Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Cozy Christmas Cautionary Tale


Calvin keeps asking me if I'm going to cry this year if the Christmas tree falls down. Parents of adorable little boys who still cuddle on your lap and ask if they can marry you, one day they will be 8th graders, adept at picking the scabs of your shakiest pitfalls and generally keeping you humble.

(They'll also get stinkier and much more clever. They'll shock you with the clarity through which they see the world, sniffing out injustice through a deluge of memes you won't find funny. They might even email you Youtube videos about North Korea in the middle of the school day. Subject: wow. It's all pretty amazing, honestly, even if it is entirely beside the point of this blog post.)

So, back to the tree.

Last year we switched to a small, table-top tree. Short story long, our house has remarkably little space, which is something that only became clear as our humans kept getting bigger. For years we had crammed the tree in wherever we could find space. We eventually made the tree skinnier. And then we made it shorter.

Part of me believed I had finally arrived at some previously foreign place of spiritual maturity. Look at how good I am at Christmas priorities! Look at how I've grown!

And then it all came crashing down.

Literally.

The tree was knocked from its perch and I from my internal high horse. My beloved vintage ornaments, sourced over the years from Ebay and thrift stores were shattered. I watched it happen from the kitchen and I busted out crying.

I couldn't stop.

I cried while I swept up the mess. The kiddo who had accidentally knocked it over ran upstairs sobbing. We were a hot mess on a cold night, with enough shame to go around. I was sad for what I'd lost and even for what I thought I deserved. I was sick over who I was revealing myself to be.

More than anything, the whole scene was a reality check for me that I'm still human. The moment we think we have arrived at any place of moral authority, everyday life waits to knock us to the floor and shatter our pride. This should come as no surprise. In fact, it's all the more reason to celebrate the humble arrival of God, who shook the world and brought kings to their knees when he showed up as a baby waiting to be worshiped.

We know Christmas really, truly is not about the tree. Have a big tree. A small tree. A wonky tree. A lavish tree. Don't have a tree at all. Decorate it by theme because it brings you joy. Let the kids clump all of their handmade ornaments right up front because you have a healthier view of control than I do. Do your Christmas thing, party people. Do what brings you a bit of freedom.

After years of going all out in various, sometimes perplexing, often complicated ways, this year I found myself craving breathing room. With a wreath around its neck, so to speak.

I had recently devoured Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith  and thoroughly enjoyed it. (It's a BEAUTIFUL book and it's only $13 on Amazon right now. It's also available in Target stores! No one asked me to say this, I just think you'll love it as much as I did)

The book is a gentle invitation to clear away the clutter, so that's what I did.

Here's my 2018 Christmas home.


Changing out the mugs on my rack is my favorite rhythm for changing with the seasons. This is my personal extravagance, fueled by trips to the thrift store, and I'm not sorry. (Cory recently opened a drawer and went pale. "Did you know this is full of mugs?" Um....yes?)

So, the tree. It's a little larger than last year's adorable live mini tree because I waited too long and Kroger had already sold out. We're back to an artificial tree because I apparently am not hipster enough to sustain live pine two years in a row. We put this bad boy up last Saturday, December 8th. Then we realized we didn't have the right lights, so we decorated it on the 9th. And by "we" I mean I decorated it while most of the family was gone and while Silas and his pal Palyn were busy chipping ice off the curb of our street then hauling it upstairs to the bathtub where they mixed it with blue paint. The incident is still under investigation.

My point in telling you this is: 1) We don't have to let ourselves feel rushed by an invisible timeline for How to be Festive. And 2) You, like I, might hold some rosy ideals about decorating the tree with your family, but maybe your kids aren't actually that into and it's worth it to just get it done youself so that you can skip ahead to the glowy, twinkly, happy vibe it lends.

Cory took that photo a couple of winters ago on his way to the jail. Isn't it beautiful?


Me decorating the tree: 
 
I'm going to organize the ornaments in rainbow order again, like last year!

Wait, do I remember rainbow order?

Of course you do, Shannan. Everyone remembers ROY-G-BIV.

Pro Tip: Start with yellow at the top because you don't have very many yellow ornaments. 

(Stares at tree with yellow bulbs for far too long, thinking very hard about what color comes next.)

DOES IT WRONG.


The thrill of hopppppppe!

Magic in the middle.
This is how Christmas always arrives.

I strung some snowflakes through the chandelier for the first time. I've never kept things so simple at Christmas and I'm loving it.

Moo-ey Christmas!
(I hate myself.)


But really, that's it.
I didn't buy anything. It's not perfect. It won't win any design awards.

But it feels like us. It feels like candles and sweatpants and salsa at ten pm. It feels like dinner when the sky is already black and piling under blankets while we watch TV. It feels like those dramatic women singing White Christmas on the radio. It feels like sugar in our teeth. It feels like love and hope, the sadness that shows up without regard for the season, it feels like chasing our breath as we walk down the street to church and following it back home.

It's December 13th and it's easy to feel frantic. To do my tiny part in quieting the noise, I'm offering my free 12 Ways of Christmas series again. It's not a Bible or Advent study, but we'll talk about Jesus quite a bit, why he came for us, and what that means for our ordinary lives. It's light on bossiness and heavy on practical ways to live a truer, more meaningful, simplified Christmas season.

Sign up here if you want to choose peace over pressure and hope over hustle. 


And since I never got around to showing you what I did to recognize Fall in our home, I'm going to share a few photos of that, too.

You'll see that I kept that more simple than usual, too. (Thanks, Nester!) And that not much changed from November to December. I took my time. I left plenty of white space. I'm in love.




Pillows: Target

I was horrified with myself for dropping $30 each for two of those black and white pillows but guess what? Our couch is comfortable to relax on again! I'm happy about them every single day. Gold pillow was on clearance.


Wood "gather" artwork from Joyfully Said Signs.
I grabbed it from storage in the basement and looped the letters over two nails that were already sticking out of the wall from some past decorating escapade.

Forget the layers of artwork and tchotchkes stuff. I found this strand of ginkgo leaves I had pressed with Silas back when he was in pre-school. Oh, the flood of memories! Oh, the pinching of my heart! Yada yada, up they went.

(I forgot to snap a photo of the TV cupboard in December. Spoiler alert: One pine cone wreath and a little felted deer found at the thrift store last year for $0.50.)






(Thank you, @goodandlovely! This was the perfect cozy, calm touch heading into cooler months.)

I dragged this inside from the back patio and it doesn't look this beautiful one month later, but I'm not giving up!)


Happy December, friends.

Love,
Shannan



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Downhill Rise to Greatness



I was sitting at my kitchen island enjoying a bowl of reheated soup when I read that ProPublica was actively investigating a local story involving two Elkhart City Police officers who had beating a man in handcuffs months prior. Though I live in Goshen, Elkhart is just a few miles up the street, our neighbor to the North. It had my attention.

The video footage which emerged as a result of the investigation was shocking, yes. It was not, however, surprising. Just another page from the same, devastating book. After knocking his chair backwards, officers Cory Newland and Joshua Titus are seen delivering blow after blow to Mario Guerrero Ledesma's head and face, his hands still cuffed behind him. Not long after one officer calls Ledesma a "piece of sh*t," two more officers saunter into the room, leaning against the cinder block wall, looking on in casual, almost bored observation before one of them simply suggests the beating might "stop."

I reread the report, piecing together names both familiar and otherwise. Prior to a handful of years ago, this sort of news wouldn't have caused my heart rate to pitch. Back then, I believed there were good people and bad people. I believed I was one of the good ones, free to stand center-street along with Power, while the others were shoved as far away as possible, with force if necessary.

Six years ago my family relocated from a six-acre homestead to the loose grid of a city waking up to an ever-evolving identity.  We are immigrant-rich and manufacturing-strong. A bright speck of open-mindedness in a sea of white-bread Conservatism. A stain. It depends on who you ask, and when.

Here, families are patched together as much as they are born, your lump of clay mixed with mine, spun on a wheel until the edges are worn smooth and something functional emerges. Worldviews bleed into each other, the air around us violet-hued. We found peace in the chaos, along with live music and exemplary tamales.

Not long after our move, our oldest son made his way into our family at the age of nineteen, already swept into the criminal justice system. Five years later, his hands remain cuffed behind his back in many ways. He's stopped counting the blows. Sentences served give way to court-appointed classes, lengthened probation terms, and fees and fines that tower precariously in the untended corners of his life. They call this "reentry," though it would be more aptly described as "chronic satellite incarceration."

Finding kinship with the ignored had changed us.  
Paying attention comes with a cost.

I dissected the newspaper in the weeks that followed with fresh intensity. Chief of police, Ed Windbigler, who previously said the accused officers "just went a little overboard,"  issuing no more than reprimand, was now forced beneath the microscope of scrutiny from a public he was tasked to protect. After eleven months of silence, equivocation, and backpedaling, both officers were charged with misdemeanor counts of battery. This clocked in as Officer Newland's ninth disciplinary incident (including multiple suspensions) in a term of service that spans ten years. 

At a town hall meeting hosted by Elkhart's Mayor, members of the community expressed disappointment and even outrage, calling for the immediate firing of officers Newland and Titus while the the assistant police chief  defended the department, attacking the media outlets "ambushing" the department.

Same book, different page.

The color drained from November and we all grew colder as the drama unfolded one town away. On November 26th I opened the paper to an opinion piece, written by Jim Bontrager, a Senior chaplain of the Elkhart City Police Department. In his glowing tribute to Chief Ed Windbigler, Bontrager didn't so much build a case for Power to be left unquestioned as much as he reached up and plucked it from thin air. To him, it wasn't right that the man with such a high level of authority should be critiqued for promoting officers who had mounted legacies of disciplinary disaster.

"One of the first things Ed did was to clear the playing field...Their past was just that, their past...from that minute forward they could put their best foot forward and shine," he wrote.

His comments left me wondering - when does my son get to put his best foot forward and shine? 
Where was the line drawn between Mario Ledesma's past and his future when his chair was shoved backwards, his head appearing to strike the concrete floor? Are second chances only reserved for the financially prosperous, the publicly esteemed, the popular, or the crisply-uniformed?

Bontrager's tone-deaf and blatantly privileged air of defensiveness continued. "Learning from failure is at the heart of the American experience. Our history is replete with examples of great leaders who made extremely bad decisions in the earlier stages of life only to rise to greatness afterwards."

It pains me to my core to know he is exactly right. Here, at the heart of our American experience, grave mistakes are too often rewarded with positions of power. The rise to greatness can, indeed, chart a bold trajectory from corruption and abuse to fame and glory. But only if an agreement of untouchability is brokered out on center-street, where Power stands unchecked while the under-valued masses jam their brakes, straining to find new routes not to greatness, but to basic survival.

Meanwhile, on the backstreets, a twelve-year old child is expelled from middle school after a minor incident, in part because his older brother had previously been "trouble." Following the data, particularly as a black child, he is now at significantly greater risk of one day sitting in handcuffs, at the mercy of men who have the luxury of shrugging off their own failures. Where along this path will his exceptional qualities for leadership be noticed and rewarded?  

Unseen in a long-neglected alley, my son is pulled over four times in two days for failing to engage his turn signal according to the letter of the law. Each time, he is asked if he has drugs or weapons in his car, never mind that he has never been charged with either. When will his playing field be cleared?

In a back corner of a neighborhood seen as less-than, tears drip from my friend's chin as she explains that her meds are off, causing intense anxiety to bob up from the darkness of a depression she has never known this side of sobriety. She's a warrior, a bright-eyed wife and the mama of a happy, healthy child, but money is tight and her family is denied the common stop-gaps of food assistance and state medical insurance due to a drug charge from years ago. Tell me, Chaplain Bontrager, when will she be untethered from her past mistake?

"I categorically reject the notion that those who make numerous mistakes are unqualified to lead," the piece continued. I know many who would agree. The question becomes, when will our society collectively reject the idea that people (particularly People of Color and the poor) who make mistakes are unqualified to simply live without persistent judgment? When will they deserve the basic rights of safe housing, robust jobs with opportunities for advancement, and, above all else, the right to enjoy an existence unmarked by hyper visibility and excessive scrutiny? When is their debt really paid? 

I agree with Chaplain Bontrager's final point, (though unnecessarily smug,) that the reporter, Christian Sheckler, bears a namesake that "consists of those who sit in gratitude for the second chance afforded them." It appears Bontrager and I share a common faith, which presumably centers on justice for everyone, no exceptions.

In the Old Testament, God, through the prophet Amos, delivers a critical blow, threatening to effectively decimate those "who twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the oppressed." (Amos 5:7) "There will be crying in all the public squares and mourning in every street," He promises. (Amos 5:16b) He will do what it takes to protect the oppressed.

Until then, we will watch the watchers, dragging the truth out across the asphalt of center street, where everyone is good and everyone is bad.

We will call to task those tasked to lead, rejecting the belief that mistakes can only be scrubbed from the histories of certain kinds of people.

We will lay down our lives, building ladders of our bodies so that one day, all of the sons and all of the daughters can drop their cuffs and rise to greatness.



Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Reluctant Consumer's Gift Guide

I'll do my best to keep my complicated feelings about consumerism, commercialism, and Christmas in general brief, as I have positively exhausted my emotional output on this over the past seven consecutive Christmases.

Here's the skinny version: my family lives on a squeaky-tight budget (I know many of you are right here with us!) and we also happen to live pressed up against tremendous lack, in a low-income neighborhood with a church family and personal friend group that largely consists of people struggling through the sort of poverty that makes my daily bread look like the pricey, chocolate-laced brioche from Aldi that my kids ask for every time and that I secretly want, too, except FOUR DOLLARS? Gasp.

As an Enneagram 8 poster-child, I naturally bristle a little (a lot?) against anything that smacks of status quo, so as you can imagine, Christmas in my presence is the recipe for true joy, as long as you get a jolly kick out of the neighborhood cynic. (I have learned to turn down the volume on my inner challenger, but she's still kicking around with a megaphone in my heart.)

Christmas is supposed to mean something, we all know this in theory. But I believe we can find ways to make it more meaningful in practice, too. We can choose to quell the machine that threatens to pull us into an undertow of debt and empty emotional calories. We can learn as we go when it comes to finding ways to realign our focus. (I'll be re-launching my 12 Ways of Christmas series in a week or so, so stay tuned!)

We can embody the belief that Christmas is about God choosing to leave paradise so that His kingdom could arrive here on Earth, igniting the renewal of All Things. This is a very big deal. Because if He chose pain, loss, and longing, then we can, too. We were made to feel a wide range of emotions, to walk toward the suffering around us, and to make our home there with Jesus as our guide, holding the lantern as we move through the darkness.

But also? MAMA HAS GIFTS TO BUY.

The Martins keep Christmas buying simple, but I enjoy it, even as I side-eye the pressure and the hullabaloo, as my mom would say. I like surprising my people and having a reason to buy them things they don't necessarily "need" from places other than Goodwill.

For this reason, I put together a low-brow guide with links to my personal favorites. I want you to know that I artfully arranged my personal effects onto a large poster board on my living room floor, then painstakingly over-layed it with numbers because I am fancy in the ways of technology and it wasn't hard at all (that is a total lie) so FEEL THIS LOVE!

Each item on the list is part of my regular life, some items more than they realistically should be (cough cough I wear the same shirt for days in a row sometimes.) Many are also sourced from companies operating around the central ideal of bringing justice to marginalized communities.
His kingdom. Here on Earth.

Merry, heartbreaking Christmas, pals.
I hope you get something that you want.
And I hope you never stop longing, not for a moment.


{You might be interested in the conversation I was a part of on The Upside Down Podcast - episode 47 Consumerism and God's Kingdom.}




1 - Love Anyway sweatshirt from Preemptive Love Coalition - This is my absolute go-to. (They have a lot of really cool styles!)

2 - Denim Western shirt from ABLE I love the mission (and style!) of ABLE. Get 20% off with SHANNAN20

3 - Giving Keys necklace - each purchase supports employment opportunities for people coming out of homelessness. Keys are customizable. (Mine was a gift from a friend and says LONG HAUL.)

4 - Audrey Assad "Evergreen" cd - This is on heavy repeat. I cannot get over her lyrics.

5 - Flex "Veterans Mini" watch  10% of every purchase supports a specific cause aimed at making the world better. (Free shipping on every watch anywhere in the US.)

6 - Canvas HQ canvas (photo pulled from my Instagram feed) - I love the customer service and quality of this family-owned canvas shop. My friend surprised me with this canvas from my trip to Ecuador. Such a thoughtful, personal, affordable gift!

7 - Vintage hanky - because crying is cuter with one of these in hand.

8 - Mud Love bracelets (Shannan Martin Project includes "Neighbor" "Long Haul" and "Wider Circle")

9 - Good candle - This is a favorite and so is this.

10 - Constellation Moon earrings hand-crafted from polymer clay from Breath of Life Essentials (I absolutely love all of her unique earrings, but the name and composition of these have my whole heart! DM her on Instagram to order.)

11 - Dixie stud earrings from Starfish Project (These are my everyday earrings. I recently lost one and I'm not over it yet.) Get 20% off any of their earrings using the code SHANNANANDSTARFISH

12 - Dark Chocolate Butter Kek cookies from Aldi (TRUST ME)

13 - The Ministry of Ordinary Places - (I'll be starting an online book club in January! Stay tuned.)

14 - Tea! Current favorites: Tazo Green Ginger and Good Earth Sweet & Spicy

15 - I'm a gigantic fan of gifting vintage and thrifted items. My book and a vintage mug make an excellent combo.

16 - Mighty River Project basket - this organization employs women in Uganda so that they can care for their families. Orphan prevention for the win! (We use ours as a fruit basket.)

17 - Vintage bake ware - start trolling Goodwill and your local shops for tins, utensils, and tea towels. Pair them with some high-brow vanilla, whole beans, or good chocolate.


Other favorites:
Books! Always and forever books. Here's what I'm reading right now.
Church Forsaken by Jonathan Brooks
Executing Grace by Shane Claiborne
You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart
The Caregiver by Samuel Park


Calvin's picks:
Concert Eukulele
The Mysterious Benedict Society series


Ruby's picks:
Mixed-media art set
The Sprinkles Baking Book


Si's picks:
Snap Circuits
This lamp


Cory's pics:
Polaroid camera with this film.
This watch (In his effusive style, he says, "solar powered, so never needs a battery change, water resistant to 100 meters, great everyday watch.")



One last thing - I'll be signing books over at the Belove Gift Shop in Winona Lake, Indiana on Wednesday, December 5th from 6-9pm. If you've never been to Winona Lake, now is the time! Excellent food and shopping. Belove curates the best collection of gift ideas, and many of them are handmade right in the local area. Come out and say hey! (If you're not in the local areas, you can also shop online.)

XO,
Shannan





Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Where I've Been & Where to Find Me (the Podcast List!)



I knew I was in trouble when I went to switch out the mugs on my beloved rack last month only to realize I had never even put the summer mugs out.  There I was, in late September, with May's mugs staring forlornly down at me. It pained me to think of the ice cream cone mug languishing unused in the drawer all summer long. (I can't even speak right now of the whale mug.)

I've grown used to letting an odd month pass me by now and then, but I had never missed an entire season.

It's November now, and I only vaguely remember October. It rushed past me in a blur of book launch and mini van miles.

I'm laughing about it on the outside, but the deep-down truth is that it bothers me a little. I don't want to play at life this way. I don't judge a fast pace and I relish my very full, quasi-chaotic life, but something needs to give, and quickly. I have a hunch November is going to be my time to figure some of this out. I'll let you know if I find any trap doors that help me along the way.

In the meantime, I did embark on an 11-day road trip last month. Eleven days! I think it's the longest I've ever been away from home. The best news ever is that my family was with me for most of it. I found myself missing my bed, my neighbors, and my broom (sweeping my floor is a vital part of my daily sanity) but I never got homesick.

Eleven days, one carry-on bag, and nine separate lodgings = A LOT. But it was fun to break free from the routine a bit.When I finally made it home after a cancelled flight (my signature travel move) and an extra night in yet another hotel room, Ruby's thumb was broken but the leaves were at their peak.

I told my kids I was never leaving again.

(They didn't believe me either.)

 First official stop: The Nest Fest!
Charlotte, NC

This wasn't my first time at Nester's house, but it was my first time at her annual festival. It was so much fun catching up with old pals (these are the authors who were there signing books) and it was super special to to be able to introduce Cory and the kids to many of the women who I consider my internet colleagues.

Silas spent his time marveling at Nester's decor (the kid has an eye) and in particular, her vast array of hand soaps. He also believed for the entire first evening that I was the literal star of the show. He believed in his 10-year old heart that the lavish cheese boards, the mini bar, the live band, the throngs of people, were all there just to see me, "because they love your book." Ha! Life hack - take the kids with you, forever and ever, amen.


A few more highlights...

I finally met my Voxer pal Lisa Whittle for the first time! I felt weirdly nonchalant when we first said hello...I think I forgot we hadn't met before. Behold, the power of the internet! It's a beautiful thing. Also, Lisa and I are both Enneagram 8's so we understand each other in a special way.

I lumber over the magnificent Bri by approximately eighteen feet, so when we went to take this picture I hunched way down. But then she hunched with me, which sort of defeated the purpose. Naturally, we cracked up and I adore this outtake.

(Can we talk about why my "crack up" face is the actual picture of straight-up lunacy and Bri's is just completely adorable and celebrity-level? GET SOME CONTROL, SHANNAN!)


I LOVED meeting the women who showed up to say hello and grab The Ministry of Ordinary Places. Thank you!!!

I went to high school with Natalie. We were in Future Homemaker's of America together!
(lololol)

When Nest Fest was all said and done, I drove to Greensboro with my dear pal, Emily Freeman. We ate Wendy's french fries and got (most of) our work talk out of the way.

We went to church with them the next day* and our families finally got to meet. The kids played an elaborate outdoor hide-and-seek game involving our vehicles (we didn't ask) while the adults stayed inside and talked about church and the Enneagram. (Adulting! It's sort of the best, except for bills and chores.)

*GUYS. After church a woman came up and introduced herself to me, saying her family had just moved to NC after reading Falling Free. They had been struggling to settle in and find a church home and this was their first time visiting Emily's church, which they instantly loved. She was out-of-her-mind confused when I walked in and sat down right in front of her. Our jaws were all on the floor by the end of her story, the very best kind of weird and awesome that we should just know to expect from God by now. 





From Greensboro, NC we headed over to Franklin and Nashville, TN, where we ate up ALL of the biscuits/cheeseburgers/hot chicken.

I also recorded something for Q Commons!

I was thrilled to be asked to talk about their theme - The Power of We. But y'all (I'm allowed to say that now because I was just in the South) talking for only 9 minutes is NO JOKE for a big mouth like me. 

I learned a ton. A ton! I'm so grateful to have been invited to be part of it.

As we were walking out the door for dinner Calvin said, "We all look nice. We should take a selfie!"

When the slightly-emo 13-year old asks for a family selfie, you stop what you're doing and oblige. But y'all (omw, I'm practically half southern!) we need help.



The next day, my fam drove home, but not before stopping at a local Tennessee Walmart for Silas to buy a souvenir. 😂

I had met my publishing team for tacos and was then picked up on a side street by my sweet friend of nearly ten years, Becky.

This is her view every day and I didn't hate it.

And...she has one of my absolute favorite decorating styles - the perfect blend of white space, color, and texture. It's cozy and collected and the woman KNOWS the importance of quirky lighting. (You can scroll through more photos over on my Instagram page.)

She fed me well, tucked me in on the couch for a chick flick, and did my laundry, all while we crammed as much catching-up as we could into 15 hours.

I didn't want to leave.


From there, I hitched a ride to the Evolving Faith conference with my brand new friend, Elizabeth Baker, and her sweet mom. They welcomed me into their rental car as a complete stranger and we rode together for six hours.

Funny how eating lunch together at Cracker Barrel can bond people for life. ;)

I will never get over the kindness of the internet or the value of taking risks and listening to new perspectives. Never! I didn't get a single photo of us together, which I regret. I blame it on the fact that I had been traveling for nine days straight at that point, and spent half of the drive dozing in the back seat, probably with mouth hanging open.

(By the way, Elizabeth has written some scorching stuff over at HuffPo. She's a talented writer with a powerful story, which is to say, she is a force.)


The ladies dropped me off at an AirBnB in Black Mountain NC and I risked my very life by showering in a stranger's house under the cover of night. (I am not a very fearful person in general, but why does showering seem like the most treacherous activity known to man? What childhood movie scarred me for life? I rarely lock the door at home but I dead-bolt it when I'm about to shower.

Anyway, on a scale from 1-10, the rental house was "No Exterior Lighting and A Gift Basket Filled with Pork Rinds and Cotton Candy."

Which is to say...it was a bit like a clown house at the fair, confusing and slightly terrifying, but mostly fun!

I stayed with my dear pals, Becca and Sarah. Over the next day or two, we heard from interesting women (and a few men) about why we shouldn't be scared when the bones of our faith start creaking a bit. There's so much more I could say about that, but this post is already 12 times longer than I anticipated.

In summary - I burned up over a third of October, but my heart stayed warm for every bit of it.And, as always, I'm thrilled to be home.

Last thing - I have recorded so many podcasts over the past two months so I thought I'd round them up right here. I'll try to update this list as I continue to make the rounds.

Each one of these conversations has been a gift and I'm not even surprised anymore by the way each conversation takes a unique turn. (On Sarah Bragg's episode that drops today, we accidentally spent several minutes talking about our heartfelt affection for chicken thighs. (shrugs))

Have a listen! Let me know which podcasts spoke to you. If you're willing, share it with a friend or online. The Ministry of Ordinary Places is finding its place in a world that's hungry to connect and neighbor and really see God's goodness because you guys y'all are talking about it.

There aren't enough thank you's in Goshen, Indiana!

Here we go! In no discernible order...


Going Scared with Jessica Honegger

Pairadocs with Dr. Jimmy Myers and Dr. Joshua Myers

Mom Struggling Well with Emily Thomas
 
Lighten Up Melanie Dale

Mama Bear Dares with Tesi and Leslie

Not Terrible with Jess Hooker and Mary Graham

Uniquely Woman with Lisa Hensley

That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs

Rising Stories with Corine Sandifer

For the Love with Jen Hatmaker

Cultivating Lovely with MacKenzie Koppa

Wonderfully Made with Rachel Brown

5 Word Prayers with Lisa Whittle

By Design with Lyndsye Feldman and Dannette Gora 

Front Porch with the Fitzes

Fierce & Lovely with Beth Bruno

Charisma Connection

The Next Right Thing with Emily P. Freeman

Facebook Live interview with Sarah Quezada (please note how I messed up the intro by taking a photo, not realizing we were already life. Profesh!)

Surviving Sarah with Sarah Bragg

Nestled with April Nicholson and Bayleigh Malone 

Nourish with Kim Bakaev


Coming soon:
Collared Chicks with Rev. Monica Reynolds

Open Door Sisterhood with Krista Gilbert and Alexandra Kuykendall

Changing the Conversation with Mocha Club
 
You're Invited with Tatum, Ashlee, Tiffany, and Whitney

Walk the Walk with Hayley Morgan
 
Honestly Adoption with Mike and Kristin Berry

(I've done my level best to link all of them. If I missed something, apologies! Please email me and let me know and I'll fix it!)

Blog Posts:

Glorious Table - Tacos & Tea (an excerpt)

Jerusalem Greer - Just Live
"I can get on board for for the Ministry of Ordinary Places and ordinary life – on the farm, in our tiny town, in our thriving church, in the life as a band mom, and morphing jobs, in feeding of the animals,  and the painting of rooms, and the fixing of the unsexy air conditioners, and the making of lunches. Over and over again."

Emily P. Freeman - The Ministry of Ordinary Places
"I have a hunch that if Shannan was a stranger to me, maybe you would trust me more when I tell you how much I loved this book. This is the right book for this moment in time and I simply cannot get over it. I either laughed or cried on almost every page. We need these lyrical, prophetic words now more than ever before."

Patheos - Let's Stop Loving on the Least of These (an excerpt)

Ann Voskamp - What We Can Offer to a World Crying Out (and It's Not What You Think) (an excerpt)

Ann Voskamp - How to Make Peace with Daily Bread (an excerpt)


XO,
Shannan


Friday, October 19, 2018

The Cure for a Big Day

A little over two years ago I woke up one September morning knowing it was the day Falling Free would, well, free-fall into the world. The moment felt big and I was sufficiently keyed up,strung like a live-wire, rattling with possibility. What was about to happen? What if people hated it? Almost scarier, but definitively better, what if a lot of people really loved it? A small part of me thought the world might change. Irrevocably. I had never expected more from a Tuesday.

My friend Lisa-Jo had wisely counseled me to not spend the day at home alone, refreshing my Amazon listing. We decided Cory would take the day off and spend it with me, his shivering (actual,) unshakable (LOL,) freshly-minted author wife. It was going to be so much fun!

I was crying before I even made it out of bed.

The internet was awake and good news was coming at me from corners far and farther. But I swept the one crumb of minimally-bad news into my palm. The day ahead was going to be more complicated than I had planned. And it probably wasn't going to change my life.

We went to the beach, searched for seaglass. I ate a steak salad under a striped patio umbrella.
And yeah, I checked my phone a thousand times.

I pretended to be happy, and at times, I was. It was surreal. I was lucky.
But we drove home and I fell into bed, away from my feelings.
Surprise, surprise, life moved on.


Two years and one month later, it was time to do it again, releasing The Ministry of Ordinary Places like a songbird from my hands.

This time, I knew things.

I knew my life wouldn't change, not really.
I knew I wouldn't shoot to the moon. There wasn't even a slim possibility that I was the next so-and-so, or that sales would effectively break Amazon.

(I didn't really think this last time either, but, you know, that one percent chance can make more racket than you might imagine.)

I also knew people wouldn't boo me off the stage en masse.

I knew some would love it, and some wouldn't. (The ones who wouldn't didn't deserve the megaphone any more than the ones who would.)

I knew, really knew, I would still be me. A hopeful skeptic. A sleepy night-owl. A wife. A mom. A neighbor. This would still be my home. I would still be loved exactly as I had been loved on Monday.

It was the best news imaginable, so I planned accordingly.




I didn't walk anyone to school like I had the last time. The routine has shifted, at least until winter when hopefully, for the first time in my life, the gut-punching air might work in my favor. For now, Silas rides his bike to school with a buddy. Not a single morning has passed when he hasn't said, "I'm sorry, Mama. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but can I ride my bike with Patrick today?"

Things change.
They change and they change.

It doesn't have to hurt our feelings and it doesn't even need to make us sad. The question is, can we move with the tide without being pulled under?

I laced up my New Balance tennis shoes, grabbed the camera, and went walking.






When life feels big, it's more important than ever to get small.

When the world feels wide and I'm here somewhere in the middle of it, vibrating from the force of the push and the pull, the only thing left to do is look up at the sky, down at the ground, into the corners of my one regular life, and out into the streets that claim me.

I spent a year writing a book about how my neighborhood has shown me God's goodness. I had read my own words over and over.

Now, as always, I get to live them, breathe them, cut a path straight through them.

God is good inside the pages, but he's so much better from my street-side view.







I planned to make myself presentable, but that didn't work out and my friend Holly planned to meet me for breakfast at the quaint French bakery in town. Neither plan worked out.

Instead, I walked myself to town with bad hair and a content heart. I crossed the busiest street in town as the big-rigs blew me sideways. Clash and rush, people making their way. The land of the living.

I listened. I watched. 

Gasoline, biscuits and eggs, the exquisite perfume of fallen leaves - the best death will ever smell. I took it all in. I served root beer floats to 3rd and 4th graders up the street at the elementary school, scoring a mid-day hug from Silas. I washed up the dishes, talked to neighbors, tried to will myself to care about dinnertime. I drove my budding concert violinist to rehearsal.






Flowers arrived at the door.

I scanned Amazon. (Again.)

And I smiled.

The book had made its way, and no, it won't be for everyone. But for the ones I wrote it for - for you - it will be good. It will mean something. It will matter. I know this because I keep on living it. This is my ordinary place, and God is so good here. What's true for me is simply true, as long as we're willing to put our shoes on and keep watch. This version of the story is told from my streets, but it belongs to all of us.





Later that night Cory and I met a couple of friends in town. They teased me about being a big-shot, the next Oprah! popping corks or tags or whatever it is people start popping once they've made it. We rolled our eyes and laughed, but the questions were worth considering. And the answers were easy.

This is my home. I'm obsessed with it.

Until I'm made to go, I will stay.
I will love it with everything I've got.

I'll keep letting God shape me through these blocks, these trees, the school, the diner, the mopeds barely making it up the street. I'll notice God in the faces around me. I'll remember I don't belong to myself. I'll keep learning to yield.

This is the ministry of my ordinary place here on 5th Street.
It's not shiny but it sure is mine.
"What I know now is that sometimes the best thing we can do for the world we're in is let our roots keep growing wit no regard to the climate around us. We sleep. We work. We bloom. We light up the world." - The Ministry of Ordinary Places


Click here to grab your copy of The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God's Goodness Around You.



{Cory and our oldest son, Robert. Our story wouldn't be right without his mixed in.}


{I promise, Ruby was somewhere around here, too. I'm just not sure where, and I have no proof!}