day two

My fingers feel so unfamiliar with these keys as I begin typing for the first time in months.But, I’ve had a thought on my heart for a while now, and today, the day before Easter, is a good day to share it.

I’ve been working on being still. Not letting my hopes and dreams get too far in front of me that when I reach for them I lose my balance here in the present. I fail and fall quite a bit, but I’m making progress. Baby steps.

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Yesterday was Good Friday, the anniversary of the death of our Jesus. On Friday we say, “Sunday is coming!” and we celebrate the implications of the sacrifice he made on that day. On Sunday we celebrate and rejoice in his resurrection because death could not hold him and sin has been defeated. This is incredible.

But today is Saturday. Not Friday, nor Sunday. It’s day two of three and why is this significant?

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I don’t think Jesus needed three days. I think he could’ve probably solved the issue of sin in a few seconds if he wanted to. No, I don’t think he even needed a full 24 hours. So, why three days? Why wait till Sunday?

I think maybe the three days were for us because we needed Saturday.

“You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations.”

There’s something about silence that the Lord loves. Something about stillness and quiet that resonates with his character. Time after time he says to slow down, still our hearts, and listen for him in the quiet.

I think of what that Saturday might’ve been like, 2,000 years ago. I think of how it might’ve sounded like the eery calm after a thunderstorm or the soft crashing waves just before daybreak. I think of the void so unmistakable in that town among Jesus’s followers that would’ve left them speechless and numb. I think of the soft cries and tears rolling down cheeks as they began to get used to their “new normal”. I think of them burying themselves deep in the memories of when Jesus was living and asking themselves, “What else could I have done?”

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I think Saturday served a very significant purpose. I think Saturday stilled them just long enough for them to realize who they had lost and what that truly meant. I think Saturday was the day they reevaluated everything. I think Saturday was the day they understood Jesus had been telling the truth.

“You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.”

I think hearts were softened on Saturday and seeds began growing. I think the stillness of a day of mourning ultimately brought more joy in the resurrection than what might’ve resulted had Jesus not taken three days.

In my own life, I need to have more Saturdays. More times when I still myself and reevaluate and realize what’s going on right now. Moments where I stop and look at the faces around me and ask, “What more can I do for you, Jesus?” I need to remember the miracles and reminisce the struggles so I can never forget who Jesus was, is, and is to come.

I don’t think Saturday was an accident. I think it was intentional. And I think our Saturdays should be intentional too.

 

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another splendid adventure

2015.

I can honestly say that I saw none, absolutely none, of what 2015 would hold as 2014 danced away and I sipped champagne while the clock struck midnight.

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I cried more in 2015 than I thought I could bear. I’ve laughed more in 2015 than I thought was possible. I fell deeper in love with life, living, and people who saw me for who I was and decided to stick around– decided I was worth it. I also just plain fell in love.

A year ago, as we rang in 2015 with confetti and too many bottle-rockets, I gave myself a few life rules. I said that mistakes need not be fatal– hardships teach you things. I said that people were more important than achievements or possessions could ever be. I said I would learn to use a semi colon, but I actually already knew how to do that so, instead, I taught someone else. And finally, I said that I would find love.

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Each of these was fulfilled in their own interesting way. Mistakes I made a year ago were finally reconciled and I put one foot in front of the other and carried on with what I knew I should be doing.

I went through much pain and heartache to ensure a future of babies on my hips, wiping little bottoms, kissing boo-boos, and hearing “mommy” in squeaky, little voices. Those babies will be my greatest achievements– they will be what I hold dear.

I watched kids bursting with personality think hard and long and get better at things that didn’t come naturally and I celebrated with them when they passed a hard test and, yes, finally mastered the oxford comma. It was a proud moment.

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And love.

It came. It had always been here, actually, but it grew exponentially, in ways and directions I never knew love could grow. At my lowest, there was love that pulled me up and said, “It’s not over yet. Don’t give up.” At the most painful, there was love that said, “Just remember that it’s worth it. It’s all worth it.” At the most apprehensive moments, there was love that whispered, “Follow your dream. You can do it.” And in my most unsuspecting moment, love came and said, “Can we do life together, me and you?”

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All of these moments, coming together like beautiful pieces of some divine puzzle, are what my 2015 was composed of. Would I ask for all of it again? Probably not. Would I give any of it back? Not a chance.

2015 meant I saw the baby take her first steps. It meant I played tic-tac-toe with a precious Nicaraguan school girl. It meant I taught the little one his colors, shapes, and alphabet. 2015 meant I reconnected with old friends, met new ones, and dove further into relationships with others. It meant I experienced healing from the great Healer and victory because my God never fails. 2015 meant fulfillment and answers to prayers.

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2015 left me wanting more– more life, more love, more surprises, more children, more joy, more relationships, more worship, more prayer– just more. More of whatever He wants to give me. Nothing from His hand will disappoint me. He’s a giver of good gifts, a good Father.

So, if 2016 is anything like this year– and also if you’ve read this far– I say bring it on. It’s another adventure.

A splendid adventure.

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i call myself

me llamo

I desire to be known by several names.   

First, Shelby Grace– the name my momma gave me. Next, daughter of the greatest momma and daddy I could ever ask for. Then, sister to three incredible humans that I get to call siblings (and in-law!). Also, friend to whomever I am blessed to laugh, live, and love alongside of. Most recently, girlfriend, which gives me butterflies and nervous anxiety all at the same time. 

One day, I hope to be called beloved by the one with whom I’ll spend the rest of my days here on earth. I hope to hear momma as a child runs in my direction, needing a kiss on a boo-boo or praise for conquering a childish fear. I hope in about three years to be called nurse by the hurting and the sick and the wounded. Eventually, I’ll hear aunt and grandmother and sister-in-law. Maybe I’ll hear more names that I can’t even imagine yet. 

To what- or whom- do I owe this honor?

  

To be given a title, to be known and recognized- it’s all we really want. We want to be known, deep down in the marrow of our bone and cellar of our hearts.  

“Before you were formed, I knew you.”

He whispers, “I was there. I was inscribing into your DNA who you would be and to whom you would be. I knew you before it all began. Before they named you, before you called yourself anything, I saw you. And I called you.”

And what has he called us? 

  

“I’m no longer a slave to fear,                   I am a child of God.” 

Child is what he calls you. Mine is how he thinks of you. Friend is what he sings over you. Redeemed is how he looks at you. 

Very simply, we are H I S. 

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“we write to taste life twice”

I cooked Asian food with the boy not long ago and as we read ingredients written in foreign languages and smelled smells our noses weren’t accustomed to, I doubted the success our meal. 

Once a giant mess had been made and everything was cooked and served steaming hot on porcelain plates, we took bites with chopsticks and tried to get more food in our mouths than out. 

Some bites were wonderful. Some were tolerable. Others were so bad I couldn’t swallow. Some bites I wanted more of- others I never wanted to taste again.

  
A year ago I was tasting bites I would have never wanted to taste again. I was fighting and chewing and squirming through deep valleys and thick pain and it was hard for me to remember a time when the bites weren’t bad. 

Six months ago the bites became tolerable- or maybe I decided to stop fighting so hard to spit them out. Either way, I started learning that in every bite, with each taste, He is unfolding mysteries around me and making them perfect in due time. 

One month ago, I took my last bite of the food I had been living off of for a year. I didn’t savor it- I swallowed hard and sang hallelujah when I saw that my plate was clear. Soon, a new plate was brought before me and, so far, I’ve enjoyed every bite. 

  

  
But I’ve come to a place where I’d like to re-taste some of the hard bites of the past year. I don’t miss the pain and the hurt and the doubt. I don’t miss the anger and the depression and the confusion. I don’t miss any of it. 

What I want to taste twice is the peace that held me together when I was sure I would break. What I want to experience again is the surge of hope I felt every morning when my heart awoke to new mercies. What I want to never forget is that in every moment, He was truly making everything work for my good, because He loves me. 

I write and retaste and my heart says, “oh, so that’s what He was doing!” 

He makes all things work for the good of those who love Him. The good works He begins in us, he will carry out to the day of completion. If even one sheep goes astray, will He not leave the ninety-nine and run after him? 

  

So I will say thank you. I will say thank you and I will retaste the moments I don’t understand and the moments I want to relive over and over again. I will cherish the moments where laughter is easy and love grows wild. I will search hard in the seasons of difficulty for the promises He has given me that the waters will not sweep over me and he will be to me a wall of fire in my midst. 
I will write and I will read and I will taste and retaste and see that He is good. 

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she’s a legacy 

Wrinkled skin. Bruised arms.

Gray, wiry hair pulled back behind a headband wrapping around her frail crown. 

Eyes peeking behind glasses that help her see- see her children, her grand-children, and me, one of her 14 great-grandchildren. 
Fourteen of us. I’m one of fourteen. One of fourteen who knows that sweet, wobbling voice she has. One of fourteen who has listened to her stories, has heard her struggles, and knows her heart. 
I know her smell. It’s like the CoverGirl brand of blush. I remember spending the night at her old house, admiring her giant pantry. I can hear her stories in my mind, the ones about growing up poor, falling in love, about taking in the baby with no home, and trusting Jesus with all her heart. 

“Is she your inspiration?” someone asks me. 
She’s a flawed old woman with years of life hanging plainly from her shoulders. No doubt she’s told some lies, broken hearts, and made a few wrong decisions. 
Haven’t we all? 

But I’ll bet she’s also saved a life or two, with her smile, a timely pat on the back, a kiss on the forehead, or an “it’s gonna be alright, sha.” I bet she’s been a shoulder to cry on and a friend to confide in. I bet she’s prayed a thousand prayers.

“Is she your inspiration?”
I don’t know if I would have thought to give her this title before I was asked the question, but as I sit and watch her hold the baby on her lap with the little bit of strength she has left, my answer is this:
She is quite the inspiration. 

Because of knowing her, I am inspired to love and love and love until there is no love left.

To love in the selfless way. 

To love and then love some more. 

To trust Eternal love even when earthly love lets you down. 

To hold on for as long as Jesus says to hold on, and not let go till he says it’s time. 
She has been, is, and will be remembered as inspiring. 

Her name is Evelyn. Evelyn loved hard. 

Here’s to you, Granny. You are my inspiration.  
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i want my feet to dance

with my sweater keeping me warm and fuzzy socks reaching up to my knees, sun beams fly like swords through the sky and their light finds its way through this window and onto my face. Warmth. I won’t need this sweater for much longer now. 

  

I wasn’t exactly eagerly anticipating this spring. I knew it would be trying. I knew there would be storms I’d have to weather, hills I’d have to climb, fake smiles I’d have to plaster to my face. I’m fine. How are you? 

And to the ones who knew, I might elaborate, “today was the worst.” And their reply would be a sympathetic “I’m sorry.” 

  

All I had wanted was for my plan to work. Just once. Please, God. I had great things in mind. I had places and people and times and events swirling in my head just waiting to burst forth into fruition. But they never did. My plan didn’t work. 

I’m done, I told him. I told him I was through- I quit. I didn’t want to be broken, sick, tired, and lost anymore. That was no life for me and I refused to live it. It was time for me to dance away to my own rhythm. 

So I did.

 

I hadn’t known there was a place like that. A place lower than the bottom, further from lost, more shattered than a million pieces. But that place was where my dancing feet took me and all that was in me felt crushed.

  

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” 

 

Fine. You take the lead. I surrendered.

  

I hadn’t heard the song before. I didn’t like it at first. But I kept listening and as the words continued to flow and our feet shuffled in sync I began to understand the melody, the heart of the tune. 

Trust me.

My shoulders relaxed- I began to trust. My hands would tighten, then release the pressure. Every time I looked down at my feet to be sure of my steps, he lifted my chin and spoke confidence to my soul. 

Trust me.

The chorus repeated- I was just getting comfortable. Then the beats quickened and the notes got lower on the grand and I had an eerie feeling about what was fast approaching. 

Trust me.

I’ve never liked bridges. They’re dramatic and out of place and whatever they have to say can be said after the song ends. Did I have to dance on this bridge? 

Trust me.

So I did.

 

I suppose I should say am. I’m still on this bridge. I can see the end and I’m almost there, but this is not a bridge I would have chosen for myself. And that’s ok.

“If you love me, obey my commandments.”

I don’t love this bridge. But I do love my dance partner. So I’ll follow his lead and wait for the grand finale when I’ll see all of his promises fulfilled. I believe in that day. I anticipate that day. 

And like the sinful young woman I will dance and weep and pour myself out at my King’s feet day after day because what an honor it is for the bride to dance with her groom. 

“Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride.”

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love even when

She holds out her hands to me, a smile filling her face. She has a gift.

“Pinza pelo,” she says. A pink hairbow. 

  

I didn’t know what to expect from a week spent in a third-world country. I was so close to not even being able to go that part of me didn’t think about what it would be like, just in case it didn’t work out. 

But it did work out, because the Lord is ever faithful, and I packed my suitcase and hopped on my first plane ride ever and began the journey that would mark me for life.

  

Their faces. I cannot forget their beautiful faces and my heart even hurts to look at them because all I want to do is kiss their cheeks and adore their laughing eyes. Theirs are the faces of heaven. 

“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.”

  

I asked the Lord for one thing on this trip. I asked for a meaningful encounter with someone. I asked for a moment where, despite the language barrier and minimal Spanish I had tucked away from highschool, I really connected with someone.

He gave me three someones. Three moments. Three answers to my prayer. 

  

Breydy. She showed me what giving effortlessly looks like. She gave half of her lunch to a friend and candy to me and another team member. She gave me the pink hairbow I’m looking at right now. I think of her when I see it. I think of her generosity and how it is a reflection of the Father’s generous heart. I cannot forget how beautiful she is, how much she looks like her Father. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave…” 

  

Iris and Daniela. Mom and baby. Seventeen and so young to be a mother, yet so full of life and hope for herself and her daughter. She told me how hard it was to be single, how there were complications during childbirth, how she couldn’t have anymore children after Daniela. But she laughed. Her eyes sparkled with a joy I wanted bottle up and take with me everywhere. She knew that having Daniela was a privilege and blessing and she was honored to be her mother. I cannot forget her ability to love and laugh so much like our God.

“Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the Lord.”

  

It’s true, what they say. They say that when you set out to bless people in the name of Jesus that you also end up being blessed. 

I was greatly blessed. Each day held a new lesson, a new adventure, a new revelation that I cannot forget. So much life and truth was spoken into and over me that I cried just trying to take it all in. 

“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.”

  

Something happens when you board a plane and travel to another country. Something in your spirit shifts when you leave your homeland and find yourself flying over someone else’s. Your eyes open wider as you take in sunsets from other skylines and breathe the air of other nations. 

This world is big. It’s bigger than my plot of dirt in my city in my state in my country. It’s much bigger. I cannot forget that. 

If I had to sum the entire week in one sentence, I would say “Love even when…” 

Even when they’re dirty, even when they’re mean, even when they’re sick, even when they’re wrong, even when they’re begging, even when they’re not interested, even when they’re taking advantage, even when. 

Even when. Period. 

  

I cannot forget the success and the joy and the patience and the love and the laughter and the lessons learned and the presence of God from that week. I can’t forget that Nicaraguan heat, the smell of the mounds, the dirt on their faces, and the voices speaking a language I barely understood. I can’t forget the Lord’s faithfulness in bringing me to this place and allowing me to meet some of his children so far away from where I call home. 

  

I cannot forget because, if I do, I will have missed it. I will have missed the heart of the Gospel entirely. I will have missed the calling the Lord has placed on my life. I will have missed the reality of heaven and hell and the crucial truth that if I don’t tell them there is a Savior, who will? 

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

People are not projects– they are our purpose.

We can never forget that. 

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