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?

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.

Guess How Much I Love You

 

Can I be happy today? My first thought of the day. Underneath all the warmth, down feathers, and fluff, an empty feeling tugs at my heart. An uncertainty. I sink low into the pillow-top mattress. I ease back the covers from my face and gasp for air. Still in a daze of sleep, I wonder–Or do I have a reason to be sad today? Am I safe? Is life good right now? Or bad? Is someone upset at me right now? Have I disappointed someone? What’s pressing on me today?

Mourning comes in the morning.

The light shining in from the window covers me, as the framed-pane shadows inch across the quilt. Golden. I ease into peace. My breathing settles into a normal rhythm. No, all is good right now. You’re okay, Shelli.

My reasoning and questioning twists my stomach. How had life come to such? When did I start waking in the morning wondering if I could be happy? When did that become my story? That was a first. Ugh. And I don’t like it. When did outside factors take over my happiness? Life pressed me, I suppose. This. That. How had I allowed this wonderful life to stress me to such a degree?

I’m so thankful for this breath–the one I just took–regardless of what is happening in my life. I’m here … in this day. Do you hear that, Shelli? You’re here in this day. You woke to another day.

Regardless of the past. Regardless of anything the future holds.

My thoughts settle on my oldest daughter. Her love for reading came so early on, just a babe. She’d reach for a book, her treasured possessions, and start toddling backwards. My lap or anyone else’s had better be there to catch her fall. One of her favorite books was Guess How Much I Love You. When #2 came along, she fell right in line with the love for that sweet book. And the girls were so loved when they came into this world that they own four copies of that precious book.

Those girls and their love for reading alone are enough reason to wake with a smile, to wake with assurance.

DSC_0866DSC_0861DSC_0865I grip the covers. What’s wrong with me, God? Are you listening to me? I’m here, and I’m struggling.

DSC_0814 (3)I feel God speak over my heart–

You don’t have to wonder if you can be happy or if you are loved. Take my Word. You have so many copies of it, child. Take my Word for it. And start backing up. Fall into my lap. Because you are so loved. 

You know how much. Does it truly need repeating? After all these years. Truly?

I love you so much that I stretched out my arms … this wide …

DSC_0815 (3)I looked beyond the thorns …

DSC_0816 (3)When someone lays down their life for you, Shelli Ann, every morning blade of grass is graced with joy. The joy that is down in your heart. The joy that you reached out your elementary-school hands to accept. You never have to guess if you are loved. You never have to wonder how to feel. You have been filled with the lifeblood of happiness, peace, joy, love. Know it. Feel it down to your bones. It’s your story.

DSC_0763 - CopyJoy comes in the mourning, on any morning.

I throw back the covers and plant my feet on that solid foundation.


Am I alone, y’all? Have you ever woken like that? Not sure if you could feel happy or if you needed to feel sad, stressed? What a choice, huh? It really is a choice. No matter what … we can choose love, happiness, joy. And just look at the treasure I discovered in my M&Ms this week–

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Happy Valentine’s Day

My Little Girls Are All Grown Up

It’s going to happen. Everyone thinks it will finally come down, it’ll finally snow.

Oh, I hope my #1 daughter’s university cancels classes. Because at the end of her busy break, I just need a break. I need one more day with her. One more day to hold her close and never let go. One more day to put the phone down, put the TV remote down. One more day to focus on my true loves.

“Mommy …!” she shouts, running to me.

Lo and behold, her university canceled classes. I jump for joy and clap my hands. I get one more day with her, with absolutely nothing demanding of us.

DSC_0442 (3)And after a little so-called dusting of snow, or ice, commences–beautiful, pure change over the horizon–#2 brings me her writing assignment, asking me to look at it. Taking the treasured pages in my hands, I read:

Ever since I was little, I always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. I even wanted to be an animal myself for years, because I thought they were so cool.

I laugh out loud. She goes on to explain how she had wanted to be a vet, but seeing an animal surgery made her weak, nauseated, pale. A change of plans. She had to sit down, in another area. The vet’s cat came over and loved on her. The doctor gave her a chance to rest, regain her composure, and she returned to the surgery room. But at the sight of surgery, she continues to say–

I started slumping down the wall I was leaning against.

I returned to the chair with the cat.

I laugh again. Yes, my daughter wrote those words. The words that would begin her very first college English paper.

Did you get that? Her first college paper. My baby. Because while I was wishing for one more day with my #1, I had no idea that two days later I’d step foot out without #2. Both my babies are in college. Both. #2 hasn’t even seen the end of her senior year yet. I kick the ground. I know this isn’t anything new for most, but as a home-school mom, I’d anticipated a few more months with my #2 before she started college. Like next fall. But the door flew wide open, and somehow we tumbled right in.

Hugs and “mmmmm … smack.” I watch them head out the garage door. They’re weighed down with full backpacks. Their first day together without me. Because the first two days, I trailed along. I did. I had lunch with them and everything. It was glorious. But that’s it. No more. I’ve got to grow up, too.

Shivering, I slump against my car, leaving my imprint in the dust and watching them get situated in the car.

DSC_0447 (3)Words from yesteryear peek over my shoulder–

“Why does she pucker her lips like that?” he asked. “Monkey kisses.” He laughed.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Scan_Pic0024 (3)I turned to my daughter. “Goodnight, baby. Give me kisses.” I leaned in. I puckered. She puckered. Big puckers. “mmmmm … smack!”

Realization dawned and laughter tumbled out of me, causing me to collapse onto the bed beside her. It’s me. All me. I taught her that. I taught her the big pucker. The cutest monkey kisses.

Oh my goodness. The things I’ve taught them. The things I haven’t. Have I taught them enough? Have I left the right impressions on their lives, on their hearts? Will they be okay? Will I be okay?

The car inches forward, not waiting for the answer. All routine for #1. And now routine for #2. Could you just wait till I figure out the answer? Till I figure out this whole thing? The car stops, and they wave and blow kisses. The car can’t proceed without kisses. The sweetest monkey kind. I return it all, with all my heart and some. Onto the hand and thrown across the air, like my grandmother taught me. To #1 and now #2. I catch mine and they catch theirs. We prolong the waves and kisses for just a little longer, ensuring we see each other. Not wanting to miss a single thing. Like we could.

The car accelerates down the driveway, leaves kicking up behind it, and proceeds down our Texas county road. When they are out of sight, I push the button and shut the garage–the full weight bearing down and crashing to the ground–as a chapter in our lives unexpectedly ends and another beautifully begins.

I go sit with the cats.

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What chapters are ending or beginning in your life? May I pray for you? 

Shards Of Glass: Letting Go Of Fear In The Grip Of Pain

Something pierces the inside of my cheek.

As I feel for the problem, piece after piece breaks apart. It’s not just one. More break apart, more crumble. Opening my mouth, I empty the multiplying fragments into my hands. Like shards of glass. With one sharp and shiny piece after another, my hands begin to fill. They never stop coming. So many. More than I can hold. I grasp for them.

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Sometimes hard times–nightmares–call for dancing. Because so much has happened to my family since January–health issues, loss, rejection. Instead of allowing the broken pieces to fall into the hands of my Savior, I always tend to initially internalize the pain.

So I am honored to be a guest writer at Jerusha Agen’s website, sharing about my struggles in dealing and not dealing with the pain and fear. I appreciate Jerusha for the invitation. Please click on the link to join me there for more of the story … and a giveaway.

Love, Shelli

 

A Crown-Of-Thorns Moment

Trying to hold my heart and stomach in place where they belong, I take the long walk from the dining room to the stairwell. “Honey?”

“Yes, Mom.”

My hand grips the stair rail, and I lean hard against the wall. “I waited too late to get the tickets. They’re all sold out. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

“It’s okay, Mom.” That’s all. She seemed genuine in her forgiveness. There’s nothing more I can say or do. If I could have an outer body experience and get behind myself, I’d kick myself. My hands drop to my sides in the quiet, and I walk away. How could I have been so …? She’d been asking for weeks about going to see her friend in the Fiddler on the Roof play, a high school play. She wanted to go for support. And she’d been in the same play a few years back. And I’d let her down.

I pull out a chair and sit down at the dining room table. Footsteps speed down the stairs. The garage door opens. “I’m going walking.” Her voice … something unpleasant in her voice.

“I thought you forgave me,” I say. I’m sensing other feelings have begun to emerge. She’d had a few moments to think. The door shuts. I thought you forgave me.

I wait all I can. I walk out the door and see no sign of her. She’s on the trail, I figure. The sheep aren’t in the pen, so she must have let them out. I cut through the middle of the back property. The fabric of her white capris summons me through the forest of trees, the greenery. She’s sitting on the swing.

I feel like a fallen tree, humbled to my knee.

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The two sheep stand there, staring at me, accusing me, almost daring my approach. Like she’d poured out her very soul, her feelings, to the sheep … and now, everyone knows.

Her eyes are red-rimmed and swollen.

My stomach and heart plunge. I wipe off a spot on the swing and sit down. “I’m really sorry. I feel awful. I didn’t want to go to the play without dad, and once I found out he was going with us, there were so many seats still available … I got busy with work. And I just can’t believe they sold out so fast. I can’t believe I did that.” I twist my hands. “Maybe it’s dad’s fault.” We both laugh.

“It’s really okay, Mom.” She smiles at me. We talk it through. “Think we could do pizza and  a movie tonight? Something fun?”

“Sure.”

We head back through the trail, toward the barn. “Look, Mom. This is a mesquite tree. We had these in San Angelo.” She points across the path. “And another one.”

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“It sure is.” I can’t believe it. I’d never noticed them before. Two mesquite trees amongst all the oak and cedar. “We had these in Wichita Falls, too.”

“Look at the long thorns,” she says in cautious admiration. She feels over the leaves on top, the groups of tiny leaves covering the thorns all the way down the limb. “But the leaves are so soft. Like roses, something so soft and pretty needs protecting.” One sheep stands tall, trying to eat the leaves, and fearful that she’ll poke out her eye, we manage to maneuver her front legs back to the ground. “Do you think this is like Jesus’ crown of thorns?”

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“It probably is.” I wind the long limb into a circle. “It’s beautiful though, isn’t it?” We stand there, imaging what it must have felt like to have those long thorns pierce through our foreheads, one by one, all the way around. Or maybe all at once. Gratitude fills my heart for the punishment He took for me.

“Be careful, Mom. Don’t let that pop back on you.”

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“I will.” I release it gently, moving back away and examining the events more closely.

We begin our journey toward the house, sheep following. Peace links our hands together, our hearts together. The capacity of love–nailed to a tree, to be given away, free. A love so soft and pretty, it needs protecting. And I realize that she could have driven the thorns into my head, but she placed the soft side on me instead. 


Have you had a moment of forgiveness that you can share about?

When You’re Terrified

Spur of the moment, we hosted a birthday party for our two cats, Miney and Booey (Hermione and Blue). They turned 3 years old, reminding us of the day we found them abandoned on our Texas county road. Three years ago was a very good day for us, because these 2 are the sweetest and have brought us so much joy.

We really aren’t the type of people to have a party for our animals, but our girls’ good friends were coming over, and we thought it would be funny.

It was.

Our girls’ friends were such good sports. We laughed so much. But the cats didn’t think it so fun or funny. Six people, sitting at the table, with laughter and chatter.

Two cats jumped down from laps and ran off.

DSC_6586 (6)DSC_6607 (6)

Fear certainly isn’t a fun or funny thing. And today, I’m talking on WMU’s website about a time when I was terrified and what got me through that moment.

I hope you’ll join me there.