When You Need To Floor It!

From the balcony, I watch my daughter, surrounded by all her Vacation Bible School kids and fellow volunteers in the choir loft.

I took pictures all week for VBS, capturing both my girls in their joyful moments of working with kids. Moments my girls don’t have to be talked into … time they love, hours they long to give.

Goose bumps sweep my arms and tears spring to my eyes, as I see my daughter surrender her all through song. Glorious VBS songs.

My daughter was that little just yesterday, it seems. Little enough for Vacation Bible School. And I’m thankful to God for her love of ministry, her love for children, and her love of teaching them about Jesus. Without having to be coerced.

How did she get all grown up?

A lady that I recently met–we have adoption in common–taps my shoulder and wraps me in a hug there in the balcony. Just what I needed. How did she know?

Father God, you always know.

DSC_9593 (5)The days are fleeting, and soon both my girls will be gone from our home. I can’t hold them back, and I wouldn’t if I could. But time is flooring-it, zooming by, and I don’t want to miss a moment.

I smile, thinking over the last week, remembering one of the best days of my life, when I floored it. When I really floored it.

The girls and I are driving home from the mall. It’s been a long day of shopping, eating pizza, and the Great American Cookie. The mall is our favorite thing to do together. No one has to be talked into going.

But we’re routine. Not only do we frequent the same mall shops, but as soon as we turn onto our road, we also look for our crooked mailbox, for home. We turn down that familiar driveway. It’s what we’ve always done. It’s what we love.

DSC_9588 (9)But today … something is different about today. We have music roaring over the speakers, the windows rolled down, and as we approach the house, my daughter slows the car.

We need a change. We need to be rejuvenated. We need to really live.

A pause hovers throughout the space, and the vision becomes clear.

“Floor it, Karalee!” I say.

She searches me, trying to make sense of the nonsensical one. The one who’s always routine. The one who has to be gently nudged into memorable moments, like VBS or playing cards.

Her stunned expression is just what I needed, and I’m laughing so hard.

“Floor it!” I say. 

A warm smile slowly inches over my daughter’s face, understanding dawning.

Well, okay.

She floors it. Has she ever floored it before?

We fly past our mailbox, past our home, and zoom down our deserted county road, our hair blowing every which way. When she comes to a stop, we three girls are laughing so hard we can barely contain ourselves.

DSC_9574 (5)What have we just done? Where did Mom go?

Oh my goodness, we’ve lived, we’ve laughed, we’ve broken out of that moldy mold.

We can’t believe ourselves.

Daughter turns the car around, and she floors it again of her own initiative. Zooms past our home, past that crooked mailbox.

We are all three laughing so hard that we can’t seem to catch our tears.

Until, oh man, we calm and realize that we should go home. Because not every neighbor on our road will understand that we need to live, because maybe they’re too routine, caught in that moldy mold.

But life is zooming by. The clock refuses to stop.

As I watch my daughter–a grown lady now–in that choir loft, singing out her heart and helping the kids surrounding her, I know what I have to do to make life count. And I know that it’s never too late.

When life “floors it,” as it always will, I need to floor it, too.

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Have you ever felt the need to “floor it”? Have you floored it?! I’d love to hear your story, of how you stepped out of your daily routine to really live.

Blocks Gotta Go

“Mom, she’s so mean. I don’t know what to do,” daughter says, while 14 darling two-year-old children scramble around her feet.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Everyone calls her Dr. Rude.”

“How so?”

The blond-headed curly-top two-year-old baby girl seated at the table stamps her finger-prints on the construction paper before her, forming a flower.

“When we ask questions,” says my daughter, “the teacher looks at us like we are so stupid. But once I told her that I didn’t have a question for her, and she said to me, ‘You will fail.'”

I find myself transforming into Mama Bear, but I stand there and listen as my girl’s forged and unfounded list of insults against her grows longer and longer.

DSC_9222 (2)More tiny fingerprints cover the construction paper before the children.

“One time my friend had her earbuds in before class started, and the teacher jerked them out of her ears.” Daughter shakes her head. “She goes from super happy to mad. She yells. Students cry. And I once took my backpack with me to the bathroom (for unspoken good reason) and when I returned, she said that she would count me absent for the day because I had taken my backpack.”

My daughter and I stand there dumbfounded, an incredulous look overtaking both our faces. The accusations and offenses continue to soar, as my daughter proceeds. The list dangles from our hearts to the dirt below.

When every single area of your life has been insulted. And it hurts.

DSC_9220 (2)“The teacher is so disrespectful, Mom.”

For so long, the teacher has gotten away with this. For so long. My daughter is just one among the many casualties.

Hearing my daughter out, I somehow feel like “I’m” being bullied, and there is absolutely nothing I can do. What can I do? Mama Bear feels like she’s been caught in a snare and altered into Mama Snail.

You didn’t do this. You didn’t do that. You did this. You did that.

“You have been nothing but kind … you have been nothing but you,” I say. “You can’t be anything but you. You did you. It’s difficult to stand against the teacher, but I know God will use your actions, your responses, your kindnesses to make a difference, somehow, some way. Because God is God.”

Like a toy Weeble that wobbles, my girl has taken the punches, but she doesn’t stay down. She is grounded … in her faith, in the love that is steady and certain, in the 1 Corinthians 13 love that keeps no record of wrongs, that allows rebounds.

DSC_9218 (2)A two-year-old boy kicks a cardboard block, causing it to land right on two-year-old curly-top baby girl’s leg. Tears spring into baby girl’s eyes as she reaches to comfort the pain.

My daughter bends down to baby girl. “You’re okay. It didn’t hit you too hard. It could have been so much worse.”

It could have been so much worse.

Baby girl stands straight and pulls herself together. “It could have been worse,” she repeats.

“Let’s put the blocks up,” says my daughter.

Baby girls nods. “Blocks gotta go.”

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Rejection, insults, and accusations hurt. I love peace, and it is hard to be still and wait on God when everything inside you wants to make it right. But sometimes we just can’t make it right. I’m thankful my daughter only had to endure the hurt for a short season. What do you do in a situation like this? Do you find it hard to be still and wait on God, too?

The Gift to Soothe Pain on Valentine’s Day

My heart sinks into the depths of the mattress. How heavy I feel without air in my lungs. The emptiness puzzles my every thought. I trace my steps again and again in my mind, in my heart. Love and kindness abounded, and my heart weeps.

DSC_9094 (3)Where did things go so wrong?

Inching up to a sitting position, I reach for the precious book, Miss Fannie’s Hat. I’ve used it for an Instagram photo, but until this very moment, I couldn’t write barely a word. Emptiness. Loss. How can you be full of God and somehow still feel empty?

DSC_9096 (3)Tears prick my eyes, and I long for my grandmother. I long to sit on her lap, to hear her say that I’ll always be her baby no matter how big I get, to nestle my face into her chest with her arms wrapped around me, to feel the sway of the rocking chair by her precious feet, to feel her welcome without a sound the outcry of words from my heart.

“I miss Ma-Maw. I need to talk to Ma-Maw,” I told my baby girl a few days ago. “I could tell her everything.”

It’s just like yesterday, so vivid in my memory. Sitting at that bar stool, in Ma-Maw’s kitchen, I can still see her kneading the plentiful dough with her beautiful hands, spooning apple-pie filling into the folds of the soft flour mixture, and sealing the edges closed with a fork.

Can she hide the emptiness from everyone but me?

“When I feel sad,” my grandmother says, “I make food for others.” And I know that the apple pies are not meant for our time together, not for her table. They’re not meant to keep. They’re meant to give away.

Resting in a dazed state in the comfort of the mattress, I turn the softened, worn pages of the book and realize that’s exactly what Miss Fannie did. The days of her life had passed by like watching a speeding train from a window, like they do for all of us. Her hair had frayed and grayed, and all the steps she’d taken so many times before had to be taken for her. But the one thing that could never be taken away became the theme of the book, became Miss Fannie’s life story, became my Ma-Maw’s life story. So much can be taken away; so many things ease away from the clasp of our hands–people, houses, and possessions we hold dear.

But no one can take away the ability to give, to give a nod, to give a wink, to give love, to give kindness, to give forgiveness, to give a cherished possession.

I close the tender pages of the book and look heavenward, to the One who knows my heart and my emptiness. I know that this day will be absent of my grandmother, absent of others so special to my heart, and absent of a certain rightness I held so dear. But I have words and as long as my chest soars, as long as air fills these lungs to make me feel like I am floating and to breathe in me a reason to rise …

I can give.

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Are you missing a loved one today? Do you give like my grandmother did to ease the pain? I don’t know about you, but I want “giving” to be my life’s story, too. Because how can kindness be wrong? And I hope with my heart that you are given the most wonderful Valentine’s Day of all.

Merry Christmas 2018

“Mom, I’ve lost my wallet.” The heartbreak, fear, sadness, regret, and disappointment emit through the message.

Oh no. A mixture of emotion swirls around me. Sadness mostly, sadness for my baby. She’s in an unfamiliar location. I’d seen it tucked away in her coat pocket the previous night. “I’m afraid you’ll lose it,” I’d said.

And then the thought inevitably set in–I should have ….

But more inevitably came–She should have ….

O Soul Within, wasn’t it just yesterday when you peered up those same old stairs? It was.

DSC_7824 (6)I climb those stairs in the early morning hours, darkness hovering through the hallway and a kitty evaluating my every move. Reaching the top, I move into the dim light. I inch toward her in the quiet … those beautiful eyes are closed. Those once tiny fingers have grown inches. Those once tiny feet nearly reach the bed’s end. Her hair drapes over the pillow.

I touch her and softly call her name.

DSC_8605 (4).JPGShe startles awake, gasping in terror.

She’s never startled awake before. My other baby never startles awake. But it’s been so long since I’ve climbed those stairs in the early morning hours. Every excuse in the world comes to mind. It’s easier to stand at the bottom and call her name. But I’ve been absent from her morning routine, the one we’ve had most all her life–the brushing back of her hair, the soft touch, the softest kiss on her face, the soft calling of her name in the early morning–that she startles in her sleep at my touch, at my waking her.

O Soul Within, how many years have you missed touching her cheek for a new morning? How many years have you missed the calmness of her morning waking?

Five years in this home.

And my heart knows … my heart hears …

Guilt is wiped away, and grace for tomorrow hugs my heart.

Silent Night, Holy Night … All is calm …

My phone brightens with a voicemail before me. “This is your daughter’s university. Your daughter’s wallet has been found by the TCU police department, and you just need to call this number …”

I don’t need to say and she doesn’t need to hear one wise word. Because so often the lesson is in the losing.

And in the finding.

Hold on to the things you love.

DSC_8586 (4)Merry Christmas, everyone.


How has God been speaking to your heart lately?

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.

**Our winner is Stacy Simmons. Yay, Stacy!

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.