Breathe and Jump

by | Apr 24, 2013 | Uncategorized


Boots to my knees, camera and laptop swing over my shoulder as I zigzag through strollers and wheeled carry-ons yelling, “Excuse me.” My heart beats like a mallet banging on a bass drum. Wide eyes and expressionless turn around at the sound of my haste then sway like ants marching toward crumbs.  I’m determined to push past the delay, the fear of missing it, to reach the gate. I’m going to the place where humanity and heaven meet, singing the chorus of evensong.

My chest still heaving, I belt into my airplane seat next to a farmer. Vanity Fair lies open on my lap. He catches sight of Psalm 103 printed oversized lying between the shiny pages of Audrey Hepburn. Pulls his phone from a faded jean pocket, thumbing windows while telling me he has that particular Psalm loaded.  He looks down, then out the window at the carts of baggage, and quietly reveals a page from his story.

After five years he still prays for his wife, longs to return to the boy swinging below the trees beside his old farmhouse. Admits change begins with his index finger pointed at his heart.

“If we only realize how much God loves us, we wouldn’t worry so much about everything,” he says, reavealing lessons of adversity.

And this is how it begins. Weaving my way through the escalators of humanity, I stop and listen to His message, one person at a time. Their stories of frailty and redemption like index cards of a speech I need to memorize.

We gather from the dog eared corners of our maps to the flatlands of Nebraska, her tawny dirt table the center of our communion. Expansive blue sky and dangling pillars remind of His faithfulness.  That life still resides in dry bones. (Ezekiel 37:4)

Writing unites our hands. And love strings our stories together.


Sometimes we take ordinary for granted.  The everyday rhythm we carry, so familiar, the heart no longer discerns her cadence. It takes the prism of another leaning on the walls to welcome and name it; her intonation at the breakfast table, the dance of light and shadow.

The warm embrace of community reveals truth from the refraction of our solitary thinking. Love transforms the artistry of being, from common to vibrant and alive.

Empathy calls out gifts and callings from our kindred kind sitting cross legged on the floor. Reminds us that what we bring to the room of our humble beginnings is the paint and nails, the essence of our concrete story. Distraction resides in numbers and views, and our distortions of eloquence.

My lost luggage and the sweat rings on yesterday’s outfit will not rob me. God’s destiny isn’t limited by the daily minutia or the scent of body lotions filled with promise. Because love captures, contains and creates room. That place where heaven and humanity meet, singing the chorus of morning and evensong.

The wise and the weary all sup from the common cup of humanity, redemption dripping from the beautiful cracks of our stories. We’re all jumping tandem into destiny. Sometimes we have to run to the gate. And love, it always waits on the other side.

As children of God, we’re meant to live on high alert, watching for the possibility of divine restoration in the lives of those around us. We’re called to look where no signs of life are found, where others dismiss its possibility. And we’re invited to speak life – words of encouragement, hope, and peace that embody the goodness of God – whenever possible. ~Margaret Feinberg


In Chapter 006 of Wonderstruck, Margaret asks, “When I look at others, do I see dry bones or the children of God?” Will you be a person who sees life in mere bones? How do you breathe life into others?


Today Duane Scott and I are co-hosting a book club and discussion on Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg. Link up your posts on finding the wonder of God in the everyday (they’ll show up on both our sites) and join the discussion in the comments and on our Facebook page throughout the week, Redemptions Beauty Book Club.


April 24: Chapter 006-007

May 1: Chapter 008-009

May 8: Chapter 010-Final Thoughts

Next week, join us on Monday, April 29 for a guest post from Margaret at where you can also link up your posts.

Linking with Emily for Imperfect Prose and Jennifer for Tell His Story.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here:


  1. Amanda

    Love this: “The wise and the weary all sup from the common cup of humanity, redemption dripping from the beautiful cracks of our stories. We’re all jumping tandem into destiny. Sometimes we have to run to the gate. And love, it always waits on the other side.” What a beautiful picture. Stopping by from #tellhisstory. Blessings to you xo

    • Shelly Miller

      Glad you stopped by Amanda, thanks for your kind words.

  2. Beth

    “Because love captures, contains and creates room.” Beautiful! Every word was beautiful. I’ve enjoyed reading from so many how the Jumping Tandem retreat impacted their life. I begin to feel as though I was there…wishing I had been there. AMAZING! Love your heart here Shelly. It’s always a delight to stop by your site.
    My boss gave me a B&N gift card so I’m buying Wonderstruck!

    • Lynn Morrissey

      You’ll love Margaret’s book; it’s beautifully written!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading the accounts from the retreat. God truly met us in a beautiful way and its my prayer that we will give honor to His presence through our words. I think Wonderstruck is definitely a good use of that B&N card, you will love it.

  3. Lynn Morrissey

    At the moment, I’m not breathing because you’ve caught me breathless with such beauty and wonder……I’m not breathing. I’m crying. Oh,Shelly, you have left me in tears (truly!), which doesn’t often happen for me through most writing. But you capture so emotionally the exquisite beauty of communion–sharing bread and brokenness around His table and breathing and becoming around tables of companionship, where we shared in tandem. We do none of it alone. Some do, but they wither and die. We need the windswept breath of His Spirit and ours to recussitate dead bones in dry planes to usher in life. Jumping Tandem Retreat helped us to breathe life into dead dreams or to birth new ones. It’s all about breath, isn’t it? It’s all about *His* breath, without which no dream is worth dreaming. He alone can bring *His* desires to life in us. This past weekend in Nebraska, I know that something significant was resurrected in my soul. I’m not sure what it all means, but something dead has jarred loose with life and hope and possibility of its own, over which I feel I almost have no control. Do dead dreams rise? I didn’t think so. But with Him, by His power, by His life, what else can they do? Thank you for communing with me personally around a lunch-table of love as we broke bread and knit hearts. You are such a precious lady, so beautiful inside and out. And I’m so grateful we’ve met virtually and vitally. We’re alive, Shelly! Alive. Alive in tandem in Him! Now I’m crying again! Oh my!

    In Wonderstruck, I love this particular chapter of Margaret’s too. My ministry name is Heartsight Journaling, and I am always asking for eyes to see below the surface and behind the masks of those who wear them–to see reality and to reach out with love and life. Thank you for sharing your life with me…..and I will even forgive you for having our photo taken when I didn’t have on eyeliner! =] Ugh.

    Love you so!


    • Shelly Miller

      My heart is full hearing about the way the retreat resurrected dead dreams. Can’t wait to see what God does in and through you in this next season Lynn. You are truly a gift.

      • Lynn Morrissey


  4. Laura Boggess


    I’m still coming down :). So many joy-filled moments and you tell it with such beauty, Shelly. What a God-gift to behold your face in person. So grateful.

    • Shelly Miller

      Me too Laura, still coming down. And I don’t want to. I feel the same, completely honored to have met you in person. You are as beautiful inside and out as I knew you would be.

  5. Laura Rath

    This is beautiful Shelly!

    I went back to work yesterday and had this fear that I would lose the feeling from this past weekend. I still do, I guess. It was so much more than just a great weekend, from the friendships to seeing God everywhere, and I don’t want it to just be memories. I don’t want to lose the fullness of it all.

    I’ve been struggling with how to write about it, but maybe I’m beginning to process it now. When I start writing, I’ll have to come back and read my comment to remember what I said. LOL

    What a blessing to me that we got to meet and chat for a minute at the retreat.

    • Lynn Morrissey

      Oh journal about it, Laura, so you capture each exquisite moment to re-live over and over again…..until next year!

    • Shelly Miller

      Laura, I know what you mean, not wanting to lose this feeling. Though the high will wear off I’m praying for all of us, that we will always remember what the Lord said to each one of us. That we won’t be the same people but that this will be one giant leap into the fullness of what he intends for us. I just did a huge brain dump in the airport of everything I was thinking and that helped. May he give you clarity and free flowing words as you process. I loved meeting you too.

    • Elizabeth

      Ditto to what you said, Laura!

  6. Jen Sandbulte

    Shelly, thanks for your words and your heart. Your kick off of Saturday morning was perfect! Looking forward to getting to know you through your words!

    • Shelly Miller

      Jen, I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend time together. Thank you for your kindness, I’m thankful for His faithfulness and trust in me, that what I shared resonated. Look forward to getting to know you too.

  7. Kel Rohlf

    Shelly, thank you for capturing the spirit of the retreat in beautiful word images . . . and reminding me to breathe as I jump back into everyday life where the dreams meet the road of our existence! I am encouraged to see where God will take each of us the rest of the year!

    • Shelly Miller

      Kel, were you there and I didn’t get to meet you? I’m horrified if that is the case. Thank you for your kindness and affirmation, I really appreciate you.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Kel was our dear friend and driver, Shelly. This brave lady drove all the way, both ways, with all of us hysterically laughing women. I have never laughed so hard for so long in my entire life. It was such a hoot, and they could tell you things about me that I would sue them for if they ever do! Kel was so brave to do this. I would have slept at the wheel, had I not been laughing so hard. I get hypnotic on road trips. You will just have to come visit us all in St. Louis. Remember, my cabin offer stands!

        • Shelly Miller

          Oh, now I’m sad I missed meeting her. Had no idea she was with you.

  8. Nancy Franson

    I don’t know if I’ll get a post up this week, but this chapter on seeing signs of life in those around us–this is something that has been weighing heavy on my heart for some while. Lord, give us eyes to see those sparks of life and compassion and perseverance to fan them into flame!

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s where my heart sings Nancy, this place of calling out gifts in others. It makes me giddy.

  9. Nacole Simmons

    Oh my, oh my, Shelly. I don’t know how to say what this means to me, this beauty you display, the words straight from your unique lens of this experience. You said it all so well, so many words I’ll carry in my heart from here. You are beautiful, the way you love people. I love you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad you think so. Sometimes the words seem so abstract when they come out, I always pray that God gives the message and understanding.

  10. Nacole Simmons

    Oh, I forgot to say–that is what I feel the retreat did for me–I was dry, dead bones, I could not partake of the communion cup, at the gathering well of water. Could not, would not. And all of that has changed. It is a process, to be sure. But Shelly? *Thank you* for putting words here to what I could not say–I’m alive now because all of you, *you* looked into me, and called me forth. I want to do that for others.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m so over the moon about the way God spoke to you. He is so faithful to breathe life into our dead places. Thankful for the way He brings His people together because he loves us.

  11. Margaret Feinberg

    I love what your airplane neighbor said to you, “If we only realize how much God loves us, we wouldn’t worry so much about everything.” That idea has really been resonating in my heart lately. Thanks for your beautiful words, Shelly!

    • Shelly Miller

      Me too Margaret. I felt that random conversation with a stranger was a message from God. That God’s love would be daily revelation, an endless state of being Wonderstruck, that is my prayer.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love that you call me that you know. It conjures up all kinds of good in a way only God would know. Thank you Michelle.

  12. Jillie

    Hi Shelly! Your words are stirring. How I wish I could have been there. I love the photo of you and Lynn, even though she has no eyeliner on. :] How wonderful that you could finally meet one another!
    As per your questions, I do see “dead bones” sometimes in the family members I have who do not know Jesus. Their hearts are full of woes and their words reflect that. They don’t want to hear about the Lord. Choose not to believe. And don’t want to have much to do with me and “my beliefs”. Sometimes I feel downright frustrated with them, when what I should be feeling is pity and compassion. I want to see them as He sees them–lost. Good thing they cannot stop me from praying for them.
    My main way of breathing life into others is through my sense of humour. I love to make others laugh. And I like to send cards and notes of encouragement. I strive to be someone that others like hanging out with, believer and non-believer alike.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you should come to the next one Jillie. Put that on your prayer list, that God would make a way. Meeting you in person would truly be a gift and you would absolutely be filled up to overflowing.

      And I love what you said about striving to be someone that others like hanging out with, no matter what. That is a great prayer. I’m stealing that.;)

  13. 1lori_1

    “My heart beats like a mallet banging on a bass drum.” I fee exactly the same way at airports! And I love all the faces in these photos, I see the life blood of God in each face…..I keep thinking that we are all God’s big beautiful family. It is hard sometimes to see the life behind the dry bones of prickly personalities and dull faces and complaining spirits, but that is what Jesus did so well. I need to let him help me more in this area….

    • Shelly Miller

      We are truly God’s big beautiful family, you said it perfectly Lori. I’m so thankful for the way He brings his people together. We need each other.

  14. floyd

    Each life is a novel waiting to be told. I’m enjoying this one and all the ones who participated in it. I’m a little out of place, like that farmer in a way, but my heart is with you and all of my brothers and sisters. Well done, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      Floyd, I love what you said, that each life is a novel waiting to be told. And you enjoying it feels like you’re reading a good book anxious for the next chapter. You aren’t out of place at all, we’re all a unique part of the family, perfectly placed right where he wants us. Thank you for your encouragement.

      • Lisa @ four simply living

        This was beautiful Shelly. I am behind in my reading, but after reading this desperately need to find time.

        Floyd I agree with Shelly, you are not out of place, but perfectly place right here in the bloggy world.

  15. Elizabeth Stewart

    I love that now, when your new posts pop up in my inbox, I can read your words, imagine your face, hear your voice. What a joy it was to jump with you last weekend!

    • Shelly Miller

      I feel the same way Elizabeth. Love that I can actually hear your voice and see that smile. It was a joy to meet you.

  16. Emily Wierenga

    You, my friend, are a kindred spirit. I am so grateful I got to meet you in the flesh this weekend, and am excited to see where the Lord takes us in the coming years–how he uses our gifts to bless him. Love you. Em.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, we are kindred Emily. I love knowing that. And perhaps we wouldn’t have realized it to the degree he revealed it, had we not been together in person. God is obviously doing something between you and I and like you, I’m excited to see how he orchestrates our paths to merge in the future. I’m holding out for Ontario this summer, hope we can make it happen. Love you too! I wore my necklace the last two days, thinking and praying for you.

      • Amanda Johnston Hill

        So wonderful that you two connected – God soldiers joining forces. xoxo

        • Shelly Miller

          Nice to know you were here Amanda.

  17. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Shelly, how beautifully you capture the heart of this weekend. And the love. It’s so about the love. Having heard your voice and seen your radiant face, I read these words with extra helpings of gratitude. I am changed by receiving afresh, “O how he loves us” and this — I stop and listen to His message, one person at a time…amen!

    • Shelly Miller

      God’s love was palpable wasn’t it Ashley? And right back atcha, seeing your kind and caring face and hearing your genuine heart is a gift. I’ll read your words a bit differently now for sure.

  18. Starla K Smith

    Sounds like an amazing time good for you!!

  19. Lisa notes...

    the everyday rhythms … the ordinary we take for granted …

    I relate. Thanks for giving me a boost of perspective for this most ordinary of days. I’m grateful to Him for it.

    • Shelly Miller

      Grateful you found perspective Lisa.

  20. Nancy Ruegg

    Yes, I do want to breathe life into dry bones. For me, that often means being an active listener and an intentional encourager, reminding the other person of her God-given strengths and his power at work in her life. I try to avoid generalities and platitudes, and I try not to say too much. Thank you, Shelly, for your encouragement, that we can breathe life into one another with the simplest of actions. I don’t want to miss a single opportunity, because it’s a grave responsibility but also a glorious blessing.

  21. Carol Vinson

    Ahh, to truly be cognizant of the fact that life does reside in dry bones! Praying to be open enough to truly ‘see’ people. Thanks for this reminder.

    • Shelly Miller

      Glad you stopped by Carol.

  22. Nasreen Fynewever

    3 weeks since #jtreat and my heart is now ready to read everyone’s link ups. Lost luggage did not stop your message or your sparkling beauty of self, words, and service. Your smile lit up many moments of the weekend for me. Thanks!

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