Forging Forward

I am always amazed at how much prompting seems necessary in order for me to step out of my comfortable anonymity and into a position of transparency.  Though I typically am awarded fair warning that a call is coming, it takes extreme discomfort and near distress for me to actually listen and obey.   This evening, I found myself in just such a position.

One of my least favorite social settings is one in which a room is filled with strangers or mere acquaintances, and I am expected to mingle and get to know someone new.  It is awkward and uncomfortable, as I typically end up in conversation tennis, rather than actually engaging in an interchange.  Then, if that weren’t uncomfortable enough, the next step after sharing a meal, was to all be seated in a circle where volunteers took turns sharing their thoughts on the topic raised.  I was asked a direct question in the beginning, so I thought I was home-free.  I had stepped out of my safety and answered a question.  Okay, off the hook, now I can relax and observe.  Or so I thought.  It was working for a while.  Thoughts and words would enter my consciousness, and my heart began to pound like a bass drum in a marching band during a parade.  I at times wondered if others were actually able to hear the seemingly audible sound.  Fortunately, each time the pounding started to peak, someone else would speak out and allow me to remain in my silent safety.

Then, as our time was coming to a close, the pounding began to squeeze in my chest to near panic, and it felt as though my heart had traveled up to my throat.  That need-to-vomit feeling found way to my gut, and I knew that I had arrived at the moment of truth; my choice was to either exit and make peace with the porcelain, or I would have to give in and actually speak.  So, with trembling hands and a voice to match, I spoke the words that were screaming in my soul.  Terror tore into my heart as transparency transpired.  All eyes did not spin and gawk at me, rather my words were acknowledged and another person stepped up and spoke.  No finger-pointing or looks of horror, just noted words by prayerful hearts.  Our time together ended and we all parted ways.  Though my heart was still pounding and my hands were still trembling, I managed to gather my guys and escape with a smile on my face.

God’s grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  His words resound, when I allow my voice to be found.  I am called to step out in faith, and because faith is a verb, it requires action.  Momentum must be maintained, or it is no longer a form of faith.  I want to walk by faith and not by sight.  I desire to step out beyond what I see as possible, and allow God to make all things possible.  Again I surrender my own strength, and choose to forge forward with unfailing faith in my heavenly Father.

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

Perfect Peace

In this crazy, busy life, quietness and peace are not always easy to come by.  In fact, it seems that the more that I pursue peace, the more it eludes me. 

As I was reading in Isaiah 32 this morning, this portion of verse 17 really jumped out at me – “The fruit of righteousness will be peace…”  Yet another verse that seemed to summon me to dig deeper.  First of all, fruit does not just magically appear; it must begin as a seed, be watered, tended, protected and pruned. After many seasons of sowing, a harvest may be reaped.  The peace which Isaiah is referring to is God’s perfect peace.  If peace is the fruit, then righteousness, it appears, is the sowing.  Okay, another tough one to grasp.

Righteousness, after searching dictionaries, concordances, and of course reading the word in context, may be defined as following the example that Jesus set for us during His time on earth.  His whole objective was to walk in His Father’s will.  His purpose was to do all that He was called to do, with an attitude of obedience and a heart that was ready and willing to serve.  This often can be confused with the idea that we have to “do” this, that, or the other thing to “earn” our way to heaven.  As I see it, it is not a “to do” list to earn something, rather it is an example of the condition of our heart that leads to Him.  Righteousness is living right before Him.  Not being perfect, rather being present in His presence and being the person that He has created me to be.  Each of us have been created for a purpose and given gifts that equip us to give Him glory as we do all that He calls us to do, in word, thought and in action.

So, when I seek Him with my whole heart and am willingly walking in obedience, His perfect peace works its way into my heart, even in the midst of chaos.  I need not pursue peace, rather I am to seek the Author of perfect peace.  When I am seeking Him, I am found.  When I am found, I am known.  When I am known, peace finds me.

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

Nearing New

Early morning is my favorite time of the day.  Though my idea of early during the summer is a bit warped in comparison to the schedule of the school year, there is something so majestic about waking to a still and silent house.  The only sounds that are to be heard, are the singing birds beyond my kitchen window, and the rhythmic tapping as my fingers dance around the keyboard.  Today is particularly wonderful, as the sun that has been hiding for more than a week, appears to be attempting to reclaim its space in the sky.  In addition to the promise of warmth, the dawn of a new direction in my adventures in artistry had me up and ready to go, long before my alarm.

New.  Such a necessary and wonderful word.  New babies, new clothes, new projects, new friends, new opportunities, new understanding – all draw out a child-like enthusiasm.  Not only is it a new morning, but it is day one of the mural project.  In early June, I was presented with the possibility of creating a mural for the gym foyer at my school.  An initial idea was given, and my dear friend (whom I called immediately) and I decided to take things a different direction.  We wanted to create something new.  After a wander around the school, we recognized brilliant brickwork all around campus.  Our idea born that day, was to incorporate images that we had seen in the brick, into the mural.  Together, we began to sketch out our ideas, and something beautiful was born.  Change.

Change instills guarded enthusiasm.  I anticipate good things, yet hesitate at the possibility of pain.  This mural will change the look of the lobby.  Color and energy will coat the once barren walls.  The canvas is ready and waiting, summoning change.  My mind’s eye can already see its completion, yet momentary fear attempts entry.  What if it looks awful?  Wait a minute.  How could going from drab to fab look awful?!  This will be a terrific transformation.  It will be a long and arduous process, but the reward will be remarkable.

Of course there is a parallel in my own life.  God always seems to use my moments of reflection on the tangible, to teach me something that previously had not really resonated clearly enough in its abstract form.  Change is good.  Like the wall that has little adornment, so is my heart in its place of emotional isolation.  Transforming the wall will be tedious, time-consuming and at times, messy, yet the end result will be beautiful.  This change that is taking place in my self-proclaimed emotional cocoon, is tedious, time-consuming, and at times, messy, yet He will make the end result, beautiful.  My natural tendency to be completely guarded, is being stripped away.  He is calling me to be transparent.  To be seen.  To allow others to truly know my heart, and in turn allow others the opportunity to know His.  This change that is making me new needs to be embraced.  Rather than fight each step, I am to lay hold of the heart of my Healer and allow Him to work.  Though the wall will not resist transformation, it will require commitment to the process of change.  Likewise, I am to commit myself to the charge to be changed.  As I throw on old clothes to begin the process of transforming the wall, I will also adorn myself with an open heart and mind to the mending of my Maker.  Today, I am being made new.

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

Freedom in the Father

“…The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?” – Hebrews 13:6

I know that God is with me always.  I know that He is good, and is my ever-present help in time of need.  Alas, I need not fear, as mere man cannot take away the gifts and grace that God has granted.

Eesh.  Though humanity cannot take away God’s promises or His love for me, people can toy with my emotions and hurt my heart.  I understand logically that the Lord is my help and I do not need to fear, but my emotions do not always cooperate.  I know that God is with me, yet I still feel fear.  I am rarely afraid of what is seen, rather I fear the unseen and the unknown, as the “What if” questions have a habit of haunting me, as do the hurtful words of humans.  If I am to truly lay hold of the words spoken in Hebrews 13, I must recognize every such thought that enters my mind, and hand it to my ever-present Help.  He who knows my thoughts before I think them, is certainly more than able to make fear flee and grant me freedom from words that hurt my heart. 

The dilemma, is whether or not I will do my part.  Will I give fear and anxiousness to Him, or will I entertain excruciating thoughts?  With His help, I find I am free from fear.  When I rely on myself, I allow fear to find a foothold.  My Father is willing to fight for my freedom.  I simply have to ask.

A life free from fear, is what I desire.  When fear is overcome, faith finds the fight to rise up and allow me to be whom I’ve been made to become.  When I trust Him completely, the impossible becomes possible.  He makes a way, where there previously was no way, and I begin to discover how my Father delights in granting His daughter the freedom to grow.  As I grow in the understanding of His love and grace for me, I become better able to extend the very same love and grace to others.  He is my help; and by faith, I will not fear.

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

Running the Race

Hebrews 12:1 tells us that “therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

The Message likens the great cloud of witnesses to all of the men and women of faith that have gone before us, surrounding us and cheering us on as we run our race.  We are not merely jogging around the block, rather we are to run a marathon.  Mile after mile, digging deep and pressing on.  Our charge is to get rid of the excess layers that weigh us down and attempt to distract us from running our own race.  It is easy to become discouraged when that giant, endless, winding mountain of a hill is all that you can see before you.  Based on my own running experience, if I looked too far ahead of me, I became overwhelmed by the height that I was called to climb.  The strategy that made the race manageable, was to carefully keep my eyes directly in front of me, and remember He who is running right beside me.  He who gave me the guts to run, will provide the gusto required to master the mountain.

Another strategy that I found immensely helpful in running long races, was to focus on my breathing.  When I was able to simply fix my attention to breathing in deeply, rhythmically and consistently, energy and strength surrounded and sustained me.  Spending time in the Word in a life of faith, is as breathing while running a race.  Without it, it is impossible to be sustained to finish the entire race.  I  must fix my eyes on the example set before me, and allow my mind to meditate on He who not only finished the race He was called to run, but He who was the winner of the ultimate reward.  Jesus, who endured the weight of the sins of the world on the cross, now sits at the top of the podium.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father, illuminated in glory.

My desire is not to pound pavement for a place on the podium, rather I want to run the race as my Redeemer maps out, so that I may one day meet Him face to face.  I want to hear the words, “well done” from the ultimate Coach, and spend all of eternity with Him.  I am not so concerned with running swiftly, rather I long to stay strong and finishing the entire race I am called to run.  He provides me with His presence and His “race plan”.  It is my charge to press into Him and run the race He requires of me.  He alone sustains and strengthens me, and allows me to draft off of Him when I grow weary.  By faith, I will run and not grow weary, I will walk and not grow faint.  I surrender my plan to Him, and look to my heavenly Father to show me where to place each foot as I run my race.

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

Renewing Resolve

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23

Though a relatively short verse, it is a loaded charge.  I am called to hold on to my expectancy, my longing, for that which is yet to come.  I am to profess my faith by my word and deed through love, because God keeps His word and was the perfect example of how I am to live a life of love, fueled by faith and hope.  He is trustworthy and true, therefore I must be trusting – knowing that He will do what He says He will do.

In theory, this is relatively simple.  His promises have been written on my heart since I was quite young.  The truth found in His word, resides in the hollows of my heart and mingles throughout the matter in my mind.  I know He is good, and I know that He loves me without conditions.  I also know that He has given me love, compassion and kindness for others.

In practice, this can be a challenge.  I long for what is yet to come, but I am human and I want my heart to be held here on earth.  I want to know that I am loved and valued by humans, not God alone.  Though I am loved by family and dear friends, there are times when it feels as if love is all but lost.

Loneliness, isolation, longing – all have the ability to derail me and place doubt where destiny resides.  Feelings and emotions, have a way of muddling truth.  When I feel wounded, I wonder where love has gone.  The reality is that God is still God and His love is unchanged.  His presence remains, regardless of my own awareness.  My hope becomes hindered by what is seen, rather than upheld by what is not.

Thankfully, God is full of grace.  He provides people to make the unseen visible and the unheard audible.  God gives people the privilege of being His heart, His hands, and His voice to those who are in need. God becomes tangible through His created.  He grants me abundant grace as I grapple to grasp His truth, and renews my resolve to try to take trust and hope by the hand, and hold on with all that I am.  His strength is made perfect in my weakness, so I am learning that I would much prefer His strength to my own.  Though I am strong, my strength is limited.  His is not.  I would rather rely on what will never end, than that which will grow weary.  He is good, and in Him, I am being made new.

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

Birthday Blessings

L'Auburge Entrance

Glorious grounds welcomed us as we reached the driveway of our awaited destination.  One night in an amazing honeymoon suite at a beautiful French B&B tucked in the trees in Woodinville on our agenda.  We were greeted by the kind proprietress, and escorted to our suite.  Every detail so carefully and thoughtfully attended to, as freshly-baked pastries and fresh fruit enticed our senses upon arrival.  Already, I was sold.  Though I only sampled a small taste of the gluten-laden goodness, it was enough to know that this woman is a queen among French chefs.

We spent a short time taking in the view and admiring our digs for the night before pulling out the laptop for directions to a potential dining destination.  I had perused the web at home, so I had an idea as to where I was hoping to go.  Super spouse and I read over the reviews and determined that my selection seemed suitable.  After changing out of our driving duds and taking it up a notch (dang it – I forgot to have someone take a picture!) and dress in evening attire.  All gussied up, we wandered back to our car and exited our oasis in the woods.

Upon arrival at our destination, The Big Fish Grill, we charged in to a cheery greeting of a trio of friendly employees.  Once seated, the delectable offerings all appeared extremely enticing. (not to mention I was famished after not eating lunch…)  Birthday beverage and choice calamari ordered, the entree selection process ensued.  I decided on the mahi mahi in an orange berr blanc sauce with saffron rice and fresh greens.  Super selected a seafood paella.  Affirmation of our selection of dining establishments came quickly, as our appetizers and beverages were served.  As if great starters were not enough, our entrees were exquisite edibles.  Tender mahi mahi and perfectly prepared veggies, paired with scrumptious saffron rice – this “could-care-less-about-food” girl, felt like a foolish foodie.

Recognizing our need for a wander after such a glorious meal, our next stop was Marymoor Park.  It took a few tries to find the actual entrance, but persistence paid off as the lush, green grass and fabulous flowers in bloom welcomed us as we drove in.  Super Spouse is a great fan of cycling, so the velodrome was on our agenda for places to wander in the park.  Hand in hand we meandered over to the concrete slanting oval, and watched with fascination as dozens of brave souls sped around the track.  After a few races, I wasn’t sure whether I would be terrified or exhilarated to attempt such a feat.

A bit more wandering with full stomachs and fresh air, the need for caffeine was called out.  After consuming some lovely liquid energy, we headed back to our oasis.

First order of business, a soak in the spacious jacuzzi tub.  Encircled in warmth, the soothing water and majestic music coerced me into complete comfort.  Now this is the life!  Quality time with my love, then on to a bit of homework.  Yes, I actually said homework.  This teacher told said spouse that we may as well make sure he is current on his homework…  I know, I know, I am such a romantic.  Although a bit odd, we enjoyed working side by side to make sense of his hospitality accounting information.  Teamwork is always good.

I quickly drifted off to sleep, only to wake gently to a new morn.  Alas, my birthday morning.  First order of business, coffee!  Water, check.  Filter, check.  Coffee, check.  Coffee pot – on.  When I checked my phone, I discovered numerous well-wishes to celebrate my blessed birth, all those years ago.  After reading and replying, I went in to check on my coffee.  Coffee was all over the floor, grounds appeared to have exploded all around the pot, and only a dribble of brewed coffee was waiting in the pot.  Hmm…  Epic fail!  Oh well, I giggled to myself in spite of the spill.  I spent the next many minutes frantically fighting to remove the scattered grounds from every nook and cranny on the coffee cart.  Though I used nearly the entire roll of paper towels, I am pretty sure that whomever cleans this suite won’t be utterly horrified.  Perhaps it was for the best, as a carafe of coffee is likely not the best beverage to consume before a massage.  That’s right, a massage.  Part of the package deal that Super Spouse purchased, includes a massage for me.  My tense shoulders are extra thankful for what will ensue after my ferocious scrubbing of the floor and cart.

My long drawn out description given, I am eternally grateful for all that I have been granted in this life.  A loving spouse, two wonderful boys, fabulous family and friends, and more than enough of all that I need.  God is so good.  This life He has given me is abundantly blessed.  I want to bless others and give grace, as I have been given.  The takeaway for today is simply a heart overflowing with gratitude for my glorious Maker.

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

Facing Forty

Fortunately, fear is not currently finding footing as I face the impending number.  Forty. The big 4-0.  Why does this particular number hold such significance for so many?  For me, forty seems to have a fabulous face for new opportunities.  It is as if the trials and testing of my late thirties have been a preparation for amazing adventures ahead as I forge into forty.

This summer, my rarely utilized art background will find its way to walls as I get to paint a mural with a dear friend.  It is exhilarating to think about actually using skills that have been lying dormant for over a decade.  Another new beginning before me, is this blog.  I began a few months ago, but have only shared of its existence with a handful of friends.  If you are among those who have not ever read my writing, then I may have actually found the courage to follow through and let more people know that my writing is out there.  My own challenge to myself is to actually post its existence for all to see.  This idea is extremely vulnerable and frightening, yet it is an opportunity for my own obedience to be more open.

Artist - Lucy DeLange

The above mentioned steps lead to yet another monumental change that seems to be taking place.  For the majority of my forty years, it has been an unspoken oath to remain unseen.  My thoughts, my emotions, my concerns, my tragedies and my triumphs – all extremely limited in exposure.  I find that I am in a space where I am meant to be seen and heard.  Thoughts and discoveries I have made are not always to be hidden in my heart.  Sometimes, they are meant to be seen or heard by others.  Perhaps as an encouragement, or as a source of empathy – this opportunity to allow others to see that they are not alone in the trials and triumphs that this life brings is both terrifying and tantalizing simultaneously.  The idea that if I share what I am learning or simply choose to be “real” in whatever the emotion is in the moment, another might somehow be helped.  My openness might create opportunity for someone else to heal.  If one person benefits from my vulnerable visibility, then it is indeed worth the risk.

As for aging, I am not afraid.  My ninety-two year old grandmother is gorgeous!  Her heart is huge, her mind – magnificent, her body is fit and able, and her resolve to run the race as she is called to run – remarkable.  Her daughter, my mom, is also a beacon of hope in the aging process.  She has energy, enthusiasm and a passion for living life to the fullest, no matter what comes her way.  Resilience remains, no matter the storm.  Both have beautiful lines that tell their stories around their eyes.  I find that evidence of laugh lines, indicates a life that has had more passion than pain, and has found triumph in the face of tragedy.  Both women have known extreme heartache.  Because they were willing to walk the rough road, they also intimately know the exhilaration of exuberant joy.  Thanks to their ability to demonstrate grace as they age, I am embracing the trace of laugh lines as they appear around my eyes, and upholding my resolve to lead a healthy lifestyle of faith in action.
Though I have known heartache, I also know delight.  I have a spouse who loves me and our children with his whole heart, two terrific boys that are the joy in my journey daily, a phenomenal family far and wide, friends that are fiercely faithful, and more than enough of all that I need.  I am blessed beyond what I deserve, and have every reason in heaven and on earth to embrace forty with enthusiasm.  Based on what I have seen so far, life just keeps on getting better.  The more I give God the wheel, the more I enjoy the ride.

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

Joy Comes in the Morning

Again I am overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of God.  Not even twenty-four hours ago, I was gutted by life’s burdens.  He made a way for me to meet with a friend and unload.  Then, He blessed me more by granting delightful time with dear sisters in Him.  The blessings did not end last evening, as they have now carried over into today and multiplied.

My sweet spouse purchased an amazing get-away for a night in a honeymoon suite in Woodinville for me as a fabulous Valentine’s present this year.  We both thought that this week would be a perfect time to utilize the gift to ring in my 40th year.  Sadly, when I called a week ago, I was told that with this particular certificate, we had to book at least thirty days in advance.  Bummer…

This morning, after running a few errands and sending care packages to my beautiful boys, I received a bizarre phone message.  I called the B&B back, and discovered that a couple was hoping to book for their wedding night the very same night that I had scheduled our 30-day advance booking, and the owner was calling to see if we might be willing to switch.  Since I had no idea how we might actually work out childcare for the night we had booked, I willingly agreed to give up our date.  On a whim, I asked if there was any way that we might book either tonight or tomorrow night, as the boys are away at camp and I have a “significant” birthday this week.  She was so grateful that we were willing to give up our reserved date, that she said she would be happy to waive the 30-day advance booking and schedule us this week!  God loves me so much!!!!  So, not only will Super Spouse and I get a night away, in a honeymoon suite no less, I will also get a massage on the morning of my actual birthday as a part of the package deal!  I am feeling so loved and cared for by my heavenly Father!

God’s word tells me that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  Never before have those words rung so true for me.  My heart is full and I know that I know that I know that my Father loves me and delights in blessing me with good gifts.  He cares about even the smallest of details and intimately knows the desires of my heart.  He knew what would most bless my heart, and made a way where in my mind, there was no way.  Redeemed, renewed – remarkable!

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

Letting Go

Today will mark the first time that my spouse and I have ever both been separated from our boys for more than a night or two.  For nine-and-a-half years, they have been under the direct care of at least one of us.   This week, they are off to their first week of sleep-away camp. 

How did they get so big so quickly?  Weren’t they just tiny babes on oxygen, fighting to strengthen their lungs and grow? It is remarkable how quickly the time has gone.  They had a bit of a rough entry into the world before they were “due”, but they are resilient fighters and became strong and healthy quite quickly.  Today, our boys are gentle giants.  Though they stand a head taller than the majority of their peers, their tender hearts are easily crushed by words that are unkind.  Peers are important to them, yet they still love their parents.  Both are quick to cuddle and often want to sit beside me, or on my lap.  (A bit comical as I really only have about 10-15 pounds on either of them anymore…)  Words of encouragement send them soaring; and showing them kindness creates a fierce loyalty for life.

What will camp hold for each of them?  Adventurous desires to be the life of the party, and would love to have center stage with an adoring following.  Cautious longs for a close friend or two to hang out with and find adventure. (Though ever so cautiously.)  Both love the water and playing outdoors, and both love to experience new things.  Cautious is game, as long as he sees Adventurous survive it…

Fortunately, I know those that will be providing care for the week, as they are going to church camp with their Sunday school staff.  Their cabin leader is a longtime friend of ours.  He too has a son, so he understands boys their age first hand.  Yet despite the familiar, much will be different from their normal routine.  I won’t be able to tuck them in, read to them, and say bedtime prayers with my young men.  They will be on their own in the small stuff that my spouse or I typically oversee.  Will they be clothed appropriately for the weather?  Will they remember to use sunscreen?  Will they brush their teeth and shower occasionally?

The things that matters most, are will they feel loved and will they be safe?  At times it takes tremendous effort to ensure both their safety (as they are 9 1/2 yr old boys) and that they are loved without limits or conditions.  My hope is that they will meet our Maker in a new and powerful way this week.  Their hearts are tender, and Jesus resides in both hearts.  Each at different times have amazed me with insight and understanding for boys so young.  This is an opportunity for their faith to really become their own.

Letting go is a scary thing to do.  Trusting that they will be safe in the Savior’s hands, is still a challenge for this Mom.  I know practically, that they will be watched and cared for, and I also know that they will be covered supernaturally as well.  Still, it is my sweet babies.  Tender tots that are not so tiny anymore.  My heartbeats are timed by the tremendous love I have for our twins.  This morning as I am finishing up laundry, organizing belongings, and packing all that will be needed (and likely more), I say again to my Savior, “I trust You with the Gifts that You have given.  I release them into Your tender care.  Keep them safe, I pray.”  Thankfully, it is only a week, and not yet their first year away at college or overseas…

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