Shelly grew up on a tiny farm on the edge of Newton, Kansas, with the city in her front yard and the country in the backyard. It was a full and active household, with guests always dropping by for “coffee parties” and six kids in the family to make sure life was never dull. Around the dinner table, a glass of spilled milk, great conversations, and a good laugh were all daily experiences. Shelly’s father was always helping others and could fix just about anything while her mother could magically bring a meal out of the freezer for an unexpected group of any size; they were the givers of good advice and the principles and sayings they shared still have influence in Shelly’s life today.
The family regularly attended a small local church where Shelly sang in the choir and was raised to follow the teachings of the Bible. She began her personal walk with God at a young age and with an awareness that He existed and was communicating with her. In Junior High, after feeling the movement of the Holy Spirit at a “Jesus Rally” in Wichita, Kansas, Shelly made the decision to be baptized in an outdoor fountain and up bubbled a desire to read and study God’s Word. As she read her Living Bible before going to bed at night, the words came alive and the pages quickly became highlighted with pink, green, yellow and orange markers.
After graduating high school, Shelly attended Kansas State University to pursue her degree in Home Economics. During her time there, she joined a Christian ministry where she was discipled, learned Bible study skills, and met a wonderful Christian man named Calvin who would become her husband. Calvin and Shelly finished at Kansas State, were married, and moved to Lindsborg, Kansas, diving right into the unpredictable lifestyle of entrepreneurial farming. Throughout the next few years, they were blessed with three children, Bethanie, Benjamin and Laura, and they began developing wonderful friendships within their community and within the Evangelical Covenant Church of Lindsborg.
Though Shelly sought to follow the Lord during this time of life, she found herself trying hard to do so through a set of practices and disciplines, never quite feeling like she was “good enough” or close enough to God. When the pressure of a recent move, a summer drought on the farm, and the responsibility of caring for three small children brought on the weight of depression, Shelly reached her breaking point and told the Lord, “If this is all there is to being a Christian, I want no more of it.” In that moment, the Holy Spirit stepped in with sweet encouragement through a series of books and a new simple paradigm for her: “God loves me the way I am and wants to communicate with me 24/7”! Shelly realized that God would direct her, change her and empower her as He desired while they were in relationship. She began to experience Him opening the eyes and ears of her heart to hear and see Him more every day.
These truths remained pivotal in their family as Calvin and Shelly decided to transition to schooling their children at home during their growing up years. With the desire to nurture a lifestyle of learning, Shelly took on the full-time responsibility of guiding and instructing the kids in their studies and soon, hands-on scientific explorations of the creek, historic museum visits, and art projects out in the pasture became a regular part of their lives. The family remained involved in the Covenant church through kids programs, choirs, and Sunday school, and the local homeschooling community provided a wonderful environment for growth and support.
September 4th, 2008, Calvin and Shelly were watching a volleyball game in Lindsborg when Calvin collapsed with a heart condition that kept oxygen from circulating in his body. The resulting coma, brain injury, and memory loss altered their lives forever and the paradigm that God had given Shelly at her previous moment of crisis was put to the test. As they began the recovery and rebuilding process, Calvin and Shelly hung on to their faith as a source of stability and hope in the midst of incredible uncertainty. Though difficult, these experiences, as well as more health incidents and transitions that came soon after, solidified and deepened Shelly’s desire to stay connected to God, heart to heart, and to hear Him more clearly.
With those principles as a foundation, she has had hundreds of opportunities to share her story and other messages that God has laid on her heart to diverse audiences ranging from business professionals, to youngsters at church camp, to seniors in nursing homes. Shelly loves combining her faith, her art and her love for people to help other women develop a stronger relationship with God as they navigate through their own ups and downs in life.
Calvin and Shelly currently reside near Lindsborg where Calvin has continued his work as a farmer with the help of others, including Shelly. While pursuing her speaking and writing career, Shelly also returned to her original area of training as a FACS (Home Economics) teacher at their local high school. They have remained active at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Lindsborg, continuing to enjoy and rely on the spiritual stimulation, love and support of their church community of 25 years. Beyond growing in their relationships with Christ, one of their greatest joys is being “Nana and Papa” to their five grandchildren, and watching their three children and their spouses seek the Lord in their own lives.
A Q&A With Shelly
What is your life verse?
Mark 12:30-31 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
What are some words that describe you?
I am…creative, friendly, hospitable, a communicator, loyal, a lifelong learner, artistic, a leader, a big picture thinker, entrepreneurial, spiritual, a home economics teacher, a farm/rancher, organized, a worrier, energetic, an encourager, responsible, hard working, hands on, an over-thinker, a cellist and a singer
What are a few things you love?
- Hanging out with family
- Quiet time with God that is unhurried
- Art projects
- A cup of tea with a dear friend
- Discovering something, pondering it, breaking it down into pieces and principles, then explaining it to others so we can be excited about it and grow together
What are a few things do you NOT enjoy?
- Lots of decisions
- Fancy entertaining
- Meetings that ramble on without a direction
What would you do with several hours of free time?
Hmm…that is rare, but I would take a walk with my husband, call my kids for a visit, or call a friend for a cup of tea. I see a theme there of my “quality time” love language. My second choice is to work on an art project or to read a book in my current area of interest.
What’s on your “bucket list”?
Several have come off the list in the past few years (I took a balloon ride and went to ITALY!) so it gives me hope that I’ll achieve a few more…
- Create an art studio and produce regularly.
- Visit Israel.
- Help build a home through a ministry in Mexico.
- Take a bike trip.
- Travel to Sweden and take our children (to explore family roots).
- Write a book.
- Produce a profitable invention.
- Own and decoratively paint a camper to take our grandkids on trips.
How did you get your start in speaking?
I started my speaking career as a very shy young lady doing a “chalk talk” for a demonstration speech in eighth grade. I begged my dad not to make me stay in honors speech in high school, sure that I would die if I had to get up in front of class over and over again. But with his firm “encouragement” not only did I live through it, I found a new skill and passion- to communicate thoughts to others.
How about in writing and art?
I feel sorry for my kids who have to sort through hundreds of journals, files and notebooks of my writings. There isn’t a time I read, listen, or think to myself where I don’t ponder the concepts, take notes and wonder how to put them together to share with others. I’ve written skits, a pageant, a 4 year through-the-Bible curriculum for the children of our church, a number of Bible studies, and most recently am working on a book about Calvin’s anoxic brain injury experience.
As long as I can remember I have made things with my hands. I have a dream of having a studio with areas for sewing, drawing and painting, stained glass, etc. so my supplies are always out and easy to get to when a creative whim comes over me. I especially like to make something to use in my home, to wear or for a gift. My favorite art medium is watercolor…or colored pencil…or fabric…well you get the drift. I desire to bring a bit of beauty to everything I do.
What motivates you now to speak, write, and create?
In my daily life I am nudged by the Holy Spirit to put together thoughts to share with others, this often happens during the quiet times of the morning when reading Scripture. I love God’s Word and desire everyone to hear His voice through it, I get so excited that I think I will explode if I don’t find an outlet!
Speaking fits that outlet naturally, and writing those thoughts down provides the chance to share both art and words- a dynamic combination that moves the heart and stimulates the mind! I believe that the Holy Spirit is urging me to create and to encourage the creative connection each person has with their Creator. It seems that the combination of the left and right brain through the Word and spiritual pictures touches the heart and opens up opportunities for God to move in one’s life in new ways that can’t even be imagined. There is so much to explore in this arena, so much potential to bring new growth and freedom to the individual and strengthen their connection to God as He moves in them more freely.
How did you and Calvin meet?
We met through the Navigators at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. He was a Christian Swede- how could I resist? We are best friends and I am so thankful his life was spared so he could walk his daughter down the aisle, hold grandchildren and spend time with me. He is a blessing and challenges me to deeper faith by his daily example of devotion and humility.
What does your family look like now?
Our three children are all married and starting families. It is a joy to see them grow in their faith, interact with their spouses, explore their skills and interests, and create homes of their own. Our oldest two have brought us the joy of 5 grandchildren and it is a treat to spend time with them. I love packing a bag of craft supplies when I go their homes!
What are your core values?
I actually have these posted by my desk and keeping these values in mind helps me to make better decisions and encourages me when pressed by circumstances. They are:
- Spirituality (inner peace, connection, communion with God)
- Creativity (developing new ideas and things)
- Intimacy (close companionship and deep affection)
- Friendship (valuable friendships)
- Instruction (acquiring new info and sharing it)