Thursday, August 19, 2010

I hate moose keetos!

One day last week, out of the clear blue, in the middle of the kitchen as I prepared a meal, my three-year-old daughter says to me, "Mom, I hate moose keetos!"
I'm sorry, what was that?
"I hate moose quitos!"
Honey, I have no idea what you are talking about. We are having hamburgers for supper. What is a moose keeto?
Looking incredibly sheepish at this point, and a little afraid of the fact that for the third time she was about to use the word "hate", a word generally frowned upon in this house, especially out of the mouths of babes, she says to me, "I hate moose keetos. They bite you."
Aaaaahhh! Now I get it! Mosquitoes! She hates mosquitoes!

As she walked away I pondered the humor of such an outburst from the mouth of a little girl. Truthfully, we really do not allow our children to throw around the word hate, and her comment, and the accompanying look of fear on her face, told me she was playing the ohsovery fun game of 'polly the parrot'. She was repeating the adults in her life. After a weekend of camping in a wind-still, bottom-ground, wooded campsite during the wettest Nebraska summer anyone can remember, I am just sure she heard more than one of her dearly loved adult relatives proclaim that sentiment with gusto.

And why wouldn't we?? The mosquito is truly one of God's most annoying and aggravating creations (meaning You no disrespect, Lord), and is best known for causing one to ponder just what may be the reason for its existence at all. Yes, they are sure good at blood-sucking, but more often than that, I think we just wonder what value do they have? What good and true purpose could they possibly have? Why, Lord, why??

And the only possible thought I have, the only logical explanation I can come up with, is that God just wants to remind us that we are not truly masters of it all. As great as human accomplishment, technology, and innovation are, we are still subject to the laws of creation. As arrogant as mankind can get, the mosquito is here to keep us humble. Think about it...we build houses on hillsides and are shocked when they slide down with the mud, we build cities below sea level and watch the levy break to destroy it all, we dig for oil in the ocean and spill a bunch of it all over the sea creatures, we build houses on the sand and the rains come a tumblin' down. Pride and arrogance. We nuke our food, instant message our friends a 1/2 a world away, inject poison into our lips for the sake of beauty, air condition our homes, GPS our cars, and cover ourselves in chemicals to avoid bug bites. But you know what? We get bitten anyway. Humility. We cannot control the mosquito any more than we can control the weather , the aging process, or our futures. Only God has total control, and I believe He made mosquitoes so we would not forget to trust Him not just with the unanswered questions, but with our lives.

Pass the moose keetos, please.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The paper license

In the state of Nebraska, when you get a new driver's license, they issue you a paper copy of your permanent license, which then comes in the mail ten or so days later. This temporary piece of paper looks just like your license will, only slightly smaller and is, as I said, made out of paper. I had my birthday in July, and so I was very recently the proud bearer of one of these artful masterpieces of the State of Nebraska. Lucky me.

It was with this lovely paper license that I embarked on my journey to the great state of North Carolina a few weeks ago. At the Omaha airport, I breezed through security like a champ, living as I do in a state that recognizes the integrity of the paper license. In Charlotte's much larger airport, however, the paper license was notsoverymuch my ticket to freedom, and I was halted at airport security faster than I could say "paper license".

"Is this your license?" she says to me with raised eyebrows, as if I had colored it myself at home with the kids' crayons.

"Yes, ma'am, it is. You see, in Nebraska, when you renew....{blah blah blah}....and so my permanent one has not yet come in the mail" was my reply.

"I'm going to have to flag this." Of course you are. She radios for backup.

After a few minutes, a dude with another badge comes over and asks for details of what is going on. "Well, you see, sir, in Nebraska, when you renew.....................and so my permanent one has not yet come in the mail."

"I see. Well, do you have any other forms of ID?" he asks.

"You bet I do!" and so I whip out my debit card.

"Anything else?"

"Um, an insurance card with my husband's name on it. And another insurance card with my kids' names on it. And a portrait club card that I signed. And a 'Take $10' card from Maurice's with no name on it. Will any of that work?"

"How about a credit card?" he asks, looking slightly annoyed, but still being nice to the dork from the State of Paper Licenses.

"No, we gave up using credit and my card is at home on the shelf." (Yes, I am that dork, but Dave Ramsey would be proud that even when traveling out of state, I left it at home!)

"I see. Well, then, we're going to have to do a more thorough inspection of you." Of course you are. He radios for more backup.

And so began my wait. I was told to sit in the "red chair" right in the middle of all the security lines at this ohsovery busy airport, while the officer called for a female officer to come help. Within moments, an extremely skinny and heavily pierced Frenchman was flagged as well, and was told to stand by me. He spoke to me briefly in his thick French accent, but was soon invited to pass through security to the next checkpoint. While I sat there alone and yet on full display, I had the chance to watch people's reactions to the screening process. Some looked arrogantly bored. Others looked visibly annoyed. Some were rushing, practically dancing in place, trying futilely to will the lines to move faster. Still others looked confused and were not sure where to step once they had placed their belongings on the conveyors, until a lady in a red chair (me) pointed to where to go. After a few minutes, another woman was flagged at this checkpoint, apparently for wearing a metal bra, and was told to stand by me. She stood near me, but not right next to me, as if feeling uncomfortable being on display next to the red chair. (OK, so her bra itself was probably not metal, but she did tell me that this happens every time due to her Victoria's Secret underwire bra. Must be a pretty hefty underwire. A person endowed like me shall never know such woes.)

Finally, after roughly ten minutes of waiting in the red chair, I was given the nod and was taken through the metal detector to the other side, where I was escorted to yet another area. I was greeted by a man and woman both wearing blue latex gloves, and while he meticulously but gently looked through every single inch of my carry-on bag and purse, a women as equally meticulous and gentle patted down nearly every inch of my body. I had no choice in this matter, not that I really minded, but I was indeed on full display in a crowded airport standing spread eagle while a generously built southern woman put her blue gloves all over my body. Much like the loss of dignity of childbirth, this was a new experience for me. I will say to you that because I am not a modest person whatsoever and because I had absolutely nothing to hide, this process did not alarm or embarrass me at all. They were just doing their jobs and I say, doing them well. But I could not help but imagine the emotional response of the very private, self-conscious, modest person who has to go through that process. Freaky. Anyway, after a thorough rearranging of my bags and a thorough feel of my body, I was cleared for take-off, handed back my boarding pass and paper license, and wished a safe flight home.

I cleared the checkpoint.

Now, for the eternal implications of my experience...while I could expound on all the analogies and parallels lying in this story, the real point is this: we are all on a journey to a final destination. We are all, at any given moment, somewhere in the process of reaching the end of our earthly life. Some of us are waiting with eager anticipation, some already have their bags packed and are merely waiting on confirmation that their ticket has come through, and many, I suspect, are trying hard to avoid even thinking about it at all. But, no matter how we are feeling about the finality of our lives, it is going to happen. It is out there. And what I'd like to know is, do you have your identification ready? How many forms of ID are you holding? Whose name is on your boarding pass?

Are you going to Heaven??

Without the trustworthy permanency of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, without a real faith in what matters, without a personal relationship with Jesus, we are all merely holding paper licenses. Oh sure, down here, where mankind can put his stamp of approval on our lives, any piece of paper will do. Paper birth certificate, paper diploma, paper title to a car, paper mortgage, paper marriage license, paper awards, paper money...down here on earth, all of those papers, well, they matter. In fact, they are a measure of our "worth". But I am telling you tonight, that when we pass out of this life and out of these bodies, all the papers in the the world will not matter one bit. Not one bit. All that will matter is that Jesus Christ recognizes us. We won't have the chance to wait in a red chair, have our papers inspected, have our physical bodies verified, or prove why we are worthy to enter. All that will matter is that Jesus Christ recognizes us.

Does Jesus recognize you? Have you accepted His gift of eternal salvation on the cross? If not, now is your chance. It is never too late. Now is your chance to get your permanent license with His picture on it. Nothing will be able to stop you then. Please contact me if I can help.

Enjoy your flight.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

God's bird-eye view

If you are like me, you have probably heard since you were a child that God is everywhere all the time, including in your heart and the heart of every other person who has accepted Him. We know from scripture that God sees all, knows all, loves all, created all, and that His ways are higher than our ways. He is before, behind, inside and outside, the beginning and the end, and in Him all things hold together. It is so encouraging and comforting to believe that truth and to trust that truth, but the truth is that there are times my infinitesimal brain just cannot truly conceive of the magnitude of that of that truth. Everywhere, all the time? All knowing, all powerful, all loving, all the time??


When I packed my bags for She Speaks two weeks ago and drove my car to the airport, my brain was all over God and what He was doing. I was swimming, basking, dare I say, bathing in a nearly constant state of prayer about the weekend. What is He going to do with me this weekend? What is His plan for me? What might He reveal to me? How amazingly may He show Himself to me? Me, me, ME.

God likes a girl in constant prayer. God prefers a girl who reflects more on Him than on herself. I'm just saying.

Anyway, it was in this near-constant state of prayer that I was gazing out the airplane window on our approach to Cincinnati (what else did I have to do when my neighbor in the next seat had buried her face in a book from the moment she sat down and never took it out) when an amazing thing happened. I looked at a house and thought God knows who is crying in there. I looked at a car and thought, God knows who is singing their heart out to the radio in there. I saw a delivery truck and thought God knows who is worrying about money in there. At another house, God knows who is fighting. At a building, God knows who is texting. At another house, God knows who is embracing, at another, God knows who overslept, at another, God another, God another, God knows.


As I sat there stunned, in that window sear over Cincinnati, I have never had a clearer understanding of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God, and all I could do was freeze with my mouth gaping, my prayers silenced, and tears in my eyes, basking in the truth that He knows. He knows. He sees it all. I, in my minuscule corner of the world, can see only what is in front of me. Even from a plane I can only see what my human and puny vision can take in. But God, well, He sees it all. Nothing escapes His watchful eye, nothing escapes His unfathominable mind, and nothing escapes His bottomless well of love. He knows.

A truth I've known since childhood was made more real to me that day than it has ever been before. I love it when God takes a moment of human self-absorption and sweeps in with a heaping dose of divine revelation, don't you? If for no other reason, my trip was worth it. And to Him be all the glory.


I am nobody. Have you ever thought that?? I am nobody. Her hair is prettier than mine. His car is nicer than mine. She is a better singer/writer/cook/Mom (insert anything) than I am. He is stronger and better with tools than I am. I must be nobody.

I just read a blog post that made me feel that way. A lovely gal with a heart for God writes a blog that humbles me, and try though I may, every time I read her posts I feel less than great about myself. Why is that?? In this instance, I know full well that I am not the author of a completely shabby blog; in fact, I know many of you really like this blog, and while I may not yet have the following that she does, I know am doing what I believe God wants me to do. I know that full well. In my head...I know it. Soooooo, why, oh why, is that prowling lion gaining any access to me? Why, oh why, must he torment me with my full permission?


This feels like a true confessions night, so here goes. One of my biggest downfalls, for my entire life long, is that I habitually compare myself to others. I have been doing it since I can remember. I measure myself against others, no matter who they may be, and I inevitably end up with a perception of my self-worth that based on that comparison. Every so often, I come out on top. Sometimes it is a wash. Most of the time, however, I lose. It is a habit ingrained in me, and try though I may, I have yet to shake it. It hate it that I do it, but day in and day out, I am a comparer. There, I said it.


Have you ever had an area of your life that you know God is forcing you to face? An area that God is not too pleased with, one that He wants you to correct or surrender to Him, one that fails to glorify Him? Have you ever been keenly aware that a pleasure, or a habit, or quality of your personality, or a worry, or heartache, or a hurt, is unexpectedly and repeatedly thrust in front of you eyes? Like God is holding your face in front of a mirror and making sure you look really long at it so that you will notice with Him that which He wants you to notice? Little reminders will come your way through comments from others, songs on the radio, sermons in church, scriptures you stumble upon, conversations with relatives, or plain old-fashioned "conviction in your spirit". Little reminders will blare in front of your mind's eye, reminders that force you to face who you really are and what you are really made of. It can be an annoying phenomenon to experience, to say the least, or a tortuous affair, depending on how hard God is working on your, ahem, shortcoming.

Years and years ago, the first time I recall experiencing this sort of "reconstruction", it was with regard to my sexual sin...and we got that one out of the way, PRAISE HIM. The next one I recall was alcohol consumption....and I have not been drunk in 7 1/2 years, nor shall I be again. Reconstructed. After He had me straight and self-controlled, God took issue with my white lies, also known as stretching the truth. I was never good at calculated, big, sordid lies, just the "little" ones that made me look better or got me out of an embarrassment. However, God does not like those any more than the "big" ones, and He made sure I knew it. Reconstructed. After lying it was self-righteousness. Apparently, the clean, straight, honest me thought that she had God all figured out, and that no one else did. HAH! God does not like self-righteousness. Reconstructed.

And now we are to present day, the summer of 2010. I am now confidently convinced that I our Lord is answering my earnest prayers for wisdom, by giving me some mega-dosing of humility, while at the same time forcing me to examine my past for the reasons I am a habitual comparer. He wants me to stop comparing myself to others and and undergo a humbling process, at the same time. In His power and might, God knows that I am, at every given moment of every day of my life, a wild blend of arrogance and complete insecurity. And He is now forcing me to face them both, at the same time. Their roots, their strongholds, their presence in my daily life...under scrutiny and in front of my face. In my mirror. At the same time. He got started with the humility piece some time ago, brought it to a full boil this summer, and has now thrown in the comparing piece. It is a strange and painful combination.


However, He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it, and I know that nothing I walk through with Him will go unwasted. As painful as the humblings are, as torn apart as I may feel when I have to face past hurts, and as broken as I may feel while my arrogance is stripped and my insecurities are patched, God will never leave me nor forsake me, and nothing will be able to separate me from His love. On the backside of this process, I will emerge from the refiner's fire reconstructed yet again, bearing just a little more of His reflection on my face, and made just a little more useful for His kingdom. The one who has promised is faithful, and He will do it!

To Him be all the glory.

When I sat down to blog tonight, I fully intended on talking about "God's bird-eye view". I had it all thought out. And now here we are instead, at the end of "true confessions with Shelly". He is a tricky one, that Lord of ours. I pray someone out there was reaffirmed by my honesty, because I sure had not intended on sharing it, but I have to believe that God wanted me to. May He bless you all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Perhaps I'm not that nutty after all!

Hello! Long time, no type! I have missed you, my dear blog, but--and please take no offense to this--I have found that my conscious decision to make the most of the last days of summer has been more than just a tad bit liberating. You see, I typically have "bloggy" thoughts nearly all day long...thoughts I want to share, thoughts that seem like I should be writing them down, thoughts of how to make the mundane of life interesting enough to put in a blog name it, if it is a thought, it frequently draws me to blog-thinking. But, having just come home from the most fabulous of weekends at She Speaks 2010 in North Carolina, courtesy of the amazing women at Proverbs 31 Ministries, I have honestly felt pulled away from the blog. That's new and different! (And rather freeing, I may add!) It's as if despite the fact that God delivered four blog post ideas to me during the days of the conference, once I got home, He released me from the weight of obligation to immediately post them.

Thank you, Lord, my brain needed the rest.

And so, this past week, since having returned exactly 7 days and 1 hour ago from a truly incredible weekend, I have let the rest of life consume me. I have worked on the household budget, paid the bills, and balanced the checkbook. I have prayed my sister through a fresh heartache of saying goodbye to her husband as he deploys for his second tour in Afghanistan. I have played on facebook, and added new and dear sisters-in-Christ to my facebook friends. I have been humbled by the all-too-blunt comments of a loved one, and have had the joy of turning to God yet again for His assurance and comfort. (I am honestly learning to trust and appreciate a good humbling, no matter how painful in the moment. I mean that.) I have been assisted in picking over 1000 ears of corn (yes, I meant to type 1,000), and the collective of the Story women and men have packed over 110 quarts of corn into the freezers for winter. (But we are only 60% done, according to the Head Nut.) I have loved on my children who start school in just 10 days. I have mopped my kitchen for the first time in over a month. (I had to, after all that corn.) I have helped the kiddos get their fair projects ready. I have taken five children back-to-school shopping. All five. At once. I have enjoyed a fantabulous "taco night" with two of the finest Girlfriends (and our collective brood) that anyone could ask for. I have been poolside with the kiddos four days in a row. And I have praised God for my life.

The way I see it, I have once chance to finish this summer well. I have one chance to throw off the sel -imposed stress and pressure of having so many projects, and make sure my children know that they are my number one. I have one chance to make sure the corn gets picked at the peak of ripeness...but even that is much less important than making sure my baby girl is ready for kindergarten, and her big brothers are ready for the adjustment of going back to school. And I have once chance to praise my God right now, in this moment, for what He is doing right now in this moment. I have one chance to run with perseverance the race set out before me.

So, while it is frequently my heart's desire to type and talk and study and lead, God has reminded me that before any of those desires were burned daily into my brain, He made me a Mom. He planted me in my life, in this family of corn-loving misfits, and if I am to do anything else well, I must be doing that well.

However, before I go, can I share with you one of the most beautiful things I learned at She Speaks?? I learned that I am not that nutty after all! I am not that different! I am may be a Nut, but I am not completely nuts! Woo-hoo! Who knew?? You see, I spent an incredible three-day weekend with over 600 other women, all whom either already have, or who currently desire to, add one more thing to their life. Women with husbands and children and dirty floors and busy lives, who also desire to type and talk and teach and lead, just like me. Women with blogs and four kids. Women with book proposals and seven kids. Women with brand new novels and six kids. Women with speaking ministries and five kids. Women with broken pasts and bright futures. Women who, despite a full plate at home, cannot ignore the burning passions they believe are placed in them by God to do more, teach more, speak more, and add more to their lives. It was one of the most liberating and invigorating feelings I have had in a long time, to realize that I am not that different.

I learned up close and personal that if God is going to use me, all the evidence to the contrary all around me is really no excuse. If God has truly placed a desire or passion or talent in me to do something for His kingdom, He will make sure it gets done. Sure, I still have to wait for His time and His way, but He will make certain that His will--whatever that may be--is accomplished in and through me, despite whatever earthly "obstacles" may lie in my path. I love the expression, "God does not call the equipped, He equips the called". If He wants to use me, He will equip me. No matter how many kids I have, no matter how empty the bank accounts get, no matter how little help I have at home sometimes, no matter how busy the enemy strives to make me, God has placed desires and passions and (dare I say it?) talents in me, and He will use them. In His time, in His way, and for His glory. I am stunned. And perhaps I am really not that nutty after all.