Cobblestones, Christ, and Critics

by | May 18, 2012 | Five Minute Friday

I pull on my sheer black panty hose, slip into high heels, make my way down the carpeted corridor of the hotel , through the spinning door and walk into crowded streets holding my husband’s hand.  The air is thick with languages I don’t understand, curbs line with black cabs that look like bowler hats, phones hang in red windowed boxes.  We stop to take a picture of a Maserati twice.

We pass a man sitting on the ground covered in tattered blankets, his dog covered up next to him, notice that all the tables at the Lebanese restaurant  seat full.

The pace picks up like ants in line to food as we clip down steps to the underground train, stand on the platform under movie posters with silent crowds. The gusty hum of a train approaching fills the space with anticipation and we mind the gap around people getting off and on.

When we get off at Piccadilly Circus we walk behind a woman in a red dress, blond hair gathered high on her head, she holds the hand of a man in a flat tie, like a napkin pinned to his shirt. We follow them on cobblestones to Queen’s Theater with the flashing bulbs around the picture of that sad girl that reads Les Miserables.

And when we take our seats in the old theater with the lights that look like white balloons hanging upside down from the ceiling, I can’t help but wonder if we are the only Americans seated in this row.

Crocodile tears stream down my face at watching the way a man’s life changes in the single, unselfish kind act of another.  The same way Jesus died for me. My chest heaves at the wonder of redemption and the way it fills hollow souls.

The next morning, H reads to me from the news, that this week is the 150th anniversary of Les Miserables. That when originally published critics called it inept, immoral and overly sentimental.  How now it is one of the bestselling, most important novels of all time.

He gives me a breakfast of perspective on a tray of hope as a writer.

That God isn’t limited in the ways He chooses to use people, in how His message is communicated to reveal himself to the world, or by the perceptions of others toward your art.

That a heart moves toward Him in the overlap of our stories, in the way he redeems a life, and that just won’t be stopped by anyone, not even the critics.

Linking with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday with the one word prompt: Perspective. (In my crazy morning of interruptions I went over five minutes, hope you extend grace.)


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  1. kd sullivan

    Why is it that artists are only recognized after they are gone! May I celebrate people for their greatness now! …and i celebrate you and your words for they have given me perspective friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I wonder that too. And H reminds me of it often when I get discouraged about writing. I can’t say it gives me any comfort but he’s right when he says that all that is up to God. How and when He uses us. We just have to be faithful for what is in front of us, not the outcome – that is His job.

  2. oncealittlegirl

    Beautifully written. Prose that feels like poetry.

  3. Tanya Marlow

    Love this post – especially the taxi cabs like bowler hats… And the reminder that even the Greats had their work criticised, and how powerful kindness is.

    And how nice to run into you again via Lisa-Jo!
    I see you’re in my part of the world (well, same country at least). I LOVE Les Mis – my husband and I pretty much have the whole musical memorised… Don’t know if you have read the book but it is an incredibly rewarding experience – think it is top 5 of all-time favourites! Enjoy your stay in London. xx

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Tanya, its so fun to connect with you, especially knowing I have just been in your neck of the woods. And I haven’t read Les Mis (shhh, don’t tell anyone) 🙂 but I am thinking about your comment, I probably should. Loved being over at your place too. Hope you get that walk by the sea.

  4. Laura

    As a 12-year-old girl I was in the 6th row of this musical the year in Chicago when it first became big. It was magical. My wise parents had me read the abridged book first. And years later, my husband fell in love with Liam Nieson’s film version where the stark contrast between grace and law brings tears to my eyes. I love this play.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was my first time to see it Laura, I know *gasp*. But it is obvious how deeply it touches people. And as I was sitting there overcome with themes of grace and redemption I was thinking about people in the audience who didn’t know Christ and how He would use this play, a book, to reveal himself to them.

  5. itreallyisgoodnews

    Thank you for this. Beautiful writing. Timely, and full of grace.
    Christ’s perfect peace and grace to you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      My humble thanks for your kind words and I will receive that peace and grace – with joy.

  6. wynnegraceappears

    Shelly, you showed this experience of the heart and head so well. You seem to always show us so beautifully, never just telling us, talking to us or at us. We are transformed from here to there, to the where you are or have been. Your gift amazes, how you use it for His glory. Les Mis may have have had its critics, but not Redemptions Beauty… what is there not to LOVE. You amaze.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think one of your spiritual gifts is encouragement Elizabeth. You know how to make a girl feel good. And you are too kind my friend. Thank you.

  7. Lynn Morrissey

    This is an elegant post, beautifully written from a perspective of grace and humility. And it’s hard to know why not all artists experience acknowledgment of their efforts or, sadly, a barrage of scalding critiques instead. (I think of the artist Vincent van Gogh, for instance, and the radical rejection he experienced in his lifetime breaks my heart–and to think now how his art is lauded and appreciated the world over). But as we write or paint or sing to the heavens, and keep our eyes and perspective on the God who enables us to make any art at all, perhaps it’s enough. We create art for Hiim…. and He knows who needs to experience our art and when–at just the perfect moment when a starving soul needs it most, even centuries later, even if we will never know about it. Art placed in the hands of the Art-Giver transcends the artist for His purposes alone. And from that perspective, we remain humble and He gets all the glory.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      so thankful you jumped into this conversation. Really love what you say here, I read it several times to soak in it. There are some things we will never understand in this lifetime, and that must be okay. His timing, the way he gives gifts, all of it. I’m still working on the being okay part.

  8. simplystriving

    Oh yes. God is not confined…. critics can only compare to previous categories. experiences. They’re always looking back. But God sees the road ahead and knows how to get there. What a blessing….that He can see how to make something beautiful out of what we have to offer.

    lovely write, friend! Thank you for helping me refocus.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      And isn’t it true that we listen to those other voices and then chart our course so often? As I grow in age and faith, I am learning to hear the truth through the voices of doubt and it is a good place to be.

  9. Kris Camealy (@AlwaysAlleluia)

    I adore Les Mis. I had the blessed experience years ago to see it live. Wow. And yes, the world picks and chooses those whom it adores and despises for their art and yet the Lord is not limited by that. As I pursue my own dreams in the publishing world, I constantly remind myself (and He reminds me) that He is the only one who matters, His opinion of me and what I create supersedes anything the world can offer, and He can make a path even if it’s paved with the ney-sayers of the world. Love this, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Amen Kris. I think many of us are on this journey you speak about. Its nice to be in the company of like minded, God fearing, lovely hearts like yours along the way. We can carry each other when the weight of critics gets too heavy some days.

  10. Debra El-Ramey

    Shelly, you are a true artist. The way you paint word pictures delights the soul of a fellow artist… The way you freeze moments in time blesses.
    You kindred spirit, have a lovely weekend wherever you may roam.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Debra, where have you been? You have been on my mind for weeks and I just FB’d you so I have another place to find you. Not that I am stalking you, just thinking and hoping all is well. So great seeing you in the comments today. You know I always value your encouragement. You too, have a lovely weekend my friend.

  11. Fran Rashbrook

    I have been reading today that the UK’s favourite artist is L S Lowry, known as The Matchstick Man, who depicted scenes of the north of the country in a unique style. When he had his first exhibition in 1921 his style was described as ‘authentically primitive’; today The Tate Gallery acknowledges that he is our most popular artist!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Fran, I just love that. Thanks for sharing it with me. It encourages me. And congrats on the Olympic flame making it to England.

  12. Stacy

    You always have such beautiful language to accompany your beautiful message Shelly. And you are so right… “God isn’t limited in the ways He chooses to use people”. We often have no idea how far a life lived well might reach. I love your words, and believe me friend… He is using them.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Stacy, so nice to know you are reading and I appreciate your encouragement here, thank you.

  13. Diana

    Beautiful writing, as always. I have been pondering how God can build a new life out of the old. How when we surrender to Him, He can deconstruct our lives, remove what He never intended us to have, and reconstruct us with His beatuy. As you said that reconstruction results from the single, unslefish act of our Savior.
    Because of His best…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Diana, so nice to see you here in the comments. I hope you are doing well. I love the way you are thinking, I had to read this twice. I am so thankful for redemption, the way He takes our mess and makes it beautiful. Thanks for stopping by.

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