Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Year Quietly Closing - And a Link to "Held Fast" (Logan's Cave Rescue)

Dearest Friends,

The year quietly closes. There are so many things I'm thankful for. Small moments. Milestones. Family and friends and God's sweet grace. As we gather together, a bevy brothers sprawls over the floor. Lonny and I are tender to be in the center of it all. And I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the togetherness. I'm grateful for the gift that God gave us in holding and delivering our first born son.

That miracle, that blessing, will continue to be strong on my heart.

So, from our family to yours, we wish you a Happy New Year. Thank you for being with us in 2012.

May the Lord hold and keep you.

With Love,
Shawnelle and Men

Link to "Held Fast" from the January 2013 issue of GUIDEPOSTS.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Sweet Sam - Just Like His Grace

I'm wrapping a birthday gift.

And I'm lost in thought.

It's Samuel's birthday. It's a tender time each year.

Twelve years ago, Lonny and I were in the sanctuary of our church home. It was the evening of the Christmas program. Lonny's arm, like always, was looped over my shoulders. There were candles and music and greens.

And a friend came down the aisle as Mary, holding her newborn babe.

And my heart broke.


I'd had a miscarriage two months before. The pregnancy had come after stacked-up years of want. Lonny and I had prayed. Our two young sons had prayed on small, bent knees, too.

 And those pleas had been answered. Then my body pushed away what my heart held dear.

Lonny squeezed my shoulder. He pulled me close, like he could keep out the pain. My friend coddled her baby in the soft light of the stage. I wrapped my own arms around my hollow middle while anger and hurt caged my heart.

I didn't know that a few months later I'd be pregnant again.

I didn't know that right before the next Christmas, I'd hold my own sweet Sam.

I snip a length of ribbon and tie it around the box. Samuel will like his gift. He's grateful and easy to please. And when he shakes the present and rips the paper, I'll see what I always see.

I'll see God's gift of grace.

Because with Samuel, God reached straight into my hurt. He reached into my anger. He reached into all that was jealous and raw and hard inside.

He reached into far away, dark places.

And He pulled me close and made them light with grace.

It was nothing that I deserved.

It was only by His love.

I finish the gift and set it on the table. Shiny ribbon curls catch afternoon light. It will soon be time for cake and candles, family and song. And my heart overflows from the goodness of it all... not even because the Lord gave me the desire of my heart (oh, I'm forever grateful for that) but because in compassion and love He reached low to touch an empty place with the beat and promise of life.

Isn't that just like Christmas?

Isn't that just like His grace?

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

Merry Christmas, friends, from our home to yours. May your days be filled with tender whispers of His grace.

("The Greater Miracle", the full story of the year God gave us Samuel, is in Cecil Murphey's book titled Christmas Miracles.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Home, The Holidays, and The Sweet Gift of Heritage

We're packed in the van. We're off to see Christmas lights.

It's tradition.

There's music. Hot cocoa in travel cups. And a bevy of boys pressed in tight.

The light display is in a neighboring community. It's the community where my grandparents lived for years. There's no reason to go there now, except to see lights at Christmas. My grandparents went to heaven a few years back.

So we drive for a half-hour. We weave through the town. I'm twisted backward in my seat, troubleshooting everything from a kicked-off shoe to a cocoa-sloshed coat.

When I turn around front, I see their house. Mamo and Papo's home. It's on the way.

But the sight hits me hard.

"Oh, Lonny," I say. "Look at their house."

It's beautiful. Someone is loving it. There are lights. A yard display. The home is brick and bold and is sparkling Christmas, too.

I watch as we whir past. Past the their bedroom window. Past the living room where we'd gathered close.

"Lonny," I say. We're already a few blocks gone. "Can we go back? For just a minute?"

He smiles. He knows. It doesn't matter that three-fifths of the boys are about to come unglued.

So we turn the corner. We head back. And in the silence of darkness, we sidle next to the curb.

For a moment, I could be a girl. I could be small and sitting in Mom and Dad's big, blue Olds. I look at the steps. I look at the door. I know the sound of the bell. And I know that the knobs in that house are cut class. I look at the window. I've sat on the other side and looked out. Now there are lights. There's a family inside. There was once, long ago, too...

we'd go every year to decorate Mamo and Papo's Christmas tree (and a thousand times in between). There would be a stockpot of something simmering. Papo would have the boxes of ornaments down. There were tin can angels dated back to my mom. There were bulbs that stretched  to a string of Christmas-pasts. Papo would hold us on his lap. He'd listen. And love. He'd call my three sisters and me "Baby Girl". Mamo would run her soft fingers over our arms as we spoke. Or she's twist them through through our long, blond hair. She'd make us feel like we were the only ones in the world. Sometimes my cousin Toddy would be there, garland wrapped around his neck, pouncing from behind the tree,  eyes glazed with holiday cheer, and he'd make a four little girls gasp and giggle with little-boy-wild.

My own boys begin to go wild in the back. They are bustling. Singing loudly. Patience has run short and the cocoa has run dry.

"Ready?" Lonny asks.

I nod to tell him so. But my heart twists and sitting there I miss them until it hurts.

"Can we go, Mom? Can we see the lights?" someone asks from the back.

The van begins to move.

And I'm moved, too. Because as we pull away, and I'm twisted backward again, I can see them. My grandparents. I see Papo in my oldest son's gentle, quiet ways. I see him in Grant's eyes - the pure blue color and the sparkle that makes me wonder. I see my grandfather's honesty and goodness and the way he loved the Lord. Mamo isn't far, either. She's in the way I learned to listen, the way I touch my own babies, a way of loving passed from Mamo to Mama to me.

"You okay?" Lonny asks.

And I am.

Christmas gifts are wrapped and unwrapped. Here and gone.

But the gift of heritage?

That one keeps giving.

That one is for keeps.

Lord, thank you for my grandparents, for my parents, for those who lived and loved and taught me to do the same. Be with Lonny and me, in our home, as we raise our boys and as we create a heritage for those to come. Amen

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Prayer by Max Lucado

Dear Friends,

All that will come today are whispered prayers.

As a mother I hold my children close and grieve for those who have lost their precious babies.  Lost to this world by something horrific, unimaginable, and beyond-words dark.  Yesterday, my pastor read this prayer by Max Lucado.  It reminds us that Christ came into the darkness of this world to provide hope. Hope in who He is. Hope in what He would give. And hope of what is yet to come.


Max Lucado's 'A Christmas Prayer'

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Blessing of Time - (And "The Christmas Ornament")

It's a rare moment. The boys are out. The house is quiet.

It's just me. A cup of tea. And a greyhound named Sis.

We're in the living room. The tree twinkles bright. I love moments alone. I enjoy quiet and still.

And it's then that I see the ornaments.

It's then that my heart feels full.

The ornaments were made by my oldest son. I admire the shiny, white globes. I remember when he made each one. They signify life. Love. And the passing of time.

I usually kick and scream to the tick of a clock. I usually wrestle hard to hold the hands still.

But not today.

Today the passing of time makes me smile. Today the passing of time brings me joy.

Because today I can see that time can bring healing.

Time can tame fear.

Time can settle a shaken heart.

When Logan gave me the first ormanent, he was a small boy. When he gave me the second, he was a young man about to leave home. Back then I couldn't even imagine pressing through. But the days have been filled with the God's grace. The days have been held in His hands. Through the days His faithfulness has flowed. He's allowed me to grow. My son has grown, too.

There have been pains to it all. The stretch of change. The pull of letting go. But it's all good. I've seen the fruit of His activity. I've seen His tender love and care..

So I sit in the quiet and sip tea.

I sit in the stillness and smile.

It's just me, the dog, and a twinkling tree.

Covered by the blessing of time.

Link to my story, "The Christmas Ornament", Guideposts, December 2010.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sweet Tradition - A Christmas Box and a Basket of Prayer

It's been a wild, wild weekend (more on that later). So this morning I'd just like to share some tradition, sweet tradition, that's been a blessing in our home....

"Mom," Sam says. "It's time for the Christmas box!" His eyes are round. His smile is wide. It warms me to know that this child, stretching too fast out of little-boy, is small and sweet inside.

"You're right," I say. "Go get the box."

Sam shoots around the corner. I shout after him. "And get your brothers, too!"

The Christmas box is a simple, square box with a lid (ours is glittery gold). At Christmastime, it sits on the mantle. It's filled with twelve index cards, and written on each card is an activity for the day. We call ours the Twelve Days of Christmas (but there's grace in that, too - the days don't have to be consecutive and Mama chooses the card).

The activity ideas are simple. Some are for serving (take cookies or make cards for neighbors, help stamp Christmas cards). Some are for learning (use an old family recipe to bake a Christmas treat, read a beautiful Christmas story - Mary's First Christmas by Walter Wangerin Jr. is one of the most lovely I've found). Some are crafty (mold Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joesph from clay, loop a simple green and red paper chain for the tree, or assemble an easy treat for winter birds). Some are just plain fun (take a family car ride to see Christmas lights, turn lamps down and sing carols around twinkling tree, watch a classic Christmas movie, or listen to holiday music and dance).

Whatever the activity, there is focus. Time shared. Intentional togetherness in a season that can feel crazy-wild.

I now hear footfalls. And voices.  A bevy of boys-of-all-ages pounds down the curved stairs..

It's time for the Christmas box and I'm excited, too.

There are memories and  joy inside.


Just another tradition I'd like to pass along...there's a basket on our dining room table. It's filled with the Christmas cards we receive. At mealtime, one boy chooses a card. Then we pray, as a family, for the loved ones who sent the card.

Now, what sweet and simple Christmas traditions do you hold in your homes? It would be a blessing if you'd share...

With love,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Living Laughter and Love - Meeting Our Kids Where They Are

                                     I've heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

                                                                      That's good.

                                         Because I wouldn't know what to say about this...

                                                                           or this...

or this...

Except that Sam and I are at the desk studying about what lives on the rain forest floor. And the little boys are getting crafty on the schoolroom floor.

There are papers. And snippets. And a crazy-lot of tape.

Sam and I read on. But the laughter is loud and we're distracted. Silliness steals the room.

I've heard it said, too, that if you can't beat them, join them.

And so joining them is what we do.

I feel a little embarrassed at first, wearing a snout cap made by my boys. But they only laugh louder. Then there's the wild whir of scissors and scraps and Sam a hat, too.

Meeting our kids where they are. There's got be be some wisdom in that.

Even when one's wearing a snout hat.

And laughing on the schoolroom floor.

Thank you, God, for the blessing of togetherness - for sweet times when we can just let go, live, laugh, and love.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Living Gratitude in the Moment (Night Visitor)

I hear light taps. Then a man-voice at the bedroom door.

It takes me a minute to wake. Lonny's pulling me close. The house is cold so we're snuggled deep. Everything is soft and gray and then there's the man voice again.

This time I'm alarmed.

"Mom," comes the voice. "It's just me. It's Logan. I have Isaiah."

I breathe deep. "Come in," I say. I push the covers back and the cold rushes in. I can see, in a stripe of light from the hall, that Logan is carrying his little brother across the room. He's carried him from upstairs.

"Bad dream?" I ask.

Isaiah nods as Logan bends and settles him next to me. Isaiah presses in. His neck is sweet and warm. He smells of soap and sleep. He fits perfectly into me. Into us. In a moment I know that he's fallen asleep.

"Night," Logan says. "Love you."

"Love you, too," I say. Then he's gone. Out the door. Up the stairs. I can hear the creaks and moans of this old house.

This happens sometimes when Logan is home. Zay wakes and finds his way to Logan's room. Logan returns him to his own room and tucks him back in. Zay wakes again. Logan brings him down.

I'm tired, and in the dark, I can't see that it's my youngest boy I'm holding. I feel his warmth. His hair is fine and soft on my cheek. My arm rises and falls with his small chest.

It feels the same as it did years ago. I'm tired and it could be long ago. It could be the oldest boy. Feels the same. Smells the same. Fits the same. It could be any boy in between.

But he's the youngest, and for a moment I'm awake enough to panic. I'm awake enough to wonder just how much longer this sweetness can last.

I know how quickly the years move. They flowed fast from this little boy to the man-boy who carried him down.

It's a heartbeat.

A quiet pulse of time.

But the room is dark, and we are warm. There's even breath behind me and even breath curled in my arms.

I'm not going to worry.

I know that parenting is about preparing. It's a process of protecting then preparing then learning to let go.

But right now, I'm going to hold on.

I'm going to live in this moment.

And I'm holding on tight.

Help me Lord to live in the appreciate, without worry, the blessing of right now...