What Makes Us New

Light floods the pane, and if I didn’t know better, I might think it was July.

But I know it’s January, not just because I’m bundled under a down comforter with heart-printed knee socks. I know it’s January, but not because snow as fine and shimmery as glitter lazes down from a cloudless sky like a misplaced promise.

I know it’s January because everywhere I turn, folks are talking about change. We’re desperate for a fresh start and new mercies.

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In Indiana, all the world is white and we want some of it for ourselves. We want that light inside us — a newborn purity to cover all our grime and coat our bare limbs.

The trouble is, I don’t know if an earlier bedtime or consuming mass quantities of kale is the answer. I’m not even sure “spending more time with family” or stubbornly resisting the pull of stress will wash us clean.

In this kingdom, nothing works the way I think it should. Life feels upside-down, and logic has a decided to lean to the left.

Ten days into my best intentions, I toss half the night when I should be sleeping. I quit my exercise class because something has to give, and relationships trump toned thighs. The kale wilts while I devour a double-order of biscuits and gravy with my neighbors while all the world is white and the ground winks up in the sunlight.

God promises our plans are folly in the light of His. He’s gentle sometimes, but it’s January, and He’ll bring the fire if He has to. He’ll burn the sky, drain the oceans, and knock us to our knees if that’s what it takes for us to hear Him over the drone of green smoothie recipes and enticing sales on cross-trainers. None of that can ever make us new.

It's January - incourage.me

It’s January, and the best news I know is Jesus, and the way He insists on fussing around with us, His unlikely business partners.

He could do His thing while we do ours. He could do whatever He pleases.

Shockingly, what pleases Him is to bring us off the bench and into the game, though we’re sure to fumble and act like fools.

Surveying the sum of creation, God looks at you and me and decides we’re worthy allies. Each day brings a question: “How much bread do you have?” And if we dare to hand it over, it’s multiplied.

There are five precious people in my immediate life who are trying to quit smoking, because it’s January and this is their version of bat-wing arms and cluttered closets. I stock-pile chewing gum and pray for supernatural strength, but there’s a good chance they’ll fail, and I know this because I keep failing at much easier things.

Tuesday morning I woke well before my alarm to a strange scratching outside our bedroom window. Peeking behind the blind I saw him in his hole-soled Wal-Mart shoes, shoveling our driveway clean.

This was the bread he had, and he handed it over. The moment made me cry, and it didn’t matter at all when I saw him later and smelled the traces of his habit, the one he wants to escape, but can’t.

I thought of you and me and all the ways we already walk in his shoes. I prayed for us, that God keeps helping us kick our dirt to the curb. More than that, I thanked him for never refusing our bread, even when it’s days-old and the tired, heel-end.

We make our plans, but God orders our days in the weirdest ways. If we follow, His purity and truth fall like misplaced promises, and we know for sure it’s this communion that will make us new.

 

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  • http://purposefulandmeaningful.blogspot.com/ Ifeoma Samuel

    Thank you Shannan, I like this article. God will make all things beautiful in his own time in his own way.

    http://purposefulandmeaningful.blogspot.com/

  • http://walkingwellwithgod.blogspot.com Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    Shannan,
    God must shake His head in wonder at all our silly attempts to make ourselves new in our own power. When will we truly get it, that it is Jesus himself that makes us new, fresh, pure? I find if I seek Him first, then He gives me the strength to attempt to change old habits and He’s right there when I invariably fail time and time again. He, as you said, just wants us to offer up what bread we have. Thank you for a beautifully encouraging post this morning!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Yes, invariably!
      Thanks for offering your bread, right here.

  • Becky

    Shannan,
    Lately I just haven’t been enjoying my blog reading like I once did. This was fresh, insightful and made me pause and wonder. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I’m always trying to chase down wonder.
      Thanks for the kind words and for wondering with me.

  • trista

    A truly wonderful reflection.!!! Thank you!

  • Bobbie

    Beautifully said. Thank you for helping us bumbling stumbling creatures trying to make our way in this world. Let’s all be more thankful for our loaf, or piece or crumb of bread. Pass it forward. We will see the blessings in time.
    Thanks you and God bless.

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Friend, it helps so much to bumble and stumble out-loud, together.
      Thanks for this!

  • Karen

    “It’s January and the best news I know is Jesus!” What a proclamation for each month of this year!

    This post inspires while my mind and heart war within me!

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      You tell the story of my life. :)
      Love you always, Karen.

  • http://birdsinthetreetops.blogspot.com Jeanine

    I needed this today. This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. Thank you!

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I need it every day, too. I’m always preaching to myself and if others hear it too, that’s all the better. Thanks for walking this road with me.

  • Melanie Vanlaningham

    Shannan,
    I’m right there with you in Indiana, covered in winter, almost feeling like I’m in the middle of a time-warp since I work at a school and we cancelled three days this week. As I’ve thought about life (with more time to think) and just slowed the whole pace of life down….I shout a loud “Amen” to your words “In this kingdom, nothing works the way I think it should. Life feels upside-down, and logic has decided to lean left.” I’m trying to lean into all that I don’t understand and all the ways in which He uses the stale bread that I’m offering. I feel stale so I’m certain what bread I have isn’t too fresh right now. I DO believe that He makes all things new so I wait in trust that His mercies each morning are doing something deep inside me and one day I’ll be able to look around and see just what He’s been up to.
    Wish I could express more of what’s going on in my head but I can’t even figure it out so I’ll just say thanks for sharing and thanks for reminding me of His hope in the midst of the winter’s cold, harsh, yet amazingly beautiful presence.
    Together in this journey,
    Melanie

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      You must be somewhere close to me! (Goshen)
      I’m also time-warping, as my life is almost EXACTLY the way it was one year ago. Here we are again, early January, up to our pits in snow, kids never going to school, freezing our buns off.
      WE WILL SURVIVE THIS!

      Thanks for saying Hi, and for “getting” me. :)

  • Suzanne Shields

    Thank you, Shannon, the best news is Jesus.

  • http://www.kathycheek.blogspot.com Kathy @ In Quiet Places

    What a great proclamation that Jesus is the best news, and more good news is that He never changes!!!

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

  • http://www.adandeliondiary.blogspot.com Mindy

    Such beautiful written bread being offered up here…Thankful it was multiplied all the way to my heart this morning – when I so desperately want to control is when I desperately need to let go, to offer my stale bread and let Jesus be the change in me.

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      You hit the nail on the head, Mindy. Why is it so hard to surrender control?
      Seriously, I’m asking! :)

  • Tonya Robinson

    Beautifully written. Yes. So good to remember that Jesus is the only one who transforms us. He is the change we need. Thank you.

  • http://www.carissagraham.com carissa

    SHAN. just perfect words for me this morning. thank you dearly.

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      I miss you.

  • Jenn Nahrstadt

    beautiful gift you have, Shannan. favorite line? Surveying the sum of creation, God looks at you and me and decides we’re worthy allies. mind blowing.

  • http://www.angieryg.com Angie

    This was so beautiful and needed for me today as I always seem to desire more of anything, but what I truly need~more of Jesus.
    Thank you.

  • Darla

    i love your heart. I love that you cry. I am 63 but still struggling with sharing “bread”. Just want to pretend that’s not there (but my heart knows it is)

  • http://www.lovecatherineann.com Catherine

    Beautiful bread for the soul here today.
    Thank you.

  • Linda Joy

    That was his bread and handed it over….loved this. We all have some bread to give…small or large. Makes me think about what bread I have to give.

  • Linda Joy

    That was his bread and he handed it over….loved this.Makes me think about what bread I have to give. Thank you.

  • http://kelsea-livelovegive.blogspot.com/ Kelsea

    This was beautiful, and it really resonated with me. The tears fell as I read this and I had a hard time placing my finger on exactly why. Maybe it was the beautiful truth that God wants us to join Him, even when our offering seems inadequate. But it very well could have also been that last phrase, “If we follow, His purity and truth fall like misplaced promises, and we know for sure it’s this communion that will make us new.” This year, God has been tugging at my heart and I suppose in a way asking me to bring Him my bread. But honestly? I’ve been afraid. I’ve worried it’s not enough or it’s not good enough. But God is slowly teaching me that it is about my participation. It lies in the beautiful surrender of giving that bread over to God. In those little moments as much as the big moments….

  • http://owenstoafrica.com nic

    kale is always the answer. ;) jk

    i was trekking back up the hill just yesterday, thinking along these lines, wondering if i really trust Him with my last slice or two of bread. can i hand them over knowing He’s good? you’d think i’d have wrestled through to the other side of this by now, but when i’m down to the crumbs, it’s a struggle.

    the thing i’m learning is: He doesn’t promise to always multiply the bread. but He does promise to be good. and He is.

  • Jeanne Manning

    May our bread be warm, buttered with grace and generosity, sparing nothing for others..just as our Father did. Thank you again, Shannon..you stirred our hearts and minds to lovingly share the Bread of Life..Jesus…that’s what this weary world needs today and every day..Thankful for your gift with words..

  • http://www.alittlechildlikethis.blogspot.com Judy

    Love the way you write! You get on “paper” what so many of us think, but can’t get into words quite right……..or you think of a whole new twist, and I think, dang…..why didn’t I think of that :) Keep writing.

  • http://homeschoolingforthewholefamily.com Jenn

    You express grace with such beautiful words. We are all so smiled upon to be in the grip of such a great and merciful God.

  • Rebecca

    Shannan, This was so powerful and personal for me to read through this morning. Thinking about those who are trying to quit hard habits, criticizing them for their failures, when, you are right, I often fail at things that are so much easier! Thank you for this blessed reminder to love and support others no matter what. Jesus loves the least of these!

  • http://thestoryplaceblog.com Kelli

    I loved the way you boiled down our best intentions into a foolish looking stew. Our humanity so recognizes our need for improvement and at no better time is that highlighted than in the new year. Thank you for always keeping it real. This is was so refreshing to read.

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      “a foolish looking stew”.
      You’re so rad. Thanks for getting me and for YOUR way with words.

  • http://www.alisalamb.blogspot.com Alisa

    Words that refresh the soul. Thanks!

  • Crystal Golder

    Thank you for sharing this with us. With all the bitter cold and snow here in Indiana. Jesus is all I need to know! Love your words!

  • Allison Hunter

    Wow. You speak to the core of what I have been thinking and feeling so strongly. Thank you for offering up the transparency of your life and the truth of Jesus. Never stop blogging, unless you’re going to move in next door to me. :)

  • http://www.gis-butterfly.blogspot.com Deena

    I have near 50 years ,well at least 40 New Years resolutions …..some kept, most unrealistic. This year I didn’t make one. I decided, or more likely the Holy Spirit prompted me to rewrite my thinking about past failure. In light of the truth, my kids are grown pretty much, only one in college still at home. They are all 4 good kids, centered in their faith and working hard for the kingdom in their own way. (Including a recently acquired son-in-law.)
    So they don’t get along great, I still live in the house I wanted to upgrade from 20 years ago….. but I did it God’s way, not my way. Now I have come to a season of Thanksgiving. Still praying they get along and play nice, still praying I lose weight and tone up, still praying for an upgrade….but again I say rejoice.
    Yes, Jesus is the only Answer in this upside down world.
    Shalom

  • Susan

    I so needed to hear this today. I told the Lord to bring to me the first devotional I saw on my email to speak to my heart. The Lord is so amazing. I couldn’t believe out of all the devotionals I subscribe to (I never have time to read all of them), that your blog was the first one that came up on my email on my phone.

    My husband and I are having serious marital and financial problems. The financial problems stem from my husband having a terrible injury at work which required a total shoulder replacement. He lost his job and because he wasn’t totally disabled, they cut off his work comp benefits. We have been trying to avoid foreclosure on our house.

    We also are having a lot of crises and strained relationships with our two grown children. They were both prodigal children. My son was a heroin addict for 10 years. He went to prison for a year and they are giving him another chance. He is trying to start a new life and has come back to the Lord. Our son’s relationship with us is minimal. He is trying to gain partial custody of his little 6 year old girl. The State took her away from his ex-girlfriend because of excessive DUI & having our grand daughter in the car this last time she got caught.

    Our daughter has come back to the Lord, but she married an unbeliever. At one time, I had a wonderful close relationship with my daughter. Now, even though she has come back to the Lord and goes to church, she shuns us as much as possible.

    My husband and I used to never argue, but it has been non-stop for several years now. We have been trying to start a new life together and bring back the years the locust has eaten. We were hoping the Lord would restore our relationships with our children. Now, we are trying to just recover and save our marriage. We continue to go to church and I seek the Lord by myself.

    I’ve told my husband that we need to come to the Lord together in prayer & in His Word and ask Him to mend our marriage. He just tries to avoid everything as much as possible. I’m so depressed all I can do is go to work and come home and sleep.

    Your article spoke to my heart…….the only way to renew our broken marriage and lives is to draw in even closer to the Lord in prayer and in His word. Only He can mend our broken hearts and family.

    • http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/ Flower Patch Farmgirl

      Susan, thank you for sharing your story with me today.
      I’m so sorry you’re in a heartbroken time. I relate to much of what you have said, but even that doesn’t lend itself to pat answers or easy solutions. And I hate cliches, even if they’re true.
      So, just know that I’m praying for you and your family today.
      It sounds to me like Satan fears the threat of your family being united again, which means God has big plans for you. I love what you said about taking back the locust years. What a beautiful image and truth!
      Praying that this very day, God shows you who He is and how He loves you.
      And that regardless of anyone else, you cling to Him.

    • Beth Williams

      Susan

      Prayers for you and your family. Life gets hard sometimes. May God turn all hearts back to Him and make your family a loving place once again! I pray your hubby finds a good job and your financial problems get solved quickly!

      Blessings to you all :)

  • http://runningtothefather.blogspot.com Melanie

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing beautiful words and glorious truth!

  • chris jacobsen

    Beautiful…lyrical, and soul-touching. Thank you for such lovely and inspired writing.

  • RW

    So needed to hear this-Bless You

  • http://InCourage Lisa

    Breath of fresh air..this made me cry sitting at my desk while at work.. I felt the hot tears well up..yes, how much we struggle to make ourselves “clean” or “somehow better”- or even “acceptable” or “worthy”–oh I could think of so many more things to list..but they just make me sigh wearily..and I think how the “dirtiness” of our lives somehow makes us feel unfit or unable to be of use to God..and we lay down our bread thinking there is no hope–that our lives could not possibly bring Glory to God..when all the while God waits for the willing..for the ones who dare to take Him at His Word..the ones who know that Jesus is our Sufficiency..He is the Miracle-Worker..He is our Righteousness..I am encouraged today to offer ALL of me to the King of Kings and let Him do what He does best..LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.. thank you for the beautiful inspiration today on this drizzly, dreary Monday morning..Blessings..

  • Jenne

    Shannan,

    I just want to say that your style of writing is refreshing….I think it is the introspective honesty that you share with us. I just came upon your site about a month ago and I really enjoy reading your posts. They are not to lengthy but definitely deep and help me to grasp the truth of God’s words and give me His perspective on things, large and small. It’s good to know that there are lot’s of other people out there living every day life in God’s grace. Thank you for consistently reminding us that His mercies fail not, every morning comes new and He is tremendously faithful. Bless you and your family and keep on writing!

  • Denise

    I love the line and the thought of “how much bread do you have.”

  • Susan

    Shannan,
    I hope I spelled your name correctly. It’s an interesting coincidence that my daughter’s name is Shannon. My son’s name is Shawn. The Lord is so amazing to bring both of our “kids” (ages 30 & 26) finally out of the pit and back to Him. That is an awe inspiring miracle! I think we kind of assumed that if they were going to come back to the Lord, they would also be restored to us. It has been a very long 10 years, especially with my son.

    Thank you so much for your prayers! I truly believe in the power of prayer. We were trying to figure out a strategy to bring our family together again. All we really need to do is pray and believe that the Lord can change our children’s hearts toward us. He has worked an amazing miracle in their hearts by bringing them back to Him already. As we pray, I know the Lord will continue changing their hearts.

    My husband is a jail chaplain and reserves his teaching for the inmates. God has already started changing my husband’s heart to pray with me. He even taught me a wonderful Bible study last night.

    Thank you for your words of prayer that “God shows you who He is and how much He loves you.” I will cling to Him. He really is the only One who can make things new in our lives. Thank you again for your prayers for our family! May the Lord bless you <3

  • Beth Williams

    Susan,

    Thank you for this wonderfully written post! It is true that God makes ALL things new! We clumsy humans try hard to fix ourselves and offer some “bread crumbs” to God. All He wants is us. If we would stop trying and just come to Him in humbleness He will use and bless us!

    Blessings to all :)

  • Joanne

    Shannan, you have the most wonderful way of allowing God to speak through you. I actually recognize his voice in the words you write. Words of beauty, humour, acceptance, love and grace. What a true gift you have and you have found your calling. You are really instrumental in deepening our (your readers’) relationship with our Father. What a blessing. Thank you Shannan and thank you our Father. You are a golden team!