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





A Peek Inside Operation Christmas Child


“My friend invited us to go with their family to work with Operation Christmas Child.” My daughter thumbed through her text. “The day after Thanksgiving. May we go?”

“Yes.” 

Come Black Friday, we drove the hour trip into the Dallas area, met the family, and walked into a huge warehouse filled with plain brown shipping boxes, showcasing “Samaritan’s Purse.”




The warmth flooded the room, the smiles, the greetings from strangers. We ushered into a holding room and watched a film over our volunteer work. I placed my “chaperone” sticker and my name tag on my shirt. The kids received the “student” stickers.We followed a lady through the huge warehouse full of tables and workers. 

Shouts rang out.

“When a shipping box is completely packed with shoe-boxes, everyone shouts, competing to see who can shout the loudest,” the lady explained.

She led us to our very own worktable#13and opened one huge brown shipping box. We peeked over the edge to see it packed to the brim with green-and-red shoeboxes.

Everyone received their assigned job for the day. I took on the job of sorting through shoeboxesin other words, each packed box had to be unpackedensuring each individual shoebox was full and that there was nothing harmful in itno liquids, no weapons. My youngest daughter stood at my side sorting through boxes with me, with her older sister next to her, who helped tape the boxes we passed along.



I glanced up between boxes to see smiles on faces. I reached for a new box, and my daughter beat me to it. We laughed.

My feet stood right where they needed to be.

My fingers felt over my “chaperone” tag on my jacket. Me? Chaperone? No. Me? Student? Yes.

I yearned to exchange tags with my daughter, letting her wear the “chaperone” and letting me take on the “student.”




















Without my girls, without the invitation, my feet would not be planted on the Operation Christmas Child’s warehouse floor. My heart had not been invested in the past. Oh, I’d assembled boxes, but never with my whole heart. I would never have driven that hour in Dallas traffic, the day after Thanksgiving, on my own. Never.

My heart needed nudging, prompting. My hand needed holding, guiding, leading, encouraging.

We placed hands on the boxes before us and prayed over them.



Something strange happened. The brown turned to green-and-red. My heart began to feel invested, invested in the children whom I couldn’t even see, whom I’d never even meet. 

I stumbled across a shoebox that wasn’t packed properly. And I found myself getting defensive over each one I checked and packed. I felt slight aggravation at the unknown persons who’d assembled them poorly.

But who was I to grumble in my heart? I thought of all the shoeboxes I had thrown away that year. I reprimanded myself secretly. I hadn’t packed a shoebox in a few years, since the girls have gotten older, since they hadn’t prompted me to help make one. Since they hadn’t held my hand and led me there. 

Since my eyes weren’t fully seeing.

I reached into the bins full of toys before me, selected a few things, like a stuffed animal or a children’s Bible, and filled the shoebox. It only lacked one thingcandy. I wished for a bucket of candy so that I could add sweetness to the boxes that were lacking. 

My heart is invested.



I ran across a shoebox that clearly had been packed with an over-abundance of lovedolls, stuffed animals, candy. Someone did it right, and some child will be blessed by their hands. My heart clapped for those unknown persons.

I passed the finished shoebox along, and my daughter taped it shut. Friends packed the beautiful Christmas color into the plain ol’ shipping box, bringing it to life there in the warehouse, there in my heart. Shouts rang out, starting a contagion of shouts down the line. We’d filled another shipping box, ready to go overseas.

“Do you want to go to lunch?” the lady asked.

I turned to the girls. “Are y’all hungry? Do you want to take a lunch break?”

“No, let’s keep working,” they agreed.

I smiled. “Yes, let’s keep working. Our time’s too short. We can eat after.” We can eat anytime.

Why?

We took a peek inside, and now our hearts are fully invested.





We took a peek inside,
our stubborn hearts were tested,
and now we see in color,
our hearts fully invested.

~~


Thank you, Peek Family

**

Are you volunteering anywhere special this year? What is God teaching you?

A Very, Very Merry Christmas Vlog From Me to You!


Thank you for always stopping by. 

I am so blessed by you, to know you, to hear from you. 
Thank you for all of your selves that you weekly give to me.
Every moment that I’ve thought to myself, Shelli, what are you doing? 
You answer my question by helping push me to keep going, dig deeper, and be better.
You are dear to my heart … don’t ever doubt it.
I’m excited and hopeful to share 2016 with you.
And if you have about 4 minutes to spare, I’d like to talk to you from Texas … about what to scrape your life on … how not to scrape make-up on your shirt … how to properly remove a shirt … well, y’all know me. 
Silly things always happen to me.
But I love laughter, joy, reasons to smile.
Listen for my sheep in the background.
And I’m sorry I’m not better at this video-recording vlog thing.
And Jesus … the reason for every breath we take … glory to God on the highest.
Love,
Shelli



From my home to yours …

 Come inside …
This writing inspiration might look familiar to some of you.
Our tree … see the cats underneath?

Me and my girls

Finding Treasures at Cracker Barrel


The Cracker Barrel chairs out front rock and sway. We slip inside, and I head straight to the bathroom. That’s a joke in my house because I can’t go from Point A to Point B without needing to find a restroom. 

“You can go get a table. I’ll find y’all,” I say.  

I pass this sweet elderly man waiting by the restroom door. He’s propped his elbows up on the counter. He looks so out of place, yet so comfortable. Peaceful. Purposeful. Maybe he’s waiting for his wife. I smile. He smiles. I feel drawn to him.

We eat dinner. I’m so routine. Chicken and dumplings for me … light on the chicken. The dumplings are my favorite part. Why waste valuable, limited space on your least favorite part? 

We make our way to the exit with these treasures tucked away in a brown paper sack. All three of us girls have one item each. 

Can you guess which treasure is mine?



Plus two Andes thin chocolate mints each … the kind in the green package. My sweet proof is missing.

We push through the door, and there is that sweet man sitting in a rocking chair out front. I smile.

“Bye,” I say.

“Don’t forget to write,” he replies, with a smile.

I laugh myself hysterically all the way to the car. His personality reminds me of my grandfather. It took maximum restraint not to run up and hug him. Walking the length of that front porch, I have to repeat his comment to the girls and explain a little, and then they laugh themselves hysterically, too.

“Don’t forget to write.” The treasured meaning knocks me right upside the head, wraps around my shoulders like a scarf, and pulls me in for a tender kiss.

Yes, Lord, I’m listening. I won’t forget to write. I’ll write. I will. 

When discouraged, O Soul Within, the Lord knows and sees. And He speaks through the least likely people, who end up being the most likely people. It really all makes sense.

What if that sweet man were waiting for me? All along. What if he was an angel? What if?

And I’m reminded of a journal that was given to me recently, at a lady’s retreat I spoke at. I didn’t have time to make one like everyone else because I spent time in prayer and preparing. But I shared about how special journaling had been in my life. And before I left, the ladies gave me my very own. It’s so cute, y’all. It even has a tiny journal pocketed on the inside.




And I know the Lord is speaking straight to my soul. Oh, the sweetness that waits for me. 

Me.

Don’t forget me, He breathes into my heart. Time is valuable and limited. I’m the only one who makes sense.

Write your novel story for me, to me, share with me. 


Today.


Share your life with me. Share your days and nights with me. Push through the doors to see me. Listen for me. Let me be your routine. 


Select me. Seek me with all your heart. Let me be your favorite partyour treasure.


I am so un-fit for The King, but He pursues me anyway, like I’m the greatest gift in the world. It’s humbling …

Our treasures from Cracker Barrel. Did you guess correctly?!


Merry Christmas!


Have you ever wondered if you’d just entertained an angel? Or perhaps wondered if an angel had just entertained you? Has God ever used someone interesting, least expected, to speak to your heart? I’d love to hear your story. 

When Christmas Ornaments Become Holiday Baubles


The doors swing open wide, and I head into the post office, with the cool breeze trailing, to mail off my latest article. With no waiting line, it’s going to be a good day. Yes! I just feel it.

“Do you need stamps today?” the lady asks.


Do I need…? “Yes, I do.”


“What kind?” She displays several … gingerbread houses, ornaments.


“I’ll take the Christmas ornaments,” I cheerily say, with a smile. They’re cute
red, green, and blue dangly things. And with all the Hallmark Christmas love movies my daughter’s been recording and forcing upon me, Christmas is definitely in the air surrounding my merry heart.



The lady corrects me. “They’re Holiday Baubles,” she sternly says, without a smile.

I’m not quick on my toes. And suddenly I’m reduced to wondering if I’ve been calling them the wrong name all along. Like I’ve done something wrong. I walk out, my soul deflated. Confused.

The more I think about it, sitting in the car and gripping the steering wheel till my knuckles whiten, the more saddened and confused I feel. The bitter mixture stirs and stirs in my heart and gut, pleading for Rolaids. Some type of relief. Some type of salvation.


I look closer …




When I arrive home, I look up the word “bauble” in the dictionary. I’m 40+ years old, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that word before. Okay, so maybe I’m not as worldly as others. But I think I know what a Christmas ornament looks like.

“Bauble” is actually a Middle English word, from Old French. Even The Free Dictionary on-line gets it right by stating this:


1. showy toy or trinket of little value; trifle
2. small, usually spherical ornament made of coloured or decorated material which is hung from the branches of a Christmas tree. Usual US name: Christmas ornament
3. (Historical Terms) (formerly) a mock staff of office carried by a court jester


Most might say not to make a big deal about it. It’s just stamps. Lady, it’s just stamps. Come on. Get Real.

And nothing is wrong with the word “holiday” or “bauble” … 

But I’ve been corrected. That’s the heart of the issue. 

You won’t say Christmas, you’ll say holiday.

And it hurt my heart. Her words, attitude, hurt my heart. Yeah, O Soul Within, it hurts, and the pain is real. It’s one thing to be imposed upon … sanctions imposed on our hearts … we tend to expect impositions these days …

Don’t you love Jesus. Don’t you pray. Don’t you trust Him. Don’t you tell anyone if you do. And don’t you share Him. Don’t ask, don’t tell policy. And if you’re asked, you better deny … if you want to live.

But in the Bible Belt? It hurts to see the belt loosening. And it appears to have definitely been loosened a notch or two. And still the weight above that belt is lopping over onto people, individuals, hearts …

The very omission reduces Christmas to a mere trinket of little value; trifle. It mocks everything God did for usthe miraculous Luke 2 wonder of the world, Jesus, the Son, virgin birth, becoming the God-man. It says that Christsurrendering everything to come to this earth, sacrificing more than we’ll ever know, to exchange Heaven for us, to be born in a lowly manger, to live for us, to fight for us, to die for us … for our sinmeans nothing. The miracle is trifle. 


It smugly yet naively says, “What miracle?”


The very act says that “Christmas” is not worth mentioning


A first class love means nothing.



The miracle of Christmas reduces from a God-man Day to a mere man-made day. 


With the chaos and violencehardships, needthat woefully weave the frayed fragments of our world, when empty eyes and empty hearts and empty stomachs are desperate for salvation, reaching out with empty hands … there has never been more a time to keep Christ in Christmas. To keep Christmas in Christmas. To look for the miracles. 


O Soul Within, some things are black and white. What will you allow to forever stick on your heart’s wall? Be careful what you let stick on your heart’s wall.




O Soul Within, you may feel powerless. But remember God’s power and what you can do 

~Remember to pray.

~Remember what you really needJesus’ first class love. Forever.

~Remember Christ in Christmas, keep Him there, let truth nestle into your heart forever and ever. 


~Remember to impart Him to your children.

~Remember that you have it right. Don’t get used to the wrong. Getting used to the wrong doesn’t make it right.  


~And as long as you have a voice, O Soul Within, remember to say, with every Christ-given privilege and right …

Merry Christmas.

This video has ministered to my heart all week long … I hope it ministers to you, as well …



*How do you safeguard your heart from subtle changes and stealth arrows continually thrown? Can you add to the list? What do you say? What do you remind your self?