Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Shank Family Christmas

We're not conventional on Christmas day.  We don our new Christmas pajamas all day long because we don't plan to go anywhere.  (I didn't even consider changing when I went to shut the fans down at the mill.)  Several years ago, my husband decided that we would start having a family-only Christmas day.  We spend the day at home with our children doing only what we want.  It's the one day each year that we do only what we want as a family--no working, no worries, no stress.  There are 364 other days of the year to deal with work, expectations, and drama. 

Yesterday was great!  We slept in, opened our gifts, ate our favorite breakfast, grazed on snack foods, played games and rode 4-wheelers.

Clue #1 for the big gift search

The dog salon--bows, perfume, even for their brother's dog

Brandon's contribution--a deer bologna angel

Merry Christmas one and all!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Finding Relief

This past week has felt like an avalanche of boulders had fallen directly on top of me.  By Wednesday I was crushed.  I felt anxious, blindsided, bashed, and then betrayed by various situations.  Plus I had to get a root canal.  I just didn't know where to turn or what to do because it was all so overwhelming and the week was only half way through.  I felt the strange urge to fast.

I must admit that several years ago when a friend mentioned fasting, I thought she was crazy--as in over the top strange.  Why would anyone choose not to eat?  As I do when I have questions, I googled "fasting" and found useful Information from a reputable resource.  Not eating wasn't that hard (minus when I mindlessly picked up that popcorn-Alicia).  I purposely tried to be more aware of praying.  I was finally honest about how I was feeling.  "Why is it all so hard?" I just want everything to be stable for a little while.

Being more aware of my need to focus on prayer gave me peace with the possible outcomes.  I could honestly say that even if what I thought was a poor decision couldn't change, I was at peace with the situation.

I don't know if I would call it failure but by mid afternoon today I had to stop fasting to eat.  My headache was rapidly progressing into a migraine and I knew I couldn't take medicine without food.  I actually felt guilty and almost turned around instead of getting food.  My guilt is starting to leave--I had a chocolate chip cookie tonight also.

Here's my thought for tonight.

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you."

Moses told this to the people as they were preparing to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land with Joshua.  Like my life, their's needed to be a journey walking by faith.  Sometimes rocky, winding, and even confusing--but allowing God to lead.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The New Normal in Schools

My daughters got off the bus this evening with an alarming story.  They had spent part of their afternoon huddled in a classroom bathroom and behind the risers in a music room.

I received a telephone call this afternoon stating that due to police activity in the neighborhood the schools had been placed on modified lockdown this afternoon.  Modified lockdown is common when there is police activity in the area and requires everyone to stay in the school and eliminates visitors. This was more than modified lockdown.  According to my daughter, it was lockdown followed by modified lockdown.

I appreciate the staff's efforts to keep my children safe but I can't help but be sad that not even school is safe anymore.  Beginning this week, classroom doors are always closed and locked now.  The girls told about other children who were crying.  My oldest daughter said that she was shaking.  They were both afraid.

I must admit though that I was proud of my daughter who said that she prayed while crouching behind the risers.  Luckily, it was a false alarm.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rabbit Hunters

I wish that I had the thoughtfulness to take a picture of the wild rabbit hunting that I witnessed last weekend but unfortunately I did not.  Alas, I will have to attempt to paint the picture for you.  My daughters and their friends watched a wild rabbit running through our corn field Sunday afternoon, I believe the dog was following close behind.  The next thing that I knew, they came into the house scheming about how to catch a wild rabbit and what tools they needed.

After parameters were set as to where their search area could be, armed with a 5-gallon bucket, a sand bucket, and a sand wagon, they set off to search for the wild rabbit.  This rabbit was destined to become our newest pet.  The dog was not invited on the trip but 4 little girls set off on an adventure.  Watching them out the kitchen window, I knew that they had no chance of catching the speedy bunny but I admired their ingenuity and creativity.  I love that they could happily play outside--no tv, no computer, just imagination.

Needless to say, they didn't catch the rabbit but it was a good story.  

I was reading in Genesis about Noah last week and wondered how he was able to gather all the animals.  Catching a rabbit would have been easy compared to Noah's task.  I had always had a vision of Noah somehow herding the animals.  It wasn't until this time that I noticed a very important part.

Genesis 7:8-9 "Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, CAME to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah."

Noah wasn't out with a bucket collecting the animals.  As only God could orchestrate, the animals came to the ark.  God doesn't call us to an impossible job without equipping us with the tools to succeed.  We need only to believe in his ways and time.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Truth

I'm only on Week 2, Day 2 in Live Second but already I'm being pushed. 

Today's bible passage is Genesis 15:1-3.  In the passage, Abraham questions God about his promise to make Abraham a great nation.  At this point, Abraham is still without a son and he believes that his trusted servant will be his heir.  I completely understand Abraham's impatience.  Too many times to count, I have requested an answer and then complained when it didn't come quick enough.  I'm not sure that I am brave enough to actually question God about the delay like Abraham.  Who am I to question God's timing?

The problem with holding back is that God already knows my thoughts.  I'm lying to God when I stew about questions that I have but am not willing to talk to God.  I would be annoyed if my husband stewed about something instead of talking to me--why do I do it to God?  There has to be a difference between ungratefulness/pride and honesty. 

Reading on, here comes the challenge.

"Talk with God
  God, this is what is going on in my life and this is what I need..."

Try answering that question honestly.  First I have to be honest with myself and then I need to be brave enough to speak the truth. 

What's going on?  I'm still super busy and haven't found a balance between work and family.  I am sold-out to missions work but I don't know how to incorporate that into our lives without sacrificing other responsibilities.  I'm tired--in just about every way. 

What do I need?  To get some projects done to feel relief.  Sleep (seriously).  To force myself to start exercising again.  And that's just the beginning.

Want to do the study for yourself, look for Live Second: 365 Ways to Put Jesus First.  You can view the films at

3 Books that Everyone Needs

If you ever had a desire to become authentic, I want to suggest three books to help you on your journey.

The first and most important is a Bible.  I won't suggest a version other than to make clear that you need an accurate translation that does not take artistic liberties with the content and context.  Personally, I use an NIV Life Application Study Bible that I find easy to read with useful footnotes.

The next two books are from the I Am Second program. 

I Am Second is full of honest testimonies that provide hope for anyone.  The Seconds featured range from athletes and celebrities to regular people.  Everyone is open about their lives, choices, and struggles.  There is no veil of perfection.  This is a book about life--anyone and everyone's life.  It is also a book about the hope that we can all find when we choose to put God first.

Product Details
Picture from Amazon
Live Second: 365 Ways to Put Jesus First  is the newly-released companion to I Am SecondLive Second is a daily devotional that focuses on being honest about yourself and applying biblical principals to our lives.  Live Second is easy to follow and written in a manner that allows you to decide the depth of your study.  On Day 1 of each week, you will watch a Second film.  The remaining days all follow that week's theme.  As I read the bible passage each day, I find myself finding "new" information and thinking deeper about what the passages really mean and how they apply to my life.  The combination of films and bible passages help me to focus on how to change my life while also appreciating others.

Product Details
Picture from Amazon
Both of these books are written in a way that is easy for anyone to read and appreciate.  As a bonus, if you buy Live Second  by December 15th and e-mail a copy of your receipt to you will receive free film downloads for use in teaching others.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Created in God's Image

I have started the new devotional book Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.  Day 1 began with watching Dr. Tony Evans' Second film.  Day 2 focused on Image.  This combination makes me rethink what image really means.

Genesis 1:27 "God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Dr. Evans describes the reality of growing up as a black male in Baltimore.  It seemed like his life story had been written at birth.  As a black male, there were places he could not go.  There were people he could not associate with.  His career would be limited to those jobs suitable for a black man.  Those thoughts seem unimaginable to me.  Baltimore is not Montgomery, Alabama.  Maryland was even a border state during the Civil War, land scarred by battles and households divided.  The story of segregation is not told here.  Racism--yes, even now.  Segregation--no.  Just a few weeks ago I was completely floored by a racist comment made by a strong Christian who still clings to past experiences.  How could he judge an entire ethicity by a few people?  There is still an acceptability of racism when touted as humor.  The air of superiority lingers even within the church.

The God of our universe created us, all of us, in his image.  He had every single person in mind on Day 6 of creation when as the passage says he "created mankind in his own image."  Some where along the way I heard the phrase "God doesn't make junk."  It's the truth.  He gave every single person the opportunity to be loved.  This world may not respect every person but God the Father created each individual and more importantly he loves every person. 

If every person we encountered looked just like us, would we be able to degrade them?  If as the homeless person on the street glanced at us we saw our own face, would we care more?  The diversity of God's creation allows everyone to be beautiful and worthy. 

God's image isn't limited to White, Middle to Upper Class Americans.  His image includes those of African, Latino, Hispanic, Eastern European, Native American, and Middle Eastern decent.  His image includes men, women, and children.  His image includes wealthy and poor alike.  God's image transcends the ethnicity and status of our birth or earthly work. 

My thoughts drift back to holding my friends' son yesterday morning--putting stickers on a picture, coloring, playing cars with my son and his friends.  Is he worth less than the other children in that class because he was born in Africa? 

I think NOT!  He is God's son, made in his image.  He is worthy of love and respect, even without the fact that he's cute (and that's not just coming from his "favorite aunt"). 

We are ALL made in God's image.  How do we choose to live?