We slide onto the two seats left in the mortuary on the back row. Pick up the white ribbon with gold letters lying on the upholstered chair. I notice everyone seated holds one, along with a handful of tissues.
My stepmom stands in front of the crowd, beside the table with my brother’s picture and the flickering taper candle. She holds up the ribbon, explains what it means.
Who I am makes a difference. It’s the painted inscription on white with zigzag edges.
She asks us to give it away to someone that’s made a difference in each of our lives. Give it away in honor of my brother. Because rebirth takes place in unleashing affirmation and if you don’t tell them – how their life changed yours – who will?
On the heels of death comes a crack in the door revealing slanted light to set men free.
I’ve opened my hands to accept the gift, basking in the brightness. Wandered in dark rooms empty, harboring the gift of thanks seated at a table for one. Today, sitting among strangers beside death, I think about giving a box of ribbons away to a crowd gathered in my mind, seated at a banquet table.
But I wonder; would there be a seat at the table for me? Am I making a difference? To anyone?
Later, I lean over the hotel sink, hands marbled in soapy bubbles. Glance from my tired reflection in the mirror to the photo card lying on top of the rolled white tower.
I read, Help Make a Difference, printed white on blue.
The hotel is talking about preserving water, not souls, but I can’t help but see His finger pointing to the card. He knows how my heart stands at attention with an echo.
I want to make a difference, I tell him. But I don’t know how.
A few days later, I grab my phone from the charging station as my husband taps the alarm and rolls out of bed. I pull reading glasses from the nightstand, scroll through middle of the night emails and I’m surprised by the name I see on the list.
A friend I haven’t heard from in fourteen years. We’ve reconnected on Facebook. She reminds me of a prophetic dream I had about her being pregnant with their first child. She’s two weeks away from delivering their sixth. Then she affirms how the parenting classes H and I taught still make a difference in their family. How she was inspired to start a Mom’s group in her church, like the one I pioneered all those years ago in Phoenix.
I lay frozen on the pillow, fixated on the ceiling in remembering what time forgot.
Then I think about ten years of rejection slips from publishers for Madeline L’Engle before she realizes writing success. Sixty rejections for Kathryn Stockett before The Help, her first book, becomes a bestseller. After ten years creating 2100 works, Vincent van Gogh’s paintings become widely acclaimed after his early death. The way critics pan Les Miserables as inept, immoral and overly sentimental upon its first printing 150 years ago.
One day is a thousand years and one thousand years is a day to God. 2Peter 3:8
And perhaps in all our trying to make a difference, we already have. We just may not realize it in our lifetime. Or maybe we’ll receive the return mail of thanks fourteen years later. It’s really up to Him isn’t it?
Linking with Walk With Him Wednesday, God Bumps, Unwrapping His Promises, WLWW, Imperfect Prose, Mercy(Ink)
I love your writing and blog… You DO make a difference. Don’t ever think you don’t.
Aw, thanks Sharon. I think some of my wondering about making a difference has to do with investing in my own community. Knowing how to do that has eluded me.
You are one amazing gal. The way you make sense out of life and then share it with us. Great perspective Shelly. Thank-you.
I ALWAYS love seeing you in the comments Celeste. Much love to you friend.
SHELLY, BEGGING YOUR INDULGENCE FOR A FAR-TOO-LONG POST, BUT WITH THE SOLE INTENT OF SENDING BIG BOUQUETS OF ENCOURAGEMENT YOUR WAY! ~Lynn
Shelly, as an author, I like to think of the so-called being “rejected” syndrome as simply being “not selected.” True, some of what we write can be not-so-good stuff (which ultimately we wouldn’t want published anyway), but on the other hand, much of what we write truly *does* make a difference (because as Christian writers, we are writing it for Him), and it makes a difference in ways large and small, and in ways seen and unseen, and then maybe in ways seen later–such as the fourteen years later which you suggest here. When your work is not “selected,” it doesn’t mean that either you or your writing is being rejected, but rather that it was simply not selected for a particular project or at a particular time. Knowing the beautiful, meaningful, and lyrical quality of your writing, I can assure you that no one will reject it. You’re amazing! 🙂 And what is not selected now, perhaps by someone in particular, will be selected by someone else (later down the road or now, so appreciatively, by the people who are immeasurably blessed by the beauty and wisdom of your daily writing). Putting on my editor’s hat, I also realize that when I compiled and edited my first books, sometimes I was “forced” “not to select” absolutely magnificent writing for a myriad of reasons–maybe it didn’t fit any of the categories in my books, maybe it was duplicative to something else I had already promised to publish: The reasons were many and they were plausible. But how hard I tried to let the authors know that their work was worthy, that it was worthy of selection, of reading, of sharing, of publishing, of making a HUGE difference in the world. Your work is so very worthy, Shelly–so very extraordinary! You know, my passion book was published eight years ago, and I have been so completely surprised of late in the past two years, to receive letters here and there saying how much it had helped the reader. In fact, one letter came all the way from Canada!! This could only be because of God. When I thought the book was buried somewhere out there in book-oblivion, unknown to me, women were reading it and being blessed. I was so taken aback, so astounded–and then I realized that God can do anything, and He can get HIs message (because the book is not mine, but His) anywhere He wants whenever He wants. And because of His graciousness, *He* can help it to make a difference. Author Anne Ortlund (many will know her as the author of Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman), told me once to take anything I write and offer it up as a sacrifice unto the Lord and plant it on the backside of the desert for Him alone. It was written ultimately for Him and was His to do with what He wanted. When I finally did that, it was freeing. Daily, you are planting your words on the front side of a blog–a little more visible perhaps than the backside of the desert, but I know you are doing it for Him. He will get it where it needs to go, and because you write it of Him and for Him, He will cause it–YOU–to make a difference. Rest assured that you continuously ARE making a difference. And vive la difference! The difference you are making really IS life-changing! It is my prayer that In His time, in His way, He will give you your heart’s desire (which I believe He has planted there) to allow your words to flow between the pages of a book. It could happen sooner than you think! But regardless, He is using you right where you are right now, and how blessed your readers are that you have chosen to be used by Him….and that He has, indeed, SELECTED you to share His Good News in this beautiful way! Hope I”m making sense. End of lecture, but hopefully, a continuation of heartfelt love and encouragement!
You are a great encourager Lynn, I do appreciate you. When I think of making a difference, I’m thinking not just about writing but about reaching out to my local community. How to do that eludes me sometimes. We are in the midst of division in our church, which is grievous. And though I know that serving doesn’t just consist in places where I worship, God hasn’t revealed where to invest myself. Sometimes silence is just that, resting and waiting and trusting in Him.
You are very kind to say this, Shelly, and based on what you have written in the past, and the particular examples you had cited here (mostly about authors and their rejected writing), I presumed this was what you had meant. I think your desire to reach out and to be invested in lives in your community and church is so special……and moreover, that you are waiting (so, so hard) for God to show you where and to whom shows great courage. He will show you! I am so very sorry about this pain in your church. I will join you now in prayers about this, too–for healing and reconciliation.
“Sometimes silence is just that, resting and waiting and trusting in Him”. Preparation. Christ in you has touched so many hearts with this post, Shelly, including my own. Your heart’s desire beautifully expresses mine and the many others who respond. Yielded. You are helping make the path straight in this mysterious journey we travel. Gratitude.
In His Love,
Grateful for you Rose, you’ve been with me from the very first post.
oh, Shelly, how good of our Lord to bring you a ‘song in the night’ via an encouraging phone-read email to say, ‘yes, you mattered.’ And your encouraging reminders of all those others who kept on giving when rejection occurred–brilliant.
Thank you. To infinity.
(this is for all the times when I sighed in wonder at your writing and said ‘bravo!’ in my head, but it never got back to you.)
Oh Jody, you’re just lovely. I’ve felt your encouragement before today. And yes, I do love the way God answers prayers I didn’t know I was praying (in FB messages).
Love you, girl.
Love you too Kelli.
Amen. The ways in which we do make a difference are not always obvious to us – and that’s a good thing, most of the time. But thankfully, God has ways of reminding us. And I thank God that he reminded you in such a deeply personal way with that FB connection. Yes, you do make a difference, Shelly. Believe it.
I think you’re right Diana, about not always knowing how we make a difference. We really don’t need to know do we? This happens a lot to H and I as clergy. People crop up from our past with some memory we have totally forgotten. Something that changed their life that we were clueless about. Those are the best surprises of all.
“And perhaps in all our trying to make a difference, we already have. We just may not realize it in our lifetime.” Such a great thought! Thank you for this beautifully written and very wise post. I look forward to reading more from you.
It’s really great to meet you. So grateful for the follow and your comment. Hope you’ll continue to join the conversation.
I am refreshed every time I come here to your place of peace. Thank you.
Oh wow Lori, your comment, it is a gift to both of us. So glad to know that!
Found this so encouraging this morning Shelly, thank you! A thousand days are like one to Him … (although to us it sometimes seems like two thousand days…)
Yes, I agree about the two thousand days. (feels that way with little ones waddling around even more) 🙂 It makes me happy knowing you were encouraged Helen. I love you so.
My heart leaps at echoes too. Beautiful phrase. So true. And making a difference…that is the lie of a mom. Knowing how you make a different…that is the knowledge of God. Still, don’t we all wish for It’s a Wonderful Life moments?
Yes, what you say is true Laura. I know I am making a difference for my family (well, some days) but I think I wrestle with the should’s of the world’s voice. Of course we all wish for the wonderful life moments, but really those are so rare in comparison to the daily mundane of life.
rebirth takes place when you unleash affirmation. If we could only see the potential power planted in these words waiting to take root in another’s heart. Barren soil. Parched for water. Our words can nourish that hidden seed of hope, especially one’s that have been wrapped in truth.
Terry, you get this. Love your comment. I find that people tend to share affirmation mostly in times of crisis, instead of the every day. I did this for Lent one time. Made it a discipline in my life to actually verbalize the nice things I thought about people. It was a transformative excercise.
Are you kidding??? Make a difference? You have made and continue to make a difference. I often speak of the women’s retreat you organized when you and H (and family) were here in MHC. The few times I’ve seen you since you guys moved always brightens my day and brings a smile to my face and heart. I’m sure if there is something God wants you to be doing in your community, he will bring it to your attention. Love you Shelly!
That women’s retreat is such a sweet memory Linda. And all those weekly meetings with you small group leaders for bible study. I haven’t found my place here yet, but I know God has one. Thanks for your encouragement Linda. I really didn’t write this hoping for affirmation but I’ll take it! I always pray that what I write will be God’s heart for those reading. So great to hear from you.
Every so often, a friend will say to me, “I’ll always remember that thing you said to me.” Usually, I panic at that point because who know what is likely to come tumbling out of my mouth! But. Every now and then, I get a glimpse that God is using me as an instrument to speak encouragement into the life of another. And that’s a good day.
I get that same feeling too Nancy, when people say that to me. And you, my friend, have been a huge encouragement to me. Love the way you flow so confidently in who you are. It’s an inspiration.
Shelly, this is one of those things that have been eluding me for the last several weeks. Am I making a difference? In my heart I know that on some small scale I am, but a little bit of “enlightenment” does go a long way. So in that vein, thank you for the lovely reminder that we can all make a difference. Sometimes we’ll know about it (like this and the other wonderful and loving comments on this post). And at other times, we’ll just have to be satisfied with the job done…unknowing if it made an impact. 🙂
I think if we care about people and putting a smile on God’s face, we all wrestle with this question don’t we? But really, our need to know isn’t really what is important, its following His voice. This is where I am settling anyway. Thanks for engaging in conversation Mindy, appreciate your thoughts.
I just saw your comment that your church is going through a split…I am so sorry…the pain may not be that much different from a marriage splitting apart…when His bride does…it is so painful. I pray you feel God’s nearness and comfort…and I can proclaim…God will redeem it…you can come out with more of HIm…more love from this broken place.
I used to want to know if God was using me…do I make a difference…He brought me to a place…to want to be one of the people who stands before Him…not numbering what I did…but wondering when did I feed you, when did I visit you. I am thankful God does come and give me a little kiss on the cheek…like your email…to just say I see you. Just yield you life…your moments to Him…and He does the rest. blessings to you~
Thanks Ro, it feels like we’re living in a community that is going through the stages of grief. It’s so hard. But we’re trusting God.
We just never know when we’ll make a difference in someone’s life. It reminds me that the difference can go either way. Depending on my attitude, actions, and how I reflect Jesus, I can make a positive or negative difference in another’s life. I want to be that positive memory for someone, not the memory that drags someone down.
Beautiful post Shelly, thank you for sharing it!
You already know you speak my soul language, Shelly. This was no exception.
(and congrats on your new home I read about at Duane’s place!)
I’m still amazed He can work through me at all. Sometimes I wonder if we get wrapped up in the size of our difference when we can’t even know how far our ripple will go.
To think, He’d sacrifice it all to save one. Just one. and if I can reach just one…
This post speaks to me on so many levels…the constant refrain of my prayers. Where o’ where do you want me, O Lord? Where o’ where is a sign that my life makes any speck of difference? Seems even those of us who are life changers with families and children, who are daily making eternal differences in the lives of their kids still forming, struggle with this one. What a beautiful touch to be added to your brother’s funeral… I like that so much. And as far as in writing, sometimes I think the greatest thing I’ve ever written, in terms of maybe, hopefully changing a heart towards God, was a series of personal letters to someone. No one else will ever read them. I still don’t totally know they’ve made the difference I’ve prayed and hoped and longed for. But I continue to send them on His wing and my prayer… I don’t even really know you, Shelly, yet I can see a hundred different ways you are making and have made a difference. Whatever is happening in your church… maybe it is the Holy Spirit dividing to purify and bless. In whatever He is doing, your heart submitted is a fragrance poured out.
I liked the ribbons at the funeral too. An act of generosity and thankfulness in the midst of sorrow, its awesome. Still praying for that perfect, just right for Pam job.
Thanks, Shelly. I’ve had two interviews with a company that seems a good fit. Now waiting to hear back. Many places just never answer… but I am so grateful for all your prayers and those of others.
Forgot to say… I LOVE the photo of the pink flower. It is so beautiful! Reminds me of one of those whirligigs you can hold and blow on – then watch it spin around. God’s creativity astounds.
I love that Pam, it does, you’re right.
You have certainly made a difference in my life! And, I continue to be inspired by the woman, wife, and mother you have become. Your words and the ability to relate His teachings through them continue to inspire all who read them.
Well, you just might make me cry. Thanks Paula.
Ah, Shelly, yes, it’s all up to Him–love the ending. I just love the way you weave a story. You are one spectacular weaver, taking your cue from the Master Weaver. I’m learning that it’s ok to be spectacular because we are made in His image–it’s really ok to shine in our creativity–He rejoices over this–and you shine well, sister. Blessings to you.
It’s funny how stories come to me like recipes in my thoughts. Add a heap of this, a dash of that experience, a cup of that day. It takes awhile to sort it all out in words, but its a good process.
Ohhhhh Shelly…YOU make a difference in MY life, every.single.day. Know.that.!
But I think I understand what you’re saying about your community. Especially being a Pastor’s wife. Probably the third hardest job in the world: motherhood being first, pastoring being second, Pastor’s wife? third. Or maybe more like: Pastor’s wife, second. Pastor third. 😀 I have a sister-in-law whose a Pastor’s wife. She doesn’t fit any of the moulds, except maybe the playing of piano. I always try to cut her some slack, ‘cuz I know there’s sooo much she’s not free to talk about. She carries a lot within.
And then there’s the ‘community’ of people around you, in your neighbourhood and in your ‘circle’. I’ve spent a few times deeply wondering if I’ve made ANY difference AT ALL in my ‘circle’. Especially when I think of friends I’ve shared Christ with. People who accepted Him because of my influence, at least in part. I’ve felt responsibility for these people. Now, years later, NONE of them are even living for the LORD. Their lives continue to be a struggle, yet they just don’t get it. At these times I’ve wondered what difference has any of it made?! It can be very disheartening. Like that sister-in-law I recently told you about. I know it’s the Holy Spirit that causes ‘all things to grow’…but when years and years go by…and there’s no fruit to speak of…
But you, Shelly, are a faithful one. Doing right now what He’s called you to do. Making a difference every day by pointing us, your readers, to The One. And doing it in the fullness of His Spirit. I don’t always do things in the fullness. HE will bless every effort you make in His Name. And He WILL show you at just the right time where He wants you next. God.Bless.You.
Everything you’ve said resonates here Jillie. There is so much I can’t say but would love to share in small venues, the lessons I’ve learned being in ministry. I decided when my husband became a pastor that I would not be a role, but remain myself. That is the most important thing in the midst of expectations from others. And I do think about investing in our neighbors and I haven’t been very good at that so far because when you are in ministry, you need a place of sanctuary. I hold all of your kindness, your belief in me as a person, close to my heart. Love you much.
It seems you often write about what is on my heart. How can that be? This is exactly what I’ve be pondering of late …have I, am I, really making a difference to anyone. Has my life counted in any way? My contributions to family and friends indeed seem small – and truthfully, sometimes they are even rejected. I tell myself “love”…it matters, it makes a difference if only to Him…the lover of my soul.
Oh Laura, I just love the way God brings perfect strangers together. So glad He brought you here. No pressure, but have you started the book? Just curious if it is resonating with your heart.
Shelly, you make a difference daily. I am certain of it, and I experience a small frcation of your beauty here, in your little writing corner–though I am certain those blessed to know you in the *real* world glean even more from your grace and faith-filled life. You bless me often, and this word today, this was written specifically for me. I’m claiming it. Thank you. Thank you. Much love, sweet sister-friend.
Kris, I’m truly touched by the grace you’ve extended here. Thank you. And thanks for sharing my post with others, I appreciate you.
I could say this about a lot of your posts, but this might be one of my very favorites. You’ve beautifully captured the truth about each of us: we are here to make a difference, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, we are actively making a difference in our world, sometimes in ways that we might never now.
Be assured, my sweet sister, YOU are making a difference. I see it right here, several times a week. Love you.
Well, I take that as a huge compliment Jennifer, thanks. Love you too.
Oh, Shelly. Your words echo my week, a hard one. I am left a little disoriented about the body, about the church, a bit uncertain how to find my footing in all this brokenness, and the hardest part for me was not knowing whether it’s worth it to continue to strive for making a difference. I’ve been weary and unsure and desperate for the reminder that it matters, every bit of it. The Lord has confirmed that over and over and over in shouts and whispers and things like this blog post. Thank you for being the whisper that lifts my weary heart this afternoon.
Cara, I’m so touched by your comment in ways I’m going to share with you in an email. So fond of you and grateful you stopped by here.
oh friend. yes. it’s really up to him, but what strength and humility it takes to utter those words. i know he will bless you for them. love you.
Hard words, but true. Thanks Emily.
Totally needed this precious reminder tonight friend! God’s timing is not our timing for sure. Learning how to press on and hope! Thank you.
Thanking God with you Alene, His timing is perfect.
Thanks for this! I need that reminder of the way He works, in His perfect time. And you have blessed me time and again with your words here and comments left on my blog. You do make a difference:)
I can say the same about you Christina, you’re such a gift.
would hug you right now if I could.
deep, true, personal, necessary. loved every word, but more than that, your heart sparkled clear through this.
I feel the hug in your words Alyssa, thank you friend.
Shelly, you just encouraged me. The Lord has been saying to me, “WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!” And, after some time, I pulled out the books I’d already written and have been editing and finding others to also toss in their thoughts. Still have no idea when, where, etc., the books will be published. OR, if not, how they will touch certain hearts. They ARE based on our Lord, but fictionalized reality. All I can do is do what I’m told. HE is the source of wherever and whatever will occur. When I finish reading a number more of these Jennifer posts, I will continue the editing; I stopped just long enough to read a few, such as yours. Glad I did; you blessed me.
So glad you’re heeding the voice of the one who knows you best. I can hear the joy in what you are unearthing from past prose. So glad you stopped by for a break.
Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing at our heart+home community. We are so grateful for your refreshing perspective.
I found your link up through a blogging friend. You have a nice community there. Thanks for the opportunity to share.
Still working to really build a community of women that encourage. Really glad to have your voice there. Hope you’ll join us again this week 🙂
Thanks Lauren, I will link up again.
we say it’s all HIS – all for Him – and then we take it back. Thank you for putting it down in words – beautifully, as always – if it’s really all HIS – what am I so afraid of?? 🙂
So true Kelli, I know I’ve done that often in my own life. Trust is hard for me, for many reasons. I was so glad to see you here in the comments, hope you are feeling well.
Definitely, you have made a difference in your followers including me.
As for me, I hope I have in my close circle and in my family.
I’m sure you make a difference wherever you go Lolita, your life is a fragrant aroma of Jesus.
While nothing is original , we all need to respect the difference between inspiration and imitation . As Jean Luc Goddard said, “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.” And if you don’t take them anywhere, what’s the point?