A Poppy in Remembrance: Author Michelle Ule & A Giveaway

Hunkering into the couch’s old blue-jean fabric, I tuck my knees in to me and turn toward the lamp’s soft glow. My vision clears, while my mind muddles between the present and past. Holding the treasured novel, A Poppy in Remembrance, in my hand and in my heart, I ponder Claire Meacham.  She’s a fictional character, created by author Michelle Ule, who’ve both won my heart and changed it forever.

Throughout WWI, Claire’s life has been shaken by loss of family and friends to bloodied trenches, spraying bullets, plane crashes, and what seems like never-ending destruction. Will the pain ever end?

I pause and hold the pages to my chest. Michelle’s words tug my soul to years past, causing me to hover over my own battlefields–test after test, the loss of a child, grief as I’d never known. As though only yesterday, I see my doctor hovering above my hospital bed. “You’ve got about a 50% chance of conception.”

What if you never receive your childhood dream, Shelli?

In the midst of disaster and disappointment, Claire presses forward, following her journalist father on the job, stepping right into the trenches, taking notes during his interviews, helping with his stories, and holding on to her one remaining dream: becoming a foreign correspondent, attaining her own byline. Would she ever be given a chance to be a journalist, like the men surrounding her?

DSC_8171 (3) - CopyTaking the book, I advance to the rocking chair, moving to the real light. My heart knows what it’s like to yearn for something unreachable, to feel a dream slipping through my fingers. When babies filled the arms and growing tummies of all my surrounding friends so many years ago, my heart ached for a family.

All I ever truly yearned to be was a wife and a mother.

As I proceed page by page of that novel, Claire meets Oswald (OC) and Biddy Chambers and a young man named Jim, all showing her how to clear up the confusion and find the answers by pointing her to Jesus, to Scripture.

Jim waved the wisk. “Your father asked the same question. When you’re under fire and people around you die, you have to decide, ‘Do I believe what I say I believe, or is it a lie?'”

“What did you decide?”

“I believe God.”

“You sound like Biddy.” Claire laughed.

Claire’s faith blossoms, like the poppies spreading over the trenches of death, the battlefields, over the broken land and broken hearts.

In the midst of giving up, Claire never gives up.

The hardest times of my life have been where my faith flourished, moving me closer and closer to God. But like Claire, I had to remember whom I was living for. Facing my first surgery so long ago, I trembled at the possibility of never waking. And I had to ask myself those same hard questions: What do you believe, Shelli? Do you believe God is in control? Do you trust Him? Is this faith really yours?

DSC_8198 - CopyI had to see through eternal eyes. God, I want what you want. In living or dying, Your will matching mine or not, I want this journey to be about You.

With both feet fully grounded, I sway back and forth in that rocking chair, remembering. How many Bible studies did I tuck under my belt, like I couldn’t get enough? How many verses came out of my heart and mouth in that quiet place where only God could hear? How many times did I run to the bathroom to get alone with my maker? In my grief, I accepted an invitation to lead a Bible study for those experiencing and grieving infertility. How many people did God bring into my life, who knew my hurt, who walked with me in my darkest hours, who directed me to Jesus, who gave me scripture? I gave my feeble and unqualified self to service, and I was served. Doors to adoption opened.

Because when we keep searching for God in our disappointment and in that painful trench, He meets us there, guiding and blessing the way.  

Stopping once again, I make notes in my phone, jotting down lines from the novel I never want to forget. Because like Claire, in my desperation so long ago, I remembered.

When readers opened a newspaper, they wanted information. They weren’t reading to flatter a writer’s ego. A line from the book of Romans flitted through her mind, warning her not to think of herself more highly than she ought. If her goal was to flatter and call attention to herself, why should she be published? How could God use her ability if she sought to feed her pride? Claire’s stomach clenched. She’d been going about her career all the wrong way. No wonder she felt so unsatisfied.

Claire opened her Bible; the Psalms always helped: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? … Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him.”

Her sin, pride, affected God. She remembered that of OC’s first lecture. Claire rubbed her face. Here was sin worth confessing. No wonder her spirit felt cast down.

What could happen that day to make her want to praise God?

Knowing she was forgiven once she confessed, Claire stood at the window, confessing and thinking until the door opened and she heard her mother’s voice.

In the trenches, I remembered the songs in the night. “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.” I’m on my knees in gratitude that the pain pointed me to God, the only one who could prevent me from nose-diving into the ground of loss, the only one who knows the way that I take.

The battlefield is where I remembered my real childhood dream–knowing God.

Taking in the last line of the novel, I feel the impact of Oswald Chambers, from so many years ago, in my life through Michelle’s years of research and writing. Closing the cover and clutching the book, I am shaken, feeling closer to God, knowing that I want to walk ever closer to Him, and certain that I want Jesus to bloom on my life’s many battlefields.

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Michelle Ule is an essayist, the author of two novels, five best-selling novellas, and smaller M photo2018the biographer of Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional.

A UCLA graduate where she wrote for the paper, she’s taught Bible study for 35 years and loves to travel the world. Michelle lives in Northern California with her family, where she reads a physical newspaper every day.

You can learn more about Michelle at her website: www.michelleule.com. She can also be found on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.

Michelle is giving away one paperback copy of A Poppy in Remembrance, which released November 1, 2018. Leave a comment below for a chance to win! (Winner randomly selected November 26, 2018 and must have Continental U. S. mailing address.) The novel can also be found at Amazon.


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Spanning three countries and the four years of World War I, A Poppy in Remembrance is the epic story of an American woman struggling to become a journalist in a man’s world.

As she searches for where she belongs—spiritually, professionally and emotionally—Claire Meacham discovers God and love through her relationships with Oswald and Biddy Chambers, an earnest YMCA worker, and a dashing New Zealand soldier, all the while seeking that elusive byline.

 


 


What has been your toughest battlefield? What did God teach you? Are you thanking someone special this Veterans Day? And if you’ve served … thank you. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to receive a copy of this beautiful novel.

Hot Potato, Hot Potato, One, Two …

Page after silky page of that first chapter, I turn. My focus returns to the computer screen. It’s like a foreign language. A sadness overtakes my soul. Will this be another class that seeks to drive us straight into the ground of hopelessness? My daughter’s confused expression begs the same question. How do I help her carry the weight of this? I shouldn’t help? But that’s not my mama nature. It’s certainly not God’s nature.

How can we abandon the ones we love?

My mind swirls back to that calm summer day, sitting on the front porch and watching her toddler-size-2 shoes come my way. Baby Girl tripped on a land timber and her face hit the cement. Praise God she didn’t lose her teeth, but oh, her lip. I swept her into my arms, as her tears soaked into my shoulder. I sank under her weight as we both cried. When she finally woke, with a swollen lip, she said, “Big.”

20.Karalee's busted lip - Copy (2)Some things are too big to carry alone. We aren’t strong enough to keep holding the weight ourselves. But we carry each other’s burdens. That’s God’s way. 

But it’s painful, burdensome, crushing …

“I don’t know, baby. But keep reading, and when I return, we’ll figure something out.” Let’s pray over this together, I should have said.

She smiles. “Okay, Mama.” Her shoulders rise. Is her load a little lighter?

My shoulders inch toward the ground. Carrying burdens might be your way, God, but …

DSC_7533 (8) - CopyI buckle myself into the truck, and we trample gravel and black-top toward the feed store. My stomach knots, tears stinging my eyes. Because I’m so much older than her, if I can’t understand this, how can she? How can I expect her to?

“Are you going inside the feed store?”

“No,” I say. “I’m too discouraged. I don’t feel good, and I don’t want to have to see or talk to anyone right now.” I smile, laughter slipping out through my hesitant heart. Being honest can have its pluses.

The truck rocks with the oncoming, overbearing weight of hay. One bundle, two …

The big hunk of metal sinks and finally stills under the bulky pressure.

God, help. Please, help. We can’t take a heavy burden right now. It’s too heavy for her, and it’s too heavy for me. We can’t even carry it together. And I just don’t want to. Hot potato, hot potato, one, two … Lord, be my three. Be the one who always gets stuck with the three. The one who takes the searing heat. Because it’s never too heavy or hot for you.

Returning home, I stare out the window, trying to shift into a better humor. Black cows. Brown horses. Blue sky. Green trees.

The hay is removed, the weight is lifted, the truck rising.

DSC_7535 (6) - CopyAfter opening the garage door, I head into the house. Both my girls are sitting at the table, staring over the computer.

“We figured it out, Mama.” One, they’re smiling.

“You figured it out.” And two, I’m smiling.

How could we possibly exist without The Three? 


How has God been The Three for you lately?

Finding That Conversation Place

I trail the soft, cleansing cloth over each hill, every valley. So much dirt and stain. Why did I ever think I could wear white? What’s wrong with me? The brown would have been a better fit, hiding impurities, all the unlovely, embarrassing yuck. He tried to tell you. Why didn’t you listen?

O Soul Within, it’s been years. You need to wear white. You need to own this. It’s yours. It’s yours for the taking. And it was costly. Don’t let it go to waste.

I swipe my forehead, as the temperature soars to summer-unbearable that only our beloved Texas makes bearable. Every locust on site tunes in to my fuzzy channel. I head inside and grab a popsicle from the freezer. Walking back out, I stand there evaluating everything before me.

Just do it, Shelli.

I sit down in that stained rocking chair that used to be so white. I own it. I start rocking. And this feels so nice. I grab another popsicle and head back out.

Everyone must think I’ve lost my mind. Sitting in that dirty chair? It’s one thing to plop down in what you can’t see, but to take on the seen?

DSC_7273 (4)Little Bit, daughter #1, pops out the door. She couldn’t stand it any longer. “Can I sit with you, Mama?”

“Of course. Grab popsicles.”

It doesn’t take long outside to realize why the chairs are so stained. June bugs, grasshoppers, things that sting (mosquitoes, wasps …), spiders overhead. It’s a jungle out there. Truly it is.

We rock. My hands freeze, as I push up the icy-blue sweetness. “I can’t write,” I say. “At a time in my life when I should feel the most encouraged, I have never been more discouraged. I can’t even manage a blog post. A simple blog post. What’s wrong with me?”

“You’re a good writer, Mama,” Little Bit says.

I release my empty popsicle package to the ground.

DSC_7275 (3)I push out of that chair, grab more popsicles,  and nudge the grasshopper off the seat when I return, while begging his pardon. We continue rocking.

Breaking the short silence, my girl says, “What’s wrong with me, Mama?”

“Not a single thing. You’re perfect just the way you are. You have to be patient, trust, and wait on God,” I say.

Little Bit tosses her empty container to the ground.

Baby Girl, daughter #2, sticks her head out the door. It was only a matter of time. She has forever been my “I go where you go” daughter. “Want another popsicle?” she asks.

DSC_7277 (3)We two smile big and unanimously say, “Yes!”

Baby Girl hands everyone their cold treat and sits on the front porch step. I need one more rocking chair. And in her quietness, she sips on that pink ice until she releases her trash to the ground, along with all her heart’s unspoken. We know.

I toss my hair over the chair’s back, like the once perfectly white, stained wooden slat is a pony-tail holder. I don’t care what my hair touches … stain, tiny spiders. I don’t look; I just use it. The stain doesn’t bother me anymore, and come to think of it, that weathered look has always appealed to me anyway, the perfectly imperfect.

And would you look at that? Each baby girl has followed me, owning that white, distressed as it may be.

The cool air greets my flesh. I prop one bare foot up on the seat, while my other sways that chair and me back and forth. And somehow everything feels so clean and new. Just right.

I observe the pile of emptiness that’s fallen to the ground. “I think we might need a trash can out here.”

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Do you have anything needing to be tossed away? What is threatening to trash your confidence? And do you have a place you love to gather with those who get you? How did you stumble across that conversation place?

I would crawl into bed with my girls when they were little, and we’d talk hours into the night. But somewhere in their growing up, we’d lost that cherished time. I’m so glad I sat down in that rocking chair at the onset of summer, that I found that conversation place, because every day I hear, “Let’s go sit on the front porch.”  I drop everything, because I know that means we’ll gather popsicles and do some mother/daughter talking. I know their reasoning is partly because they get a break, and partly because they love me, but mostly because we always see God.

To All The Ruined Mothers

“I’m ruined, Shelli.”

One petal falls.

DSC_3014 (3)I can’t bear to hear her utter those words. I cover my ears and eyes. “La, la, la …” I love her so.

When did this point arrive? When did the words “ostomy,” “colostomy,” “colectomy” think they could enter their little world? Her son is only 10. He’s endured more over the last couple of months than most adults could bear. But he’s past the stage of hugs, and high-fives have taken their place. Yet I know that little boy inside that big boy yearns to reach his arms up, be taken up, and rocked, swaying back and forth, until all things are made better. Until the pain is all gone. Until the bed of tears runs dry.

“I can’t smile anymore, Shelli.”

Another petal loosens.

DSC_3016 (3)I can’t begin to imagine what it took, the struggle within her mother-heart, to give her consent … her consent to release something so important to her son. To let go. To say goodbye.

What can I say? What can I do? How do we help when one petal after another seems to slip away? One thing after another. Nothing is easy. What else can go wrong? Mothers so want good for our kids–a pleasant, perfect, pain-free, prosperous life.

What are you thinking, Mother? That this is your fault? That you could have prevented this? That you did something to cause this? That you didn’t do enough? Or that you simply want your child’s life the way it used to be?

“We are having a very difficult time finding an ostomy bag that is a good fit … and we’ve tried several,” she wearily says.

One more petal breaks free and drifts to the ground.

DSC_3021 (3)What if … you’re not ruined? What if you were ruined before, and you just didn’t realize it? Maybe what we thought was good was the ruination. Because the tissue was so damaged it was about to fall apart. “One more day, and it would have been a different story,” reported the doctor. One more day, and instead of arranging ostomy bags, they could have been arranging …

What do you know, Shelli? When have you felt ruined, Shelli? When you found out you couldn’t have children, your heart’s desire since childhood? When you found out you were doomed to be different. When all your hopes and dreams disintegrated. When your future didn’t look bright and pretty anymore. When everything was stripped away, and all that remained was a barren stem. When all you could do was look up, reach up.

Mother scans over his irritated skin surrounding the leaky bag, tears surfacing in her eyes. Only God knows the amount of tears she’s cried.

Another petal falls.

DSC_3024 (3)But what if when we love God so much, when we’ve given Him our hearts, we change? What if God is making a new thing? What if that’s exactly what He intended? What if the goal is to have the only thing remaining of you be Him, the lifeblood, the foundation that keeps us standing. We hold so tightly to the color of “the way things should be.”

If I could have given birth, I would have wanted to birth my daughters. My adopted daughters. My children. I wouldn’t select any other. No one could take their places.

Because what if God knows exactly what He is doing?

“It breaks my heart when I look at your bag,” Mother says to her son. 

The last petal breaks free. 

DSC_3031 (3)If we reach our arms up, do we think God would lift us up? Would He set us on new, different ground? Safe ground. Good ground. What if that new ground is our testimony? The testimony that makes us beautiful, colorful, whole. New. Healed.

“Well, it makes me happy every time I look at it,” he says, “because it saved my life.” 

DSC_3008 (3)And maybe that’s it. Maybe the stripping away is salvation. Maybe the ruination is our salvation. Maybe it’s God’s method of rescue, His method to rescue others. The old tissue is so damaged, wilting, it cannot remain. It must fall away. Because the truth is … that 10-year-old lifted his arms to his Savior over a year ago, and he’s been rocking with Jesus ever since. He’s waltzing in to his brand new testimony, and in his humorous and warrior-like attitude, he calls that bag “Frances.”

Mothers, why shouldn’t we see something new?

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Happy Mother’s Day, beautiful friends, especially to those who are hurting!

And prayers for a special Mother’s Day for my loved one. She’s so much stronger than she knows. She’s my person and a wonderful mother. She’s so loved. ♥

When The Right Door Opens

I barely have the strength to continue. I’d climbed that hill at the Mount Hermon conference center already once. My feet ache. The key wouldn’t unlock my room door. It allowed me into the building but not into my room. And now this new key isn’t working either. Darkness covers the sky. Loneliness surrounds me. I hadn’t slept the night before, actually days before, and I’d been on an airplane all morning, conference all day and night. The first time I’d flown alone since I was a 20-year-old.

Tears flood my eyes. Stopping on that cement path, I gather my coat around me. What are you doing here, Shelli? I throw my arms out to the open sky. “Lord, what am I doing? What is this carrot I’m chasing?” I’ve heard this whispered into my ear so many times, from behind my back. “Do I need to let it go, Lord? What my family must think of me …”

And I think of all the many things that transpired to get me here, to this place. One door open after another. “Would you like to write a blog post for my upcoming release?” a friend asked. Sure. And through that, I connected with a lady whose book helped me over 20 years ago when I dealt with infertility. I wrote a blog post about her. And through that blog post, that author’s friend contacted me–“Have you ever been to Mount Hermon Writers Conference?” she asked. No. “There’s a writing contest. You should enter.” And not long after, I received an email saying I’d won a trip to Mount Hermon.

Shelli, these doors aren’t coincidental, the trustworthy voice speaks straight into my heart.

“I’ll give it all up, Lord, if that is what you think best. I need your direction.” A not-so-pretty cry seeps out of my being. I struggle for breath, talking right out loud. I don’t even care if anyone is around, if anyone hears me. But I feel like I’m the only one on the planet. “My work needs so much help, Lord. What am I doing?”

DSC_2835 (2)I get one more room key. Bless their hearts. They could tell I was distraught.

The next day, I meet with an editor from a publishing house. She wants my whole manuscript. I’m shocked. The next day, I feel so free–I have an open door. By sheer accident, I sit down with another editor at dinner, because my friend is sitting there. When I share what I write, the editor pulls out her business card. “I want your proposal,” she says. My friend bangs on my leg underneath the table. I keep my composure, on the outside. Another open door?

The next day, I meet with the agent of my dreams, Wendy Lawton from Books & Such Literary Management. She’s so brilliant, and she represents amazing writers. I could never deserve her. What are you doing? You’ll never be ready for this. 

“Do you think you’re ready, Shelli?” she asks.

“I think so,” I say, staring at the ground and wondering where that hint of boldness came from.

“Let’s do this then.”

20180424_172245 (2)I walk to lunch in a daze, sit down at the table, and poke at my salad. I can’t believe … I have an amazing, knowledgeable person to help guide me now …

My dear friend–the one who banged on my leg, my roommate, Jennifer–finds me after lunch. “Well?”

“Sit down,” I say to her. I’m laughing to keep from crying.

She knows. Without saying a word, she knows. She embraces me the Canadian way, as she mocks my Texas talk in fun, like always, always teasing that I need an interpreter. And I love it. “You have an agent.”

I keep laughing.

DSC_2858 (4)In the quietness of our room, I ask Jennifer, “Do you want to know about that first night room key mix-up?”

“Okay …” she says.

Shelli (4)“I had been in the wrong building all along, the one right next door to ours … the men’s building.” It had been dark, you know. I’m new here, you know. “The key allowed me into their building, just not into what I thought was ‘our’ room. A man came out into the hallway because he heard a woman’s voice, and he knew a woman shouldn’t be in there.” I was so embarrassed. He probably heard me crying. “Then he got locked out of his room.” The funniest thing. “And I had to help him get back into his room.”

The door didn’t open, because I wasn’t in the right place. When you open your hands and release …  when you continue on … when you find yourself in the right place, the door opens.

What Makes Us Work

“Let’s get pictures in the bluebonnets,” I say. It’s that time of year. It’s a Texas thing. Everyone does it. From young to old. You can’t fiddle around too long, because they only last about two weeks.

“You wear your blue sweater …” I say.

“I’ll wear my new sundress,” one says.

“I’ll wear …” I enter my closet, excitement flooding my heart.

But then my heart sinks. Because year after year, I know who is coming along.

Our same ol’ spot isn’t there anymore. We head to another patch. It’s not as pretty. Hilly. Rocky. A house is being built close by. Getting decent pictures is going to take some brainstorming. Creativity. But who has time for that? “Shelli, you should have pre-planned.” The words whisper over my ear.

DSC_2601DSC_2608I pull the car onto the old county road and ease over to the side. One girl gets out, fabric swaying to the breeze, another exits, I place my pink boot onto the asphalt road, and then Attitude slides out. Every single time, Attitude comes with us. We didn’t even invite her.

“The ground is wet,” one says.

Attitude grins.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s once a year … Come on.” It’s possible that I say that. “I’ll go first.” I grab a raincoat, hand over the camera, and evaluate the situation. After placing the coat on the ground, I try to sit where my bottom won’t get wet. My new pants, you see.

“How do you want this picture, Mom?” asks the camera girl. A truck needs to drive by us. Camera girl scoots to the side of the road, allowing the vehicle to pass on that narrow strip. Another car. Scoot to the side. Another truck. Scoot. What? Grand Central Station? Isn’t this the country?

I can’t even imagine the look on my face.

Attitude smirks, rubbing her hands together.

DSC_2561 (2)“Be creative,” I say. Attitude walks up beside me and leans over my shoulder, wanting in the picture. I can’t even begin to push her away. And actually, I suddenly kind of like her. Her dress is pretty and so is her hat. Look at those sparkly sandals.

“I don’t know what you want, Mom.” Another truck passes, another truck, and another truck. My girl scoots over. Scoot.

“Just do it. Hurry. Before another truck comes.” Fighting the persistent breeze, I attempt to put my hair back into place. Another truck. Another truck. Scoot. “Switch places. I’m done.” I take the camera. Another truck. Another truck. Pink boot scoot. Boot scoot.

Construction is clearly taking place down the road, while I’m deconstructing.

“It’s wet.” Another truck. “There’s a bee.” She’s terrified of bees, and I’m the bee-charmer.

Another truck. Scoot.

DSC_2606I look at my two girls. After 20 years, I still can’t believe they are mine. The mine-of-the-heart kind. I find myself climbing into my grandmother’s lap, in my mind, and she says, “No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my baby.” My babies. No matter how big they get. I love these babies. And I loved my grandmother. She wasn’t perfect, but I loved her so. What made it work? What makes us work?

Attitude taps me on the shoulder and points a finger, letting me know one girl is bothered by another bee. And then look … there’s the pesky breeze.

DSC_2567 - Copy (2)In the car, Attitude locks her passenger seat door and turns up the heat.

I scan through the photos on my camera. “I look aggravated in that one. Why didn’t you tell me? We’re supposed to help each other out.”

DSC_2598 (2)Attitude smiles.

“We didn’t get one good picture.” I stomp my proverbial foot. Can you even have a proverbial foot? “Why does it always have to be like this? It’s once a year. Can’t we just manage once a year? One day you’ll be so glad to have these pictures.” Or will they? What will they remember? Attitude? 

“You’re a bad mother,” Attitude whispers, and she locks everyone’s car doors and laughs. And goodness, it’s hot. Where is the air conditioning?

I load the pictures on my computer, once we return home, and browse through.

Attitude peers over my shoulder, shaking her head.

Well, I don’t know. I think I disagree. That one turned out okay. And look, that one did, too. I open the door and invite Attitude to leave.

One baby is sitting there. The other sits there.

DSC_2574 - Copy (2)DSC_2564 - Copy (2)A knock comes to the front door. I hurry to slip out of sight, not wanting him to know anyone is home. Because I know better than to let Pride into the house.

“Look, baby girl.” My arm slips around one. “We got a good one.” I smile. She smiles. We all smile. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

They climb onto my lap, and I rock. “No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my babies.” And right there, I know.

I know what makes us work.


What do you do when Attitude slips into the room?

God Uses The Puddles

Would she really trade me for ice cream and candy? On the way home from my meeting, I stew–the warm, tasty kind. My girl … she was just a little too excited for me to depart from home today. “When are you leaving, Mom?” she’d asked with a smile.

I pull into the garage. My girls step out of the house, waiting to hug me. My focus locks onto my youngest. “You are in so much trouble,” I say. I head toward her. She laughs, crouching into the wall. “You wanted me to go.” I tickle her. The veins on her neck pop out, like always, through her belly laugh.

Don’t ever want me to go, baby girl. 

“Let’s go jump in the puddle down the road,” I say. The girls slip on their rain boots, I grab my camera, and we trek down the road. The marshy ground boasts hoof prints and foot prints. The sky recently released loads of rain on us. A once empty bucket under a tree now holds over ten inches of water. Such a novelty for dry, Texas land.

We pass our neighbor’s home that burned completely to the ground two years ago. Rebuilt. Loss, but brand new. Oh, how we needed a downpour that night. Many of our neighbors’ front yards resemble ponds now. Even lakes. Water threatens their doorsteps.

“Have you decided what you want to do for your birthday?” I ask the youngest. We pour over a few ideas as we reach our destination, still lacking vision.

“Let me go a little farther, so I’ll capture the prettiest scenery behind you.” As I turn around, the girls step out into the water that covers the road. They touch it, really feel it. They stand there across from each other, smiling.

DSC_1288 (5)DSC_1379 (5)Don’t ever lose these moments, I want to say, reflecting over the past. Hold on. You’ve shared so many amazing years together. Don’t trade them for anything. Always be there for each other, no matter how old you get. You’re sisters, not by birth but by your worth. God loved you so much, that He had a plan for your lives. After He knit you together, He placed you together.

Oldest one is already soaring in the air. I watch that youngest one. She crouches.

DSC_1387 (4)My baby turns eighteen this month. Eighteen.

I bend to the ground, trying to capture their moment. My moment.

At 13 months old, I didn’t know if my youngest would make it. Tears poured from my heart on her 2nd birthday, because she’d made it. Cancer crushes. Disease destroys. We’ve waded through so many puddles along the way. We’ve tripped and fallen into the puddles because chemo weakens the ankles of a small child. We’ve wandered in the puddle of how to stop holding hands, when attachment keeps you from falling but you’ve outgrown it now. We’ve muddled through the puddle of fear, fear that another puddle is looming up ahead, threatening. So much personal loss …

But brand new. Stronger. Closer.

In that bent position, her once thinned hair is long and flowing, curly, healthy, bouncing in the breeze.

I don’t want you to go, but I know you will. Oh, how blessed I’ve been.

She soars.

DSC_1397 (8)And when you soar, baby girl, you leave all those puddles behind. And I’ll stay right here and watch you, for as long as I can. While you’re still in sight. And when you land, because we always tend to land, we stomp them. We make a splash–on ourselves and others. The clean, pure kind–brand new–so welcoming to a land of drought. Because nothing is wasted, young one. Touch it, really feel it.

God uses the puddles.

Happy 18th birthday, Katelyn Grace Littleton