Last week I enjoyed a phone conversation with my friend Jenni. She was out walking as we talked. She stopped in the middle of a sentence and started exclaiming over the beauty of some seashells she’d come across. The sheer delight in her voice was contagious. She kept saying how beautiful and unexpected the shells were…

A package came in the mail a couple days ago – dark green, shoebox-size. Inside, nestled in brightly colored and happily crumpled tissue paper, was a ziploc bag carrying a collection of seashells…and a note:

Dear One…

Get these wet…picture them on sand.
I still don’t know why these were where they were.
No reason for them to be plopped upon a bunch of rocks. They are supposed to be on the other side of the island – on the beach…
Anyway, I looked down while I’m talking to you and I felt like they were a symbol of the treasure that God has for you in a place you don’t expect. A lavish treasure.
Examine each of these. They are amazing, Barb! Make sure you find the one – the single one – that is hot pink on the inside. I’ve never seen this before.

Lavish treasure poured out for you in a barren place…
You are loved. You are not alone.

xxoo Jenni


The shells were for me!

Today, after a series of to-dos and conversations with friends, I needed to unwind…to sit down and do something very slowly. I put all the shells in a bowl with some water and sat on the front porch to have a look. I pulled them out of the water one by one and examined them slowly.


They are each unique. The colors and patterns, the “flaws,” the intensity of color on the outside and the translucent shades on the inside (that find boldness when held against the light); they are each so very similar and yet so very different. Most have what I only know to call a “stem” – where the one half of the shell was attached to the other half now lost…or maybe somewhere in my little bowl.

They have each been broken and emptied. Each bear the scars of separation…and each carry a silent story of formation. However they ended up where Jenni found them, each shell is an expression of pain turned to beauty. Each is a gift, found in an unexpected place.


During this particular time in my life…
…familiar things are pretty much gone and I am learning to listen more honestly and compassionately to the needs of my own soul.
…the listening is leading me into a season of “wandering.”
…I am beginning to wake up to what is being given in all of this, not only what is dying or being taken away.

And I find myself curious to explore these shells – all twenty-six of them. Maybe they can help guide my eyes to the gifts I find in unexpected places.


In an effort to get back in to my writing groove, I’m going to share these shells with you, one at a time. I’m going to be on the lookout for those unexpected gifts in liminal space and as I encounter them, I’ll tell about them here…at least twenty-six of them, each paired with a shell from my little stash. Twenty-Six seashells.