How To Be Yourself

I feel like now, at the age of 30, I’m starting to really know who I am. I’ve understood pieces, but I think that I’m finally figuring out how the many parts fit together. I’m learning what’s truly important to me, what really matters, the things I want to stand for.

Sometimes I make things so complicated. I turn little molehills into mountains – changing simple everyday choices into monumental decisions that will, in my mind, affect my entire future and determine who I really am.

But in reality, being me should be so simple. I got a lesson on being myself from a sweet little 6 year old last week. It brought me to tears and it hit home in a big way. Here’s his 11 step plan on how to be yourself.

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How To Be Yourself

  1. Do not copy somebody.
  2. Act like you.
  3. Be nice.
  4. Do what you usually do.
  5. Play what you usually play.
  6. Be who you are.
  7. Do what you like to do.
  8. Do your thing.
  9. Help people.
  10. Do what you’re supposed to.
  11. Have grace.

So simple.

So profound.

No catchy phrases.

No quiz determining what your personality type is or what the color of your aura is.

No instructions on figuring out if your true style is hipster or bohemian.

No analysis of whether you are a hands-on parent or a free-spirit parent.

No thoughts on the car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, or the dietary plan you’ve selected for your family.

Simple.

Once again in my classroom, I was the student and my student was the teacher. And I remembered Jesus’ words…
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He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

My hope is that I can learn to be myself in a simple, beautiful way like this little child.  That I can take away the complications and the silly details that don’t matter one little bit.

My hope is that I can remember to just do my thing, be nice, and have grace.  Because that sounds like a Shannon I can be proud of.

Life Happens Here

I sigh as I look at the ever-growing laundry pile on the living room chair. This is how it goes every week. Wash and dry on Saturday. Plan to fold on Sunday. Plan to fold on Monday. Plan to fold on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Back to Saturday – wash and dry and then add the clothes to the laundry pile. Will the laundry ever stop?

Then I hear Him whisper, “LIFE happens here.”

And I see those tiny socks in a new light. Tiny socks that cover my tiny girls’ tiny feet. Sunny spring rompers that my first girl wore, passed down to my second. Chris’ shorts that were worn in one of our after-the-girls’-bedtime basketball games that I have come to love. And I am thankful for the LIFE that happens here.

I look out the window at the backyard. There’s no designer fire pit. No fancy patio with sandstone pavers. No magical wooden tree house. Definitely nothing worth pinning. All I see is leftover mess. Baseballs littering the grass, the grill cover flung haphazardly over the table, and a blanket wadded over a tree branch.

Then I hear Him whisper, “LIFE happens here.”

And I remember yesterday evening. Chris manning the grill while turned around watching his girls. Claire hitting balls off her T, saying, “Watch this one, Mommy! I’m going to hit it to the moon.” Lucy by my side on a blanket, sitting up strong and tall, all smiles. And I am thankful for the LIFE that happens here.

I see the trail down the hallway. One cowgirl boot, then another. Sock #1, sock #2. Jean shorts. Yellow striped top. Another mess to pick up. Another mess that I didn’t make. I sigh and remember the days of cleaning up only my own messes.

Then I hear Him whisper, “LIFE happens here.”

And I imagine the thrill in my girl’s little heart when she heard Daddy ask the question, “Who wants to put on their swimsuit and run through the sprinklers?” I imagine and then I remember that same thrill in me when my heart was little. I remember small, simple moments like that and how they weren’t small at all to me. I put down the boots in my hand, kick off my own shoes, and walk to the door. The mess can wait. In an instant, it’s all so clear.   And I am thankful for the LIFE that happens here.

I mutter to myself as I grab the mop and bucket from the laundry room. That dog. Sometimes he makes me crazy. Muddy footprints trailing through the kitchen – around the table, over to his water bowl, and then back the way he came. I fill the bucket with water and begin to mop, muttering all the while, “That dog!”.

Then I hear Him whisper, “LIFE happens here.”

And I think about that dog with little Lucy crawling on his head, look of wonder on her face, as she explores his eyes, nose, and whiskers. He just wags along, offering a lick on her cheek every now and then, which causes her to erupt in giggles. I think about that dog chasing Claire round and round the living room, while she shrieks and laughs, begging him to go faster. And I am thankful for the life that happens here.

Dirty dishes fill the sink, crumbs cover the floor, and an assortment of leftovers await their tupperwares. I do not feel like cleaning up this mess after my long day. I begin a small pity party in honor of myself, likening me to Cinderella in my mind. I start humming…Cinderelly, Cinderelly, Night and day it’s Cinderelly, Make the fire, fix the breakfast, Wash the dishes, do the mopping. My pity party is really picking up steam.

Then I hear Him whisper, “LIFE happens here.”

I see Chris at the sink, scrubbing away at the dishes, as he does every night. And I remember he’s my partner – always faithful in every type of mess life brings our way.  I see the leftovers and remember the refrigerator full of food that I pulled ingredients from just hours earlier.  I clean up crumbs and put away a sippy cup, and think about my family sitting around the dinner table together, talking, laughing, sharing our days, and I am thankful for the life that happens here.

When the carpet needs vacuuming and the toilets need scrubbing, pause. When the kids need baths and the sheets need washing, pause. When the furniture needs dusting and the weeds need pulling, pause.

When you are exhausted, when you are discouraged, when you are 100% certain that you will never be enough, pause.

When you don’t have an ounce of grace left to offer yourself, pause.

Pause and listen to His voice, His voice which is full of grace. Pause and let Him remind you, “LIFE happens here.”

Pause and see those little everyday messes for what they truly are – signs of life.

signsoflifeAnd be thankful for the life that happens here.

 

 

She’s here!

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The baby we’ve been waiting for all these months has arrived.  She’s beautiful and precious and perfect.  Lucy Grace has come to our family at last.

My last post, about a new kind of waiting, detailed the week before we met our Lucy Girl.  That was quite a week – busy, so many emotions, and not much sleep.  We went to Dallas on Friday and on Friday evening met our birth mom in person.  As soon as we walked in the door of the restaurant I spotted her.  I don’t think I stopped staring all night.  She is captivatingly beautiful, with such a sweet spirit.  She’s a delight.  Dinner went beautifully – so comfortable and natural.  We are beyond blessed to be matched with an amazing woman who truly loves our baby.

That night I really couldn’t sleep. Everything felt so official.  Next step : Meet our baby girl!  All night long I lay tossing and turning, sleeping for brief intervals, and thinking, imagining, dreaming of our girl.  What would she look like?  What would tomorrow be like?  What would her name be?  So many emotions, thoughts, and questions, and mostly, so much excitement.  Like Christmas Eve when you’re 7.  Times 900.

At some point in all the tossing and turning, what we needed to name our daughter became clear to me.  We had two name choices going into the weekend, and wanted to wait and see her face before we decided.  The choices were Ava Mae and Lucy Grace.  I had been leaning strongly toward Lucy, and during the night it was decided in my heart that Lucy would be her name (of course, I hoped Chris would agree with me!).  As I lay there thinking, the meaning of the names swirled round and round in my head.  Lucy means light.  A light in dark places.  Someone who shines brightly and boldly.  And then there’s Grace.  Grace which we did not deserve, in being blessed with a child when a child was impossible.  It was perfect.  In the morning I told Chris and he smiled – I knew he agreed – but he still said we had to wait to look at her to decide.

The drive to Gladney took 7 years.  Seriously, every time I am in DFW I am reminded of how much I love Amarillo “traffic”.  The drive really did take about an hour, and it felt like an eternity.  When we got there, we met with our transitional care mom, who had taken amazing care of our sweet girl and gave us all of her information and medical records, hand and foot prints, pictures of her first week, and a beautiful blanket she made.  Then we signed papers to make everything official (Eek!).  Finally it was time to meet our daughter.  Placement was a very emotional time for all of us – Chris and I, as well as our birth mom and her family.  In order to preserve our birth mom’s privacy and Lucy’s story as her own to tell, I am going to gloss over the details of this part.

We met our beautiful daughter and I cried and cried, saying, “She’s perfect”, over and over again.  Thinking back now, those are the exact words I spoke when I saw Claire for the first time.  I know for every adoptive mom it’s different – feeling close and bonded right away, or it being a process.  There is no right or wrong in this, just different ways of loving.  For me though, it was instant.  When I saw her, she was mine.  No questions, no doubts.  She was my girl.  Chris was smitten too, and of course Claire was so excited.

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During Placement we decided on our little girl’s name.  Lucy Grace – a light into the darkness and a picture of God’s grace to us.  Also, in my research of the name Lucy, I learned that the first African American woman to win a major sports title was named Lucy Slowe.  Since we are a sports family and our birth mom is an athlete, this made the name seem even more perfect.

Being at Gladney and leaving with OUR DAUGHTER seemed surreal.  It was almost exactly a year ago that we first went to Gladney for our orientation.  Walking through the building last October our hearts were lit with excitement thinking of the baby that would someday be ours.  And now she really was.

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We took Lucy back to Chris’ sister’s apartment and loved her up.  The whole drive home I just stared at her sweet face.  Some friends of ours who live in DFW came by to meet our girl and it was so nice sharing our excitement with Chris’ sister, Chelsea, and our friends.

We drove back to Amarillo that night, and can I just say that doing things with two children does not take twice as long.  It takes six times as long.  We stopped to pick up food at Burger King on the road and it took 45 minutes.  45 minutes, people.  We finally made it home and came in the house to a beautiful welcome from our dear friends.  I’m pretty sure we have the best friends on the planet.

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The next day was spent admiring Lucy and showing her off.  Claire is absolutely in awe of her little sister.  I was so worried about how she would respond and she has blown us out of the water with her caring, nurturing spirit and willingness to help.  I am so thankful for her and her tender heart.

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And sweet Lucy.  She is a joy and she is already a light.  She is an answer to so many prayers.  Not just ours, but a whole army who prayed for us along this journey.  And now she is home.

Entitled

Entitled people make me so angry.  I hate hearing stories of people milking the system, taking more than their fair share, always acting as if they have something coming to them.  This entitlement mentality is maddening and destructive.  So when did I allow myself to become one of these people?

No, I don’t feel like the government or my parents or the “wealthy” owe me anything.  But somehow I’ve allowed this mindset to creep into my relationship with the Lord.

How could I ever think He owes me something?  I deserve to be happy.  I have the right to a big family.  I am entitled to my dreams coming true.  Why?  Because I love God? Because I’m a good person?  Shannon – let’s just think about this for a minute and put things into perspective.

Job lost everything and called God good.

Jim Elliot was murdered by the people he dedicated his life to serve.

More than 500,000 people were brutalized and killed in Rwanda in a period of just 100 days a few years back.

Children living within 10 miles of me have parents in prison, parents strung out on drugs, parents who have abandoned them.

More than 10 million children are stuck in orphanages around the world.

So why do I feel like I have somehow earned a free pass to the good life?  Am I that special?  The real question is: Am I that arrogant?

Life is a gift.  A free gift from the giver of all good things.  Family and happiness and love and the beauty all around us are gifts.  Not rights.  I’m entitled to none of it.  I’ve earned nothing.  Yet, He gives.

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Lord, open my eyes to the gifts you give daily.  Make me continually mindful of your grace.  Help me to unwrap each gift with gratefulness, not entitlement.  Keep my heart humble and pure – always thankful, never greedy.  And when the gifts stop – when the valley is dark, and the womb is barren, and the ground is cracked and dry, help me to be mindful of your grace even then.  Because when all else fails, I still have you.  And you are the greatest gift.