On Lasts: The Countdown Begins

by | Mar 2, 2015 | Lent


Lying on my side, snuggled underneath blankets, I listen to morning news on the television with eyes closed, one ear pushed into the pillow. I’m waiting to hear the extended forecast. On Friday, it matters if clouds spit from the sky or pour buckets. We’ll load a container with our possessions to set sail on the Atlantic and dock in London next month.

Two hours. That’s the amount of time allotted to arrange boxes and furniture like puzzle pieces into the hollow space of a steel box. Taking our time costs $100 an hour. We’ve thought long and hard about how we’ll use 120 minutes of grace.

Who puts a price on time and determines value and usefulness?

How do we know we have lived well if the sum of a life well-lived is priceless?

I want to pull blankets over my head and linger long in the warm comfort of predictable. But my eyes push past resistance and peel open to sunrise glowing through slats in the shutters. It’s my last Sunday waking up to this view so I memorize it, frozen in the reality.

Analyze the hue of blue paint on the wall of the master bedroom that was never quite right, silk curtains cascading in a puddle on the carpet. Scour the marble top of nightstand cluttered by a collection of reading material. Trace wood inlay of antique headboard and dresser; pieces in our bedroom since the day we married but will stay behind in a storage space during this next season.

We’re on a countdown to London; taking account of lasts; accounting for God’s faithfulness throughout the rooms of our house.

Disruption, it has a way of doing this to people.

Disruption breaks into your comfortable life exposing cracks in your foundation. Revealing where you’ve taken the time God has given and been careless with stewarding it.

Lent is a disruption from life as we know it; a choice to be uncomfortable with how we use the minutes God is giving us.


In the final analysis, the measure of man’s worth isn’t the culmination of days adding up to a comfortable life but the times in which a man surrenders to divine disruption and allows himself to be schooled by it. Not for selfish gain but in order to be useful for others and fulfill God’s purposes.

Eugene Peterson calls this the Great Reversal.

“And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields –whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first end up last, and the last first.” Matthew 19: 28-30, MSG

Closing my eyes, Ising the Lord’s Prayer in church and a photograph of my daughter on her ninth birthday pushes to the forefront of my thoughts. Dressed in Catholic school uniform, she smiles at me with contentment while holding a plushy horse next to her cheek, a thoughtful gift from her bestie.

It was one image among hundreds I recalled as I sat cross-legged on the floor of my empty living room days ago, surrounded by envelopes of pictures pulled from a closet. Flipping through decades of family memories, nostalgia transforms into a left brain trance, as if my life depends upon selecting the best ones to pack on that container.

Suddenly, I am texting friends from all over the country with snapshots of happy moments we shared together.

But this one of my daughter that comes back to memory in church? It seems random but God knows it is priceless.

I’m leaving my beautiful daughter behind in college but I’m taking her to London in my heart. When she was nine, I worried about how I was parenting her, if my time was useful for His purposes.

Now, when she smiles back at me, He reminds me that a well-lived life is one that welcomes disruption instead of running from it. Why, you ask?

Holy disruption shapes us into people of purpose who live priceless lives of promise.


One last time, I stand at the altar in my small town church, hands cupped and waiting. Tears blur vision as I attempt to memorize the carpet, people, and sound of the deacon’s voice reciting, “His blood shed for you,” with gold chalice propped in front of me.

Two hours of grace will soon be distorted by the spending of minutes.

We’re all on a countdown toward resurrection, aren’t we? Taking account and accounting God’s faithfulness through the Great Reversal, as time ticks with Lent in the heart.

Have you ever pondered the upside down nature of Christ from what the world dictates as normal?

This post is inspired by H’s sermon last week, Seasons of Disruption. You can listen to it here.


I’ll be publishing stories here once a week inspired by the Gospel readings fromMargaret Feinberg’s Lent Challenge. Over 50,000 people are reading the Gospels together during the forty days of Lent. I would love for you to join us.

For conversation and accountability, I’ll check in with those of you who join me on my Redemptions Beauty Book Club page. If you aren’t already a member, just request to be added to the group. Find out more about the Lent Challenge here anddownload a reading plan or the YouVersion reading guide. I look forward to sharing more about our move to London through the lens of the Gospels over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

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  1. Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    So many nuggets of truth here Shelly, that really give me pause. God has formed and honed you in the waiting ~ and entrusted you and your husband with this next season of your lives. You have been an incredible witness in the process of “letting go” ~ of things, and people, while clinging to Christ. God speed my friend and bless you with His great mercy and kindness both here and abroad.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Caryn, for you love, support and encouragement. It matters more than you know.

  2. Devi Abraham Duerrmeier

    Thank you for this, Shelley. We are in a season of disruption ourselves and in small ways are begin to see the ways it is shaping us into something new, something good.

    • Shelly Miller

      I hope we’ll get to meet when I finally land in Europe Devi. I’m thanking God with you for the glimpses of shaping He is giving you in the midst of disruption.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I feel the poignancy in every word! Yes, I have pondered the upside-down (sometimes even topsy-turvy) Kingdom. I call it paradox. Your disruption has not been without pain and frustration and doubt….but it has also paradoxically been undergirded with grace, peace, and anticipation. I remain so excited and eager for you. this is perhaps one of the most powerful pieces you’ve written to date, and it is so wonderfully relate-able. We are all not packing a crate for London, but we must all be willing to let go when the call comes. I remain so grateful for the internet, which will also us to continue to follow your story, one word, one insight, one adventure at a time.
    I love you!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m grateful for the internet, Skype, and Voxer Lynn. All the easy ways I can communicate with people seamlessly without spending a small fortune. Thank you Jesus!

  4. Shelly Wildman

    “His blood shed for you.” That’s why you’re going, right? I am SO for you, Shelly!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you for that Shelly. Your words were a good holy hushing to my thoughts.

  5. shughes

    Just listened to your husband’s sermon and so enjoyed his words. I loved how he drew attention to the disruption/ pause causing room for Jesus and how your faith today is different than it was before this experience. We so often long for growth and deepening of our faith but we are reluctant to allow God the room to cause that change.

    I will continue to pray for you as you step into this new adventure and I will look forward to hearing how God continues to form you for his purposes.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you so much for your prayers, I appreciate them so much. Couldn’t do this without the prayers of the saints sustaining us. This I know. (and I love that you listened to H’s sermon!)

  6. pastordt

    This may be my very favorite ever in this good place, Shelly. PERFECTLY said. So many blessings to you all as you go through this season of lasts, dear friend. And then . . . beginnings!!

    • Shelly Miller

      What a nice thing to say Diana, thank you. Yes, H and I were struck by how God is truly giving us a clean slate in a million little ways. We’re thankful. And tired. 😉

  7. Nancy Ruegg

    Though my husband and I have never moved out of the country, we’ve relocated eight times. Prior to each move, I was struck by the value of “lasts,” the need to savor those precious final days and remember them with as much detail as possible. It was painful to let go of the familiar and loved, and prepare to embrace the new and challenging. But oh how God blessed us and grew us through each transition! What adventures in trust we would have missed, what wonderful people we would never have met, if we’d stayed put–just because it was comfortable. I am praying you and H sense God’s tending of your lives and his gentle leading through these “last” days (Isaiah 40:11).

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