Are You Satisfied With Where You Are?

Dance
Dance like no one is watching.

Happy January my friends!  I hope you have settled in to your new year and have a sense of expectation about what this new year will bring!  As I read over my hearts from my Gratitude Jar on New Year’s Eve, I was once amazed at all that the Lord had done!  Amazing!  It brings so many areas into perspective, and it once again, has changed who I am.

I have made some pretty drastic decisions at the beginning of this year.  My title question is, “Are you satisfied with where you are?” is a tough question for some to answer.  Did it bring some stirring to your soul?  Did you stop to ask yourself that question once you read it?  What was your answer?  There are two sides of the coin regarding that question for me.  I am satisfied in what God is doing in my life and lessons He is teaching me, however, I am never satisfied with where I am spiritually.  I will always want to move forward, learn more, apply more, press in more, and especially never be satisfied with where I am, but ask God to continue to take me where He wants me to be.  We can see the turn in the road ahead of us, but we don’t know what is around the corner.  I am always trusting that, just like I shared last time about God going with me wherever I go, He will lead me where I need to go if I will follow Him and trust that HE knows best for me no matter how it may look.

What have I been up to in my decisions for this year?  I felt the pulling of the Lord to get off of Facebook.  There are many reasons for that but suffice it to say, I do value my privacy when it comes to online.  I think there is also way too much time that I was spending there that He wants me to use for other things.  I did of lot of ministry and encouragement, which is my passion, but there are times that I felt God was telling me that it was becoming first in my life.  Now, did I go off of social media completely?  Pretty much.  I also closed my Twitter account and my LinkedIn account.  I now have anKey Moments Photography account on http://www.weme.com and I have loved the privacy and the ability to generate positive comments and posts.    And do you know what? I feel quite free!  I have more time and have accomplished so much more by not feeling compelled to check into all those things through out my day.  Even good things can pull us in directions that pull us away from God and HIS agenda for us. I’m happy about this change in me.

I am also working in areas of shedding unnecessary things from my schedule.  I want to have a soul at peace and our souls are not at peace unless we are making our schedule allow time for nurturing our soul.  I am doing that everyday and that makes a big difference in my response to my day.  Busyness is the downfall of so many things and we think we can’t change it because that is just what life is for us right now.  But it doesn’t have to be.  When the soul isn’t nourished and on center, we can start thinking wrong thoughts and go ways which are NOT best for us.

Another area that I have made changes is to change things in my home and streamline.  I am sharing things with others, give away items to Goodwill, and clear out the clutter.  Oh what a feeling!  I have done a little each day and quite pleased with the results. God doesn’t want us to live in clutter and chaos.  It’s hard to relax when we live that way.  He wants us to enjoy the life that He gives us if we are willing to make some sacrifices.  That’s right.  It takes sacrifice to make the changes that I have made or that you need to make.  But when we are obedient to what God asks of us, He will bless the results.  He will help us to let go.

IMG_5522So, ask yourself the question once again, and then pray about what lesson God may have for you.  I don’t feel I write the posts for not.  I believe when God lays something on my heart to write about, it is for someone; sometimes a reminder for myself, and other times for someone out there.  I pray you will take it to heart and do what you need to do.  I want to always be moving forward and never be satisfied with where I am until the time when Jesus takes me home.  Does that mean I feel pressured to always be at it?  Be the best at everything?  Nope.  I rest in His unchanging grace and ask Him to make the ride with me and advise my direction.  I hope you will too!

Walking the journey with you…

~JoAnn

Who Do You Travel With?

64 Chevy
Image from BringATrailer.com

There are always hiccups in life.  For example, I had this post almost ready to publish and I come back to find it is gone.  So, I will go at this one more time!

I have been doing a lot of re-evaluating for this coming year, so it has set my brain to thinking.  A lot of thinking.  I have been in the process of writing the rest of my goals for this year and two of the most important for me are:

  • Be diligent about my study of God’s Word more than ever before
  • Study of the Holy Spirit
  • Effectual Prayer through the leading of the Holy Spirit

That is now part of my prayer life; asking God to lead and direct this study He has laid before me.  With that in mind, let me share with you what happened the other day.  But first, let me ask you a question.  What is the purpose of a HOV lane?  We often take them when we are going into a high traffic area, right?  We use them because they can help us circumnavigate a very busy traffic area.  I like it when I can drive by all the long lines of cars and I smile as I go.  However, I can only go in that lane if I have more than myself in the car.  So as I was driving with my sweetie into Seattle the other day, this whole little scenario played out in my head and heart.  Taking the HOV lane helps me avoid sitting in traffic and avoiding obstacles that can come from heavy traffic.  But if I have a person riding with me, I can avoid those obstacles better by going through the HOV lanes with my riding partner.

I felt God was telling me that this year, I need to be aware of His desire to be my cruising partner.  Oh I know.  Things aren’t always perfect in the HOV lanes either.  But they sure have a likelihood of a much easier drive.  So God wants to be in the driver’s seat with me so He can help me avoid heavy traffic and difficult drivers.  He can guide me around obstacles.  He can make my crooked places straight.  And…He wants to do it!  I COULD live my life and do things for myself as so

JoAnn Shiley Photography
JoAnn Shiley Photography

many are doing; leaving God out of the equation.  But I would be in for some rough rides if I do that.  When we choose to leave Him out of our daily lives and dealings, then we can’t be upset when things become more and more difficult.  We can look like the child who says, “I want to do it myself!”  It usually isn’t that successful and it isn’t what He wants for us.  Now that is NOT to say that having Jesus as your pilot or driver means that all will be well with you all the time.  We know that God says in His Word that we will all have times of trouble.  BUT, God is there to drive the journey with you.

I have decided this year to heed His call on my life even more carefully, to make changes that allow me to put Him in the driver’s seat more and more.  I need to let Him do the driving and I can look out the window and enjoy the ride!  See what He wants me to see.  Help where He wants me to help.  Go where He wants me to go!  We can cruise, Jesus and I!  I like that picture.  Cruisin’ with Jesus!

What other areas are changing for me?  I have made the decision to leave Facebook and Twitter.  Instead, I am establishing myself over at MeWe.com.  I have enjoyed the ad free, politically free, bad language and suggestive behavior free connection that is available to me there.  It is quite refreshing!  The best thing?  I am excited about the change.  I have those who I know won’t add another social website in order to stay in touch and that’s ok.  But God has led me to this change and I think He has His own plan in mind, and since I am into His plan BIG time this year, I’m ALL IN!  I’m cruisin’ with Jesus…the wind blowing in my hair and my hands in the air!  Free!

How about you?  Do you feel a leading in a certain direction or area of your life?  Feel free to share your thoughts.

Cruising’ (in a 1964 white Chevy Impala, which was my car in high school) the journey with you…

~JoAnn

Changing Things UP for 2015

IMG_8836

Today I am posting a little different type of post because I want to inform you of a change I am making for 2015.

I have been a Facebook user from the early beginnings of it and have loved the way that I can touch base with friends and relatives afar.  It brings joy to my heart to be able to have conversations and share photos to keep updated on their lives.  But of late, I have found the changes in Facebook to be very much like “poking your nose where it doesn’t belong” in their dealings with us as users.  As some have said, we are Facebook’s product and everything we do is sold and given away.  So for me, when I post my photos, they are no longer mine anymore.  Facebook owns them.  And, just how do they decide to use what’s on my page and then post a “Year in the Life of…” on my page without my permission?  Because they can.  Have you ever tried to talk to someone at Facebook?  Yeah…doesn’t work.  There IS no one.  When someone hijacked my Facebook page a while back and put a pornographic picture up as my profile that everyone could see, could I report it?  Not really.  I did report it after going in circles and never getting anywhere.  But you can never talk to anyone. There report methods go around and around.  They don’t contact you.  It continued to happen and I couldn’t delete it.

So I have been researching other options and found one; MeWe.com.  I have played a bit with the idea of this site, read some on it, took it for a ride, and just the other day when a friend posted about it in a food for thought post, that was my confirmation to go look at it again more seriously, and I went ahead and signed up.  Is it hard to leave Facebook?  Yes it may be.  I have friends I really want to stay in touch with.  Hard?  Not horribly difficult, just a learning curve.  But I am willing to learn it for the sake of the privacy that I experience there.  No ads.  No hints drawn from key strokes.  Don’t believe me?  Just type up something different on your page than you normally would on a subject of choice and see what ads come up all over your page.  Then wait for the emails that follow.

The social network I went with is called MeWe.com.  It’s all about clean pages, and the chance to enjoy connection with friends.  It operates a lot like a Facebook account would operate but much more freedom with how it is set up.  You canDSC_0733 have groups and actually decide more how you want your page to look.  I have never been interested in the numbers of people who I have either.  I just like to share and connect with people.  I enjoy being a resource for others.  This is my goal:  Share life together and encourage each other when we need it; walking the journey together.

You don’t have to quit Facebook if you don’t want to but you can join MeWe and still have your other account.  I’m just choosing to streamline my life a bit and make the time I do give to social networking something I can enjoy with out all the earmarks of other stuff I don’t care to see.  I hope you will check it out and see what you think.  On this site, they actually encourage input and there is someone you can talk to.  So you will see less and less of me on Facebook and more and more of me on MeWe as I build my connections there.  Don’t settle for the “it’s just too hard to move” when you really don’t like what is going on where you are but are just too afraid to take the step.  Do something about it and change.  I love it! I hope I will be watching for your friend request.  Go to www.mewe.com/i/joann.shiley and let’s meet up!

Start the new year right…with privacy and fun!

Walking the journey with you…

~JoAnn

Open Hands and Pens

_DSC0524

Have you ever had the feeling that things were going so well in your life that you felt like the captain of your soul?  If you even thought about that statement for a moment without saying no, then you are in trouble because we are NEVER the captain of our soul.   Our lives aren’t something that we have a map for.  There is no map.  We may even feel that sometimes there is no compass.  There is no set route for the journey, that much we know.  The only way we can recognize a route in our life, is what is left behind us when we look back.

I just finished a study with a group of ladies who did the One Thousand Gifts study.  It was so interesting to see how God used each one to affirm the other.  Thoughts and ideas different from my own, yet similar in content.  Our hearts became one as we explored what God wanted to teach us individually.  God showed a side of Himself that many had not seen before, and… lives were changed.  Some even had a hard time explaining HOW it changed them, but they felt a shift inside themselves.  It might have been a different way to start each day, or depending on God for the right place to live, or transition after loss, and another who said, she has been in many studies, but none that have changed her like this one.  I’m sure there were many other thoughts too!  Wow!!  THAT is what we want to have happen when we devote ourselves to learning.  We discussed what servanthood looks like and how we can be the blessing.  So we asked ourselves, “Am I a blessing?  Do I bless?”  Our answer was agreement with Ann Voskamp, the writer of the study, we ARE blessed.  We CAN bless.  You see, we need to pass blessing along.  If we receive the blessing and it stops with us, then we have lost the flow of the blessings to others.  That trickle down effect is lost.  We need to pass it along in the flow of life, and let the goodness of God flow on and on and on.  It’s like Andy Andrews talks about in his book, The Butterfly Effect.  We may never know the outcome of something we did or said, nor how it will affect the future.

Another thing we shared with each other is the power of the pen.  Whether you are a journal writer or not, there is power there.  Maybe you just list your gifts or blessings.  Which ever it maybe, “satan hates pens because he doesn’t want you to count
IMG_5020the blessings you have been given.” (Ann Voskamp) Do you get the picture?  THAT should make us want to go find everybody we know and make sure they have a pen handy.  That is our weapon against feeling defeated about our life.  Invite God in and put that pen to paper.  I am a pen freak.  I love pens and I like GOOD pens.  So, I’m always looking for a pen that is a good brand, looks good AND writes well.  Now, I have another reason for a good pen…it’s my weapon and the power to stay in gratitude!  I’m going to wield that weapon!!

This thought was so important in our weekly discussion:  we want to be empty, to be filled.

  • I want my hands to remain open for God to fill them for His purpose.
  • I want Him to find me about His work and doing well.
  • I want to be maintaining an attitude of expectancy.
  • I want to be found continually looking to the future with hope.
  • I will live a full life because I am intentional in how I live each day.

In all the changes we talked about in this group, the best part was being reminded that a changed life is a life full of joy!  We found that to be true in the last five weeks.  He wants our personal character to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not our own flesh.  He wants to find us being diligent, eager, and zealous in our relationship with Him.  We have found that aspect of our relationship with God to be renewed during out time together.  We experienced a lot of laughter, but there were tears also.  We shared hugs of encouragement, pats on the back to say, keep going.  Please share.  We are listening.  THAT my friend means something BIG is about to happen.  When we lean in and listen, God is going to do something BIG when we let Him change us.  I encouraged each person there to write today’s date down in their Bibles or journals, because we all felt we were on the cusp of something great that is about to happen.

IMG_0119

And lastly, I think we made the decision to be like the Sea of Galilee, that flows forth fresh water.  We do not want to be like the Dead Sea that has no movement and is stagnant, as she talks about at the end of the last chapter.  And the kicker?  Those two seas are fed by the same river!!!  Which one do we want to be?  These ladies wanted to flow out fresh water!  His gifts come from above and we want them to flow through us to others.  I think we all agreed, that we want the kind of attitudes and character that mark the life of a person who loves to serve, give and to share what we have with others.  And…let’s give our best.

I am thankful to each heart that shared in this journey of gifts, and I pray that you will be blessed also by this glimpse into what God did in a small group of women who were faithful to the idea of open hands.

Walking the journey with you…

~JoAnn

My Life In Review

A Young Me & My Dog Pal
A Young Me & Our Dog Pal

We hear so much any more about movie reviews, book reviews, reviews when you buy something on Amazon and we sometimes take part.  I was contemplating my life the other day and suddenly, it was like a movie playing on a screen; from my earliest recollections to the present time.  It really made me take notice of the changes that have happened in my life up to now.  I have found them to be great changes that God has orchestrated for my good.  It’s a longer post than most, but maybe you can relate and be encouraged by some of them.

  • Relationships:  At a very young age, I had a great appreciation for the people who God placed in my life, whether it be family or friends.  Even as a young girl I knew they were important.  God gave me Godly parents.  They took me to church every Sunday.  They sacrificed in their life so I would HAVE.  I was very involved at school, church, choir and youth group and also with friends.  I was surrounded with family who always got together and shared life together.  Family reunions and sharing food around the table with great conversations.  Sometimes speaking norwegian so us kids wouldn’t understand the conversation.  Although, we got to be pretty good at understanding it and surprised them often with our language prowess. They sacrificed other things they may have needed to get a travel trailer so we could go camping as a family; and camping we DID!!  Shared weekends camping at the ocean or lake, digging clams, catching smelt and frying them up for dinner that night, swimming in the lakes, and the early morning smells in our little trailer.  From my hammock above the couch in the trailer, I could watch as dad made his coffee in the morning and mom was cooking breakfast.  I think on these things and realize that God showed me that family is important to the longevity of life.  It gives us a sense of belonging.  They have been instrumental in my life changes.  To this day, the water is where I go to dream with God.
  • Photography:  God has changed me through my photography.  It’s like He has given me a macro look into my life.  He is showing me the beauty in my life around me, but also the areas that I need to improve my focus.  I have learned to look at my life in a totally different way.  I see things differently; I notice His beauty.  I LOOK for the beauty that I didn’t see before.  When He gives me that macro shot of where I need to change, I   change that in my daily life.  I think about my adult cousin, who loved photography, always shared his pictures and cameras with me as a young child.  We spent time in his make shift photo lab watching him develop pictures.  I didn’t think much about it then, but have come to understand now, that God placed that person in my life to plant the seed for what was to come with own camera experience.  I always think of him when I raise my camera to take a shot.
  • How I live:  As those whom I loved so dearly left my world through various circumstances, I learned how to go on after they were gone, but always honor their memory and what they meant to me in my life.  I have thought about their contribution to who I am today, even how I think, and what is important to me.  It wasn’t always that way.  As a young mother, I had to work a lot when my family was younger for reasons that are personal to me.  But I always desired to be at home with my children.  I loved being a mom and working was good, but it also brought a lot of stress into my home.  I tried to keep all the plates spinning in my life and sometimes my kids suffered from that activity.  God began working in me many years ago to take each day and live it out as my best.  I might not have a tomorrow.  As I lost my mother in 1991 and then my dad in 2002, I began to know that more deeply.  After my dad’s death in 2002, I moved back home and made some changes.  I have learned to live with less in order to stay at home.  I know some families don’t feel that’s possible, but I have come to know that when we truly desire to do something that God places on our heart, He is faithful to provide ways to make that happen.  Our faith in Him can project us forward to make it a reality.  He has done just that.  There were relationships to rebuild, a heart (mine) to mend, and a repositioning of my life and relationship with God that I needed to work on.
  • My view of flowers:  I don’t have a green thumb and never had a great place to enjoy a flower garden nor a desire to work in one.  But in the last several years, I have come to enjoy them very much and want to have them inside and outside my home.  God has really shown me that He made them for a purpose; not just to plant but to truly enjoy!  I do that now and use my camera to remember.
  • My relationship with the Lord:  I always felt Bible study should be a part of my life and have really been faithful to do that.  But God changed my heart to REALLY desire to walk deep with Him.  I felt like I was to be a college student in my approach.  So, I looked and researched ways I could do that without a lot of expense.  God provided those ways.  I trusted Him to show me and He did.  I have never been the same since.  He has taken me places I would never have gone if it wasn’t for quieting my life so that I could hear His whisper.
  • My approach to reading:  I have always enjoyed reading but He has changed my thinking from reading books, to learning from books.  He challenged me to read so many books a year.  I have gained a great education from the reading I have done and I’m a better person for it.  My goal?  Read a book a week.  I have gotten pretty close but not there yet.  What a difference it has made in me personally.  I am very thankful for everything He has chosen to share with me through the pages of books, and thankful to the authors that write them!  Where would we be without them?
  • How I handle money:  I made some bad judgement calls at times and over the last 20 years or so, He has slowly and consistently brought those areas into alignment.  I save for what I want and pay cash.  I don’t want to live with credit debt period.  I trust God with my money and He has always come through beyond what I could imagine.  And…He has blessed my obedience to live that way.  I still have improvement to make with delayed gratification at times, but I am committed.  I feel good about the control it gives to my life.  It’s never worth it to live beyond our means, because it only brings bondage.
  • Regarding boundaries:  Setting boundaries in your life can free up a lot of heart space!  What a liberating experience for me!  I no longer have to be responsible for someone else’s reaction or choice.  I can decide what I will allow in my life and let my yes be yes, and my no be no.
  • What I am thankful for:  God has taught me to be thankful for what I have; to be in gratitude for what He HAS given me.  I might not have everything I want, but He has given me everything I need.  I needed to get my eyes off of things, and unto gratefulness; for my house, my bed to sleep, warmth, food, shoes on my feet, clothes to wear, and a car to drive even IF it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  I learned to look at my life each day as a gift.  I could have been born in a land where living for Jesus means I could die tomorrow.  But, I don’t.  That WHISPER tells me, “You have life and freedom, live it for Me.  I will take care of your needs and maybe even some of your wants.”  He has.

 

So… I am thankful for all the things I have learned.  I have figured out that God wants me to use what I know.  I have come to understand why He placed the deep desire to keep learning over my life.  Through it, I have learned importance of my family and carry that legacy into my own.  I can TELL the people who are in my life what they mean to me.  I can share pictures to encourage others to take a moment to see the beauty around them.  I can use encouragement to share what I have learned so that others can be encouraged.  I want to be a good listener.  My hope is that I am a light on the path of shaded areas, and the encouragement to keep you walking out your journey in little steps.   Are there some choices I made in my life that I wish I had either listened to the advice of others, or listened to the Holy Spirit telling go a different way?  OF COURSE!  But I don’t choose to live there in that place.  I would rather have some review of my life here and there, and then say, “I’m not that person anymore and that’s not where I live.”

My life hasn’t been perfect.  So you can’t say, “Oh boy!  JoAnn lives such a Pollyanna lifestyle!”  I have had some real hard knocks, and those who are close to me know some of them.  But God…  He has been my constant and He knows my heart.  He forgives me when I have been angry.  He loves me when I have failed.  He never turns His back on me…ever.   Ask God to show you the areas where you might need to focus and change so that you can enjoy stepping forward into freedom with Him.  May your life be changed by what you have experienced and learned.

I have learned.  I have changed.  I have been faithful to live my best life every day.  And you know what?  I don’t have a lot of regrets now.  I like my life.  God has taken me through and changed me.  He has used them as a spring-board to launch me into a life I enjoy and I feel blessed to be a part of.  I am excited every day to see what He has for me.  I am listening to His whisper in my ear.  I want to hear it.  I am thankful for His love.

Walking the journey with you…

Rains of Change

This is a post that I had written quite some time ago, actually in September of 2011 and never posted it. So as I was reviewing it, I realized it started that day! I now see the pieces coming together.

In Washington, we have a lot of experience with rain. However, we also enjoy the beautiful lush green color that goes with it! We know a refreshing rain is good for many things. One of those things is the freshness to the air we breathe. So, as I sat yesterday inside my cozy office, I was thinking about that. I decided to take a moment and I went outside to listen and to watch as the rains came down.

As I watched the rain and saw this little plant, I realized, or God chose to remind me, “so it is with our lives”. We need times of refreshing so that we can continue to grow and revive our weary souls. New beginnings so to speak; renewed every morning. We may decide on a different direction for our lives, a move, re-arrange our home or decor, or maybe even our change our schedules so that we CAN have more times for the soft rain of change to happen. It brings peace and calmness to our souls. You may be in a torrent of rain right now, but all the more important for you to really pray over these words for your life circumstances. Ask God to reveal Himself in the circumstances.

So here is what I felt as I watched the rain. I feel change coming. Have you ever had one of those seasons where you feel like something is about to happen and you aren’t sure what? You are kind of excited but not sure what God is up to? I have been living with this feeling for a long time. I feel God calling me to rely on the Holy Spirit for direction. I am in preparation for something yet unknown, but its going to be great! Crazy, huh? But…exciting!

I think that is the whole idea, though, don’t you? He wants us to live in expectancy of His next move or work. But we have to lay a foundation for that work before hand. Think about this…satan lays his groundwork before he plays out his full hand. Have you ever thought about that? He doesn’t just hit you with an attack. He has been laying ground work by planting doubt, discouraging you with circumstances, causing insecurities, hurt in relationships and anything else he can come up with. Then, before we know it, he is inside our door! One little chink in our armor and he will use that to turn your life upside down. Spend time with the Lord and let His refreshing rain fall over you and give you what you need when you need it. Use the Word to stand against it, pray always, so you are laying a solid groundwork!

What refreshing rains are falling on you?  What will you re-arrange so that you can have times of refreshing in your life? You see, 10 months later, I am finding out that there is a move in my future to a different home, and selling the home we have lived in for over three years. He is moving me into a different season and I am moving forward TOWARDS it as each day passes!

Funny isn’t it? No…not funny, but exciting to see the hand of God move in our lives and see all the pieces of the puzzle start coming together. God bless you as you throw the umbrella away and let the soft rains of change wash over you! Walking the journey with you…in the rain!