On Living Without Regrets

by | Nov 6, 2013 | Uncategorized

rbregrets1He slides the bread knife through a doughy roll, tucks a spoonful of barbecued pork inside. Slanted light streams through the shutters of the bay window striping the kitchen table and our place mats. A lone candle flickers on the island a few feet away: the house is still and quiet.  I lean into the slats of the ladder back, rest my socked foot on the rungs of the empty chair usually filled with my husband’s presence. But tonight, I’m fixated on the crooked smile and squinted eyes behind hipster glasses seated across from me.  Waiting in the tension of silence on the heels of my son’s sobering sentence, “Mom, I don’t want to live with regrets.”

Our conversation started with his dreamy sentence, a pocket of future wishes thrown out like fairy dust. He was waiting to see if they would be scooped up and nurtured or brushed off as foolishness.

We talked of boarding boats setting sail for Northern Europe, attending classes in the world’s finest schoolrooms, living in a simple flat above the bustle of crowded city streets; navigating underground transportation and cultivating passion among a collective of creatives.

Together we built a story, interchanging paragraphs. A simple sentence turned into an adventurous tale that made our hearts thump. A story we longed to breathe life into, instead of leaving it alone to collect dust on a shelf.

I don’t want to live my life chasing someone’s dream of conformity, is what my son was expressing.  He didn’t realize he was attaching words to my unspoken longings.

Nodding my head, I expressed that his father and I desire for him to live with abandon, unchained from the expectations of others.

More than anything else, I want you to know Jesus, I told him, because he has created you with purpose and calling, for such a time as this. And as long as you communicate with the one who made you, I know your life will be one of fulfillment.

That’s when he got up from the table in search of Oreo’s and milk.


Seated at the end of a particle board table in the school library, a slice of lukewarm pizza lays on a paper plate in front of me, next to a can of Diet Coke dripping condensation into a thin paper napkin. After two years of every-other-week lunch dates as her mentor, she is still too embarrassed to eat in front of me. Says she isn’t hungry, like she does every time we meet.

I ask her questions about grades and relationships and her eyes dart from the ceiling to the wall of windows looking out on the sunny parking light as she responds to them. Words expressed through a smirky smile that rarely leaves her face.

“If you could do anything you want, and time and money weren’t obstacles, what would you do,” I ask her.

As I wait for her to think, I envision myself walking down the busy streets of Kensington in west London, past the crooked trunks of wisteria dangling from second floor windows while a Maserati pulls into a lone parking place. I picture myself congregating with friends at a favorite church, vibrant with cultural diversity; laughing afterward, while heaping curry on our plates.

“Sleep,” she said. “I would sleep all day.”

I bit into of my cold pizza, wiped my mouth with a soppy napkin, and realized how much I take dreaming for granted. How much I don’t want to live with regrets.

“The fatal thing is to reduce faith to an explanation. It is not an explanation, it is a passion.” Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

Linking with Jennifer and Emily


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  1. Karrilee Aggett

    Oh my stars, I adore you! And Eugene… and now I can’t believe I have not read The Jesus Way? (As if I need any more books right now?)

    • Shelly Miller

      My best friend has recommended this book for years and I finally bought it. It is amazing, underlining and highlighting so much. Thanks for stopping by Karrilee, hope you enjoyed your visit in Charleston.

  2. Lynn Morrissey

    Very thought-provoking, Shelly. Dreams can be evanscent, and sometimes daily life and disappointments get in the way of them. Not everyone knows how to dream, and not everyone knows how to recover when dreams die. But surely they are the stuff of faith. Without them, we perish. I admire you for helping others to dream and for following the Dream-Giver. Knowing Him is the dream I have for my daughter, too.
    (Gorgeous photos!)

    • DeanneMoore

      Lynn, have you read the Dream Giver parable by Bruce Wilkinson? Very short. The dream is a feather…

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Thanks, Dea. Yes, I have. It’s a really neat book. In fact, I have read a # of books on this subject. Can you tell I love to dream?

    • Shelly Miller

      I never really realized that some people don’t know how to dream, it was sobering sitting there with her and I couldn’t get her to think beyond her daily life. Made me kind of sad actually but then I realized what a gift it is for my children to dream and they do it often I might add. I’m still praying for the girl I mentor, that God will expand her thinking. All things are possible with Christ.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Dont’ give up on her, Shelly. Sometimes, when we either abandon our dreams or don’t know how to dream in the first place, we need to have someone who believes in us, prays for us, and who will dream for us. I’m so glad that this girl has a mentor like YOU!

        • Lynn Morrissey

          Isn’t that weird? Photo not showing again, but did the first time.

  3. DeanneMoore

    May Harrison always be a dreamer…like his momma.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes and Amen Dea, always.

  4. TeriLynneU

    Wow, Shelly … this is beautiful. I want to make sure I’m encouraging my girl to dream and to know there is no one perfect path but rather One Perfect Companion on the path.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think that our dreams are hints to providence. I could’ve written so much more about this but its too much for a blog post. I look back and now realize that much of what I thought was imaginings or dreams was actually God breathing a calling into my life. I’m thankful. Love seeing you here as always Teri Lynne.

  5. Jen Ferguson

    Wow. I never thought about taking for granted dreaming. I think to give up dreaming is a bit like giving up hope. I have a few people who know I hold onto their hope for them because they are too afraid. And so, I suppose this mean, I get to teach them about dreaming again, too. What an incredible honor.

    • Shelly Miller

      I never realized I’d taken it for granted until I engaged that conversation. It was a sobering moment, perhaps a marker in my life I’ll never forget. As with most things, what we gain in giving ourselves away to someone is a greater gift than imagined.

  6. ThandiweW

    hearing the voice of God in your children’s words? Oh how I love the ways He speaks to us.
    Beautiful, as usual.
    Peace and good, wise mama,

  7. Lisa notes...

    Living without regrets is a great goal for your son (and all of us). And for your mentee (is that a word?), I pray she finds reasons to hope and things to live for. You’re right that knowing Jesus is the answer, even they we can’t always explain the how and why behind life.

  8. dukeslee

    Fascinating. I’m such a dreamer, a planner, a glass-half-full believer that great things are possible. I have completely taken it for granted. You’ve got me thinking: What can we do to inspire others toward dreaming? To let them know they have unique gifts that can change the world?

  9. Barb

    As a Mom struggling to figure out my youngest son – the dreamer – I am inspired! Thank you!

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