Thursday, August 28, 2014

Birthday

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

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

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

"Open your eyes, Momma ..."


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
























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

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

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


























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

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

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

I mention her mother.

"She died in her mid-fifties," Momma says.

"Too young," I say.


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







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




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




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


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



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






















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




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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Manuscript

 
Working on my newest projectthe nearly year long work in progressmy heart sinks.

What am I doing?

I look at the pile, the evidence of edit after edit. My hand glides over the tender pagesthe pages of potential, the pages of rejection, the pages of mistakes, the pages of silliness, the pages of my heart, the pages of heart lessons, the pages of time spent with my daughter and working alongside her, the pages of time.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




The tears well up.

Upon closer examination, I ask myself, "Why? Shelli, why? Shelli, why are you doing this?"
 

Time has been stripped from my family, my chores, my duties.

That wasn't the plan.


And with all that taken into consideration, my heart begs the question, "What if this manuscript is nothing more than a learning curve?" I shake my head in defeat. Typical me.
 
And God whispers into my heartno time is wasted if it's time spent with me, for me.
 
I nod. And I know that in everything I do, whether writing, walking, or talking, He wants me. He wants all of me.
 
Even learning curves are beneficial if I'm learning with God. If in the mundane and simplicity of life, I'm seeking Him, nothing is wasted.

He takes all my effort, all my pieces, all my mistakes, all my lessons, all my rejection, all my potential, all my pages, all my timealland molds them into what He's making out of me, His work in progress.
 
I can't see it.


But it's there.
 
All the waste, pain, shreds, stacks, pages, plans, spilled ink, spilled tears, tattered pieces.

And what exactly happens when the Master takes hold of all the tattered pieces, the tattered pages, O soul?
 
We know. It's nothing new. But we often need a gentle reminder. O soul within, remember

The Master scripts His plans, His purposes, Himself on the pages of our hearts and works all the tattered pieces, the tattered pages together over His time into His masterpieceHis manuscriptthat may only be worthy, may only be beautiful to Him

Me.

You.



Thank you, Father.

 
***


"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity." Jeremiah 29:11-14 
 



Friday, August 15, 2014

Belong

I walk by those two babies, the two babies sleeping on the ottoman. They look up at me with this blank stare.
 
You don't feel like you belong, do you?
 
 
Our older cat isn't real fond of them. He misses his kitty sister, who passed away in March. He spent eight long years with her, and suddenly, she is gone. Who are these kittens romping and playing? Uninvited, at that. But God love him, he's accidentally trying.
 
  
 
He hisses and bites at them when they get too close. But then he'll turn and greet nose to nose. You just never know.
 
I'll see them sitting in the corner ... wondering if it's safe to be seen, to be known, to be here, to belong.
 
I bent over and loved on those abandoned babies. I pat their sweet heads, gave them sugars, and asked, "Are you wondering if this is your home?" I get in their sweet faces. "Did you know that this is your forever home? You belong here. We just found you, or so it would seem, but we want you. Get comfortable. You don't have to be invisible. We love you."

I took hold of them and hugged them.


You know, sometimes I feel invisible just like that. I feel different. I don't belong. In the world, and even sometimes at home. If my beloved is not happy with me. If I don't speak the language, their lingo. If I don't blend with the world. If I don't wear this, if I don't wear that. If I don't drink this or smoke that or do that or drive that.
 
God says we weren't meant to fit in. We weren't meant to belong. We are aliens and strangers in this world. But He didn't just find us. He made us. For His glory. And He loves us. He knows us.
 
Ah, to be known. To be truly known.
 
And oh, to find Him.
 
We are not left abandoned.
 
This life is temporary. We won't always feel like strangers. We won't always wonder if it's safe to come out in places across this globe because we believe this and don't believe that. We won't always have to feel different.
 
And one day, we'll be home. Our real home. Our forever home. Where we belong.
 
"He reached down from on high and took hold of me ...." Psalm 18:16
 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sometimes

Sometimes you dig a little too deep.

I finally made that dental appointment. We've moved so many times. It's so hard to find new doctors, new dentists, when you seem to stay on the move. Who can you trust? Who can you trust with your kids?

Stepping into the office, I fumble through our file cabinet to find the name of our last dentist. The new patient paperwork has summoned my time.




Sometimes you search a little too far.

And there it was. The sweet reminder. In a 5x7 manila envelope.

I rarely mention it because I don't want others to think I'm not satisfied, I'm not content. I am. I am so blessed.



Sometimes you look a little too closely.

Because this little reminder brings back tender pangs from another blessing. One I had for a very short time. But one I know will be waiting for me in Heaven.

That's a positive.

And a hallelujah.









Sometimes you try a little too hard.

For days, I lay so still. I did all I could to hang onto this little bit.

On my heart's knees, I held on.

But God had other plans.



Sometimes you feel a little less than.

It was the only pregnancy I'd ever had or would ever have.

But it's in those "Sometimes" ... those less than momentsthe digging, the searching, the looking, the trying, the feelingthat we find the One ...

The One who summons our time ...




The One who encamps over us, guiding our every step.

The One who bids us to dig a little deeper for Him.

The One who promises to be found.

The One who will never let go.

The One who names you.

The One who dates you.

The One trustworthy.

At all times.


"Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out."Numbers 9:20


Monday, August 4, 2014

Rain


When the rains just keep coming, and it's August in Texas, I shake my head in unbelief. We pray for rain. We need it desperately. Always.

So desperate, I throw out my arms to greet it. My hands embrace it. The fragrance fills me.
 
Coming home, my daughter is in the back seat singing these timely words, "Maybe this is how it starts. I find You when I fall apart."

It's truth.
 
The rains can be painful. Branches fall. Leaves fall.

My stomach still isn't back to normal since my surgery. The nurse revealed my height has decreased slightly due to scoliosis, a condition I didn't know I had until this last year. A dear friend is now being aided by Hospice (Update: my friend is with Jesus today, August 7, 2014).
 
That's truth, too.

The rearview mirror gives a beautiful glimpse of my daughter singing. Her tender face. Her tender voice sings the words to her favorite song"How can I come to the end of me and somehow still have all I need?" 

And oh, that baby girl, now 14, has experienced rain. Gut wrenching rain. She doesn't remember it now. She was just a baby. But oh, how I remember. We were never the same. If there was ever a doubt in my mind ... her falling apart sealed my faith.

Yes, the rains can be painful.
 
The cool air brushes through my hair. The thermometer reads 76 degrees. The change is relief to my sun-scorched soul.

More truth.

The rains can be beneficial.
 
When the rains come, refuse to hide. Find God. Throw out your arms to greet Him. Bask in the change. His change. For you. Let Him fill you. Overflow. Let Him refresh your weary soul.

Go out and splash. Go out and play. With Him. For Him. Even if only in your mind.

God's love will spill over to others. The splash is contagious.

That's Jesus truth.

Hope.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 











Take joy in the little things.





































Find rest for your soul, in the Lord.





































Stay on the right path, God's path.





































Keep encouraging friends close.

























Father, thank you for the change that accompanies the rain.

I shake my head ... your greatness, your goodness, you ... You, God ... your unbelievably good.

In loving memory of my friend, Charles Johnson.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Unbolted


Washing my hands at the sink, I eye that little book. I smile. If there was ever a book proven overused ...





































I dry my hands on the frayed towel and reach for it. The binding is loose. The book jacketall that holds it together. Leaning back against the sink, I turn page by tender page.

This page stops me in my tracks
 
"When Noah knew the ark was resting on solid ground, he unbolted the door."





































My mind travels back to my youthful days of faith training, of being encouraged to never open the door to traveling religion salesmen. My tender youth and tender faith weren't strong enough to stand, I was told. But as the years of walking with the Lord press against my heart, my mind unearths what a walk with Christ presents.

I turn a tender page

"Out came Noah and his wife, his sons and their wives."

I turn

"Then followed all the animals."

From the long walk, this life with Christ is not about religion. It's a relationship.

There is no fear of unbolting that door. The relationship is my life, and it's all I have to pour out. And it's all I need. It's the binding, holding me together. It's enough.

It's me, resting on solid ground ... and love unbolted.

Another tender page turns

"God was pleased."

While returning the worn, endearing book on the old shelfboth evidence of my growth, my age, the yearsI notice the words on the back cover

"It rained and rained ...." Oh, the rain in my life.





































Turning to my girls, I wrap each one in a hug goodnight. Their love for Jesus, written on their faces, grows more evident each passing year. In that embrace, tender hands pat my back ever so gently.

I remember and long for the sweet hug pats my grandmother always gave me.

And there is proof, in the simplest of things ...

God's promises unfolded ...

love unbolted.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Progress

As she declined an opportunity because she felt unworthy, unqualified, her heart broke.
 
She cried out—
 
"Lord, you said you removed my sin as far as the east is from the west. You said it. You promised. Why does it still hurt? Why do I feel trapped in the past?"


***


Painful reminders of the past can feel like a plague.


A plague that eats away at our hearts, our hope.

A plague that shames.

A plague that destroys.

A plague that steals.


And make no mistake, the enemy certainly loves working behind the scenes to eat away ... to make us feel there is no hope for the future. "You did this ... how do you think you can be this ...? You've not changed. You are nothing."

It feels like a loss of—

confidence
security
faith
hope

Every false feeling goes against God's every truth.


Regardless of the pain, when we cry out to God in true repentance, we are forgiven.

We must remind ourselves ... God is working a new creation in us, but that doesn't wipe away the memory, ours nor others. But God can use any critter, any enemy, anything, anyone, to work that new creation in us. He is the Potter, we are the clay, and He molds and shapes us, in His own way. Chiseling, whittling away. 

The past—that plague—can be used to shape our futures.

That painful reminder may be God's perpetual renewing.

We are hopeful creations in full process progress.

"For we live by faith, not by sight." —2 Corinthians 5:7


"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eatenthe great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed." —Joel 2:25,26

My uncle whittled this for me out of old depot wooda building that had been torn down.
The old, seemingly hopeless, becomes ... a new creation, a keepsake, a treasured possession.




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ingredients



Boom!
 
We jumped sky-high. The afraid-of-looking-guilty precious kid blasts: "I didn't do that." Even Granny got moving.
 
"What was that?" many asked.
 
"Was that a firecracker?" we all questioned.
 
A firecracker would have made sense. After all, it was July 4th. Fireworks were randomly going off in broad daylight throughout my cousin's beautiful rural area with a mile of field, sprinkled with two homes, behind them.

We checked around the house ... nothing seemed dented or disturbed, except our hearts.
 
We settled back down. Conversation resumed.
 
My cousin spotted something shiny between my dad's feet. She said, "Excuse me" and reached down. Holding out her hand, turning to me, and inquiring what she already knew the answer to but couldn't quite bring herself to believe, she asked:

"Shelli, what is this?"
 
"A bullet."
 
We knew immediately what had caused that horrid noise.







































The sheriff's department was immediately called. And we began searching nearby for the impact site. 

The location was spotted mere millimeters away from glass, a mere five feet above our heads.







































Just like that ... one of us could have been shot and killed. Just like that. On a perfectly gorgeous day, celebrating with family, celebrating freedom ... it was unreal. Like something reported on the news.

Our nerves were shot. "What if" was pondered.

  • Boom
  • Bullet
  • Bullet mark

Those were complete ingredients to a completely disturbed evening. And let me tell you, with a mixture of emotion and fear stirring up inside, much was made of that bullet.


***
 
We tend to make much of things.
 
Grateful for God's protection, many voiced it.
 
However -
 
  • Gathering together
  • Grabbing hands
  • Gliding into His presence
  • Giving thanks and requesting peace
  • Glorifying Him for safety
  • Grasping a Verse of God's protection and voicing it
 
- would have proved our faith genuine to those with weaker faith, our children. But with never-ending needed growth and continually learning lessons by hindsight, a true reality pierced my heart:
 
tossing things aside, those would have been the completely perfect ingredients to -
 
Make much of the One who made me. 
 
"Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts." - Isaiah 26:8 

 
My beautiful cousin and me.
  
***
 
 
Leola's Banana Pudding
(my beloved grandmother's easy, no bake ingredients):

Mix 1 large box instant "vanilla" pudding as directed on box
Add 1 can Eagle sweetened condensed milk (I use 2 cans sometimes)
Add 1 large cool whip (but don't add it all, leave about a cupful, ha! That's how she
did it!)
2 tsp. vanilla (she used 1 tsp banana flavoring, but I never have that on hand, so I do 2 tsp vanilla)

Slice about 4 large bananas (small slices), set aside.
Vanilla Wafers (two boxes)


Start with a little pudding on bottom, wafers, bananas slices.
Then layer:
Pudding, wafers, bananas - repeat until ingredients are gone, and end with pudding on top.

Take wafer crumbs and sprinkle on top. If you need more crumbs, crumble up wafers and sprinkle on top.
 
Refrigerate. Best if let set overnight.
 
Pretty.