Why Ask Why?

Why?  When my boys were little, why was one of their favorite questions to ask.  Often their questions led to questions of my own.  I would always answer them to the best of my ability, yet at times I would find that I was completely clueless.  In such spaces, I was quick to let my guys know that we could do a little research and find out.

Redeemed, by Kelly O’Neill

As an adult, I try to limit my own set of why questions.  I try not to ask why my friend has had to deal with battling cancer for so long, or why people go on shooting frenzies among innocent people.  I know the general reason is because we live in a broken and fallen world, and that humanity includes ugliness.  Despite a basic understanding of the reality that life isn’t always fair, I still wish that the battle that some have to endure, would not last so long.  I hope and pray to see healing come, yet wait impatiently in the meantime.

God works ALL things together for good for those who love Him… – Romans 8:28.  He doesn’t make the bad happen, but He will redeem it somehow.  Only God can turn wailing into dancing, and remove sackcloth and clothe us with joy – Psalm 30:11.  His ways are not our ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts.  Unless my mouth is closed and my mind and heart open, opportunity for understanding in the ugliness cannot happen.

The wedding I attended last evening was an excellent reminder of just how great God is, and how He redeems even the most excruciating of circumstance.  Radiant, the beautiful bride was a shining example of just how great God is, and how remarkable His redemption can be.  She is a young woman who has been through more difficult and gut-wrenching things than any young woman should ever have to endure.  Yet on this evening, God’s grace and His ability to redeem even the most ravaging of circumstances, was so completely and clearly conveyed, that I was again reminded of how He holds each of us in the palm of His hand and makes even the most trying trials, not only passable, but makes a way for them to be utilized for the incredible.

I have seen this in my own life as well.  Over the span of two years, I have gone from the depths of despair, to a place of eager anticipation.  Two years ago, I encountered the most hellacious year of my life thus far.  I was then led into a year of rebuilding, and now am blessed to be moving on to exhilarating new.  In the midst of my mess, I had to hold onto Hope, as it was all that could keep me afloat.  As I pressed into Him, He showed me time and time again how much He loves me and how He would meet me in the middle of misery, and hold my hand and my heart.  He provided help where I was unable to help myself.

This morning, I find that my question quest is taking a new direction.  Rather than ask the question “Why?, I am discovering that the true question ought to be “How”?  How will God redeem this hard or horrible happening?  How can I be made new in the midst of my mess?  How will You meet my every need?  God is bigger than our questions and delights in granting us answers as we draw near to Him.  Though the answer may not be anything I would have ever imagined, it is always for a greater good, provided by a loving God.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Limitless Love

Love without limits.  Such a lofty and lovely idea, yet so difficult to grasp.  The very concept of being loved to the point where another would be willing to die in my place, is quite challenging to comprehend.

I am broken, bogged down and sinful, yet He alone who is able to love completely, loves me.  In fact, His love is without limits.  Psalm 103:11 states “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him.”   The first portion, as high as the heavens are above the earth, describes an infinite space that may not be measured.  An average measure of the distance from the earth to the moon is 238,857 miles.  In a car, my longest road trip was from Tacoma, WA to Madison, WI.  It took a few days of round-the-clock driving, and that was only 1,835 miles.  That was a heck of a drive.  Comparing that drop-in-the-bucket to infinite space is baffling.

Part two of the verse is telling me that the overwhelming, limitless distance is a parallel for the depth of God’s love for me.  He loves me so much, that He not only will meet me in my broken ugliness, but He sent His only Son to die in my place, as my horrid humanity deserves death.  This limitless love is available to all who fear Him.

Fear is not simple to be terrified or afraid, rather it is an acute awareness of God’s divinity and all that He embodies.  His greatness, power, holiness, majesty, grace and authority are without limit and meant to be revered.  The very attributes of God are available as I walk with Him.  God is not to be taken lightly or set aside for a rainy day.  He is not a tool to take out of the toolbox when trouble comes.  Rather, He is One to be worshipped, loved, and listened to continually, as He provides for my every need.  As I draw near to Him, He is forever found.  My small and insignificant steps are matched with leaps and bounds of a loving Lord.

The closest parallel that I can find is the love I have for my children.  From the moment I was made aware of their existence, I have loved my boys with all that I am.  I would sacrifice all that I have, even my very life, to keep them safe and secure.  My love for them is not limited by their behavior, rather it is simply because they are mine.  I, in my broken humanity, am not capable of loving with even a glimmer of the glorious love given by God, yet it is the closest comparison I can comprehend as I grapple to grasp the goodness of God.  His love for me is without flaw, and I am forgiven the moment I make the request.  Not only does He forgive, but He does not bring it back up again.

My charge is to seek Him and fear Him with my whole heart, and He in return, lavishes me with His perfect and limitless love.  I want to love without limits, just as the Lord loves me.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Treasuring Time

Flashing cursor, time is short.  What to share?  I have a finite bit of time and much to do.  That is just this morning…

We are blessed with the presence of dear friends here to visit.  We have not seen them in more than ten years.  Both families have doubled in size since we last met, and time has not created a divide.  The four kids instantly were friends, and began playing and chatting happily from the get go.  My concern as to whether or not they would appreciate our furry friends that are just outside the guest room, were quickly cured, as the moment I spoke of our dogs, their faces lit up, and their sweet, shy girl was beaming.  They told me that she would be in heaven with access to one dog, let alone, our two.

After sharing an evening meal, all four cherubs wanted to play in the pool.  In they went.  Spinning, flipping, bobbing, and splashing, with a few minor arguments over pool toys, the quad of kids was loving it.  When the arguing became apparent to have been fueled by exhaustion, soggy sweeties stepped out of the pool and into dry clothes.  A walk was in order, as sugar from their pudding was still surging through their bodies.

Off we went on a blackberry-picking, light saber wielding adventure.  The boys directed our route, and alternated between running and dueling, as we delighted in the hint of warmth that remained into the evening.  After finding a few blackberries that were ready and ripe, we continued our wander down to the beach.  Stone-skipping, log-walking, and a bit of splashing, all took place on this enchanting eve.  As the sky began to shade out the last rays of sunshine, we made our way for home.  More skipping, running and light saber battling.

Soon, there were four cherubs, two by two in the bunks in the boys room.  Despite their giggles and animated chatter, silence soon fell.  Our dear darlings were done.

This morning, as I woke to a silent house and am seated and sipping coffee, I am in awe as to how God weaves people in and out of our lives.  Our dear friends are from New Zealand, living in Germany, and I met them in Montana many years ago.  Despite the distance, our hearts found one another familiar in a familial way.  We are all firm in our faith, and find comfort and rest in one another’s presence.  Though their visit will be much too brief,  I am choosing to make the most of every moment.  This is why I am up and ready to spend a few hours on the mural before the sun has actually had time to fully rise.  Life is good and God is great.  He blesses in wonderful ways, and this evening, yet another dear family that found friendship in Montana all those years ago, will join us for time together.  I want to be in the moment, and savor each one.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Gifts Growing in Grace

I have some phenomenal friends that are so clearly using the gifts that God has given them, that I am both blessed by their belief and challenged to trust that the gifts He has given me, are valuable and valid in all that He is calling me to do.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – I Peter 4:10

 All of us have been given gifts by God and are called to use them to extend grace and to serve others.  Our charge is to bless and serve others as we have been blessed and served.  No two gifts look the same, nor are they expressed exactly the same way.  I think it is easy to fall into the fallacy that God’s gifts are limited to teaching or serving in “traditional” ways.  Yes, teaching is a gift, various aspects of ministry are a gift, community service is a gift, yet there are numerous other presents that God has placed in people to bless and serve others.

The hours being spent on this mural project, have been some of my sweetest stints of the summer so far.  Also, I wake each morning with an anticipation as to what God is going to teach me as I read and then process in writing.  As I do these things, I find His presence and His peace – present.

I am discovering that it is in doing these things that I enjoy the most, God graciously takes my token and uses it to bless others.  It is overwhelming to think that by risking exposure as I write and as I convey mental images to canvas, I am actually being available to share God’s grace with others.  In doing the very things that bring delight to my being and soothe my soul, I can clearly feel my Heavenly Father’s pleasure and presence.  Likewise, I am amazed and overwhelmed by the responses that return to me through what is presented.  By taking what God is teaching me and sharing how it is impacting my life, He can use it to speak to the souls of those in need.

What a beautiful blessing to behold.  The things that I enjoy most, are actually gifts of grace given by God.  This revelation challenges me to charge ahead in faith, trusting that He will continue to meet me as I follow His instruction in my life and further grow the gifts He has granted.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Alleviating Anxiety

Anxiety is a funny thing that has only recently been recognized on my radar.  Perhaps my many years of suppressing intense emotions created a lack of awareness of the angst that anxiety was administering.  Despite denial of said dubious emotion, evidence of its existence has been around for years; I was simply blind to what it truly was.

Internal earthquakes envelop me as I lay down to sleep sometimes, causing chaos in my mind as fears of fibrillations find footing when my insides shake.  Detestable dental damage caused by continuous grinding in my sleep is also symptomatic of stress that has evoked anxiety.  Somehow, despite such undesirable displays, I still did not see that anxiousness was attacking me.

Over the past many months, as I have found courage to converse candidly with wise women, it has been brought to my attention that aforementioned incidents, are direct displays of anxiety in action.  Since this dubious discovery was made, I have found myself challenged to give it to God, each time my heart has begun to pound to the point of pain.

In 2 Peter 5:7, I am charged with the following – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  Ever so surprisingly, this charge was put into place again yesterday.  As I was sitting in the dentist office, being prepped for my first crown, my heart began to beat like a bass drum, and my rapid rise and release of stagnant air felt as if it might strangle me.  I wanted to leap out of the chair and run.  Fortunately, though my thoughts may wander to impulsiveness, my logical side dominates in determining my actions.  So as I lay reclined in the chair, my heart and mind called out to Him to bring His peaceful presence in the midst of this madness.  In a matter of moments, as my mind meditated on my Maker, a soothing sense of His presence permeated my panicked persona.  Though I was not altogether comfortable, nor was I enjoying the procedure of drilling and grinding, poking and prodding, I was able to remain calm and stay put.

As I continue to forge forward in faith and trust Him, I am all the more aware of anxiety when it appears.  Each time it rises up, I must choose – sit in silence and suffer, or give it to God, and allow Him to alleviate the angst.  I have no intention of allowing anxiety to cripple my courage to do as I am called to do, so today, I again choose to trust and open my heart and mind to all that He has for me.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Coronation Day

Yep, it is true.  Today, I will receive a crown.  Sadly, it is not an ornate bedazzled sort of headdress, rather it is fashioned from porcelain and meant to be ground down and adhered to my tooth.  This particular tooth has been an irritant for months now.  I have not chewed anything on the left side of my mouth in ages.  Every so often I get brave and attempt to chew something soft on that side, and am promptly reminded as to why I do not.

Despite the dysfunction of the tooth’s current state, I dread the thought of the digging and grinding and drilling.  I do not particularly enjoy dental discomfort, especially as I have extremely “nervy” teeth and blow through novocain before every procedure is ever complete.  My dentist always knows when the numbness has worn off, as my eyes exponentially expand at the horror of newly found nerve pain.  I then have to make a decision as to whether to tough it out for a few more minutes, or take the booster shot and have partial paralysis on one side of my face for several more hours.  Neither option is appealing, and by this point, I am ready to run for the hills.  I always get through it and leave with a smile on my face (though sometimes a crooked one), regardless of the agony that I have endured.

Again this morning I found my thoughts wandering as I woke, only to discover that a lesson was lingering in all of this.  I sit in my brokenness and dread the process of healing.  I don’t like digging or prying to proceed in painful places, and I certainly do not desire to have raw nerves exposed.  However, in my current state, I am not fully functional.  If I allow the rotten, infectious spots to remain, the pain will persist and ultimately will spread to other spaces.  It is only in going through the painful healing process that I am restored and renewed.  Places previously off limits, become new-found gifts that are waiting to be utilized.

As I march boldly into that dental office and allow my dentist to do the work necessary to bring healing in my mouth, I need to also boldly enter my Savior’s presence and allow His healing in my heart.  I will attempt to embrace my new crown and regain the ability to chew on both sides of my mouth.  Likewise, I will remember that the ultimate crown is already on my head, as I can confidently claim that I am indeed a daughter of the King.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Transcending Terror

I find myself in such a strange space this morning.  Somewhere between terror and trust, as I attempt to process the reality of what transpired in the wee hours of the morning.

Super Spouse works late, as his employing industry caters to late night crowds.  This morning when he wandered into our room and crawled into our bed, I could feel something amiss in the air.  As I willed my lids open, I asked the familiar question, “How was your night?”  Unbeknownst to me, this was a particularly loaded question this morning.  His response, “do you really want to know?”  My head, heart, and hands all reached toward him to reassure him that I did indeed want to know.  Visibly shaken, the story of what had transpired such a short time before, began to unfold.

The restaurants he oversees are also connected to a night club within the massive space where he works.  Though he does not work in the night club, his path on any given shift passes the club, and on many occasion he has been called on as a visible presence to persuade peace, as his very stature can intimidate the agitated.  On this particular night, things became very ugly, and someone pulled a gun and fired several shots in the club.  Five people were shot before someone tackled the shooter to the ground and ended the tirade of terror.

Though exhaustion seemed to overtake him before he divulged much of his personal response, his heart was heard when he expressed his gratitude that none of his fellow employees were harmed.  To me, this speaks volumes.

My first thought as he explained what had ensued was THANK YOU JESUS FOR PROTECTING HIM.  Each night as I put the boys to bed, we always include protection for Daddy as he works and as he travels home, in our prayers.  In my own limited understanding, my idea of protection was to keep him safe from the hazards found in the kitchen – sharp knives, hot stoves, etc., not for fighting fatality.  I am so grateful that God sees and knows the reality, and is not limited by my take on things. 

For me, this is a radical reminder of the power and the pertinence of prayer.  Heaven hears our hearts when we call on Him.  He is faithful to provide protection and His peaceful presence even in the eye of the storm.  “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” – Matthew 21:22  In the days to come, I imagine I will have a renewed passion as I pray.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Sanctifying Soul

Sanctification is to be made free from sin.  So often my sinfulness is subtle, hidden in the thoughts that resound in my heart and mind, rather than something spoken or seen.  The thoughts that I harbor in my heart can be just as detrimental as diabolical deeds.  Entertaining unkind or retaliatory thoughts is equally toxic to those given a voice or acted out.  Though they are not directly harmful to another, such sin keeps me from the fullness of all that my Father has for me.

“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” – I Peter 2:23 

Jesus did not repay evil for evil, and He made no threats despite His devastation.  Jesus knew that His Heavenly Father would be the ultimate judge, and that He would be just in His judgment.  Because Jesus trusted His Father to make things right, He handed all of the hurts and harm to Him.  Though He was fully God, and would have been justified to right such hideous wrongs, He knew that in allowing God to work on His behalf, the gateway to grace would be given to all.

I need to give my hurts to my Heavenly Help, and trust that He will make things right.  My idea of justice is flawed and lacking grace.  His, grants grace and opportunity to rectify wrongs.  Though aggravating at times, I am thankful, as in my own hurting humanity, I also have harmed others.  I too deserve death, yet have been furnished with forgiveness and granted the grace to go forth in the freedom found in my Heavenly Father.

Soul surrendered, I place myself in His hands, and entrust Him to judge justly.  I need His grace and His goodness to be extended to me, likewise I must accept that He will do the same for others.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Trust in Truth

“Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.  Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. – James 5:12

Swearing by anything to convey that my words are true, is not trusting God to guard my integrity nor my reputation.  If I am walking upright before Him, then I must simply speak truth.  My yes and my no are enough, and His trust is what matters.

Though slander may be spoken, I must trust God and allow His truth to triumph.  Attempts at arguments or vehement denial, only lead to a serious spiral downward.  What may have begun as a hurtful statement, or misguided proclamation, becomes the catalyst for cursing and unkind comments.  It is my charge to hold my tongue and speak as Jesus spoke.  Truth spoken in love is what will not only last, but will set stories straight and lift lives to trust Truth, rather than rely on rumors.

If my true concern is to simply operate in honesty and integrity, and I cease to allow myself to be concerned with what others think, the spiral will stop. In the silent stillness, His truth will be seen.  There is no condemnation in Christ, because He has set us free through His sacrifice once and for all. (paraphrase of Romans 8:1-3)  He sets us free from all sorts of sin, and allows only truth to remain.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Deliberately Designed

From sketch to fruition, this process of moving a drawing into a larger-than-life mural, is really becoming a reality.  Day one, we managed to completely paint the monstrous foyer wall white.  In doing so, the entire entry became brighter and more cheery.  Once complete, the canvas had been properly primed for day two.

Today marked the start of our second day.  Despite a minor mix-up with white paint that wasn’t actually white, the design has begun to take form as we have chalked and penciled many of our main lines.  Also, we completed the first spot of colorful paint with a brilliant and bold purple.  Somehow, through the addition of painted lines, this entire project took on a new form.  It was as if by adding color, the sea of possibilities began to rise out of our waiting wall.  The vision that seemed so clear in its original sketch, now unfolding into actuality.

I wonder if that is how God sees us?  He knows how we have been designed, as He is the Designer; and He, by giving us breath, is adding paint to the canvas of our lives.  If we come to Him, He will add color and lines and details.  He will create a beautiful portrait from muddied piles of paint, if we are willing to allow Him to work.  His love is the primer that covers the stains and scars.  The shield of His sacred sacrifice, washes our canvas clean, so that He may create, without blemish or scar hindering His design.  The more we move toward Him, the clearer His design becomes, as presence permits us a pass to peek at the masterpiece in the making.  He grants us glimpses of His design for our lives as we draw near.  I imagine too, that at times throughout the process, He stands back to not only view what is before Him, but to envision that which is yet to come.  The longer we walk with Him, the clearer our portrait becomes.

Daily, I have a choice.  I can either move more toward the Master, and allow Him to bring His design to life, or I can go at it on my own, and never see past the end of my own existence.  On my own, I move toward my own ambition and desires, which simply do not have the capacity to mold into mastery. In Him, I am being transformed from a blank canvas to a magnificent masterpiece.

I would much prefer to become a masterpiece, rather than remain a muddied mess.  It is only by His grace can anything glorious be grown in me, so that it may in turn, be given to others.

“For we are God’s craftsmanship, created in Christ to do good works…” – Ephesians 2:10

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present