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?

 

 

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.

DSC_9075 (4)


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.

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?

DSC_3037 (4)


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.

What Makes Us Work

“Let’s get pictures in the bluebonnets,” I say. It’s that time of year. It’s a Texas thing. Everyone does it. From young to old. You can’t fiddle around too long, because they only last about two weeks.

“You wear your blue sweater …” I say.

“I’ll wear my new sundress,” one says.

“I’ll wear …” I enter my closet, excitement flooding my heart.

But then my heart sinks. Because year after year, I know who is coming along.

Our same ol’ spot isn’t there anymore. We head to another patch. It’s not as pretty. Hilly. Rocky. A house is being built close by. Getting decent pictures is going to take some brainstorming. Creativity. But who has time for that? “Shelli, you should have pre-planned.” The words whisper over my ear.

DSC_2601DSC_2608I pull the car onto the old county road and ease over to the side. One girl gets out, fabric swaying to the breeze, another exits, I place my pink boot onto the asphalt road, and then Attitude slides out. Every single time, Attitude comes with us. We didn’t even invite her.

“The ground is wet,” one says.

Attitude grins.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s once a year … Come on.” It’s possible that I say that. “I’ll go first.” I grab a raincoat, hand over the camera, and evaluate the situation. After placing the coat on the ground, I try to sit where my bottom won’t get wet. My new pants, you see.

“How do you want this picture, Mom?” asks the camera girl. A truck needs to drive by us. Camera girl scoots to the side of the road, allowing the vehicle to pass on that narrow strip. Another car. Scoot to the side. Another truck. Scoot. What? Grand Central Station? Isn’t this the country?

I can’t even imagine the look on my face.

Attitude smirks, rubbing her hands together.

DSC_2561 (2)“Be creative,” I say. Attitude walks up beside me and leans over my shoulder, wanting in the picture. I can’t even begin to push her away. And actually, I suddenly kind of like her. Her dress is pretty and so is her hat. Look at those sparkly sandals.

“I don’t know what you want, Mom.” Another truck passes, another truck, and another truck. My girl scoots over. Scoot.

“Just do it. Hurry. Before another truck comes.” Fighting the persistent breeze, I attempt to put my hair back into place. Another truck. Another truck. Scoot. “Switch places. I’m done.” I take the camera. Another truck. Another truck. Pink boot scoot. Boot scoot.

Construction is clearly taking place down the road, while I’m deconstructing.

“It’s wet.” Another truck. “There’s a bee.” She’s terrified of bees, and I’m the bee-charmer.

Another truck. Scoot.

DSC_2606I look at my two girls. After 20 years, I still can’t believe they are mine. The mine-of-the-heart kind. I find myself climbing into my grandmother’s lap, in my mind, and she says, “No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my baby.” My babies. No matter how big they get. I love these babies. And I loved my grandmother. She wasn’t perfect, but I loved her so. What made it work? What makes us work?

Attitude taps me on the shoulder and points a finger, letting me know one girl is bothered by another bee. And then look … there’s the pesky breeze.

DSC_2567 - Copy (2)In the car, Attitude locks her passenger seat door and turns up the heat.

I scan through the photos on my camera. “I look aggravated in that one. Why didn’t you tell me? We’re supposed to help each other out.”

DSC_2598 (2)Attitude smiles.

“We didn’t get one good picture.” I stomp my proverbial foot. Can you even have a proverbial foot? “Why does it always have to be like this? It’s once a year. Can’t we just manage once a year? One day you’ll be so glad to have these pictures.” Or will they? What will they remember? Attitude? 

“You’re a bad mother,” Attitude whispers, and she locks everyone’s car doors and laughs. And goodness, it’s hot. Where is the air conditioning?

I load the pictures on my computer, once we return home, and browse through.

Attitude peers over my shoulder, shaking her head.

Well, I don’t know. I think I disagree. That one turned out okay. And look, that one did, too. I open the door and invite Attitude to leave.

One baby is sitting there. The other sits there.

DSC_2574 - Copy (2)DSC_2564 - Copy (2)A knock comes to the front door. I hurry to slip out of sight, not wanting him to know anyone is home. Because I know better than to let Pride into the house.

“Look, baby girl.” My arm slips around one. “We got a good one.” I smile. She smiles. We all smile. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

They climb onto my lap, and I rock. “No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my babies.” And right there, I know.

I know what makes us work.


What do you do when Attitude slips into the room?

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.

DSC_7840 (6) - Copy


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 Hummingbird Moment

The garage door opens, “Mom, hurry! Come here!”

“What’s wrong?” I wipe my hands dry with a kitchen towel.

My husband opens the door. “Shelli, hurry, it’s a hummingbird.”

What? I’ve bought two hummingbird feeders, and the only thing I’ve seen feeding from them are grasshoppers, the size of hummingbirds.

My daughter slips under my husband’s arm, and she’s cupping the tiny thing in her hand. She’s really holding a hummingbird.

“Let me grab the camera.” I run like lightning for the camera and return, opening the garage door. The tiny thing is sitting so contentedly in the palm of my daughter’s hand. Maybe it’s too frightened to move. I take a picture here, a picture there. “What happened?” I ask.

DSC_6334 - Copy (4)

My daughter tells me that while her best bud was leaving through the garage, the bird hit the fluorescent light. She shut off the light. Her friend saw it land on the shelf and took it down. “Its little wings were spread apart, so I placed it in my hand and folded its wings back into place.” She smiles.

“It was probably confused by the light,” my husband says. “How many people can say they’ve held a hummingbird?”

I marvel at that for a minute.

“Okay, let’s let it go,” says my husband.

DSC_6332 (4)

I run into the kitchen to put down my camera. I fly back out the garage door, past the car, and make my way to the darkened sky, to where my family is gathered.

“I opened my hand, and it flew away,” says my daughter, smiling. “It was so soft.”

“It was so soft,” declares my other daughter.

“It flew strong,” everyone says.

“I heard a thud,” someone says.

“No, that was a crow, Mom,” daughter says, possibly rolling her eyes. “It flew strong. I just barely opened my fingers and it took off.”

DSC_6333 (4)

Why did I put away the camera? I could have video-taped the moment. I could have left the camera on the car or put it around my neck. I stand there in confusion, a finger touching my temple. I wonder how, in the midst of everything, I missed nearly everything. And the fog clears …

I had hovered right over it, and yet, I didn’t feel it. I missed the softness. I could have touched a real, live hummingbird.

I was so close, and yet, I didn’t see it fly strongly.

I love taking photographs, capturing our lives. I enjoy seeing the world through a camera lens, but nothing can replace the real thing, real life, the real moments in time seen through our eyes. Sometimes we can get a bit confused, get lost in technicalities, get distracted, and head toward the wrong light.

Sometimes we need a hummingbird moment for a little redirection. 

DSC_6494 (5)DSC_6495 (5)

(And right here is where a video could have been inserted. Ha! But notice the 2 grasshoppers on the door in the picture above)

~~~

The morning after, I plop down on my daughter’s bed and laugh at her puzzled expression. “Tell me about the hummingbird.”

“Mom, you seriously sound just like Pockets from Hatari! …” She laughs (That’s a John Wayne movie we’ve seen a thousand times).

“But I missed everything. I didn’t feel it’s softness. I didn’t see it fly strongly.”

She snuggles up to me. “It’s okay, Mom. I barely saw it.”

“It was fast, wasn’t it?”

She nods.

“You opened the garage door and told me to hurry,” I say …

And we relive the story together once again.


Do you have a hummingbird moment you’d care to share about? A moment where you needed a little redirection.