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August 26, 2013
by Shannon Clark
0 comments

Spilled Milk

MP900321172Have you ever had one of those days?

A missed work  deadline,

A fender bender

A cancelled  Drs. appt.

Car Trouble

This is what one of my days looked like last week. And it all happened before 12 noon.  I was completely exhausted before my day had even begun. I returned home that afternoon tired, frustrated and wondering why I’d even left the house that morning. How could so much craziness happen in less than 2 hours? I now had a car that needed to be fixed. A missed Dr.’s appointment  that I might have to wait 6 months to reschedule and a work deadline that I may or may not be able to make up. I was not happy.

The funny thing about life is that stuff happens, the good, the bad, AND the ugly. Sometimes we’re prepared for it and sometimes we’re not. It just is what it is. Our consolation is knowing that nothing surprises GOD and HE’s got a good grip on what’s going on around us, even when nothing seems to make sense.

That “crazy” day was not a fun one, but it for me it was necessary. I needed to slow my life down, my pace, and live in the moment. I get turbo charged sometimes like one of those wind up toys and every once in awhile, I need GOD’s hand to remind me of what’s important. I’m not saying that GOD caused the course of events of that day, but stepping back and praying about everything helped me to calm down enough to look at everything from a different perspective. The Bible says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28) Even the ugliest of days can usher in good stuff, if not now, then later.

As hard as it might be to resist, there really is  no use crying over spilled milk. Stewing over something that has happened will never undo what has already passed. I’m learning to ask GOD if there’s anything HE wants me  to learn from these types of situations and for the strength, courage, or wisdom to accept what HE has to say, especially if there’s something about me that needs to change (Ouch!).

My prayer today for you , my friend, is that you will not allow the “stuff of life” to pull you down, and you’ll remember that just as seasons change, a not so good day can change its color tomorrow. Life is a roller coaster ride in every sense. Since we have to ride it, we might as well strap ourselves in, throw our  hands up, and live in the moment.

Much love and encouragement to you for your week!

Stress “Less”.

Shannon

 

 

August 19, 2013
by Shannon Clark
1 Comment

Relaxing Expectations

Relaxing ExpectationsBefore  I start today, I want to apologize for missing a couple of Motivation Monday posts recently. If you read to the end of my last post (the long one), you already know that I’m pregnant. Need I say more? :) Ha! Ha! Thankfully, my energy is returning. Motivation Mondays should be returning to its weekly schedule soon.

Today I want to talk about relaxing expectations. Are you a “people pleaser”? Are you the dear heart that always says “yes” for fear of disappointing others? Do you find yourself running on fumes sometimes because you’d rather “do it all” yourself than ask someone else to pitch in and help out?

I’m probably not speaking to everyone today, but I KNOW that many of you can relate. I spent years running myself down, because I was afraid to say “No”. I had the super woman syndrome. If I knew how to do it and you asked, I was right there, even if my schedule was already full; I hadn’t slept, and I was in desperate need of a break. This was especially true when our kids were younger.

Before starting our family, I was very active outside of our home. Once we started our family, it was difficult for me to make the transition from busy woman to busy mom. For whatever reason, I felt like I had to do it all. I became tired, cranky, overworked and “underpaid”. And over time, I became resentful toward those who were holding me to the same standards as before or toward others who weren’t volunteering to lend me a hand. Didn’t they see how my life had changed? Didn’t they know how unbelievably stretched I was?

Unless someone is walking in our shoes, it is impossible for them to know what we’re going through especially if we’re good at hiding it.

Over the years, I’ve learned that transparency is the best policy, and most importantly relaxing our expectations of ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves, is it really fair for us to expect others to do so?

These days, I ask for help when I need it, and when I’m too stretched to add more to my plate, I say “no, but thank you.” with a smile and “keep me in mind for next time”. And, while I still don’t like the feeling of disappointing others, I hate disappointing myself more. I’ve made a pack with the woman I want to become to honor myself, so that I can honor others.

We were never meant to do it all, or to be all things to all people. That’s what GOD is for :) .

Take good care of yourself. Your health and peace of mind are depending on you.

Have a great week!

Stress “Less”

Shannon

 

 

 

Bee Stings and Butterfly Surprises

July 29, 2013 by Shannon Clark | 0 comments

MC900438041Last weekend my husband got our boys up early to do some yard work. He’s teaching our oldest two (9 and 13) how to use the riding lawn mower. The younger two mostly cheer the older two on and ride their scooters. As long as our boys are outside, hangin’ out with nature they’re good. Our girls are more like me. They’d much rather stay in the house than fight the Georgia heat and humidity. They were more than happy to clean up their rooms while I washed a few dishes.

About 10 minutes into my kitchen clean-up,  the boys came running into the house yelling and laughing, “The bees are chasing us”. While outside, my husband had decided to do a little bit of “grooming” to our sadly overgrown garden area and disturbed a yellow jacket nest. He told the boys to run back to the house, but in their boyish excitement at being chased by angry bees (Ha, Ha, Ha, not so funny ), they accidentally left the door open. Thank GOD, the kids didn’t get stung, but I wasn’t so lucky. I got a nice one on the back of my neck and when my husband walked in the door he got stung twice on the hand and once on the arm. Can I tell you I wasn’t a happy camper? My husband spent the next hour looking for and killing the remaining bees flying through the house.

Now, while I didn’t initiate the battle with the bees, and I still refuse to walk into our backyard, the experience was a great reminder to me of how easy it is to get stung by life when we’re not careful.

You know those sayings,

All that glitters isn’t gold

The grass always looks greener on the other side

When you play with fire, you get burned.

I don’t know about you, but I would suspect that whoever came up with these sayings had first hand experience of how life can bite you. When we allow curiosity (or distractions) , feelings, or pride to lead us in life rather than patience, discernment and temperance, it’s easy to stumble.

One of my adventures:

When I was a teenager, I let my heart lead me everywhere. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it was seldom that I really gave consequences a second glance. Life was my canvas, and I was always the “leap before you look” kind of girl.

I remember going to visit a couple of friends in California when I was about 19. I didn’t have much money, but I wanted to attend a friend’s wedding and visit a few friends up in Oakland before making my way back home to Texas before school started back. I got a ride with a college friend to California and  made it to the wedding which was beautiful. Unfortunately, by the time I’d concluded my visit in Oakland, I only had enough money for a one-way bus ticket to Texas (Did I mention that my parents didn’t think the road trip was such a good idea?).

The trip was supposed to take 24 hours. I got my ticket, bought a can of Pringles Sour Cream and Onion potato chips (didn’t realize I’d left my toothbrush) and fearlessly hopped on the bus ready for my 24 hour adventure. What I didn’t know was that the Greyhound bus company was on strike (1990). We got a new driver who didn’t know the route well and after 36 hours of driving past disgruntled workers who would turn the bus off at almost every stop, I was starting to pray . . . a lot.

I finally made it to El Paso where I could call my parents for help. They called a cab to meet me at the bus station and convinced a nearby hotel to allow me to stay there even though I wasn’t 21. It was around 2am, the bus station was nearly empty. I had to walk down a long corridor and take the escalator down to the bottom floor of the bus station to wait for the cab. Did I mention to you that I was by myself in an almost empty bus station in El Paso?

A strange man walked up to me (at 2am) and told me I was beautiful. It was 2 am. I hadn’t brushed my teeth in 36 hours (and hadn’t looked in the mirror in that long), and a strange man was telling me I was beautiful? Ha! Ha! This man was either crazy or he was propositioning me. I looked outside and could see the lights from the Mexican border. So without thinking, I began to speak Spanish, praying that he didn’t know the language.  Thank GOD it worked. He spent the next 15 minutes speaking English really slowly trying to express his “love” for me. The cab pulled up just in time to drive me to the hotel (I was back in Dallas by the next afternoon.)

I’d like to say that this was the only time that I naively “followed my gut” and placed myself in a not so pleasant set of circumstances. I’d also like to say that all of my “adventures” ended as well as the bus ride to El Paso , but I can’t. I left the door open to potentially dangerous situations more than once and had to learn the hard way that my heart, feelings, and desires were never meant to take the lead. GOD gave us a head to balance out the impulsive nature of our hearts.

It took a lot of “stings” for me to finally reach that conclusion, but I did and that’s what’s important. It’s not the mistakes that we made that define us. It’s the lessons we’ve learned that give us our character.

Proverbs 3:4-6

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

If you made it to the bottom of this post (Ha! Ha! Whew!) and you’re wondering about the “Butterfly Surprises” that I mentioned in the title, we found out recently that we’re expecting a baby (smile).

Have a beautiful week!

Stress “less”,

Shannon

 

July 15, 2013
by Shannon Clark
0 comments

Helplessness vs. Hopelessness

Helplessness vs. HopelessnessEarlier this week my 5-year-old asked me the “Mommy, where do babies come from?” question. Ha! Ha! After 6 kids, you’d think that I’d have a prepared response by now, but nope. I still get those mommy butterflies when it’s time to answer that question because every child is different.  I always want to handle the subject delicately and present it in a way that vibes with my child’s personality and doesn’t send him or her running for the hills.

Since he’s a visual learner I opted for a short video that I found on babycenter.com that starts at conception and takes the viewer through the baby’s development in the mother’s womb. To simplify things for my kindergartener, I started with first GOD places the baby in a mommy’s tummy, and this is what it looks like at first . . . a little ball of cells.  (Simplistic, yes. The BIG talk will come later :) ).

So, as my son and I sat there watching this video (very realistic by the way), suddenly I was awestruck. It really started to sink in how GOD is able to take something without form and void (I’m thinking Genesis 1 here)  and create something absolutely beautiful and amazing. No matter how many times I go over it in my head, my mind cannot make sense of how a baby can form out of a bunch of cells smooshed together.

This is how I feel when I look back over my life. My mistakes, bad choices, fears, disappointments, frustrations and “no way outs”, all look like one big ball of mush to me, just like the video that I was watching with my son. When I weigh some of those less than happy times, I can’t wrap my mind around how something beautiful could have ever come out of what looked like chaos to me. Yet, GOD, doing what HE does best, took my mess, my heartache, my helplessness, my voids and turned them into my backbone, my strength, my character. I’m so glad that with HIM I’m so much more than the sum of my parts.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Helplessness is not the same thing as hopelessness. We may not have control over our circumstances and our raw material may not look like much, but man, it’s amazing what GOD can do with a little bit of brokenness and a pinch of faith.

Have an awesome week!

Stress “Less”,

Shannon

Driving Backwards

July 1, 2013 by Shannon Clark | 2 Comments

iphone 4.12.13 258Have you heard the saying, “If you’re always looking in your rear view mirror, you can’t keep your eyes on the road ahead“?

The other morning I got up early to run a quick errand before the rest of the house got up. The drive was so nice. I had my windows down. The breeze was gently blowing my hair and everything was so peaceful. And then it happened. I had one of those memory flashbacks from when I was in my 20s. It was an embarrassing moment that I’d pushed to the back of my mind, but all of a sudden, I was back there again. As I replayed the events in my mind, the emotions of the moment came flooding back. My skin began to flush. My heart rate began to increase. The memory was so strong that as I pulled into my parking space at the grocery store, I had to catch my breath. I felt horrible all over again.  I was sitting in a parking lot filled with regret from a bad choice I’d made over 20 years ago, and just a few minutes before I was enjoying a peaceful scenic drive.

The past is funny. When we focus on it (whether good or bad), it has an uncanny way of sucking us into a false reality. Our minds are strong. Not only can they replay events like a movie, but they can even trigger a visceral response, even years after the event. It’s usually not our present circumstances that stifle our growth. It’s the indelible footprint of our past that hinders our progress.

Holding onto our past while trying to move forward in life is a little like driving backwards and using our rear and side view mirror to see the road.  It’s impossible to get a full view of the path we’re traveling because our view is obstructed. You may be headed in the right direction, but I guarantee the trip will be a lot slower and more difficult to navigate.

The best strategy that we have for moving mountains in this life is to release the chains of our past, and focus only on what’s before us. Our past only works in our favor when we are able to view it from the proper perspective.

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philipians 3:13-14)

Have a beautiful week!

Stress “Less”,

Shannon

The Other 90

June 24, 2013 by Shannon Clark | 0 comments

90This week I heard two people quote variations of the following:

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”

Overhearing this one time, no big deal.  But twice? Okay,  I’m listening.

This quote is attributed to author and pastor, Charles Swindoll:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.

Over the last decade I’ve learned to embrace this way of thinking, not so much because it sounds good, but as a means of survival. We’ve faced so many unexpected challenges over the years that at one point I was thinking that there had to be a hidden camera somewhere because it seemed like as soon as we exhaled from one thing, our family was hit with something else. I’m not saying this for you to feel sorry for me because life is what it is, and I truly believe that every situation we’ve faced has made us stronger as individuals and closer as a family.

I’ve said in other posts that learning to think differently about our circumstances is not easy. It takes a deliberate focus on the positive which can be difficult when the negatives are whispering in your ear that your circumstances will never change, but take it from me, it is possible to beat the negatives and transform your life in the process.

We talk a lot to our kids about choices,  and that no matter what happens in this life, we have a choice in how we respond. It’s been my experience that when I react negatively to a situation, the bad feelings linger. They have a way of wrapping themselves around everything like kudzu and multiplying.  Before I know it, that dark shadow has overtaken even the good things. But when I face challenges with hope, optimism and expectancy, my perspective shifts. The situation is no longer the 20 foot giant obstructing my view. It’s more like a 5 foot transparent bully that I can see right  through. It’s still there, but it’s not all consuming which leaves me the extra room I need to breath, adjust my footing, kick it in the gut and move forward.

That’s what the 90% is about. It’s knowing that while life is unpredictable, how we respond to it doesn’t have to be. This is where our power lies.

The Bible says that “GOD has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

What a great reminder this week that we have more control over the outcome of our lives than we think.

Enjoy your week!

Stress “Less”

Shannon

Trust

June 17, 2013 by Shannon Clark | 2 Comments

iStock_000018239670LargeI’m not a stars aligning, the universe is my friend, kind of girl. I don’t believe that there is a neutral universal god that different religions just happen to call by their own name. I don’t believe in different truths based on one’s perspective.

I do believe that there is one Creator of the stars and universe and if they all happen to line up, then it is by HIS design. I also believe that a person’s god is whatever or whomever they choose to worship, so we’d better be sure we know where our loyalties lie before we bow our heads. I believe that there is one TRUTH and that gray areas are meant to be wrestled with until they turn black or white.

Over the years I’ve put my trust in everything from people to money to dreams and even myself, and all of them have failed. I’ve  failed myself.

The only consistent thread that has woven itself through the contours of my life has been my faith in GOD and my relationship with His Son, JESUS CHRIST. I’ll readily admit that I don’t understand the dynamics of our relationship because the intricacies are far beyond my mind’s ability to comprehend. But, I do know that the more I say, “GOD, I trust YOU”, the more I see HIS hand moving in my life.

I realize it’s not popular these days to talk about faith in ONE. The thought that there is a single supreme being that knows us inside and out makes many uncomfortable. It’s so much easier to push that idea away and live comfortably neutral. I get it.

But, I’ve come to appreciate the uncomfortable. That prickly side thorn of accountability has a way of reminding me that my choices in this life are not just about me.

This week I’m taking a step back and reassessing why I do what I do. I need to make sure that my scales are balanced, and I’m still trusting the ONE who gave me life.

Have a blessed one!

Stress “Less”

Shannon

Love Talk

June 10, 2013 by Shannon Clark | 0 comments

Love Talk

Whoa Hoo! I thought that title might get your attention.

(Altogether now)

  L-O-V-E    T-A-L-K

Ha! Ha!That’s fun to say.

I’ll be honest with you, when I think about the phrase “love talk”, I think about my sweetie pie hubby or those times when I cuddle with my kids and tell them how much mommy loves them. It makes them feel good to hear loving words, and it makes me feel good to say them! But what about ourselves? What kind of self-talk do you have going on in your head? Are your thoughts toward you loving and kind or are they hateful and mean? Do your thoughts sound more like:

“You can do this!”, “You’re awesome!”

or

“You’re too old . . . You’re too fat . . . You’ll never make it . . . You’re not smart enough . . . You’re not talented enough . . . You’ll fail”

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this somewhere before, but what we say to ourselves can be more harmful than what others say to us. I can always walk away from a negative person, but I can’t walk away from myself. And our thoughts (the negative ones), can be so subtle, so pervasive, that we don’t even realize we’ve become our own worst enemy. I never considered myself to be a negative person until I really started to pay attention to some of the thoughts that were rolling around in my head. I had to put the brakes on that one pretty quickly.

Eeerrrrrrk!!!!!

It’s already hard enough dealing with negativity on the outside of us, am I really willing to sabotage my chances of doing something awesome in this life by slandering myself? Nope! Uh, uh. I don’t think so.

I talked last week about knowing that you’re beautiful because that’s how GOD made you. Let’s take it a step further this week and make a conscious effort to turn off that leaky faucet of personal slander and turn on the self-love-talk instead.

James 3:10 says,Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

I couldn’t agree more. Gotta work on that one!

Love yourself, so you can love others better.

Have a great week, my friends!

Stress “less”,

Shannon

Hello Beautiful!

June 3, 2013 by Shannon Clark | 2 Comments

Hello Beautiful ThumbnailI have a dear friend of 23 years that I met our freshman year of college. (Uh oh, I’m dating myself here aren’t I?) Over the years we’ve grown to be more like sisters than friends. We live in different states, but somehow the miles and the years have brought us closer. Maybe life has just matured us and we appreciate, respect, and value each other more , or maybe we still can’t believe that those silly girls back in college turned into wives and moms that juggle careers and a house full of kids. (I’m still amazed)

The one thing that I truly value the most about our friendship is its transparency. It’s always refreshing when someone’s heart greets you before pretense. Our personalities are probably as different as night and day, but that never gets in the way of the honesty.

I can’t tell you how many times I was having a hard day, and picked up the phone to hear my friend say, “Hello beautiful!”  Now, this is not a “Wow you’re gorgeous!” kind of greeting. Ha! Ha! I think that would be a little weird and uncomfortable for both of us. But, more as a term of endearment like, “just in case you’ve forgotten that GOD made you beautiful inside and out, I’m here to remind you.” Whatever I was dealing with that day didn’t magically disappear, but her words were a pleasant distraction that reminded me to focus on what was true in my life and what I could control . . . me, my thoughts, my perspective.

You know, when things are easy, and life is running smoothly, it’s easy to flow on the bright side of things. You don’t have to make a conscious effort to look for the silver lining because you’re standing on it. But when things aren’t so bright, and your silver lining has become a dead weight anchor that you’re trying to drag  across the floor, it takes a bit more effort to “function in the moment” with enthusiasm.

It’s not so easy to transform a thought life, especially one that’s been kicked around a little bit, but it’s possible. I know. I’ve been there and done that. It can be a battle on so many levels. But I’ve found that for my peace, and sanity, and health, and heart, it’s worth the fight.

I think it’s pretty awesome that GOD has given us these incredible minds where we can choose how we want to look at life.

I love Philippians 4:8 that says:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I really love the “whatsoever things are lovely” part.

I’m paying my friend’s words forward to you today:

Hello Beautiful!!!

Control what you can and let the rest figure itself out.

Have a great week!

Stress “Less”!

Shannon

We Can Still Fly!

May 27, 2013 by Shannon Clark | 6 Comments

We Can Fly ThumbnailMy favorite time of day is early mornings. I usually get up a couple of  hours before the rest of the house to have some quiet time. I pray. I study my Bible, but mostly I just find a quiet spot outside to sit, watch and listen. Nature, GOD’s handiwork, has a way of teaching me the most beautifully profound lessons when I slow down and pay attention.

It’s springtime this way, so the birds have been crazy busy around here. I’ve seen lots of nest building, fat mommy birds getting ready to release their eggs, territorial fights between rivals and lots of singing. But what has struck me the most during these early morning “classes”,  is their freedom. I watch them swoop down out of the trees to gather their food for their young and then carry it back to their nests, soaring high above the pandemonium, the craziness of what “we see” everyday.

They don’t live like we do. Their days aren’t filled with the worries of this world. They don’t stop and think, “Man, I wonder if they’re gonna be any worms for me and my family to eat today.” They just know that it’ll be there, so they go get it.

That’s the difference between them and us. Our logical brains get in the way of divine providence, GOD’s ways. HE has already provided for us, but we trip over our own logic. In our minds, if circumstances A & B don’t line up then C ain’t happenin’.

If we’re not careful, we become like the caged bird who no longer lives by the freedom of his instincts, but is dependent upon the unpredictable hand of his human master.

This brings to mind three Bible verses. The first, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. . . (Proverbs 23:7a)  Our minds our powerful. If we believe in our hearts that we are caged in by our circumstances then we will be.

And then one of my favorite passages (Mathew 6: 26-27):

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

Our wings aren’t clipped. We can still fly! We just have to get out of the cages of our circumstances and go out there and get what’s been waiting for us all along.

Have a beautiful, stress “less” week!

Shannon