Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I Found Love at Disney World

After traveling the interstate from Texas to Florida, we approached the waiting line for one of our favorite rides at Disney World. 

My youngest daughter had injured her knee, so we'd rented a wheelchair. Thoroughly excited to help her little sister, my oldest daughter pushed the wheelchair to the wait line. And baby sister hobbled out to wait.


Who is that? What's going on?

Our attention was totally captured.

Off to the left, a lady, cute as a button, sat in a wheelchair, her long brown hair hung down her shoulders, her legs clearly useless. And her husband busied himself around her. Then he gently and purposefully moved in front of her, bent, and proceeded to pick her up in his arms. As she dangled helplessly in his strong arms, he carried her ... he carried her to the ride. 

My heart broke into a thousand pieces. And those thousand pieces melted on the cold, heavily trampled ground. And then those pieces rose and pulled together to form two hands ... and those hands clapped. What love! I thought. My breath caught.


What love.

What a man! Oh, how I loved him instantly ... for his strength, his patience, his endurance, his love, his kindness, his mercy.

As the girls and I proceeded to the line, tears pricked my eyes. 

My oldest daughter touched my back gently. I turned. "Mom, you're crying," she said. 

I smiled. "That's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

"Mom, I love you."

"He carried her."

"Mom ... I love you."

That precious man's actionssomething he'd probably done a million timestouched my heart. The beauty of it. And his touching of my heart dominoed, touching my daughter's with the gentlest of fingertips. 


Who is that?

Our God. 


What love.

I'm so crippled, y'all. I have so much baggage from childhood, from things dropped on me and then from my own heart-breaking crippling choices. 

The dominoes fall, and fall, and fall. Blackened, spotted ivory piece after ivory piece.

But God loves me. He sticks by my side. He moves in front of me gently and purposefully. He takes me everywhere I need to go ... places I never dreamed I'd go. He takes me where He wants me to go. And as I wait on Him, He bends down, picks me up, and carries me on this amazing ride called Life.

I don't deserve the ride. I deserve to sit on the sidelines, only able to watch. And even that is more than I deserve. I deserve nothing.

But He is merciful, and beautiful, and kind.

And as I live with a reserve of grateful tears, overwhelmed by His love, my girls see. They witness it all. 

And when they say, "Mom, I love you" ... I know they love my whole package. They know my whole package. Me. All my rights, all my wrongs, all my attempts, all me. 

But more importantly, they love and admire He who carries me. They see Him. They see His every move. They see me dangling helplessly in His strong arms. And they believe He's the most attractive thing in the universe.


What love.

And they lift their sweet arms ...

They reach for their dream come true.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. --Psalm 18:16


Have you witnessed something so beautiful? Beautiful humanity. Something that took your breath? That brought instant tears? Would you care to share? What about your own experience? Do you have a sweet story of lifting your arms to Him?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

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 ...


~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 ...


~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.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pressing Through One of my Greatest Fears

Fog greeted me this morning. So happy to see me. As I stood on my front porch, I cringed at the sight of his uninvited visit. For he is one of my greatest fears. Because he steals my vision. And he's treated me miserably in the past, and I have not forgotten. I may be unforgiving.

And I took pictures of him. Why would I do that?

This is one of those days I plant myself home until visibility is high. But I had to drive my daughter into town for her volunteer job at our church. My shoulders slump.

I can do this. I have to do this. I will do this.

Fog has gained a little weight since I left home, gotten thicker around the middle, and he sticks by me like the most faithful dog, following me all the way into town.

I can see more than two feet in front of my vehicle, thank goodness ... more like three car lengths in front of me. But beyond that, all blurred, like God had used whiteout on His beautiful spoken creation.

Panic begins to rise inside. I remember that time all those people were killed in Florida because fog and smoke filled the early morning air ... and we barely missed it. And I remember that time in Spokane, Washington, when my truck got stuck in a wheat field, the fog so thick, and the dog and I had to walk home some two miles in the drizzling rain and darkness.

And the panic rises more. But I have to be calm because I'm a mother. And my two kids are in the backseat.

What if a car is stalled on the road?

And I stumble on it. 

And I don't see it.

And I plow in to it.

I don't want to die yet. 

I don't want to get us all killed.

"I can't see. I should have texted the church to tell them we weren't coming, but we're already on the way ..."

"I'll help you, Mom." My daughter is my second set of eyes, and her youthful eyes are way sharper than mine.

A truck passes me. 

"Was that a man?"

"Yes," says my daughter.

I'll follow the truck. I'll stay close so that he can light the way for me. My daughter chimes in with the same advice from the backseat. She's a good backseat driver. 

"He's going so fast. I wish he'd slow down a bit. Can't he just slow down? If I'm in a car accident, I don't want to be driving 75 miles-per-hour." Oops. My fear slipped out.

He slams on his brakes and heads into the shoulder. He didn't see the cars stopped at the stoplight until it was almost too late. Thank goodness, I had plenty of time to stop, because I had kept my distance without losing sight of his tail-lights. My prayer rose up that the people behind me would see me stopped. They did.

We finally reach a busier area, getting closer to town. There are more vehicles. Traffic is going slower, with higher visibility. My heart is settling down. 

We make it to the church. 

I thank God. I thank Him for bringing leaders into my life, to light the way, even if they aren't perfect examples. I thank Him for the people He brings into my life to help me, to keep watch of the path ahead, to encourage me to keep putting one foot out in front of the other, to help me focus on the beauty before me and not the bad. So many reasons to be thankful.

As we pass the youth building, my daughter says, "Mom, did you see the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Trailer?"

And I remember our pastor saying relief workers were camping out at our church during the tornado disaster clean-up. And I thank God for the precious people who came alongside those hurt by the recent tornado. 

I thank God for all those who've come alongside me, to help clean up my life's disasters. Who've loved me in spite of me, who've loved me through it, when life's path seemed foggy. Who've shown me love, love, love, more than words ... anyway, anytime, anywhere.

Father, thank you that because of you, we can press forward even it it's moving slowly and behind the backs of others. 


Do you ever feel crippled by fear, like me? Do you have those in your life who help you move past your fears? If you could thank one person, who would you thank?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

When Your Heart Longs for a 5-Star

The book starts slow. Not what I'd expected. My lips stretch with a yawn. Maybe this book is a 3-star.

In a world that craves action, I close my eyes, slip down into the covers, and sleep overcomes me.


For the moment.

The next night, I see the book on the bedside table. The simple glance begins to grow my heart's curiosity. Maybe I should give it another chance. I reach out and take hold. 

The speed increases slowly, along with my heart-rate. The characters and hope spring alive. I can't put the book down. It has my heart wrapped around its shortest page. My heart is so happy as I read "The End" ... I can't wait to rate it a 5-star and tell the author how wonderful it is. 

That bookthose wordswill remain in my heart forevermore, and I'll share it with others. I want everyone to know how much it meant to me, what it did for me, how it helped me, how it grew me, maybe how much it made me laugh or cry. It ends up being the best book I've ever read. 

O Soul Within, do you see the reflection of your life in that mirror? Not everyone has a Pollyanna beginning. And yeah, it's okay to mourn the lossthe loss of sound mind, good judgement, wisdom, blessing. 

But just because you started out a 3-star doesn't mean you are destined to end there. God will never reject you for that slow start. Don't give up on yourself. The expanse of sky is immeasurable. Because our God is brilliant. Those stars are right before you. Sometimes you have to wait for the clouds to part. But they're there. Dangling there. Reach out and take hold of the remainder. Pluck them right out, claim them, and cling to them. The 5-star belongs to you. 

God has plans for you to end well. Even after despair, in the midst of despair, you will remember. He's taught you well. You can be the best He has to use. The best He has to offer. You can spring alive with hope.

Be the one your Heavenly Father just can't put down. Be the one wrapped around His tiniest finger. Be the one that makes His chest puff with heavenly pride. Be the one that He can't wait to use, can't wait to share ... His prize pupil. Be the one He can count on to help others, to show others we can rise above. 

Your Heavenly Father has faith in you. He's the God of second chances. The God of heavenly glances. And He uses our 3-star as a heavenly staircase to reach our 5. He uses it. He wastes not so you can want not. Can you envision the climb? One step after another ... put one foot in front of the other ... higher and higher ... stepping through the darkness of the 3 and into the bright light of the 5, where you can see ... really see ...

See what He's done for you, through you, in spite of you.

For this new year, new you.

Reach out and take hold of His gentle fingers, beckoning you ...

Be the one.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7


Do you ever feel stuck as a 3-star? Does it loom over you? Do you receive daily reminders? What helps you reach that 5-star? And aren't you thankful God sticks it out with us?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Texas--When You Wonder How to Survive a Natural Disaster

How do you survive a disaster? I don't know. 

I had a completely different post ready for this week, but a tornado swirled through our Dallas area, leaving devastation in its wake. It traveled our I-30, turning vehicles upside down. Bodies strewn. My tires touch that I-30 weekly.

The warm weather we were experiencing has turned to rain and chilled air. 

And my heart is shivering from unbelief and fear and concern. 

I'm thankful to be safe. 

I was near the area when the sirens began blaring ... driving home with my girls from a Christmas family gathering. My hands shook, my body trembled. Lightning lit the sky, one after another. No rain. When the sky brightened, the girls looked for tornadoes, as I drove.

But tornado warnings are a common, so common, occurrence here in Texas. You mentally blow it off for the most parttime after time, hiding out in the bathroom, and nothing happensuntil something like this happens. 

I have a dear friend who survived the major tornado in Wichita Falls, Texas, over 25 years ago ... as a child ... and you can believe she takes warnings seriously. When your entire house is missing except for the four walls of the tiny closet you and your three family members are standing in ... you take it seriously. 

I just learned that our pediatrician's office in Rowlett, Texas, was destroyed. 

Our dentist is there. Our daughter volunteers at the hospital there each summer. I have two cousins that work there at the cancer center. It's real.

We have dear friends we haven't heard from. I've heard their neighborhood was damaged. I pray they didn't lose their home. I pray they weren't hurt. But they weren't at church today. Maybe they are out of town. I'm trying to find out.
**update ... they are fine. Their home was damaged but not destroyed. However, the homes one street over were demolished.

Since my early 20s, I've witnessed an airplane crashB-52 on the air base, preparing for an air show. I was inches from being at a base hospital that was terrorized by a gunman, this is the hospital where we had doctor appointments, picked up our prescriptions, etc. The gunman killed and injured so many. Bloodied the walls. So a tornado ... why should it surprise me? But like all else, it's always something that happens in other states, other cities. But wow ... this hits close to home. I was little more than a mile away from the destruction, as a crow flies, that evening. Traveling the same direction for a time, a lake separating us.

Destruction abounds.

What do you do in the aftermath? This is the best my heart's got.


The only thing that comes to mind is an event that took place Christmas Eve. My daughter came to me in tears, holding a cherished childhood book called You and Me, Little Bear.

She was clearly hurting.

I said, "What's wrong?"


She melted into my arms and sobbed, "This is my last Christmas as a teenager."

Tears pooled in my eyes. She's afraid. Change is coming, change has come, good or bad, and there is nothing any of us can do about it. We can't reverse the clock. We can't grasp hold of the past. We are helpless. 

She handed me a letter. I opened it and read these beautiful words:

"This has been a great year. I'm almost 18, getting ready for college, but these times, I'm always going to remember. I love you and thank you for picking me, for raising me a Godly girl. My last Christmas as a teenager. But no matter how old I get, I will always come home. I need my momma. I love you."


I asked her if I could read her bitty baby book to her, the one she held, like when she was little. She nodded. 

We sat on my bed, legs out straight, and I wrapped her in my arms. I read what I wrote to her so many years ago:

She smiled and said, "You were a writer even then."

We giggled. More tears. I read. We looked for the hidden crickets amongst the sweet pages like we always did way back when. I closed the page and said, "You will always be my baby. Wherever I am, you will always have a home. And nothing will change until you are ready for it to."

So ... with all that said ... I ask you to pray for Texas. Change and heartache come ... that's a real and unavoidable part of life. But there is relief in sharing the pain. Let yourself cry. Cast your cares on the God who loves you and on family and friends who love you. Focus on what is salvageable. Curl up in the heavenly and earthly arms that ease around your shoulders. Go through the motions, but still your heart until you are ready to take on the change.

I honestly don't know. But this I know

"Love covers over all wrongs." Proverbs 10:12

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Very, Very Merry Christmas Vlog From Me to You!

Thank you for always stopping by. 
I am so blessed by you, to know you, to hear from you. 
Thank you for all of your selves that you weekly give to me.
Every moment that I've thought to myself, Shelli, what are you doing? 
You answer my question by helping push me to keep going, dig deeper, and be better.
You are dear to my heart ... don't ever doubt it.
I'm excited and hopeful to share 2016 with you.
And if you have about 4 minutes to spare, I'd like to talk to you from Texas ... about what to scrape your life on ... how not to scrape make-up on your shirt ... how to properly remove a shirt ... well, y'all know me. 
Silly things always happen to me.
But I love laughter, joy, reasons to smile.
Listen for my sheep in the background.
And I'm sorry I'm not better at this video-recording vlog thing.
And Jesus ... the reason for every breath we take ... glory to God on the highest.

From my home to yours ...

 Come inside ...
This writing inspiration might look familiar to some of you.

Our tree ... see the cats underneath?

Me and my girls

Monday, December 14, 2015

Finding Treasures at Cracker Barrel

The Cracker Barrel chairs out front rock and sway. We slip inside, and I head straight to the bathroom. That's a joke in my house because I can't go from Point A to Point B without needing to find a restroom. 

"You can go get a table. I'll find y'all," I say.  

I pass this sweet elderly man waiting by the restroom door. He's propped his elbows up on the counter. He looks so out of place, yet so comfortable. Peaceful. Purposeful. Maybe he's waiting for his wife. I smile. He smiles. I feel drawn to him.

We eat dinner. I'm so routine. Chicken and dumplings for me ... light on the chicken. The dumplings are my favorite part. Why waste valuable, limited space on your least favorite part? 

We make our way to the exit with these treasures tucked away in a brown paper sack. All three of us girls have one item each. 

Can you guess which treasure is mine?

Plus two Andes thin chocolate mints each ... the kind in the green package. My sweet proof is missing.

We push through the door, and there is that sweet man sitting in a rocking chair out front. I smile.

"Bye," I say.

"Don't forget to write," he replies, with a smile.

I laugh myself hysterically all the way to the car. His personality reminds me of my grandfather. It took maximum restraint not to run up and hug him. Walking the length of that front porch, I have to repeat his comment to the girls and explain a little, and then they laugh themselves hysterically, too.

"Don't forget to write." The treasured meaning knocks me right upside the head, wraps around my shoulders like a scarf, and pulls me in for a tender kiss.

Yes, Lord, I'm listening. I won't forget to write. I'll write. I will. 

When discouraged, O Soul Within, the Lord knows and sees. And He speaks through the least likely people, who end up being the most likely people. It really all makes sense.

What if that sweet man were waiting for me? All along. What if he was an angel? What if?

And I'm reminded of a journal that was given to me recently, at a lady's retreat I spoke at. I didn't have time to make one like everyone else because I spent time in prayer and preparing. But I shared about how special journaling had been in my life. And before I left, the ladies gave me my very own. It's so cute, y'all. It even has a tiny journal pocketed on the inside.

And I know the Lord is speaking straight to my soul. Oh, the sweetness that waits for me. 


Don't forget me, He breathes into my heart. Time is valuable and limited. I'm the only one who makes sense.

Write your novel story for me, to me, share with me. 


Share your life with me. Share your days and nights with me. Push through the doors to see me. Listen for me. Let me be your routine. 

Select me. Seek me with all your heart. Let me be your favorite partyour treasure.

I am so un-fit for The King, but He pursues me anyway, like I'm the greatest gift in the world. It's humbling ...

Our treasures from Cracker Barrel. Did you guess correctly?!

Merry Christmas!

Have you ever wondered if you'd just entertained an angel? Or perhaps wondered if an angel had just entertained you? Has God ever used someone interesting, least expected, to speak to your heart? I'd love to hear your story. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

More of the Story--Cleaning out the Closet

Just so you know, this may very well be one of my life's most embarrassing moments ... but some things, you just have to own ... ACB it ... admit, confess, and believe God will use it. 

"My first job, at only 15, entailed working at a five-and-dime. My tiny paycheck came by way of cash and loose change in a brown paper sack.

Christmas Eve had passed, and my boss divided the leftover Christmas candy that had never sold between us 5 employees. I was thrilled—kids and candy.

After work, I walked into my home with my bag of candy..."

Please join me for more of the story at WMU ... 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

When Christmas Ornaments Become Holiday Baubles

The doors swing open wide, and I head into the post office, with the cool breeze trailing, to mail off my latest article. With no waiting line, it's going to be a good day. Yes! I just feel it.

"Do you need stamps today?" the lady asks.

Do I need...? "Yes, I do."

"What kind?" She displays several ... gingerbread houses, ornaments.

"I'll take the Christmas ornaments," I cheerily say, with a smile. They're cute
red, green, and blue dangly things. And with all the Hallmark Christmas love movies my daughter's been recording and forcing upon me, Christmas is definitely in the air surrounding my merry heart.

The lady corrects me. "They're Holiday Baubles," she sternly says, without a smile.

I'm not quick on my toes. And suddenly I'm reduced to wondering if I've been calling them the wrong name all along. Like I've done something wrong. I walk out, my soul deflated. Confused.

The more I think about it, sitting in the car and gripping the steering wheel till my knuckles whiten, the more saddened and confused I feel. The bitter mixture stirs and stirs in my heart and gut, pleading for Rolaids. Some type of relief. Some type of salvation.

I look closer ...

When I arrive home, I look up the word "bauble" in the dictionary. I'm 40+ years old, and I'm not sure I've ever heard that word before. Okay, so maybe I'm not as worldly as others. But I think I know what a Christmas ornament looks like.

"Bauble" is actually a Middle English word, from Old French. Even The Free Dictionary on-line gets it right by stating this:

1. showy toy or trinket of little value; trifle
2. small, usually spherical ornament made of coloured or decorated material which is hung from the branches of a Christmas tree. Usual US name: Christmas ornament
3. (Historical Terms) (formerly) a mock staff of office carried by a court jester

Most might say not to make a big deal about it. It's just stamps. Lady, it's just stamps. Come on. Get Real.

And nothing is wrong with the word "holiday" or "bauble" ... 

But I've been corrected. That's the heart of the issue. 

You won't say Christmas, you'll say holiday.

And it hurt my heart. Her words, attitude, hurt my heart. Yeah, O Soul Within, it hurts, and the pain is real. It's one thing to be imposed upon ... sanctions imposed on our hearts ... we tend to expect impositions these days ...

Don't you love Jesus. Don't you pray. Don't you trust Him. Don't you tell anyone if you do. And don't you share Him. Don't ask, don't tell policy. And if you're asked, you better deny ... if you want to live.

But in the Bible Belt? It hurts to see the belt loosening. And it appears to have definitely been loosened a notch or two. And still the weight above that belt is lopping over onto people, individuals, hearts ...

The very omission reduces Christmas to a mere trinket of little value; trifle. It mocks everything God did for usthe miraculous Luke 2 wonder of the world, Jesus, the Son, virgin birth, becoming the God-man. It says that Christsurrendering everything to come to this earth, sacrificing more than we'll ever know, to exchange Heaven for us, to be born in a lowly manger, to live for us, to fight for us, to die for us ... for our sinmeans nothing. The miracle is trifle. 

It smugly yet naively says, "What miracle?"

The very act says that "Christmas" is not worth mentioning

A first class love means nothing.

The miracle of Christmas reduces from a God-man Day to a mere man-made day. 

With the chaos and violencehardships, needthat woefully weave the frayed fragments of our world, when empty eyes and empty hearts and empty stomachs are desperate for salvation, reaching out with empty hands ... there has never been more a time to keep Christ in Christmas. To keep Christmas in Christmas. To look for the miracles. 

O Soul Within, some things are black and white. What will you allow to forever stick on your heart's wall? Be careful what you let stick on your heart's wall.

O Soul Within, you may feel powerless. But remember God's power and what you can do 

~Remember to pray.

~Remember what you really needJesus' first class love. Forever.

~Remember Christ in Christmas, keep Him there, let truth nestle into your heart forever and ever. 

~Remember to impart Him to your children.

~Remember that you have it right. Don't get used to the wrong. Getting used to the wrong doesn't make it right.  

~And as long as you have a voice, O Soul Within, remember to say, with every Christ-given privilege and right ...

Merry Christmas.

This video has ministered to my heart all week long ... I hope it ministers to you, as well ...

*How do you safeguard your heart from subtle changes and stealth arrows continually thrown? Can you add to the list? What do you say? What do you remind your self?