This is it.”

And sure enough, to the true character of God, He remained faithful.

I received the job offer and will begin in the fall. I say this as a reminder to myself and to you, the reader. Since my mind and heart were so concerned with the end goal, I missed out on precious moments with God. I neglected moments to understand Him and learn from Him.

Let’s not get carried away with waiting for the season of transition to ultimately end. Let’s fix our eyes on what God wants to teach us in the midst of it.

Are you or someone you know in the midst of a transition? How can you remind and encourage yourself/them to remain steadfast in God?

Post 002 – Disqualified

“I’m so glad you’re not friends with this person anymore. Have you seen the type of person they are now?”

“I can’t believe he/she did that.”

“They’re not so great. I’ve heard some things.”

How many of us have participated in conversations like this by simply receiving the words or being the sole provider of those words? This has been a recurring conversation that I’ve experienced throughout the past few years. It may not even be laced with malicious intent, but it absolutely and completely goes against the Gospel message.

It’s actually an awful part of the human heart.

We tend to hoist ourselves into the seat of the judge and condemn people left and right while shaking our heads and fingers at them in utter disbelief. We put on the armor of self-righteousness and don’t allow for individuals to have a chance of redemption. To put it simply, we disqualify people.

Rahab from the Bible. What do we associate with her? We often attach the noun of prostitute to the end of her name because of what she was known for. However, the loyal actions of Rahab providing a place for the two Jewish spies drastically changes what she was known for. If you look further down in history, you will note that she in fact, becomes the great, great grandmother of King David. And yes, she falls into the bloodline of Jesus Christ. We know this. This is a simple Christian story of redemption we can rattle off at a moment’s notice. But, when does our head knowledge become heart knowledge?

We often internally or externally proclaim our grandiose understanding of grace, but it really shows up when we interact with people and view people from afar. No matter their story,  it’s becoming more and more apparent how much in need of grace we all are.

So, the next time we step into a conversation about someone who did something not worthy of being placed into a hall of fame, let’s choose to let a bit more of grace flow freely.

Let’s switch our conversations to reflect how Jesus sees this person.

Instead of attaching nouns and adjectives to people contradicting the Gospel, let’s rightfully place the truth in front of, behind, and all around their name and actions. They are indeed loved, saved by grace, and worth dying for.

 

Post 001 – Revamp

 

 

The unraveling of the past 50 days.

I had selfishly created a culture of branding myself for the glory of God.  During these past 50 days, the reality of my heart stood out and pierced through my soul and the dagger pierced a bit deeper and deeper. I contemplated, I reasoned, and I argued. Surely my intentions were pure with engaging with others to simply have them engage with my content. It was your typical give to receive relationship. This is how it was supposed to go, right? Surely this was just the stepping stone to ensure that my blog would get glory. Do you see where this is going? Mentally, I had convinced myself that all these social media strategies were absolutely critical to ensure that my platform was receiving its due glory. How silly of me to simply fall upon the waves of social media and hope that my “innocent act” of hashtagging and engaging in blogger pods would carry my Instagram account to the shores of women’s ministry.

Ugh. My flesh. How rotten it is.

I know God deserves the glory. I know He alone is worthy of that glory. Who am I, but a mere mortal? I know that. But, does my heart know that?

I confess. I apologize. I let go.

I have let go and will have to let go daily. This life, by no means, is about me. It was never about me and will never be about me. It will be about how we encourage one another, challenge hearts, and ensure we are in proper communion with God & His word. This is a platform for souls & stories to be shared, received, and heard.

Time for revamp. #001

Silent Anger

This post was one that I was dreading to write, but I knew I was supposed to. So, here we are. As shown in the promoting photograph, it’s not the most flattering picture of me. At the same time, it is a very real and raw picture of me. Granted, this was a candid picture but it draws a direct parallel between what I wanted to share today.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend Sparrow Conference. This weekend consisted of hundreds of women carefully dissecting the words of James the Just and identifying ways to apply these truths to our lives. Walking away, I was gently prompted by Jesus to really reflect on my own personal life and think about the ways He is calling me to be sanctified. The one idea that kept surfacing was and continues to be silent anger.

James 3:5-6: So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”
-You may or may not be thinking how this connects with anger. As I was sitting under the leadership of Jen Wilkin, she shared how grumbling falls under the category of using our tongue in an ill-manner. And, boy oh boy.  Grumbling destroys. It’s a passive aggressive manner of making your displeasure known and heard.

As a self-proclaimed introvert, I sinfully pride myself on my internal processor and how everything I think and feel remains within the depths of my heart. For a while, I thought it was going well. But, it’s really not. Through my subtle actions and words, they are heavily laced with anger. I will say that this process has taken place over the course of a couple of years. I’ve become more and more aware of how I respond and react when people may hurt me. If you want the quick answer, look at the picture and know that’s what’s hidden in my heart. If you want the long answer, keep reading.

At the end of the day, we display anger in ways contrary to Christ. As you look throughout scripture, you’ll see His anger, but his anger is defined as righteous anger. In other words, Jesus became upset over anything associated with sin. If we think about our sources of anger, some stem from situations when people may not do what we want, not respond in a certain way, etc. The list goes on. The similarities are glaring. The root of our anger is solely focused on us.

Moving forward, I am really praying and asking God to grow me in this area. It’s been hard. It’s been less than a few days since the conference and I’ve failed tremendously. At the same time, I am growing in my understanding of God’s grace. It’s the most beautiful paradox.

Reflection: As I have shared a piece of my story, I hope and pray that your response to this post would encourage you to reflect on the ways the Lord is moving in your life to sanctify you and praise God for the grace that He has so faithfully poured out on our lives through this process.

As I grow and as I change
May I love you more deeply
I will lean upon your grace
I will weep because your goodness is unending.

Love and prayers,
Sharon

Great Expectations

“In each box, there should be a sentence along with an illustration.” – Ms. Abraham.

Those were my famous last words before I ended up with 10 papers that were done correctly and 9… well, you know. Some had illustrations while others had sentences. Consistency was definitely lacking. And it all boiled down to one common denominator: the famous last words of Ms. Abraham. I had simply explained instructions verbally without providing a visual aid in hopes that my second graders would magically get it. Consequently, the race to erase their mistakes began. I had neglected to state my expectations clearly. I made sure they knew some of them, but I didn’t give them enough to where they had everything they needed to meet the expectations of the assignment.

I think about that and its relationship between human beings. How many times have we not met a certain expectation or been hurt by an unspoken expectation? Chances are, there was a lack of communication about what was expected. Or, the individual simply didn’t meet the expectation. (grace grace grace). Whatever the case may be, I’ve seen myself having conversations with God and others surrounding this idea.

Lately, it seems that the word expectations has been rearing its head and shoving its face in my face. I’ll be honest. It hasn’t been pretty. In fact, it’s been difficult, but it’s been life-giving. At the end of the day, God is using the concept of expectations to refine me. (YAY!)

Over the past few years, I have developed a practice of identifying the root issue of why I’m upset/angry with someone/something. More often than not, it boils down to expectations not being met either from my end or the other party. (I’m such a teacher! ;)) It’s why I make a scene when a child is mean to another student because it clearly says on Rule #1: Be kind! It’s because expectations weren’t met.

Now, if we think about God and His expectations, I believe it’s clearly laid out for us as illustrated in Luke 10:25-27

One day, an expert in religious law, stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” – New Living Translation

Two expectations can be identified. Love the Lord your God with everything and love your neighbor as yourself.  This is what is expected of us. (More on this coming to a post soon!) 

You know that thing we do? The thing when we get upset at someone and it’s really our fault because we haven’t communicated our expectations? That thing. God doesn’t do that. He has declared his expectations clearly.

In the same way, in our relationships, I think it’s extremely critical to express expectations. This extinguishes the possibility of assumptions and a lot of unnecessary pain. Instead, it opens up an avenue for conversations to be held and a common understanding to be achieved. So, what do you say? Let’s set, meet, and exceed expectations. But most importantly, let’s communicate.