Valentine’s Day Tips For Giving And Receiving

When someone gives to me, I yearn to give in return. My heart is still melting into a little pool of mama love over my youngest daughter leaving a letter for me several weeks ago out in the mailbox that borders our property walking trail.

The fragrance of chocolate wafts through the Valentine aisle as I select the perfect little heart box. And what are these? Tiny ceramic type decorations to stake into a potted plant. Mushrooms, squirrels, gnomes. Bright and colorful, except for the squirrel. I know … I’ll place these along the trail. Daughter’s been out walking every day. I’ll surprise her.

The girls are gone. Finally. I race outside, insert the little heart box into the mailbox, sprinkle the ceramic decorations along the trail. It’s time to wait.

I’m not a good waiter. Do you remember that my daughter waited 6 weeks for me to notice her letter? Whatever she has, I don’t.

We return home from church. “You going walking today, daughter?” I try to hide my smile.

“Why?” She sees right through me. Blast.

The door closes, and I can’t wait to hear from her. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

“Did you see anything?” I text her.

She texts back an attachment picture of her hand, holding a broken piece of glass. Oh, my word. Am I going to have to show her?

She texts me back. She found the heart box. “Is this for me?” Yep. She’s walking the trail, but she’s still not opened her eyes to what I’ve left her.

Sometimes one has to search a little deeper for treasure.

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I race out, uniting with younger daughter. Our steps join in the same direction. “Keep your eyes open,” I say. I’m mentally trying to identify just exactly what makes the heart worthy and open to receive from others, to uncover buried treasure.

Find Someone To Love

We come across the little gnome. She smiles while giving me that mom-you-are-ridiculous look.

I laugh, a proud-mama moment.

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My oldest 18-year-old daughter’s words surface in my memory. “Do you remember Evan, Mom?”

“No.”

“I used to buy Evan a Dr. Pepper on Wednesday nights at church.”

The Conditions Need To Be Just Right

Proceeding, the younger and I stumble across the mushrooms that I’d inserted into the soft soil. Both of them. One red. One blue.

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“I touched it earlier. I thought it was real. It felt real.”

We laugh. Another proud-mama moment.

Older daughter’s voice floods my heart again“I’ve worked with Evan at church since he was in kindergarten.”

Don’t Miss The Blessing

We reach the final one …. She searches all around, but she still can’t see it. I bend down and brush my fingertips over the tiny squirrel holding a treasured acorn.

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I recall older daughter’s final words. “Mom, Evan’s in 4th grade now, and every Wednesday, he now buys me a Dr. Pepper. He uses his allowance.” I envision her smile, my smile.

“This one’s a bit camaflouged,” I say to younger. Brown squirrel against brown dirt and nearby leaves. “You have to really be looking to see it.”

Sometimes it seems we have to wait, and sometimes it seems we have to search.

But we are loved.

Love doesn’t always come in a heart-shaped box.

We love because He first loved us—1 John 4:19♥


What tips do you have for giving and receiving? How have you been loved recently in a not-so-heart-shaped-box way? And Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

A Return to Family Devotion


I inch open the door. Two teeners are playing. I’m so happy to see them playing, taking life by the reins. Like they used to. When did life get so serious? 

One’s perched on the other’s back, having turned into some type of cowgirl. The other’s on all fours, and somehow I’m waiting for a “neigh” to bellow out of her mouth. Instead, all contagious laughs, giggles, smiles.



“What?” I nearly fall over laughing.

They jump up, place sweet hands in mine.

It’s bedtime.

“Do y’all want to start reading together through the New-Testament-in-a-year?” I ask the girls, switching gears and interrupting their Lone Ranger and Silver moment. But it’s been weighing heavily on my heart. 

Both nod so eagerly.

Whew! Because I’m going on fumes right now.



And I need to get at least one weight off my heart. Taking something off my shoulders would be nice, too.


We always did pretty good at family devotions when the girls were small. But things shifted somehow. I tried to get them started on Bible Gateway, helping them establish their own routine. No more “we” but God in thee. That went good for a while, but like with all things, discipline tiptoes out the door, and we’re left crumpled on the floor. And that’s a complete disservice to my girls.

I need jumper cables. Um, okay … spurs kicking into my sides.

Because when serious sickness enters your home, even teens can only go on fumes for so long. Anxiety hugs the heart, pinching in the night, demanding conversation.

And one daughter wraps her arms around me. My teetertotter emotions …. “I understand, Mama. Shh. It’s okay.” I adore her motherly way. What gave it away? Hands that I used to hold everywhereonce so tiny with tiny nails that I used to clip with the baby clipperssoothed over my face, wiping away the moisture. Tight hugs. My other daughter gifts me with one, too.

Life has been so busy. Where has my time with them gone?



Is it okay for a mama to admit she’s scared? She’s scared of the present, the past, the future. She’s scared of every day she tried to make it on her own and failed miserably. She’s terrified of the scars etched into her heart from days without holding her Savior’s hand. She’s scared of every reminder, every memory. She wishes for white-out, do-overs, the delete key for her heart. 

What does she yearn for more than anything for her girls? A clean piece of paper, a clean heart. One prepped and ready to type God’s beautiful future, beautiful present on their hearts, to accompany their beautiful pasts.

But we can’t pour out our heart’s desire on that blank page what we aren’t pouring in. The page will be written on, but it won’t be desirous, the Godly way. It’ll never sell.

And when I’m too tired, I’m reminded I’m too tired not to. I’m loading dirty dishes in the dishwaser, and I don’t think I have the stamina to finish, but I will. That’s my disciplined, determined self talking. And I’ll collapse into that bed.

And a brush of wind swirls past me, sweet arms envelope me. “You ready to read our devotion?”

“We better do it now, while I can.” Anxiety only falls away when we fall into the arms of God.

We plop down onto the floor, circle around, maybe hit the couch, maybe climb into my bed …. She takes my phone, hits the Bible Gateway App.



“The verse of the day,” she says, “is Ephesians 4:2‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.'” She clicks on “Begin A Reading Plan” and continues right where we left off. “Matthew 20:1-16,” she says. 

Verse 16 ends with, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

We all chuckle. “I used to say that to you when you were small all the time,” I say. “I wanted you to be giving. It feels good to give.” And I didn’t want them to fight. But my version usually came out like“If you want to be first, you have to be last.” And that’s where I might blow a raspberry, if I were that kind of mama.

fishing in the swimming pool … caught a plastic fish each and every time




floaties in the shallow end

They laugh. Then nod.

“I remember, Mama. I say that to all my Sunday school kids,” one daughter admits.

Yes. They haven’t forgotten. Full circle. God is writing on their hearts. The giving has been received. Because when we give, we always receive. An honest servant is always rewarded in time. It might seem like a rough draft, but it’s the real, published deal, where purchases are final. It’s sitting on the heart-shelf, waiting to be taken, to be given to their friends, anyone blessed enough to receive from their hands, maybe their future kids.

We take the limited time in this life together by the reins.

A return to family devotion.

~~~


Do you have a family devotion? Have you had to take life by the reins recently? 


I Guess I’d Follow My Daughter Anywhere


“I wish he would quiet down,” said someone … I can’t remember who. “Boy, that’s annoying.”

Ever since we let Azzie, our cat, out of the house for a few moments while we hung up the Christmas lights, he’s been completely discontent. We never let the cats out much because … this right here. The cat balks louder and louder, over and over. And not to mention the summer fleas, the many critters excluding the fleas that would eat him alive. And boy, what if he ran under the deck? 

And right now, it’s cold. It’s snowing. It’s actually snowing (it snowed one day, a week ago … you get the idea). A novelty in these parts of Texas. And the wind is whipping around something fierce.

My snow-girl. Her New Year’s resolutions are to become well-rounded and to get in shape.


My daughter goes to her room and places on her winter gear. She puts the collar and leash on Azzie. He’s really balking now. 


My daughter. I’m not surprised. She’ll go the extra mile for anyone, especially those she loves. Every Sunday, during “shake-a-hand” moment, she walks all the way across the church to hug and talk to our realtor, the first person we met when we moved here and the very one to invite us to her church, our church. Yes, she ventures all the way there because she loves Ms. Frances. I love her, too, but I’m not so great at going the extra mile. I wave across the way. 

But that’s my daughter. She’ll walk the extra mile. She’ll brave the new ice cream flavor, while I stick to the safe mint chocolate chip. But she lets me try the new. She’d give her last dime. Her last bite. Her coat. She loves the lovely and unlovely. She doesn’t meet a stranger these days. My shy, quiet daughter is coming into her own God-given gifts. A friend to all. A giver.

The wind rattles the house, along with the windows.

My daughter picks up the cat, opens the front door, steps her new boots out into the snow. 

I throw on my winter gear, grab my camera because when it’s all said and done, I guess I’d follow her anywhere. And I want to love like she loves. And I want to capture her love on camera. 



She sets Azzie down into the snow. He leaves a trail of paw prints.

And in no time, we’re all outside.



And almost lying prostrate for a good photo, I think about the prints I’m leaving on this world, on my girls, on my friends …

I want to leave the kind of heart-prints my daughter has left on me. I want to throw open the door, brave the wind and cold, the unknown, and step out in love … to love. And I know if I ever step out, I’ll never be content to stay inside.














What moves you to action? Others’ words or actions? 

Following The Star To Bethlehem


I love this time of year. The glow of the Christmas tree radiating throughout the darkened living room brightens and lightens my heart, especially in the early mornings. 

And my heart’s been heavy. 

I sit crisscross-applesauce by the tree and remove the star ornament. I lay it at my feet. The cat walks over and touches his nose to it, investigating this new thing. The amateur photographer in me snaps a quick picture.



Maybe I’ll post this picture on Instagram, I think to myself. I travel back to my closet and retrieve my Bible from my church bag. 

I’ll quote Scripture of the star that led the wise men to Jesus, I decide. Sitting down on the floor, all alone, I flip through my elderly Bible’s pages, turning straight to Luke. I search and search for the star. I read all of Luke 2. Everyone knows Luke 2 is the nativity scene. Where’s the star? Not in Luke?

Matthew? I flip to Matthew. 

There. There’s the star. The star’s in Matthew.

I smile and release my held breath.

My finger follows the wise men over the beautiful pages for every mention of the star.



And I wonder … why isn’t the star mentioned in Luke? Hmm. 

“Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

As I followed the star to Bethlehem, I thoughtO Soul Within, maybe, just maybe God left the star out of Luke, placed the star in another location, so that one might search for it. On this day. 2016. So that one might search a little harder, a little farther, for The One, the Christ-child, the God-man. And come to worship Him.

Who else is searching for the star in this moment?

I tuck my knees under my chin and hug my legs. 

Shelli, when’s the last time you searched for the star? 

The star will always lead to Jesus. It will always bring one out of the east.

“After [the Magi] had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2: 9-10

Oh, Lord, I never want to stop looking for the star … looking for you. I never want to stop placing you in my daily life, with purpose. I never want to bog down with anxiety and deny the joy and peace that is my birthright as your child. 

I’ve been bogged down, Lord. 



Thank you for going ahead of me. I want a Jeremiah 29 moment with you, Lord. For always. “‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” 

Thank you for giving me a reason to search for the star. To knock on the door. 

Make me wise. Make me search. Remind me to sit at your feet. Make me desire you. Help me to follow you.



See Him. 

This new thing, new every morning. Don’t miss it.

O Soul Within, see the glow. Feel it. The wonder of it all. Open your heart, your treasure, and lay those burdens down. But not just anywhere or to anyone … to The Onethe right one providing the right place. And receive the joy and peace.

“On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their teasures and presented him with gifts …” Matthew 2:11-12

Merry Christmas
I love you.
Shelli





Scraping Certain Memories Out The Back Door


My grandmother never wasted anything, not a plastic butter container, not a milk jug, not a scrap of fabric. What didn’t clutter her kitchen counters, cluttered her storage spaces. She didn’t throw away anything, not even leftover scraps from a meal. Surely a sheer reflection of the Depression. Because a scrap of fabric could be used to make a quilt, a milk jug could store water for electrical outages.

Watching her scrape off the plates, all extra food going into a tin plate, is a sweet memory. “I’ll throw it out to the dogs,” she’d say, and wipe her hands on the front of her flour-covered blouse. When all the plates had been cleared and washed, the counters and tables all cleaned, we’d take the tin plate, heaped with food scraps, and head to the back door. The screen door would screech open, and the dogs would come running. There was no disguising or mistaking her scrap-pile… the dogs ran to it and so did the swarming flies. Stomach-turning remnants covered the ground.



Memoriesit’s what we bring into the storehouse of our hearts and minds. It’s a precious commodity, something we keep. Something we hope to hang onto all our lives, until our last breath.

But we have good, and well, we have bad.

And sometimes it seems like the bad just grows and grows, like yeast has been added to the disagreeable ingredients. Just gets fatter and fatter, busting and bursting out the doors and windows of our minds and hearts. The guest overstays his welcome and takes up too much space. The guest gets bossy and decides who’ll eat where, who’ll sit where, who’ll sleep where, and who’ll need to make accommodations for the night. He pushes out all the good.

And he just eats and eats away at your nerves, your confidence, your faith, even your memory of good.

And we look around and see that our counters are covered and cluttered with leftovers, dirt and grime, and a stench that can’t be described, unworthy of description. Even the cow-trails remaining are threatened. Leftovers needing to be thrown out to the dogs and the flies.

We can’t always choose what comes in and out of our lives, but we can choose what stays, what stays inside. We can choose what needs to be thrown out.



Like standing at my front living room window, at only eight years old, watching my daddy drive away … away forever from my family. Tears pouring out my eyes, I cried, “Daddy, Daddy, I love you.” Oh, my daddy.

Like feeling the sting of rejection. The 8th grade boy who walked by my middle-school desk and said with a scowl, “You have long, skinny fingers. And your hair looks like Medusa.”


Like grieving over a huge mistake. Only a kid and ruining my life.


Those are leftovers, throw-out memories. Not throw-away, just throw-out. We’ll never be entirely free of them. But our good memories don’t deserve to be pushed out the door. Our good memories deserve the guest of honor place at our table.


And O Soul Within, some ground-breaking news, that’s what we’ll make up our mind to do. We have to be intentional in this life, tend to the memories, because another has unhealthy intentions for us.

O Soul Within, gather those leftovers, one by one. The ones that stink and destroy. Scrape them into the tin scrap bowl of honor. Because that tin bowl deserves a place of honor, too. It’s the temporary storage that keeps our countersour hearts and mindsfree and clean. Free of all the dirt and grime, leaving room for all the cleanthe China, the teacups, faith, Christ-esteem, space, lovely space.



Take those steps, one by one.

Open that back door and bask in the beautiful sounds of the screechy screenthe gatekeeper to our hearts, the one that stays closed and only opens when you choose. Only opens when the bad needs to be thrown out or used … blessedly used for good. Not used for bad. And that’s why they aren’t throw-aways because sometimes God uses our throw-outs. 

Scrape it out, sweep it out, let it drop, let it fly. Toss it to the bottom-land, like nobody’s business. Let it stay. Let the dogs come, let the flies swarm. Because that’s the back door. The scrap pile. No one else needs to go there, because it’s nobody’s business. Only your selected few come through there.



And then you smile, walk back into your clean kitchen, take a deep breath, and bask in the wonderful sights and smells of the new, the apple pie scent wafting, the fresh bread baking, the sun shining in through the front window, rays so vivid and beautiful you could reach out and touch them

Like knowing your daddy loves you with all his heart and remembering how he tells you often, how you’ll always be his little angel no matter how old you get.

Like being named Homecoming Queen your senior year, and the one who called you all those names wants to escort you.


Like feeling the tiny fingers and toes of your newborn, 18 years ago, and counting them one by one. And knowing your mistake may very well have led you here, to this child, to this beautiful place.



  


Like knowing with all your heart that God knows what’s best and directs your steps, and even uses your past.

Prop open the front door, and hang the welcome sign. Bring out the white, clean tablecloth, unfold it a tad, and thrust it out. Open wide. Spread it out over the dining room table in your spacious heart, and place the best China because … well … it’s time for a new meal, for a real meal, for a feast. A beautiful, clean, new feast. With guests of our choosing. Only guests of our choosing. Welcomed guests.

With remnants of love, blessing, and honor.


~~~

Do you have difficult, painful memories? Have you struggled with letting them keep a prominent place in your mind and heart? Do you have any thing you need to toss out?



Struggling With More and The One Safe Addiction


Standing over the kitchen sink, I run cleansing water over the dirty dishes. My daughter brings more porcelain to be cleaned. Lipstick smeared glasses, greasy pans. More and more. Cleaning the dirty. Will it ever end? 

My daughter’s sweet hand scrapes across the dish. I envision her tiny hands, like the cherished day was just yesterday. Chubby thumbs pressed determinedly to all four tiny fingers, fingertips on hands bumping together repeatedly, requesting more. Quiet souls needing more and letting it be known. Teaching my girls that sweet sign language word had to be the smartest thing I ever did. I wish I could take credit, but I’ll forever love that wise friend. 

Sitting at a table full of children who were crying and screaming to receive something desired, my daughter would look around at the chaos and quietly and gently press her tiny gathered fingers together, signaling “more” … more Cheerios, more apple juice, more.

Her tender, quiet spirit blessed my heart.



O Soul, you’ve always had a problem with more. You know you have. An uncontrolled chuckle spurts out. Undeniable. “Give her an inch, and she’ll take a mile.” Guilty.

I could never stop at planting one flower. Nope. I’ll know every flower name. I no longer put my hands down to work a garden.

One framed cross-stitch led to a house full. They’ve all been dismantled and rest in my closet.

I could never stop at one cookie. I just can’t keep them in the house.

I can’t stop with one Pringle. I’ll snack on them all day.

I could never stop at using one coupon. My whole family thanks me for giving up that venture.

I could never stop making Mickey Mouse pancakes. When a desire for pancakes was revealed, I made pancakes every day until I was begged to stop.





I could never stop with taking one picture. Don’t place the camera in my hands, please.

I could never stop with one trip to Disney World. The girls have been every year since they were six and eight.

I could never stop at writing. One blog post led to three manuscripts down, and one in the works.

If I find a song I love, I will play it over and over.

O Soul, you know how to drive something in the ground. Don’t you? You know how to make everyone around you cry for relief. 

I rinse off a dish and place it in the dishwasher. A smile spreads over my face, thinking over my secret new missionbeing accepted on the launch team for Beth Moore’s new Bible study, Entrusted. 



O Soul, you found the one thing that you can never tire ofstudying God’s Word. You can never have too much. You can never study too much. You can never have more than enough. 

The one who breathed life into you can’t be run into the ground.

At only 29, my first Beth Moore study gave me a deep love to study and soak in God’s truths. God’s truths are life for me, teaching me that I can survive in this world, that I’m okay. She made God’s Word come alive for me. I saw a lady who genuinely loved God so much, that I said to myself

I want to love God that much. 

My daughter’s precious 16-year-old hand passes the last dish to wash. More. Father, let her see more of you in me. Let her see something that she can’t get enough of. Let this walk with you, as weak as it often is, be just enough to cause her to want more and more of you.



Father, thank you for entrusting my daughter in my hands. I’ve gotten so much wrong. But you are my right. My right for more. I keep bringing you more and more, the dirt in my life is endless. And you never tire of me. You keep cleansing me and making me new.

In the midst of this world’s chaos, with all the outcries and screams, you have taken us to the banquet hall. Your love over us is breath-taking. 

Father, be our desire, the very thing we desperately need. Our one stronghold. Our greatest love. Be our addiction, the one thing we quietly cry for in the secret room of our heart. Be our cry for relief. Be our ever-waking desire, our first and last thought of the day. The thing we can’t outdo. The thing we can’t overdo. 

Father, be our more. Our cleansing more.



The Gentle Nudging for a Thanksgiving Blessing and a Dance



I hadn’t been in over a year. Goodness, that’s hard to believe. 

My dad goes up there sometimes, and he always assures me that I’m welcome. But I’ve been so busy–same ol’ song and dance, you know. And well, it’s just not the same since my grandmother passed away. 

When my grandmother was living, I’d go visit her as often as possible. And well, with my uncle living down the road, he was a package deal. My dad might come up sometimes, and I’d see him, too. 

When my grandmother was ill, we three spent much time together, on her behalf. And well, I just got to missing those two something awful. I’d heard my uncle had been sick with pneumonia recently. 

My uncle on the left, who spent all morning cooking for us,
and my dad on the right who’d spend all morning doing 
Elvis impersonations if a knee weren’t bothering him. 
He’s good, too. 

I’ve learned to listen to that gentle nudging. I always know the Lord is speaking to my heart.

My dad tells me a date that’s good for him. We’ll all go out to eat, we plan. Make a day of it. My heart’s already leaping.

The day arrives, and we leave fairly early … the girls and I venture out to go the distance–2-1/2 hours there. 

I call my dad when I’m an hour away, and he sounds like a little kid. He’s so excited to see us. “I can’t wait for y’all to get here,” he says.

I miss her road. Her Texas county road. I chastise myself for letting a year go by. How could I miss her road? I pull off and turn around, heading the right direction now.

My grandmother’s house is near this little city of Antioch, Texas. Antioch … the first recorded place in the Bible that I’ve been taught where the word “Christian” was used … it meant “Little Christs” … it was often used in a derogatory way. Am I living my life in a way that others would call me “Christian”?






And there’s her driveway. The long windy, sandy driveway trimmed with pines. Yeah. I played on that road a ton when I was a kid. My toes burrowed through that sand.

My heart pumps with ingrained excitement, as I turn onto her drive. In my younger days, that’s when I’d bring out the hairbrush and dab on a little make-up–prepare to see my family. Like I’d looked that way all along. Just my casual self. 

Before I even get to the house, my dad is outside waiting, pacing. Just like my grandmother used to do. He’s holding a camera. The minute we step out, he says, “I want to get a picture of y’all.” I’ve never danced with my dad, but this moment was right up there. O Soul Within, he loves you.

We hug. He says my uncle is making dinner for us. 

“But he’s been so sick,” I say.

“He really wanted to cook for you,” my dad says. O Soul Within, he loves you, too.

Noon finally arrives, and we head over to his Texas country house. I climb the steps and knock.

“Come in.”





He’s cooking. Doing the shuffle throughout his kitchen, he’s made a Thanksgiving feast–a whole turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, some casserole, rolls, cherry pie. Like my grandmother used to do. Evidence covers the front of his shirt–flour, splotches of grease. He looks exhausted. He’s sweaty. Clearly, his strength hasn’t returned and may never. Other health issues. 

I start sweating too because his blood is thinner now, and he keeps his house warm. And I’m having power-surges (ABS!). And I’m imagining cracking open a window for fresh air. 

My mouth gapes open, with a smile. He’s twirled my heart right in. I know my eyes are glowing with a slight hint of confusion. “What have you done?” I ask. “You’ve been sick.”

“I wanted to do this for my baby.”








My uncle put me first, grateful that I’d come the distance. For him. For my dad. Regardless of how he felt.


***


O Soul Within, it’s not easy to honor the One who went the distance for us when you are sick, hurting, struggling … 

To put Him first … to treat Him like the love of your life …

It’s tempting to settle for Kentucky Fried Chicken, the quick and easy.

But you’ll always be blessed for the effort. Allow the evidence to cover you and others. Don’t let too much time go by. Don’t miss the road. Take His hand and do the dance … waltz the floor …

one, two, three, one two, three …

Because He loves you.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.



When you’re tired and struggling, is it tempting to push the very One Who can strengthen you to the back burner? How do you ensure God comes first?

The Heart of the Sanctuary


Maybe you have chairs. We have pews. In the sanctuary.

Maybe your rows are wide allowing easy access, to enter or leave.

Our rows are narrow. Once you get inside, you might as well get comfortable.

O Soul Within, where do you sit? I see you, you know. You sit in the far back like a good back-row Baptist. And you grasp the pew’s edge like your life depends on it. Beads of perspiration overtake you when you have to release your good grip. I see you. And your heart feels a little put-out when you have to bend your legs for others to move past you, to the inside. I know, you had gotten comfortable, seat warmed, you didn’t want your pants to twist. I know it. I see you. 


O Soul Within, are you in the way?

And as I became self-aware, from my outside seat on the back row, in the balcony, I saw all the edges filled and the middle left sparsely occupied.

The heart of the sanctuary seemed empty.

My thoughts hovered over it for a time.

It’s easier to sit on the outside, isn’t it, O Soul Within? It calls us to bend a bit, for others to pass through, and sometimes our toes get stepped on. But we can come and go as we please. With ease. We can slip out to the bathroom. We can bolt. We don’t get trapped.

If some can’t sit on the outside, they’ll get up and go. And that could possibly require you to bend again. O Soul Within, you feel conviction, don’t you?

Moving into the heart of the sanctuary is a bit inconvenient. We have to step over people, be cautious not to step on toes. We accept the risk of getting trapped there.

Why are we afraid to move in? To move close? Are we afraid to come alongside other Believers? Are we afraid for others to know us too well? Really know us. Are we afraid for others to know when we’re absent? Or present? Are we afraid of what it might demand of us?



How close are you willing to get, O Soul Within?

Are we outsiders or insiders?

O Soul Within, Sunday morning is often a reflection of youwho you are. Yeah, your very soul. It stings, doesn’t it? Just let it sting.

Because if you’d just move insit in the seat prepared for you, live the life God called you toyou wouldn’t be called to bend, or move, or feel the press of your toes, and there’d be room for others to conveniently move in, too. 

When you move, your children move.

The heart of the sanctuary would be overflowing. Because where two or more or gathered, the Lord is doubly attractive. And visitors or late-arrivals would always have a place, enough space.

Yeah, it’s sweet to see that those on the pew rose to the occasion. And it’s doubly sweeter to see the rows become endless, without edges, the growth so exponential that no one can fall off and hit the ground. Can you just see it? 

And the view will always be perfect. Because the view is Jesus.



The inside more crowded than the outsidewhat a concept.

O Soul Within, peel away from the edge. Don’t be afraid to move into the heart of the sanctuary, to come alongside fellow Believers, because that’s where you’ll meet God. On the inside. In the heart. The inner circle. 







Have you ever felt God calling you to more? Relinquishing your very self? Have you had to push past fear, like me?

From Broken to Mended


It’s been pressing on her for a year. Painfully.

That metal piece of whatever you want to call it–expander, though I’ve called it every name in the book that starts with an “e” and ends with an “er”–served its useful purpose. It broke her. It really broke her. Even her allergies improved.

But boy, it was painful. The piece of metal made it hard to eat. She couldn’t feel the roof of her mouth. Did she have any space left in her mouth at all?

It weighed on her heavily for a whole year. A whole year.

“It’ll come off next month.”

“No, it’ll come off next month.”

She sat down … lay back. Hands of relief surround her.




“It’s coming off today. It’s really coming off,” they say.

Feet up.



Relief at last.

Little girl smiles. She feels around in her mouth … space she forgot she had.

“We won’t do anything else today. We’ll give it time to heal–see what movement takes place.”

Little girl jumps up, leaving all behind, to brush her teeth … brush all that was broken … the roof of her mouth … and rinse. Cleansed. 

She feels the cuts–where metal bore down into flesh, impressing, changing. But she can feel. She can feel once again.



Sometimes we have to be broken before we can mend.

Necessary change. And we wonder when we’ll find relief.

And then we hear spoken, “Today’s the day.”

Sometimes we have to fall back into the hands that are capable.

We leave all behind … all behind that hinders, binds, hurts, cuts.

We feel the impressions, the change.

But we can feel. Really feel.


Reflecting the Light from Above


Her fingernails and toenails had all been soaked and clipped, and the pink on her toenails reflected the light from above. Satisfaction seeped from my soul.

“Ma-Maw, it’s time to wash your hair.” I smiled, encouragingly nodded. The long, frayed ends of gray hair were not her normal. No, she’d kept her hair short and tidy for as long as I could remember. I have one picture of her with longer hair, when she was 26.


“No. I don’t need it washed,” she said emphatically.  

“Please,” I pleaded.

“Okay.” The defeat in her voice broke my heart.

I had already set the kitchen table with my necessitieswarm water, shampoo, towels. I’d have to work quickly. 

I walked her fragile self over to the kitchen slowly and carefully, and she sat down in the wooden chair. Though I counted it a privilege, I felt overwhelmed. I had been assigned a task by family and didn’t quite know if I could pull it off. But I’d said I’d do it. And I’d do it. I’d try.

I had to think outside the box because she was too frail to get into the bathtub. Her back was too frail and painful to lean over into the sink. She could barely make it into the car to go to her doctor appointments. Going to a hair dresser deemed out of the question.

Why did I feel like the one deemed useless? I was scared. And I couldn’t have her slipping on that floor. I couldn’t risk another bone in her precious back broken.

I wrapped towels around her soft pink nighty and around the chair. Warm water gently poured from the pitcher in my hand’s grasp over her precious hair. In the middle of the kitchen.

“It’s cold.” She began to pout and cry like a little child. But getting a glimpse of her as a child was precious. A smile grew across my face. It would be over so soon.

With the shampoo rinsed out, I wrapped her in warm towels, slipped a baby blue clean nighty over her sweet head, and led her back to her chair in the living room. Fresh and clean.

“Ma-Maw, it’s time to trim your hair,” I said as I combed her beautiful tangles. The first time I had ever cut her hair. Little did I know, it would be the last.



Every now and then, she’d utter, “That’s good enough.” Her patience was growing thin.

As I dried her hair, I couldn’t wait to curl it, to mask the uneven layers by my imperfect hands.

“Ma-Maw, this is the last curl. Let me just spray it with hair spray, and we’ll be done.” In her weak condition, this was a traumatic experience for her. 

“There. All done, Ma-Maw.” I smiled, relief seeping from my weary soul.

“I want to see it.” She stood to her sweet feet like a spring chicken and walked with renewed energy down the hallway and into the bathroom. She looked into the mirror and smiled. “Thank you, Baby. That’s real pretty. I appreciate you for doing that.”

I couldn’t refrain the giggles dispensing from my heart and lips … her attitude had completely changed. It was the best idea she’d ever had.











When I look in the mirror, what will I see? Lord God Almighty, when you are done with me … what will I see? Will I be pretty, like you? With all the bad trimmed away, will I be a reflection of you?

When you snip away the attitude, the self-righteousness, the holier than thou, the stubbornness, the hatefulness, the bitterness, the grudges, the anger, the feelings of uselessness, unworthiness, the feelings that you’ll never get it right, the worry, the fear, the impatience, the unloveliness … all the frayed, scraggly dead ends that don’t belong on your creationme.

Do you get frustrated at me? Do you giggle at me? Do you count it a privilege?

I do want to make you proud. You know I do.

Help me to work with you. Help me not to fight you all the way. Help me to get excited over change, no matter how traumatic. And trust that you’ll do what you say. For it’s one of the best ideas you’ve ever had.

Help me to reflect the Light from above.

~~~


Is there something particular you need trimmed from your life? Right now, I need fear and worry trimmed … that’s what I can see at the moment. How may I pray for you?