Monday, December 30, 2013

Why We Need Christmas

Hello Friends,

Today I'd like to share my post from last Friday's Sozowomen. Thanks for joining me.

 I'm sending warm wishes for best blessings in 2014..may peace and love and joy be yours!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Receiving Gifts

Sam is in the schoolroom. He's found a quiet place. He's nestled in the beanbag chair not far from the fire. His head is tilted down. I can see, from the curve of his shoulders, from the way that he's still, that he's lost in something.

I stand in the doorway and watch. "What are you working on?" I ask after a moment.

Samuel looks up and turns toward me. His cheeks are flushed from the warmth. A smile moves slowly over his face.

"I'm sketching," he says. "Want to see?"

I sit down on the floor beside him. He's sketching a tiger. He's been learning about shading, and I can see that he's coming along well. But it's not the tiger that pulls my attention.

 It's the sketchbook.

Sam's birthday was yesterday. Logan knows how Samuel loves to draw, and he bought him a journal for sketching. It has an embossed cover and a rugged cord that slips around the outside. The pages are heavy and thick.  It's a beautiful book - in a cool, masculine sort of way. But there aren't a lot of pages. And it surprises me that Samuel would use it already. That he'd open to the first blank page and jump right in.

"It's a wonderful tiger," I say.

"Thanks," he says. "Do you think the eyes are okay?" He doesn't give me time to answer. "I love this gift. I really like this book."

"I do, too," I say. And I mean it. If the journal had been given to me, I would've kept it clean. I would've placed it on my desk. Or maybe I would have tucked it away in my drawer. I would have saved it for a special occasion. A special place. A glint in time that was more extraordinary than an ordinary, sit-by-the-fire day.

Or maybe I wouldn't have used it at all.

Samuel erases the eyes. Brushes the page clean. He leaves the tiger face empty and goes about working on the paws.

"I'm so glad Logan gave this to me," Sam says. "He always knows just what I'd enjoy."

I stretch my legs long and settle my back against the beanbag chair. After a moment, I shut my eyes. I can hear Sam's pencil whispering over the page. I think about Sam and his book.

Sam is truly enjoying this gift. It was given for that purpose. I know he'll use it cover to cover.

I think again about how I would've tucked it away. Like buried treasure.

Sam is different. He's letting himself be free. He's going to fill every page. Without reserve.

This challenges me. I begin to think about gifts...particularly gifts that God may want me to have. Like the gift of peace. I can accept it. Or I can let it remain untouched and live in a world of what ifs.The gift of  trust. I can unwrap it and let it flow into my life. Or I can fret and fear. I think about joy. I can take this gift, the deep joy that only Jesus can bring, and live it. I can let it wash over troubles and pain. Or I can let it be snuffed and squelched by life in a fallen world.

I want to accept the gifts that the Lord offers. I want to receive them with grace and joy. I want to live and breathe these good gifts to the fullest. I want to grasp every sweetness and the freedom it brings.

I sit and reflect and remember a quote by Erma Bombeck: "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"

I can hope the same of God's grace gifts in my life. No shove-in-a-drawer, buried treasure living. I want to use His gifts. Cover to cover.

Like Sam fills his journal.

A moment goes by and then Sam wraps his warm hand around my wrist. "Mom," he says. "You awake? Hey, look, I've finished the eyes."

He hands me his book. The tiger is striking. Beautiful.

Almost as lovely as what I've learned from my son.


Note: I'll be breaking for Christmas and will return with a new post next Monday, December 30. May the blessings of the season be yours. Love, Shawnelle

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sweet Sam Turns Twelve - A Christmas I'll Never Forget

"I can't believe it, Mom," Sam says. "I'm going to be twelve."

I just smile. I can't believe it either. We're at the pool, our second home now, and Sam is waiting for his club to practice. He's leaning forward. Turned to the side. He's bare chested, arms twining with new swim muscles. His goggles are strapped over his forehead making his still-blond hair (I'm wondering when it will twinge green)  stand up in wild tufts.

My son. Sweet Sam. His name means God has heard. And he's my reminder of grace.

We'd stood outside in the wee hours on the morning he was born. Lonny, Logan, Grant and me. I was scheduled for a C-section, and when we'd gone to the van, sleepy-eyed but ready, we were in awe of the sky. Pitch dark but sprinkled with stars. It was cold. Crisp. We joined mittened hands right in the front yard and prayed for our babe, whispering thanksgiving and praise into the quiet night.

But my heart hadn't always been like that. Just before Sam was conceived, it was shaded angry and dark.

Lonny and I had tried for several years to have a child. Logan was ten. Grant was six. The years were marked with pleading and prayer. Little boys in PJ's, kneeling by their bed, asking for a brother. Our friends gathering around us to pray. Then, when we'd almost lost hope, we became pregnant. But we miscarried the baby on a Indian summer day when the sun pressed gold through the trees and my body pushed away what my heart held dear. At the time, many of my friends were pregnant. I went to shower after shower. Delivered meal after meal. At Christmas, I'd sat in a pew during our church pageant and broke inside while a friend, dressed as Mary, walked down the aisle carrying her babe.

I wanted to have a thankful, beautiful heart. I wanted to be that woman. But I wasn't. My heart was jagged and rough and hard.

One day I cried out loud to God. I wanted to be honest like David. I let my feelings run free. I'd promised I'd raise my family to know Him. Why wouldn't he just give? Couldn't He see the tears? I yelled until my throat burned. I didn't know that tucked under my heart was the babe I'd longed for.

God, in His goodness, had met my anger
 with love.

Sweet grace.

It was nothing I deserved. He didn't wait for me to be cleaned up. All better. Solid and clean and worthy. He met me in my dark place.  He brought an abundance of blessing and grace and compassion to a place that had gone hard and dusty and dry. And my son was born just before Christmas. Our hospital room was filled with soft music. Someone brought a tiny tree. Others brought poinsettias and cookies and came to share our joy. And when I moved my fingers over his tiny heartbeat, when I held him close and breathed this fresh, new life, I knew I holding goodness and grace.

Sam and I chat for a few moments, then it's time for him to go. He walks to the edge of the pool, all long-legged and pre-teen lanky.  He stands at the edge and dives in. Clean and easy. He glides and breaks the water. Pushes up. Sees me watching and smiles. It's a wide, goggled grin.

And my heart hurts hard for my grace gift.

The year God's goodness washed over my sin. When the light of His love reached my dark place.

I wave to my boy and marvel.

Isn't that just like Christmas?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Clay Baby Christmas - From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas

Hi Friends,

Today I'd like to share a story from the new release Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas. The link below is for the Chicken Soup for the Soul website.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas

I'm sending best wishes for a warm and peaceful December day. May simple blessings be yours.

With love and hugs,


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Quiet Place to Rest

A couple of years ago, I walked into the kitchen and saw, through the leaded glass of the heavy door, my best friend. She was on my porch. Sitting on our old swing. She was still bundled in her winter coat and her eyes were closed.

She was quiet. Still.

I flung the door open. Our porch is enclosed, but there was enough winter bite to make it cold. "What are you doing?" I asked. "Come on in!"

My friend looked up. She tried to smile, but the dimpled sweetness was lost. Her heart was heavy. I could see it without a word.

"I can't," she finally said. "My boys are sick with the flu. Again. I think I may be coming down with it, too. There are a million things to do. I feel ragged. And when I parked the van just now - look what happened to this." She held the shifter in her mittened hands.Her eyes filled with tears. Mine did, too.

I sat on the swing next to her.

"I don't want to infect your household," she finally said.  "I just needed a quiet place to rest."

She and I talked for a few minutes. It wasn't long before the small faces of my household were pressed against the kitchen-side of the glass. My friend encouraged me to go in. I eventually did. I closed the door behind me and left her on the porch.It felt a little odd. But I wanted to give my friend what she'd asked for. A quiet place to rest.

I think of my friend as I walk through that same kitchen today. There are dishes piled high. A to-do list scrawled on a tablet on the counter. There are home school lessons and errands. Swim practice and basketball. Lonny's working shifts again, a new challenge for us, then there's the wild and crazy December rush.

I'm feeling a little tired. Like my friend, I need a place to rest. I know there's only one place I can go to get the deep, settling rest I long for. A rest of the spirit. A comfort of the soul. Time with the Lord in His Word. I haven't been there enough lately, but I feel the pull, the need, the frayed pieces of my heart longing to be bound and mended tight.

Lord, thank you for the comfort of Your Word. Thank you for speaking life to a tired heart. Thank you for filling me with Your promises, Your wisdom, Your direction.

Help me to make spending time with You a priority.

Help me to find You - and in the love and grace and beauty of that relationship - a quiet place to rest.


He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NIV

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Faith to Face Her Fear (GUIDEPOSTS)

Morning Friends,

Today I'd like to share my story from the December issue of Guideposts. Fear moved far by the
faithfulness of God. What a precious thing!

Have a wonderful winter day. May you be warmed by His grace and love.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Marriage Rediscovered - The Treasure of Time

Hello Friends,

I had the blessing of posting yesterday at SozoWomen (forWedded Wednesday). Thanks for joining me there.

Have a wonderful weekend. May it be filled with God's tender grace.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Finding New Blessings

When Lonny tells me he has to work the weekend after Thanksgiving my mind rushes fast. These sweet days hold tradition in our home. We bundle up on Friday and plod over gentle hills in pursuit of a tree. We tether it to our Suburban and sing Christmas songs on the way home. And Saturday is decorating day. We listen to Bing Crosby and Judy Garland. We make a stock pot of soup. We carry totes from the attic that hold twenty years of memories from Christmas past.

But how can we do this if Lonny isn't here?

He and I scan the fam cal and try to shimmy tradition into the jam-packed squares. Swim meets. Basketball. Another long-haul project for Lonny at work. There isn't a place to make it fit. We decide to wing it. Maybe something on the calendar will give.

But when we wake the next morning, after Lonny has left for work, Logan has a novel idea."I think," he says, "that we need to cut the tree today. We'll miss Dad but it's going to be the perfect day."

I look at my son. I can't deny that the sun is already pressing through the living room window.

"Cut the tree without Dad?" I ask.

He nods. "It's almost December. And it's going to be impossible to find another time."

So we gather the brothers. We gather mittens and hats. And I try to gather enthusiasm. To me it seems sad. I know that in the course of life this is just a gentle ripple. A minor disappointment. A tiny thing. I'm ashamed that it bothers me so much. Maybe because the years flow fast? Or there's no guarantee there won't be hard change? I don't know. But we do these things together. Without Lonny it doesn't seem right.

In a short time we're at the tree lot. We take a saw and the smaller boys run like wild over the hills. The trees are beautiful and the sun is on our shoulders.

"This one?" Gabriel shouts as he beams at a Fraser fir.

"No, that one over there. It's small and shaped like a tear," Sam says.

We trudge around for a bit, the five boys and me. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a fave. Then we see the tree. It's tall and beautiful and we all agree fast. But for good measure we take a
vote. All six approve. I smile and nod. But I miss Lonny's vote, too.

"Now who's going to help cut?" Logan asks.

The three younger boys are on their bellies in no time flat. Grant agrees to hold the top.

And I step back and watch my sons. Logan claiming leadership. Grant lending support. Three younger guys bursting with joy. Logan crawls under the tree with saw. He offers it to Zay then his own big hands curl over the small ones. Back and forth. Back and forth. Logan takes time with  each younger brother. When the tree comes free Grant catches the weight of it. Everyone cheers. It's a job well done.

The guys all want to help tote the tree back to the barn. They're victorious as we move over the hills again. I stay back a bit, wanting this picture, this day, to press into my heart. Zay's winter hat is an owl and as he skips the ear tufts bob up and down. Gabe and Sam, after a short while, decide they'd rather bolt around than carry the tree. And Logan and Grant haul this beauty, the biggest we've ever had, while the brothers run around them.

I still miss Lonny. But I know the rest of the weekend will be okay.

Tradition is treasure, but sometimes change brings beautiful things.

This day is precious, after all.

Lord, thank you for tradition. But thank you for new blessings, too. Open my eyes so that I may see...Amen.