Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Things...

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

It's a new year! 2017... It's hard to believe it kinda. I remember when 2000 seemed like such a big deal, a new century! Now here we are, almost 20 years later. (yikes!) Even though it's a new year, those who are in Christ have the gift of newness every morning! I posted this on Facebook earlier, and wanted to "declare" a little of the goodness of God in my life. 

January has a tendency to mark big changes in my life. Especially starting in 2012 when I walked into my first recovery meeting and realized that I needed to be there. A step out of denial that I had it all together and a decision to surrender my struggles to the only One that could handle them. This January will be just like the others. I've taken another step towards trying to put our lives back together, all the while remembering the way to do that is through surrender. It's gonna be another hard year, I know that, but with grace and miracles and beauty strewn throughout it just like 2016. Praying for each of you as well, my friends. This year is full of growth that can be found in surrender. He knows the plans He has for you. Have peace and hold on to that. 

2016 started hard, was hard in the middle, and ended hard. (Honestly, I could say that about every single year. And some more than others...) But it wasn't hard without the reward of growth, even more closeness to Christ, and being witness to more miracles.  Probably the biggest change leading me into this new year is a new job!  As many of you know, circumstances financially have been strained for a LONG time. Honestly, even back when things looked 'together' they were a complete and utter disaster at the root.  Every January (just happens to work that way), I get one step closer to financial freedom again! For years God has given me opportunities to work and survive as the only income for our family while also having two little kiddos at home. People ask all the time "How do you do it!?" Well, I don't! He does. He does through numerous jobs, through friends, through strangers... His provision is amazing. Even providing financial classes and mentoring early on, so I'd know how to steward the gifts that would come. (Look back at your life, so much of His goodness is in hindsight!) I knew at one point that I would need to move to full time work. I wasn't sure how this would look and have been praying about it for the last few years.  Even though I wasn't sure how it would even be possible, He was. He has taken care of every detail, and dumped something in my lap this year that I couldn't have imagined. Perfect timing, perfect step forward, perfect opportunity for my family. For me to work full time, have full benefits, without my boys spending a moment in childcare. What a gift. 

But the work I've been doing the last several years has also been such a gift. All four of the part time jobs I have, random hours and all, have been such a blessing to me so much more than just financially. But in order to work a full time job, I had to say goodbye to one of the most special jobs I've ever had in my life; teaching music at Promiseland Preschool in Brentwood.  There is nothing like working with the most beautiful team of God fearing women, praying with these women each morning, worshiping and praying with almost 100 kids every day and teaching them about Jesus and His love... I cried for almost a week about leaving. Unfortunately, the boys caught me in tears a few times, but it was a good lesson for them. Change can be hard. Sometimes stagnant can feel comfortable, and being stretched can be painful, but comfortable is never really where we wanna be. Being stretched has always looked beautiful, at least in hindsight. It was hard, but these types of hard things in my life have always ended up being the right things. I wrote this letter to the parents and children of the school to share the goodness of God in the midst of the sadness of my leaving. 

Dear Promiseland families,

I’m writing to share with you the goodness of God in my life!  The Christmas Program is always the pinnacle of the year for me. Hearing almost 100 children singing the story of Jesus, from the BIGNESS of our Creator, to the tiny baby He sent to save the world, and the Amazing Grace offered to us through the sacrifice of his one and only Son; it humbles me. What an honor to have so many of you there!

In late 2012, I heard a very clear message while praying aloud my frustrations on the car ride to church. I felt the Spirit was moving me to start kids worship on Sunday mornings at our Franklin Campus.  I didn't have much prior experience in teaching, or working with kids, and really no interest. I thought for sure God couldn’t mean KIDS... I felt so ill equipped. I knew nothing about kids' music and wasn’t even sure what it looked like to lead worship music. There was no way I was made for this, or would even be any good at it. But God knew. I took a step forward in faith and almost immediately I felt connected to the kids, and a passion for leading them began. Serving in this way eventually led me to my position at Promiseland in January 2014. I had never taught music before and had no idea what I was going to do with a bunch of sweet preschoolers (and toddlers!).  Again, God knew.
My time at Promiseland has blessed my life tremendously. It has blessed me financially, it blessed my children who both attended the program, and most of all it has blessed my heart to teach, sing, dance, worship, and pray with each of your children during the week. It has been some of my most precious times in the past three years. Our God knew me so much better than I knew myself. He knew that leading children would become a passion in my life, He knew what a gift this program would be to my family and me, and He knew that this position would prepare me for the next step forward in my life. A few weeks ago I accepted a full time position at a local elementary school.  Yet again, I felt a little ill equipped and sad to think His provision could be leading me away from Promiseland. But He knew. He knew how things would work out long before I did. And I have learned to listen, take a step even if it’s in blind faith, and let Him work out the details. As He promised, He has done just that. He has supernaturally filled my position at Promiseland and worked out all of the kinks. He has used this job that has blessed me tremendously, to bless someone else. And let me tell you, He hasn’t left out a single detail.  

This is not, and never was about me. He has used my weakness and inexperience to tell His story and show His strength.  I am grateful to continue to surrender and let Him take me where He will and use me for His glory. Your children are so special to me. Every hug, every laugh, every high five, every smile… These are memories and moments I will cherish always. I have laughed and cried with them, worshiped and prayed with them, and shared with them stories of God’s goodness and love. That is why I am writing today. As sad and hard as change can be, let’s bless God in His goodness and share the stories of his provision in every situation. Please tell this to your children. God is working, and it may feel sad at first, but we can trust He is always GOOD. He is taking care of me, and will take care of them. Because He knows. 

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Jer. 29:11
Miss Shanna 

The way he has replaced my position helps fulfill the beginnings of a life dream for one person, and fills up the transition time for another. All along he had these wonderful women picked out for this time, and when He was ready He offered me a step of faith.  I'm so thankful I took that step (I've learned to always take that step!) and it all worked together perfectly.

Additionally, this full time job (and the most amazing deal ever) has given me the opportunity to own my first vehicle in almost 10 years!  I swear I've cried more in December than probably all year. So much change, so many goodbyes, like saying goodbye to this dear friend. Civi (a sweet Civic who we called "Civi" because the "c" had fallen off the logo on the back) has been there for us for the past 4.5 years. She started as something to get us to and from the grocery store, and out of the heat, but became a part of our family. I can't imagine where'd I'd be without her, truly. One of the best gifts in my life. (Even if she was only borrowed) There with us through the hardship, growth, hurt, and joy... She has been dependable, gotten me to and from life changing recovery meetings (3 a week to start!) and even though I never imagined using her for much more than trips to the grocery store, she has held up to drive me all over for work and traveling to visit family, and only a few middle-of-the-road breakdowns... ha! But time was running out for her... Going on 17 years old, she needed to find a place where she could be fixed up a final time and finish her life helping out someone else. And because of my new job opportunity, I was able to upgrade the vehicle to something that will be so much more efficient (and roomy!) for our family for years to come. I can't even BELIEVE that I am able to own a car again!! God is so good... So so so so good.  

Sometimes I feel like I am 34 going on 24. Starting over, from the ground up, just with two kiddos along for the ride this time. This job isn't some huge financial upgrade (I'm still keeping my other 2 part time jobs), but it's a good transition job with lots of potential and a lot of my coworkers are doing just that (just in their early 20s.. ha!). But the hours and benefits are MORE that I could have ever asked for. Perfect for right now. Upgrading and owning your own vehicle also feels like a "post college" move... A step out into the "real world". But ya know what? Though I may not have a lot, God makes sure I always have enough. He keeps me humble, keeps me grateful, and I want to keep on sharing about it. I think my boys are fortunate to get to watch me walk through the hardships and experience the gifts and the provision. They get to see where everything gift comes from, the story of how we found our home to the gift of food on our table. They experience what it means to work hard and save up to take our first family vacation. This "starting over" is newness and rebirth and it is all a gift. It's not a regression, it's a renewing. I want to be intentional this year about sharing the goodness. Sharing the amazing miracle stories of how He's providing. I haven't blogged in years, but I realize the importance in remembering every gift. So I hope to be over here more often. Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

So much to say...

I have so much to say. I tried to write my testimony once... Not just how I came to Christ, but my story, well HIS story and how it has weaved through my life and my choices.  In the end, it was more of a summary due to the amount of time I had to share it.  It was directed towards a theme, contentment, in order to share it at a book study.  I did share it, to a room full of women. It was an interesting experience. I cried A LOT.  Even since that time, so much has happened.  I've hesitated rewriting my story in fear that because of the season I've been in, it would come off too informative and not as declarative as I'd like it to be.  Declarative as in Luke 8:39; "...declare how much God has done for you."  I want my story to be nothing more than a declaration of the amazing miracles I've experienced in my life. I want it to be a testimony of his love and goodness, and a way to show my children someday how much God has been at work in the details of their early lives.

So... is it time? Am I out of the fog, so to speak, where I can clearly declare God's victories in my life without simply telling a boring story, venting emotions and drama, that so many of us experience daily? I want to tell HIS story. Love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion... so much gratefulness to be shared. I'm sure there will be a bit of the drama and dirt. The stuff that makes His characteristics so much more stunning... It will be real. And it will probably be long. But at least it will be.



Friday, April 19, 2013

Rest

Yea. Rest. Sounds easy.  I know FOR SURE I need it.  I'm realizing that I kinda live in this constant cycle (some friends I know would call it "Insanity") of HALT.  HALT is an acronym. A reminder that when I'm H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired) the best thing to do is what it says, HALT. Stop. Slow Down.  Even Jesus said this:


30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves. Mark 6:30-32

This morning was no different.  I had 1359820357298357 things to do, and was determined to get them done.  My grandfather passed away on Monday.  He lived an incredible, long, and fulfilling life.  He was blessed with a relatively quick and peaceful death.  I was blessed by spending about 3 hours with him last month, and had the most wonderful time. We shared stories, worries, hopes, laughs, cookies...  He was incredible, and I wanted more than anything to honor him in his death by attending his memorial service and viewing this weekend.  

I often tell people that my life is crazy.  I'm not sure that's the right word, but definitely it is FULL.  Our weekly schedule is pretty much the same, but there is not a lot of downtime, or unscheduled time to rest and relax.  I'm deeply involved in spiritual and emotional care for my soul, working a recovery step program through Celebrate Recovery.  It has changed my life, and part of that is because I have immersed myself in it and really (and prayerfully) chose to let this be a season of growth for me, by giving my all towards my spiritual and emotional health.  I has CHANGED. MY. LIFE.  This one year of dedication (9 months so far) will change the rest of my time on this planet, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  That all being said, this dedication and decision is based on the overwhelmingly tough and unhealthy part of my life.  Change only happens when the pain outweighs the fear, and change only happens in the present.  I am making the changes, and the pain is lessoning.   

So not to sidetrack there, but back to my grandfather.  I want to do it all. I want to be everywhere, I want to experience everything. I've always been this way, even as a child.  It would pain me to miss things, or not be involved.  It's a huge struggle for me to sit still, to focus, to rest.  My grandfather was also very active.  Bowling numerous games at a time, up until about a month before his death.  He had many hobbies, many loves, many activities that brought him joy.  When he realized he was too sick, and too tired, he decided to rest, and passed away about a month later.  Now he is eternally resting in the presence of the Lord.  Even though I just made the trek to PA a month ago, I made the decision on Tuesday that I could do it again. It appeared that I could pull it off, and make the memorial service on Saturday.  Then on Thursday I decided that I needed to be there for the viewing on Friday evening.  If I was going to make the trip, I needed to make the most of it, attend as much as I could, spend as much time...  

I got up at 6 (I'm NOT a morning person, so it was the best I could do), left the house at 7, and went through the same steps as I did about a month ago, except this time, the result was different.  I realized yesterday, after my contracting paycheck never arrived, that I'd be cutting it pretty close financially. I doubted for a minute, but I knew I could still make it work!!  The morning continued on with road block after road block.  Finally, 4 hours after we left the house, and in a mess of tears and exhaustion, I made the decision to HALT.  Headed home, crashed for 2 hours, and woke trying to figure out what to do for the day.  Maybe I could still make the drive? Maybe I could get a last minute deal on a rental?  Then it dawned on me.  HALT. STOP. REST.  The fact that I was REALLY struggling with just sitting around, showed me that it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.  

I will honor my grandpa, by doing what he is doing. Resting.  I will slow down, take a break. I cleared my schedule for the weekend, and I need to leave it clear. I need to be filled up, rested up. I need to listen, abide.  

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

God confirmed my choice.  When I woke from my nap, the rainy, storm threatening day, had turned into gorgeous blue sky and sunshine!  The money lost from the rental was refunded. (How they couldn't help me at the time is still a mystery, yet somehow, as soon as I get home, they are able to help...)  I get it.  When things are in His will, they go smoothly.  When things aren't happening, I take that as a sign that they are not supposed to happen, and surrender to whatever it is God has next.  For me? It was a lesson in resting.  It's SUPER challenging, but I'll try.

28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

So that's what I will do. I will come to You. Give me rest. Fill me up.  I know your plans for me are better than my own.  I will see my family again. We will share memories and laughs. My grandfather's legacy will live on past today and this weekend.  This isn't the last chance... Last month was the last chance, and I was blessed to have that chance. To see him, to hug him, to tell him I loved him.  

(can I tell you how much I love that Jack is holding hands with grandpa and gramma in this picture? I will treasure this picture forever.)


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Re: gratitude

Having an attitude of gratitude is something I strive for daily.  It is something I believe is absolutely necessary to find joy and peace in life.  And it's not like there isn't a TON to be thankful for!  I can easily spend the month of November writing a Facebook status each day about something I'm thankful for.  Being thankful in adversity though, is harder and sometimes feels impossible.  Something I was reminded of the other day, is that being thankful is a learned behavior.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. Philippians 4:11-12 NASB

Paul said it twice; he had to learn to be thankful and grateful during times of adversity.  He also wrote this while he was in prison.  And how do we learn something? By practicing it.  

I've always loved the idea of a gratitude journal, but journaling can be hard for me.  And even if I spend the time to sit down and journal, most of the time my mommy brain can't even remember what we did an hour ago let alone the things I am thankful for throughout the day.  Practice isn't a once in a while thing, but something you do over and over and over consistently.  

So about a year ago I came up with this idea.  What about a gratitude email?  That is something I'm in all day long.  I can pretty much access it from anywhere, and it takes two seconds to do.  So I started:



To: my email address
Subject: gratitude
Body: 2/29/12 - unemployment cleared before mortgage payment, 
awesome lunch meeting for Keith

It had been a great day.  And there were specifics I was thankful for!  Immediately, this email popped up in my inbox.  On March 1st, all I had to do, was hit Reply:


3/1/12 - $1 night at sweet ceces, 
awesome surprise phone interview with keith, 
banner order, $100 from a friend

Thus, began a practice of constant gratitude. All the little blessings happening each and every moment.  We were right in the middle of a VERY rough time, and God was written all over it.  This little email stayed highlighted, and 'unread' at the top of my inbox.  Got a front parking spot? I'd hit reply. Got an extra 3 cents off gas? Reply.  Our bank account bounced from here to kingdom come, but was only charged one $25 fee. Reply.  I started to be SO thankful, even during the tough times, the messups, the let downs.  Started really recognizing the joy in everything.  There is always something to be thankful for.  I started to notice the clouds, the sunsets, when the rain would come after a long wait and when it would stop just in time to make it inside.  I practiced, and I learned.  


At some point I started to making excuses again, and started becoming "too busy" to stop and be thankful. That email got farther and farther down the list, and eventually off the page.  There are numerous times that I can see God written all over my circumstances.  Those times when He shows up SO big! But I fail to write them down, or email them. And then I forget, and the moments quickly pass.  Just in the time it took me to write this blog, I've revisited some of the things in my long email of thanks. Thankful for conversations, errands run, meeting a work deadline, the small stuff.  And the gratefulness that I found in the hard days; the bits of joy sprinkled throughout.  This was a wonderful practice and I truly miss it.  I'm really thankful for the reminder.  I'm thankful for this blog that made me go back and pull up that email. I'm thankful that I was able to read through it and see the change that was happening in me over the months that I practiced.  And I'm thankful that I can jump right back in and pickup where I left off.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

And He will give you the desires of your heart

Psalm 37:4 says, Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.  I've known this verse for many years, and I'm sure I used to think that it meant God gives us what we want if we delight in Him.  It's funny how things can change when you put the emphasis in a different place.  

Is it:

He will give you the desires of your heart.  

or

He will give you the desires of your heart.

Matthew 6:19-21 says, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So we are warned about our desires. A lot of the time, the desires of my heart, are earthly desires. At least they seem to start that way.  So then, how can I assume that if I delight in Him, He will give me my earthly desires?  There is a greater picture here.  Delighting in Christ is desiring Christ.  It's setting your heart towards heaven; it's turning, repenting, changing.  When I made the decision to delight in Christ, and set my heart and my treasures in heaven, He gave my heart new desires.  And I know they are not from me, because the desires I have now are to do things that I spent most of my life honestly trying to avoid.  But once again, God's will is revealed in hindsight.  And the more I delight in Him, the more my heart and my desires change.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Have a question about your food? Tweet your local farmer!


I had the unique opportunity this past week to come and answer questions for a room full of farmers and ranchers.  You may wonder why said folks would have any questions for lil ole me?  I want to share with you an awesome website: AgChat.org.  Their mission is to "Empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms."  My friend Rachel BrownLindsey Ferrier, and myself were invited to be panelists for a question and answer session based on our status of "mommy bloggers". 
 The conference was set in Nashville, Tennessee, but the attendees were from all over the United States and Canada.  These farmers and ranchers are finding their "voice" in a technology driven world, and have a desire to be heard.  Farmers and Ranchers make up 1.5% of the population.  They want to hear from the rest of us, from me; where we get our information, what we know about farming, and how they can reach the blogging and online community to share their stories.  Here I was, in a room with about 150 of them, and to be honest, I felt like I pretty much represented the ignorant citizen.  I don't say that in a bad way, because I also represented the person eager to learn, and one that wants to connect with them and pass on what I learn to others like myself.

So many of them had questions about what they could do to be heard, how they could get their voice out there.  I think a few felt defensive, because for years media has had its say in "what goes on" and they feel like there is a lot of catching up to do.  I hated to say "be patient, it's working", but it's so true! Just the fact that this organization exists is huge.  I did a quick google search of "tweet your local farmer", and numerous news articles came up.  Your words are getting out there, you are being heard.  It was all so exciting to me to know that technology is reaching as far as it is.

If I could say one thing to those I met this week, it's to know you are heading in the right direction.  The speed of social media and word-of-mouth, is exponential.  You will "catch up" quicker than you ever imagined.  Keep learning, keep sharing, keep posting, keep tweeting.  We are out here wanting to learn and the number of "us" is growing.  We are realizing that it is our responsibility to know what we are putting into our bodies, and why.  We aren't just taking "yes" or "no" for an answer anymore, and we are looking for truth.  Thank you for caring enough to speak.  Thank you for doing the dirty work for the 98.5% of us.  Thank you for sticking with it for generations and generations.  What a pleasure it was to spend this short time with you, and feel free to keep in touch!  I want to pass on your websites, facebook pages, blogs, tweets, and stories to others that I know.  I also hope to run into some of you again and get a chance to see your farms, and learn about what you do. It was really humbling for me to be in there with you all, and though I didn't have much time then, we can always connect right here.  Ag is Life!


shanna.brawner@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/shanna.brawner 
twitter: sbrawner7

Friday, May 27, 2011

"ME" time...

I guess since these boys came from "me", it would appear I get a lot of "me" time these days... Truth be told, "me" time should be about Shanna, and "Shanna time" doesn't really exist.  There should also be "me and Keith" time, which is also very lacking.  So, in saying that, I have been taking the time to dream and slowly take given opportunities to try and plan for this so called "time".

Things I want to, and WILL do:

  • Horseback Riding.  It has been WAY too long, and I love it WAY too much.  (it hasn't helped that every other second I'm pregnant, and I think it is frowned upon to do this whilst carrying a wee one)
  • MUSIC.  Shanna is a musician?  Yea, I almost forgot myself.  But the time. is. now.
  • Socializing.  I am a social butterfly. Always been one, always will be.  I need my fix.  Girl dates? Bookin' em as I type.
  • DATE. I want to date. I want to date my husband. I want to date my husband at least once a month.  And I will do this.
  • Learn.  I want to learn, grow, mature in my faith.  I want to take a class, engage in a study, be IN my Father's Word.  One opportunity may be in the fall (when I have dependable childcare), but I've already got a class in mind.  And it's for couples.  Look out, I'm gittin' two birds with one stone.
  • One more is a "bucket list" type wish that is actually going to come true for me.  I decided to start drama on my facebook page, and hold out the announcement until it actually happens.  I have many people out there curious about what this may be.  I just got butterflies, again, by simply typing about it.
The best part about all of these "dreams" (funny the things we dream before kids, and the things we do before kids that become dreams after) is that God has been laying them all out there, RIGHT in front of my nose.  Horseback riding? Done, my friend has two horses in need of exercise.  I'm hoping to make this a Monday night "thing" all summer.  Music? Stay tuned to hear, but I have 2 performance opportunities already waiting, and one possible worship gig that would mean the MOST to me out of all 3.  I've booked a few girl dates, maybe even starting down a business venture to help us knock out some debt and get me some adult mental stimulation once in a while.  Stay tuned on that one...  Dates? Working on that for sure, but to start we're signed up to do a couples bootcamp workout starting at the end of June, and then hoping to take a class together this fall.  All that to say, I WILL take time away from cleaning up pee and boo-boo prevention.  I love my day job, and wouldn't change a thing, but I'm excited about making a few changes to the daily grind.