The Things A Mother Didn’t Do

It’s uncovered … once again.

I open the drawer to my daughter’s chest-of-drawers, shuffling a few items around to make room for the new. Beside me, my daughter’s sweet hands work, shifting and folding.

Ooh, what’s that? My hand glides over the shiny, smooth surface–the object lining the drawer. Stashed away. Purple. Paint. Prints. “Oh.” We carefully reveal and pull it out. It’s the baby, when she was a baby … her tiny handprints. Made in Sunday school.

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Frustration and disappointment sink to my lower tummy. My heart follows, weighing down a little heavier. “I never did hang this,” I admit. I look to my daughter. “I meant to frame this.” I stumble for words. “I just kept forgetting.”

How many times have I said that over the years? How many times have I stumbled across the thing I never did? How many times have I failed to make a change, make a difference? And now, it seems really too late.

“It’s okay, Mom.” She smiles, always assuring. Always forgiving.

We read over the words together, smiling, laughing, remembering how artistic and messy she could be. Oh, the stories there to share.

“Look how tiny your hands were.” She smiles and gives a little nod. It’s amazing how something so tiny can fill you so full … full of wonder and joy and love.

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We plop down for a game of Princess Uno. I marvel at how I manage to get my teenagers to play Princess Uno still. I never managed to shift to the older version. I guess I enjoy hanging onto all little all I can. And I laugh at the irony–that I played the older version when I was a kid, and now I play the princess version as an adult.

We eventually move to the bed, side by side, talking about her best bud, school, drawing, cats … The daughter who doesn’t love to dance jumps up and takes my hands in hers, and we waltz, laughing, tripping over each other. “You’re going to make me fall,” I say, with a frightened giggle.

Before I know it, best bud is joining us and sister, too. We’re looking and sorting through all the items stashed away in baskets on her bookshelf. And laughing. White wicker baskets, lined in pink-and-white polka-dotted fabric. It’s little items. Cherished items belonging to both of my daughters, from their childhood. Things I just couldn’t part with. Things I cherished too much to stash away in the attic. Because … what if we needed to see them, look at them, read them, breath them in … remember? Now.

I pull out tiny baby Bibles, framed baby pictures, tiny photo albums, and notice the dust covering the stuffed animals. A wave of embarrassment washes over me. I never did make my teenager a teenager room.

I mean … it’s cute, but it’s still a little girl room.

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“Do we need to change your room?” I ask. “Are you happy with the pink paint? It was named ‘Lauren’ … remember? After your best friend. Remember how we had moved away, and you were so glad the paint color had her same name?”

“Yeah. I think we should repaint and change things up some,” daughter says, with her cutest typical smirk–the smirk that tells me she loves me just the way I am, behind and all.

“What color would you possibly want? Other than this color?” I can’t think of one that would be better. Not a single one. Translation: do I have one more paint job in me?

She mulls over the idea.

“Can your room just stay little?” I ask. I know the answer to that. I love being a mama. I thought I’d never be one once. And I’ve loved every step along the way. But the uncovered truth is–I always seem to remain a world’s pace behind. What’s wrong with me?

I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that.

Days pass.

Daughter rushes toward me carrying something precious. She cups the tiny somethings in her hand, like she’s protecting it, guarding it, loving it.

Her eyebrows raise, eyes sparkling. Her smile grows. “Look, Mom. Look what I found in the basket on my bookshelf.” She beams, extending the treasured possessions to me, with her fresh prints anew.

It’s two tiny “A Little” Little Golden Books–The Poky Puppy, Little Golden Book Land. “I can’t believe I found these,” she says. “I didn’t know they were there. In my baskets. I loved these.”

One tee-tiny book, having been read so much, is bound by tape. Bound by love. Some things, some actions are just bound to be. Do you agree?

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And something is uncovered right at that moment. Embracing that second-in-time to my heart like a cherished friend, I’m so thankful I didn’t do what I never did. I’d never do what I never did again for another moment like that.


Happy Mother’s Day! Do you have a similar story to share?  Have you found a little favor through your failures? 

What Alzheimer’s Can Never Take Away

Sweet, familiar faces greet me at the glass screen door. Through tender hugs and peering over beloved shoulders, I begin my search for her. It’s hard to believe this day is here. I’m amazed. Her kids weren’t sure she’d live to see this day. It’s been a rough road lately, I hear. But she’s entered into the hour of her 80th birthday.

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The last time I was here, she conversed with me. She won’t be able to today.

I see her. I take in her sweet details from a distance.

She’s so loved. Disease can take so much from a person. People can give up on you, and one can choose to give up on themselves and others, but from where I stand, Alzheimer’s can’t take away your loves. She is curled up on her side, on the couch, cuddled into her pillow and blanket. So much princess pink. Her loyal Maltese blends in to the white cotton pillowcase, taking up more pillow space than my aunt’s precious face is. The beloved caregiver beckons the help of my cousin, the daughter, and they ease her to standing at the walker. The caregiver cups my aunt’s face in her hands and kisses her forehead.

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She’s so strong, even in her weakness. Because she’s all heart–all heart that fought for grandkids, that survived cancer, that survived the loss of two beloved children, that survived the loss of a husband, that fought and survived so much more than I’ll ever be privy to. Her fragile fingers grip the walker rails. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away a fighting spirit. Time after time, her kids wonder if she’s being escorted away into the arms of God, but to everyone’s surprise, He wonderfully escorts her wandering mind and body inch by inch to the table through the hands and feet of Christ. She takes a seat at the queen’s chair, the candles are lit, and everyone gathers around her with love, in love.

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She’s so tiny. Always has been. But a recent chest cold pummeled on top of Alzheimer’s leaves her frailer than ever. Her beautiful skin clings to her precious cheekbones. Yet a glow emits from her eyes, as her two remaining daughters sprinkle her face with kisses. She looks, in part, like a ten-year-old with her sweet braids. The room fills with the fragrance of a struck match and a rising melody, happy birthday over her. And the words we know so well since childhood seep from her lips … happy birthday to you. “She’s singing,” I say. “She’s always singing,” says her caregiver, smiling. She is. She sings hymns with her sisters–my mom, my other aunt. One voice begins and hers will blend, like always, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your treasure. A tiny package containing years of stored-up infinite treasure. Childhood treasure. Leaning-on-the-everlasting-arms kind of treasure.

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She’s so determined. She sits there, wobbly. But she will see this through. Her daughter opens the presents before her, for her. Chocolate and more chocolate. Giggles disperse. I think back over my conversation with my cousin, when I’d inquired over what I could possibly get my aunt for her birthday. If time is short and space is limited, what can I give her? “Chocolate,” said her daughter, my cousin. “She can still eat chocolate?” I asked, surprised. After the week she’d had, being so sick … “She sure can.” Would you look at that? My cousin places a slice of cake before her, crackers and Coke. All her favorites. She parts her lips for one tiny bite after bite, one tiny sip after sip, because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your favorites. 

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She’s so … Heading home, I ponder my aunt in admiration. I can’t quite put my finger on the situation. My oldest says, “Mom, did you hear what Aunt Novie said when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ … when we sang ‘and many more’?” My daughter giggles. I glance at her through the rearview mirror. “No. What?” I say. My daughter gasps for air, trying to compose herself. “She asked, ‘There’s going to be more?'” I laugh. That’s exactly right. Because Alzheimer’s can’t take away your humor.

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And that’s when I put my finger on it, really put my finger on it–when it seems one doesn’t have a lot to go on, one goes on what they’ve got. Illness can take away much, but some things found in this life can never be removed without authority–love, treasure, a fighting spirit, determination, humor, Coca-Cola, chocolate, and best of all, Jesus. 

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Do you know anyone suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s? What can you add to the list that can never be taken away? 


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©Shelli Littleton

A 16-Year-Old’s Guide For A Happy New Year


“Do you want to walk the trail with me?” I asked my dear friend.

“Yes!”



I wanted to hold her hand and skip down the lane. Could my heart contain the happiness inside? Or would it burst from joy? I hadn’t seen my dear friend in over 20 years. We’d moved to Spokane, Washington, in my mid 20s with the air force. We bought a home in the country and immediately formed a tight bond with a farming community. My friend, a farmer’s wife, welcomed me into her home, church, heart. We loved each other like sisters from the start and only had a short time together before we returned to Texas. 

She and her family came to Texas to vacation last week (I want to think I influenced her a bit), and they spent New Year’s Eve with us.

We headed to the back property, released the sheep, and made our way around the trail. I couldn’t take the smile off my face, the definition of happy.

“Is that a mailbox?” my friend asked. “What’s that doing out here?”



It’s an acceptable question that I find myself explaining to everyone. We didn’t want to leave it behind, so we brought it with us when we moved. It was a truck, but it began to deteriorate over time, so we took off parts here and there, keeping the bare necessity. Now, it looks like a set of bulging yellow eyes staring at you. It’s planted right across from the swing. 



“We write letters to each other … or at least, we used to. Like love notes. Now, it mostly holds used popsicle sticks, spider webs.”

The red flag stood tall. My husband pulled the handle down, revealing mail. Mail? Mail!

Three letters. One was addressed to: Mom (that’s me)



I opened it … from my Katelyn. 

I teared up a tiny bit. I read it out loud to my friend, unable to share it fast enough. It was just one of those proud mama moments … raw, tender … for someone else to see the love your child really does have for you as a parent. Three paragraphs, three points, that pave the way for my 2017. And I’ll be glad to loan them to you, too. 

1. Apologize

To Mom:

I love you, Mom. Sorry for acting horrible when you guys want to watch something. I don’t know what’s got me agitated recently …

2. Encourage

Mom, you need to keep writing. You are great at that (and everything else. You are the best mother someone could ask for). I love all the books you write.

3. Love

You are the best thing anyone could ask for. Keep doing what you’re doing. I love you so, so much.

–Katelyn

That’s my Katelyn. She doesn’t like watching TV much, she reads everything I write, and when she loves, she really loves. 

I gave her a big hug when I got inside. “Katelyn, I loved my letter. When did you write it?”

“Six weeks ago.” She chuckled. “I thought you’d never find it.”

It took me six weeks to discover her love, her voice, her heart … 

That’s not acceptable. But what beautiful timing. God-timing. 

Father, take me down your path … the path … for me … for this 2017. Let me apologize more, encourage more, and love more. Keep my eyes open. Don’t let me miss opportunities. Don’t let me deteriorate. Father … 

I want to go where you go.

Karalee (kid lover), me (Word lover), and Katelyn (animal lover) from earlier in the year



And y’all, life has been so crazy that I wasn’t sure I’d get a blog post written. I’d cherish your continued prayers for a close family member. And … Katelyn gave me her permission to use the letter. *Grin*

What other ingredients can you add for a happy new year?


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?

Stepping Into My Characters’ Shoes


God, what are you doing with my life?

“Do you want to go?”

“Yes, of course.”

My curiosity soars. My novel, work-in-continual-progress, has a scene in this very location. I’d love to go. I need to go. I need to get inside my characters’ heads more, know their hearts. Plant my feet where they planted theirs.

We pass Greenville, Texas, heading into Commercemy novel’s setting and the city I have grown to love. “There’s Karalee’s school,” I say. Wonder where she’s at? What’s she doing? Hard to believe my oldest daughter is there and I’m here. This thing called change is interesting. Our hearts are so intertwined that I feel present with her all the time. Rejoice when she rejoices. Cry when she cries.

We proceed out toward the state park, passing farm after farm. Beautiful Texas, always beautiful to this Texan. 

I gasp. A city limit sign announces “Posey” … Posey, Texas. My heart claps. That’s part of my itty-bitty character’s nickname. I missed that detail on Google Earth. Wow. Unbelievable. 



Believable.

God, you’ve got this thing covered. I know you do. And you’re showing me the signs. Thank you.


We park the vehicle. 

My youngest steps out, branches out, and begins exploring. The one who’s seen devastating hardship. My cancer survivor. She’s discovering shells along the water’s edge. She’s found her niche.

Have I found my niche? I think so. 

My feet hit the ground. I pivot, absorbing the surrounding beauty, standing right where my characters stood. Building their imaginary lives has been sweet. They’ve so obediently taken each action I’ve required of them. Walked when I needed them to walk, erased what I needed them to erase, built what I needed them to build.

God, you stood right where I’m standing. You made all things, and you came hereliving, serving, loving, building, accomplishing, finishingto know me inside out. To know your creation, your people. 

“I could stay here all day,” my daughter says, beaming. 



Stay here all day. That’s it. I made the connection.

God, sometimes I’m slow, but I made the connection.

Walk out on the water. Go exploring. Discover the growth. Through the difficult, the scary, the times of ease, the times of beauty, times of uncertainty, times of seasonal change …

 



When you don’t know what God is doing, do what you love. 

He’s given you love. O Soul Within, find what you love. Do what you love. Continue doing what you love. He gave you a heart, to please, to love, to obey, to build, to follow, to lead, to accomplish, to do the thing He’s called you to.

Step in character with whom God made you to be, into the very shoes He designed for you.

Change is never easy … but proceed.

So ask the hard questions. Get inside God’s head. Yearn to know His heart. 

You are His and He is yours, intertwined. He’s where you are. He rejoices when you rejoice; He surely cries when you cry.

Find that placewith Himwhere you could stay all day. The place to do the living and dying. The place to typeThe Beginning and The End.

Do you want to go?

~~~
How has God been speaking to your heart?


A Prayer For A Persistence That Will Stand


The truck veered off the busy county road. 

My eyes widened. Really? I’ve been wanting to take a picture of this for forever. A warm smile spread over my face on this beautiful autumn day. 

“Watch where you put your foot.”

“I will.” I opened the door, stepped one foot out. Just tall grass. And honestly, I don’t care. You know that car pulled over, someone taking a picture on the road-side? Yes, that’s probably me. I’ve suffered swarms of fire-ant bites to feed baby calves. It’s irrelevant. 

There she stood. Tall, broad, but rusty and weary. Falling to pieces. Watching her, I could imagine the groans on the inside. But she’s still standing. The most beautiful barn I’ve ever seen. Well, not quite. I guess that position will always belong to the barn on my grandparent’s property. But each barn is so beautiful to me. 



The timing, the setting=perfection. The tall grass wavy in the breeze. A perfect pond set in front of the masterpiece. A clump of old logs sat piled off to the side. 


I rested my arms over the gate, steadying myself for the perfect photo. Something to capture what only my eyes can fully embrace.

Got it. Well, maybe.

Only then did my eyes shift past the beauty to the busy interstate beyond. Cars, trucks zooming by. Businesses, billboards, and clutter lining the background.



I released my held breath.

Lord, give me persistence to endure this life, this writing life, this family life, this walk of faith, this daughter life, this mother life, this sister life. 

Keep my eyes focused on you, on the beauty, for forever. 

I thought over my first published article, 2007, like the moment was yesterday. I pressed the answering machine to hear the recording. “Congratulations, Shelli. Your persistence paid off.” Tears streamed. Joy filled my heart. A characteristic some would loathe took me one step further down the road I so love. 



I snapped picture after picture. 

Rested my arms again. 

Father, you know my inward pains and groans. You know my heart. Give me what it takes to persist. Use me. Gift me. To gift others. Let my resolve be strong. 

Let my foot keep stepping out in spite of the surrounding fears, in peace. This little girl from Texas, the one who sweat bullets to stand in front of others. The one whose greatest fear in life was an oral book report. The one who ducked down low in her seat to keep from reading aloud, praying the teacher’s sight would pass me by.



Father, how you can take our greatest fears and turn them into our greatest dreams is beautiful. Breath-taking.

Keep me standing. Keep my resolve tall and broad through the rusty and weary moments. Because the rusty and weary add character and beauty to my life’s picture. The clump of old logs that seems a hindrance to the photo adds beauty. Vintage beauty to a life. 

Help me to embrace, utilize, and see with your eyes all that is before methe encouraging friends lining the view whose support and nourishment seems miles deep, those continually waving me on.

Allow my persistence to be beautiful to someone. Let my resolve persist like an old Texas barn, still standing after all these years. Because Father, your timing, your filter, your setting equal perfection. 








   

Do you have a heart request? How may I pray for you?

And I have an article in October’s issue of WMU’s Mission Mosaic magazine and a cover story in November’s on missions in Philly.


God Uses The Broken Teacups


Company would be arriving soon.

I evaluated the dishes through the dirty glass. Evaluating my options, I saw the good, and I saw the broken. Through my distorted lens.


I opened the door and reached inside the cabinet.

My fingertip circled the the porcelain edges, settling and lodging into the chipped surface, and I thought not to use that piece. Another dish had been pieced and glued back together. No good.

Cracks and lines showing. Stained.

They weren’t good enough to use. They weren’t presentable. I’d been told that all my life. Someone could get injured. Someone would be embarrassed.

Use the good. Use the best. Act as though you’re serving the King.






















My heart sank low. What if God never used the broken? What if we embarrassed him? What if He kept the damaged hidden away? Because of the way that it looked or the way that it felt.

What if He had the mind of man? My heart sank lower.

I’ve felt it all my lifeI’m fake. I’m not whole, not good enough, not proper enough. I’m not deserving. I’m an embarrassment. 

To those who aren’t broken.

Don’t pick me. Don’t use me. Don’t raise your hand. Don’t share your faith. Don’t put her on display. She’s broken. You’re broken. 

Shelli, you’re broken.

Your family can’t be this or can’t be that because … you’re broken.

She might hurt others. Being rough around the edges could hurt someone, inflict slight injury. They might think it’s okay to be broken.


But He has the mind of God. Glory. My heart began to rise. And He whispered to my heartI’m the glue that binds you. I’ll break you, but I’ll bind you. I’m the glue sealing you together. I’ve settled and lodged into you. Because I’m your all. Does that not make you special? Valuable? User-worthy and user-friendly? 

Like me.

Fractures and chips chisel character into your life, like a vintage home’s crown molding.

And If the cracks cause others to bleed, maybe they need my broken and binding, too. You leave that to me. God whisperedmaybe I know what I’m doing.

O Soul Within, who are you to judge who can and can’t be used? Don’t judge yourself, Shelli. Don’t bully yourself.

God sees all. The glass is never too dirty for Him to see. He’s sees the broken and unbroken. 

And He reaches for you.


He sees you from a distance, and He sees you magnified. God sees the whole picture.





















He sees the lines, He feels the cracks, and He still takes you by the hand. 

Because what is real? Real is what you have to give. What I feel … what I see … me.

When the brokenness causes a resemblance to Himbroken like Jesusplace out the fractured, chipped, and the glued. Set the table.

His is the company we seek to please. We’re serving the King.

Gratefulness in my heart had awoken.

We serve a God who uses the broken.