Monday, January 17, 2011


I walked and I prayed. These are not unusual.

I cried. This was unusual.

Yes, I’ve already confessed my penchant for tears, but I don’t usually cry when I walk my dog. Last week I did.

Have you ever felt like a failure? Like a quitter? Like you just don’t seem to do anything with your life? I have. I do. And these are the things I was talking to God about last week.

I know it probably has a lot to do with a blogging conference I’m attending next week. I feel so out of my element going to this event, like I don’t really belong there, so I was praying about that . . . wondering why God has me going far away to hang out with a bunch of women I don’t know for reasons I don’t understand.

As I was praying I got to thinking about how I don’t really have a “thing.” I mean, this blog isn’t what I’d call successful. I’ve never written that book I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve spoken a little, but I haven’t pursued this as a “career." I’ve got a master’s degree, but never pursued a Ph.D. And then it dawned on me . . .

I’m a dabbler.

So as I walked, I poured out my heart to God, expressing my frustration that I dabble in so many things, but have never had one “thing." I wondered out loud to God why that is.

Frustration came too easily that day, not peace, not reassurance. Just frustration that I have never pursued much of anything for very long, that I’ve never had what you would call a meaningful career, that my life, as I see it, is not one of accomplishments.

It’s true, I’m a dabbler.

Then, in the quiet of the morning, snow crunching under my feet and the pit-pat, pit-pat of the dog’s paws, He whispered to my heart: You’ve never dabbled in being a mom to those three girls I’ve given you.

And suddenly I know He’s right.

For almost 20 years now I have devoted my life to three little girls who have given me a Ph.D. in parenting, in commitment, in love. They have been both the hardest and the happiest years of my life.

And even though I see this phase of my life careening past me at a blistering pace, God showed me that they have been my "thing."

So I will continue to follow the One who has given me these three darlings, and I will continue to pray for opportunities to serve Him wherever and whenever He wants, and I will keep looking for that “thing” that is mine.

Even if it’s right under my nose.

How about you? Are you a dabbler? What does that look like?

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Hey, I'm also posting over at the MODsquad blog today. I'd love it if you'd check it out!



  1. I'm a bit of a dabbler, too. I've always wanted a THING - something I can be an expert in, something I do with excellence. But I just like a LOT of different things, so I dabble.

    I hope someday you do write a book about parenting your girls. You know I'll be first in line to buy it! Until then, I love hearing your parenting stories and insights AS WELL AS your dabbling! :)

  2. That truly could have been "Me" walking your dog... except I have 3 boys instead.

    When we get to the "end" of this parenting thing, I think we begin to look in the mirror saying, "Who are you beyond being (fill in the blank)'s Mom?"

    All of a sudden we look around and notice the accomplishments of other women who have pursued careers and degrees, etc. And... we find ourselves lacking.

    I like to think back on every single detail of my children's lives and there is great satisfaction in knowing that I have been here for them EVERY single step of their lives.I did not miss anything! Stroller walks, lazy cartoon mornings, school field trips, the drives home from school, etc.
    And I am still here during the teenage years when it doesn't "seem" like he still needs me.. My son may be out and about, but when he comes home, I am here. Wise moms know lots of important small talk occurs in those brief encounters late at night!
    And... another thing. I'm not criticizing women who chose another path. BUT... those of us who DID lay aside everything for our children need a few pats on the back for a job well-done!
    Through working with parents & their children for almost 30 years in ministry, I have learned this important thing: It is impossible to 'have it all' and there are trade-off for everything we choose.

  3. My dear Shelly! If you think you are a "dabbler", then you learned from the best of them.

  4. Oh Hillcrest, I have tears after reading your comment. Thank you so much for that. And I do agree that we can't have it all--I learned that very early on. I guess I just need to stop wanting so much. :)

  5. Interestingly enough, I was writing this morning about leadership... whether leaders are born or "made". I commented that the most significant leadership postion we'll ever have is parenting. In that, we intentionally choose to develop the character & qualites necessary for the job, or not. So sad all of the parents who opt out of this role. Seeing it as less important than a title somewhere else. That won't last. You don't need my applause but you have it anyway. : )
    What conference are you going to?

  6. I think the enemy is so good at helping us question our worth! Our value is settled in Jesus and not in what we do, yet I likewise deal with this. I often feel I don't measure up to all those people around me... it probably doesn't help we live in a community of people so accomplished in seemingly every way (and I would include you in that from my eyes)!

    And wasn't this part of what Eve was tempted with -- she, who had everything, could have even more! There was something made to appear better than the perfect plan and place God had given her! I love it that God reminded you of the work He's given you to do as a mom and how you have faithfully done that! Now that is beautiful and special -- but I also think you are an amazing writer and God has good things in store for you on this front, too.

    Be encouraged as you go to the conference that you do belong there and that God has prepared beforehand good works for you to walk in! You bless people every day, and I'm so thankful to know you and call you an "in real life" friend! :-)

  7. Listen, Shelly, I think you know me well enough to know that what I'm going to say I say in love and camaraderie because I have SO been there...

    Raising your girls, serving your family, living your life: THIS IS NOT DABBLING. And it is not to be thought of as "less than" publishing a book or writing a blog that thousands visit or earning a PhD. Those are great accomplishments, don't get me wrong, but the Lord doesn't call us to accomplish, He calls us to serve humbly, obediently, and, more often than not, anonymously. Look at the life of Christ; He lived life, day in and day out, investing Himself in the lives of others around Him. As have you! What a privilege! I know you know all this and I know you are grateful for that season of raising your girls. Just keep seeking hard after Him!

    Can you tell you've touched on a passion of mine? Okay, soapbox over... :)

    Oh, and I will pray for you as you go to the conference! You will have a blast, I"m sure of it!

    Love you, friend!

  8. Shelly, I'm amazed that you had these feelings...the exact ones I've wrestled with time and time again. I too have felt like I was a dabbler. I suppose that is the curse of being a stay-at-home mom and at the same time one who is trying to be obedient to God by serving in whatever other area He calls us to. While we see others who truly ARE writers or teachers or speakers or professors or whatevers, we're doing a little bit of all of that and not feeling like there's a lot of progress in any area. I write a little, speak a little, teach a little, counsel a little, and serve my church a little, but I don't feel like I really AM any of those things.

    But you're so right. I am a mom. I've done that thing through and through and I'm still doing it. I think it's just that as my kids need me a little less and I'm gearing up for the next phase of life, I sometimes feel a little aimless, a little like I'm dabbling.

    I'm just glad to know someone else has felt these same things. But then again, why be surprised. You and I seem to have similar journeys in many ways.

    Thanks for this post. It helped clarify some things for me and gave me hope and perspective.

  9. This is why I love blogging! All of your comments have encouraged me so much. Thank you, friends!

  10. Shelly, you're such a great mom! By spending time with you and your whole family, I realize how wonderful you are at what you do best, which is being a great mom (ps:sometimes I refer to you as my Aunt Shelly, because thats how amazing I think it would be if you were in my family:) But I can also say, from the views of a child whose mother works, that some mothers don't have the choice between working or staying home with there families. When my mother leaves for work at 7:00 a.m., i don't think about how she probably won't be there when i get home or that she probably can't pick me up, but instead i think of how independent and strong she is and more importantly, how she works for my brother and I. My mom did not 'opt' out of being a mother, and I would like to thank her for teaching me to be independent (her and HoneyRock!;) I would also like to state, that my mother does 'have it all' because she is the best mother in the world and an awesome doctor !! I love hearing about your dabbling, Shelly!

  11. Aw, sweet Ellen! Thank you for taking the time to write your comment. I loved reading your perspective as the daughter of a mom who works. I think your mom is an awesome mom, too! I could never do what she does. You are so lucky to have her.

    I also appreciate your kind words. Let's just pretend you're my niece from now on, O.K.? I kind of feel like that anyway. And besides, when you come here in a couple of years (wink, wink!) we'll definitely be your family!

    Love you, Ellen!!!

  12. Shelly....I'm right there with you sister! I'm attending the same conference and I'm nervous as can be! Please let's find each other and get through it together!

  13. Found your sweet blog while jumping around today! So glad God landed me here!

    This post I could have written. My "babies" are 9,7, and almost 3. I have been "at home" most of my married life. Looking around, there are fewer and fewer moms with me. Over the years, being home has elicited a vast array of emotions for me, but after a very poignant sermon on kids last night, it was as if God was saying "Hang in there. You are where I want you."

    Being at home has created for me a "dabbler" vision of myself as well! I often ask my hubby, "what is my 'thing?'" Really, is raising kids "my thing?" Yes, it is. Among other "things" I tend to de-value b/c they do not produce income. But, most importantly, we are raising up a NEW GENERATION. Breaking a cycle of pain from our families of origin. It is a high calling. It is not valued by our society. It does not make one rich. It is largely unnoticed here on earth. But it is worth it.

    Looking forward to becoming a reader of your blog.

  14. A Dabbler? No way! i just found your blog but I can tell already that you are dedicated to raising your daughters. Our society has told us that is a menial job. I have worked in child care and as a teacher for over 30 years. These are some of the lowest paid jobs and yet most important because we are raising the future of our country. We are doing the job, that in many cases the parents don't want to do.

    In my life my daughter, I have just one, comes first over everything else. I was 45 when God gave her to me through adoption. There are days that I wonder what I was thinking getting a child so late in life but I know God was in it.

    We prayed very specifically for the right child at the right time for the right finances. God answered everyone of those requests specifically. It still brings tears to my eyes 5 years later to think of what God did for me bringing her into my life.

    I feel so unworthy but I am soooo grateful that He did. I must therefore do everything I can to raise her the way God would have me to.