Fairy Dust, Fish, and Facades

by | Jul 11, 2012 | Uncategorized

Before I was tall enough to reach the kitchen cabinets over my head, I sat on the hump in the back seat of my grandparents yellow Buick on summer road trips. My bare legs stuck to the white vinyl bench seat and I asked if we were almost there yet, every half hour. I couldn’t wait to get to the place of fairy dust, where my life transformed into an imagined tale.

We joined my Aunt and Uncle Brock and their granddaughter Tracy, for a week on the Lake of the Ozarks every summer. Our neighboring rooms with squeaky screen doors and rusty water at the first turn of the faucet nestled deep in the woods. I slept on the pullout couch in the living room, arms touching the kitchen sink, feet at the front door.

On sunny days, I stood next to my grandpa on a dock, threading worms on hooks, learning how to cast and reel the bluegill he cooked for dinner. He spent most of his time pulling floppy fish off my hook while laughing about how fast I caught them.

Even though I salivated just thinking about summer’s first bite of flaky white fish battered cornmeal, I felt compassion over the fate of those fish swimming in that wire basket. I made up all kinds of stories in my head about fishy conversation happening among them below the water line.

When I wasn’t fishing, I swam in the lake with my cousin Tracy. Afterward we held dollar bills in our wrinkly fingers, walked to the property store to buy candy. The trailor with the air conditioner propped up in the window. Sandy, the owner’s retriever with the white furry mask stalked close behind, hoping for a stray tootsie roll.

As we both stretched out of adolescence, they moved the vacation to a more alluring motel. A place complete with a pool slide, television, and restaurant.  The charm of fishing off the dock, cooking our own meals, swimming in the lake and buying a bag full of candy with a dollar became like postcards laying in a drawer. And that’s when I found out.

The auburn headed, lanky girl that I idolized, she wasn’t really my cousin. Not even a family member. She lived next door to my childless aunt and uncle. They treated her as their own for as long as she lived in their neighborhood.

And even though Tracy called them Grandma and Grandpa and remained the same person with whom I shared my adolescent angst, my heart sank the day I found out. My first lesson in, things aren’t always as they seem.

Have you ever discovered something that cracked the shell off your perception, surprised by reality?

My disappointment wasn’t as much about the reality of the truth as my ideal of it. It’s something I’ve grappled with most of my life, the disparity between reality and perception.

But Jesus isn’t an ideal; he is the truth.  And there’s false hope in thinking only those things we can understand are truly knowable.

Because when our perception shatters it doesn’t always mean we must abandon the reality. Sometimes He gives new glasses for tired eyes, to see with panoramic clarity.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

And the truth? I did travel to a place of fairy dust in my childhood, and Tracy not being my cousin, it doesn’t change that fact. The story just turned out differently than I imagined.

 Linking with God Bumps and God Incidences, WLWW, Walk with Him Wednesday, Life in Bloom, Thought Provoking Thursday.

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  1. Christina

    New glasses for tired eyes, yes He does. I love your stories and the way you point them to Christ. It made me want to stand on the dock and imagine what the fish are doing down below.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Remembering it made me want to do that too! Thanks for your encouragement Christina.

  2. Eileen Knowles (@cupojoegirl)

    “Sometimes He gives new glasses for tired eyes, to see with panoramic clarity.” I love that.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Your steadfast encouragement is such a gift to me Eileen. My humble thanks for your kind tweet too.

  3. Jean Wise

    I love how you write these stories. Took me right there fishing with you. Interesting about the cousin who wasn’t. I have two good friends from 6th grade on and we have kept in touch Actually are closer now that 20 years ago when we were all busy with careers and babies. Anyway we were all together this past weekend and decided we were sister – only one of us actually has a sister. So they may not be related by blood, they are by love – a real gift from God.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love the way God joins us with a few precious girlfriends that feed our soul in a way no else can. What a gift he gave you in those long-term friendships.

  4. lolitavalle

    Beautiful words about perception and reality. I love the story of your summer vacations an how you have spent them, share them with another girl. It doesn’t matter if she was not a blood cousin. It is important that you had a wonderful thing going on….. friendship.

    And I needed to taste and digest the line, “But Jesus isn’t an ideal; he is the truth. And there’s false hope in thinking only those things we can understand are truly knowable.”

    He is indeed worth knowable, worth dwelling with, worth experiencing life with, worth sharing with others….. and even if there are things about God He does not reveal or we can not know, He is above all, worth knowing.

    I want to share my worship song this morning, “I Surrender All by Mary Alessi,” These lines are so beautiful: “My heart is your home, I will never be alone.”

    I am trembling at the thought that He is close, so close….. and He knows me through and through, even before I was formed. Shouldn’t I seek Him?

    Thanks, Shelly. (Sorry that this is longer than I intended). You inspire me so.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think what you said is true, that what matters is living in his presence above all, that’s where fulfillment truly abides. Thanks, no need to apologize. Love your comments.

  5. r.elliott

    You my friend are quite the story teller…but you don’t just tell stories…you weave truth throughout…Jesus isn’t an ideal…but He is truth…amen

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, that makes me happy. It’s what I’m trying to do so, Mission Accomplished!

  6. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    I have a thought as I read this beautifully-told story, Shelly. And that is that your aunt and uncle, treating and loving this child as their own all those years, is like God…adopting us SO into his family that the lines of adoption are imperceptible unless divulged. I wonder if the gift of her friendship – if not official kinship – is a glimpse of His heart moving in your life before you even imagined…

    I don’t minimize your hurt. It is hard to discover things are not as they seem, especially at a young and vulnerable age… but I love that as you think of it now, it doesn’t change that God gave you that season of fairy dust, and a kindred heart to share it with.

    • Jillie

      Exactly what I was thinking Pam. We don’t minimize your hurt, Shelly, at discovering Tracy wasn’t your real cousin. I understand this kind of ‘revelation’ in a young life. Growing up in a troubled home myself, I sought out others to bond with…others who had deep problems of their own…things that were whispered during sleepovers, or heart-to-hearts. I had a sweet, sweet cousin once. Divorce in her family severed our friendship. Never to be again. She died 1 year ago, and I found out she had become a Jehovah’s Witness. I grieve that ‘we Christians’ were not there for her when she was so obviously seeking. I will always grieve that, but I pray that GOD, in His great mercy, saw into her broken heart, and obvious loneliness—the kind of people the Witnesses thrive on—and took her to be with Himself, where we WILL be re-united one sweet Day!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh what beautiful insight you gave me Pam, just beautiful. That would never even have crossed my mind until you brought it out. And isn’t this how the body of Christ works together so beautifully. I think you are showing your gifts of discernment, words of knowledge and do I dare say prophecy here in these comments. God needs to use these beyond this space for sure. You are a blessing, a true treasure.

      • Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

        Thank you, Shelly. Those words from you are beautiful insight for me too. I haven’t thought of myself that way…
        Maybe Tracy needs prayer, so God put her on your mind… Wouldn’t it be something if she were reading your blog…

  7. elizabethfstewart

    What a respite those days on the lake must have been. I felt like I was there with you. I’m wondering about Tracy and where she is now and if you have seen her since.

    • Jillie

      Me too. When I think that your childless Aunt and Uncle too Tracy under their wing and loved her like that, I see the picture of God’s grace. How he ‘adopts’ us and carries us like a lamb close to His heart…what their love must have done for Tracy. Please do let us know more about her.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I woke up with her on my mind, its what produced this story but I haven’t seen or heard from her since I was a child. I wish I had more to tell.

  8. chasingsilhouettes

    wow girl, this really resonated with me. one of the reasons i starved myself when i was younger, was because so many things ended up being not as they appeared and it hurt me so badly… so i latched onto an eating disorder, to find some semblance of control. i still struggle with disappointment. with having too high of expectations. thank you for this reminder, that Jesus will never disappoint. love you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh wow Emily, you gave me such good insight with your own life experience. I don’t know why, except that I had Godly grandparents and God’s grace is bigger than my comprehension, but I have taken my disapppoints to God for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle or that I’m completely free but I am thankful that He has been my safe place in the midst of heartbreak.

  9. caallyn

    Good…no great Bible verse. So much of what you write parallels my own life. I actually began to confront things in my life once we moved to Florida and away from family (family strife etc) to a place where alone with my thoughts and God i feel like a type of healing for my mind began to take place. Just reading your own thoughts make me think of how just today I considered and confronted yet another “things aren’t as they seem”. The lesson continues….

    • Redemption's Beauty

      God is faithful to work on wholeness when He knows we are ready for each step. I prayed for you this morning, you’ve been on my heart. Love you Celeste.

  10. Amber

    Love this! You’ve given me much to think about today. Found you from Getting Down With Jesus. I will be back!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Amber, thanks for stopping by. Love that community over at Jennifer’s place and hope you’ll come back for another bit of conversation.

  11. MaryBeth@NewLifeSteward

    This is such a big part of growing up–realizing things aren’t exactly what they seem.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      And being an adult too. I’m still learning – unfortunately.

  12. Kris Camealy (@AlwaysAlleluia)

    Shelly~ This has been the story of my life for the last three years or so in particular. And oh! how I have grieved some of these realizations! what a beautiful word here from you on this subject. I will be re-reading this and reflecting more through this day. Exquisite write, my sweet friend. Beautiful.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m going through one of those seasons now, trying to balance my deep disappointment in the actions of others I hold in high esteem with God’s purposes and plan. It is a time of grieving, letting go and asking for new eyes to see things through his perspective.

  13. Paula

    Was Brock your grandad’s brother??? You ARE a gifted story teller! We all have those “postcard lying in a drawer” and we all enjoy “seeing” yours through your stories. We definitely cling to the fairy dust of our childhood. And, I think you are realizing, the older we get, the more precious they become. The disparity between reality and perception has most likely protected us from some harsh realities. Hoping you are taking a break from your personal deadlines while in Canada! Love you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was Art Brock and he was my grandpa’s brother-in-law. Wonderful man, well loved by everyone. And I think you are right, the disparity is probably a protection of sorts from that which would ruin us if it came at a time we weren’t prepared.
      I am taking a break from deadlines while we are away but not from writing. 🙂 Love you too.

  14. joepote01

    Your revelation that Tracy was not actually your cousin reminded me of a conversation with my 10-yr-old stepson, just two days ago. Being part of a blended family, relationships get a bit more complicated for him than for many people, and he was asking a lot of questions about who he is related to and how. Having just returned from a family reunion where he met third and fourth cousins didn’t help his confusion.

    Finally he asked in exasperation, “So is everyone I know my cousin?”

    To which I replied, “Pretty much, yes, actually. We’re all descended from Adam and Eve and we’re all descended from Noah. So, yes, we’re all cousins…some are just more distant relations than others.”

    So nice post, cuz! 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      My family is like that too, love your answer to him. It’s all so complicated but they really don’t need to know all the details do they?

  15. Laura

    Lake of the Ozarks is such a place of wonder!
    The difference between reality and perception and our sense of disappointment. That’s something to think on for awhile…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I haven’t been there in years, sure it is very different than what I remember.

  16. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Shelly, I just had another thought… your stories remind me of the novels of one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Musser. Two I think you might really love are “Words Unspoken” and “Searching for Eternity,” although it’s hard to pick a favorite. She writes stories of people whose back stories show them lost or devastated in one way or another from deep hurts, disillusions or tragedy…and leads them through the story into redemptive beauty. Her writing is lyrical, like yours, with healing in the words. I have loved every book I’ve read of hers, finding them hard to put down.

  17. LuAnn

    Shelly, There was too much to say here so I sent you a FB message. Thanks again.

  18. Shaunie Friday

    A story so vivid I could smell the fish frying! You wove this together with such insight and wisdom, Shelly. I picked a great day for my first visit here!! It won’t be my last!!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Shaunie, so glad you made a visit. Thanks for being here.

  19. Dawn@Dawnings

    When I was a girl, I used to talk to the bowling ball and tell it the next time it was my turn I would choose it from among it’s friends if it would only knock over all the pins. and I had forgotten about sitting on the hump in the backseat until this. Ah, memories. They’re wonderful aren’t they.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve had a lot of those same conversations with objects, like my stuffed animals. And life was so much more fun before seat belts. I remember sitting in the jump seat of my cousin’s stations wagon facing backward. Those were the days!

  20. Jennifer Johnson Camp

    Yes, so grateful that He gives us new eyes, new vision, to help us decipher the beauty of Him, despite our own attempts to read this world on our own. Love your words and the images you share here, Shelly. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know I need to expand my vision on a regular basis, I don’t want to miss anything. Thanks Dawn.

  21. Connie Mace (@ConnieMace)

    “Sometimes He gives new glasses for tired eyes, to see with panoramic clarity.” This has been resonating with me these days. To have His Wisdom and see through His eyes…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s easy to get stuck in life if we don’t. Thanks for visiting Connie, nice to visit with you.

  22. kd sullivan

    what a kind Aunt and Uncle you had! The world would be a better place if there were more people who “adopted” an extra child here and there.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      They were lovely people, very generous. The silverward we eat off of every day was there’s, willed to me when they passed. It’s sad they weren’t able to have children of their own.

  23. Sylvia R

    Shelly, this was so real, I was right *there* with you, living it out. And when I got to the letdown at the end, I was thinking just what you concluded, that you “did travel to a place of fairy dust in [your] childhood, and Tracy not being [your] cousin, it doesn’t change that fact.” So much shattered perception in my life I can’t list it all. But Jesus becomes more and more clearly “the same, yesterday, today, and forever” with every new “today.”

    (I think when a kid’s life lacks stability in the first place, these exploded perceptions sting more, because you long so for things to be predictable, reliable. I saw that with my son, in an alcoholic family. So good to have Christ!)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree with your insight you stated in paraenthesis at the end of your comment. It actually was a bit of a revelation for me. Thank you and thanks for your sweet encouragement too. And Sylvia, I’ve had a hard time leaving a comment on your blog for some reason, just fyi and wanted you know I’ve visited and read your lovely stories.

  24. Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    This is spectacular, for a number of reasons. I really want to recapture that feeling of clutching a single dollar bill in my hand and walking, on a lazy summer afternoon, to buy myself some candy.

    Having read some of your other pieces about childhood, this one feels like an oasis of grace. Howe good and kind our God is, giving you this place–these memories–even if they weren’t what you’d thought.

    And this: “Sometimes He gives new glasses for tired eyes, to see with panoramic clarity.” Dang, I wish I’d written that!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love the way you think Nancy and these comments give such great insight into the beauty of you. Thank you.

  25. Joanne Norton

    As usual, good thinking, good sharing… and good “planting in the brains and hearts” thoughts. We can consider what we might have walked through, not knowing the truth at the beginning and learning it and starting off as disappointed… but coming back again to clear understanding. Thank you much.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Our stories unfold continually as He writes. The surprises, shocking endings, they’re all grace and beauty. Thanks for your steadfast support Joanne, appreicate you.

  26. Jennifer@GDWJ

    Oh sister, those photos and memories you describe in your opening paragraphs remind me of my own growing-up years. We spent a lot of time on fishing lakes, in Minnesota and Canada especially. Your photo of that dock is divine.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That part of my life was full of fun memories. So grateful for grandparents that did that for me when I was growing up. And actually, can I whisper a bit of honesty here? Those photos are from our cottage in Canada, not the Ozarks. so no wonder you felt a kindred spirit.

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