Geese, Girlfriends and Graceful Gifts

by | Sep 7, 2012 | Five Minute Friday

It was the serendipity of it all. The way I wrote about the geese collecting outside my cottage window after a storm and then she commented about the book she was reading.  “But this reminds me of that book, and of how little in life goes the way we had planned, and how opening yourself up is the best way of all…” Deidra said.

It was like threading a bead on the necklace of moments with His imprint attached. I wore the words around my neck for days.

Life’s dealt a bevy of disappointments over the past year. Dreams swirl down the drain in the turned backs of the faithful, leaving fragments of soapy bubbles clinging the sides of the sink. And I think about her words. How little in life goes the way we plan, but opening yourself up is the best way of all.

I’m practicing this like a daily sacrament at the altar.

I step into the musty smell of floor to ceiling paperbacks, ask the saleslady with the fuschia lips if they have that book, the one that sparked the comment thread. She tells me it shows up on the computer that they have one copy. It’s not on the shelf. We scour the back of the store, the middle, the back room. Nothing.

She puts me on the list, in case someone brings in a used copy.

And as I place my stack on the counter, behind the tourist with the ponytail and Coppertone perfume, the saleslady holds up the book I was looking for, in the tourist’s stack. “Is this the one you were looking for,” she smiles over the top of our heads.

It’s why we couldn’t find it, it was already on the counter waiting to go home with someone else.

The tourist turns to me and says, “Here you can have it.”

No, I tell her shaking my head. You take it, I have plenty to read.

She insists, pushing the book into my hands. And I take it. Tell her its my birthday and I’ll consider her kindness as a gift. Her children sigh in unison, like their getting a gift too.

And that graceful gesture of a stranger, it was like the play of kindness acted out for an audience of strangers, Jesus in the leading role. That saleslady, she remembers it in her eyes, every time I go to the store.

Because little in life goes the way we plan, but opening yourself up is the best way of all. You never know what the kindness of Jesus might look like on you today.

Joining the Five Minute Friday community with the one word prompt: Graceful. Let’s be honest, it was a tad over five minutes for me today.


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  1. Brenna D (@chicagomama)

    Such beautiful words. What a gift on this rainy morning. Thank you for sharing.
    (And so looking forward to reading that book as well!)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I hope you like the book, I’ve not finished it yet. Brenda, that rain in early morning sounds about perfect. I have afternoon thunder rolling over my roof.

  2. Deidra Riggs

    The opening up is the challenge, isn’t it? The moving toward. I think it’s often the thing that heals us, though. So glad you got that book!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thankful for you Deidra. Can’t wait to hug you in a couple weeks.

  3. Alene Snodgrass (@AleneSnodgrass)

    Your sweet words sooth my soul this morning. I couldn’t quit looking at the pics — so graceful and full of peace. I think I long to be on the banks watching the geese move so gracefully forward. Needing graceful – geeseful – inspiration. thanks girl!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That’s one of my favorite places in the world – our family cottage in Canada. It is full of peace, my heart rests well there.

  4. Jody Lee Collins

    Shelly–hadn’t heard of this book……(there are so many out there). Looked at the blurb on Amazon and it sounds intriguing. Perhaps you can share a ‘review’ with us all when you’re done?

    And don’t you just love the way Jesus says, “I see you and want to bless you today?”

    • Redemption's Beauty

      My whole birthday was that way, it was the best one I can ever remember. I wrote about it for my first contribution to Living the Story over at BibleDude. Can’t wait to share it.

  5. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh yet another simply exquisite post, Shelly!!! Your writing gift staggers me. God’s grace, itself, is the best gift–His gift of salvation–and yet, if we but have eyes to see, as you did—to see the beauty of a bevy of geese, the brilliance of fuchsia lips (wow! I can just *see* those!:-) ), and the benevolence of a stranger in a gift extended—grace-full moments abound around us, served up freely by the God of all grace. And I’m finding, too, the longer I live, that I don’t just need eyes to see grace, but hands to receive it. You freely accepted the book bestowed by the hand of a stranger. (Sometimes I can reject such gifts for many reasons, such as false pride). I’m so sorry for the disappointment of your dreams, dead or deferred, sweet Shelly. This is a *real* hurt, and I understand this at a heart-level. I think God wants us to dream dreams and to envision visions, without which we perish. And yet, there is that real tension in the ability to dream them, hold them lightly, and to be willing to let them fly, like geese off water. And I find it is often then that God bestows deeper grace to allow us to open our hands and witness the beauty and release of flight. When our hands are free, it’s often then, in some inexplicable, mysterious way, that He does a deeper work of grace, by filling our hearts with Himself. A life of intimate relationship with almighty, magnificent God is a gift of grace which we never could have dreamed up in our lifetime. Yet as we come to Him, through Christ, it is the greatest dream realized. And the amazing thing is that often when He knows we know He is enough, that He just goes ahead and lavishes upon us more grace and fulfills new dreams that He places on our hearts, ones we never dreamed of asking for! I pray that He will do this for you, precious Shelly. You are such a beautiful lady, and I pray that God will fulfill your deepest dreams. (Please forgive the length of this post! Oh my! I mean it completely as an encouragement to you, dear lady.) Love, Lynn

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know you’re right Lynn, in the letting go during times of disappointment, it opens our hands to receive in a new way. That is where my hope resides currently. He’s always been faithful in my life, this will be no exception. Thank you for your kindness and caring heart toward me.

  6. Heather Kopp at

    Shelly, this is so so so lovely. Love the line about wearing her words around your neck. Can I have that one? Really, you write so movingly and I am so blessed by what you say. You are such a rare bird in the blogosphere. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That could, perhaps be the best compliment I’ve received thus far. Thank you Heather. You bless me big.

  7. wynnegraceappears

    Am intrigued by the book. Marvel at your words and find such beauty in your writing. Elizabeth, with love.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Elizabeth, its written by an Episcopal priest who is a woman. More intriguing now? I haven’t finished it yet. I’m curious where she is going with it actually.

  8. elliott

    Such a true statement…life doesn’t turn out the way we plan…I have wonderful surprises…places I never dreamed I be…and I have some very painful surprises…a place I could have never dreamt I would be…but leaning into God…each moment…trusting His love for this very moment…opening my eyes to see these kindnesses of God that would have otherwise gone unnoticed…and I am learning to yield to both sides of the coin…the glad and the sad…coming together to find Grace for my life today. I love the sweet gift of God to you…may you continue to see them and unwrap them …finding HIs grace abounds~

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Life has a funny way of unwrapping the gift we didn’t know we wanted or needed, doesn’t it? So thankful He knows what I need more than I do, even the painful stuff.

  9. Brenda Chance

    Beautiful…and just the reminder I needed today. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, so glad Brenda. You made me smile. Bless you friend.

  10. Mindy Bowman

    I love it when God puts little moments like that together. What a gift it is and what a gift your words are today. Thanks for putting a smile on my face! 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Mindy, it was one of those days when everything seemed like a God moment. Truly.

  11. Patti

    The unexpected kindness of His grace, the undeserved gift… how sweetly He entwined these thoughts for you in time and space and circumstance.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, and I’m so grateful. Thanks for visiting Patti. Every time I see your gravatar, I think of Rwandan coffee. 🙂

  12. simplystriving

    I see why you write in the morning. When grace is renewed… and I’m oh so grateful.
    This was beautiful and will hang around my neck today…

    Thanks for stopping in the #FMFParty last night, Shelly! It’s really fun getting to know others from this community in that format. Hope you’ll stop by again sometime!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I can’t get my thoughts to sound like anything cohesive in the evening. I’m much better after a good night of sleep. So glad I did stop by the #FMFParty. It was so much fun.

  13. hopefulleigh

    This is beautiful, Shelly. Stunning imagery. I read Leaving Church a few months back and it blew me away. What grace! I read Taylor’s An Altar in the World first, which I highly recommend. I plan on working through the rest of her repertoire.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Glad to know you liked it Leigh. I’m still reading. I’ll have to check out the other titles too. I read your story over at Deeper Family. Enjoyed it very much. I think we left comments on each others posts at the same time!

  14. Sharon O

    “It was like threading a bead on the necklace of moments with His imprint attached. I wore the words around my neck for days.”
    BEAUTIFUL… just beautiful

  15. tara pohlkotte

    oh, friend. how i wish we could talk and talk and talk about this book, about her others when you get there. she’s written part of my life out there. but more, she writes my heart. she makes me feel less alone for choosing a different path. not better than, i have long since gotten over that one road is “right” or “wrong”, but that the path i am on will lead me home, too. so glad you are reading this. would love to hear your thoughts on it as you go {}

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Tara, as soon as I finish, let’s get that virtual book club goin’.:)

  16. kelliwoodford

    (Maybe I’ve left this quote on your comments before?)
    But your post reminded me:
    “And the day came when the risk to remain a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (Anais Nin)

    Yes. The opening.

    • Patti

      Exquisite quote.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Kelli, you haven’t shared this with me before. I’m so glad you did. I agree with Patti, its exquisite.

  17. Diana Trautwein

    This is such a lovely story, Shelly – and that is one of my favorite, favorite books. I love all of BBT’s stuff – sermon collections/essays/memoir – all of it. I see she’s got a couple of videos up over at Alter Video, too so I’ll be checking those out. But please tell me – this had to take more than 5 minutes. If you truly whipped this out in 5 minutes, I may just have to give up writing forever.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      so glad to know you would recommend this book. we are church planters so the title makes me feel like its the opposite of our mission. And it did take me more than five minutes. I think about the word and pray for awhile, so its mostly in my head by the time I type it all out. I guess I’m a bit of cheater on FMF but it normally takes me hours to write a post so it feels like five minutes to me! 🙂

  18. Michele {A Life Surrendered}

    “Because little in life goes the way we plan, but opening yourself up is the best way of all.”

    I don’t know how you do it. It is no doubt a gift. The way you weave words, and I find grace. You are so special. I am completely humbled to know you…

  19. lolitavalle

    “Because little in life goes the way we plan, but opening yourself up is the best way of all. You never know what the kindness of Jesus might look like on you today.” ~(beautiful, graceful hmmmn…)

    Putting on Grace needs the Giver’s blessings and I am bare apart from Him. I can only receive when I let go and let Him. Abiding by His word and His promises daily is clothing me securely.

    Thanks you Shelly for the truths you share to us every time.

    Sighing over the kindness of the lady, graciousness spilling over the queue to where you stood. How tender and how moving to be a recipient of such. She is so generous and only Jesus can develop that character on top of the other virtues.

    Praying for days that I could mirror our redeemer in kindness so others will know him too.

    A tad over 5 and I am raising a high 5 up to you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      High fiving you back Lolita. And I have a feeling you reflect the generous goodness of our Saviour without using words on most days.

  20. Jennifer Camp

    Shelly, this is just beautiful — that moment stretched out, shared here. I love the metaphor of the beads on the necklace, how all this “redemption’s beauty” is collected, tucked away in this frail hearts of ours, and then He gives us eyes to take in bits of the truth of Him. Always grateful for your stories, how you trust His words to pour out. I am so blessed by them. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      And I’m blessed by yours Jennifer. This community we build on our blog homes, it’s such a gift.

  21. Stefanie

    Oh, how your words soothe the soul! Reading the screen makes me feel like I’m ocean side listening to the hum of the waves rolling to shore.
    Thank you for always writing your heart.
    Have a wonderful weekend…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh good, I’m glad you can feel it in the words Stefanie. Hope you had a good weekend too.

  22. Nacole@sixinthesticks

    Shelly, this: ““It was like threading a bead on the necklace of moments with His imprint attached. I wore the words around my neck for days.”–this just may inspire my writing for the next month or so. I’m glad I get to read your writing–it’s exquisite. And oh, yes, beautiful grace He offers–and we get to be graceful because of Him, only because of Him. I’m intrigued by the book–must get my hands on it now. Blessings.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Nacole, there are several that mentioned wanting to do a virtual book club when I posted this on FB. If you are interested, let me know. I haven’t finished it yet. 🙂

  23. Dolly@Soulstops

    this line:”How little in life goes the way we plan, but opening yourself up is the best way of all.” Always a gift to read your graceful words…learning to open myself, and trust God with my openness has been a gift and process because it is so true how little of life goes as we plan…praying God’s continual grace on you…how lovely how He provided just the words, and the book you needed…blessings, Shelly 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Dolly, thank you so much for your prayers, they are the greatest gift I could receive.

  24. Tereasa

    Ah, I love this story with “Jesus in the leading role!” It brought such a smile to my day!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Tereasa, got your email. I’m planning to respond tomorrow. 🙂

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