Let’s Stop Being Hard on Ourselves

by | Apr 13, 2016 | Encouragement, Identity, Uncategorized

“Do you have your Oyster card? Your keys? Your pen? Your umbrella? I ask my son Harrison these questions every weekday as he is fixing his tie in the mirror and pushing arms through the jacket with a school crest on the pocket.

I ask him those same questions when we are, the three of us, standing in front of the mirror, preparing to leave the house. Embarking on a day trip around London as part of our staycation.

When you are reliant on walking and public transportation to reach a preferred destination, you must first tick all the boxes before boots click on the pavement. Leaving something behind means difficulty or an adventure you talk about for weeks.


As we arrive in the tube station, I reach inside the purse resting on my hip, feeling inside a pocket for the hard plastic of my Oyster card when I discover it is missing. Crouching down, out of the way of crowds pouring through the kiosks, I continue searching and begin to panic a little.

I left it safely inside another purse hanging in a closet at home. When I hear myself say that to H and Harrison, a lump begins to form in my throat.

“I guess you should’ve asked yourself the same questions you asked me,” jests Harrison.

My Oyster card has automatic top-up which means I don’t have to think about having the right amount of money to ride a bus or a train unless my bank account is empty. “Should I walk back home and get it?” I ask H. “We have a lot of travelling to do around London.”

In the end, we conclude time is of greater value and the current mood, worth saving. H stands in line to purchase a new Oyster card. And I counsel myself out of feeling guilty.

After we step off the train at Westminster, I watch the heads of my boys towering above packed pedestrian crossings shrink to silhouettes as I stop and snap a picture of Big Ben. When we reach the floating platform of the water taxi, the attendant greets us with a scanner. I tap my new Oyster card on the surface and he smiles while saying, “You barely have enough to make it.” Nervous laughter erupts between us.








In Greenwich, we step off the boat, climb up a hill and stop to get our bearings. In search of the Painted Hall when a family walks past us looking familiar — American friends from Texas I met while on a writing retreat in the Cotswolds.  What are the chances we’d meet up in London?

“How is your book coming along?” she asks after warm embraces.

Sometimes my faith is like a relationship with my Oyster card. I assume it is in good stead and where it needs to be as long as I prepare, ask the right questions, and I’m intentional about applying it in different contexts. But if I am unprepared, forgetful or chronically distracted, I become guilt ridden about not making more of an effort. I vacillate between surrender and control often.


Huffing and puffing our way to the tippy top of the Royal Observatory, we gawk on the Prime Meridian of the World while surrounded by tourists. We stand on the line representing Longitude 0º taking in a panoramic view of London on the Thames. In the city that won my heart, on the very place on earth known as the axis of measurement in terms of its distance east or west, a line dividing the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth, I am aware of my smallness and how much I am loved.

I am thinking about how bumping into those friends was surprising but not random.

The delay caused by my lost Oyster card also resulted in a precise, timely intersection with familiar faces. A moment when everything in my world felt new, culturally different, and estranged from any previous Easter holiday, I bumped into a man who speaks in a unique Texas tone and cadence. A voice so similar to that of a beloved uncle, I could close my eyes and swear it was him standing next to me.




At times we all wonder, why am I here? How did I get here? What does any of this mean in the big picture? We can feel far away from home, droop into heartsickness and swallow our sadness with nostalgia.

We assign value to time by measuring how we use it while God assumes our time is valuable because He is with us.

While I am keeping a mental Moleskine on the ways I fall short, God reveals my perceived “mistakes” are often providence in the moment.

“I see you. I know. You are loved. You are my home,” I hear Him whisper — every time I use my Oyster card now.

Maybe it’s time to let go of being so hard on ourselves. Let’s stop defining ourselves by time, opinions, productivity and standards we create for ourselves.  Let’s trust Him with our minutes; they are all His in the first place.


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  1. Mary Gemmill

    Love God’s perfect timing, and love that you met up with fellow Texans, and that you are seeing some of London’s sites.
    I have come to a place where whenever I begin to think I am late, my heart instantly reminds me that in God the timing will always be perfect and it always is. If I AM late…so is the other person etc.
    He is SO trustworthy when we commit our days into His loving hands.
    In fact I often set out, and have only gone a few metres when He suggests doing everything the opposite way around that I had planned. I know to LISTEN because He alone can see the end of the day from the beginning and knows just where other people are that we need to ” bump into”.
    Praying blessings upon you and your family, thankful that you invited me to pray all those months ago. xx

    • Shelly Miller

      I love the way you listen. Isn’t it true that the longer we practice listening the greater confidence we begin to experience in the unknowns. Instead of fearing them, I have begun to see them as an opportunity for adventure. Not every time, but I’m learning. xx

  2. DeanneMoore

    I started reading this and all I could think about was that Oyster card I lost in London, BUT then I remembered some of the things God taught me through some of the things I lost in London. We all need to stand on the prime meridian, the place where we get the perspective, we need to see the little things matter in the bigger picture, that God is in the big things, the small, and the things that we coin as serendipity. Loved this post..love you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m still confident we will find one of those things you lost. And every time I wear your sweater I think of you! That Oyster card was a blessing for someone, I’m sure of that. Love you too! xx

  3. Catherine

    How wonderful to hear that God brought a Texan across your path when you were far from home. Our times are in His hands and our steps are ordered by Him…

    • Shelly Miller

      Isn’t it great knowing that time is in God’s hands? What a relief!

  4. Devi Duerrmeier

    I always find myself exhaling when I read your words, literally and spiritually. Thank you, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Devi, what a lovely thing to say. I’m humbled.

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    SHelly, I love this post–of course, as I do all you write. It’s all about redemption–about how God can redeem our mistakes and bring us something beautiful, something unexpected from them. Had you not left behind the card, you would have left behind the opportunity to meet your friends. What a sweet surprise. And it’s all about God’s sovereignty. There was a pearl in your oyster, wasn’t there?! 🙂 Forgetting it was an irritant, but the result that materialized was a shining, luminous gift. What are the odds that you would meet them?! Of course, there weren’t odds. All our goings and comings and meetings and meanderings are under God’s providential watchcare. I think of how you and I met, and though if felt random, it assuredly wasn’t. I “just happened” to read Ann Voskamp’s blog that day when she “just happened” to still have the comment box open, and from all the myriad links that I could have chosen, I “just happened” to read yours, and you “just happened” to grow up in St. Louis, and that “just happened” to be the same place my grandmother had lived and that I frequented as a child. Nothing is lost on God: oyster cards, surprise meetings. Nothing is a surprise to Him. The other thing that struck me about this redemptive post is that while losing your Oyster card is not a sin, and yes, God does redeem our moments, He assuredly, amazingly also redeems our sins. I gave a very difficult testimony this past Sunday in church about the abortion I had many years ago in my twenties. While God never approves our sin (He hates sin), amazingly He loves me, and He used my testimony (about something horrible I did), and is redeeming it for His good and glory. Even a week before Sunday, I did not know I would give that testimony. The pastor had not yet approached me to ask if I’d share it. But God knew. He even knew I would attend a seminar the day before that dealt with coming out into the healing light and telling our stories of shame in order to be freed and in order to help and bless others. When I had signed up for that seminar months before, I had no idea what it was about. You also know the “ocean” part of my story, and the hymn we sang on Sunday was “The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” which alludes to His fathomless love like a mighty ocean rolling over us. Shelly, the choir director had no idea I would use that imagery in my testimony; he had chosen the hymns months before! After the testimony a number of people approached me and were so obviously moved. And a couple men told me about the devastation their own mothers had endured many years ago after their abortions (one woman has nearly gone insane). But in God’s providence they received hope on Sunday that God can heal even abortion. God was redeeming my sin, in His timing for others’ good. Your post reminded me of all this, and I thank you for it. God is amazing, isn’t He?

    • Shelly Miller

      I love all the sacred serendipity in this comment Lynn. He loves you so much. I can only imagine what a gift your story was for so many to hear. I’m so thrilled all went well and God received the glory.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Thank you for praying about the testimony, Shelly. God heard. And thank you for this humbling reminder of his love. Whle cleaning through some files, I found where I had written down the prophecy you gave me about picturing me as a little bottle-fed lamb. It was very tender. Somehow your words here remind me of that again. thanks for the encouragement you always so generously give. Love, Lynn

  6. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for these wise words, Shelly. I copied into my journal that sentence in bold type, to help me maintain perspective on time. I’ll also be sending the quote to a young woman who–just TODAY–was expressing her concern she wasn’t productive enough with her time. (The ripple-effect begins!)

    • Shelly Miller

      I have that accusing voice about not being productive enough too. It’s so debilitating and joy sucking. I know you must be a blessing to her Nancy, encouragement helps to quiet the lies.

      • Nancy Ruegg

        Thank you, Shelly. Your encouragement has certainly helped quiet the lies in my life. Blessed Sabbath to you!

  7. Janet from FL

    I really enjoyed reading about the Prime Meridian. I never knew anything about it before. I learned something today. Thank you. I also enjoyed the God moment of meeting the people from Texas. It’s like He just wants to say, “Here I am” “Don’t forget me.” I love moments like that!

    • Shelly Miller

      So glad you learned something new here Janet. I researched a bit about it because I didn’t know a lot before we visited.

  8. pastordt

    Beautiful story, beautifully told. And LOVE the pictures. Thanks, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Diana! Lovely to see you here.

  9. Tessa

    “We assign value to time by measuring how we use it while God assumes our time is valuable because He is with us.” Oooh. Thank you thank you thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Tessa, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  10. Kelly W

    Glorious day! Your oyster card loss reminds me of driving 12 hours home from Vancouver one year. We had prayed for God’s grace & safety on the drive, but I was behind ALL the slowpokes that day. One would turn off the highway but there’d be another in front of me. I grumbled under my breath for – quite – a while. Then, we were stopped as emergency crews sorted out a jackknifed semi-trailer on the road. I realized that had we been faster, we’d likely have been Very Close to that accident. Now I don’t really know what *didn’t* happen, but I was reminded that perhaps God was covering us in safety. I just didn’t see it at the time.
    Regretfully, I must admit to far more impatience in my days, than grace and thanks.

  11. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Shelly, just this past week, because of a ‘glitch’ in my schedule (due to my forgetfulness/ineptness or whatever) I ‘happened’ to run into someone I hadn’t seen in a while. The connection was a God appointment for sure… your words are a good reminder to us all and that He has our Daytimer–the ‘glitches’ and all.(And that church photo is stunning. wow.)

  12. Matthew & Anna Harrison

    Just, thank you. Just what I needed!

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