EVEN IF….

I started a book proposal when Covid shut us all in. I was supposed to go on a weekend retreat with other writers but #covid! So we did it via Zoom….little did I know that in April of 2020 the book that God had within me about my calling, my life story and all my crazy ministry oppoturnities would lead to a book like “this.” I spent many hours working with Suzanne Eller, an amazing Bible study teacher, podcaster and now writing coach tweaking my big ideas and loosey goosey thoughts and turning them into a book proposal.

Below are a few “even if…” statements I’ve been writing about and working all…there’s more to come!

Leave me YOUR “even if…” in the comments! I’d love for you to share that with me!

Doubt Turns Into Faith

It’s been a year!

You could read sentence that with: exaggeration; exasperation; excitement; or even accomplishment.

For me, on “this side” of 2020, I’ll claim it as an a sense of accomplishment….it’s been a year since God laid it on my heart to write a book!

Somedays, I feel nowhere closer to accomplishing that than I did a year ago.

Other days, with a little perspective, I can see all that God has done!

Most days, I still doubt that I’m supposed to being do this at all!

And then I remember! I remember how God specifically told me to clean out my office, make room on a desk and gave me the word “WRITE” for the year 2020. Now, since it’s been a year, I can see more words on a page than I had a year ago. Yet, I still doubt.

And WHY DO I DOUBT??? Why do I doubt that I know wholly (and holy!) what God has called me to do? I doubt because I forget to remember.

Read that again. I doubt because I forget to remember!

I hate it when I forget to remember something. The Israelites tho…they were good at remembering….remembering the day they came out of Egypt (Exodus 13:3); remembering the Lord, their God (Deut 8); they even remember when God gave his people victory over the Philistines and set up a stone on the victory hill to remember how God had saved, and helped them…lest they forget (1 Samuel 7:12).

(I’m breaking out in song with you right now...”here I raise my ebenezer, hitherby they help I’ve come….come thou font…”). LOL

It is in my forgetfulness that I doubt! Even if I doubt, I have to remember.

I have to choose to remember God’s faithfulness and goodness.

It is in my forgetfulness that I doubt! Even if I doubt, I have to remember God’s faithfulness and goodness! ~Shannan Cloud

And so, what if your doubt could lead you to deeper faith?

Even if you are a believer, you are also a doubter. Or maybe, just maybe, someone needs to give you the permission to embrace your doubts! You wrestle with many doubts about your faith. You wonder if God has a calling for you. You second guess the leading of the Holy Spirit. You struggle to know if what you believe God is asking of you is a coincidence, a thought of your own doing, or the actual leading and moving of the Holy Spirit. 

Did God really say that?

Did I really hear that?

Did God really call me to do that?  

What if you were equipped to examine and meet those doubts, one by one as they arise? In doing so, you replace your doubts with remembering who God is; who He has always been. 

Even if you question who God is, you discover the heart of God through scripture. 

Even if you ignore God’s voice, He still hears you. 

Even if you doubt what He is calling you to do, you can trust His Word. 

Even if you disobey God, He forgives you and offers second chances full of grace.  

Even if you quit ministry, He is still your faithful, loving Savior. 

What’s your “even if…?”

With so many doubts, there has to be some way to use them for our good! How do we shift from lingering in our doubts to living in our faith?

We remember! Shifting from doubt to faith involves remembering! At the heart of doubt, is the act of remembering God’s faithfulness. Even if you doubt, you have to choose to remember your faith.

Shifting from doubt to faith involves remembering! At the heart of doubt, is the act of remembering God’s faithfulness. Even if you doubt, you have to choose to remember your faith. ~Shannan Cloud

In the midst of doubt, choosing to remember God’s previous acts of faith in your life is pivotal.  You have to choose to remember; remember God’s goodness; God’s faithfulness; God’s trustworthiness.

It is in the act of remembering, that your doubts draw you closer to God and your faith is deepened and it moves you forward in your faith. So, the next time you begin to doubt what God is asking of you; or you doubt His goodness; or you doubt His will or His promises…do this one thing: REMEMBER! Remember what He’ done for you!

It is in the act of remembering, that your doubts draw you closer to God and your faith is deepened and it moves you forward in your faith. ~Shannan Cloud

Write it down – every day write 1 thing God did for you that day! Make it like a marker the Israelites used with stones. and write down where and how God acted on your behalf. And then, on those days, when you forget to remember, you can point back and say, “LOOK! THERE! That is what God is doing for me!”

You see….I told you your doubts could turn into faith – I mean because…..

If graves can turn into gardens, then doubt can turn into faith. 

If graves can turn into gardens, then doubt can turn into faith! ~ Shannan Cloud

H is for Humble

H – HUMBLE – 

H is for humble. When our calendars are so full, we must look rather foolish to God. It seems like we are striving too hard, seeking too much, and selling ourselves short of His Glory. 

1st Peter 5:6-7 exhorts us to, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

If you want to truly be seen and heard, maybe it’s best to lay low; be humble; try not to outdo, outpost, or outperform your neighbor.  All too often we think we are doing great and mighty things with our busyness; we think it’s all about us. 

But I’ve been convicted that we fail miserably at giving God credit where credit is due!  Most things we call a “coincidence” or “signs from the universe” when it is really God that is blessing you and fulfilling His promises and Will for your life!

This year, let’s be the one not craving the attention, not striving for notoriety (said she trying to build of platform of email followers and write a book- – I know! I know!), and not clamoring for kudos.  Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year we can be seen as the amazing people that we were created to be….we were built for community and to glorify God.

Maybe we can do this by hearing more and talking less; by fasting and not byhoarding; by being accountable and not by being judgmental; by sitting in silence and not by chasing our calendars. 

In the middle of the weary world, choose to do just one thing that will help you disconnect so you can reconnect, to God, yourself, and others.

Don’t deny, dismiss, or downplay the power of the Holy Spirit in your daily life.

Let’s all learn to walk by F.A.I.TH.

Click below to see previous “walk by F.A.I.T.H.” posts below.

Fasting Accountability Interrogate Trusting Humble

T is for Trusting

For surely…..

T – TRUST GOD

T is for trusting God. I’ve trusted Him many times over the years….my biggest trust truths involved moving to Bolivia; going to seminary; saying YES to Dusty; and raising kids!! LOL! But what about trusting that small, still voice that just nudges you. It’s God you know! Do you trust it?

For the last couple of days, I have been praying about a Scripture that our mission team could use on our t-shirts for our trip to Honduras in May. Immediately, Micah 6:8 came to mind: Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk humbly with the Lord. I then dismissed that “knowing” and kept praying for a different verse….maybe I’d come up with a better one; maybe there was a different one to use.

But, 24 hours later, that same verse kept coming back to my heart and mind. But I still kept thinking and searching for a verse.

Finally, I realized I had to trust God was giving me that verse for a reason. I reached out to the rest of the team to say, “hey…whatcha think about THIS verse…maybe…..?” I didn’t want to seem like I was being bossy or in charge (don’t laugh!!) but I wanted to be sure we were yielding to the Spirit and I wanted to be sure others had a chance to offer up Scripture they felt led to.

I posted in our group chat that I kept coming back to Micah 6:8. Immediately, 2 members posted back, “that’s crazy! Me and dad came up with a design using that verse!”

I’m so glad I trusted that nudging; that “knowing” of the Spirit and that act of God! How cool of God to prove to us that He is already working and moving on our behalf…. to have confirmation that our verse is the right one! I love that!!! Isn’t that how we wished everything could happen? I believe more often than not….that it DOES HAPPEN … we just don’t trust the Spirit that is living and moving in us!

How many times do we miss a blessing, an opportunity, or an answered prayer because we didn’t trust enough? (I know….ouch!…those are my toes I’m stepping on, too!)

So I ask, do you trust God?  If so, where or how or when did you see Him show up for you today? Stop your crazy busy schedule long enough to ask yourself where you saw Him today.

This year, I’m starting a list and I’m keeping track of all the ways I want to remember how God worked and moved on my behalf. I’m calling it my “Ebeneezer” (that word means “stone of help” go check out 1 Samuel 7:12): ) — and so my “ebenezer” is a list of prayer requests and even moreso, where I’ve seen God move and work…I want to remember them; I want to point them out to my kids…I want them to see God’s goodness and faithfulness….I want them to trust Him….more than anything else!

As believers, we are created and called to build our life as someone who has complete trust and confidence in God’s promises; even if the world around us is crazy and chaotic.  

Jeremiah 29:11 is, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God has amazing plans and blessings prepared just for you.  But are you so busy that you are simply missing out?    

Choose to trust that God is who He says He is. Will you trust Him enough to see and hear what He is doing for you?   What was one Truth that you noticed today? Write that down. Start your ebenezer list! 😉

Trust God….. Look for Him in the everyday, ordinary, mundane ways. Be expectant of His presence while you look for the holy in the ordinary.

I is for Interrogate

I know what you’re thinking…. INTERROGATE??? WHAT IN THE WORLD??!

Hear me out tho!!!

When I originally wrote this, the letter I was for Interview God. And I liked it at first. But I asked a writer friend, who happens to be a lawyer, what another word would be for the letter I in my F.A.I.T.H. acronym. I said it has to replace the word “interview” and still begin with an I….BUT…it has to have the meaning where you sit and ask the Lord to show you your heart. Where you are sort of “interviewing” the Lord so to speak; asking Him to show you what needs confessing in the depths of your heart and on the doorstep of your soul. A kind of question and answer about “how’s your heart” kind of thing.

I told her it has to be a practice….an action…a “thing” you do with the Lord.

And her response was, “In the legal world we call that Interrogation, Shannan!”

My response was, “WHOOOOOAAAA! THAT is almost scary!! But I think I love it!” And so here we are….I is for Interrogate!

I – Interrogate

Initially, I was for Interview.  Interviewing is usually a two-way conversation.  But that’s not what I was after – not this time! 

If we want to hear from God, we are going to have to quit talking long enough to listen! Psalm 46:10 states, “be still and know that I am God…..” This is a time when you are going to sit in silence and be in the presence of God.  Sit and listen for the powerful, yet soft, still, voice of the Lord. It’s not always audible but we can know what He is saying; let Him speak into your heart. Let Him show you where you need to ask for forgiveness.  Let Him show you your failings.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t be pretty. But, it is necessary.  

Several years ago, I learned a profound lesson in letting the Lord interrogate my heart. I put in a new worship CD for a 2 hour drive home and was ready to worship and sing all the way. As I pushed PLAY, nothing happened. I pushed play again. Nothing.  I ejected the disc and started over.  I pushed PLAY several more times.  Still nothing.  I laughed. “OK God…you’ve got my attention. Nothing.  Silence.  I listened.  I drove.  Miles passed.  So, I asked God, “What do you need from me? Interrogate my heart, O Lord.” A soft nudging and knowing in my spirit, “You can’t worship without confession.” 

I spent the next 20 miles letting Him show me my heart; crying and confessing about a certain situation in women’s ministry.  It had been an ugly cry; but a holy confession.  I stopped for a bathroom break, washed my face, got back in the car and guess what? The music blared! 

“Yes, Lord. I hear you….confession before worship.” 

Are you willing to pray, “Interrogate my heart, O Lord“?

What has the Lord shown you? Share in the comments! I’d love to know who He is working and moving through you!

A is for Accountability!

This is week #2 in my 5 part series, “Walk by F.A.I.T.H.” Last week’s blog post was: “F is for Fasting.”

“A is for accountability!”

A – ACCOUNTABILITY

Are we even comfortable with the word “accountability?” Does it just makes us think that someone is in our business, prying into our personal life and simply being nosey? My students don’t like it when I hold them responsible for their grades and class work, but that is different than accountability.

Accountability is being willing to be held responsible for your actions. Accountability doesn’t mean punishment and calling you out; its about helping you be better and calling you “up” to a higher good. You aren’t punished for your wrongs, but with accountability, you just give an answer for how you’re doing.

In the past, my accountability partner and I would check in with each other throughout the week with a simple text: “Hey!  It’s Shannan.  Just checking in to see how your spiritual walk is this week?”

Or I would ask, “When have you felt closest to the Lord this week?  Where do you think  you helped the movement of the Holy Spirit this week? Where have you hindered it?” 

We would chat via texts once a week and then share together in person once a month.  There were even days I would send a short text:  “On a scale of 1-10, where are you with the Lord today?” 

You don’t have to announce on social media about your accountability partner.  Quietly and simply,  reach out to 1-2 other people and share your goals. Let them know how you are doing….on a scale of 1-10.  Be as specific as your relationship allows.

You mainly want someone that will help you stay on track and stay focused.  Who will hold you accountable? Make you a list and reach out to someone. Wouldn’t this be a great spiritual discipline to start 2021 off with?!

Start praying about now….get a jump start on 2021! I mean, why not?! We are all SOOOOO OOOOOVERRRRR 2020 anyway! Don’t waste the last few days of this year! At least use them for good and for future days!

F is for Fasting: How to Walk by F.A.I.T.H.

“What?  I can’t hear you.  Are you on mute?  I still can’t hear you!” 

Those were my words of exasperation during a writer’s virtual retreat. Overworked and exhausted from teaching my own virtual class of 4th graders, I looked forward to the retreat. I knew that interruptions and technology glitches would ensue throughout the weekend. I tried several times and in different ways to connect my wireless headphones to my laptop.  I would try at the beginning of a meeting and then give up because it didn’t work.  I would adjust my settings during a break and try again.  Everyone had advice but nothing was working. I could hear from my laptop’s speakers, but I could also hear the dog barking, the laundry dinging, and the kids running throughout the house!

I finally gave up trying to trouble-shoot my problems and decided it was time to start over and completely disconnect my headphones from my laptop. I had to make several clicks to make my Airpods “forget” my computer so I could re-install them and “pair” them again.  And you know what? IT WORKED!  It was at that moment I realized a great truth about listening to others & connecting with God – sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect!  

I had to forget everything I thought I knew and disconnect before I could reconnect again. With my headphones on, and my attention refocused, everything was quiet in my surroundings. I was connected to the speaker; I could focus on the meeting, and be intentional to the tasks before me.

Isn’t that what we all need to do in a new year? To disconnect from our busy “To Do” lists; disconnect from the schedules & events we chase after; disconnect from social media; disconnect from anything that leads to us being weary, worn, and weepy? Don’t we all long to reconnect with our family? Reconnect with ourselves? Reconnect to a slower pace of life? Reconnect with each other? Reconnect with God? 

How do we disconnect from our busy, hectic daily lives in order to reconnect? 

2 Corinthians 5:7 states, “we walk by faith.”  When we walk by faith, we choose to tune our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God’s Word.  As followers of Christ, we aren’t created to build our lives around things that have no eternal significance.  Rather than pursue the same things the world pursues, we are created to focus on our walk with the Lord.  It is a choice we have to make.  But how do we do that? I believe we can do this if we walk by F. A. I. T. H. 

F – FASTING    

F is for fasting.  This does not necessarily have to mean food. It can be anything that distracts you from rest & renewal. With a heading of “Return to the Lord”

Joel 2:12 claims, “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;”  Put simply, what do you need to give up so that you can return to the Lord?  Whatever is the biggest distractor to peace & rest, start your fast there.  Be specific. Be willing to admit what your “time wasters” are. Here’s the real challenge…. be willing to make better choices.  

A daily life of peace & calm is countercultural to our American lifestyle.  Our schedules and agendas have made us more worldly-weary and spiritually depleted and less Christ-like followers who walk in His ways! 

During many days of quarantine, I found myself binge watching Netflix!  Do you know how much Bible studying, reading, or writing I could have done in that amount of time?  I was finally convicted by the Holy Spirit that I was watching too much TV. 

I had a choice to make – was I going to honor the time I had been given during quarantine and give up my binge watching to make better use of my time? Or was I going to choose to ignore the nudging of the Holy Spirit? 

I chose to fast from binge watching TV. Now, in the times when I would normally watch TV, I choose either to work on my writing or I choose to watch a Bible study video online, and some days, I choose to do nothing. Nothingness is not a bad thing. It gives us space and time to exhale and decompress. Give yourself permission to do this!  Let the nudging of the Holy Spirit lead you.

What are you going to fast? How long does your fast need to be? Leave me a comment below and let me know what you are fasting!! I’m so excited to read what you share!

Look for next week’s post about the Letter A! What do you think it will be about?

Cozy Christmas Tradition

It’s a LOVELY magazine, The Joyful Life.

One night back in September, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw in a writers group that it was the last day to submit a writing about a “cozy Christmas family tradition.” So I wrote something real quick about our Winn-Smalley family tradition and submitted it. Then, I forgot about it.
I was on a Zoom call with The Book Mamas and we were talking about this issue and one of them said, YOU’RE IN IT!
I ran to grab my copy and looked through it! Here it is!

Leave me a comment….what is a cozy Christmas tradition that you do? I’d love to hear about it!

Book Idea Word Search: Quit Second Guessing

Social media friends and followers have been liking the B option the best for my working title –

Quit Second Guessing: Ditch Your Doubt and Find Your Faith

Want to know what this book is shaping up to be about? Here are some key words and big ideas that I’m praying about, brainstorming, and crowd sourcing for feedback on!

Take a screen shot of the pic and you should be able to highlight with your “mark up” option and highlight the words/phrases as you find them and then cross off the list! Give it a try!

Click here to download and print to do the word search. http://Quit Second Guessing Word Search

Are You a Friend That Will S.T.I.C.K.?

It was a Thursday night. That only meant one thing…..BOOK MAMAS via ZOOM!

I have this amazing group of Christian writer friends that God has blessed me with. We met during a virtual writers retreat back in April. To this day, I have only met 1 of them in person, but they are a new amazing part of my life and I can’t imagine writing a book without them. We call ourselves the Book Mamas because we are all in the midst of writing a book we hope to someday “give birth to!” 

The Book Mamas have truly been a redeeming quality for this chaotic year of Covid 2020. And here’s why they are so amazing….they truly are the real deal. They are who they say they are! If someone says they are an international travel guide who loves the Lord and loves to run, that’s her! If someone is from another country and lives here now and has an unbelievable life story that you only see on “LIFETIME” television, that’s her. There are so many amazing, godly, and unbelievable stories that make up the lives of The Book Mamas and they are nothing but the real deal!

During our last Zoom meeting, when explaining to a friend about who The Book Mamas are, Monica Bard said, “they are just someone who sticks!” Proverbs 18:24 states, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”  You are either an unreliable friend or a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And here’s what I’ve decided she meant by that!

S is for support. We support each other’s dreams, big ideas, crazy thoughts and are an amazing source of encouragement! They are friends that will cheer you on and cheer you up. They are there in a Group Me chat message to share hopes, dreams, prayers, frustrations, and doubts. They are honest, kind, encouraging, truthful, and fun. They are amazing cheerleaders, heart healers, hand-holders, and faith finders. I love their support. Who needs your support? Are you a supportive friend?

T is for truth.  We share our joys of life and writing with each other. They are some of the first ones, and sometimes the only ones, to read certain pieces of our books that we are currently working on. They are honest with a touch of grace. They’ll share their heart that is encompassed with Scripture about what we are each going through. They continuously point each other to the truth…about God, about our stories, and ourselves. Are you a friend that is focused on the truth?   

I is for integrity.  Integrity is a hard thing to find and be and do these days. Too many people want to tell you who you should be. Too many people want to place unrealistic expectations on you; too many people are out to destroy other’s morals and character. I read once that integrity is based on values, not personal gain. The Book Mamas are each in different writing stages of a book, but we offer feedback based on the value of glorifying God, not our own personal hope for publishing a book better and faster than the others. Are you a friend with integrity? 

C is for community. There is no greater place that hope can flourish than in community.  When you are isolated, you are defeated with no hope of return.  When you are in community, there is always hope because there is someone else to hold you up, pray to heaven on your behalf.  Belonging to a community lets you rest in their prayers and hope until you can find your own hope and strength again.  Life happens in community.  If 2020 has taught us nothing else it is this …we were created for one another; created for community; created to be together; created for communion… a common union where we share joys and sorrows. Who is in your community?

K is for kooky. If anyone is the goofball and dork of the group, it is me. And sometimes, I’m a BIG DORK. And it’s just when you think these godly, gifted, and glorious women of God aren’t as fun as you, you blink on Zoom and waaa-laaa…they are kooky, fun-loving, and as zany as anyone! They are more than you could handle because they are amazing. They give me a run for my money when it comes to being kooky, hilarious, and full of life. But with every fiber of their being, they really live their lives and write their stories to give God the Glory! Who are your kooky friends that just let you be you?

As we finish up 2020, a.k.a. the worst year of eternity, be a friend that will S.T.I.C.K..  It will surely redeem the year and make you a better person going into 2021!

Proverbs 18:24, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,  but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”  (Or closer than a book mama!)