Thankful: 25 reasons for my heart to sing

Happy (day after) thanksgiving! What a wonderful day filled with great food, family and sunshine. I sometimes catch myself complaining about having 80 degree Thanksgivings, but then I remember 1) I love sunshine and 2) life is just too dang beautiful to complain. 🙂 The homemade turkey and mashed potatoes on real china was certainly an upgrade from my typical chips and salsa on a Dixie plate in my dorm room. Even better than the food, though, was the company I shared it with. Being away from home makes me appreciate my family so much more than ever. I relished all the laughter that filled the dining room last night, whether it was in response to one of my grandma’s stories of Alaska, or because of our traditional card game of 31, or just reminiscing on fond memories. Ahh, sweet day.

As I finished my quiet time this morning, my heart swelled with thankfulness. Not because life is perfect and I’m always happy, because that’s so far from the truth. Honestly, I went into my quiet time with a lot of doubt and anxiety. My soul had been going through a bit of a dry patch, and I was just feeling eh. I felt my mind racing and felt like my soul was being pulled in all different directions. I prayed, “God, I’m struggling right now. That spark in my heart for you feels like it’s being blown out. I know You’re good, You’ve proved it to me over and over again. I just want to be so secure in You again, and right now I’m struggling to trust You with it all.” Here’s where it gets good. Sometimes when I do my quiet time, I’ll turn on the “Praise and Worship” playlist on Spotify and just have that playing in the background. My eyes shifted to 1 Thessalonians 3:3, which reads, “so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well you were destined for them.” It was then that I looked up, reflecting on those words, that I tuned into the music playing in the background.

Even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise You.
Even when it makes no sense to sing, louder then I’ll sing Your praise.                                                        -Even When It Hurts, Hillsong United

Even when life gets tough and I feel dismayed, God has me in the palm of His hand and has intentionally set me on a unique path of life. He has gone before me, and He works in mighty ways. He is ever faithful, and the Prince of Peace meets me right in the midst of my struggles, and today was no exception.

Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war. -Prince of Peace, Hillsong United

My thoughts were waging war, being tugged in what seemed like a million directions, and He met me right there and enveloped me in a Peace that only comes from Him. And for that reason, my heart is so utterly full of thanksgiving for His patience, love, tenderness, and faithfulness towards me.

In this spirit of thanksgiving, I’ve decided to make a list of 25 things I am thankful for.

  1. Sunshine. The promise of new day. Also, vitamin D comes from the sun, and vitamin D makes you happy; therefore sunshine equals happiness 🙂
  2. Mom and Dad. I love you guys more than I could ever express.
  3. My brother. I can’t even imagine my life without you. You are and always will be my very best friend.
  4. Health. I look at where I was 6 months ago, and I praise the Lord that He put certain people and certain doctors in my path to help me recover from the gut issues that had plagued me for years.
  5. Legs. I can run. I can walk.
  6. The ability to read and write. I think that’s something I take for granted far too often. It’s a blessing.
  7. Dark chocolate.
  8. All my past and present teachers and professors. Thank you for introducing me to new knowledge and new ways of thinking.
  9. My roommate. I’m so thankful for our friendship–I can’t imagine my freshman year of college without you!
  10. Seven Rivers. You are family to me.
  11. The clearance rack.
  12. Florida State University. ‘Nole and proud.
  13. Humor. Laughter is the best.
  14. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s my favorite devotional at the moment and it has transformed my quiet times. The verses for each day always either are or lead me to exactly what my heart needs to hear.
  15. My Bible study. I never would have thought that I would make such close friends in such a short amount of time. I love you all and I’m so thankful for your friendships and your love and encouragement! You guys have made FSU home to me 🙂
  16. The USA. In all the craziness that’s been going on in this country, I am proud to live in America, and I am so thankful for the freedoms I have.
  17. A roof over my head and food in my stomach. Another thing I continually take for granted. Thank you, Lord, for providing.
  18. Music. It has a way of conveying emotion when words alone can’t.
  19. All of my family. Grandma H, Grandma T, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I’m so thankful that you are in my life. Though I don’t get to see you as often as I’d like, I think about you all the time and I love you all so very much.
  20. The FSU Navs. I can confidently say that you all have made such an incredible impact on my life in just the few months I’ve known you all. You are the most loving and welcoming community I think I’ve ever met, and I am so thankful that God placed you all in my life!
  21. Coffee. I really, really like my coffee.
  22. Creativity and uniqueness. I admire that every single person has a different way of looking at the world. It reflects a most artistic Creator.
  23. Reunion. The sweetness of reconnecting with someone I haven’t seen in a while is cheeks-hurt-smile worthy.
  24. Challenges. I would not be who I am today without those points in my life where I couldn’t see the end, where I felt hopeless and insecure. Coal does not become a diamond without pressure. “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” -Isaiah 48:10
  25. The Cross. My solace, my hope. What once was ugly and scorned, Jesus has made a beautiful promise of salvation and peace. He has paid the ransom for my sin, and has covered me in His righteousness. Not because of what I have done, but because out of His wonderful love He CHOSE to give me that gift. And for that I am eternally grateful.

I hope you all had a beautiful thanksgiving day! There is so much to be thankful for!

Love always,

Shannon

 

Love

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Life is so much more than just jumping through hoops to get to the next level. In my two months of college, I’ve realized that life is about stepping back and taking a look at the big picture. Sure, head knowledge comes from textbooks and lectures, and that’s a great thing. But heart knowledge comes from taking each day as it comes, trusting God to direct you in the way He has planned for you. Each day He has something to teach, but admittedly I get distracted by the chaos of life and I forget to just sit quietly and let Him show me something incredible. Over the past week or so, He’s opened my eyes to the vastness of this little thing called love.

This weekend, I went home for the first time since I left for college. I got the chance to see my family and friends from back home, go to my high school’s football game, and attend my home church. It was a much needed weekend, and it was honestly just lovely in every sense of the word. I felt so loved and welcomed, and that love just encouraged me. Funny thing, the sermon on Saturday night just happened to be about love. God’s super cool, guys. Long story short (or short story short), I’ve had love on my mind for the past few days.

Sometimes, I’ll walk around campus here at FSU, and I’ll feel this connection with the people I pass. Nine times out of ten I don’t know a thing about the person, but still I feel it. It got me thinking, “Why is it that I feel this pull toward these people?”

Here was my “Aha!” moment. Yesterday, I cracked open my bottle of Cosmic Cranberry kombucha, and glanced at the “Words of Enlightenment” on the side of the glass bottle. Guys, lemme just preface this by saying God can speak to you literally ANYWHERE, even on the side of a bottle of fermented red liquid.

“I don’t know you, but I love you.”

Oh. My. Gosh. Right then I understood the connection I feel with these people walking around campus. How awesome is it that we can love others that WE DON’T EVEN KNOW because we have a God who KNOWS US down to our very core and loves us still, even in all our brokenness. Key word there is AND. He loves us in all our brokenness.

So, what does this love look like in action? God rocks, because like I’ve said before on this blog, He meets you right where you’re at. My bible study topic for this past week just so happened to be about witnessing/evangelism, aka telling people about Jesus. As I was going through it, a quote I remembered seeing in my senior year Apologetics class popped into my head:

“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.” -Penn Jillette, magician in duo Penn & Teller, atheist

Ikesyay. That’s convicting. It’s also a huge insight into what love really looks like. Love isn’t about telling people what they want to hear. It’s not about clear skies and butterflies and holding hands and 24/7 smooth sailing. It’s about venturing out of your comfort zone, stepping into another person’s shoes, learning how they see the world, and sharing with them the truth that saves. Listen, y’all, Jesus literally bled and died for us BECAUSE HE LOVES US. Jesus’ priority wasn’t to win peoples’ favor. He told them what was true. Even if they didn’t accept it, He still CHOSE to pay for their sins, even though it caused Him pain unlike anything we’ve ever felt so we wouldn’t have to. Love is self-sacrificial.

Matthew 5:46-47 says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Love expects nothing in return.

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I’ll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your love in me. Broken Vessels, Hillsong

Jesus stepped into our shoes. He left the perfection of heaven to live as a human on earth. He knows exactly what we may be going through. He knows our weakness and failure, and he loves us still. And He uses our brokenness and failure for his glory. We’re not perfect, but our God is, and it’s because of His grace that we can love others. Someone recently said, “I’m just way too blessed to NOT share this with the world.” And it’s true; He’s given me an incredible community, and has given me the opportunity to experience a peace and love that nothing in this world can give. How could I not want that for other people?

So, friends, let’s choose to love today.

Love always,

Shannon

Focus

As I’m moving along in this journey called life, I’m realizing that it’s all about perspective. It’s about the lens you see the world through, where you look to when things become blurry.

The past few weeks have been intense. Moving to a new city, being on my own, transitioning out of a class of twenty and into a class of forty thousand, meeting loads of new people who don’t necessarily have the same beliefs as I do. It’s been a challenge, but I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of growth in this short amount of time. It’s honestly kind of blowing my mind.

I think sometimes it’s a safe zone for me to just tell myself, “keep your eyes upward and everything will be ok. Don’t look outward to the world, just up.” The first couple of weeks after I moved in, I found myself praying this often, especially when I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. “God, keep my eyes always looking up. Keep me from being distracted by looking outward to the world.” I had this mindset that everything would be fine and dandy if I just kept my eyes up there.

Then, this past weekend, the pastor at the church I visited preached on Habakkuk. It’s that three-chapter-long book towards the end of the old testament…you know? To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what Habakkuk was even about. I walked in to church hoping that God would give me some direction in getting accustomed to this huge shift in my life, and being the broken person I am, I thought to myself, “this isn’t what I was looking for.”

BOY, WAS I WRONG. (Also, reality check to self–when has what you’ve been looking for ever worked out??)

You see, God has this incredible way of meeting you right where you’re at. After the pastor explained Habakkuk’s struggle of living in a time of immense injustice and violence, he finished the point with Habakkuk’s words, which basically said, “where are you, Lord? Are you just going to let all this happen without doing anything about it?”

The screen went blank. The next words that appeared literally gave me chills.

LOOK OUTWARD.

At that moment I felt God speaking to me clearer than ever.

5 “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.

All this time I had been like a little kid hiding under a blanket, thinking that if I just cover my eyes up, all the bad stuff would disappear. That’s what I would think every time I’d pray “keep my eyes upward.” But God lovingly told me otherwise. “Do not worry, My child, I know what I am doing. Did you ever stop to think…perhaps I am using you for My greater purpose in this phase of your life? Have faith. Not faith you can muster up, but the faith I have given you in Christ. That faith will give you the courage to look out into the world I have placed you in. Trust that I am in control.”

Later on that week, I met with my Bible study for the first time. I flipped open my packet to page 1 and saw this image.

wheel
The Wheel

LOOK UPWARD in conversation with Me. LOOK OUTWARD in fellowship with the Christ community I’ve given you, but also go out and share My love with others. LOOK INWARD. Let My Word be your Guide. Do not be afraid, for it is not your strength that will accomplish these things. I am at the center, and it’s My faith that I’ve gifted to you, beloved.

God speaks. He is not silent. And He is mightily at work in the world.

And it’s in Him alone we find the confidence to look outward.

“You can’t truly rest until every area in your life rests in God.” -A.W. Tozer

Love always,

Shannon

 

 

 

 

 

Here Goes…

IMG_0302.JPGWell, hello there! This is a little surreal to me right now…starting a blog has been a dream of mine for several years now, and guys, it’s finally happening! Three cheers for 20 seconds of courage, amen? I guess now would be a great time to introduce myself. Like the home page says, I’m Shannon, though my family calls me Little She (hence my blog name). I’m a college student of one week, and guys, I’m thoroughly enjoying the collegiate life. The whole tiny room/ microwave meals/ 7+ mile daily walks/ kind of lifestyle’s really working out for me. Anyways, I’m a Chicago-born Florida girl who really, really loves sunshine. I’ve gotta say though, I do really miss my seasons around fall and winter. It definitely took some getting used to having green Christmases after a childhood of white ones! Florida in the springtime, though, is unbeatable.

So, like I mentioned in my bio, I’m majoring in dietetics (aka nutrition). I really have a passion for food and healthy living, so you’ll probably see a whole lot of food-related posts on here. In addition to that, I don’t have a meal plan here at college, so if any of y’all are in the same boat as me and need some dorm-friendly meal ideas, I gotchu. I’ve had a lot of health issues for the past few years, which has caused me to make some big changes in my diet. Currently, I’m eating a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, and that can be TOUGH in college. So hopefully I can help some of you guys out!

I’m a big sister to my not-so-little brother, Connor, who is a senior in high school. I LOVE giving life advice to him and my “pro tips,” and I was planning to make him a senior year timeline and high school/college tips (because we big sis’s have the tendency to tell our sibs what to do…sorry bro, it’s inevitable), and then some other rising seniors asked me about it, and I realized, “why don’t I just put this on the internet for whoever could use it?” Plus, I’d really like to document my college experience and personal growth on here, so there will most definitely be college/school related posts up on here!

Though I’m passionate about all of this, the very most important thing in my life is my Savior. In the past few years, God has revealed so much of Himself to me and has shown me the worth and value I have in Him. I have experienced the peace that comes from trusting God, though it was nothing of my own choosing; out of His great love and mercy I can feel His presence. My hope is that each and every person who reads this blog will encounter His love. I will be sharing my story of His work in my life, as well as some verses  and bible study-type posts!

Thanks for stopping by and beginning this new venture with me! Cheers to new beginnings and simply living life!

Love always,

Shannon