Start From Where You Are

by | Jul 4, 2013 | Uncategorized


We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old. This seems to be close to the heart of that mystery. ~Frederick Buechner

Homemade peppermint ice cream churns with leftover candy canes from Christmas and the smell of chocolate sauce melts on the stove in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. That is what I think about every year when I turn the calendar on July 4th. But I haven’t tasted the sweet peppery zing melting on my tongue in almost ten years.

We left our family in the desert to dwell under the shade of Live Oaks in the South almost ten years ago. We’re one month away from living in our current house  for five years; the longest we’ve lived in one place since H and I got married twenty-three years ago.

For some of you who have lived in the same house or the same neighborhood your entire life, you can exhale now.

My circadian moving rhythm doesn’t know we’re staying put.  I’ve been cleaning out closets, boxing up memorabilia in the attic, hauling discarded piles to consignment shops and re-organizing cabinets in every room.

Oddly, doing this energizes me.

Yesterday, while organizing my desk, I found a pile of my old watercolor paintings and began thumbing through them as I balanced one knee on the seat of my writing chair. They looked remarkably different. So I held them up to show H and he affirmed what I thought.  My work was better than I remembered.

Perfectionism. It’s why I stopped painting.

Sharing them on Instagram  a few minutes later; it’s how I know I’m being set free from it. (photos in my Instagram sidebar if you’re reading today.)

I choose to surrender.

Sharing my art publicly five years ago wouldn’t have been a thought. I put the lid permanently on my palette because I realized I couldn’t start painting where I wanted to end up.  Trying to be a Monet to avoid the disgrace and criticism that comes with being a struggling novice is prideful, and it frustrates.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is start from where you are and allow the mystery of your salvation to unfold without knowing the destination. And trust.

Out of each old self that dies some precious essence is preserved for the new self that is born; and within the child-self that is part of us all, there is perhaps nothing more precious than the fathomless capacity to trust. ~Frederick Buechner

God gave me ten years of distance from what I’d grown to love, to understand sacrifice; the fine lines on the face of surrender. It looks different on everyone.

Jesus isn’t as concerned about what we give as much as how we choose to do it. Our readiness in giving ourselves away to the world is in direct proportion to our ability to surrender. When the heart is ready to be given away, everything we offer is an act of worship. And it’s beautiful. (2 Corinthians 8:9-12)

Like those who are ready and willing to sacrifice themselves in exchange for our nation’s freedom.

Happy 4th Everyone!


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  1. ThandiweW

    just when I’m ready to slide in a funk, God sends me beautiful words to remind me that I am human, that my flaws make me beautiful, and that I have never been alone. Thank you so much for the blessing and reality check. You mind me that everything, particularly my brokenness, offered as humble sacrifice, “is an act of worship. And it’s beautiful.” Just like your heart.
    loved this. needed this.
    peace and good to you,

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh my, your comment blesses me big Chelle, thank you. It’s just a blessing to know that anything I’ve tried to convey would be timely for someone. It’s an answer to prayer, really. Hope you have a wonderful holiday. Now get outta that funk girlfriend. You’re awesome. Seriously.

      • ThandiweW

        yes ma’am, but the thanks don’t stop there. just wait until tomorrow…

  2. Heather

    Shelly, your paintings are wonderful! Shucks, paint for yourself and feel God’s joy…and maybe others will feel that joy, too and want to buy your paintings then you’ll be famous and I hope you’ll still be my friend. Yay!! 😀

    • Shelly Miller

      You know, I think after I read your poem and saw your fabulous painting it must’ve stuck in my head and gave me the courage to share mine on Instagram. So there ya go. Thanks Heather. And buying them, that’s a funny thought. Can’t imagine that. But anything is possible right?

  3. Eileen

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Eileen. Appreciate that. So good to hear from you friend.

  4. DeanneMoore

    Thank you for this…I am glad you started where you are and told us about it…I am glad you are uncovering your gifts…beautiful how time grows beauty.

    • Shelly Miller

      Not so beautiful in the middle but the evolution of things always looks better looking back doesn’t it?

  5. Pam

    Wow, Shelly. I love your art! I had put mine away for many years, mostly because I was too busy with working and really didn’t think I was “that” good anyway. But He has a way of amazing us and bringing us back to it, doesn’t He? I really think you should get back to it. I’m feeling like that runner in Chariot’s Fire said… feeling God’s pleasure when I draw (and write, of course) and your watercolors bring me pleasure too… 🙂 I never got the hang of watercolor (probably because I can’t control it as well as other mediums) but I do love it. ~ Pam,

    • Shelly Miller

      I thinks that’s why I stopped with watercolor, couldn’t control it to make it do what I wanted, but I would love to play around again. Just time, I need more of that.

      • Pam

        I used to work with oils (many moons ago… ha!), but you might enjoy trying that. It’s very forgiving and allows more control. Or some acrylics maybe. I just love the expression on your dog painting… I would love to get back to painting some too, but it is hard not having a real space to be messy with paints and brushes. Pen and ink is easiest at the moment…

  6. Deidra

    Those watercolors are beautiful, Shelly!

  7. Jillie

    Shelly…..Love the Scripture…Love your words…Love your paintings!!! Not just saying that, either.They are lovely! We are our own best critics, aren’t we? Others see things in our form of art, whatever it may be, but we just can’t see it. I used to diddle and dabble in Calligraphy. Everyone told me how beautiful it was–I also get compliments on my penmanship–but it just never looked good enough to me. My sweet husband even bought me a gorgeous quill pen, the kind you dip in the inkwell, and I’ve hardly used it. You inspire me, Shelly. There’s really nothing to stop me from picking it up again, and at least believing I have a bit of a talent for it. Thanks Shelly! Keep painting, just for the joy it gives you, okay?

  8. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Shelly,these lines really spoke to me, Sometimes the best thing you can do is start from where you are and allow the mystery of your salvation to unfold without knowing the destination. And trust.
    Everything about these words is freeing……..I’m glad to share in the journey with you.

    Bless you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad those words resonate Jody, its something I’m learning and steeping in often lately.

  9. Megan Willome

    Looking back, God was preparing me last fall for what was to come. Some was through people I met at Laity. One was in November, at the state band competition, when I ran into an old friend from a Bible study. I remembered when she had to surrender her son, due to a divorce situation. I did not know that he died in a car accident a few years later. I remember how hard it was for her to let go in the beginning. I guess God knew a greater letting go was to come.

    • Shelly Miller

      It is often in my life that in looking back, I have greater clarity about where I am today. Like all the pieces of a puzzle creating a beautiful picture I couldn’t see from the angle in which I was looking. I’m so glad that in your case Megan, you saw the markers along the way, preparing you for what was to come.

  10. Nancy Ruegg

    Your post sent me down this pathway of thought: During each chapter of my life–centered around a different locale or different position, God taught me valuable lessons. And as my life-story has unfolded, those lessons have been brought forward into the current chapter. I may be getting older on the outside, but God is making me new on the inside–a little better each day. As I trust in him, the improvements escalate. Lord, help me remember that!

    • Shelly Miller

      What you have said resonates with me too Nancy. It’s the same for me. I can see how all the places and things I’ve learned are in preparation for my current chapter as well. It’s what holds me together some days. And I feel it too, being made new in so many ways. It’s a wonderful place to be. Though not always easy. I need lots of reminders too.

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