When The Yoke Seems A Little Runny

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

Life can be excruciating. It can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why? Where is the peace?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do this in remembrance of me …”

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

Much love and Happy Easter, y’all. 

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When it’s Time to be a Mary


The pain in my heart breaks through to my mind. The ball of pain rides every wave, pinging every emotion. I delete post after post. Nothing is right. Nothing I can say or write is right. The pressure in my chest tightens. Where is air?

Shelli, what is wrong with you?

I long for my grandmother. 



When life gets tough, when I want to cry … I want my grandmother. 

I can hear her laughter on the phone. I can see and feel and smell everything about her. White Shoulders. Her tiny Avon lipstick samples. Bengay. Pond’s cold cream.

She was my go-to person all my life. And my vision clouds over with tears. I want to sit in her lap and hear her say, “No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my baby.” 

But she’s in Heaven, and I’m here.



Father, I feel an incredible emptiness in my heart and head. Do you hear me? Do you understand? What can I do?

And I hear my Father say, “Shelli Ann, come sit with me.”

My knees cap the ground.

“You’ve been a Martha far too long, trying to avoid feeling. Staying busy to avoid feeling. It’s time for you to be a Mary. Come sit at my feet. Remain here. And feel. Cry. Want me. Long for me. Let me be your go-to person. I’m the only one who has ever filled that emptiness in your life, in your heart.”

My hands touch His knees, and my tears drip to His feet. I wipe the dampness on His feet with the only thing I possess–my hair. My focus returns to His face.

Don’t you see? You’re missing me. Come to me. See and feel everything about me. Because no matter how big you get, you’ll always be my baby.”

~~~


Do you become a Martha when you hurt? Do you stay busy to avoid feeling? Do you ever hear the Father’s reminder to become a Mary?


Dear Mary

One sitting at those precious feet
That will never be taken away
One complaining, “Tell her to help me”
But at Jesus’ feet you did stay.
You saw He raised your brother
Surely heard water turned to wine
You would saturate the feet of Jesus
There was no perfume too fine.
You sat at the feet of Jesus, Mary
The distractions weren’t a care
You poured the oil on His precious feet
And wiped them with your hair.
When a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor
You let Him graciously pick up the bill
When others would scold, He said, “Leave her alone”
And your house He did fragrantly fill.
Mary, Mary, you chose the best
As Jesus would lovingly side
Because you knew in your heart, Dear Mary
Jesus would always provide.
– by Shelli Littleton (copyright 2013)


Dear Martha

One sitting at those precious feet
Listening to Jesus sharing
One is steadily working
Accusing Him of not caring.
You saw He raised your brother
Surely heard water turned to wine
Saturate the feet of Jesus, Martha
Is there a perfume too fine?
Sit at the feet of Jesus, Martha
The distractions will be okay
Emulate Mary; do the best thing
“It will not be taken away.”
When giving a dinner in Jesus’ honor
Let Him graciously pick up the bill
Take off those shoes; recline with Him
And your house He will fragrantly fill.
“Martha, Martha, ‘Only one thing is needed,'”
Jesus would lovingly chide
Didn’t you know by now, Dear Martha
That Jesus would always provide?
– by Shelli Littleton (copyright 2013)

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?

Can You Hear Me Now?


“Mama, Netflix is down again!” my daughter–the lovely queen of the remote–exclaims. “Mama?”

“I heard you.” Feel free to imagine any facial expression or tone of voice, as I’m sure I’ve displayed them all.

We recently added Netflix to our home entertainment. Almost every time the phone rang, Netflix would shut off … right in the midst of your perfect movie … right in the midst of Cedar Cove. Therefore, the internet would shut off, too.

Ugh.

What was wrong with our service? We had all the right filters.

“We need a new home phone,” my husband said. In the meanwhile, he disconnected the house phone to cut down on the entertainment interruptions.

I have to admit, it was nice and quiet with the phone down–no Toll Free calling several times a day. I never miss Toll Free. Who exactly is Toll Free anyway? But many important people in my life couldn’t reach me. They’d finally discover my cell phone number, only to say, “Can you hear me now?” Rural Texas forces me to find the one spot in the house that might maintain a decent connection and plant myself there throughout the duration of the phone call.

We purchased a new home phone and plugged it in, hoping that would correct the problem. The digital display on the brand new phone stated: “no line.” What?

Our phone company sent a man out to check our line. He came to our front door to say that he had fixed the problem–there were two lines connecting our service, and one had been broken.

As soon as the repairman left our home, the phone began ringing off the wall. Toll Free. Sigh. But now, we have our important 9-1-1 connections, in case of emergency–rural Texas, remember. I can now talk to the important people in my life without dealing with the bad connections of my cell phone in rural Texas. And Netflix hasn’t gone down … yet. The queen of the remote claps her hands. 

Life is fine when the communication lines are in tact.

My grandmother possibly dealing with her party-line–complete distractions. And I’m in the fourth picture to the right of her–my two siblings and me, with me in the middle.  My dad is in the picture to the left of me, and my uncle beside him. This house burned, and I miss it so much. Do you see the far bar with bar stools behind it? I spent many a day pretending to drive with those bar stools. And that’s where I ate most every meal visiting there, as a kid.



















~~~


But, in your heart of hearts, have you ever just felt speechless? Wordless? Like your lines of communication are down? Or perhaps like they are barely hanging in there–frayed and receiving little connection … hit or miss?

Yeah, I know that feeling. I’ve been somewhat under the weather–my excuse–but I always know when my heart feels that way, I need to check my communication lines with my heavenly Father. Because that quiet feeling is never nice.

O Soul, there are definitely two lines of communication–His and mine. And they cannot be broken when you spend time on Him. With Him.

“Why do they seem broken at times?” I invariably ask myself. And I sit down, feeling defeated, and evaluate–

Am I talking to Him enough? Am I starting my day with Him? Am I ending my day with Him? Am I meditating on His Word the way I should?

Life is not fine when the communication lines are broken or frayed.



My grandmother would get a switch after me if she knew I was posting her picture on the internet. But she’d only tap my leg gently with it as I ran from her … and she’d laugh … because she loved me. She was definitely one of the most influential people in my life, if not the most, because we kept our lines of communication open. Oh, I loved/love her.

~~~


O, heart of hearts, God can’t be replaced. And nothing is toll free.

Shelli, a great price was paid for those communication lines. The wooden poles dug down deep to cross the gap for you and me.

Over and over–farther than the eye can see or the mind can conceive–it’s only Jesus.


But, as in any relationship, it takes effort on my part. I know that deep in my heart of hearts.


Shelli, use them. Use those communication lines. Find that sweet spot and plant yourself there.
 
When I’m in constant communication with Him, He keeps ringing into my heart and mind with His love notes just to me, filling me with questions to ponder, words to say, words to write–to change my heart. “He sends from heaven and saves me,” helping me filter out life’s distractions and keeping me functioning properly. Helping me. Keeping me. Only He knows the way that I should take, and being the love of my life, He keeps me on His path for me.

He won’t let me miss His important call.

He won’t let me miss His calling on my life.

Thank you, Father.

*Do you ever need repair on your lines of communication? Any stories to share? You know I love to hear from you.

(And it’s amazing how many words I got out for someone who is feeling a bit speechless. Amen?!)

Missing

My eyes crafted a special uniqueness and painted an undying beauty regarding my grandmother from the moment I could stretch out my once tiny hands and arms to her. So naturally, and so naturally, her wedding band was equally special. Equally beautiful. It only made sense … and with such ease. In my mind’s eye, I still visualize her twisting her band with a nervous hand when she felt lost for words.

Was it her first marriage? No.

That little band represented much in this world today … the imperfections. The imperfections in this world. The imperfections in our worlds. The imperfections that seek to slay. And oh, how they can slay. Just given the chance.


That silver band graced with diamonds was missing two stones.

One on this upper corner


And one on the opposite bottom corner


Was my grandmother happy about that? You be the judge. She had taken it to the jeweler on more than one occasion to replace the stones. The stones just wouldn’t stay. And though perfection seeking, one by one, they would fall again and again.

Was it time for a new band?


Not on your life. She loved that band. She never took it off. Was she crazy in love with my Pa-Paw? Sometimes. Sometimes not. I remember her teasing to hit him over the head with a cast iron skillet. And he stopped smoking the day an ash set her dress on fire. Yeah, that story was repeated over and over. They always teased. They often got on each other’s very last remaining nerve.

But my grandmother had experienced a very turbulent first marriage. Most of her stories died with her due to shame. After surviving that, I believe she just wanted stability. And I think she had discovered, as we all who have gone astray, the importance of obedience to God. And I don’t mean to blast her first husband, who I have been led to believe was my biological grandfather, and whom I never met. In all fairness, I only heard her side. And he never came around to offer a second. I was okay with that, too. I had a Pa-Paw, and he didn’t have to be flesh and blood. We belonged to each other because we loved each other. Plain and simple. We were there for each other. And yeah, his history before my grandmother died with him. I wish they hadn’t been ashamed of their pasts. They had so much to teach me. And repentant hearts should never feel shame.

After my grandmother’s passing, while her spirit went missing in soaring freedom and while her precious body was being prepared to be transferred to the funeral home, out in the hospital parking lot, my uncle made it clear that he wanted her wedding ring to be mine. Melted my exhausted heart.

“I’ll take it,” I said, my mind still reminiscing my hands touching her hair, her cheeks, her hands for the very last time. 


And since that time, I’ve been trying to determine what to do with the beautiful thing, the beautiful thing tucked away in my heart’s closet.

Do I get it fitted to wear? Do I try once again to have the stones replaced?

The beautiful thing that reminds me of her. Of her beautiful life. Of her imperfect life. Of the things that were missing in her life. Of the things that went missing in her life. Of the things she just couldn’t quite get right in her life. Of the things that sought to slay her life. And oh, I know they secretly slayed her.

And yeah, that ultimately lead us straight to Jesus, the repairer of the broken.

 
Because Jesus is the only one who makes us beautiful. He’s the only one who perfects us. He’s the only one we are missing in life. He’s the only one we should never be without. He’s the only one who can take our fallen lives and help us mend unashamed. He’s the only one who can help us get this life right. He’s the only one who can roll away the stones in this life that are sheer barriers to Him.

We can’t replace the void—the empty holes—with children, with hopes deferred, with a new spouse, with a parent, with prescription medicines, or with a new jewel.

When every corner of our lives seems to fall apart, again and again, when the band tightening our world threatens to kill, when the temptation comes to just go missing …

Jesus is the only Stone—the Cornerstone—who remains.


Dear Lord, let me live and die imitating her imperfect faith. Can I? May I? The faith that trickled down to me. Down to my girls. Let it continue to trickle. And may the course of action, the missing pieces, continue to perfect to resemble you more.

Birthday

And my soul cries, thank you, thank you, Father, for another beautiful year. I don’t deserve it. Sometimes I wonder when my time to be called home will come. Is it today? Tomorrow? Will I live to be an old lady sitting on a front porch, rocking in a chair? Does that question ever cross your mind? It’s bittersweet, isn’t it? We’ll miss so many but rejoin so many. Our heavenly birthday.
 
Going through a rather dry season in my life, I don’t feel like I have much to offer. Not much to offer anyone.

Though so thankful for my healing thus far  thank you, Father my mother and I agreed that I’ve always been on the frail side. We look each other straight in the eye, nodding our heads. Strong in mind and determination, but weak in physical strength. I find it ridiculous to say that my surgery in March has crippled my strength to this day, and I’m scrambling to gain it back. Lord, let me gain it back.
 
And the person who called me every birthday is with Jesus. I’ll always love you, Ma-Maw.
 
My girls spend the day before my birthday working hard. For me. Baking, blowing up balloons. They love me. They know me.

I am led by a precious hand, eyes shut tight, barely peeking not to stub a toe, into a room with streamers to view this

“Open your eyes, Momma …”


My eyes go immediately to the work they’ve created, spent hours creating, and my heart smiles. Why, it’s a book. It’s a cake book. For me. They do know their momma. God, thank you for my girlsnot of my body but of all my heart. Oh, God, my heart aches with love for them. I pray I show it like I should.
























I open cards from my dad and uncle with joyful expectation over reading the words. You see, they don’t just pick any card. They spend time searching for that one perfect card that says that one perfect line. They are cancer survivors who rarely take life for granted. Thank you, God, for their love.

We agree to call my beautiful momma to see if she’ll go to the zoo with us another cancer survivor who rarely takes life for granted. 

When it’s tempting to keep celebrations just the four of us, I remember how short time is. Life is to be celebrated with those we love. And in spite of her foot’s injured tendon, she comes along with us anyway, bearing gifts as always … she gives her time, because she feels the same. Is our time today? Is it tomorrow?


























Though I walk that zoo lagging behind all, I’m grateful to have my momma at my side. With her a little older and limping on a testy tendon, we keep in perfect step. Together. Her weakness and mine.

The zoo’s misters refresh our weary selves from the heat. I’m way past caring about my appearance, and I bask in it. Wet my hair. Throw out my arms to greet it. My hubby reminds me it’s not wet t-shirt day. I laugh. Yeah, me, right.

The mist fans remind me of my mother’s daddy the box fan he had in the wall by his bed. It really was built into the wall. You could see clear outside when it wasn’t turned on. Momma said when she was a little girl, after taking a shower, she’d go lie down on his bed … soak in that huge fan. Relief. Relief from Texas style heat. I loved my momma’s daddy, who was not a cancer survivor. I miss him.

I mention her mother.

“She died in her mid-fifties,” Momma says.

“Too young,” I say.



Rosie, second from left, holding her bitty baby. My momma’s grandmother Rose first on left.




Her heart. Rough life she had … bad health, one of her babies died. I was little when she died, only eight, but I remember her. Sweet memories. God, thank you for memories. Her passing is dated in my children’s Bible. I dated it.



Momma can’t mention her without tears welling up. She catches her broken breath. She misses her terribly. God, thank you for Momma.


And with the Texas day’s heat up to 98 degrees, one little girl places ice cubes in her hat to keep herself cool. At only fourteen, she’s another cancer survivor who rarely takes life for granted. She laughs. Her laughter is contagious.


We wet our faces in the bathroom with cool water and allow ourselves to drip dry. We push aside the temptation to complain. Because, well, it’s my birthday, and well, that’s a slippery slope. That’s a definite floor that’s slippery when wet.



And we just soak in the day, the time, the sun, the shade, the two baby elephants, each other … all we can. Soak in the celebration, in the thoughtfulness of others, and watch to see … how God will allow the giving back.





















Because life really does get hectic and sometimes we need a shoulder. And sometimes we need to give it.

Celebrating is in the giving. For that’s when we really receive.
 

Accused

On her knees
she stands accused
like a child.
Again.

Her heart skips straight to her Father.
And in that quiet place
her heart rips and tears to shreds.
Her heart bleeds over the pain she’s caused herself and others.

And the tears …

And she cries out to God

I can’t withstand this much longer.
How long?

How long will this tarry?
Oh, Lord, how long will You tarry.
Because I don’t know how long I can tarry.

And He scoops His broken, lifeless child in His hands.
He rips the enemy’s accusation.
He resuscitates her with His righteousness.
Because He is completely guilty of loving her.
And He stands her to her feet.
Again.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

**

The enemy will graze us with guilt-ridden jeers, then he’ll turn and graze on our every single tear.

The guile of the enemy is to remind us of our guilt, knowing full well he is guilty, too.

**

Reaching Up

Help me
I want to be
Far from pain
In a world of gain. 

Help me
It’s hard to see
A different me
Yeah, a different me. 

I’m reaching up
Take this cup
You are my hero; you are my rescue; you are my Savior
Come for me. 

Help me
I want to be
Free at last
Far from the past 

Help me
Your face I see
You’ve come for me
Yeah, You’ve come for me. 

I’m reaching up
Take this cup
You are my hero; you are my rescue; you are my Savior
Come for me.
 
Song written for my beloved grandmother.
©Shelli Littleton 2013