Thursday, May 4, 2017

What Alzheimer's Can Never Take Away


Sweet, familiar faces greet me at the glass screen door. Through tender hugs and peering over beloved shoulders, I begin my search for her. It's hard to believe this day is here. I'm amazed. Her kids weren't sure she'd live to see this day. It's been a rough road lately, I hear. But she's entered into the hour of her 80th birthday.
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The last time I was here, she conversed with me. She won't be able to today.
I see her. I take in her sweet details from a distance.
She's so loved. Disease can take so much from a person. People can give up on you, and one can choose to give up on themselves and others, but from where I stand, Alzheimer's can't take away your loves. She is curled up on her side, on the couch, cuddled into her pillow and blanket. So much princess pink. Her loyal Maltese blends in to the white cotton pillowcase, taking up more pillow space than my aunt's precious face is. The beloved caregiver beckons the help of my cousin, the daughter, and they ease her to standing at the walker. The caregiver cups my aunt's face in her hands and kisses her forehead.
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She's so strong, even in her weakness. Because she's all heart--all heart that fought for grandkids, that survived cancer, that survived the loss of two beloved children, that survived the loss of a husband, that fought and survived so much more than I'll ever be privy to. Her fragile fingers grip the walker rails. Because Alzheimer's can't take away a fighting spiritTime after time, her kids wonder if she's being escorted away into the arms of God, but to everyone's surprise, He wonderfully escorts her wandering mind and body inch by inch to the table through the hands and feet of Christ. She takes a seat at the queen's chair, the candles are lit, and everyone gathers around her with love, in love.
Please join me for more of the story at my new website ...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Letting Go Of Your Child


It’s never easy. Letting go is never easy. Especially when you’ve had a needy kid. Life has always been a balancing act for me. One I fear I’ll never perfect. One kid is this way, and another is that way. One kid can eat anything; the other needs to proceed with caution. One has perfect balance; the other needs a hand. It’s just the way of it. But it’s also the life you carve out for yourself and your child when you’ve dealt with the big C. One kid is independent, but enduring surgery and chemotherapy takes a toll on the other … simple things can cause panic, weakness takes hold of the ankles.

Click on the link to my new website to read more ... 




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

When You Are Losing Your Vision

I fuss in the car. "No one can check to see if they have $7 to loan me?" I huff and puff. The girls remain quiet. "I'm going to have to stop for money. Where can I stop? Time is short. I should've done this earlier today ..." I pull into the gas station, use the ATM machine, and hit the road again.
Arriving at the church, I’m greeted and hugged by my cousin, and I hand over the ticket money.
And I just feel ...
I’m trying to make peace.
All 7 of us girls pile into a row of chairs.
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And the Lord waylays me.
Anthony Evans … front and center. "Come, Lord, like a rushing wind. We are desperate for your presence. Revive us by your Spirit within. We want to see you again … We remember all the great things you have done. We believe that greater things are yet to come. We remember all the great things you have done. We believe that greater things are yet to come."
My hand lifts into the air. I remember, Lord.
~~~

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Living on the Border of Danger


My girl reclines in the dental chair. Her x-rays hang enlightened on the wall behind her.
"You need to wear this retainer," the man says.
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Hard to believe two years had already passed, wearing braces. I didn't really want to get braces for this daughter because her teeth were straight, her bite was just off a bit. She had the cutest crooked smile. But the doctor insisted that her teeth wouldn't wear correctly, and she'd have trouble in her later years. But she had a gap in her front teeth for years, and I was told she needed this simple surgery to cut the gums between her teeth to allow her teeth to grow together. I didn't buy it. And sure enough, her two front teeth grew together over time without surgery. Why did she really need braces? We don't need perfection. My other daughter's braces came off months ago, and she constantly jokes that it looks like she's wearing dentures because her teeth are just too perfect. Too straight.
The dental assistant jumps up and runs toward me. "Did you hear there's been a mountain lion spotted in your area?" She shows me a picture on her phone. "The dog at Tiger Mart got killed" (this is where we refuel our vehicles, and the sad irony ...?).
I want to buckle over with grief. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

He Gave Me A Dr Pepper


When someone gives to me, I yearn to give in return. My heart is still melting into a little pool of mama love over my youngest daughter leaving a letter for me several weeks ago out in the mailbox that borders our property walking trail.
The fragrance of chocolate wafts through the Valentine aisle as I select the perfect little heart box. And what are these? Tiny ceramic type decorations to stake into a potted plant. Mushrooms, squirrels, gnomes. Bright and colorful, except for the squirrel. I know ... I'll place these along the trail. Daughter's been out walking every day. I'll surprise her.
The girls are gone. Finally. I race outside, insert the little heart box into the mailbox, sprinkle the ceramic decorations along the trail. It's time to wait.
I'm not a good waiter. Do you remember that my daughter waited 6 weeks for me to notice her letter? Whatever she has, I don't.
We return home from church. "You going walking today, daughter?" I try to hide my smile.
"Why?" She sees right through me. Blast.
The door closes, and I can't wait to hear from her. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
"Did you see anything?" I text her.
She texts back an attachment picture of her hand, holding a broken piece of glass. Oh, my word. Am I going to have to show her?
She texts me back. She found the heart box. "Is this for me?" Yep. She's walking the trail, but she's still not opened her eyes to what I've left her.
Sometimes one has to search a little deeper for treasure.
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I race out, uniting with younger daughter. Our steps join in the same direction. "Keep your eyes open," I say. I'm mentally trying to identify just exactly what makes the heart worthy and open to receive from others, to uncover buried treasure.

Find Someone To Love

We come across the little gnome. She smiles while giving me that mom-you-are-ridiculous look.
I laugh, a proud-mama moment.
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My oldest 18-year-old daughter's words surface in my memory. "Do you remember Evan, Mom?"
"No."
"I used to buy Evan a Dr. Pepper on Wednesday nights at church."

The Conditions Need To Be Just Right

Proceeding, the younger and I stumble across the mushrooms that I'd inserted into the soft soil. Both of them. One red. One blue.
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"I touched it earlier. I thought it was real. It felt real."
We laugh. Another proud-mama moment.
Older daughter's voice floods my heart again"I've worked with Evan at church since he was in kindergarten."

Don't Miss The Blessing

We reach the final one .... She searches all around, but she still can't see it. I bend down and brush my fingertips over the tiny squirrel holding a treasured acorn.
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I recall older daughter's final words. "Mom, Evan's in 4th grade now, and every Wednesday, he now buys me a Dr. Pepper. He uses his allowance." I envision her smile, my smile.
"This one's a bit camaflouged," I say to younger. Brown squirrel against brown dirt and nearby leaves. "You have to really be looking to see it."
Sometimes it seems we have to wait, and sometimes it seems we have to search.
But we are loved.
Love doesn't always come in a heart-shaped box.
We love because He first loved us—1 John 4:19♥

What tips do you have for giving and receiving? How have you been loved recently in a not-so-heart-shaped-box way? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Have A New Website


Hey, Friends. I wanted you to know that I've moved. My new website is shellilittleton.com.

I hope you'll come over and visit.

Blessed by you,

Shelli

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Return to Family Devotion


I inch the door open. Two teeners are playing. I'm so happy to see them playing, taking life by the reins. Like they used to. When did life get so serious? 

One's perched on the other's back, having turned into some type of cowgirl. The other's on all fours, and somehow I'm waiting for a "neigh" to bellow out of her mouth. Instead, all contagious laughs, giggles, smiles.





"What?" I nearly fall over laughing.

They jump up, place sweet hands in mine.

It's bedtime.

"Do y'all want to start reading together through the New-Testament-in-a-year?" I ask the girls, switching gears and interrupting their Lone Ranger and Silver moment. But it's been weighing heavily on my heart. 

Both nod so eagerly.

Whew! Because I'm going on fumes right now.




And I need to get at least one weight off my heart. Taking something off my shoulders would be nice, too.


We always did pretty good at family devotions when the girls were small. But things shifted somehow. I tried to get them started on Bible Gateway, helping them establish their own routine. No more "we" but God in thee. That went good for a while, but like with all things, discipline tiptoes out the door, and we're left crumpled on the floor. And that's a complete disservice to my girls.

I need jumper cables. Um, okay ... spurs kicking into my sides.

Because when serious sickness enters your home, even teens can only go on fumes for so long. Anxiety hugs the heart, pinching in the night, demanding conversation.

And one daughter wraps her arms around me. My teetertotter emotions .... "I understand, Mama. Shh. It's okay." I adore her motherly way. What gave it away? Hands that I used to hold everywhereonce so tiny with tiny nails that I used to clip with the baby clipperssoothed over my face, wiping away the moisture. Tight hugs. My other daughter gifts me with one, too.

Life has been so busy. Where has my time with them gone?




Is it okay for a mama to admit she's scared? She's scared of the present, the past, the future. She's scared of every day she tried to make it on her own and failed miserably. She's terrified of the scars etched into her heart from days without holding her Savior's hand. She's scared of every reminder, every memory. She wishes for white-out, do-overs, the delete key for her heart. 

What does she yearn for more than anything for her girls? A clean piece of paper, a clean heart. One prepped and ready to type God's beautiful future, beautiful present on their hearts, to accompany their beautiful pasts.

But we can't pour out our heart's desire on that blank page what we aren't pouring in. The page will be written on, but it won't be desirous, the Godly way. It'll never sell.

And when I'm too tired, I'm reminded I'm too tired not to. I'm loading dirty dishes in the dishwaser, and I don't think I have the stamina to finish, but I will. That's my disciplined, determined self talking. And I'll collapse into that bed.

And a brush of wind swirls past me, sweet arms envelope me. "You ready to read our devotion?"

"We better do it now, while I can." Anxiety only falls away when we fall into the arms of God.

We plop down onto the floor, circle around, maybe hit the couch, maybe climb into my bed .... She takes my phone, hits the Bible Gateway App.




"The verse of the day," she says, "is Ephesians 4:2'Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.'" She clicks on "Begin A Reading Plan" and continues right where we left off. "Matthew 20:1-16," she says. 

Verse 16 ends with, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

We all chuckle. "I used to say that to you when you were small all the time," I say. "I wanted you to be giving. It feels good to give." And I didn't want them to fight. But my version usually came out like"If you want to be first, you have to be last." And that's where I might blow a raspberry, if I were that kind of mama.


fishing in the swimming pool ... caught a plastic fish each and every time




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They laugh. Then nod.

"I remember, Mama. I say that to all my Sunday school kids," one daughter admits.

Yes. They haven't forgotten. Full circle. God is writing on their hearts. The giving has been received. Because when we give, we always receive. An honest servant is always rewarded in time. It might seem like a rough draft, but it's the real, published deal, where purchases are final. It's sitting on the heart-shelf, waiting to be taken, to be given to their friends, anyone blessed enough to receive from their hands, maybe their future kids.

We take the limited time in this life together by the reins.

A return to family devotion.


~~~

Do you have a family devotion? Have you had to take life by the reins recently? 


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Guess I'd Follow My Daughter Anywhere


"I wish he would quiet down," said someone ... I can't remember who. "Boy, that's annoying."

Ever since we let Azzie, our cat, out of the house for a few moments while we hung up the Christmas lights, he's been completely discontent. We never let the cats out much because ... this right here. The cat balks louder and louder, over and over. And not to mention the summer fleas, the many critters excluding the fleas that would eat him alive. And boy, what if he ran under the deck? 

And right now, it's cold. It's snowing. It's actually snowing (it snowed one day, a week ago ... you get the idea). A novelty in these parts of Texas. And the wind is whipping around something fierce.




My snow-girl. Her New Year's resolutions are to become well-rounded and to get in shape.

My daughter goes to her room and places on her winter gear. She puts the collar and leash on Azzie. He's really balking now. 


My daughter. I'm not surprised. She'll go the extra mile for anyone, especially those she loves. Every Sunday, during "shake-a-hand" moment, she walks all the way across the church to hug and talk to our realtor, the first person we met when we moved here and the very one to invite us to her church, our church. Yes, she ventures all the way there because she loves Ms. Frances. I love her, too, but I'm not so great at going the extra mile. I wave across the way. 

But that's my daughter. She'll walk the extra mile. She'll brave the new ice cream flavor, while I stick to the safe mint chocolate chip. But she lets me try the new. She'd give her last dime. Her last bite. Her coat. She loves the lovely and unlovely. She doesn't meet a stranger these days. My shy, quiet daughter is coming into her own God-given gifts. A friend to all. A giver.

The wind rattles the house, along with the windows.

My daughter picks up the cat, opens the front door, steps her new boots out into the snow. 

I throw on my winter gear, grab my camera because when it's all said and done, I guess I'd follow her anywhere. And I want to love like she loves. And I want to capture her love on camera. 






She sets Azzie down into the snow. He leaves a trail of paw prints.

And in no time, we're all outside.





And almost lying prostrate for a good photo, I think about the prints I'm leaving on this world, on my girls, on my friends ...

I want to leave the kind of heart-prints my daughter has left on me. I want to throw open the door, brave the wind and cold, the unknown, and step out in love ... to love. And I know if I ever step out, I'll never be content to stay inside.
















What moves you to action? Others' words or actions? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A 16-Year-Old's Guide For A Happy New Year


"Do you want to walk the trail with me?" I asked my dear friend.

"Yes!"




I wanted to hold her hand and skip down the lane. Could my heart contain the happiness inside? Or would it burst from joy? I hadn't seen my dear friend in over 20 years. We'd moved to Spokane, Washington, in my mid 20s with the air force. We bought a home in the country and immediately formed a tight bond with a farming community. My friend, a farmer's wife, welcomed me into her home, church, heart. We loved each other like sisters from the start and only had a short time together before we returned to Texas. 

She and her family came to Texas to vacation last week (I want to think I influenced her a bit), and they spent New Year's Eve with us.



We headed to the back property, released the sheep, and made our way around the trail. I couldn't take the smile off my face, the definition of happy.

"Is that a mailbox?" my friend asked. "What's that doing out here?"




It's an acceptable question that I find myself explaining to everyone. We didn't want to leave it behind, so we brought it with us when we moved. It was a truck, but it began to deteriorate over time, so we took off parts here and there, keeping the bare necessity. Now, it looks like a set of bulging yellow eyes staring at you. It's planted right across from the swing. 




"We write letters to each other ... or at least, we used to. Like love notes. Now, it mostly holds used popsicle sticks, spider webs."

The red flag stood tall. My husband pulled the handle down, revealing mail. Mail? Mail!

Three letters. One was addressed to: Mom (that's me)





I opened it ... from my Katelyn. 

I teared up a tiny bit. I read it out loud to my friend, unable to share it fast enough. It was just one of those proud mama moments ... raw, tender ... for someone else to see the love your child really does have for you as a parent. Three paragraphs, three points, that pave the way for my 2017. And I'll be glad to loan them to you, too. 

1. Apologize

To Mom:

I love you, Mom. Sorry for acting horrible when you guys want to watch something. I don't know what's got me agitated recently ...

2. Encourage

Mom, you need to keep writing. You are great at that (and everything else. You are the best mother someone could ask for). I love all the books you write.

3. Love

You are the best thing anyone could ask for. Keep doing what you're doing. I love you so, so much.

--Katelyn

That's my Katelyn. She doesn't like watching TV much, she reads everything I write, and when she loves, she really loves. 

I gave her a big hug when I got inside. "Katelyn, I loved my letter. When did you write it?"

"Six weeks ago." She chuckled. "I thought you'd never find it."

It took me six weeks to discover her love, her voice, her heart ... 

That's not acceptable. But what beautiful timing. God-timing. 

Father, take me down your path ... the path ... for me ... for this 2017. Let me apologize more, encourage more, and love more. Keep my eyes open. Don't let me miss opportunities. Don't let me deteriorate. Father ... 

I want to go where you go.


Karalee (kid lover), me (Word lover), and Katelyn (animal lover) from earlier in the year


And y'all, life has been so crazy that I wasn't sure I'd get a blog post written. I'd cherish your continued prayers for a close family member. And ... Katelyn gave me her permission to use the letter. *Grin*

What other ingredients can you add for a happy new year?