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?

A Thanksgiving Giveaway


Gratefulness swept over my heart as I opened my editor’s email, revealing my article contracts for the upcoming yeara blessing and a gift. Another year of writing, of hearing amazing mission stories, of listening to the hearts of people across the globe and to the hearts of people just down the road. 



I don’t take the writing opportunity for granted because one, my confidence level doesn’t soar, and two, there are boo-koos of writers to fill my disposable shoes.



Every single story touches my heart, changes me, in one way or another. Thankful.

Two missions touched my heart so much that I’ve written novels about them. And I’m looking for a third idea, so if you know of a heart-touching mission, I’d love to hear about it.

Closing down my email, I realized that it’s been 8 years since I’ve been writing for Woman’s Missionary Union. Eight years. Thankful.

When I first received the invitation to write for WMU, it was July 4th weekend of 2008 and family was visiting. Excitement spiraled through me over the opportunity, but fear shook me.

My sister-in-law sat in the rocking chair next to me.

“I got asked to write a missions article. I don’t know what to do,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll be calling Africa, and talking to a 19-year-old young woman from Brazil. Her story is too important … entrusted to me? I’m scared.” Tears surfaced. “I’m scared I can’t do it or won’t do it justice. She deserves better than me.”

“Shelli, you can do this.” She smiled, rocking in that chair. “You can do this.” Thankful.



And I’ve been doing this for 8 years. I can still hear that sweet girl’s Brazilian accent … and I’m so blessed to keep up with her on Facebook, all the way in Brazil now. Her mother even wrote to thank me for the article. Her letter was written in Portuguese, and I had to ask for an interpreter. Thankful.

When I receive the magazine that one of my articles is in … my heart swells with gratitude. Seeing my work in print never gets old. But seeing God use the stories to bless people or encourage missions or support missions … that’s the sweetest. Thankful.

I’ll tell you that sometimes I feel a tinge of guilt that I write about missions more than I do them. But my editor continually reminds me each year that writers are important … that they help share what’s happening in missions around the world. That it takes everyone doing their part. Thankful.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret … I’ve been a stay-at-home wife and mom for most of my adult life, and because of that, I’ve always had to watch each dime. And here’s the secretI look forward to the day that I can take a week or two mission trip overseas. What group will God have prepared for me? What will their sweet faces look like? What will their hugs feel like?

But missions is everywhere and needed everywhere. My latest November 2016 cover story is on missions here at home, in Philadelphia, about being thankful in tough times. There’s much need all around us. And I have my sights set on a mission to help here in Texas … I’ve just got to get in gear and join in.




















So with this 8-year-mark, I want to shout out my gratitudefor writing opportunity, for God’s undeserved grace and mercy, for so many things, but especially for you. Thank you for always reading my “scribblings” and supporting me. Even a “hello” brings so much encouragement along this journey. Thankful.

And because of that, I’m so excited to do a fun giveaway, offering two one-year subscriptions to Missions Mosaic magazine. If you have a heart for missions or have a family member who loves missions, this giveaway is for you. It’s a perfect Christmas gift for yourself or a loved one.























What should you do to enter? 

Be a U.S. or Canadian resident and simply leave a comment in the comment section, stating that you’d like to be entered. Or hop over and leave a comment on my Facebook page or my Instagram @shelli_littleton

If you comment in three places, you can be entered up to 3 times, max. 

*2 Winners

And I’m so sorry that I can’t offer the giveaway to my dear friends across the water. I so love you.

~~~

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18


What are you most thankful for? Is there something you hope to do/accomplish one day?

*The giveaway will close November 17th at midnight Central Time and the winners will be announced on Nov 22nd. The subscriptions will be ordered immediately, just in time for Christmas.



The Gentle Nudging for a Thanksgiving Blessing and a Dance



I hadn’t been in over a year. Goodness, that’s hard to believe. 

My dad goes up there sometimes, and he always assures me that I’m welcome. But I’ve been so busy–same ol’ song and dance, you know. And well, it’s just not the same since my grandmother passed away. 

When my grandmother was living, I’d go visit her as often as possible. And well, with my uncle living down the road, he was a package deal. My dad might come up sometimes, and I’d see him, too. 

When my grandmother was ill, we three spent much time together, on her behalf. And well, I just got to missing those two something awful. I’d heard my uncle had been sick with pneumonia recently. 

My uncle on the left, who spent all morning cooking for us,
and my dad on the right who’d spend all morning doing 
Elvis impersonations if a knee weren’t bothering him. 
He’s good, too. 

I’ve learned to listen to that gentle nudging. I always know the Lord is speaking to my heart.

My dad tells me a date that’s good for him. We’ll all go out to eat, we plan. Make a day of it. My heart’s already leaping.

The day arrives, and we leave fairly early … the girls and I venture out to go the distance–2-1/2 hours there. 

I call my dad when I’m an hour away, and he sounds like a little kid. He’s so excited to see us. “I can’t wait for y’all to get here,” he says.

I miss her road. Her Texas county road. I chastise myself for letting a year go by. How could I miss her road? I pull off and turn around, heading the right direction now.

My grandmother’s house is near this little city of Antioch, Texas. Antioch … the first recorded place in the Bible that I’ve been taught where the word “Christian” was used … it meant “Little Christs” … it was often used in a derogatory way. Am I living my life in a way that others would call me “Christian”?






And there’s her driveway. The long windy, sandy driveway trimmed with pines. Yeah. I played on that road a ton when I was a kid. My toes burrowed through that sand.

My heart pumps with ingrained excitement, as I turn onto her drive. In my younger days, that’s when I’d bring out the hairbrush and dab on a little make-up–prepare to see my family. Like I’d looked that way all along. Just my casual self. 

Before I even get to the house, my dad is outside waiting, pacing. Just like my grandmother used to do. He’s holding a camera. The minute we step out, he says, “I want to get a picture of y’all.” I’ve never danced with my dad, but this moment was right up there. O Soul Within, he loves you.

We hug. He says my uncle is making dinner for us. 

“But he’s been so sick,” I say.

“He really wanted to cook for you,” my dad says. O Soul Within, he loves you, too.

Noon finally arrives, and we head over to his Texas country house. I climb the steps and knock.

“Come in.”





He’s cooking. Doing the shuffle throughout his kitchen, he’s made a Thanksgiving feast–a whole turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, some casserole, rolls, cherry pie. Like my grandmother used to do. Evidence covers the front of his shirt–flour, splotches of grease. He looks exhausted. He’s sweaty. Clearly, his strength hasn’t returned and may never. Other health issues. 

I start sweating too because his blood is thinner now, and he keeps his house warm. And I’m having power-surges (ABS!). And I’m imagining cracking open a window for fresh air. 

My mouth gapes open, with a smile. He’s twirled my heart right in. I know my eyes are glowing with a slight hint of confusion. “What have you done?” I ask. “You’ve been sick.”

“I wanted to do this for my baby.”








My uncle put me first, grateful that I’d come the distance. For him. For my dad. Regardless of how he felt.


***


O Soul Within, it’s not easy to honor the One who went the distance for us when you are sick, hurting, struggling … 

To put Him first … to treat Him like the love of your life …

It’s tempting to settle for Kentucky Fried Chicken, the quick and easy.

But you’ll always be blessed for the effort. Allow the evidence to cover you and others. Don’t let too much time go by. Don’t miss the road. Take His hand and do the dance … waltz the floor …

one, two, three, one two, three …

Because He loves you.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.



When you’re tired and struggling, is it tempting to push the very One Who can strengthen you to the back burner? How do you ensure God comes first?

Straightening

I tighten her expander for the very last time. “You ready to get this enforcer … enhancer … expander off?” I chuckle through a grin.

“You finally got it right, Mom. After all these weeks, you finally said it right.” She laughs with the tool still in her mouth.

For the last month, I’ve been teasing the precious thing about the horrible expander in her mouth. I never call it the right thing. Exterminator. Ex-anything. Whatever I can come up with on the spur of the moment. It’s all part of her braces plan, but I feel like I’m torturing her each time I make an adjustment. It breaks my heart to adjust it.

And it actually broke part of her mouth … in order to allow more space for her teeth. I don’t understand it all, I just know it was like a wishing bone … more force placed on it a little each day until it breaks. And when it broke, her face flushed, she could barely swallow, and her mouth went numb.

This morning …

“Mom, what time is it?” She reads to pass the time.

“9:07.”
“What time do we leave?”
“9:20.” She’s ready to go. She’s ready to be relieved.
“Are you ready to go?” I ask.
“Yeah.”

“Are you ready to get that thing off?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”

We arrive at the orthodontist. They take a good look at it.

“We are getting it off today, right?” I ask. So sure.

“No.”

I sit stunned. “I’m sorry, Katelyn,” I blurt out. “I told her it would come off today,” I say to the technician.

“No, it needs to remain longer. If we took it off now, the teeth would revert back to their original locations, and all that movement, all that pain, would have been for nothing.” She pauses. “Don’t listen to Mom,” she teases.

After the technician walks out, I look at my oldest daughter—”Why did I think we were getting it off today?”

“When they said it wouldn’t need more adjusting, we just assumed …” We assumed.

**
 
On the way home, I couldn’t help but think how this applies to life. God allows that little strain, that little pain in our lives to mold and shape us. To press us. Until we break.
 

Until our faces flush, until we can barely swallow, until we feel numb.

It’ll feel like torture.

We assume that life will go right back to normal. We’ll get that expander off, and we’ll go right back to normal. Come on, normal.

 
But if we went right back to normal, there would be no lasting change. We don’t need that kind of normal.
 
And it’s often a shocking realization to have a new normal.
 
We don’t understand it all. We won’t understand it all. But we must trust our Father. Trust that He knows best. How could we possibly know best?
 
We need change. Friend, we need change. O Soul within, you need change.
 
And everyone experiences it, in one way or another. We may assume others are pain-free, but they aren’t. No one is exempt. If we don’t have physical pain, we surely have heart pain. A broken, bleeding heart doesn’t always show through a crisp, starched white shirt.


The pain reforms and reshapes … until we break.

Why?


Because we need more room for growth. New growth.

Because we need to be formed and shaped like Jesus.

Because we won’t love Him like we should, like we could, until we need His healing, His revealing, His concealing tenderness for the broken. Thank you, Father, that my broken heart is all your own.

Because we need to beautifully get it straight.

Because it’s in the straightening that we …

“enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.”—Psalm 100