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.
 
 
 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fragile

I had to let go.
 
After spending the prior year protecting that little one - only thirteen months old - from bumps and bruises, releasing her into surgery was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. 
 
But time was short. The kidney tumor was growing rapidly. In two weeks, it was already softball size. It had to be removed.
 
My heart ached in that waiting room. My stomach ached. When her name was called, I had to take that journey with her to prepare for surgery.
 
Back in the holding room, she was given a medication to make her sleepy. And I rocked her trusting baby self, stroking her precious baby hair.
 
In time, a young woman, spotted through the door window, began walking down the long corridor toward us. Inhale. Exhale. She opened the door, ready to take our baby girl. I placed her into a stranger's arms.
 
Would they hold her secure? Would they treat her with tender care?
 
Praying over the doctor's hands, I begged God to guide them.
 
I took that trek, empty handed, back into the waiting room with my family.
 
I had no choice.
 
She was a fragile life ... held in God's hands.
 
We are a fragile life ... held in God's hands.

Often, we must wrestle to realize - God is the only One worthy of holding too tightly. He's the only One who will never leave. He's the only One who can never be taken away. He's the only One we just can't shake.

And ... He's the only One who faithfully holds us. 

Choose Him.

The only One.

He will hold secure. He will treat with care.

We can trust our fragile life in God's agile hands.
 
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” - Genesis 32:26

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Accused

On her knees
she stands accused
like a child.
Again.


Her heart skips straight to her Father.
And in that quiet place
her heart rips and tears to shreds.
Her heart bleeds over the pain she's caused herself and others.

And the tears ...

And she cries out to God -

I can't withstand this much longer.
How long?

How long will this tarry?
Oh, Lord, how long will You tarry.
Because I don't know how long I can tarry.

And He scoops His broken, lifeless child in His hands.
He rips the enemy's accusation.
He resuscitates her with His righteousness.
Because He is completely guilty of loving her.
And He stands her to her feet.
Again.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. - Psalm 34:18

**

The enemy will graze us with guilt-ridden jeers, then he'll turn and graze on our every single tear.

The guile of the enemy is to remind us of our guilt, knowing full well he is guilty, too.

**

Reaching Up

Help me
I want to be
Far from pain
In a world of gain. 

Help me
It’s hard to see
A different me
Yeah, a different me. 

I’m reaching up
Take this cup
You are my hero; you are my rescue; you are my Savior
Come for me. 

Help me
I want to be
Free at last
Far from the past 

Help me
Your face I see
You’ve come for me
Yeah, You’ve come for me. 

I’m reaching up
Take this cup
You are my hero; you are my rescue; you are my Savior
Come for me.
 
Song written for my beloved grandmother.
©Shelli Littleton 2013

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

All for Love

Driving to church, on the way to Vacation Bible School, she saw something odd on that old county roadside. It wasn't a rabbit. It wasn't a squirrel - the usual sightings. Her mind scrolled like a computer through the assortment of possibilities, crossing off each one.

He said, "It's a kitten."

She said, "It was! Turn around!"

He whipped that car around, pulled over on the roadside, and hollered, "Hurry! A car's coming."

She and her two girls jolted out of that car, and three tiny kittens came crying to them, seeking help. Hands outstretched with love, those babies were picked up, one by one. Ensuring she wasn't leaving anyone behind or there wasn't a momma cat, she searched the nearby brush.

Out of the brush, a tiny black baby came crying. With outstretched hands, she caught hold of it.

Three boys and a girl



The black one is the strongest and most active.


The calico is the weakest, most needy.



And the gray ones are just right. They snuggle.


We have nourished and cleaned them. Thankfully, we've taken fleas off them and haven't taken fleas for them yet.

Loving and comforting them came so easily.
 
A tiny salsa bowl.
 
Shades vary. Strengths vary. Different, but they all have purpose. They are all beautiful. They have all taken our hearts. We have known them for mere days, and ...

our hearts are wrapped around their
tiny paws with claws.



Unable to keep them, we'll begin looking for good homes. And already, tears flow at the mere mention of the parting.

***

Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt turning his back, in a sense, on John (the Baptist)? If He wept over the temporary death of Lazarus, how His God-man heart must have ripped over John. There John sat in prison, and Jesus could have rescued him, just as he could have saved Himself on that cross. But the plan. There was a greater plan.

God saw our desperate need, whipped around, and with outstretched arms, Jesus embraced the cross. And we'd be fools not to run to Him. John was definitely part of that plan.

To aid us on this journey, nourish and clean us up, God often brings a variety of folks into our lives with outstretched arms to - encourage, offer advice, give direction. Valuable ones come into our lives, by no mere coincidence, leave their mark, and sometimes exit - the plan.

***

Last week, I voiced a concern on a middle grade novel I'm working on. I often wonder if I'm wasting my time. Will it ever leave my computer desktop? Should it? God brought a dear friend into my life to relay this to me:

"Shouldn’t you trust us – the people who appreciate your skill and faith – to like what you do?

In team-building exercises, there’s the famous ‘falling backwards’ exercise, in which you trust the people you’re teamed with to catch you before you crack your head.

We’ll catch you, Shelli. We love you."

There is no way to express what those words meant. They are now forever etched on my heart. They brought courage.

There are those who bless our lives more than we could ever relay. We never know how long they'll grace our lives - here today, out tomorrow.

But we take the painful risk over and over again.

All for love.



Friday, June 13, 2014

Redeemed

They had just moved in, shelves still bare. But it was time to downsize further. Stuffed animals were the first to go. 

A celebration was called and invitations sent out for a final farewell. Everyone was summoned.

Upon receiving the news, stuffed animals arrived from every location.



All colors of the rainbow were accounted for. It was a beautiful gathering, for these animals had been down a very long road together. They had been there for two little girls to enjoy and love.

Purchased, given, won - each was special in its own way.

Some were stained, some torn, some worn, some slightly rejected. 

Once assembled, a tea party was the order of the day.


After the party, everyone gathered and said their final goodbyes. The parting was sweet sorrow.

Tears. "They are mine. We'll never see them again."

A few months later, while in the process of donating more items to a local donation store, those two little girls had a brilliant plan:

"Mom, we want to walk into the store and see what they have for sale."

"No," said Mom, heartbroken by their pleas and her own love for what was lost. "I know you will go find those stuffed animals and buy them back. You will save them. You will take back what is yours."

"Aw, Mom!" exclaimed disappointed faces.
 
Similarly, God did what it took to buy us back, to redeem us. He sent His Son to the cross to make a way for us.

We are that special to Him.

No matter what we have done, where we have been, the huge mess we think we have made -

some stained, some torn, some worn, some slightly rejected -

God will take back what the enemy tried to take from Him.
 
We never have to say good-bye. We never have to experience the sorrow of perishing, being eternally separated from Him.
 
He loves us that much.
 
We are His joy. We are His.

With a life given to Christ, the shelves never need be bare.

For when we pass through the threadbare waters of abandonment, fear, rejection, loss, and the like, He is there. 

In spite of the temptation to deem ourselves unworthy in our hearts and in our heads, we have been redeemed.
 
We have been purchased, given eternal life ... we have won! And our future celebration won't be for parting, but for eternal.

Together forever.
 

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mineWhen you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior ...."
- Isaiah 43:1-3



** The girls still have a closet full of stuffed animals.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Malta

If you got your hands on June's issue of WMU's Missions Mosaic magazine, on the precious missionary couple in Malta, you might want to read this update on the family.

Robin Pinkston shares more of the octopus story ...!

Remain

She had come so far to see Him.
Miles.
So much had changed in her life.
Though she knew He was aware,
she couldn't wait to sit down and share the details with Him -
the main.

But she found herself busy.
Busyness ... writing, visiting, working,
making and meeting appointments, volunteering.
She had her life to maintain.

Pony saddled, wagon loaded, and one last brush through its mane,
it occurred to her - she came all that way.
She hadn't really spent time with Him.
All that way ...
for what?
Why did she go?
What was her purpose?
Why didn't she show Him how special He was?
Why did she let the precious time slip away?
He was her Mainstay.

She had squandered her time.
That wasn't the plan.
What would remain?

It was time to pull up a chair.


Yeah.

Going down Main Street can be tough.
 
 
Dreams cut down.
 

Injuries occur.
 


What remains?

**

We can't go it alone
 
 
And we must be careful who we follow,
who we lend our valuable time.
 
 
God has a wonderful, meticulous plan for our lives.
 
 
We must remain in our Mainstay -
the main.
If we do, He makes this promise -
 
"I am the vine; you are the branches."


 
 
"If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:5
 
 
 
 
 


Friday, May 30, 2014

Change

My very first vlog!
Please be forgiving,
and forgive my early morning, high pitched greeting.
I'm learning.
 
And remember,
God sees, and you matter to Him.
 
So very blessed by you,
Shelli 
 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stumps

 
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I ran over another one," he said shakily.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm okay, but the blade is bent."

**

 Five beautiful treed acres
 

can be intimidating
on that riding lawn mower
for one good reason -
tree stumps.

 
Hitting those stumps is unnerving.
And they seem to outnumber the grains of sand.
 
After the last soaking rain,
the ground has softened.
The stumps' surrounding soil shriveled causing the stumps to be more prevalent ...
more dangerous.
And he took fire to as many tree stumps as he could find.
 
 
After a good burning, monitored closely,
the stumps fell apart.
Taking a shovel, he removed the fragments.
Thankfully, due to the storms, the softened ground made for easier removal.
Those stumps will never be encountered again.
 
  
The tree stumps in our lives are present.
We think we have resolved problems in our lives
only to discover unresolved roots still present.
The tree has been cut down,
but the stump remains.

Bitterness
Anger

Yeah.

Mom and Dad divorced when I was a child.

Yeah.
 
They often lie dormant until life's rains fall.
The stump's surrounding fragile foundation shrivels,
and the stump raises its ugly head.
 
We run into them.
We stumble and fall.
We are bent and broken.
 
If we don't allow God
- the owner of our life's property,
our sure foundation -
to handle issues,
after the storms,
 while soil is soft,
setting holy fire and getting to the root,
we'll fall apart with the next good stiff breeze.
 
  
One of life's greatest feats is overcoming life's defeats.
 
 
 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sweet 16


She rode all the way to her grandmother's house
sandwiched between her grandfather and her grandmother
in the front seat of that Buick Regal.
She squealed, "Ma-Maw, your squashing me!"
And her grandmother laughed herself silly.
Never had she heard anyone use the word "squash" as a verb.
(And her grandmother never let her forget it!)
Oh, the minute the car drove up the long, sandy driveway
- the sand that had felt so good and cool between her toes -
bypassing the baseball beaten mailbox,
Charlie-horse, the cows and guineas, the peach trees,
and pulled up to that
old frame house on that Texas county road,
she pelted out the car door,
threw open the front door,
made a bee-line to the bedroom,
pounced on the old handmade, quilt laden twin bed,
and joyfully exclaimed,
"Home, sweet home!"

***
 
The house - gone.
The quilts and beds - burned in the fire.
But the memories - live forever.

Oh yes ...
there is nothing quite like home.

 
 
 
Even with all the critters hanging around ...
 
 
View from inside the house.


Side view as it moved to door frame.

And this is one little critter I love to see hanging around this home ...
 
 
 
 
She's "Sweet 16."
Oh, yes she is.
 
 
 
 
Over sixteen years ago,
I thought I might never have a family.
But God gave us Karalee.
 
Years prior to that,
my surgeon stood over my hospital bed
and said that I'd have a 50% chance of conception.
A family - out of grasp.
The tears cried - countless.
Having a family was my childhood dream.
 
My husband had always wanted to adopt.
We took a step out in faith.
That step felt good ...
so good.
 
I clung to God with my every breath.
He rescued me -
I discovered that knowing Him was
my true childhood dream.
It felt so freeing to say:
Your will, not mine.
Close the door; keep it open.
What a roller coaster of a ride!
 
Praise God! He threw open that door! 
 
One year old, 1999
 She has made our lives so sweet.
She has made our lives "home, sweet home."
She has driven our lives with laughter,
pounced our hearts with love,
made a bee-line to give us memories to last an eternity ...
a journal full to forever bring laughter and joy.
And she loves blue, Jesus, and children.
 
It's hard to think of her pelting out the door to leave home one day.



 
But I know God has a plan for her life ...
His perfect path for her ...
an amazing ride ...
starting on this Texas county road.
And, from every angle, I have peace.
Wherever God leads her ...
I'll go!
(just teasing! Well ...?)


Sisters celebrating birthday at Disney World

He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 113:9