It seems impossible, but it’s true: Our dear friend Shelly Miller has been gone from this earth for a whole month now. And because grief is a weird thing, I find myself doing two things over and over again:
First, I keep listening to the last message Shelly sent to me. I listen to her voice, memorizing the words, the cadence, and the turns of phrases.
It’s exactly three minutes and eight seconds long. Her voice is weak and wavering, and I’m still shocked when I hear her utter these impossible words — “The disease is taking over my body.”
When I had first heard these words, I didn’t believe it. Losing Shelly seemed unimaginable even after she’d been given a terminal diagnosis of cancer. And though her body had lost its strength, her faith hadn’t. She sought peace through it all and until the end.
She left that voice message on a Saturday, and twenty-four hours later, Shelly slipped away to heaven.
The second thing I keep doing is looking at a photo I had snapped when our family had visited Shelly and her husband H at their home in London. Gorgeous white flowers were blooming profusely in the most unexpected place — atop a brick wall. There was no soil up on that wall, at least that I could see, no tending by human hands, and yet there they were, an abundance of snow-white flowers waving in the breeze. I marveled at them and took a photo to remember how they simply existed because they existed.
I stare at the photo now, and this part of 1 Corinthians 3:7 comes to mind, “ . . . only God, who makes things grow.” Some flowers burst forth in bloom simply because God made it so.
Shelly was that way. Some of you here might know her already. She was a friend of (in)courage, a beloved author, and a gifted photographer. She was known around the world as the Rest Mentor. Through her words, she constantly encouraged us to carry a bit of Sabbath in our hearts. For me, she was a dear friend and also a steady voice in my ear to pause and rest when I pushed too hard.
Shelly would always tell her readers that it was possible to “make rest realistic, not just miraculous.” In a culture that idolizes hustle, she wanted us to know that we didn’t have to wait for some magical moment to take a beat in this busy world.
And like those flowers outside the window of Shelly’s home, she was able to flourish in impossible places, even in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. I told Shelly that sometimes it seemed like when the cancer grew, her faith grew bigger.
While Shelly was like those flowers in important ways — blooming in unexpected ways and in an unexpected place — she was also different. We couldn’t see the roots of the flowers, but we all could see that Shelly was a deeply rooted woman.
I always told her she had a “resourced faith.” She spent countless hours studying God’s Word and being still in His presence, teaching about rest and living out those lessons. All of it added up to a bank of spiritual resources. In hard times, she was able to draw from the “faith bank” that she had built during less turbulent times.
Resourced faith — built quietly over time — can sustain us in seasons of great trials, in the same way that a strong and deeply rooted system can keep a plant blooming strong.
“Even in the midst of living with a terminal illness, joy is found and markers are to be celebrated. We don’t stop living just because of prognoses,” Shelly wrote in one of her last Instagram posts. In another, she wrote: “Uncertainty comes with a choice: Let circumstances control you or give control to the One who knows every detail of your circumstance.”
Shelly taught us a lot of lessons in the fifty-six years of her beautiful life. She showed us what it looked like to bloom wherever she was planted — in the soil of adversity or in the soil of joyful abundance, planted by God who gives life and makes things bloom.
When I think about the kind of life I want to live, it’s clear to me that I want to live like Shelly, making each day count by putting down roots that go deep — roots that will help me to not only stand strong during the storms of this life but to also flourish with beauty and grace.Leave a Comment