When Did I Stop Moving Furniture?

Driving home from the hospital, from time with my mama, I think over the last moments with her that day and ask myself, When did you stop moving furniture?

I don’t know.

Time alone and I gathered together so often when I was a teen, time I’d spend in my room, alone, rearranging furniture and cleaning, keeping my space tidy and comfortable. If I moved it just right, I’d create a cozy nook just for me.

Mama would come home from work, eye my room over, and say, “You’re going to hurt your back.”

Tidy and comfortable. Worth the risk.

A family member had an infection a year or so ago, and I didn’t go. I didn’t want to bring it home to a person with compromised health. Untidy; uncomfortable.

A family member went to the hospital, but I needed to stay home, because I couldn’t risk bringing COVID to dinner.

I hide away at home, in my safety. Stay home, I’m told.

And I ask myself on the way home: When did helping others become untidy and uncomfortable in your life, Shelli?

But somewhere along the way, things got out of sorts and I got really comfortable in the unforeseeable change. Somewhere … somewhere in the frightening news that my mama was terribly ill. She had MRSA, a staff infection of the blood, C.Diff, as well, which is very contagious. Pneumonia threw itself into the mix for good measure. So much untidy, uncomfortable.

Draped in the gown and gloves and mask, my body moves without thought to be with my mama. She’s so far gone that she can’t even say her name. The invitation slides out of my hands to anything, any disease that could harm me, bidding it to come alongside me, to bask in my tidy and comfortable, because all I care about is how can I keep from hurting her? What does it matter if I’m safe? How can I keep her safe?

On the night at the hospital when I’m told Mama can have no more visitors, after sharing that room when I can for a month with her, I draw near to her and hug her, tears pouring, and I tell her I love her and that I need her to keep fighting, that I need her to pull through this.

“I will,” Mama promises.

Dread seeps into my soul through the wee morning hours … what if in hugging her, I drew too near, I hear … what if you’re carrying COVID, Shelli, and don’t know it? What if you’re sick and don’t know it? What if you give her a virus that kills her in this weakened state? And worry deprives my weary body of sleep.

While each nurse stepped into Mama’s room with caution, when she initially moved to rehab, I wore no protective gear except my mask, and I sit there telling my mama why I won’t lower my mask. “The thought of getting you sick,” I say, through tears, “is more than I can bear.”

“Oh, honey,” Mom says, in that tone that tells me her only concern is my worry.

And as the hour strikes for me to leave, visiting hours coming to a close, I search the flowers on the darkened shelves. Because finding the lovely in the unlovely is how one thrives in survival mode. Unlike the hospital room, the mourning windowsill at rehab is too narrow to hold them, too thin to shower them with light, so empty. My vision lands on the solitary bedside table, which has no remarkable use, only covered in chocolate Ensure. And I know what I need to do.

“I’ll move the table,” I say, with a smile. “Do you think they’ll mind?”

“I don’t see why,” says my mom.

From one side to the other, I move, tugging along the hunk of wood without rollers, inch by inch, over my toe, with barely a flinch from me, trying not to scrape the floor. Because I’ve never had a more brilliant idea. And there the bulk of the three-drawer chunk lands, between the chairs, centered in the window. The arrangements, incredibly still hanging on to life, line up perfectly in Mom’s view from the bed, the bright floral colors backed by her get-well cards.

There.

Mama’s smile overrides mine, as the flowers bask in the sun. “If we’re here long enough, we’ll rearrange the whole room,” she says, and we laugh together. Her face tilts, her thoughts off in another place somewhere. “I wonder if I’ll ever sing again,” she finally shares with me.

“You could sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ ”

Slowly, our voices lift, together, until “the Bible tells me so.”

“Thank you,” she says. “I couldn’t do this without you.”

“I’d never want you to,” I say.

And there, moving furniture, my heart glows like it’s been sprayed with everlasting Pledge—and still does as I retrieve Ibuprofen at midnight for my aching shoulder—because it’s there … where the messy and uncomfortable becomes tidy and comfortable.

Are you finding yourself willing to take a risk during difficult days? Love will do it. Love brings courage.

(By the way, that table does have a use. It’s for holding the phone and nurse call button/TV controller when the patient gets out of bed. And we have laughed about this every day since. And Mama is improving daily. She stood up from the bed to the walker for the first time.)

Thankful for the Building & Rebuilding of Dreams

I’ve got to write a how-to article is all I know. With a latte in hand, there I am in my favorite coffee shop with three or four sorry points jotted down in a draft on my phone, altogether comprising some ten words or so. That’s it. And this is where I start, this is where I begin, and how am I to go anywhere with this? I’ve been wonderfully so in the depths with my manuscript, trying to feel deep into the heart of people who aren’t even real. But oh, it’s been real, and it’s all I’ve been good for. Am I good for anything else? Can I accomplish a thing? Here in the middle of life, with age-lines sprouting and growing and grays, faster than one can say–

When some are running away, running crazed …

My mind drifts back to only days past, envisioning when I stood out at that fence-line, overlooking the property that once belonged to my grandparents. This land, this soil, that creek just down the pasture’s slope hidden in the treeline, these old barns, this everything contains my heart and my blood. This is where I contracted poison ivy, where my grandmother strolled me around the yard in nothing more than a wheelbarrow, where I learned what big Christmas outdoor bulbs looked like, where I learned to heed caution with a bull about and snakes. This is where I learned to shuck corn and shell peas. But this amazing place didn’t just appear. No. This amazing place came from the sweat and hard work of my grandparents and many more.

And it’s there that I ask the question through a whisper of a cry for help: How do I get from this point to that point, to where I belong? How does my mind join my fingers to pour it out to something tangible? My soul feels wonderfully spent, so dried up, my confidence shaken. Through a wringer of a season, I know nothing but this …

qtHoF6GE-2361870379Have goals and write them down. We all have them. We know we do. Stand back and take it in, think and search the soul. See the big picture. These three sorry points are at least a start, a shaky and feeble vision to something that might take me somewhere. That had the potential to take some sorry or wonderful shape. But it’s real and it’s there.

My grandparents lived in a small house. But in mid-life, they had a goal. They bought land and had that tiny house moved out to the property. By the work of their hands, with all who would help with muscle and knowledge, they cut down a path for that long, sandy driveway, leading up to a place for the foundation to be laid. 

vMRpy7IP-2361794150Write down what you know beneath those goals. I pour out my heart under each sorry point, sideways and crooked, building on the bare stakes I’d placed. Just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. What on earth could come of this?

That’s exactly what my grandparents did. The tiny house would do little for their family, but they hauled out lumber, for their pier-and-beam foundation. Staking out where they wanted to go, they erected beam after solid beam. They added what they could, one thing at a time, the little they knew to do.

c4pdphHd-2361775720 (1)Write and keep writing. Or work and keep working. By the end of the day, in that coffee shop, after tweaking it here and there, looking closely, line by line, I was amazed at where the article had gone. This connection had turned into that connection. It had turned into something I’m not even capable of writing. I marvel: How did that … yucky start … turn into that? It seems I can’t even take any credit, except that I remained, persevered.

That must have been exactly the sentiment my grandparents felt when they stood at that fence-line, overlooking their property years later. How did that tiny, yucky start turn into this? Something we’re proud of–the drywall, the fireplace, the heart of the home that held everyone’s hearts. This old and new home, this place where all the grand-kids were filled with life and love. Right there, the place where one got sick, where one cut her leg, where one set the pasture on fire, where they played in the sand, where boys threw frogs on girls, the place where they grew, grew wise, grew ties.

I stand there, the wind blowing through my hair, the past making and breaking my heart and mind. I miss my grandparents. I miss this place and these people of my heart.

kKpDjwqC-2361866935It doesn’t always last, not the way we envision. My grandparents’ beloved home burned years ago, devastating all. But a home was rebuilt in its place, and though nothing can remove the memories of old, it’s a reminder … O Soul Within, don’t put stock in this world or yourself. Our work will and won’t always make the mark. And if it does, it could only last a season, breaking, buckling, or burning.

But we’ll never know unless we try. What’ll it hurt if we try?

We’re never too young or old.

Search inside the soul to know and follow this heart made from vision, made to envision. Build it, make it, let the breeze take it the length and breadth that God intends, flapping freely.

It’s the thanksgiving of the journey, O Soul Within, the three sorry points of a start that allow us to see what God can do, to see His glory, to remember–the beautiful building and rebuilding of us.


Is there something particular that causes your heart to surge with gratitude this season of your life? What is God building or rebuilding in you?

 

 

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.”

DSC_9229 (2)


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?

Hot Potato, Hot Potato, One, Two …

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

How can we abandon the ones we love?

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

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

But it’s painful, burdensome, crushing …

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

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

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

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

“Are you going inside the feed store?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How could we possibly exist without The Three? 


How has God been The Three for you lately?

Finding That Conversation Place

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

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

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

Just do it, Shelli.

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

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

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

“Of course. Grab popsicles.”

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

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

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

I release my empty popsicle package to the ground.

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

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

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

Little Bit tosses her empty container to the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To All The Ruined Mothers

“I’m ruined, Shelli.”

One petal falls.

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

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

“I can’t smile anymore, Shelli.”

Another petal loosens.

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

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

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

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

One more petal breaks free and drifts to the ground.

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

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

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

Another petal falls.

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

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

Because what if God knows exactly what He is doing?

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

The last petal breaks free. 

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

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

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

Mothers, why shouldn’t we see something new?

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

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

When The Right Door Opens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s do this then.”

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

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

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

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

I keep laughing.

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

“Okay …” she says.

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

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