Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Prayer For A Persistence That Will Stand

The truck veered off the busy county road. 

My eyes widened. Really? I've been wanting to take a picture of this for forever. A warm smile spread over my face on this beautiful autumn day. 

"Watch where you put your foot."

"I will." I opened the door, stepped one foot out. Just tall grass. And honestly, I don't care. You know that car pulled over, someone taking a picture on the road-side? Yes, that's probably me. I've suffered swarms of fire-ant bites to feed baby calves. It's irrelevant. 

There she stood. Tall, broad, but rusty and weary. Falling to pieces. Watching her, I could imagine the groans on the inside. But she's still standing. The most beautiful barn I've ever seen. Well, not quite. I guess that position will always belong to the barn on my grandparent's property. But each barn is so beautiful to me. 

The timing, the setting=perfection. The tall grass wavy in the breeze. A perfect pond set in front of the masterpiece. A clump of old logs sat piled off to the side. 

I rested my arms over the gate, steadying myself for the perfect photo. Something to capture what only my eyes can fully embrace.

Got it. Well, maybe.

Only then did my eyes shift past the beauty to the busy interstate beyond. Cars, trucks zooming by. Businesses, billboards, and clutter lining the background.

I released my held breath.

Lord, give me persistence to endure this life, this writing life, this family life, this walk of faith, this daughter life, this mother life, this sister life. 

Keep my eyes focused on you, on the beauty, for forever. 

I thought over my first published article, 2007, like the moment was yesterday. I pressed the answering machine to hear the recording. "Congratulations, Shelli. Your persistence paid off." Tears streamed. Joy filled my heart. A characteristic some would loathe took me one step further down the road I so love. 

I snapped picture after picture. 

Rested my arms again. 

Father, you know my inward pains and groans. You know my heart. Give me what it takes to persist. Use me. Gift me. To gift others. Let my resolve be strong. 

Let my foot keep stepping out in spite of the surrounding fears, in peace. This little girl from Texas, the one who sweat bullets to stand in front of others. The one whose greatest fear in life was an oral book report. The one who ducked down low in her seat to keep from reading aloud, praying the teacher's sight would pass me by.

Father, how you can take our greatest fears and turn them into our greatest dreams is beautiful. Breath-taking.

Keep me standing. Keep my resolve tall and broad through the rusty and weary moments. Because the rusty and weary add character and beauty to my life's picture. The clump of old logs that seems a hindrance to the photo adds beauty. Vintage beauty to a life. 

Help me to embrace, utilize, and see with your eyes all that is before methe encouraging friends lining the view whose support and nourishment seems miles deep, those continually waving me on.

Allow my persistence to be beautiful to someone. Let my resolve persist like an old Texas barn, still standing after all these years. Because Father, your timing, your filter, your setting equal perfection. 


Do you have a heart request? How may I pray for you?

And I have an article in October's issue of WMU's Mission Mosaic magazine and a cover story in November's on missions in Philly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When You Need Divine Intervention

One foot in front of the other. I leap over the one remaining stump on the property. And my muscles scream out in reluctance with each step. It's been a while, a while since I've jogged. But I've been thrust into middle age, and I want to be the best middle-ager I can be.

Every cell hollers, "What are you doing to me?" as they jostle around. "We need divine intervention," they cry.

Trying to lead, the sheep bump into me. They haven't quite figured out the follow thing, and I stumble to regain ground. This middle-ager thing has my joints crying out, too. In the last month, my pain-free legs have turned achy and don't pound the ground with steadiness like they used to. 

The neighbor's donkey and goats stare at me as I pass, wanting me to stop. Eeyore's silky soft nose calls to me. Thank goodness for the trees, hiding me from plain view.

I turn the corner, pass the swing, and almost jump out of this middle-ager skin. I stop abruptly. 

My daughter is sitting there, huffing and puffing. "I tried to catch up with you," she says, struggling to speak between breaths. Inhaling deeply, she continues, "I called your name, but you didn't stop."

She'd taken the short-cut to catch up to me.

Tears sprang to my eyes.

I wrap her in my arms.

"I never want to miss your call." 


Arm in arm, this middle-ager and teen-ager walk side by side. We break loose, proceeding to finish this walk, one foot in front of the other.

"Do you want to jog?" I ask.

She's still huffing and puffing. "No."

We laugh.

My mind is still whirling with the fact that she had needed me. She'd been calling out to me. I'd missed her. 

But she'd caught me.

And I thought of the One who never misses my call. That very morning, only moments before the jog, God had answered my call. Not just my call. I'd been working on an article that was stumping me, knocking me down. I couldn't get the path, the plan. I had the information. But how can I make this the best it can be? How can I present this to glorify God? To honor the person it's about? 


I slumped around the house all day yesterday. Sat at the computer and pieced together two stories, just a little different from the other. No good. "God, I need help." This usually comes fairly easy to me. What am I doing wrong? What am I doing differently? Have I been trying to take the short-cut? But this? Ugh. "Help me, God." 

I share the information with my family, in hopes to get pointed in the right direction. Nothing.

That's it. Stop everything. 

I write for help. 

I'd covet your prayers for an article I'm working on. Sometimes it's so easy, but sometimes, like now ... it's just hard. And I beg God to show me what He wants revealed from this precious person's life.

Instantly, one person after another offers to pray. Prayed right on the spot. For me. For this article. 

Lord, give Shelli eyes to see what you see in this precious person, and words to let the rest of us in on the secret. Amen.Shirlee Abbott

I love your tender heart, dear Shelli.Wendy Macdonald

You need divine guidance. I'll pray to that end.Norma Wieland

So many more. I went to bed, pulling the covers up under my chin, in perfect peace, knowing prayers were being lifted on my behalf. I thought of It's a Wonderful Life, everyone praying for George Bailey. Peace. A smile broke out.

I woke up this morning with a plan. Didn't do a single thing, but ran into my office and began typing away. The article came together, like always.

It is finished.

Tears sprang to my eyes. And my spirit clapped for God, clapped for His people for faith, His people of faith, for the chance at faith.

Where two or more are gathered. Yes.

He will be found.

We serve the One who answers the call.

Can you share a time when you needed intervention? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

God Uses The Broken Teacups

Company would be arriving soon.

I evaluated the dishes through the dirty glass. Evaluating my options, I saw the good, and I saw the broken. Through my distorted lens.

I opened the door and reached inside the cabinet.

My fingertip circled the the porcelain edges, settling and lodging into the chipped surface, and I thought not to use that piece. Another dish had been pieced and glued back together. No good.

Cracks and lines showing. Stained.

They weren't good enough to use. They weren't presentable. I'd been told that all my life. Someone could get injured. Someone would be embarrassed.

Use the good. Use the best. Act as though you're serving the King.

My heart sank low. What if God never used the broken? What if we embarrassed him? What if He kept the damaged hidden away? Because of the way that it looked or the way that it felt.

What if He had the mind of man? My heart sank lower.

I've felt it all my lifeI'm fake. I'm not whole, not good enough, not proper enough. I'm not deserving. I'm an embarrassment. 

To those who aren't broken.

Don't pick me. Don't use me. Don't raise your hand. Don't share your faith. Don't put her on display. She's broken. You're broken. 

Shelli, you're broken.

Your family can't be this or can't be that because ... you're broken.

She might hurt others. Being rough around the edges could hurt someone, inflict slight injury. They might think it's okay to be broken.

But He has the mind of God. Glory. My heart began to rise. And He whispered to my heartI'm the glue that binds you. I'll break you, but I'll bind you. I'm the glue sealing you together. I've settled and lodged into you. Because I'm your all. Does that not make you special? Valuable? User-worthy and user-friendly? 

Like me.

Fractures and chips chisel character into your life, like a vintage home's crown molding.

And If the cracks cause others to bleed, maybe they need my broken and binding, too. You leave that to me. God whisperedmaybe I know what I'm doing.

O Soul Within, who are you to judge who can and can't be used? Don't judge yourself, Shelli. Don't bully yourself.

God sees all. The glass is never too dirty for Him to see. He's sees the broken and unbroken. 

And He reaches for you.

He sees you from a distance, and He sees you magnified. God sees the whole picture.

He sees the lines, He feels the cracks, and He still takes you by the hand. 

Because what is real? Real is what you have to give. What I feel ... what I see ... me.

When the brokenness causes a resemblance to Himbroken like Jesusplace out the fractured, chipped, and the glued. Set the table.

His is the company we seek to please. We're serving the King.

Gratefulness in my heart had awoken.

We serve a God who uses the broken.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Scraping Certain Memories Out The Back Door

My grandmother never wasted anything, not a plastic butter container, not a milk jug, not a scrap of fabric. What didn't clutter her kitchen counters, cluttered her storage spaces. She didn't throw away anything, not even leftover scraps from a meal. Surely a sheer reflection of the Depression. Because a scrap of fabric could be used to make a quilt, a milk jug could store water for electrical outages.

Watching her scrape off the plates, all extra food going into a tin plate, is a sweet memory. "I'll throw it out to the dogs," she'd say, and wipe her hands on the front of her flour-covered blouse. When all the plates had been cleared and washed, the counters and tables all cleaned, we'd take the tin plate, heaped with food scraps, and head to the back door. The screen door would screech open, and the dogs would come running. There was no disguising or mistaking her scrap-pile... the dogs ran to it and so did the swarming flies. Stomach-turning remnants covered the ground.

Memoriesit's what we bring into the storehouse of our hearts and minds. It's a precious commodity, something we keep. Something we hope to hang onto all our lives, until our last breath.

But we have good, and well, we have bad.

And sometimes it seems like the bad just grows and grows, like yeast has been added to the disagreeable ingredients. Just gets fatter and fatter, busting and bursting out the doors and windows of our minds and hearts. The guest overstays his welcome and takes up too much space. The guest gets bossy and decides who'll eat where, who'll sit where, who'll sleep where, and who'll need to make accommodations for the night. He pushes out all the good.

And he just eats and eats away at your nerves, your confidence, your faith, even your memory of good.

And we look around and see that our counters are covered and cluttered with leftovers, dirt and grime, and a stench that can't be described, unworthy of description. Even the cow-trails remaining are threatened. Leftovers needing to be thrown out to the dogs and the flies.

We can't always choose what comes in and out of our lives, but we can choose what stays, what stays inside. We can choose what needs to be thrown out.

Like standing at my front living room window, at only eight years old, watching my daddy drive away ... away forever from my family. Tears pouring out my eyes, I cried, "Daddy, Daddy, I love you." Oh, my daddy.

Like feeling the sting of rejection. The 8th grade boy who walked by my middle-school desk and said with a scowl, "You have long, skinny fingers. And your hair looks like Medusa."

Like grieving over a huge mistake. Only a kid and ruining my life.

Those are leftovers, throw-out memories. Not throw-away, just throw-out. We'll never be entirely free of them. But our good memories don't deserve to be pushed out the door. Our good memories deserve the guest of honor place at our table.

And O Soul Within, some ground-breaking news, that's what we'll make up our mind to do. We have to be intentional in this life, tend to the memories, because another has unhealthy intentions for us.

O Soul Within, gather those leftovers, one by one. The ones that stink and destroy. Scrape them into the tin scrap bowl of honor. Because that tin bowl deserves a place of honor, too. It's the temporary storage that keeps our countersour hearts and mindsfree and clean. Free of all the dirt and grime, leaving room for all the cleanthe China, the teacups, faith, Christ-esteem, space, lovely space.

Take those steps, one by one.

Open that back door and bask in the beautiful sounds of the screechy screenthe gatekeeper to our hearts, the one that stays closed and only opens when you choose. Only opens when the bad needs to be thrown out or used ... blessedly used for good. Not used for bad. And that's why they aren't throw-aways because sometimes God uses our throw-outs. 

Scrape it out, sweep it out, let it drop, let it fly. Toss it to the bottom-land, like nobody's business. Let it stay. Let the dogs come, let the flies swarm. Because that's the back door. The scrap pile. No one else needs to go there, because it's nobody's business. Only your selected few come through there.

And then you smile, walk back into your clean kitchen, take a deep breath, and bask in the wonderful sights and smells of the new, the apple pie scent wafting, the fresh bread baking, the sun shining in through the front window, rays so vivid and beautiful you could reach out and touch them

Like knowing your daddy loves you with all his heart and remembering how he tells you often, how you'll always be his little angel no matter how old you get.

Like being named Homecoming Queen your senior year, and the one who called you all those names wants to escort you.

Like feeling the tiny fingers and toes of your newborn, 18 years ago, and counting them one by one. And knowing your mistake may very well have led you here, to this child, to this beautiful place.


Like knowing with all your heart that God knows what's best and directs your steps, and even uses your past.

Prop open the front door, and hang the welcome sign. Bring out the white, clean tablecloth, unfold it a tad, and thrust it out. Open wide. Spread it out over the dining room table in your spacious heart, and place the best China because ... well ... it's time for a new meal, for a real meal, for a feast. A beautiful, clean, new feast. With guests of our choosing. Only guests of our choosing. Welcomed guests.

With remnants of love, blessing, and honor.


Do you have difficult, painful memories? Have you struggled with letting them keep a prominent place in your mind and heart? Do you have any thing you need to toss out?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Because Sometimes A Baby Bird Still Needs Its Mama

Baby Bird, the orthodontist said it was time to remove your wisdom teeth. If you don't, when those teeth come in, they'll mess up all the work your beautiful braces have accomplished. 

But wait, hold on, slow down ... you just lost your front teeth.

Yes, this is how I still view you, some days. This growing-up thing and leaving-home thing is not easy on this mama's heart. Sometimes hard choices have to be made. You start college August 29th. Let's get those teeth pulled now. 

I've been watching you test-fly, Baby Bird. Pushing you out of this nest, even to the edge, has been the hardest thing this Mama Bird will ever do, because I'm a home-schooling, hovering, helicoptering mama. Unashamedly. Why should I be ashamed? I love you. I need you. God has used you incredibly in my lifeto give me reason to wake up each morning, to seek His face, to fall on my face. 

And I'm not sure whoever said to push your baby bird from the nest would be my friend. That could cause injury. I don't think I like that person very much. 

Because I tend to love the taxi method. Can we just keep taxiing down the runway for a very long time? Taxi down, skipping, wings touching. So I can stay beside you. But I'm not as young as I used to be, and honestly I can't keep up with you. And I'm also completely out of breath. But eventually, you have to hit the end and soar on your own. 

On your own, you walk back in the oral surgeon's office to have your wisdom teeth pulled. I'm pretty hurt and disappointed that they won't even let me go back with you, that I can't hold your hand. They won't let me be there for your first IV. The hovering, helicoptering thing has to be stifled. And I have to act Christian-like.

When I sit down, panting, I notice a text and bird-call from Grandma Bird, wondering if I'm okay. Because a mama still needs her mama. I'm going to make it, Grandma Bird.

I know baby birds have to soar on their own. Find what their own is, find their own home. I don't need any reminders. And thank goodness I still have your little baby sister. But you're a beautiful flyer. I love your wings, watching you test your wings, and the way you soar. I love the strength I see in you, and I'm sure you'll soar higher than I ever could, than I ever dreamed I could.

Daydreaming, I sit there waiting and reviewing the previous days of watching you drive off in your car on a test-run with your sister and your friends to go see a movie. It's strange being left behind. But it's okay. I didn't want to see that movie anyway. 

And you're a strong, independent woman. 

But as I've been cleaning out feathers from this nest that you still inhabit, that isn't quite empty, I wonderdo you still need me?

No, Grandma Bird, I haven't heard anything yet.

The oral surgeon tells me you're all finished. When I sprint back, heart-fluttering, and step into the room, you've been crying. Your red-rimmed eyes give it all away. 

The air swooshes from my lungs. What have they done to you? That pivotal moment when Mama Bird morphs into Mama Bear.

The doctor touches my back. "It's okay. She was scared when she woke up. That's normal. It happens. Especially if they're afraid when they go to sleep." I barely remember anything he said after that. And get your hand off me. 

I rub up and down your legs, loving on you. And when you're finally able to walk, we start taxiing down the exit runway. I get you into the car, into the backseat. You were so brave, brave little test-flyer. But I can tell something isn't right inside. Looking through the rear-view mirror, I see tears bubbling up in your eyes. 

"Mama," you say, "I had an awful feeling when I woke up from the anesthesia." A look of horror comes over your face. "It was awful, Mama. I was so scared."

You need me. I put the car in park, jump out of the front seat, and climb in beside you in the back. Jet speed. I hold you as minutes tick by, until all the tears dry. I'll always hold you till the tears dry. Till you're ready to soar again. Till you don't need me anymore.

Grandma Bird, one thing about it, this event was traumatic.

One thing I've learned is that we can't soar forever. Sometimes we hit the ground. We land. Sometimes a rough landing requires a time to rest. A time to recharge. A time to heal. And when you hit the ground, I'll always do my best to be here for you. 

For as long as I have breath.

So before school starts, before you soar, and while you're grounded with chipmunk cheeks, an ice pack, and two shiners, I'll take the few moments to keep you under my wing, basking in the softness, warmth, and love of you, of it all

Like cuddling on the couch with you.

Like playing Princess Uno.

Like making homemade chocolate milkshakes, that great-grandma bird taught me how to make, and hearing, "You make the best, Mama."

Like walking outside on a dark night and hearing, "Mama, take a selfie with me."

Like watching you struggling to swallow pills, rooting for you, and knowing ...

Baby Bird, I'll remember these moments forever.


Do you have a moment that you'll remember forever? 
And I was just teasing about our oral surgeon ... he was great.

One week later

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Gentle Applause To A Generation Not Crippled By Acne

Daughters, I'm so impressed with you. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Standing at the glass back door, I overlook the shimmering water in my swimming pool. Perfection. I can't believe I have that in my backyard. I'm so pulled to open that door, step outside. Oh, how I've longed to take one of those pictures of my feet propped up at the pool on a hot summer day. But one has to be outside, in the sun, by the pool, to do that.

One day, Daughters, one day.

One has to slip on the bathing suit, the horrid reminder. Of all those years of pain, of fear, of embarrassment. The reminder of imperfection. Of being different. 

What happens when you wish your self away? The very skin you're in.

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. --Hebrews 10: 33-39

Do you hear that, Daughters?

Years spent wishing away acne-prone skin, especially on my back, can cripple a person. My confidence, confiscated. The lack of confidence still follows me around today, like a shadow. Go away, shadow. 

Years thrown away.

I've shunned the outdoors for years, only able to bear it with joy alone. We have the most amazing swimming pool, with a hot tub and even a fireplace. The view is incredibly beautiful and serene. We're so blessed. Who wouldn't long for that?

Who wouldn't long for freedom?

I slip into my memories of yesterday. But some reminders are not longed for in the heart.

Starting in high school, for years, I didn't want my bare back revealed. Being in the drill team made that extremely difficult. Going to my changing area, I'd try to hide, hurry to change, cover myself. Cover my shame. 

Keep your back turned from everyone. Don't let them see.

A visit to the dermatologist for slight facial breakouts led me to the threshold of help, but I was too embarrassed to tell them about my back. 

"Do you have any other problem areas?" 

"No, I don't." 

Fear and embarrassment, even youthful foolishness, lingered.

I'll never be free.

In my very own prison. The prison that moves when you do. Secret miseries running deep through your pores into your very soul.

I hated to wear bathing suits, tank tops, bridesmaid gowns. No, don't make me put my hair up. Torture. The beautiful topknot with ringlets hanging down only reveals my ugliness. Let my hair hang long, covering my back. Covering my embarrassment. Covering my shame.

Don't see. Don't look at me.

Shrinking back. Destroyed.

And who knows the pain of acne? Like needles sticking into my back. The slightest touch brings pain, to my back, to my heart. 

Years of on and off antibiotics, only to have it come back once off the medication. Persistence could define me.

Ushering out my appendix, along with an ovary, ushered away acne. Praise be. After all these years, praise be. After 30 years, I finally love the skin I'm in.

My daughter fights the same thing. How amazing that even though she's adopted, God made her just like me. She comes to me. Her dress is gorgeous. Zipping up her dress, I notice the speckles of acne on her back, her shoulders. Acne that persists once off antibiotics. 

"Daughter, do you want to wear a light jacket? To cover the bumps?" My handicap trying desperately to cripple her. Generational bondage. Bondage that yearns to imprison others. I think I'm trying to help.

"Mama, I don't care about it. All kids have it." She smiles. She even beams. She doesn't care. Well, okay then. Her confidence is like the dawn of a new day.

Daughter drags little sister to me. "Mama, look. She has her first bump on her face. Isn't it the cutest thing?" Both girls are giggling, unencumbered, unembarrassed, unafraid. Beaming.

I'm amazed. 

Fearless. Flawless. Free.

Go therefore, beautiful girls. Love the skin you're in. Don't take 30 years to go out in the sunshine. Throw open wide that door, release your hands, and embrace life. Do not throw away your confidence, sweet girls. Remember the One you belong to, Beloved of the Living God. Go out into this world. Persevere, Daughters. Prop up your feet. Live and love. Bring pleasure to your King.