When the Way You’ve Always Done it Doesn’t Work Anymore

by | Nov 12, 2012 | Uncategorized

He broke through the second act in the play of my life and took the scene in another direction. And I welcomed it the next time. I’ve learned that beauty lies outside the walls of convention.

During my college years I fell deeply in love. He courted me on the grassy knoll next to the library under star dust where we talked for hours without distraction. Like a watchman on the wall, observing the glow of the city beneath, He pointed out hope and future promise. I hurried back to my dorm room before curfew coveting peace and left doubt strewn about the clover.

On a fall walk on crunchy leaves, under a hollow of bare branches, I sat on the bank of a babbling brook with arms wrapped around my bent legs, untangling the knots holding my heart captive. He held up the frayed end of the rope and assured me it didn’t need to be perfect before I showed it to him the next time. Messy and imperfect, He’s okay with that.

Beside my apartment complex swimming pool, face down on a lounge chair, I shed tears behind sunglasses as the sun warmed my skin. Tears dripped onto the pages of Codependent No More lying on the concrete beneath. Healing hovered over me in the stillness. I pulled the gate open on freedom, wrapped a towel around my waist and walked home with a new identity. No longer chained to the consequences of my mother’s alcoholism.

God uses whatever is useable in a life, both to speak and to act, and those who insist on fireworks in the sky may miss the electricity that sparks the human heart. ~Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church

Yesterday, I took a walk with my camera swinging over my shoulder. A stranger asked if he could take my picture, said I was prettier than anything I saw through my lens. And I don’t believe it. But it sounded like God’s voice so I told Him I would try to accept it, and I kept walking.

Down a road I avoided when my dog was my companion. Three years of skirting the collective howl of neighborhood pets so I missed the beauty.

It was waiting there, like art hanging on the wall expectant in the unbridled surprise of joy on the face of the beholder. Illumination.  Of color shouting change is coming. Leaves floating on the surface like fairy dust dripped from wings before passing the curtain of trees.

The line between heaven and earth is a thin place and His portals of presence, they are vast.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. ~ Ephesians 1:18, NLT

Can you remember when you fell in love with God? Have your ideas about God changed as you’ve grown to know Him?

For six weeks, we’ll be exploring the question, “How do we walk out our faith in the midst of pain, suffering, disappointment, and loneliness,” with a book club discussion on Thursdays about Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. Join the conversation in the comments and at Redemptions Beauty Book Club. Start here for more information.

Joining Ann today in counting thanks for the shift of seasons that introduce a new season of the soul, for standing room only worship, renewal of vision, sadness turned to joy, despair into hope, chicken pot pie, a newly painted front door ready for welcome and books, lots of books.

Linking with Michelle, Laura, Jen and Eileen.


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


  1. eil1een

    Beautiful Shelly! My post tomorrow focuses on Hebrews 6:19 “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Your words above “The line between heaven and earth is a thin place and His portals of presence, they are vast.” reminded me of how He longs to meet with us and to heal us.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love the way God seems to speak to us that write to the world with similar themes. That scripture in Hebrews is so divine and echoes my sentiments in this post. Thanks for the tweet Eileen, I’m always humbled by your faithful and generous support. And yes, He is so faithful to meet with us, evident in your comment.

  2. vskessler

    Beautiful words straight from the heart.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Vicki, I’m not sure how to write any other way anymore. Enjoyed seeing Matt last week. I wish you could’ve been there. My heart was so encouraged about the future.

  3. Jillie

    Yes Shelly, I do remember when I first fell in love with Jesus. He used Matt.11:28,29 to draw me during a time of depression and weariness. He spoke to my heart in such a tender and gentle way…I could not resist. As I’ve gotten to know Him better, I still see His tenderness and gentleness, but I also see how much He requires of me. I’ve found myself in bondage to legalism more than once. And the “we’re right, you’re wrong” mentality of my denomination. This is what disheartened me so much that I chose to leave my church. The ‘rules’ became more important than the ‘relationship’.
    I must say here that I am struggling with certain aspects of Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing. My denom. doesn’t believe in ordaining women, for one. I do believe it is unscriptural. Men should be in leadership in the church, as in the home…come what may. 😀 And the fact that she says she “accepted Christ” under “some pressure from the Navigators” (pg. 30) disturbs me. John 3 is clear on the fact that we MUST be ‘born again’. We don’t come into this world loving God (the Divine Presence). We come in at enmity with God. Therefore, we need a new beginning at some point. A confession of sin, repentance, and turning in our life. Other than these 2 points, I AM enjoying her book very much. Her writing style is delightful.
    Just some thoughts I had today, Shelly. I’m sorry if some won’t agree. I guess the Episcopal (Anglican) churches I know up here in Ontario, have left a bad taste in my mouth. But I certainly also understand that each Anglican church is different. That I must not ‘tar all with the same brush.’

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, I understand that the ordination of women is a place that divides the church and we’ll have to extend grace on the pages that challenge what we’ve come to believe about faith. I know that it doesn’t change my salvation, which is most important. And I think that the pressure from the Navigators was an honest admonition about her journey, not a distinctive about her salvation, just a piece of her path.
      And yes, every church is different, even when under the same umbrella of affiliation. We are Anglican’s who left the Episcopal church. Many people have left a “bad taste in mouth” but that doesn’t change my love for God and his church.
      I”m glad you’ve been honest Jillie, it lends itself to good discussion and hopefully closer to resting as His feet. Because its really not about a place, its about the person.

      • Jillie

        I fully agree about that, Shelly. It’s really not about a place a person chooses to affiliate and worship with. It’s all about Christ. It is only through Him that we come to know the Father. I do believe there are ‘born agains’ in every denomination. Sometimes I worry that my beliefs are too narrow, and I worry that some may take offence to what I wrote. Yet I struggle with some who hold to a church that discourages a person’s reading of the Word—the one at the front of the church simply ‘tells’ the people what the good book says and emphasis on personal reading and study is discouraged. Things like that. Drives me a little crazy. People who attend religiously, yet there is little to no evidence in their manner of speech and action that gives testimony to the change in their heart, (if there was a change). I’m not saying Barbara B.T. is one of those. Her life is testimony!
        Thank you for your graciousness to an old ‘Baptist’ like me. I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now. 😀

  4. Lisa notes...

    It is an interesting journey for each of us, yes? Our walk with God takes us places we couldn’t have imagined. And with more intensity we couldn’t have imagined either. I’d take nothing for it though!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree Lisa, we’re on the same pilgrimage yet our journey looks so unique for each of us. Thanks for visiting, enjoy seeing you here.

  5. messymarriage

    It is not an easy journey to walk out our faith in those times of trial. But it is one that brings unexpected beauty, like your excursion to find just the right shot, Shelly. God has certainly brought beauty out of the unexpected and messy in my life, so I really resonate with your words here. Thanks so much!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So thankful for the messy that makes me appreciate grace and faithfulness in way that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

  6. Sandra Heska King

    What a place of unexpected beauty! Last May I walked a path alone that I never did before. Just a couple miles up the road. It was fear that kept me from there. But oh, what waited!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I felt the same way Sandy. Couldn’t believe I missed all of the that by taking another path just yards away. And those photos were only one side of it. I could’ve posted many more. It was so beautiful.

  7. Amanda B. Hill

    So did he take the picture? Were your eyes closed? 🙂 xoxo

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You are so funny. No, he didn’t take my picture. I don’t give my camera away to strangers. 😉

  8. Danelle

    Where Barbara Brown Taylor discusses the “thin places” in Ireland? I’ve read that at least ten times. Beautiful illustration, really putting words to certain places most have encountered at some point in life that truly seem like portals to heaven.

    Such beautiful pictures too. You are a gifted photographer. And writer. It is desperately gloomy and dark here today. Thank you for reminding me of all the Light. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It was a bit gloomy in my neck of the woods today too Danelle. And whispering here, I haven’t finished the book yet so I haven’t read that part where she talks about thin places yet. 🙂

  9. Christina

    The journey of faith has taken me down many unexpected paths. But they have all revealed a beauty I never would have imagined. Love these words today.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m thinking a lot about faith and how we express it lately Christina. As our church split last week it’s made me take inventory about the way God moves among His people and perhaps I’ve missed opportunities when they didn’t appear conventional.

  10. laura

    I love BBT, Shelly. She has such a way of making scripture real for me. Life has been crazy here, but how did I miss you are doing this? I would very much enjoy following along. I’ll have to find that book! Beautiful images too, my friend. Love to you.

    • Sherri

      Laura – you can find this book, new or used, on Amazon.com, though, you may be able to find it other places as well!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Would LOVE to have you join us Laura, that would be a great blessing. Truly.

  11. ro elliott

    Some of my sweetest memories are my first memories…I think because I lost everything to follow Him..His nearness…His working was so very thick in my life…I felt like I lived in a bubble for a long time…just Him and Me…Him teaching me…I was 22 and had never read one word in the Bible…I did not know old from new testament…but He was very careful where He put me…the people who He allowed to speak into my life…He really was a tender shepherd…my legs where broken…and He cared me in the pouch of His cloak …until I was strong enough to walk by His side.
    I left you a FB message…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      He loves us well Ro, so tenderly and patient. It overwhelms me most days. Thank you for being here for me, I cherish your friendship.

  12. Jennifer 'Miner' Ferguson

    The more I read His Word, the more I am familiar with how His voice sounds. I used to think the demanding voice of perfection was His, but I am learning that is one of the enemy. I am slowly ingesting the thought that He does not require my perfection and to believe that He does negates His sacrifice on the cross for me.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Jen, that demanding voice of perfection still tries to push his way into serenity from time to time. But we do learn to know his voice like sheep don’t we? So thankful for that.

  13. Judy

    That last photograph is worthy of a Monet painting – beautiful!

    I was seven years old when the thrill of what Jesus had done for me first consumed me – such happiness needed to be shared. So, I walked right into my public, secular school the following morning and told it as ‘my news of the day.’ God’s special grace to that little girl – it turned out my teacher was a Christian. She discreetly mentioned the incident to my missionary parents at their next interview with her.

    The line that speaks most strongly to me this morning – “healing hovered over me in the stillness. I pulled the gate open on freedom, wrapped a towel around my waist and walked home with a new identity. No longer chained.” It brought back all the emotion of reading a book about gambling addiction – recognizing my husband’s condition with such clarity, suddenly, I knew that so many of the deep responses I had spent years suppressing were true, that in seeking to act lovingly, I had succumbed to manipulation. Such sorrow for him, for all of us lay ahead, as it had behind, but in that moment the tears were of relief and a kind of exquisite tenderness for the self that had been so wounded by betrayal.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That photo reminded me of a Monet too Judy.
      And your comment about your husband’s addiction touches me. Mostly about the way God loves us and redeems the pain and our messy lives. Thank you.

  14. kelliwoodford

    So romantic. Whispers to me of my own encounters with Love.
    Beautiful pics and oh, how they swell the heart, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      They are love stories aren’t they? Stories of finding Him and doing life with Him.

  15. Sherri

    Shelly~ beautiful photographs, and words!! As usual, you always seem to strike a chord within me and make me think. Having to MAKE myself be positive today, so your post certainly helped! Thanks again!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Sherri, I’m in the same fog willing myself to new perspective and trying to write about it. I think, perhaps God brought us together for reasons beyond what we know today.

  16. lynndmorrissey

    Thank you for such a lovely post, Shelly. Your words and images are thin, ethereal places, which open soul-vistas to the reality of God. I love this particular rendering of Eph. 1:18: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” The name of my ministry is Heartsight Journaling, and I ask God to give me heartsight, so that I might have my eyes of faith opened to behold Him and how He is working in the world. Jillie mentioned being born again and you wonder if we can recall when we fell in love with God. Surely, if He had not regenerated my spirit and opened my dead eyes, I would never have beheld Him or loved Him. I would never have been able to admit my sin or cry out for the gift of salvation. We are dead in our tresspasses and sins. First He gives us new life, and then He gives us the faith to believe. It’s all of Him. It was a time of wonderment and joy. THe world looked brighter through new eyes, awakened from the sleep of spiritual death. All I wanted to do was to spend time with Him, in His Word, in my journal, walking heart-in-heart down the road. I think most everything you write reminds me of breathtaking first love. It reminds me that if I am not experiencing what you so often see and capture with your camera and pen, then I need to ask Him to awaken me from the slumber of complacency. I think, Shelly, that you help keep me awake and in love with Jesus! What a high calling you have to do that for your readers and friends!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think Heartsight couldn’t be a better word for your ministry. You embody the word.

      • lynndmorrissey

        You bring tears to my eyes. God bless you, sweet Shelly.

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