Saying Thank You After 20 Years

The lady’s picture of Michelle Ule’s new book Mrs. Oswald Chambers caught my attention, and I “liked” it. The book’s pages were marked with blue and orange tabs, and a pair of reading glasses sat off to the side.

The following day or so, as I scroll through my Instagram activity, I notice a new follower. Oh … it’s that lady. I click onto her gallery page and sense her familiarity. Yes, that’s right. I had seen her picture from Michelle Ule’s launch party. Because I had written a blog post on Michelle’s book, I was led here, to this place.

As I glance over the lady’s bio, words grab my attention–author of The Ache for a Child. My heart flutters. I know God is up to something incredible in my life. Anything God does for me, and I recognize it, is deemed incredible. Because it’s usually the small things that bless my heart in the big ways.

I head into my closet and pull out the clothes hamper. And there against the wall is the bookshelf, the old bookshelf. The one that holds old things, heart things, book things that touched my hands and touched my heart. I can’t part from them.

DSC_8934 (5)DSC_8931 (6)My eyes roam over the sections. I shift books around, looking for … There … there it is.

DSC_8923 - Copy (5)DSC_8921 - Copy (6)As I open the pages, my past reunites with my present. They hug. They cry in each others’ arms. And after the weeping comes the rejoicing. What are you doing here, old friend? After this many years. Page after highlighted page explains away. I read over my scribbles in the margins, never doing justice to the words of comfort God scribbled over my heart. But how does a marginal human put into words something so vast, something that can’t be contained in the tiny space of her heart?

DSC_8924 - Copy (4)I sit there on the closet floor, pondering God’s goodness.

Because I did this … because I walked through the door you opened, Lord … you did this. I bow my head. I thank Him, oh, how I thank Him. I’m no stranger to tear-stained jeans.

I follow my old and new heart-friend back on Instagram and contact her. “Did you write this book?” I attach a picture of the book.

“Yes, a long time ago!” she says. “I’m in the middle of updating it. How did you come across it?”

How did I come across it? What a question. I picked it up from a Christian book store 20 years ago, as I stood there feeling alone in the aisle of  pain and misery. As I stood there wanting a family with all my heart and wondering if God would come through for me. After I took that book into my home and devoured it with my whole being, my pastor at that time, Dr. Robert Jeffress, asked me to start and lead an infertility support group for our church.

Holding that little book in my hands, I remember all the doors that God opened for me through the years.

DSC_8928 (2)Page after page turned in my life, and new words were written over my story … my life came alive. God gave me two girls. God gave me a family. God came through with my heart’s desire since childhood.

girlspink05fallrockfish 014 (5)“I can’t tell you what your book meant to me,” I write. “Thank you. You were a light in a very scary time.”

I bow my head again.

Father, thank you. I follow you, but you followed me first. You loved me first. Your love conquers all fear. You know exactly how to wrap up the chapters in my life. And tie it off with a gold and pink bow. I’m thankful The End of this life hasn’t come. I’m thankful you let me say “thank you” after 20 years. I’m thankful that Deb made herself vulnerable and emptied her heart on those pages so that I could find courage. Thank you for leading me to her words that became marked on my heart so long ago.

I like it, God. I so it.


Have you had a chance to say thank you to someone who helped you so long ago? Maybe someone who didn’t even know they’d helped you? I’d love to hear your story.

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Pulling A Biddy: Michelle Ule–Author Of Mrs. Oswald Chambers–& A Giveaway

“I took a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow by myself on what happened to be my wedding anniversary, looking for a man at a train station carrying a copy of My Utmost for His Highest!” 

“You did?” I say aloud, smiling over my favorite line of Michelle Ule’s author-interview notes to me and admiring her bravery. She was “pulling a Biddy,” as she calls it–confident in God, no matter the circumstances.

Michelle asked the train-station stranger, a member of the Oswald Chambers Publications Association, “Have you thought about having a biography written about Biddy?” (Shortly after Oswald Chambers met Gertrude Annie Hobbs—later to be a Chambers—he nicknamed her “Beloved Disciple,” which shortened to “B.D.” And she was “Biddy” for the rest of her life.)

Sitting across the table from her now, steam rising off his Scottish meal, the stranger laughed. “Who knows? Maybe you’re the one to write it.”

Michelle shook her head. “I’m a novelist.”

As time progressed, Michelle continued to pen her novel, which includes Oswald Chambers as a marquee character, but the stranger’s words, regarding writing Biddy Chambers’s biography, lodged deep into her heart. And while climbing through the pages of Oswald Chambers’s history, she fell in love with his wife, Biddy.

Why, Michelle? Why did you fall in love with Biddy? What was it about her? My hand glides over the notes that I’ve read repeatedly, over Michelle’s words that have wedged into my heart. I press God for direction on writing about Michelle seeking Biddy. In confusion, I hug my daughter and say into her golden hair, “I can’t do this.” Some things are too big for me. I google an image of the book cover of Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God on the internet and ponder direction. My computer crashes–the blue screen of death–and I know in my heart that it’s no accident because resistance signals importance. And I know in my heart that I must press forward. Because I want to pull a Biddy, like Michelle. I want to see what Michelle saw, with her heart, in Biddy’s heart.

DSC_8516 (2)DSC_8531 (2)Because I knew that Oswald Chambers wrote My Utmost for His Highest, the best-selling devotional in print for over 90 years. But I didn’t know that his wife did his bidding some 10 years after his death. He died at 43, you see.

Turning the page of my interview notes and slipping further into pain, I long for time and distance to clear. Because I want to wrap Biddy and Michelle in a hug. You see, Biddy found herself a widow, a single mother, and penniless at 34. But like so many, Biddy knew hardship. She had suffered from acute bronchitis as a teen, and as her health declined, her parents pulled her out of school.

But desiring to help her family financially, Biddy became a spectacular stenographer, according to Michelle, producing 250 words per minute. And in her days with Oswald, she recorded by hand every lecture that he presented to the missionary trainees at their Bible Training College. After his death, instead of choosing security, somewhere hovering over that beloved grave-site, dressed in stark black and wearing a full veil, she placed both feet on the path of poverty and spent her life turning those notes into 30 books with Oswald’s name on each cover.

Biddy published all of his books after he died.

Rolling every penny back into producing the next book, she didn’t use the money for herself or her child.

Their daughter Kathleen shared: “If my mother hadn’t had bronchitis, she probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity of learning shorthand to that extent. My father always used to talk about God’s order in the haphazard, and that was haphazard in a way. If she hadn’t had the shorthand speed like that, there wouldn’t have been any books at all. None whatever.”

Those books. Biddy reserved the right to mail those books, free of charge, to missionaries around the world, and she would do that–encourage them with Oswald’s words–for 30 years, because knowing Jesus and sharing the Gospel was of utmost importance to them.

DSC_8585 (2)I turn the page of my notes to find more devastation: the London Blitz of WWII destroyed all the books warehoused near St. Paul’s Cathedral. Biddy hadn’t insured them, and the loss threatened to end her publishing house. Biddy said, “If that’s God will, we’ll do something else.”

But Biddy found books and publishing plates, and she resumed her self-publishing ministry.

“Biddy Chambers’s life,” shared Michelle, “is one of a woman devoted to God’s greatest glory, despite obstacles and difficulties that would have challenged the best of us. She remained committed to God and the vision and calling He put on her life, despite countless heartaches. From her, we can learn a great deal about faith, commitment, and the ways God uses the unexpected, the haphazard as it were, to produce blessings to a lost world. My Utmost for His Highest would not have been written if Oswald Chambers had not died. Is a book worth a life?

“If you think over the last 90 years–from the encouragement My Utmost for His Highest gave people through financial depression, war (copies were smuggled into POW camps during WWII), political oppression, and general life–a deeper understanding of what it means to love God came through the work of one woman who gave her utmost for God’s highest glory. Can we do any less?

“My personal faith has grown as a result of spending the last 4 years with Biddy and Oswald. It’s been an honor to bring this story to light, and I’m grateful I could participate.”

Why, Michelle? Why? Why did you give 4 years to Oswald and Biddy? I turn my notes over, as a smile inches over my face, and scribble over the page: Love. That’s why. It all backtracks to love–the kind that sinks down and lodges deep into a heart.

DSC_8556 (2)And with much of her life paralleling Biddy’s as she wrote and traveled through the Chamberses’ history–rejoicing as they rejoiced, mourning as they mourned, suffering as they suffered–Michelle endured as they endured, regardless of the obstacles and setbacks along her writing journey of Mrs. Oswald Chambers.

You did.

Michelle Ule pulled a Biddy.


MBDCompressed 1 - CopyBestselling author Michelle Ule is the biographer of Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional and seven other books. You can learn more about her and read further blog posts about Biddy and Oswald Chambers at her website: www.michelleule.com.

You can also find Michelle on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Michelle is giving away one paperback copy of Mrs. Oswald Chambers, which released October 17, 2017. Leave a comment below for a chance to win! (Winner randomly selected October 31, 2017 and must have Continental U. S. mailing address.) You can find the book at Amazon or Baker Publishing Group, as well.


Biddy's Cover - Copy - CopyAmong Christian devotional works, My Utmost for His Highest stands head and shoulders above the rest, with more than 13 million copies sold. But most readers have no idea that Oswald Chambers’s most famous work was not published until ten years after his death. The remarkable person behind its compilation and publication was his wife, Biddy.

Bestselling novelist Michelle Ule brings Biddy’s story to life as she traces her from her upbringing in Victorian England to her experiences in a WWI YMCA camp in Egypt to her return to post-war Britain, a destitute widow with a toddler in tow. Refusing personal payment, Biddy published thirty books with her husband’s name on the covers, all while raising a child alone, providing hospitality to a never-ending stream of visitors and missionaries, and nearly losing everything in the London Blitz during WWII.

This inspiring story of a devoted woman ahead of her time will quickly become a favorite of anyone who loves true stories of overcoming incredible odds, making a life out of nothing, and serving God’s kingdom.


To Michelle: I’m so in awe of you for giving your utmost for God’s highest glory. I hear you, all the way from California to Texas. You make me love God more. Love, Shelli ♥


Have you “pulled a Biddy” like Michelle, confident in God, no matter the circumstances? Would you share? Leave a comment, and you’ll be entered into the drawing for a chance to win a copy of Mrs. Oswald Chambers.


*** The winner is Jerusha Agen. Congratulations, Jerusha! ♥

Don’t Be Afraid To Try Something New

“I’d like a painting for my office,” he requests. “Will you try?”

“I don’t want to.” My daughter’s voice floats into the kitchen.

“I will.” The words spill from my mouth. I’m not a painter, but I’d like to try something new.

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I gather the materials–canvas, paints, brushes. It’s getting expensive.

When the house is quiet, I lay my three canvas pieces on the table. Paving the way, my hand begins sketching.

Finally, my brush strokes the canvas … little by little. And I love every glorious minute of it.

When I finish working each afternoon, I keep the sections hidden away through the rest of the day, until it’s ready. A birthday present.

I venture outside over the following days. The beautiful weather warms my heart. The breeze–such a gift.

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My unsteady hand wobbles, and the paintbrush shifts over of the sketched line. As I’m sitting there, in the daylight, all I see is the mess I’ve made. The outside border of my attempted subject is too wide, messy. And in the process of tucking them away, I’ve hit one canvas against another, and paint smears.

Why? I’m not …

I won’t give up. I haven’t come this far to give up. When the paint is dry, I decide to try … Focusing on steady, I take my foundation white and patch over the messy umber.

With the tip of the paintbrush between my lips, I evaluate the project. It’s not so bad. Perfectly imperfect has to be okay. Because, well … it’s me.

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My heart is nudged. I remember the beautiful canvas we are all given at the onset of life. And look … the smear, the mess I made. But you, O Lord, you painted me new. The crimson ran down to white, to pure. Free, yet so expensive a cost. You took your foundation and made me … changed me, covered me. My spiritual birthday–the gift that never stops giving, never stops covering.

But the destroyer creeps in, going into hidden places where he doesn’t belong, and pulls me out. He works with ease to scrape away the new, revealing my old, reminding me of my old … the times I stroked my brush out of line … the embarrassment of the ugly, the smears, the beyond ugly …

Not to help, but to hurt. And he so hurts.

And I wonder why I allow it. Why do I get pulled out? Time after time. O Soul Within, why …?

Father, help me “take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1), where I’m loved every glorious minute. Give me the “I will” …. For you only. My eyes focused intently on you. Unashamed. Because that’s where I’m ready. That’s where I’m perfectly imperfect.

Until that day, when all is revealed.

O Soul Within, don’t be afraid to try something new.

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“Holy Spirit, blow peace, joy, and love in and through us today.”Wendy Macdonald


Have you ventured out to try something new?

*And I thought you might like to know that the painting is hanging on a wall in downtown Dallas right now. No matter how imperfect it is. Yikes!

 

Shards Of Glass: Letting Go Of Fear In The Grip Of Pain

Something pierces the inside of my cheek.

As I feel for the problem, piece after piece breaks apart. It’s not just one. More break apart, more crumble. Opening my mouth, I empty the multiplying fragments into my hands. Like shards of glass. With one sharp and shiny piece after another, my hands begin to fill. They never stop coming. So many. More than I can hold. I grasp for them.

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Sometimes hard times–nightmares–call for dancing. Because so much has happened to my family since January–health issues, loss, rejection. Instead of allowing the broken pieces to fall into the hands of my Savior, I always tend to initially internalize the pain.

So I am honored to be a guest writer at Jerusha Agen’s website, sharing about my struggles in dealing and not dealing with the pain and fear. I appreciate Jerusha for the invitation. Please click on the link to join me there for more of the story … and a giveaway.

Love, Shelli

 

A Lady Still Longs For a Gentleman

“What do you think about a gentleman?” I ask.

Her eyes shine, a smile inching across her face, and she gathers her knees to her chest. “I love when Harry rises when Ginny walks into the room.”


Dear Daughter …

When many say that in our day chivalry is no longer demanded, wanting not your heart to believe the lies, I’ll be a little more candid.

When searching for the qualities to seek in this modern age, Daughter, let’s open wide the Bible and respectfully turn the page.

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When you are weak, needing strength, and struggling to see this thing thru, He will take your lifeless body and breathe life back into you.

When you’re feeling abandoned, lost, not knowing what to do, He’ll offer you his hand, giving counseling and guidance, too.

When past mistakes try to compress the air from the weighted chest, He’ll cast them all away, as far as the east is from the west.

When bad choices seem to define you in all the perceived land, He’ll push back your attackers, drawing a firm line into the sand.

When your simple, best attempts somehow seem to become divine, it’s because he’ll turn the humble water into the choicest wine.

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When needs are short, supplies are few, and takers come in droves, He’ll take the little you possess and multiply the loaves.

When your downcast face reveals the painful details of your day, He’ll listen to your earnest heart, hearing every word you say.

When you’re dying inside, a harmful action could surely kill, He’ll sooth your heart with gentle words; His loving touch will heal.

When you are blinded by the enemy’s daily, constant lies, The Gentleman’s hand will grace your face and open wide your eyes.

When at the end of all your self, conviction jabbing like a knife, He’ll give you hope anew that day by laying down his life.

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Oh, Daughter …

When you feel confused, Dear One, you needn’t wonder any more; simply knock, and He will answer, opening every door.

When He treats with favor, rising with your entry to a room, know these are the gracious actions of a gentle, treasured groom.

When you hear the world’s many false complaints against the God-made plan, Daughter, fix your eyes and take the strong hand of the Gentle Man.

©shelli littleton

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“God created man in his own image …” –Genesis 1:27


I’ve heard men say that some women won’t let them open the door for them. Unreal. I want my daughters to value those kind actions … to seek that gentleness and respect, because there are ladies who still treasure those actions. What do you want young people to know?

A Crown-Of-Thorns Moment

Trying to hold my heart and stomach in place where they belong, I take the long walk from the dining room to the stairwell. “Honey?”

“Yes, Mom.”

My hand grips the stair rail, and I lean hard against the wall. “I waited too late to get the tickets. They’re all sold out. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

“It’s okay, Mom.” That’s all. She seemed genuine in her forgiveness. There’s nothing more I can say or do. If I could have an outer body experience and get behind myself, I’d kick myself. My hands drop to my sides in the quiet, and I walk away. How could I have been so …? She’d been asking for weeks about going to see her friend in the Fiddler on the Roof play, a high school play. She wanted to go for support. And she’d been in the same play a few years back. And I’d let her down.

I pull out a chair and sit down at the dining room table. Footsteps speed down the stairs. The garage door opens. “I’m going walking.” Her voice … something unpleasant in her voice.

“I thought you forgave me,” I say. I’m sensing other feelings have begun to emerge. She’d had a few moments to think. The door shuts. I thought you forgave me.

I wait all I can. I walk out the door and see no sign of her. She’s on the trail, I figure. The sheep aren’t in the pen, so she must have let them out. I cut through the middle of the back property. The fabric of her white capris summons me through the forest of trees, the greenery. She’s sitting on the swing.

I feel like a fallen tree, humbled to my knee.

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The two sheep stand there, staring at me, accusing me, almost daring my approach. Like she’d poured out her very soul, her feelings, to the sheep … and now, everyone knows.

Her eyes are red-rimmed and swollen.

My stomach and heart plunge. I wipe off a spot on the swing and sit down. “I’m really sorry. I feel awful. I didn’t want to go to the play without dad, and once I found out he was going with us, there were so many seats still available … I got busy with work. And I just can’t believe they sold out so fast. I can’t believe I did that.” I twist my hands. “Maybe it’s dad’s fault.” We both laugh.

“It’s really okay, Mom.” She smiles at me. We talk it through. “Think we could do pizza and  a movie tonight? Something fun?”

“Sure.”

We head back through the trail, toward the barn. “Look, Mom. This is a mesquite tree. We had these in San Angelo.” She points across the path. “And another one.”

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“It sure is.” I can’t believe it. I’d never noticed them before. Two mesquite trees amongst all the oak and cedar. “We had these in Wichita Falls, too.”

“Look at the long thorns,” she says in cautious admiration. She feels over the leaves on top, the groups of tiny leaves covering the thorns all the way down the limb. “But the leaves are so soft. Like roses, something so soft and pretty needs protecting.” One sheep stands tall, trying to eat the leaves, and fearful that she’ll poke out her eye, we manage to maneuver her front legs back to the ground. “Do you think this is like Jesus’ crown of thorns?”

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“It probably is.” I wind the long limb into a circle. “It’s beautiful though, isn’t it?” We stand there, imaging what it must have felt like to have those long thorns pierce through our foreheads, one by one, all the way around. Or maybe all at once. Gratitude fills my heart for the punishment He took for me.

“Be careful, Mom. Don’t let that pop back on you.”

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“I will.” I release it gently, moving back away and examining the events more closely.

We begin our journey toward the house, sheep following. Peace links our hands together, our hearts together. The capacity of love–nailed to a tree, to be given away, free. A love so soft and pretty, it needs protecting. And I realize that she could have driven the thorns into my head, but she placed the soft side on me instead. 


Have you had a moment of forgiveness that you can share about?

Connecting With Children Through Stories In VBS

“‘How is our church using stories in VBS [Vacation Bible School] to connect with children?’ I asked our children’s minister, Ms. Alexia, through email. ‘Do you have a story to share?’

Reading her response, I sensed her excitement …”

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I’m so enjoying our roses this year. One is so amazing. But when you gather more together … even more amazing. And that’s how God’s people are. When we come together for a common purpose, we make an impact.

Please join me over at WMU’s website to learn more about when a precious child, adopted from Africa, realizes in Vacation Bible School that his family was touched by his new family through the Bucket Project …


Do you have a sweet VBS story to share?