Monday, July 30, 2012

Goodness Beyond the Bag - Expecting Grace

Lonny and I are heading to Michigan. To our favorite lake. To the rich place that holds memories and gives memories and settles our hearts deep.

But the packing is something else.

There are stacks of clothes and stacks of food and boxes and bags and totes. My stress level climbs to places I don't want it to to go. But there's so much to do. The list is long. The hours are short. Only when we climb into the Suburban, in the early hours, will I breathe. But for now, the chore list presses hard.

"I've done mine, Mama," Zay says. "I've packed my own bag."

He's lumbering across the living room, dragging his black corduroy bag. It's packed crazy full, bulging at the seams, zipper gaped open with unmet plastic teeth. The boys and I have talked about what to pack. Two shirts. Two shorts. Swim trunks. Boxers. There's a washing machine at the cabin and this part of packing can be light.

"Forgot something," Zay says. And he abandons the bag and shoots like a streak up the stairs.

And I wonder, what's in this stuffed bag? A half-dozen shirts? Every pair of jammies from the child's dresser drawer?

So while he's still overhead, I tug the zipper.

And the treasure falls out.

There's his stuffed monkey, the sock one, with the sailor cap and black bead eyes. There are markers. A notebook. Three wrestling dolls. Two books. Swim goggles. An empty brown root beer bottle (pirate prop). A video game. Flashlight. Magnifying glass. Binoculars. Superman action figure. Bizarro, too.

I spread the bag wide. Not a pair of undies in sight. Not a toothbrush to be had. None of the necessary things. There's nothing practical. Not a hint of chore.

Everything is carefully planned.

But it's expected blessing. Premeditated, cut-loose, throw-your-yoke-off fun.

His focus is on the blessing.

And I'm taken. I'm moved.  This little guy. He's ready to grab the goodness. Nothing we deserve. But everything He holds, ready for us, grace and gifts and life, ready for the taking.

Our Father's merciful gift.

I press and push the goods back into the bag as Zay comes tumbling down the steps.

There's still the packing to do. That's just a part of life. But I'll do it with less stress. Less pressure. With hands that work past the necessity but stretch open for His goodness.

For gifts so sweet.

Given in grace.

Goodness beyond the bag.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sold on Sissy - Guest Blogger Experience

Hey Sweet Friends,

I had the blessing last week of guest blogging about the adoption of our greyhound Sissy at Peggy's Pet Place. Peggy and I met through  Guideposts  and became heart sisters fast.

Thanks for hopping over to Peggy's.

And Peggy, thanks for the fun!

With Love,


Monday, July 23, 2012

Makin' The Most - Blessings in the Mess

"Are you ready to go?" Gabe asks.

He's standing at the end of my bed, blond hair wild and wet from his bath. He smiles that gap-tooth, mismatched seven-year-old grin. And my heart melts then and there. Melts so smooth my feet hit the floor.

"Give me a half-hour," I say. "Let me shower, then we'll be on our way."

He nods and disappears.

It's seven on Saturday morning and we head out for a date. Gabe's carrying a mighty jug of Tide. I'm hefting shorts and shirts that have piled high after just two days. We're going to the laundry mat. This time, set apart, is ours.

Sam's date was last Monday. Wednesday was for Zay. But this morning is for Gabe.

We climb into a van that's steamy like July. Two blocks to the Caseys, and we each choose a cool drink. Another block to the laundry. And we heft those stinky clothes right in.

Gabe grins as he plunks quarters into the slot. He smiles bigger as he sees the wash, through the round window, circle and slosh. Then he pulls two chairs over.

One for him.

One for me.

There's a remote and cable TV, and we watch I Love Lucy while the wash twists and turns and we sip our drinks and smile. Then we shut the TV off. We find the camera from my purse and we take silly pictures. Gabe tells a few jokes. We talk about Nate the Grate and Superman and his favorite kind of ice cream. Then the wash finishes and my date is my helper and we shift the wash into our big, black baskets.

As we leave, he's still sharing steady.

And I'm still listening, too.

A broken washing machine is a real drag.

But in the messy muddle of four super-size loads, there's sweet one-on-one with my son.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When It's Not Crazy Lovely

I'm in the living room. Or what should be the living room. But the dining room table is stuffed between two leather wing chairs, the couch is trapped behind it all,  and there's no room to breathe much less live.

The dining room has flowed into the living room because century old plumbing has burped and belched and broken again and the new linoleum for the bathroom is stretched across the dining room floor.

And the washing machine is broken, too. The hamper overflows. The repair man said the part would take a week and a half and then he bolted for the door like mad. 

So I look at the mess and sigh.

And I weave through the jumble, dodge the corner of the table, twine the skinny path that leads to the hall.

I'm thinking about an army of undies. I'm thinking about how to serve dinner outside when the temperature hit three digits before noon. I'm thinking about that floor and I'm wondering when it will be down and I'm fretting over all the parts and pieces of this uprooted puzzle that need to fit back into place, too.

I'm looking at the unlovely of it all.

Just then Lonny comes from the bathroom. He's tired. I can see the wear of the day in the lines of his face. He sidesteps the out-of-place furniture and crouches low over the sprawled out floor. But before his hands begin to work,  he lifts his head and his eyes meet mine.

I can hear our boys, overhead, playing and shouting and making all kinds of noise.

Sissy's curled on the rug in the hall, a sweet, tight knot of a long, lean dog.

And I stand in the middle of it all, looking at those eyes I've been looking into for almost twenty-five years.

And I have to smile.

Sometimes it's not crazy lovely. Life just doesn't always beat that way.

But Lonny and I are here together, and this pulled-apart place is ours. There are warm, full hearts here. Hands to hold. Time to share. There are memories and yesterdays and tomorrows and lives that tangle deep and wide to the most tender place.

There's blessing. Here. Right in the center of the mess.

And even with a jumble of furniture pressed tight on either side, and bathrooms and hampers that sometimes overflow,

there's no place I'd rather be.

Monday, July 16, 2012


The heat has broken deep and sweet and wide enough for small boys to ride bikes. They're on the river path, brown knees rising and legs pumping hard. They laugh and shout to one another and the goodness, the wild, carefree sounds of little-boy hearts reach my ears. I'm riding behind them, watchful, peaceful, as they flow beside the Mississippi. One brother. And another. Finally the smallest one on four wobbly wheels.

Then I get the idea, when the path runs short, to continue forward, on the road. The boys aren't road savvy. They're used to the path. But the evening is calm and the breeze brushes our skin and it just feels right to press ahead.

So we ebb forward, Sam in the lead. He's gathers energy from the long stretch of road and he's riding way too fast. Gabe, not long on two wheels, teeters and totters and whispers close to parked cars. "Keep a safe distance," I shout, then he veers toward the center. Zay doesn't know what to do with the wide space, so he zigs back and forth. His legs and tiny and he's slow. There's a big stretch growing between him and Sam.

I try to ride somewhere in the middle, looking forward, looking back. I try to place my own bike between my boys and the middle of the road, but we're moving along and I'm outnumbered and it doesn't take long for me to wish we'd stayed on that quiet, simple path.

Then a car whirs past and up ahead there's a red van backing from a drive and I'm praying like mad that the lady behind the wheel sees Sam and that Sam sees her, too.

She does.

 But my protective cover feels too thin.

I continue to ride along, eyes moving from boy to boy while we all move down the road, and suddenly I hear the voice, in the deep place, the still quiet place where He speaks and I know that He is Lord. I hem them in. I go before. I go behind. I understand that it's not just this road. It's life. And His words bring wonder and His words bring peace and I'm grateful for a God who is bigger than I can understand yet personal enough to whisper to a fretting mama's soul.

And my hands aren't gripping the bars quite as tight and I breathe deep. And I see the boys, how they're safe, how they're happy, how they're learning brave new things and I'm in awe of Him.

Because I know that while I try by best to stretch over my boys, He's hemming me in, too.

You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Weekend Wish

Dear Friends,

Just a weekend wish...

A wish for something sweet and simple.

Something that makes your heart swell.

Something that lets you breathe deep.

Something, that for just a moment,

makes your world spin slow.

With love, Shawnelle

Monday, July 2, 2012

Through the Night


The call comes from the darkness. It's Zay. He's been in bed for an hour, but his voice comes just the same.

"I'm here, Zay. What's up?" I'm sitting in the family room, just a few feet away. But he's fearful. I can hear it. And he's my child. So I go.

"There's something scary. Under the door." There's a night lamp, a small circle of glow in the darkness, so I can see his eyes. They're big and round. He nods toward the closet.

I  crouch low on the bottom bunk. Run my fingers through fine, blond hair. Press my lips against his head. "There's nothing there, Babe, remember? This house is filled with God's love."

"But I'm still scared," he says.

I open his closet. Shirts for three boys pressed in a row. Shoes for three, too. "Nothing," I say. "There's nothing here."

I'm beside Zay again. His small hand folds easy into mine. It's quiet. I can hear the breath of two other boys.

Finally he speaks. "Okay," he says. "But will you stay here? Will you watch me while I fall asleep?"

There's no question. He's my boy. And he's afraid. "I will," I say.

Zay curls like a comma. Closes his eyes. And soon he's sleeping. I can feel the beat of his breath, too.

I tiptoe out, but his words stay close. "Please stay here. Watch me while I fall asleep?" It's what we all want, really. Someone to be close. Someone to watch over. Someone to love us and hold us and protect us through our dark night.

I move down the stairs and toward my own room. But I smile. I'm so grateful for my Father.

And for His promise to never leave.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8