Of Fireflies and Smiling Glances

by | Apr 18, 2012 | Uncategorized

Light casts her ethereal glow shadows in early morning and I want to capture her like fireflies in jars. Put her on my windowsill to remember her hope when the clouds of mundane roll in and darkness hovers on the horizon.

Like the day Harrison and I sit bent over an IPod and phone passing time until his name calls for surgery. The appointment we didn’t plan for on his spring break.

I think about how this interruption will impact our day, how much time it will take away from other things, until the distraction of perspective walks through the door behind me. When two white collared EMT’s push a long gurney into the room holding a man lying flat on his back, cocooned in beige blanket.

His head wears snow halo on chocolate skin, breathing tube rests beneath his nose, and eyes fix target on the ceiling. I wonder why he is here alone in the office of a podiatrist.

My son keeps his eyes down on the game he holds in his hand. He’s about to have his toe cut on and just looking at this man, it makes him queasy.

A woman in a sheer red dress gets up, hobbles slow with cane across the room and stands over the frozen man. She leans in, right beside his face, and talks to him as if no one else exists in the room. His chestnut eyes, they roll to the side, meet hers and she teases him. “So you’re not going to talk to me today,” she laughs.

A burly man motions to her from where she was seated and pleads, “Grandma, come back and sit down.” She pretends she doesn’t hear him. Walks over to the row of chairs facing ours, sits down and smiles at me, waves her grandson over.

This kind of contented joy, it doesn’t usually present itself on the frame of worry.

We exchange smiling glances like a tennis match, so I ask her how long she and the man on the gurney have been married. The writer in me needs to know her story, how she can have this kind of peace when her husband lays there immobile. Before the calling of my son’s name echoes me back to reality.

“Fifty two years,” she says proud. Then she opens her jar of fireflies, and the gallery seated around the room hush in the glow of her story.

Esther tells me about her four kids, the one she lost to deep water in the inlet when she was seven. How she can’t go to the beach anymore because that day haunts her like living a bad dream awake.

She points to her grandson Steven, tells me she cared for him when he was two weeks old. And all the weeks following until he became an adult.

A few others know Esther as mother too. One with snowy white hair and another carrot topped. She says the family is still good to her but people raise their eyebrows when those kids introduce her as part of their family, now that they are grown up with children of their own who call her grandma.

And just when she starts to tell me about a time the family quietly accuses her of stealing a childs missing Easter dress, and I feel like Kathryn Stockett taking notes for The Help, the nurse stands with her clipboard in the open door and calls Harrison’s name.

I take Esther’s hand in mine and thank her. She tells me she wants my phone number and her grandson laughs. He’s heard this before. I tell him maybe I can take her out to lunch so I can hear more, because I’m sure she has enough stories to fill a book.

“You can take her to lunch, and she has hundreds of stories,” he smiles, “but she’ll come and pick you up.”

Today I captured the loving glow of wisdom and excavated joy let loose among the chairs of waiting.

We’re all fireflies with a story, waiting for the lid to be unscrewed in the ask, so our words can fly free and light up the room.

Also linking with Walk with Him Wednesdays, Imperfect Prose, Word Filled Wednesdays, Thought Provoking Thursdays.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Lisa

    Beautiful….heartwarming…..thank you!

  2. Kendal Finley Privette

    love those chance encounters with random people that really resonate. beautiful!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too. And I seem to be having quite a few lately for some reason. The air conditioning repairman, the lady at the doctors office, the electric company consultant . . . So glad you came by Kendal.

  3. Sharon O

    I love this story the desire for me is to always want the whole story behind who I am talking to. The years working at a pharmacy gave plenty of opportunity to ask questions and to listen.
    Love the seniors.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I am the same way Sharon. Love hearing about people’s lives. I am the same way when it comes to watching movies. My husband always says if it doesn’t have a relationship element in it, I won’t be interested. So true.

  4. 3dLessons4Life

    52 years — what a legacy! I love it when God puts people in our path who inspire us to keep on keeping on… 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know I don’t know very many people married that long. I was swept up in it for sure.

  5. charinabrooks

    I too love fireflies and I too love to unscrew the lid, hear the words fly freely and see how it light up the room.

    Beautiful Shelley 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I hunted fireflies at the Lake of the Ozarks in the summer growing up. I thought of that the whole time I was writing. Thanks Charina.

  6. kd sullivan

    How lovely. I’d love to hear more about Esther, please. 😉

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, I think I need to set up the lunch date, don’t you?

  7. Denise

    Heart touching.

  8. Christina

    I love stories from the doctor’s office! I do hope you meet with her. The image of fireflies is perfect. Blessings to you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Sometimes I just sit and read a book but this time I was like a hound dog sniffing out a story. I think God has my antenaes up!

  9. r.elliott

    I love coming across people with that much history…so much to glean…hope you get your lunch date:) blessings~

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Ro and actually it is rare to be able to do that. Sit and listen to someone’s story.

  10. Paula

    Beautiful analogy ……releasing the fire flies. That’s what you do with your writing.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      thanks Paula, see you made it home safe and sound from Paris. We need a catch up phone call soon.

  11. consolationofmirth

    Do have that lunch date. Her narrative identity sounds grace-filled.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I am hearing the accountability to do it Heather. I was hoping for the nudge. Thanks.

  12. Sherri

    I love to talk to strangers, too. If I have continuing encounters, they seem to open up to me. My friend and Controller looks at me in wonder when that happens. It is a blessing when I look at people as PEOPLE and not just overlook them. Don’t you think its a ministry, Shelly? When I run into people I know at the post office and stop to chat, I call that my “post office ministry.”

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think that most people are looking for genuine authenticity from people. Unfortunately it isn’t common. When we talk to people without pretense it opens their heart to receive I think. And fills a longing we all have to be known. It’s Post Office ministry indeed.

  13. Laura

    Waiting for the sequel on this one. Thank you for blessing your family and another one by listening.

  14. Jody

    Thank you for sharing your fireflies with us today!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you for being here Jody. Appreciate your input.

  15. simplystriving

    Oh to be brave enough to share our own real stories with perfect strangers! I’m striving to be confident in sharing what makes me uniquely His…just like Esther. What a blessing!
    (and Shelly, the last photo was pure brilliance. perfect firefly ending, friend) 🙂
    Praying Harrison is healing peacefully!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I was sitting on my porch trying to write but so distracted by the light and how it was making everything look. Thanks for the encouragement. Harrison is doing well. Goes for the follow-up tomorrow. Thanks so much for praying, means a lot to me.

  16. Hazel Irene Moon

    Thank you for your sweet comments on my recent post. Next Monday our Foster Daughter will post her story of abuse. It is not too graphic, but she does it because April is “Prevent abuse Month.” She will enter her true story on my blog party site: Tell Me a True Story – open every Monday night at around 8:00 PM. http://letmetelluastory.blogspot.com/

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Hazel, thanks for letting me know. I will plan to visit. What a gift her story will be. Praying the Lord uses her words for His glory.

  17. path of treasure

    Beautiful! We all want to know more! 🙂 And… we all need to take the time to listen– just like this. I bet stories like this are all around.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So thrilled to meet you and thanks for following this community today. It’s great to have you here. And I think everyone has stories to tell, even when they don’t feel like they do. Don’t you?

  18. LuAnn

    Thanks Shelly. I smile when I’m not crying as I read your thoughts. And I always feel like I spent some time with you and that is a one of my favorite things.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I was thinking today about how we met at Valley and the gift of our friendship. We still haven’t had that phone call we were planning last week. You are too kind to me my bff.

  19. Meredith

    What a fantastic experience for a potentially worrying and wearying time.
    I LOVED the way you wove the pieces together —
    it was a work of art, and an old friend, and new friend — all at once. If that makes sense. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Meredith, its been fun getting to know you this week through link-ups. We never know who we will bump into or sit beside and how the divine appointments reveal themselves. Thanks for visiting.

  20. Ostriches

    “we exchanged smiling glances like a tennis match”. I love that! you have really painted a picture in this post. I can feel the color and light, with a little bit of strain along the edges. Just like a doctor’s office conversation!
    I wish I had the guts to ask people their story, but I get embarrassed and end up just wondering. I never thought of it as fireflies in a jar before. Thanks for this post, this story.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You just paid me a compliment that every writer hopes to hear. Thank you. And I guess the courage comes in regard to asking people about themselves, when I know how it feels when someone is interested in me and asks. Do unto others . . . and because maybe I’m a little nosy! 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Grace, they reveal the wonder of creation just like the words of our stories.

  21. Emily Theresa Wierenga

    we’re all fireflies with a story… i love this. i love how you listen, how you live, with such attentiveness. you truly love on life and people. it’s beautiful.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You have humbled me here Emily. Thanks for your sweet words.

  22. kelliwoodford

    The firefly imagery is really effective. Letting hope loose! Love that!

    Just being kind and utterly human really ministers, doesn’t it? Both her — in sharing her tales, and you — in lovingly listening to what others might not care about.

    The “least of these” — Jesus in disguise — all around us.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Keili, I really enjoyed our post as well. And I think everyone is looking for the real in people. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find. I often think that when I talk to strangers, about it being Jesus in disguise. It makes conversation even more fun!

  23. brian miller

    yes we are…we all have stories just waiting for someone to ask to hear them…what a treasure she is to find…i hope that you do get together and that you hear more…smiles.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think I better get together with her now Brian. So good to see you as part of the team at Emily’s place.

  24. Kelli Parker Becton

    beautiful – I love these kinds of fireflies 😉

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Kelli. And it is interesting to see you here in my comments today because you were on my mind this morning. I was wondering how you are feeling.(?)

  25. dukeslee

    My mom is really good at this … asking the questions to pop off the lid. That’s why we are always in the store, the doctor’s office, the gas station, the church about 40 minutes longer than a typical person. 🙂 … I love it. Although when I was a kid, it drove me bonkers.

    Great analogy, by the way, with the fireflies.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I drive my kids bonkers. We often drive two cars to church and I end up driving the empty car back home!

      • dukeslee

        Hilarous! I just love you…

  26. Courtney

    Oooh – this story is just wonderful. I want it to continue! I hope you get to go out to lunch with her 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think I will, just need to make the phone call. Thanks for the encouragement.

  27. Emily murphy

    Thank you for sharing such a tender, grace giving, life eye-opening story of a days event in the span of eternity that was purposed for such rich meaning. I enjoyed stopping by! Emily : )

    • Redemption's Beauty

      One of those jewels dropped into an ordinary day for sure. So glad you made a visit Emily. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  28. Denise J. Hughes

    “Today I captured the loving glow of wisdom and excavated joy let loose among the chairs of waiting.”

    You’ve unearthed a totally different perspective for me. I spent many of my growing up years in hospital waiting rooms, wandering the sterile hallways. I don’t have any memories of joy there. Only a deep, unspeakable sadness. Despair and lost hope. Your words here remind me that God can excavate joy from the unspeakable. The hospital waiting room awaits again this spring. But this time, your word have brought me hope. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Okay, so now you have me curious. Why did you spend so much time in hospitals? And thankful for hope, she’s always waiting just around the corner.

  29. Deidra Riggs

    Oh, I know that woman! Well. Not that woman. But I do. I know her. And yes. She will pick you up for lunch.

    Beautiful, Shelly. And that last photo is breathtaking. I can’t take my eyes off it.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I bet you know a lot of Esthers Deidra. She is a beautiful spirit. Can’t wait to talk more with her. Thanks for saying that about the picture. I really have a hard time with pictures of myself. Trying to get over that.

  30. laurainmontana

    I love this story. You write beautifully; I felt as if I was sitting right there.
    We almost named our daughter Esther. I love that name. We named her Lydia instead. It was a toss up. Both are powerful women of God.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Laura, so glad to have you here in the conversation. Names conjure up so much don’t they? When I think of Esther and Lydia, I think brave, strong, confident women.

  31. Court

    So lovely. Yes,we are fireflies waiting to take off and brighten!

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