Don’t Be Afraid To Try Something New

“I’d like a painting for my office,” he requests. “Will you try?”

“I don’t want to.” My daughter’s voice floats into the kitchen.

“I will.” The words spill from my mouth. I’m not a painter, but I’d like to try something new.

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I gather the materials–canvas, paints, brushes. It’s getting expensive.

When the house is quiet, I lay my three canvas pieces on the table. Paving the way, my hand begins sketching.

Finally, my brush strokes the canvas … little by little. And I love every glorious minute of it.

When I finish working each afternoon, I keep the sections hidden away through the rest of the day, until it’s ready. A birthday present.

I venture outside over the following days. The beautiful weather warms my heart. The breeze–such a gift.

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My unsteady hand wobbles, and the paintbrush shifts over of the sketched line. As I’m sitting there, in the daylight, all I see is the mess I’ve made. The outside border of my attempted subject is too wide, messy. And in the process of tucking them away, I’ve hit one canvas against another, and paint smears.

Why? I’m not …

I won’t give up. I haven’t come this far to give up. When the paint is dry, I decide to try … Focusing on steady, I take my foundation white and patch over the messy umber.

With the tip of the paintbrush between my lips, I evaluate the project. It’s not so bad. Perfectly imperfect has to be okay. Because, well … it’s me.

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My heart is nudged. I remember the beautiful canvas we are all given at the onset of life. And look … the smear, the mess I made. But you, O Lord, you painted me new. The crimson ran down to white, to pure. Free, yet so expensive a cost. You took your foundation and made me … changed me, covered me. My spiritual birthday–the gift that never stops giving, never stops covering.

But the destroyer creeps in, going into hidden places where he doesn’t belong, and pulls me out. He works with ease to scrape away the new, revealing my old, reminding me of my old … the times I stroked my brush out of line … the embarrassment of the ugly, the smears, the beyond ugly …

Not to help, but to hurt. And he so hurts.

And I wonder why I allow it. Why do I get pulled out? Time after time. O Soul Within, why …?

Father, help me “take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1), where I’m loved every glorious minute. Give me the “I will” …. For you only. My eyes focused intently on you. Unashamed. Because that’s where I’m ready. That’s where I’m perfectly imperfect.

Until that day, when all is revealed.

O Soul Within, don’t be afraid to try something new.

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“Holy Spirit, blow peace, joy, and love in and through us today.”Wendy Macdonald


Have you ventured out to try something new?

*And I thought you might like to know that the painting is hanging on a wall in downtown Dallas right now. No matter how imperfect it is. Yikes!

 

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Connecting With Children Through Stories In VBS

“‘How is our church using stories in VBS [Vacation Bible School] to connect with children?’ I asked our children’s minister, Ms. Alexia, through email. ‘Do you have a story to share?’

Reading her response, I sensed her excitement …”

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I’m so enjoying our roses this year. One is so amazing. But when you gather more together … even more amazing. And that’s how God’s people are. When we come together for a common purpose, we make an impact.

Please join me over at WMU’s website to learn more about when a precious child, adopted from Africa, realizes in Vacation Bible School that his family was touched by his new family through the Bucket Project …


Do you have a sweet VBS story to share?

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. 

Valentine’s Day Tips For Giving And Receiving

When someone gives to me, I yearn to give in return. My heart is still melting into a little pool of mama love over my youngest daughter leaving a letter for me several weeks ago out in the mailbox that borders our property walking trail.

The fragrance of chocolate wafts through the Valentine aisle as I select the perfect little heart box. And what are these? Tiny ceramic type decorations to stake into a potted plant. Mushrooms, squirrels, gnomes. Bright and colorful, except for the squirrel. I know … I’ll place these along the trail. Daughter’s been out walking every day. I’ll surprise her.

The girls are gone. Finally. I race outside, insert the little heart box into the mailbox, sprinkle the ceramic decorations along the trail. It’s time to wait.

I’m not a good waiter. Do you remember that my daughter waited 6 weeks for me to notice her letter? Whatever she has, I don’t.

We return home from church. “You going walking today, daughter?” I try to hide my smile.

“Why?” She sees right through me. Blast.

The door closes, and I can’t wait to hear from her. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

“Did you see anything?” I text her.

She texts back an attachment picture of her hand, holding a broken piece of glass. Oh, my word. Am I going to have to show her?

She texts me back. She found the heart box. “Is this for me?” Yep. She’s walking the trail, but she’s still not opened her eyes to what I’ve left her.

Sometimes one has to search a little deeper for treasure.

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I race out, uniting with younger daughter. Our steps join in the same direction. “Keep your eyes open,” I say. I’m mentally trying to identify just exactly what makes the heart worthy and open to receive from others, to uncover buried treasure.

Find Someone To Love

We come across the little gnome. She smiles while giving me that mom-you-are-ridiculous look.

I laugh, a proud-mama moment.

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My oldest 18-year-old daughter’s words surface in my memory. “Do you remember Evan, Mom?”

“No.”

“I used to buy Evan a Dr. Pepper on Wednesday nights at church.”

The Conditions Need To Be Just Right

Proceeding, the younger and I stumble across the mushrooms that I’d inserted into the soft soil. Both of them. One red. One blue.

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“I touched it earlier. I thought it was real. It felt real.”

We laugh. Another proud-mama moment.

Older daughter’s voice floods my heart again“I’ve worked with Evan at church since he was in kindergarten.”

Don’t Miss The Blessing

We reach the final one …. She searches all around, but she still can’t see it. I bend down and brush my fingertips over the tiny squirrel holding a treasured acorn.

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I recall older daughter’s final words. “Mom, Evan’s in 4th grade now, and every Wednesday, he now buys me a Dr. Pepper. He uses his allowance.” I envision her smile, my smile.

“This one’s a bit camaflouged,” I say to younger. Brown squirrel against brown dirt and nearby leaves. “You have to really be looking to see it.”

Sometimes it seems we have to wait, and sometimes it seems we have to search.

But we are loved.

Love doesn’t always come in a heart-shaped box.

We love because He first loved us—1 John 4:19♥


What tips do you have for giving and receiving? How have you been loved recently in a not-so-heart-shaped-box way? And Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

To: My Girl—The Day I Adopted You & My Hope For Your Future


Oh, My Girl, I cannot believe you are a senior this year and nearing graduation. I can’t even think about it or write these words without tears gathering.



I will never forget the day you burst forth into my life and the day I ran with open arms into yours.

You, little thing, were my heart’s desire.

This road of adoption is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s something I’d do overagain and again and againin a heartbeat. But it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The most agonizing. Gut-wrenching. I didn’t know if I’d get to take you home. I didn’t know if you’d be mine. I felt so out of place in that hospital. I felt like an invited and welcomed thief. I felt like an invited and welcomed intruder. Internal anguish. And I cried a hidden ocean in that hospital restroom before you breathed your first breath.

My very first glimpse of you. My hands on you. Little baby, were you praying?







I wouldn’t wish it on anyone because you know your momma … when I fall, I fall hard. And the day I held you in my arms, I fell hard.

You were mine.










And all through your baby years, you and I were joined at the hip. A permanent mark wrinkled my clothes from you backing up and plopping down in my lap with your book to read. You’d just begin backing up, and my lap had better be there.



But adoption was hard because I had to deal with internal struggles like

~What if she doesn’t love me when she finds out?
~What if she is disappointed in me?
~What if she is disappointed in life?
~What if she longs for another?

And I’ve had to deal with issues and tell you things over the years that I wasn’t sure I’d survive …

Like

~You didn’t grow in my tummy because my tummy was broken.
~You grew in someone else’s tummy.
~I believe God gave you to me because I prayed for you for so many years.
~You might hear that I’m not your real mother.
~Someone might ask you who your real mother is. 

Until someone experiences adoption, they never know how much pain the word “real” can cause. 



But I did survive because I had no idea at the time of your birth that God would do such sweet things …

Like

~Let you favor me, just a little.
~Give you a freckle on your arm in the same spot as mine on my arm.
~Give you a heart to love the broken.
~Give you a heart that says I’m real.
~Give you a heart that trusts God.

And I remember the first time we talked about adoption, and I was scared to death. And you acted like you didn’t even care. You wanted to keep playing with your toys. You made it so easy for me, and I sighed a huge breath of relief. And you still loved me. I couldn’t believe ityou still loved me.

My Girl, through all the uncertainties, the thing I’m certain of is that I love you as though I’d given you life. I couldn’t love you any more. You were never my second choice, you’ll always be my first. I choose you.

You are joy. You are beautiful. You make me laugh. I love shopping with you, dancing with you while I’m shopping with you, singing out loud in the car with you. I love that you talk to me, that you share your heart’s secrets with me. I love watching you walk away from me when we arrive at church to go work with the children. I love watching you walk into the hospital to volunteer your love to premature babies and whatever else they need you to do. I love your sentimental soul, that tears can prick your eyes instantly. I love that your fierce strength can surface in 60 seconds, including your protectiveness over me and your little sister.

I want you for my BFF for the rest of my life.



Because you say back to me“You were never my second choice, you will always be my first. I choose you.”

And you have no idea the joy that brings to me, the tightness that gathers in my chest, the feeling that my heart could just 4th-of-July-explode with happiness and love and relief.

Oh, My Girl, with all that I know and have experienced … I wish adoption for you. I do. Because God has given you a heart for children. And when you tell me that you’ll adopt one day, I fully believe you will. And I can’t help but smile over the fact that you’ve redefined generational bondage. And I wish adoption for you because when you fall, you fall hard … just like your momma. And every child needs someone to fall for them, to fall hard for them.

I couldn’t be more proud of you, proud that God let me be a part of your lifeyour little days and your big days. 

I am blessed, and I know it.

You are my girl … my real girl.

And I love you … I really love you.




















Stocking Stuffer Tween Devotional Review and Giveaway

 
Congratulations to the winners … Becky Bray and Karen Morris!!


The girls and I snuggled under the covers with their precious devotionals. Tiny fingers, tiny toes, little baby button nose. Not only was it a time to teach them about Jesus, their Savior, but I was blessed with lots of sugars and giggles.


Yes, my girls are teenagers now, but when they were small, we’d always read their children’s devotionals together and talk about God, their friends, our family, about the goings on in their sweet worlds. Special heart-savoring memories.

And because of that special time together, learning about Jesus, my girls came to know Jesus as their Savior at a very early age.

So I’m thrilled to review a devotional book for a friend, Carol McAdams Moore. I’ve grown to know and love Carol over this last year. She loves God and is passionate about sharing Jesus’ love with kids.

Carol has released two tween devotionals with Zonderkidz. 

***** [5 star rating]

These devos are intended for kids 8-12 but definitely the youngers [5-7] would enjoy if they can already read or with a parent’s help.

One for boysDare U 2 Open This Book …

Dare U 2 Open This Book



 And one for girlsJust Sayin’ …

 Just Sayin


And this is why Carol wrote them:

“I wanted to create devotionals that would encourage tweens to engage with God’s Word and really think about what the Bible means to them. I pray the tweens who read them will discover that following Jesus is the best. idea. ever.” Carol McAdams Moore

The devotionals are not real wordy like some. The devotionals my girls had when they were small had almost too much to read. If there is too much reading either done by the child or parent, I think the child tends to lose interest. ZZZZ. But these keep the writing/reading short, with one Scripture focus. If the child wants to read more, longer Scripture passages are referenced.

All 90 devotions are different and action packed. Some contain pictures to color, fill in the blanks, uniquely crafted drawing spaces for certain topics, questions asked to answer and think on … basically, a chance to doodle and meditate on God. Kids love to color … never seem to outgrow it … and I think this is a sweet way to combine learning about God with one of their favorite activitiescoloring/drawing.

Just Sayin’ for girls

Dare U 2 Open This Book for boys

And when the book is complete, a sweet keepsake will remain to store away for your child, filled with special memories regarding their walk with God … and possibly their time with you, if you help them.

Giveaway Time!

Because these devos will make great stocking stuffers and because freebies are awesome, Carol’s publisher is giving away one boy’s devotional and one girl’s devotional (U.S. only). If you’d like to have one for your child, grandchild, a special kid in your life, please …

leave a comment with your name and contact information [email] here on my blog or on my Facebook page, and specify if you would like the “boy” or the “girl” devotional. If you would like either/or, specify that, and I’ll put your name into both categories for the drawing. But to share the love, you can only win in one category.

I will draw and notify two winnersone boy devo winner and one girl devo winneron December 3rd at noon, Central Standard Time, and immediately ship the books out in order for them to arrive before Christmas.  

I hope you enjoy this review/giveaway and may your Christmas be special as we celebrate Jesus’ birth!

Shelli





Persevere

 
Falling.
In my last post, I mentioned that we have had an ice storm.
On the way to church last Sunday morning …
I fell.
I fell hard.
 
Instantly, after stepping on a patch of ice in a McDonald’s parking lot
After eating breakfast
I was found face down on the ground.
It would have been comical had it not hurt so badly.
I felt & must have looked like a pancake being flipped on one side.
(and you have my blessing to laugh!)
 
When I landed,
One hand held my Diet Coke, cushioning the fall on that left hand
I busted my chin
Cut my upper gums
Busted my right knee
Hit my right wrist and hand hard
My right side is sore.
There is a tiny, straw hole size bruise by my left eye …
My cup’s straw must have hit near my eye when falling.
Tore a hole in my favorite jeans.
But I have my eyesight, and I didn’t lose any teeth – silver lining
Glory to God!

Thankfully, I had on boots, jeans, thick coat.

My husband reached out his hand to help me stand.
 
Tears to the car
Tears on the way to church
Tears slightly at church.
 
And our 5th grade Sunday school lesson was on
Jesus’ birth.
Because of Christmas.
 
  
And the lesson brought sweet tears to my eyes
Because life can be hard
One minute we are fine
The next we are suffering
We are falling

There I was bleeding in church
Aren’t we all bleeding in church?

 
And I praise our Jesus
Who lived and died for us …
Who suffered for us …
To give us eternal life.
We are so desperate for Him.

Most words associated with “fall” are negative.
Fall out
Fall away
Fall down
Fall captive
Fall from grace

Why do we fall away, per se, from Jesus?
We all receive that worldly invitation
And if we aren’t on stable ground
Our feet will slip right out from under us.

Is it pride? Like Satan.
Or maybe we can’t quite grasp that following Jesus means
Life or death
Maybe we don’t take God seriously.
Maybe we don’t take the consequences seriously.
Life’s pain lassoes us by the ankles to drag us down

One certain thing
Falling hurts
Falling away from Jesus results in a
Bruising, battering, and splattering

And when one falls,

We usually drag others down.

How can we stand?
Reach out and take Jesus’ hand.

How do we stand firm?
Stand up for Jesus.

How do we remain standing?
Stand for Jesus.
Fall in love with Jesus … He is heart-capturing
Fall down on your knees before Jesus … He is breath-taking
Fall captive to Jesus … He is captivating

Standing for Jesus is
Our life’s calling

Jesus took the fall that we might stand.

When life beckons us to fall

Follow Jesus

May we strive to be the strong one
Offering others a hand up.
When pain is severe and befalling
Don’t sever ties.
Collapse into Jesus’ arms that are calling
And persevere.

“To him who is able to keep you from falling
and to present you before his glorious presence
without fault and with great joy”
Jude 24

***
 

As a missions writer
I dedicate this post to
Malaysia.
God bless you, Malaysia.
God remembers you
I remember you
 Prayers for you.
Stand for Jesus.
Persevere.