Be Shelley

Posted on: March 14, 2012 Written by
Be Shelley
      Photography by: de santis paolo from iStock    

A bookstore with a gift certificate.  Ah!  Talk about feeling blessed.

A week before we flew back to the Philippines, I enjoyed some leisurely moments browsing the shelves in the local bookstore. I was nearly ready to leave when I happened to see The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. On a whim, I bought it, and I am glad I did. Rubin spent a year studying happiness and approaching resolutions and goals in a new light.

One thing that inspired me was her list of “over-arching principles” that she called her “Personal Commandments.” They were to be the anchor lines of her year-long study.

After reading her list, I thought about what my list would be. I have had many “keepers,” little nuggets of wisdom that have helped me in times of decision or discouragement, or that have simply lifted my vision on the common day.

What would I put on my list of personal proverbs? What about you?

Here are my top ten…

1. Be Shelley.

No matter how I would like to run from myself at times, or at least change some minor (and a few not-so-minor) aspects of myself, I am Shelley. I am who God has made me to be. My basic personality is what it is, including my likes and my dislikes. God in His all-wise sovereignty knit me together. He chose my looks, my ethnicity, my family, my time and place of birth. Even my strengths and weaknesses are tailor-designed for His purposes. I am wonderfully and fearfully made. Even so, at times I am tempted to insecurity and frustration with the ever-aging, ever-fallible woman in the mirror. May I be who He has made me to be! Praise God, He is not finished with me; He is continually making me new and making me more like His Son Jesus. I am Shelley, a child of God.

2. Every fear is an opportunity.

I heard this from Elisabeth Elliot years ago, and then I heard that she got it from Corrie Ten Boom. Perfect—a truth from both of my spiritual heroes. I do not think I struggled much with fear…until I had children. That is when fear became an ever-present darkness that threatened to overshadow even my brightest moments. I had to choose. Could I trust God? Would I? If we never feared, why would we need to trust? Instead of running or struggling with fear, this proverb turns fear on its head, using its power for good. Now I try to view fear as an opportunity. Every time fear rears its ugly head and whispers scary imaginings, I have a chance to run to my Daddy. I will change every fearful “What if…?”  to a faith-filled “Even if…!”

3. The final chapter has not yet been written.

My dad has wisely said this on many occasions. There is always hope. People will fail—fail miserably at times, with my own failures being especially painful. Sometimes a person or a situation seems so beyond hope. However, we are not the Author of Life, and the final chapter has not yet been written. Even Paul was a murderous Saul. No one and no situation is beyond the power and hope of Jesus Christ. Let us pray and watch. Let us hope—and then pray some more.

4. Leave every place better than you found it.

This proverb has been around for a long time. It is a simple truth that Israelite mothers probably told their children as they once again packed up and moved on during the 40 years in the wilderness. It is nevertheless large in my heart. It has compelled me to wipe bathroom counters, pick trash up off the floor, and just try to be a blessing as I go—and as I leave.

5. Wherever you are, be all there.

Thank you, Jim Elliot, for this powerful sentence. Too often I am visiting the past or studying brochures on the future. I need to be all here. May I focus and really listen to the one talking with me…look at my children…serve here in Manila. Today. In this place and this time. If you are single, be all there for Jesus. If you are married, be all there. When joyful and easy, be all there. When difficult, be all there. God has a curriculum for me, and He will not waste a single day, a single circumstance—if only I will “show up for class” with an open hand and heart.

6. Love can only be gratefully received, never demanded.

Love, friendship, affection, attention, a look, a hug, a call, being included—the list is long, and my cup seems bottomless. It is never full when I try to fill it with the love of human beings. The truth is, my family and friends were never meant to fill my cup. When the Lord fills my cup, love from others is a blessing that runs over and spills onto others. In my flesh, I become needy and demanding. By His Spirit, I can gratefully receive love from others as the amazing, mysterious gift that it is.

7. Choose relationship over convenience.

Once when my children were young, my grandmother died many states away. My mom was going to make the long drive out to her mother’s funeral alone. She did not mind. She knew my busy schedule, my husband’s busy job, our four young children, and all my “etceteras.” Nevertheless, my heart was not at rest. Then a question came very clearly to me: Years from now, which will you remember and which will matter—how difficult it was to go with your mom or how glad you are that you went? I knew instantly that no matter how inconvenient it might be, I needed to be there for my mom. The funny thing is, even as my sister and I planned to go with her, my mom’s plans changed when her sister wanted the two of them to fly out together. I did not even end up going. From then on, however, I had a new guiding principle: choose relationship. When weighing all the difficulties, or the pros and cons of doing or not doing something, choose on the side of relationship. Years from now, I will always be glad I did.

8. Leave it in God’s hands. He is doing more than I can know or imagine.

I love the story of brothers Abishai and Joab in I Chronicles 19:10-13, fighting on two different fronts. In verse 13, Joab says, “Let’s be strong and fight bravely, and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.” I love that. Let us do all we can and fight bravely, and then leave it in God’s hands. He will do what is good in His sight. John Piper said that in every situation, God is “doing a thousand different things that we cannot see and do not know.” Maybe something that seems to be a negative or a loss now is actually an incredibly beautiful puzzle-piece to a bigger, glorious “Yes” later. I cannot see it all now, but my Father is a big God. I can leave it with Him.

9. “Take a picture with your mind,” in the special and the ordinary moments, and tuck them into your heart.

I have some precious pictures that will never be seen in an album. I have often wrapped my arm around one of my children and whispered into his or her ear, “Be sure to take a picture of that with your mind.” Just tonight my 14-year-old son was telling me about a special moment when snow was floating down upon his uplifted face. It was years ago, and he remembers taking a mental picture, capturing the moment in his heart. “I still remember exactly what that looked like,” he smiled wistfully. This Christmas was our first one back in America in three years. One afternoon my parents, my nephews, and my children were all helping my mom decorate the house. Christmas music was blaring, opened boxes of holiday trimmings and ornaments were scattered about, my dad was dancing around in his pajamas, and kids were hanging up decorations or asking where something should go. My mom and the children were joyfully singing along with the music at the top of their lungs. I suddenly just stopped and took in the whole scene. Tears stung my eyes. I took a picture in my mind…and tucked that precious treasure into my heart.

10. The best is yet to come!

What victors we are in Christ! He has won the victory. He has written the Story of Stories, and wonder of wonders, He has even given us a part in several chapters. He keeps us. He holds us together. He is the Author and the Finisher. He turns our trials into gold. He spins black threads into the beautiful tapestry. He has even given us a preview of the glorious-beyond-words future that awaits His children. Oh, sing my soul! He has been good to you. When I am down, I will raise my heart and hands with praise, knowing that the best is yet to come! When I am riding on clouds of peace and joy, I will sing with amazement, “And the best is still yet to come!” And when I lie on my deathbed, I will smile and put my hand in His, knowing that His footprints go before me—and that the best is yet to come.


©2012 Thrive.

Question to Get the Conversation Going: What personal proverbs do you have that guide your life?

About the author

Shelley lives among 20 million other folks in Manila. In between homeschooling her two youngest, chauffeuring her two oldest to various events, and driving like she's in a video game through some of the craziest traffic in the world, she and her husband help teach and mentor leaders for the Church in SE Asia. You can connect more with Shelley via her blog at

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  • Thanks! I often blog about books I’m reading and have seen this one, but haven’t gotten it yet. “Choose relationship over convenience” — love that. One I’m trying to add is “love is manically- verb based” — manically! what I DO, not how I feel.

    • shelley.

      Yes…the “Choose relationship…” proverb was one of those lightning bolts that just hit me and was an instant “keeper”. It’s like a bright light that shines through the murkiness and helps me more clearly see things. I like your word “manically”! Quite proactive…as love should be. I just read this quote from Spurgeon the other day: “O that from Satan’s infernal industry we may learn to go about like good Samaritans, seeking whom we may bless!” I like that mental image of always be on the lookout for an opportunity to bless, to help, to love…manically!

  • Being a ‘Shelly’ myself, this really hit home!

    Thanks, Shelly!

    • shelley

      Hi Shelly! Always good to meet another one of the tribe! 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing this list of keepers. I especially resonate with every fear being an opportunity. I don’t have kids, so I don’t know that fear, but I am in a time of waiting on the Lord to guide me in a decision about my future. I find myself having fear about if things stay the same and I return to my place of service. I also have fear about if things change and I find myself either back “home” or in another place of service. The fear of the unknown can be great, but I know that no matter what happens, he will be with me and that gives me peace. No matter what the decision is, there will be opportunity to see how God is works it out to be good and gives me an opportunity to grow and serve.

    • shelley

      Amen. Fear is just huge…maybe moreso for us women. I love it when I can wrap my mind…and heart…around the idea of it being an “opportunity”. I heard Matt Chandler the other day…he said something like, “Okay, about once a month, you lose your keys….and YOU want to be the King of your life??” Funny, but so true. I definitely don’t want to sit on that throne!

      Do you journal, Lynn? It’s so cool to look back in my journal at times…the Lord’s hand in my past seems so evident from the perspective of today. But most of the time, I couldn’t feel it or see it in the middle of the story. Praying for you today, Lynn, to have enough assurance from the Lord to take the next step. Blessings!

  • Matet

    This article talked to me in ways I can never put into words. I too face an insecure, fearful, ever-aging woman daily in the mirror…yes, I need to be Me. And knowing that He has been good to me, and that He will always be faithful to His promises for those who obey Him comforts me. Thanks, Shelley, and may you continue to be a blessing to all!

    • shelley

      Thank you, Matet! I’m so encouraged by your comment. How thankful I am for the Lord’s gentleness with us!

  • Judy Neibling

    Excellent, memorable job, Shelley! I appreciate your giving form to some of my principles, and adding other worthy challenges.

    • shelley

      Thanks, Judy! I’d love to hear your list sometime!

  • Jenny Gaff

    Thanks for sharing, Shelley. I was convicted when I read #7 Choose relationship over convenience. How many times had I let inconvenience spoil opportunities for relationship? Unfortunately, several scenes come to mind. It is not too late… though I can not bring back lost opportunities, I will remind myself of this principle in the days to come.

    • shelley

      Hi, Jenny. I’m right there with you regarding those lost opportunities. How I wish that writing up this list of wonderful and lofty aspirations ensured that I’d actually DO them all the time! But God is good to always give us new opportunities. Thanks so much for your encouragement!

  • Shelly

    I’m a Shelly, too. I had the pleasure to be the childhood friend of Shelley. We shared all the wonder, the difficulties, and the magic of being young, and the unknowns of our futures. It was apparent even then that Shelley was destined to serve God and help others. Thanks for the precious memories, Shelley!

    • shelley

      What a sweet post, dear friend! What a fun time we had, and what great memories we made! So thankful to have shared my childhood with you, Shelly! 🙂 (((Hugs from the other side of the world!)))

  • Hey Shelley! I really liked your post. I’m going to look into that book and even maybe entice a few friends to do something similar. I don’t really feel like I’ve lived enough to make a top ten for myself, but I’m sure I have my own five or so mantras that He’s brought me to and through so far! Thank you!! 🙂
    Love, Sarah.

    • shelley

      Would love to read your five, Sarah! 🙂

  • Gladys

    Hi Shelly,

    My husband an I are missionary in Europe. I have two children and a busy and wonderful ministry. Still, at times I have a hard time accepting myself the way I am. Your word on “I’m Shelly” really encourage me. Thank you!

    • shelley

      Hi Gladys, Thanks so much for your note! You have also encouraged me. I know the enemy likes nothing better than to discourage us. What a joy and a blessing it is when we encourage one another. May you sense the Lord’s deep love for you as you serve Him there in Europe.

  • Gerri Miller

    Hi Shelley, i love how you have put into words so much of what the Lord has and is continually teaching me too. This is worth a read and reread and reread often. So glad to have you on our IGSL/PIM team. Love ya!

    • shelley

      Love you back, Ger! I’m so looking forward to your return!! Praying for you, sister!

  • Teresa Kelley

    Shel…..sounds like God is doing a work in you. Absolutely love these….especially 2,5,7,8 & 10. Okay…that’s half….I like them all. I was so encouraged this past year when Kim challenged me to move from “what if” to “even if”. I had never heard it put like that. I had been struggling with, what really was a fear of ‘what if” and I hadn’t seen it, but that really cleared up. God obviously had plans of blessings when He created the Crawford girls. You both have touched countless lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank-you Jesus! (I’m going to post #2 on my facebook page…ok/)

  • shelley

    Thanks, T.C.! Your trust is Him has always been a beautiful thing to witness. I know He will greatly reward you for trusting in Him when it’s dark and you cannot see…but you continue to lean upon Him, wait, believe, hope, pray, and trust. The end of the Story is going to be amazing!

  • Hi Shelley,

    I am about to move to the Philippines as a missionary with my husband and a 5 and 10 year old, possibly first in GenSan and then Davao and wherever next, as we plant Christian tv and radio stations. I am here now for a 4 weeks scout the land type trip before the last packing, etc. I have been going through a huge range of emotions, mostly being overhelmed at all the many changes and apprehension about the future. Would love to speak with you to understand more about the Philippines and connect with other missionaries who are here. Your post blessed me a lot, love your pozitive attitude, I myself feel very fragile right now as I face the daunting task of moving here from Australia. I know I won’t regret it in the long run, but it doesn’t necessarily make it easy now as I have to learn to live in a totally different country. I lived in India before, but this again is different. Would love some advice as well about settling in the country with all the legals, etc. Thanks in advance. I am on Facebook as Marilena Fackerell or on where I write articles.