Why Noticing Matters

by | Dec 14, 2014 | Books, Encouragement, Sabbath, Writing


For five days, we traverse from South Carolina through eleven states, pushing pavement west for 2400 miles toward Phoenix. Over the Arkansas delta, flaxen plains of Oklahoma, and the brushy wide open spaces of Texas; her flat terra cotta terraces draped in marble blue sky. In the Land of Enchantment, vibrant shades of pink streak lavender sky as the sun melts from a giant orange orb to radiant gold pooling over a dark mountain range, a glowing outline jutting across the horizon.

The rapid fire clicking of a camera shutter from the back seat provides background music to the wonder we see through the windshield. My son looks through the lens of his camera, captivated by uncommon beauty. And this is perhaps the gift God is giving to each of us as we make our way home to the west for Christmas.








Sometimes I trap myself waiting for thoughts to line up into neat little rows of sentences for you. I struggle to begin when details are profuse and time shallow. But the longer I wait to write, the more complex I make the process. Resistance becomes my unwanted companion.

Frederick Buechner writes, “Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually.

When we stop noticing the beauty of a rusty abandoned bridge, a sunset, cultural contrasts and the way our soul awakens  in the midst of new people and places, we miss the presence of God. And this becomes dangerous to our humanity.

I’m taking notes in my journal daily. Of conversations, places we visit and the way Light slants over what is dead and makes it beautiful. I’m learning that abundant life requires noticing.

How are you noticing lately?

When we hold ourselves hostage to expectations, we live as prisoners instead of free and unfettered children of our Savior.

Sabbath is a weekly reminder to notice. The art of our lives is most beautiful and captivating when we let go and trust God for perspective.


Thanks for hanging in there with me as we travel this month and posts are sporadic. Here are a few books I’m reading and places where I’m writing lately:

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty – This book is an empathetic shoulder to lean on for those (like me) who are in a lengthy waiting season and longing for resolution.

The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson – I’ve been savoring this book for months and probably highlighted the majority. He is so very wise and a friend to those of us who write in this one.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – There is a reason this book is on every list of top sellers. Beautiful writing makes a hard story easy to read.

Am I Enough? – My post at Share the Hope and my first UK writing assignment. Click over for more Advent reflections from people around the world.

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  1. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Shelly, a couple of your lines really struck me (sometimes I think you’re living inside my head!)
    These: “Sometimes I trap myself waiting for thoughts to line up into neat little rows of sentences for you. I struggle to begin when details are profuse and time shallow.”

    With my m i l’s major surgery and recup time daily taking us to the hospital, added to the days I’ve been working (many!), church stuff, volunteer stuff, oh and the Christmas season I’ve been thinking I don’t have time to write.
    It occurred to me this morning to JUST SIT DOWN AND WRITE WHAT I’VE BEEN NOTICING AND HEARING………….Jesus uses it all.

    Thank you for your voice.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love this Jody, I’m just late in telling you so. I think the very best gift one can give a writer is explaining how what you wrote sparked some inspiration leading to action. Your comment was the very best gift, thank you.

  2. Jillie

    Hey there, Shelly
    Right now I’m noticing the wonder contained in a broken-down, rusty old bridge. And I’m wondering at the wonder of God, the “scenery” He provides daily, and the thoughts that scenery provides for our contemplation and reflection. Do we see beauty in ALL things, maybe especially in the things that don’t appear fresh and useful any more?! Do we toss those things aside and simply go on with OUR lives? Or do we do as Harrison did? Stop? Appreciate the beauty? Give Thanks?
    I’m thinking of some very special people this Christmas. One of my oldest & dearest friends who lives on the other side of Canada, who lost her husband some 8 years ago, who has now had 8 Christmases alone; the friend who keeps it light at Christmas because her heart is full of sorrow. Not only did she lose a husband, but yesterday was the “anniversary” of her losing her brother 2 years ago, and the day before that marking the loss of her Dad some 11 years ago. I called her. Something I rarely do because of the price. How she said I had given her the best Christmas gift of all, when I was the one most blessed? To hear that her elderly Mum is beginning to lose memory of people and places. The same little woman who was a Mum to me when I lost my own so many years ago.
    And then, my Dad. Slowly deteriorating under his death sentence of pancreatic cancer this Christmas. Don’t know if he’ll even make it to the 25th. But oh, so grateful to God, Who opened the way for Dad and me to find some measure of peace between us before it was too late. These are the things I’m noticing this Christmas time, and I am grateful for all of these and the stories they’ve given me over the years. Like that old bridge, THEY are all beautiful to me and I give thanks for the story of my relationships with each one. All people really want, and need, is to be seen, to be heard, and to be remembered. This is one of the greatest “gifts” we can give others, not only at Christmas, but all year long.

    • Shelly Miller

      Your questions are so good at the beginning of this comment Jillie. Love the way you think. And you’ve encapsulated much of what I’ve been pondering in your last paragraph when you said, “All people really want, and need, is to be seen, to be heard, and to be remembered.” I think you are so right. I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately as we are back in Phoenix, in the place where we feel loved, known and a sense of belonging. It’s restorative. And the very best gift we can give someone, I agree. (I’ve written a little piece about that in my next post.) Thanks for being here, I appreciate you.

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