What Small Town Living Teaches

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I saw her at a distance as I weaved through people scattered in the walkway, between the line at Starbucks and the restaurant. She was still wearing her coat, seated on the edge of an orange upholstered chair in the hotel lobby, head bent over the phone in her hand. Ten years since we hugged each other, she looked the same as I remembered in high school.

Our paths crossed intentionally in Houston while I was speaking at a conference. We shared a three hour breakfast, talking like we missed each other in church last week. It’s the sign of true friendship, when ten seconds after those initial greetings about the weather; you realize your thoughts remain kindred spirits despite the separation.

She told me she’s been reading my stories every time I post them here. Hi Karetha! It’s the magic of Facebook. I’m not giving up on the fairy dust that connects people, no matter how many times they change those algorithms, darn it.

We talked about mutual friends, our children and parents, the first time I sat with her in church and experienced the Holy Spirit, how the frozen remembrance of the size of houses in neighborhoods of our childhood small town is hilariously distorted.

“I remember how you loved to collect little boxes,” she remarked pushing her hands in a small square while smiling.

“Yes, I had boxes of boxes,” I laughed.

I still do it. I have a square miniature box with Paris in red letters on the top of the mail heap right this moment. I don’t know what to do with them but I save them because their smallness is somehow inviting. That simple recollection of endearment snagged on the doors my mind keeps opening since we visited.

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Last week my community was in a furious frenzy about freezing temperatures, frantic about the potential lack of food, unable to frequent the places that serve french fries for lunch. Bread is the life raft for the potential end of the world, in case you didn’t know that already. We have bare shelves in grocery stores to prove it.

Before our small patch on the world froze up and threatened to shatter in a million pieces, I dropped H’s shirts off at the laundry. Never know when you might need a starched collar in the middle of a snowstorm, right?

The sullen Doonesbury behind the counter asked me, “How many?” straight up like he changed his methods with the weather report. He always counts, never makes eye contact, and hands me a yellow piece of paper with my husband’s name on it, like he’s doing me a favor.  His question totally threw me off.

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Walking back to my car, I passed a woman in a fur coat with glasses resting on the end of her nose, carrying a pile of laundry. Her fancy red car was running with the door wide open. I guess she was in a hurry to buy bread across the street. Only in a small town, I thought. That car would be gone in a skinny minute if this were New Jersey. (No offense to New Yorkers.)

I beat her to the store, helped the manager pack my groceries (I already had bread in my refrigerator in case you were wondering), and asked if they were closing early. Lines of people threaded into each aisle of products, adults and children holding armloads because the grocery carts were all in use. I thought no one should risk crossing an icy bridge after nightfall when the bread was already gone.

She told me several customers and co-workers offered their couches if she found herself stranded . Only in a small town, I thought.

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Life is big like God’s Kingdom. But relationship is small town with Jesus. He knows your name and what you will say before you utter it. His couch is always available and bread never runs out despite circumstance.

When life feels overwhelming, remember that belonging isn’t about fitting in to the small boxes the world creates but accepting the small things shaping your one beautiful, big life.

In community with Laura, Holley, Angie, Jennifer.

 

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    I know you remember St. Louis well, Shelly, and I always hear that it has small-town friendliness with big-town culture. And the question everyone asks when you first meet: “So, where’d you go to highschool?” Honestly! I know that sounds a little strange. I like how you “small” things down to size on your blog….how you allow our Big God to get up close and small-ly personal in all you write. I always feel like I’m right there where you are, and that He is right there with me.
    I hope you and H stay cozy. Sheridan’s college was cancelled today, while God didn’t cancel the predicted snowstorm. And yes, we have bread in the freezer.
    Love
    Lynn
    PS A lot of people like Panera Bread Company, but everyone in St. Louis knows that it is really called the St. Louis Bread Company. But apparently when they kept that name in other cities, no one would buy it, until they changed it to Panera! So there is a little trivia to warm your insides with a smile.

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Why did I not realize that Panera was actually the St. Louis Bread Company? Thanks for the insight Lynn. And enjoy your cozy inside time with Sheridan today, may it be a gift of rest from life as usual.

  • June

    Smallness is inviting. You can’t get me to say two words in a crowd, but where two or three are gathered… I have to remind myself to listen. It is those small “special” things that shape our life. We have to make time for the special, as Angie said so perfectly in her post. Jesus is all about revealing God to us in a way that our human minds can relate and understand. Wow! Those words just sunk in. Only God in the flesh could accomplish something so extraordinary!

    I enjoyed your post, Shelly. You have a special way of weaving words to tell a story. Have a blessed week! (stay warm!)

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Thank you June. I’m learning to listen daily and finding great joy in it. Hope you find the same as you practice.

  • http://kriscamealy.com/ Kris Camealy

    Beautiful words Shelly. I sure do love the way you tell a story.

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      You bless me Kris, always.

  • http://www.dailybreadandbutter.wordpress.com/ Devi Abraham Duerrmeier

    I’m visiting from #TellHisStory – this is beautiful. I’m going to carry “relationship is small town with Jesus” with me today.

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Loved your Geneva story today Devi, great to meet you.

  • Mel

    I love your perspective. :) Thanks for the reminder that I belong…and that He knows me. Beautiful words today!

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      We keep linking up next to each other Mel, I’m noticing. Thanks for your kind words.

  • Satin P

    Visiting from Coffee for your heart today. I love love LOVE this: “Life is big like God’s Kingdom. But relationship is small town with Jesus. He knows your name and what you will say before you utter it. His couch is always available and bread never runs out despite circumstance.

    When life feels overwhelming, remember that belonging isn’t about
    fitting in to the small boxes the world creates but accepting the small
    things shaping your one beautiful, big life.”

    Fun, encouraging & beautiful way of expressing yourself!! Thank you for sharing today! ♥

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Thank you for stopping by, glad you found encouragement here.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    Oh friend… from one small town girl to another – Yes!!! Love this!

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      You know Karrilee, I really enjoy living in big cities more than small towns but God’s plans are obviously different than mine. And in the midst of living in a place that is beautiful but not where my heart is, he is teaching me lessons through it. I’m thankful.

  • Laura Risser Moss

    What beautiful imagery – in your words and your photos.
    I’m here from Coffee for Your Heart and so happy to have found this sweet reminder that small is ok and ‘belonging isn’t about fitting in to the small boxes the world creates…’ Thank you!

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Lovely to meet you Laura, so glad you popped over from Holley’s.

  • http://www.sonyamacdesigns.com/ Sonya McCllough

    Blessed by this story of life in a small town, reminds me of a song by some leather wearing artist.

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Ha! Love that Sonya.

  • soulstops

    What a delightful peek into your life, Shelly :)

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Glad you felt that way Dolly, your comment is a gift.

  • http://www.lisanotes.com/ Lisa notes…

    “I’m not giving up on the fairy dust that connects people, no matter how many times they change those algorithms, darn it.” Ha. So true. Been laughing about that very thing today with my sister and a friend.

    “Life is big like God’s Kingdom. But relationship is small town with Jesus.”
    His bread never runs out–love this, all of it!

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      I’ve been frustrated with FB today Lisa, the changes are really affecting my connections with people. But most days I can laugh about it.

  • Paula

    I remember the St. Louis Bread Co. in Tulsa, and the subsequent name change….hadn’t thought about that for a while. Only you can connect the beauty of frozen water from the mouth of a garden hose AND the comparison of small town with Jesus vs the big kingdom of God. Once again sharing yours gifts with us all.

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      I love how you made all the connections. Maybe its because we share some of the same DNA. *wink*

  • http://www.adandeliondiary.blogspot.com/ Mindy Whipple

    “relationship is small town with Jesus” – what a wonderful description, for where two or three are gathered there He is.

    • http://redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

      Mindy, thanks for pointing that out. Your comment is like an addendum to the post, I appreciate you sharing that.

  • http://dramaticelegance.blogspot.com/ rachel lee

    these pictures are AMAZING. and the words are breathtaking, as always, Shelley.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Such a warm and cozy read that feels especially good on a gray and chilly day. And then, at the end, the Son broke through, in all his glory! I love the way you highlighted the love, acceptance, and comfort of Jesus–so similar to that of a small town. Thank you for touching my heart today, Shelly! (‘Course, you always do.)