Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finding Your Purpose: Living a Christ Centered Life

So, I don't wanna get super nerdy....

Who am I kidding? Of course, I do!! 
I am a nerd. And I love it.

Was I always this way?
No.

I've been a cocky, self-centered, self-serving, worldly driven diva many years of my life. God blessed me with many talents, which made me fairly unlikable in society. Why? A couple reasons. A. I was good at everything I ever tried. B. I took credit for it.

Some people were kind and appreciative of my talents while others were engulfed in jealousy. I know that because I've been on both sides of that fence. I've been the pigeon, I've been the statue. I've lived in envy. I've gloated in triumph. My resume looks pretty impressive with lists of performances. I've done well in many singing competitions, I've had lead roles in theatre, I have a few film extra experiences. I'm also a professional cosmetologist and have done well for myself using my skills as a creative artist. Most of my life, I have pursued these talents for my own purpose. For my own gain.

It's funny looking back... Even though I seemed to "have it all", I couldn't help but compare myself to others and always want MORE. The more I focused on self-gain, the less my personal life went right. I mean, really dumb, dumb things would happen that some people would label as "karma". Yep. It  totally was. When you're out to see yourself succeed, you aren't really cautious about who or what you push out of the way to get there. While I've been a Christian my whole life, and like to think I've always been a good person, it doesn't mean I've always acted my best. Fame and fortune is just a fairytale. Any person of real talent--Elvis, Michael Jackson, Norma Jean, will tell you so...

 This habit of seeking temporal applause and exceeding any mortal goal hadn't proven to yield much joy and peace. I am one of the most anxious souls I've ever met. I am plagued with doubt and unease. My drive and passion led me to many grand endeavors and I am forever thankful for those experiences, but what I'm most thankful for are my hardships. The person I am now has been refined and sculpted by careful, knowing, intelligent hands. The girl I once was, the singer the dancer the pianist the athlete the writer the entertainer...has found a new purpose.

When did it change, you might ask?

The change has been gradual. It began two years ago when I gave birth to my daughter. I have always wanted to be a mother. I know that is my divine calling. And not just a mother but a GREAT one. As a new mommy, I faced the challenge of "giving up" things I wanted for things that benefited my family. My beauty regimen was almost non-existent. I couldn't devote hours to working out like I had before and I couldn't even participate in hobbies I had once enjoyed--not to mention excelled at. It was a huge adjustment for me. I didn't want to be selfish but sometimes I felt like I was losing myself. 

Now, it's a great big argument between mothers about how much you should give up of yourself when you have children. So for the sake of eliminating debate (and trust me, I should eliminate it because debate happens to fall into my category of strange talents...one that always gets me in trouble) I want to say this is just my experience and everyone should choose for themselves to know God's plan for them. I found mine in motherhood. In giving up the limelight and physical beauty. Ya, okay I think I'm holding it together pretty well because I work out and work as a cosmetologist for a living, but you get the idea. I didn't let it absorb me. I didn't let it consume my thoughts. I stopped comparing myself to women I thought were prettier or better dancers or better artists. I was born frCENTERont, which is terribly annoying to backstage, crew-member, ensemble types. I'm sorry. It's just how we come to Earth. I've lived on a stage my entire life. It brings me happiness and fills me like a drug. I feel high when I'm on stage. And I'm pretty good at it. Acting, singing, dancing. The whole bit. But I realized when I became a mother that a career in the performance arts was going to drive me away from my children and away from my constant companion, the Holy Spirit, and limit my time with my husband. I remember holding the completed application to AMDA in my hands, reviewing my letters of recommendation and thinking..."it's right here. I could have this dream." 

Something in me said, Don't.

And I didn't. It wasn't right for me and my path. It is not what God wanted for me and my children. Truth be told, I'm too much of a sucker for the spotlight that I would've sold my soul at the soonest opportunity. I might have made it big, but I would've lost everything. I've swam in the ocean of the entertainment industry and I can say it isn't pretty. And nearly impossible to be a solid Christian. Honor and dignity are the forms of currency and I haven't come across a starry eyed big shot who hasn't sold out.

This sacrifice, as some may call it, turned out to be an amazing experience for me. I'm watching my children develop into kind, special spirits. Really, sometimes I sit and think, "I literally can't do ANYTHING for myself anymore!" And I get frustrated--eh, I'm human. It's a simple as hearing my favorite song on the radio. (Gospel radio, only. Going on two months STRAIGHT NOW!) And I'll turn it up to sing along and my son will start screaming. Moment ruined. I open my email and get four words typed when my daughter comes up to me, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" Pulls hair, pulls shirt, pulls phone. I can hardly eat, let alone indulge in some lavish, self-serving "talent". But you know what? As weird as it sounds, I DO feel more peace now than I ever have in my life. It isn't all bad--putting your kids' needs before your own. I'm a firm believer that THAT'S what parenthood is supposed to be like. I think it is what makes us become more like God, which is our purpose in mortality. We can learn to be completely selfless and love others more than ourselves, and the greatest practice is parenthood. I mean, lots of people stink at this--hence the broken children that will soon be our future. But there are many of us trying...desperately trying...to do it right. To be good mothers and fathers. I am one of these people, and I've been willing to walk away from everything and anything that wasn't part of the Lord's plan for me.

I'm letting God work through me and listening to the promotings of the Holy Spirit when I make parenting decisions and guess what? I've uncovered a new talent. Being a freaking rocking mom!

That's right. Being a good mom takes talent, and I am good at it! It is SO rewarding! It makes it easy to be okay with saying goodbye to my stage life because I know the heavenly applause is going to be utterly OUTSTANDING! 

In conclusion, I want to share something private with you. 
God knows us. Each and every one.
He knows our heart and our joys, our sadness and wishes.
God knew of my strengths and my presence and He blessed me with a new stage.

Two years ago, I began volunteering as an ARP facilitator for the LDS addiction recovery program. Shortly after, I was asked to give a presentation on the program at a Sunday meeting. This was followed by three more invitations to present. At the end of the third one, I was approached by the director of the program and asked if I would be interested in doing a valley-wide fireside. This is incredible to me. I've never had stage fright, I love talking to audiences and helping people, and I have an immense desire to reflect Christ with my talents. Well, God above granted me this priveledge. He has allowed me to fulfill the tiny entertainer in me by performing in a whole different way. And boy, is it rewarding.

I've also had the opportunity to participate in several videos the will be broadcast worldwide. They shine light on the topic of addiction recovery and bring people closer to Christ. This program is called the Addiction Recovery Program, and it is a similar 12 step program to AA. With special permission, the writers approached Bill (who founded the AA program) and the LDS church modified it to pertain specifically to Christ and His atonement. I recently filmed a segment talking about my experience as the spouse of an addict--when I was married to my first husband. In a selfish way, this was very therapeutic to me--I have prayed many times to keep my heart's intent pure. I hope to reach many lives and help many people. I want others who have gone through this to know there IS hope, and there IS a purpose. There is a reason, and you can use it for your better. I promise. The Lord's refiner's fire is REAL. It is NECESSARY. Being bitter and angry about trials is the adversary's way. God is testing us, but He is always there with a solution and a REASON. Then, when you have given your will over to His, and chosen right over wrong, He will bless you--as He has ME!

Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you." My story is now almost completely "told." Parts of it will be visible in this video when it is produced, and the rest of it will be distributed when my first book is published (which will be this summer) A piece of my soul is within each character.

These moments of "performing" bring me so much happiness and fulfillment, and yet they don't detract from my time as a mother. I feel high, once again. But not in a selfish way. I am filled with the Holy Spirit and it helps me, and guides me, in what I can say. You see, it is okay to have passions and goals and desires. For me, as a living witness of Christ, it is important for me to show the world we can still "have fun", "be successful", "influence people", and have joy even when being a huge NERD!! Alright, enough nerd talk. I'm so proud of who I  right now, and nothing can make me deny the blessings I've received. I can never go back to the woman I was, never go back to that time of self-absorbed attitudes and superficial vanities. Being a mom is the coolest job on the planet and I know I'll be paid in riches unimaginable for nailing it! 

And in the meantime I get to have my cake and eat it, too. See ya on stage soon friends!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Introducing Brittany Shannon Books

Hello, everyone. It may not be a shock for some of you, but for others you may be surprised to hear that I am publishing my first book! I started writing this book ten years ago and it has gone through many, MANY drafts to the point where it is almost nothing like the original. This book is titled Og, and it is the first in my historical fiction series Conquest of Canaan. I am so so so excited for this dream of mine to become a reality, I can hardly stand it. Other authors know just why this is such a long process but the rest of you have probably thought I was just having high hopes because, well, I've been talking about it for ten years. Well, it is finally just around the corner. I've had an awesome team working with me. My cover turned out exactly how I wanted and designed. My producer Dayna has been such a doll, so nice and professional, and Karen at Bookwise is like the Aunt I've been missing :) I have many people to thank, and I will over the coming months. Please, send your love my way and don't forget to check out Og when pre-sales launch! I'll keep you posted. 

@AuthorBrittanyShannon

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week 23

52 Weeks of Gratitude challenge: week 23
52 Weeks of gratitude week 23: favorite physical trait. On the blog.

Somewhere over the years the meaning of "beauty" became a physical thing. Just like everyone else, I strive to feel good on the outside. But I stand firm in my belief that beauty is 100% a spiritual attribute that encompasses a person's soul, all the true desires of their heart. Real beauty stands the test of time. It does not age, wrinkle, or crack. Being beautiful also makes one happy, so much more so than the "ideal" physical appearance. As it is, the most physically attractive people I know are the most unhappy, consumed by personal endeavors that neither increase joy for others nor their eternal glory. It is my wish my children grow up to understand what it means to be beautiful and to recognize their individuality with gladness. For the worth of every soul is great.
#52weeksofgratitude #challenge #beauty #gratitude

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude:Week 22

I was staring at my gratitude challenge today and couldn't believe it...I am almost halfway done! It seems like just yesterday I started this in an effort to live a more fulfilling life. I want to appreciate all the things I have, big or small. I want to be filled with gratitude. Basically, I want to be happier.

Speaking of happier...for Mother's Day my husband bought me a sparkling water maker. This makes me happy! And leads me to the week 22 prompt of my challenge: something you use every day.

My love for soda is no secret. But it's not just the sugar, it's the bubbles! (I'm like that crazy fish in Nemo. Bubbbbbllleeeeessss!) I use my sparkling water maker every day, sometimes twice a day. I add a little bit of juice, or some flavored water enhancer to give it some zing. If I'm feeling really healthy, just lemon and ice. I am super grateful for this sparkling water maker because it satisfies my need for "soda" and it's at my fingertips. Its probably the closest I come to breaking the word of wisdom te he he. No really. But seriously.

Moderation.

Anyway. That concludes my week 22 for the 52 Weeks of Gratitude challenge. Hope you're all having a great summer!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week 21

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week 21
Things You Love About Summer!!÷

Um, everything?!?! Hello, summer is my favorite! I love sunshine, heat, baking in both. (My spirit animal is lizard) I love water, getting a tan, drinking lemonade, watching my kids dig in the dirt--or eat it, if they're 8 months old--jumping on the tramp, going camping. Which we haven't attempted yet with both kiddos. Yikes! Haha...

Summer is my favorite time of year. I am eternally grateful for warm weather. Blue skies. Days like today when the sky is blue from one end to the other are my absolute favorite. I sit outside every day. (uh. Hopefully I can avoid cancer :/)
I do wear sunscreen. Disclaimer: don't do what I do unless you wana be a wrinkly old hag some day.

I love going on bi-weekly hikes. Exercising. Swimming. I miss the beach. But this time of year would be my favorite time to hit the ocean waves.

And that concludes my review of week 21...yep, super late. Tomorrow begins week 22 of the 52 week challenge and...it's a good one!
Stay tuned.