I’ve never experienced writer’s block, more like sifting through the mounds of gravel in my thoughts to excavate the golden message. Words are rarely sparse for me. In the past, I assumed the profundity of my words were a result of my extroverted nature but now I know better.
After ten days traveling through several states, speaking and meeting people, I discovered what I’m made for; what makes adrenaline rise up in my chest and hallelujah spew out of mouth.
Can I tell you something? I walked around with a lump in my throat threatening to squeeze out my tear ducts every day of my journey. I’m finding difficulty sorting through my thoughts to communicate to you, my treasured readers, about what God is revealing.
But I know this: Practicing the sacrament of presence with strangers and close friends is where my heart sings.
While this might seem straightforward, I wouldn’t have fully grasped the revelation had I not spent the past eleven years in isolation experiencing the dark place of loneliness. Though writing is a solitary endeavor and my passion, I admit that my heart thumps more wildly when I can hear you laugh, experience the essence of how God made you over a latte and croissant at a café table.
Sometimes the juxtaposition between emptiness and fulfillment is the middle place of our undoing. Isolation is the proving ground for His promises.
Are you trustworthy with the plans he has in mind for your future? Or will you throw in the towel when life gets uncomfortable and lonely? That is the work of isolation processing.
Eleven years ago, I left intimate friendships in the desert of Phoenix for the pretense of the south that feels like wearing a sweater two sizes too small for my honesty. What felt carefree, easy and unadulterated in relationships often seems like a foreign wallflower in my community.
And that is exactly what God intended.
This is the revelation of reunion with the past: In the vacancy of intimate friendships in my hometown I found my true identity and I will be forever grateful to the South for giving me that gift.
If trust is the schoolroom of faith Olympians then I don’t want to be ordinary. Because when I look to people, place or position for affirmation of calling, I am not trusting in the one who is Trustworthy. I am trusting in myself.
Almost two weeks ago, I started my journey in Columbus, Ohio, at Refine: The Retreat with a small group of women representing almost every region of North America. While none of us were sure why we were attending, all were certain of the Holy Spirit’s wooing.
To say that each face-to-face encounter was a divine appointment is an understatement.
Unlike email, Facebook messaging, texts or tweets, looking someone in the eyes strikes a balance between yourself and another that equally surprises and settles something in your sinews. When God’s love is communicated with confidence and authenticity, it’s as if permission is granted to forget all the ways you distort your identity and truth comes to the forefront.
Last week, I experienced the sacrament of presence over café tables in the airport and under umbrellas, on metal chairs in a cityscape, standing in a retreat center holding cups of candy, driving under tall pines in the mountains, walking near saguaros and through mansions, laughing under twinkle lights at a church.
I’m not at a loss for words. I’m breathless; captivated by the beauty of love and the way it changes people. The loneliness of Lent is the middle place of our undoing so we can embrace the resurrection with wonder and see ourselves more clearly.
Perhaps that’s the message of Holy Week. His presence is a gift, don’t take it for granted.
He wants you to know what you are made for, what makes your heart sing with abandon, because He loves you. Glory!
Linking with Jennifer, Emily, Holley and Lyli.
I love how you rightly say that looking someone in the eyes “equally surprises and settles.” How lovely and true. I came from Refine without a complete sense of what God wanted to show me, but with a fullness He gave me …. in the communing with Him and my sisters in Him over that treasured weekend. Blessed to have met you!
I feel the same way Elizabeth and meeting you was lovely. I wish we could do it all again this weekend!
This is stunning truth, isn’t it, Shelly?! I’m overcome in the aftermath of Refine, just how deeply powerful the truth of being LOVED by Christ is, and how belonging has the ability to reveal glimpses of glory we can’t see when we stand at the fringe of the kingdom. I do to have all of the words yet, but I know this–I am changed. I love you friend, and I love this post!
I knew that the retreat would be powerful but I didn’t expect so many to be speechless. It seems it was a holy time that leaves us standing in awe. God surely did some work didn’t He?
yes, it’s amazing to me–so many of us have come away altered but unable to articulate it…unable and a bit unwilling. I think some of these gems are treasured gifts from Him, specifically for us. I’m enjoying this season of sifting in the quiet. The blessings have not stopped. He is amazing, and awe-inspiring.
Shelly, it is a nervous kind of on the sidelines privilege to watch how Jesus is launching you from where you’ve been. Big things in store, friend. Oh, He is faithful…..
I’m glad you feel that way Jody, its always good to hear the perspective of others when you are too close to see it yourself. Thank you friend.
Wonderful thoughts Shelly! Discovering we are right where HE wants is the most peaceful place to be! Blessings! P.S. Thisis my first blog comment ever!!! Taking your advice to heart!
Wow, can’t believe its your first comment. I’m honored. I’m sure you will see the fruit Shannon. It was great meeting you!
So much goodness here. Love reading your words, Shelly.
What a treat to see you here Annie, thanks! I was just telling my husband how meeting you in Ohio inspired me.
And you do it so well, sweet friend–this being present wherever you are. What a gift it was to walk with you, to steal a few moments with you in the breaking bread and worship. I’m so glad you heard God speak such a lovely calling over you. Yes. This is what you do so well. Welcome home, Shelly. Much love.
Oh Laura, you are so dear to me. Our walk was definitely a highlight of my journey. I’ve been thinking about you all week, hope to call you soon to catch up. I want to hear all about that puppy.
Looking forward to setting my eyes on your eyes. So grateful that God redeems all. “Glory” and “Hallelujah”
Me too. When is that going to happen?
I smiled when I saw the word “sacrament.” I’ve been rereading a favorite author recently and he uses it regularly in writing and in person and I’ve been contemplating its meaning and lack of use. It doesn’t surprise me to find you using it.
About your words here: I have almost no words. Mostly, my response was lack of breath a couple of times, especially here: “Are you trustworthy with the plans he has in mind for your future? Or will you throw in the towel when life gets uncomfortable and lonely? That is the work of isolation processing.” Oh, I have been close, too close, to just giving up here. I have never been so tempted to just give up and coast as I have been parts of these last 5 years. Sometimes I know He’s at work. Sometimes I can’t remember. Thanks for your words.
I just love you Natalie, you bless my heart by just being you.
Well there’s a happy little discovery in my inbox this morning:) I am grateful that I found you one day via a linkup!
The mixture of all things bitter&sweet makes life rich indeed. Embracing it all-as you are-reveling in the life God grants, isolated or embraced. He is molding and shaping and it is VERY good!!! What a rich journey of blessings!!!
We often can’t see all that molding in the midst of it, right Kathy? It just feels painful and icky and like God forgot. I’m grateful to be on the back side of the season. The redemption is the gift of empathy for others.
Just loving reading about God at work in you and through you Shelly- and excited about all that is up ahead as God builds on all of this and takes you up to yet another level of Glory- oh- how wonderful ~! As is this post- just loved it.
You bless me continually Mary, so grateful for your spiritual influence.
“it’s as if permission is granted to forget all the ways you distort your identity and truth comes to the forefront”…this, I’m hungry for it.
Praying God satiates the craving Elizabeth!
Thank you Shelly, for this post. It is such a gift to be able to “hear” your words and laughter. I am encouraged once again.
Miss you Lu, thought about you so much while in Phoenix. I think I was secretly hoping you might surprise me and show up in Prescott. We need to catch up soon. Love you!
Oh Shelly…. I get this …I get this… I have been in the wilderness too… Death was all around… But oh praises because from death comes resurrected life… I have said this before… I think we could have a long deep conversation if ever we met face to face…. So very thankful you are feeling what makes you come most alive… It makes me think of Bob Goff… His words are always so very simple …. “Find what you are good at….love to do and do a lot of that”. Happy Ressurection!!!!’
I love Bob Goff, he’s so awesome. I think some of our sacred echoes come with our season of life, yes? Happy to be sojourning with you Ro to wholehearted living. It’s a wild ride I wouldn’t trade for anything. The beauty takes my breath away . . . usually in hindsight. *wink*
Shelly, I’m savoring these words … “The loneliness of Lent is the middle place of our undoing so we can embrace the resurrection with wonder and see ourselves more clearly.”
It is the undoing we don’t want, isn’t it? The peeling off of layers of self to reveal the barest places of our hearts and souls is a scary thing. But it’s those bare places where we become His image. Broken places lined with pure gold to reflect His filling, perfect and whole. You have captured something beautiful here, my friend. Thank you!
I LOVE that I can hear the sound of your voice in this comment Teri Lynne, what a gift it was to spend time with you and laugh until my stomach hurt. I actually went from reading my notes to speaking extemporaneous at the retreat. You gave me courage. I’m grateful. Thanks for your encouragement, it means a lot to me.
Love you and your heart so much. Thankful for your friendship.
I love this…and you… and that we are neighbors in a couple of places today. And this… I love the truth and freedom and promise of this: “He wants you to know what you are made for, what makes your heart sing with abandon…” So happy that you are seeing and knowing that for yourself! We are carriers of His Presence… let us do it on purpose, with purpose – knowing always that it is a gift!
Love your encouraging spirit Karrilee. Hope you had a good Easter with your sweet family!
So grateful it was a rich time – and a time of revelation and new understanding for you, Shelly. Be blessed this Easter, friend.
Thanks Diana, I’m grateful too. I was a bit desperate when I boarded that plane. God is faithful.
Wow. I feel excited just reading your words, Shelly. You have some beautiful things astir in your life, and it’s a morsel to read them spilled over. I resonate with this, and echo an amen, I want this, too: “If trust is the schoolroom of faith Olympians then I don’t want to be
ordinary. Because when I look to people, place or position for
affirmation of calling, I am not trusting in the one who is Trustworthy.
I am trusting in myself.”
A very blessed Easter to you.
Amber, what a treat to see you here. Yes, there are lots of things astir in my life. I hope to unwrap them here as the details unfold. Hope you had a lovely Easter celebration.