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.

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!

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. ♥

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

 

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?

When The Yoke Seems A Little Runny

I take the bread, cupping my fingers over it and guarding it with my life. I glance down the pew at God’s sweet provision. With my head bowed, I take a long look inside …

Life can be excruciating. It can.

My grandfather answers the phone. “Yellow” … (his version of “hello”)

With excruciating fear, I say, “Pa-Paw, we’re thinking about adopting a baby …” I hadn’t been able to sleep. My gut churned. All the “what ifs” …

“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” My grandfather’s words wrap peace around me, like an old familiar song. If I could love this man like I do, who took me as his very own, maybe just maybe a child could love me, too.

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I play and replay that scene over in my mind when life is hard. I remember all the ways God came through for me, through fear, how my two daughters resemble me in the seen and unseen. From the perfectly placed freckles to the seemingly imperfectly placed …

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Because I go to my knees with fear these days. I tell my doctor that I’m not handling things well. Is this coping? She assures me that she’s there to help me, should I need it. Medication, she surely means.

The unease in my heart has kept me up many a night. My insides are doing abnormal things. “Or is this my new normal?” I ask myself. When my pulse races away, I count to ten over and over throughout the night. I pray continually. I chastise myself constantly. The Lord offers the light and steady yoke, and time after time, it seems I take on the weight of the heavy yoke and allow it to run away with me, spinning me around and solidifying my impending disaster, allowing the weight of it to press me to my knees.

And the guilt drives me deeper into the mud and mire.

Why? Where is the peace?

And just this morning, I beg God for answers. God, why? Why can’t I have peace in the midst of the storm? The storms that pummel me, one after another. Why can’t I sleep?

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“I kindly adopted you, didn’t I.” That’s what I hear spoken over my heart. And I think of that night after the Passover, in the garden, before Jesus went to the cross, the excruciating pain.

An angel from heaven appeared to him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22: 43-46

“Do you really think you are so different from me?” I hear spoken over me. “You love. Your heart is soft, not hard. You’re in pain, Shelli. You’re scared. You’re sweatin’ it out. But you keep kneeling and praying … kneeling and praying …. You are not crippled. You keep getting out of bed each morning, you keep taking step after step, you keep going a little further … with me.”

And as I sit in the midst of the flood, the guilt of how I should be handling things rolls in waves away from me, back out to the ocean.

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And relief, full of peace, splashes over me like new rain. Like Heaven sent.

“This is my body given for you …” I swallow hard and take the cup, wrapping my fingers securely around it, guarding the lifeblood with my life.

“Do this in remembrance of me …”

Do you ever feel like you are handling things all wrong? Does Jesus’ example comfort you, too? 

Much love and Happy Easter, y’all. 

I Ripped My Pink Panther: When Your Kid’s Attitude Calls For A Tickle and Talk Session


“Yeah, one day I’ll be able to tell you all the issues I have with you, Mom.” My daughter chuckles. “I can’t tell you now because I have to live with you.” She sinks into the couch, laughing herself silly.

“Get over here right now.” I giggle, moving to the edge of my cushioned seat and pointing my finger to the hardwood floors in front of me. “Right now.”

No movement from daughter. Just more giggles.

I jump up, run to her, and tickle her till she cries.

She gasps for breath, still chuckling. “I’m just pulling your leg,” sputters out through more giggles.




Uh-huh. Oh, I know, Daughter. I know exactly what you mean. Because I felt those very things as a young girl. The only difference—unlike you, I voiced many of my thoughts aloud.

The whirlwind of my parents’ divorce left me tied in knots, feeling pulled apart. One arm held by my daddy, the other held by my mother. My grandmother held firmly to my leg. I didn’t know how to feel about everything or anything. I didn’t know how to express myself. I didn’t know what was normal, what was right. I felt crucified, tormented.

And there was my mama.

I didn’t love everything about my life. I just wanted my mama and my daddy back under the same roof, tucking me in bed at night and reading nightly devotions to me. Bitterness, in the awful form of anger and what felt like hatred at times, welled up inside and drizzled out.

On life’s fragile edge, I grabbed my Pink Panther stuffed animal that I’d gotten at Six Flags, that I adored. Taking its right arm in one hand, its left arm in my other hand, I pulled. Its little insides oozed out. So much misery. I injured the very thing I loved.

I felt so ripped to pieces. So I’ll rip this to pieces.

 

 

 


I loved my daddy. But I was in this city, and he was in that city. I was in this house, and he was in that house. I lived with my mama, and she took the brunt of all my painful trying-to-figure-out-this-situation.

Sitting in my room, I mourned my hate-filled words to my mother. My heart mourned that I’d injured the very one I loved.  Because I loved my mama. I hated the situation. But I was only ten. What did I know then?

And just look what I did to my Pink Panther. I cried.

Grown-up stuff is too hard to contain inside a child. It will spill.

My pillow—the catcher of all my tears. God—the storer of all my tears. And I gave God a tremendous amount of tears to handle. Like rain.

 

 

Life is hard. Life is hard to understand. So we trust. Trust God. It’s all we have, Daughter. And it’s more than enough, Daughter.

At only ten, I reached over and took hold of the Bible that I’d been given by my Sunday school teacher. Given just in the nick of time. Given just when I’d needed it. And God showed me that He could be my all. He should be my all. He would be my all. I couldn’t place my faith and trust in my mother or my daddy—I could only love them. I had to heap all my faith and trust in God, my heavenly Father, the only one who could be the perfect parent.

God—the restorer of my life. The one who takes all our confused and broken pieces and makes us His restoration project. The one who stitches together our torn pieces now. The one we can spill our insides to now. The one we can entrust with everything now. The one we don’t have to be fragile with now or ever. The one who takes every tear and stores it now.

When we want to ask all the questions that so often go unanswered

Why?



Your pillow’s stuffing will hold your tears until God can gather them, one by one, in His safe-keeping. Your tears haven’t dried, they’ve just been collected, sweet one.

Because I know you have more questions than you’re asking, Daughter. Questions only God knows the answers to, and that seems so unfair. I know. Questions I’ll never be able to pull out of you because maybe you think you’ll injure me. Maybe you think I’m fragile. Maybe I am, but I won’t break. I’ve already been broken, baby. This mama is tougher than you might think.  



Because when you want to take this side of life in one hand, take the other side of life in the other hand, and pull

Remember that in between lies the body of Christ—the one broken for you.

And comprises that beautiful Body of Christ—someone will remind you of that Scripture just in time. Someone will text you encouragement just in time. When you forget, someone will point you to Jesus just in time

 

His one arm stretched across one side. A nail pounded. His other arm stretched across the other side. A nail pounded. Take His hands. Pull and pour your heart out on His hands.

Because mercy and grace pooled and spilled out, trickling down on you … the crimson turning the darkness of pain and confusion all white, all pure. All for you.