Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Making Memories...the reason I take Cade to Disney

Being divorced, I quickly realized that making traditions and memories would have to be VERY intentional. Something that just comes naturally and inevitably in a traditional family setting, doesn't come in a divorced setting. There's too much back and forth and change from year to year. No holiday looks the same, no birthday or graduation comes easy or is predictable. The only tradition in divorce seems to be that there is no tradition.

So after year one, I decided as a mom, I would work at making memories...Cade and I would experience adventures together, and that our tradition would be, we travel and go have a blast experiencing this world together. 

It's been the best decision I've made. Memories are something we have, and traveling together is something that builds trust, cultivates love and friendship, confidence and bravery, and it opens up your imagination and soul to a bigger world, so when your world gets very small and sad and dark, you remember there's more out there and it's awaiting you to come and rediscover it once again.

I truly believe God uses traveling to remind us how BIG HE is, that the world doesn't revolve around us, and there's a bigger story and to never be afraid to go out and find it.

It all started the year after my mom's death. It was the summer after my divorce, and my dad took me and Cade to Hawaii. I saved my money to take Cade and me to swim with the dolphins. Seeing his smile and hearing the laughter sealed the deal for me. My money and resources would go to making memories...of creating moments of extreme laughter, wonder, and awe.

Cade's 4th grade year was a Spring Break that I had him. He and I road tripped across Texas; touring Blue Bell, watching jousting (and other questionable "shows" at Sherwood Forest), ice skating at the Galleria, and singing at the top of our lungs with the windows down.

And this will be year 3 of Cade receiving plane tickets and Disney gift cards for Christmas. In the grand scheme of things, I'm not a big Disney person. I don't want a Goofy t-shirt nor a Toy Story pencil...now Mickey ears ice cream is another story, but that has more to do with the ice cream than the shape it is found in.

This tradition...hey, look at what God can do, divorced families can have traditions, that's called grace Shelly, right there, that's grace... it all started when Cade was entering 5th grade. Being a 5th grade teacher, I'd hear numerous stories of parents and grandparents taking their children on trips commemorating the end of Grammar school...and then of course I had read Bob Goff's book and he does 10 year old adventures, and though I was not able to take my child to an obscure mountain range in Asia or even the Empire State building in New York, me and my travel bug knew I could do something adventurous with Cade.

I was secretly hoping he'd choose the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because that's where my 10 year old (or 35 year old) self wanted to go. I may have even been playing a loop of "you want to go see Harry Potter and shop eat at the Three Broomsticks..." as he slept, but I had decided that wherever he chose (within reason), we'd try and make happen.

My secret scheming worked, because he exclaimed, "Harry Potter World!" WOOHOO!

He and I saved for nearly a year and it was so fun anticipating the trip. At Christmas, we opened Disney gift cards and Universal Studio ones. We kept our monies in a special box and we'd label what we'd use it for. We had wand savings, Mickey Mouse ice cream funds, and visions of riding Thunder Mountain Railroad until midnight.

Planning, anticipating, and going on that trip with Cade was one of the best decisions I've made as a mom, and I decided I'd keep making that one each year.

And though my experience told me I it was the best thing for me to do as a mom, one of my 5th graders taught me just how true that was.

One thing I do as a teacher is have my students create thankful lists in their Bible journals. We write 6 each day, and each child accumulates 50 - 100 items depending on the year and how many days I have them do it before Christmas. Everyday we do it, I have each child share one they wrote that day. We each get to hear what others have reflected on being thankful for. It's terrific! I love it every time!

Two years ago, the same year of our first Disney adventure, one of my students shared the most profound one that truly solidified in me that what God had led me to do with Cade, was something I needed to keep as a priority in my life. I can't thank Connor enough for teaching me that what I do as a mom matters...matters more than I'd realized.

Here's the letter I sent out to the 5th grade parents reminding them and encouraging them that what they do matters too...my prayer is that it would encourage you too.

I'm not sure how it is already December 22nd, but it is. No matter if it feels like it should be or not, the calendar overrules all feelings and tells us Christmas 2015 is just 3 days away.
Over these last few weeks, as the students filled their Bible journals with 100's of things they were thankful for, I was always impressed with the wisdom and simplicity many expressed through their gratitude: Family, friends, a warm and safe home, cozy slippers, loving parents, God's word, Jesus dying on the cross, forgiveness, and much more. It's always a blessing to see into their worlds through the lead of their pencils as they share their thoughts.

One year as I did this, a particular "thankful item" was especially poignant.

The student wrote, "I am thankful for memories."

This one stood out to me because I had lost my mom 5 years prior, so at times, I live on memories. In fact, memories can be what carry me through quiet holidays. 

But, I love how God's grace gives us the chance to make new memories everyday. We are capable of creating moments that can last a lifetime in a child's heart.

As a teacher, one of my main goals is to have a year the students remember, one filled with incredible memories. I want it to be a year that challenged them, stretched them and matured them, but also one filled with more fun than a school year is supposed to contain. I want them leaving saying, "Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!" J

That's why muffin mountains and a week with daily sugar cookies and classrooms filled with dancing are worth the craziness that can follow. Those days are filled with laughter, they bring joy to a sad soul, and give us something to remember.

God is the best memory maker, and He continuously tells us, "Remember, remember, remember."

I pray this Christmas is one of remembering what God has done for us and in us.

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

He came down to be with you and me. May it be fresh in our hearts and remind us all that we are loved and valued beyond comprehension.

If this holiday season is tough for you and your family, my prayer is that your home will be overwhelmed by God's peace, that the grace of Emmanuel will ignite a hope that would otherwise be absent.

The next day, the student shared one more, "I'm grateful for parents who make memories with me."   -what a beautiful picture of family, of God's grace in our lives.

May 2016 be the year we intentionally create incredible moments for our families that will be remembered for a lifetime and can even carry them through hard times if and when they come.

Merry Christmas!

Shelly Vaughn

Last year's trip included a night of rain, pouring down drenching rain. There wasn't lightning, so Disney continued on, and as I debated on whether or not I could continue in the rain, I remembered Connor's profound words and Cade and I rode Thunder Mountain Railroad 23 times that day. We were completely soaked, but had never laughed so hard as we watched the fireworks over head and had the sensation of riding a roller coaster through a swimming pool. We made a memory that I will treasure forever.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

His Amazing Grace beckons us to show up and Watch HIM.

(I composed this over a month ago, but never revisited it and hit send. So grateful I wrote this down...God tells us to REMEMBER, and without a written record, it's amazing how one can forget...even when the amazing happens.)

It's been forever since I've written. Today, I knew it was time. In fact, I knew if I didn't today, I would've ignored an appointment I had. I have no idea what I'm supposed to write, but I know there's something God has been showing me all summer, so we'll start there and see where He takes this.

It was May 28th. I was finishing up the busiest 3 months I'd had in recent memory. I hadn't stopped going. School was incredibly busy and every weekend had something major going on so I hadn't rested or gathered myself in months.

I was headed into the busiest portion of my summer. In the subsequent 5 weeks, I was taking 3 different groups of 8 students on 3 different trips. I was headed to Boston twice and Philly once...but by July 8th, I'd be finished, I'd be able to finally rest after nearly 5 months of non stop.

My trips don't just entail the 5 days of travel, they included 4 group meetings, so times 3 is 12 group meetings, and one meeting per traveller that is one on one, so that's 24, and then a prayer gathering for each group, and due to busy schedules, a couple of trips required 2 options for that.

So, in conclusion, that's over 40 meetings from February-June...and then we travel and go have the best time in glorious cities.

I was looking forward to the trips because that's when the fun kicks in, the getaway, and the adventure, and due to such a busy spring, I was ready for the adventure.

So on May 28th, when I received a text from my traveling partner and sweet bestie about a home in Boerne, I shrugged it off as just another attempt to get me to do something that was impossible for me at this time in my life.

I'd dreamed of moving into Boerne proper for years. I'd dreamed of either having my dad design me a house or help me redo a little cottage for as long as I could remember. But it was a dream. A dream that I knew wouldn't ever be fulfilled. Ever.

There was no way it could. Barring a marriage where my small teaching salary wasn't the only funds I had to use, it was an impossible dream. And since marriage would have to bring along the provision, I never wanted to truly dream about it because I don't ever want that to be part of my search for someone...I don't want my desire for things to ever be a motivation for me to date someone...and that easily could be. Financial security is a wooing factor in my life.

SO, I didn't ever really dream about it. It was on the list of impossible things that my life wasn't going to include and I had come to the place with that being okay.

My sweet bestie thought differently. For over a year she had sent me listings and I would barely glance at them. There was no point. No way that I could sell my house in a timely manner, make any sort of money to have enough to buy another and redo it, because any home I could afford in Boerne was basically a dump.

I didn't have a desire to take Cade and I to a dump and have to remain in that, so the obstacles were always too great, not to mention the timing. Boerne sells before things even hit the market, much less allow for sales of present homes to buy new ones.

But, for some reason, May 28th was different.

IF there was one thing about God I'd say I knew hardly anything about was grace. I'm too formulaic, black and white, and anxious.

But for the last 7 years, God has had me on a journey teaching me about grace, showing me what it is and what it means and how it works.

I saw it play out in tragedy and hardship. I saw that it was provision and faithfulness, companionship and goodness during grief and heartache and loneliness.

I saw how God walked every step with me and answered countless prayers that only my soul ached for, the kind that rebuild a person's character and mindset. He set my feet on a path that was leading me to things that only He could show me.

I'd seen His overwhelming grace during the hard but I still had no true concept what His grace was like in the good.

I mean, I had a home. Nothing was wrong with it. My life was moving along and besides bouts of loneliness, things were good...no grief, no difficulty, no present ashes that needed His gracious hands to make beautiful.

But on May 28th, His gracious train showed up and I had no idea what I was about to experience and witness, and sitting tonight, I still can't even fathom, yet alone grasp.

B sent me a text, which led to me going to see a home on a whim...2 days before leaving for Boston.

I took my dad, who, to my surprise, was chipper and excited about the house. He saw no major issues and saw great potential. And not that he's a downer about things, but he's realistic, practical, and conservative.

Big dreams get squashed by reality, practicality, which all lead to conservative decisions, not big dream ones per se.

B and I left for Boston and little did I know, the train began to move.

The property was too high for me and included too much.
My home would have to be sold, and I didn't see how I could do this on my own.

Obstacles were everywhere. That's what I saw. Obstacles.

But B kept pushing.

While in Boston, we checked out what my house would get, and by some miracle, a home 2 doors down had sold in 24 hours for a sum of money I could never have dreamed my home would sell for.

On our way back, B asked if I could have my house ready to sell in the 48 hours, and I just answered yes with no vision on what that would entail.

I came back from spending 5 non stop days in Boston with 8 middle school students, where our days are from 6 am until after midnight, and I woke up the next day at 6 again and began cleaning my house and getting it ready to go on the market.

It was ready Saturday morning and on Sunday, an offer was made.


The train hadn't just left at this point, it was gaining speed and I was doing my best to hold on.

The offer was great but they wanted to close in 3 weeks.

Say what?!?

B, just kept talking me down from every cliff of impossible I came to.

I had 2 trips in the next 4 weeks.

But, I said yes...I knew this was a train that I had to catch.

On June 7th, I knew that this summer was not going to be what I had planned and I knew this was something God was in control of and I just needed to keep showing up because for some reason, impossible was becoming possible.

I packed, I panicked, friends talked me off cliffs, and I packed some more.

All of my trip preparations, which are incredibly time consuming and at times can be overwhelming, went along without a hitch and somehow I had enough energy to do all of that and pack.

In the meantime, a deal was trying to be put together on the purchase of the house in Boerne...one of the hottest and fastest markets around.

Obstacle after obstacle kept coming and I would panic and get discouraged but B would push me forward. Mountains that had to be moved, I got to watch be moved.

Mountains moved for the purchase of the home.

I was exhausted and weary, not just from the packing and the unknown, but from the previous months of non-stop, from the weight of traveling and busyness of planning and going forth on little sleep and no restorative time between any of it.

But the train was chugging down the track, and I knew I just needed to hold on.

I returned from Philadelphia on the 25th and I was out of my home on the 30th and leaving for Boston on the 4th.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I LOSE everything. I misplace stuff all. the. time. Ask my students. I can't keep a pen, marker, or history book for longer than 5 minutes. I will have taken it and set it down in the most obscure place and have no recollection of doing so.

I leave a trail of crud everywhere I go.

SO, to be packing and moving while having to keep extremely important travel info, journals, and paraphernalia at my finger tips is a MIRACLE in itself.

I returned from Boston homeless, waiting for mountains to move so I could close on my new home in early August.

I think we all have times like this in our lives, where things fall into place and it's a wonder how it happened, but somehow it does.

It's happened to me before, but this time, God was going to show me that grace was not just a charitable heart when things were rough and desperate.

Grace included dreams...the kind of dreams that only a heart dreamed because the mind knew that it could never happen. It was a dream that would never be, so it was never actually thought about because what would be the point.

On May 28th, God was going to show me a grace I still couldn't comprehend and one that had been in motion for years. One that would include extravagant provision, healing, and unbelievable friendship.

Let's start with B. Her tenacity and determination on my behalf can't be explained. It included 2 months
of constant attention and talks of encouragement. She talked me off so many cliffs in such a short amount of time, I'm embarrassed to even recall them all.

But she did it, with a heart of love, compassion and made me feel like a champion at the end of it, not the weary warrior barely making it over the finish line.

Then there's my little peeps who upon the return of my first Boston trip they had completely redone my
front flowerbed, pressure washed my house, cleaned my windows, and more.

I was returning with a new hope of putting my house on the market, and God used the generosity of 8 families and my peeps to bless me with a gift I could never, NEVER do for myself.

Then there's Lacy, Ashley, Tracy, Kelley, the Fitzies, Chris, Bower boys, Egg, Amy, Cindy, Jackson, Bobby, Sammy, Willy, Jim Guy, Katie, Greg, and unknowns that came and packed when I was gone, too busy, or so overwhelmed I could barely see straight.

Not because I was sick or grieving or walking a tragic road...just because I needed help, even "worse" I needed help with something that was just good and fun and a blessing.

This really bothered me. I mean accepting help when it had nothing to do with something bad or wrong...I didn't do that, I couldn't do that.

God reminded me of a conversation I'd had with someone a few months before. I was trying to help him, just trying to be nice and kind and he told me he didn't like accepting help. He did things on his own.

It made me mad when he said that. I was frustrated that he wouldn't let me help him, and I thought how far he needed to go to understand kindness and understand how God worked... that some people just like to help and be kind.

And here I was. Not wanting to accept help, not understanding how to accept help, and blown away at how people would help me in such extravagant ways for something that was good and fun and had nothing to do with cancer or death or divorce.

But, God made this train leave the station during a time in my summer that I couldn't not accept help. What was before me was impossible for me, so God was setting up a scenario that would only be possible for Him to orchestrate.

So I showed up each day, and watched Him work.

People packed, lifted heavy furniture, opened up their barns, stayed late, came early, washed clothes, talked to me when I was overwhelmed or seemingly ungrateful because I was afraid or worried or exhausted.

They prayed, lent trucks, cleaned, and encouraged, and they got me out of my house and everything into storage and put me on a plane to Boston.

God had orchestrated my trips to fall at just the right times, so the first few days of being homeless, I was traveling the streets of Boston and watching the most incredible firework show with 9 incredible people, including Cade.

Then, He had provided me with housesitting gigs the remainder of July, in fact, He provided them to go until August 3rd, right when I was to move into my new home.

His timing had included my entire summer schedule to be planned out in January, so when it came to May 28th, His train could move, according to His schedule, his timing, and His grace.

My mind couldn't even dream it, my heart couldn't even imagine it, but His grace was orchestrating it.

And if all of those mountains moving and provisions weren't enough, the train was just picking up speed.

My house sold in 48 hours, for more money than I could have dreamed, and I had paid off more than I thought.

B was so tenacious that she helped me witness mountains move in a market where only those with enormous money and no timing restrictions find deals, and then she stuck with me as I wanted to quit every other day.

But then...just when I thought I had seen what grace was, God was just getting started.

It wasn't just in the form of people showing up once more, because they did. Gretchen and Dan, Janyce and Brittany, Stacey and Tracy, Julio, and Bobby, ERIC AND KAREN, Heather, and Ashley, Adi and Dawson, Madeline and Brittan, Carsen and Cole, Greg and Summer, Papa and Carolyn, Amy and Egg, Chris and Jessica, Ronnie and Angela, and the list could go on...

They did for me, at times what I could never do for myself. I was stuck without them. I couldn't fix a fan or hang a shower head. I couldn't lift that or hang this. I was getting sick from scraping ceilings and staying up passed midnight. I couldn't paint a house or finish assembling my cabinets.

I couldn't. It was impossible. But I continued to watch the impossible happen.

But it wasn't just that. It was the overflowing, outpouring of extreme generosity that blew me away...that sealed the summer of 2015 as a moment in time I watched God work in wondrous, overwhelming, and abundant ways to show me how His grace has no limits. That it isn't about only rescuing and comforting...

it's about delighting in, blessing, and lavishing love upon you.

Even now, typing that sounds so foreign, even corny to me. How dreams come to life, is taking me aback, making walls that were so set inside of me get torn down and rearranged, and my heart is having to start grasping that life includes a joy that is delightful and fun.

I didn't really know that. That not everything has strings or consequences or hardship. Sometimes, life is just good and sweet and full of amazing grace.

In July I received a text telling me this person had an envelope for me. Cade and I drove to pick it up. Cade ran in to grab it, but the man walked out too and told me he was supposed to watch me open it. The envelope was a typical greeting card one but it was fat, like something was in it.

My heart began beating fast as I opened it and watched $100 bills fall into my lap. A stack of them fell and the card had an incredibly sweet note inside.

I was stunned. Completely and totally stunned.

Who does this? Who gives someone a stack of money?

Tears welled up and Cade and I couldn't believe what had just happened.

The man gave me a hug and told me he had just been instructed to watch me open it and see my reaction.

My reaction was one of disbelief in how God works.

As amazing as that is, what no one knew was that the night before I sat in the shower crying, telling God how lonely and overwhelmed I felt in this process, that it was too big, too great for me to making such big changes with so many unknowns, and even though I had so many people rallying around me, at the end of the day, it was me...just me, and I was in charge of Cade and I didn't know if I could do this big thing.

I sat crying to God at how I felt alone.

Then, the very next day, the most tangible, overwhelming gift of grace occurred., in a way I could not have fathomed.

Yes, the money was unbelievable, unforgettable, and a sign of immeasurable anonymous generosity, but what those people had done, had been used to do, was to allow God to tell my heart (and allow my 12 year old son to witness!) that He was here with me, that this was His train, and I was to just keep showing up...I was NOT ALONE.

After that day, I never worried much anymore.

I had seen grace in such a new way, that the impossible for man, was possible with God.

I'd just stood on "the cliff" and watched the waters part, the mountains move, and I knew to my very core, that God was taking me somewhere, I just needed to follow Him.

One of my mom's favorite verses had come to life,

"Now to Him who is able to do far more than we could ever think or imagine, to Him be the glory forever and ever."

So, dream, Dream big...or if you're like me and a little too afraid to dream, believe in a God that says, show up, and watch ME.

This season, let's show up and watch HIM.

In Him,


Thursday, April 9, 2015

If loneliness and grief are your schtick, then the great philosopher Elsa had it right, it's time to Let it Go

Typically, when I write, I spend hours on it. It takes me a long time to get all of my thoughts out, then I read and reread and edit and try and make it sound coherent.

So, by the time I hit publish, I've read the darn thing so many times, I'm over it.

I've released whatever was inside my head and heart and I move on.

It doesn't ever bother me that it sits on the website for a long time, and I usually feel just fine with whomever might stumble upon it.

The blog I wrote a few weeks back messed with me on sitting there for a while. I didn't like the idea of that one, being one of my most vulnerable ones, sitting out there for so long.

I used to write way more frequently, but now I only write when I feel this rush in me that I'm supposed to sit and do it. There has to be a deeper voice within me saying I need to go and think and process and put it down in some words.

When that happens, I know the same process will occur. I'll show up truly having no idea where the post will end up, and as I begin typing, sometime in there I will cry and wipe my tears in the middle of a Starbucks as a post comes together in some magical way.

My last post was different. I wanted to write it. I had stirring thoughts and I wanted to write. I decided to roll with it and write just on a desire to do so.

The post came easy and since I didn't have that compelling feeling inside, I decided to sit on it and not immediately publish it.

After several days, I mustered up the courage to reread and hit publish.

I knew I wrote during a low point in the month, not when I was at my optimum, but it was real and true and it was what it was.

The funny thing is, as I wrote and after I wrote, I wondered if there would ever be a time I would write about anything other than loneliness or grief or other discouraging stuff.

I even told myself, loneliness and grief seem to be your schtick Shelly.

I wondered what that said about me...I wondered if I could write about anything else.

I received some sweet notes, a text or two after my post. They were kind and encouraging.

I received a long email from my dearest friend and it made me weep.

But then, I opened another one...it was encouraging as well, but it also said some other things in it that truly made me pause and have a gut check moment.

Here's the deal, more often than not, my significance, value, worth are completely tied to what I think others think of me.

For years, this was a HUGE problem. It ran my life. People's opinions of me have been my holy grail. I wanted, and still 99% of the time want people to think I'm great, I'm doing it right, have my poop together, am wise, funny, solid, with it, and let me just say it, amazing.

It's the "I must get it right to avoid the pitfalls in life" part of my personality meeting the "perfectionist" meeting the "I'm completely insecure with who I am" trifecta.

It's the perfect storm.

It causes one to over analyze, over step, over try, and anything else you can over, it overs that as well.

So, after my life went to pot, I was determined to let go of so much, give this thing to God, and fully immerse myself into rehabilitating the toxicity that had become my insides and my thinking.

It sent my intentionality and my chance at a second chance of living into overdrive. My determination and desire to live an authentic life had another shot, and I was going to take it!

There's been much beauty and healing in the wake of that. I can't even tell you the leaps and bounds I've come and the amazing grace that God has shown me and taught me through the process of surrendering my life to Him, letting go of the controls as much as I can at each step of the way.

But, as I stated in a couple posts back, forgiving myself has been very problematic for me. It's taken (and seems to be still taking) six years to get to a point where I'm allowing the idea to become a possibility.

Six years.

The book of Exodus has always been my favorite. The story of rescue and redemption and God's power amongst a people that begs to go back to slavery and creates idols because they're impatient and forget and can't keep their minds on the Lord has always connected with me, because I have always known I am just like them.

I beg for removal, but then I practically beg to go back. I beg for rescue but then I wander around reminiscing about slavery.

I don't see God working fast enough so I track down some new idols, prop them up, and weep in the mediocrity of it all.

Years ago, a Bible teacher of mine once said, "God took the people out of Egypt, but it took a long while for the Egypt to get out of the people."

God takes me out of slavery, but so often, I think I'm still a slave or that I need to remember that I was a slave or acknowledge that slavery isn't that far away or it's the cause to my mediocrity...not because I set up camp in a desert with my man made gold statues.

When I'm about to have an anxiety attack, one of the best remedies is to call one of 2 friends. If I call Amy or Brit, they'll talk me through it and most likely out of it.
They're calm, they remind me of what is happening, that everything is going to be okay. They ask great questions and just talk with me, but most importantly, they tell me the reality of the situation.

My mind has to remember what reality is and that my body is panicking over a perceived situation but it isn't reality.

That's what God has to do with us each day. That's what we NEED to have Him do each day.

Remind me of what's real Lord, of who I am, of Your love, Your rescue, Your grace, Your forgiveness.

Remind me. Speak to me Lord.

Throughout the Old Testament God says to the people, Do this so you'll remember.

Remember that God brought you out.

Remember the Lord is mighty.

Remember what the Lord has done.

The email that stung a bit, was one that was telling me in so many words, Remember Shelly.

My immediate thought back was, I do! I do remember.

The grace, the joy, the love...all of it. The countless stories and moments and friends and job and simplicity and complete awesomeness...it's all God and I'm grateful for every ounce.

But...the forgiveness, letting things go, and not reminding myself or convincing myself I must still be a slave, not so much.

How could I let that go?. It's my schtick.
When my heart hurts, that's usually why.
When I'm alone, that's where my mind wanders.
I might become an optimist for Pete's sake and not a cynic.
I might lose my snark and start accepting the reality of who I am and stop pretending to be something I am not.

So, instead, I build my golden statue for a little while, let my mind wander in the fields of loneliness and wander back across the border into Egypt...or at least long for it for a while.

Living victoriously is hard.

I honestly didn't think it was for me.

I'm intentional and determined and hell bent on doing it, that I can't quite figure out why I'm not full on, immersed living victoriously.

And, this Easter morning, I think I caught a glimpse...

Forgiving myself is the ultimate humility for me.

Forgiving myself would mean I really did and do screw up, and I can't do anything in my own power to fix it.

It means I really do need Jesus.

I'm not solid, super wise, got it together, rockstar amazing.

It means I'm normal and human and in GREAT need of a Savior and friend and forgiveness and grace.

Too often, I am the rich young ruler showing up to Jesus telling Him I'm keeping "them all" Lord, what do I have to do?

I'm singing, I'm dancing, and I'm going after it God...

But I kind of wonder if Jesus might be telling me to stop singing and dancing and chasing it.

Forgiveness and grace come when you realize this isn't a chase; this isn't something you do.

If you do it Shelly, it isn't done, it isn't real, and you're missing the point.

"With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible."

 This morning, as John preached from Romans 6 and talked about how we have been buried with Him through baptism into death and all of the ramifications from that...

...that the old life is gone, buried; it is no more. There is no going back. The death has occurred and it is gone. Irrevocable..

I saw how I tend to go back. I'm afraid I haven't paid a big enough penalty, maybe I haven't learned my lesson, maybe I need to relook or rethink or continue to pay the price, so I go back.

And I really need to stop going back, exhuming my mistakes, climbing into the hole, and thinking the ghost is haunting me.

My lack of forgiveness is just my pride refusing to let it go.

And it's time, to let it go.

Stop staring at the Promised Land.

Step into the river and trust God that living victoriously is way better than standing frozen :) in fear to move on in His grip, on His path, and in His plan.

The unknown is scary. It is.

But, His unknown includes hope, grace, love, new life, and victory.

It's time to step.

Shackles gone and buried.

Closing my eyes and stepping out, stepping away...

For this I know, that God is for me.

In Him,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring will come, even if there seems to be a crushing silence

I love spring time. I feel the hope of sunshine, new beginnings, shedding the winter coat, enjoying the longer days, the relaxing evenings at baseball games, and the promise of summer fun. I'm thankful for all of that, because Spring can also be hard because it holds my mom's birthday and a few other "anniversaries" that remind me of heartache and some seemingly crucial failures in life.

Today, on this Good Friday, my mom would have been 65...which is crazy to think. Where has time gone? Sometimes I get stuck thinking I'm still that little girl, whose grandmother is 65, and I have my whole life ahead of me.

But then, I look in the mirror or see pictures of myself and I am quickly reminded that life has moved on; I'm no longer that youngster and much of my life has passed by.

Visions of all I'd do in my thirties have yet to come to fruition, and my thirties are quickly exiting.

Last night at small group as we were discussing a new book we are going to read with our families, 3 questions were posed:
If only ________________________ I'd be happy.
If only ________________________ I'd be respected.
If only ________________________ I'd feel loved.

I could fill those blanks in with a number of things: If only I could travel more, go to law school, was thinner, didn't own a TV, read all the time, spoke a couple languages, was financially secure, and on, and on, and on.

It's basically a list of how I view myself falling short.

It's a list of how I see my significance manifesting in a world surrounded by people...because that's what I respect, love, and view as happiness.

It kind of reminds me of that verse, "how you judge, you also will be judged."

I wonder if we sentence our own selves to the death of guilt and shame by how we give and see significance among others.

I certainly hang from the noose of my own deep seeded pronouncements on humanity...I end up hanging from the rope I intended for others.

But, the one...the very one that could answer all 3 of those questions for me, the one that regularly haunts me and I can't seem to run fast enough from, suppress, ignore, and deny is my desire to be loved by someone here on earth.

I hate typing that and admitting it, and truly the only reason I even can is because from a computer there is anonymity, and I think no one really reads this thing anyways.

What's ironic is that when we steps back and look at our lists, we know none of that will REALLY make us happy or bring us respect or make us feel loved...or if it does, it's temporary, and will cause an equal amount of conflict.

But, even still, we chase, we dream, we wish, we hope for the day when something changes, a door opens, and an emptiness that we feel, will start getting filled.

I can't explain my loneliness.

I can't explain why it hurts amongst a life that I love and is extremely fulfilling and fun and simple and at times even magical.

My friends, my job, my son, my freedom, my health, my opportunity...all of it is awesome, and I wouldn't trade any of it in, because all of it makes my life full and rich and fun.

But, periodically, and by periodically, I mean fairly regularly, as I drive alone, go home alone, walk into church alone, go to dinner alone, shop alone, travel alone, I wish there was someone with me.

But, I don't want just anyone with me, I desire a best friend, someone who I find super special and who finds me the same way.

My deep down, deep seeded desire is to be special to someone.

This month reminds me of how my mom is gone, and that I'm alone. March 4th is the day my divorce was finalized. And even though it was an end that was necessary and one that marked a death occurring years before, it still brings up sentiments of failure, of how I missed the boat, of my loss of time and missing out on one of the hardest but most beautiful pieces in life.

I see it as a failure bigger than God's redemption...or one that maybe doesn't really deserve His redemption. A screw up that deserves years of consequence and a forever sentence of loneliness.

One's mind is powerful. Things we tell ourselves wouldn't even be in the ballpark of what we'd tell others or even believe for them.

But, what I tell myself is harsh, worst case scenario, and isn't true.

One of the many things I love about my job is that I get to teach Bible. In 5th grade, we go through the Gospels, and come springtime, my favorite chapter in the entire Bible comes back around.

It's the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the Dead...but it's SO much more than that.

Just when March is kicking in, and I find myself in that hole of discouragement and I'm fighting through the frustration of feeling sad or down or blah, John 11 gets opened once again.

John 11 is the picture of grief, of trusting God, of waiting on Jesus, of heartache, and of Him being there in all of it.

The story is of 2 women, Mary and Martha, who are called friends of Jesus. The Bible includes other stories of them, so they truly have a relationship with Jesus, an intimate, real, and tangible friendship with Him.

Their brother Lazarus becomes sick. They send word to their friend, to the man they know is the Son of God; their Jesus who loves them and their brother.

But what comes back to them is heartbreaking.

It's silence.

They hear nothing. Just, silence.

Being someone who has felt that silence, it's gut wrenching to read that and go back there in my own life...to feel the emptiness of silence.

If someone wants to hurt me to my very core and break my heart, then just be silent. Don't explain, don't answer, don't come, just let there be silence.

 Mary and Martha waited days for Jesus to show up, and He didn't.

Can you imagine the confusion and hurt?

Jesus, our friend, healer, Savior, Lord, the one who loves us not coming.

Their brother dies. They bury him. They weep and grieve the loss of him.

But I think they grieve even more because of the seeming silence of Jesus in their heartache.

One of my students asked me the other day why we don't get to experience Him in person like those of the Bible do. Why is the "Bible back then" and not now?

I won't rabbit trail off on all that I answered, but part of my answer included the grace of having the Bible in our hands, for us to read, to see the stories playing out and seeing much of God's perspective on the events and not just living them out ourselves. Oh what GRACE is involved in that.

Mary and Martha lived it, but we get to read both their part and Jesus' part. We get to see the Narrator and the narrated.

We get to read that Jesus received the message of Lazarus' illness, and we get to see that He had a plan, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified in it."

But we also see, "He then stayed two days longer."

There was no telegram, text message, or phone call.

They sent word, and He sent silence back.

The crushing blow of that would have been devastating.

Today, in our lives, it can be devastating.

But, the story continues and we get to see it play out in the lives of Martha and Mary, which gives us hope in our own.

After He declares to His disciples that Lazarus is dead, Jesus says, "Let's go to Him."

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. I'm not quite sure the exact timing, but it seems like at least a week has passed since word had been sent to Jesus about Lazarus' illness, and I would say it's safe to assume even more time than that had passed.

Mary and Martha had spent quite some time in silence without hearing from Jesus.

When word came that Jesus was approaching, Martha quickly got up and went to Him, but Mary stayed back.

I would have been Mary. I would have stayed back.

I don't know if it was out of hurt or anger or confusion or why she stayed back...but that's where I would have been. In life, when I'm hurt, I go get in my hole, I pull back, I can't face the person, and even with Jesus, if I'm hurt or sad or lonely, sometimes I feel so guilty of my lack in gratitude or contentment that I just can't face Him. I can't walk to Him while feeling silenced, forgotten, or ashamed of having felt those ways.

With grief, it can be the same way. Confusion, anger, loneliness, heartache, and the feeling of rejection can keep us from going to Jesus.

There have been times in my life that I just couldn't say another word to Him, I'd curl up and cry with my heart aching for Him and His assurance, but I couldn't go to Him. I remember falling asleep a number of nights with my Bible under my hand like it was a blanket or a teddy bear, but I couldn't open it, I couldn't face the explosion of hurt and what I thought He might be telling me in the silence of the pain.

Martha though, she goes, and runs to Him. She blurts out her pain, "Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died."

She couldn't hold it back. The blame, the hurt, the grief came spilling out onto Jesus. He takes it in and has a conversation with her, assuring her that her brother would rise again, telling her that HE is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in Him will never die.

Martha quickly runs back to her sister and lets her know that Jesus is calling for her.

Once Mary hears Jesus is calling for her, she hurriedly goes to Him. Once her name is called by Him, she runs, falls at His feet weeping, and cries out, "Lord, if You had been here..."

"When Jesus saw her weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled."

"Jesus wept."

Jesus had a plan. There was a plan from the beginning with Lazarus, for the glory of God to be shown.

And the plan was going to require patience, death, grief, yet it was all wrapped in deep love, a deep love for family, for friends, and from Jesus.

And this is why John 11 is my favorite chapter...it is a picture of life.

In life, we are often times faced with a great need for Jesus and some of the times we are faced with a seeming silence from Him. We pray, we seek, we beg, but no answer seems to come.

Our friend, our Savior, our Lord may not come with an immediate answer and we must sit and wait. We might even have to walk through pain and death.

But, one of the overwhelming things I learn from John chapter 11 is I can run to Jesus, and even if I can't bring myself to run to Him, He's going to come and call for me.

I can run to Him, fall at His feet, and release all that my heart feels, even if it's blame: If You would have been here Lord!

And the second, and the most beautiful part: He is here...even in the silence. He's here.

Jesus didn't have to come to heal Lazarus. He could've done it from afar.

Jesus' plan included other roads, other ways, and other reasons.

His timing was part of the plan, but even in that, Jesus didn't expect Mary and Martha to be rockstar believers and never be shaken by the pain and grief of losing their brother. Their blame didn't throw Him, annoy Him, or change Him.

Their pain and their weeping upset Him and greatly moved Him, and He too wept with them.

He came and He wept with them, and then He miraculously brought Lazarus back to life.

I miss my mom. I miss there being a person on this earth who thinks I'm very special. I miss being able to call someone any time of the day or night and who would sit and listen, whose shoulder is ever ready, whose prayers always include me, and who reminds me that God has great plans for me...that loneliness will wane and a new dawn will arrive. To remind me that God's grace is bigger than my mistakes, and to not listen to everything my mind tells me.

John 11 reminds me that Jesus has a plan, it requires patience, but in all of that, He comes and He weeps with me in my grief.

He doesn't expect me to buck up and press on, but He calls me to love deeply and when that love faces death, the grief that follows is tough. It is heart breaking, and at times, one must weep.

Just fall at His feet and weep.

And then watch Him do the miraculous that will follow, because with Jesus, something miraculous and full of grace will follow.

With Jesus, death does not win or have the final say, life will always follow.

Spring does come.

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:20-25

The pain, the tragedy, the horror, and the silence on Friday must have been crushing to Jesus's disciples, but in 3 days, GRACE erupted.

He had a plan, it required patience, death, grief, and a seeming silence in it all...but then, the miraculous, LIFE sprang forth.

Never doubt it my friend, spring will come, Grace will erupt.

This I know, that God is for you.