Presents From Unexpected Places (And a Giveaway!)

PresentCount the Gifts. Cadence and His Great-Grandfather. April, 2010.

There’s always a prize inside. 

A few years ago, my third-millennium friend Glynn Young asked me a question that changed my worldview. I was sidelined with back pain, and in a comment-section discussion over at The High Calling he asked me a question that lobbed a friendly grenade into my cozy point of view.

Where is the gift in this season? he wrote. Frankly, at the time I bristled at his question. I did not wish to discover anything good or wonderful or valuable about this unrelenting pain. I wanted it to stop.

My heart knew he was right, but my brain rebelled like a cranky 15-year-old. 

Now, just a few years later, his question has upended me once again. This time around I welcome it. You might remember that I claimed present as my one word for 2014. You might also remember that last fall I shared that I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

I hope my friend Glynn would be pleased to know I’ve uncovered a present in learning to manage this condition. I used to begin every weekend with a to-do list. I’d feel oh-so-industrious as I ticked off the completed items. Laundry done? Check. Meals planned for the week? Check.

To live with fibromyalgia, I’ve had to live without my list. Because this hard-charging achiever added a layer of defeat to the pain and fatigue every Sunday night, contemplating the not-done list.

Every unticked item felt like failure. 

(And really–I’d been buying groceries on the weekend my entire adult life. Did I really need to add it to a list? Or had those checkmarks morphed into some kind of idol?)

I don’t write a 48-hour plan on Saturday mornings anymore. Instead, I think, “What shall I begin this day?” When I’m done doing whatever I choose to do (Sort the laundry? Make a grocery list? Write a poem?), then  I contemplate my next move.

Maybe I’ll email a friend. 

Or maybe I’ll take a nap. 

So there you have it. Fibromyalgia gave me a present–it herded me like a border collie at the heels of a headstrong goat right into living in the present, instead of two hours from now. Or tomorrow. Or next week.

And what I’m finding is that this pasture of “here and now” is verdant and delightful. It’s not a bit like a smelly stall in a musty old barn, which is how I envisioned it before fibromyalgia forced me through that gate into Here and Now.

I’ve been convicted. 

Every disease has its own grazing grounds. Cancer does. Alzheimer’s Disease does. Wander in that field long enough and you’re sure to find sweet clover blooming. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Poison ivy grows there, too–more than any of us want. And sticker vines. And stinky weeds. Given the choice between good health and illness, we would all choose health. I get that. 

But. But. If life has you penned up in a stall of ill health, head out to the pasture and browse. Some fragrant gifts are blooming there. I promise.

More importantly, He promises. 

rabbit conga

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NASB)

rabbit conga

Friends, on Thursday,  the first volume of Remembering for Ruth releases.  It’s called Paul Loves Snickerdoodles. One of the themes I explore in this series is born of my friend Glynn’s question: Where is the gift in dementia? Don’t misunderstand. It’s a dreadful condition and I would not wish it on anyone. But if we find ourselves in that pasture, let’s look for clover.

I’m giving away a digital copy of this novella. To enter, offer a name for the next character to be introduced in the series. She’s an elderly woman who is a longtime friend of Ruth Goodharte, the character with Alzheimer’s disease. What is this friend’s name? Enter in the comments section. I’ll choose a winner on Friday, February 21. Thanks!

Paul Loves Snickerdoodles


  1. Glynn is pleased.

  2. How’s about Gladys? Here are the names of my mom’s friends at her community in LaVerne: Ginny, Patricia, Nell, Grace, Anne — and Gladys, who died recently. I know this lesson, too, Sheila. Don’t like it much, but I know it.

    • Thank you for the ideas, Diana! I may just have to draw my winner from a hat.

      This lesson is hard-won for me. Every day, all over again. I reckon that’s why His mercies are new every morning–because my stubbornness certainly is! Much love to you, and prayers for healing.

  3. I love this Sheila. It is so encouraging and so brave. I find this season of life teaching me the very same lesson. Circumstances so often upset my well-planned days, and I am learning to live moment by moment. If I can manage it, there is so much peace. I am weary of running to keep up with myself and so often falling short. I much prefer your new way of walking through the day.

    • Linda, thank you. Thank you. I think part of my problem (ok, maybe all my problem) is that illusion of control that I want to protect. But oh, when I’m able to surrender, it’s so precious. Love you.

  4. I have no names, ’cause I agree with Diana”Gladys” is perfect. (And ‘Glynn is pleased’, well, that would be an odd name :-).
    Sheila, I struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome way back when, now called Fibromyalgia………and did exactly what you did: stopped trying so hard. (I believe we may be the same kind of wound up woman :-). It was a 6 month struggle but I got my world back (after making several dietary changes as well, which contributed to it). But the slowing down and living in the now was my biggest take away.

    Glory to God. May He give you grace each day at a time.

  5. How about Winifred?
    I know about the futility of having to-do lists. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

    • Winifred. There’s a great contender! I’m so grateful that I have the most patient Teacher. He never tires of reviewing His lessons with me. Love to you, Susan.

  6. I live among pastures! So you are right up my alley when said to head to the pastures and browse. 🙂 Yes, indeed, there are presents to be discovered.

  7. This is a lovely, insightful, truth-filled post, Sheila. One of those truths that stings like nettles at first touch, but you’re so right on in that it opens us to the depth and breadth of the Here and Now. So there’s my name suggestion, “Truth.”

  8. Well. I am having a terrible time choosing a winner! So I’m going to execute a Reverse Solomon and declare each of you a winner! I’m off to Amazon right now to send off your prizes. Blessings, Friends! xoxo

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