Sunday, October 2, 2011

31 Days: Kids Have to Let Go, Too

It's one thing to let go when you're half grown-up and know enough to understand that it's all a part of life.

It's an altogether different thing when you're six years old and you ship your beloved barn cat off to his new home, a state away. You know Papaw and Grandma will take care of him. You know you will see him again. Your Mom and Dad remind you that you will always be Ralphie's family, he'll always be a part of your life. So, you write a list for him of his new cat siblings and you glue a school picture of yourself to the very top so he'll know that you're still there, somehow.

You stay strong until lights out, but then you come back downstairs, because you miss that cat.

So, what are we to do when the right choice interrupts the placid lives of our littles? How do we frame it for them? Should we take these things into consideration? Should their momentary sadness or anxiety change the plan? Are we destined to fall asleep at night with a brick of regret on our chests?

I don't have answers and every professional would offer different advice, so I just go with my gut. I tell him all over again why we're doing what we're doing.

We spend a lot of money to live in this house and it doesn't leave us with enough to do the important things, like helping people who need help. And we believe that we should be around people who need to see the love of Jesus so that they might come to really know him, so we're going to where they are.

We don't believe for a minute that we'll be changing the world here, but we do believe that there is a reason, and maybe in this big world where things aren't worth measuring unless they are measured in the thousands, one single reason is enough.

For most of my Mama years, I have believed that my biggest job was to make this life safe and serene for my children. I have told myself that it was up to me to protect them from real dangers like kidnappers and toilet cleaner and perceived dangers like the lurking threats of a neighborhood with busted up sidewalks and forlorn houses. I was right about the bleach, but not the 'hood. Because what if it's actually more dangerous for my kids to live fenced into an alternate universe where they never come face-to-face with reality? What happens when they are all grown up and have to make the choice for themselves? Isn't it likely that they will have learned to be apprehensive and scared about the parts of the world that don't play Christian music over the PA system?

Over the past year, Jesus has nudged my heart open to the truth that I used my kids as an excuse to avoid change. I wheeled them out in front of me when it came to ideas that required courage and faith. No way, Jose, it wouldn't be good for the kids. In reality, I was scared. In reality, I believed that it was up to me to hand-stamp a guarantee for protection and provision across their lives.

We believe that the plan for our family includes Calvin, Ruby and Silas. The plan for us is the plan for them, because we're a family. I want to see God in a Big way, and I want them to see it, too.

So, we'll huddle up and watch it unfold around us. We'll see together the way God huddles with us, works in us, works through us.

We'll all feel the way he rubs our backs at night when we're sad about leaving our house or our community or our cat. And in all of these things, He will become more real to the talls and the shorts.

*For the rest of the 31 Days of Letting Go series, click here.


  1. I may have told you this before, and if I have, please forgive me. But several years ago our church planted another church in the city of Chicago. Right downtown. South side, even. One of our pastors, who was taking his young family to start the church, was asked about it being "safe" to go there. His answer: its safer for my kids to be in the city if we're in God's will than to stay in the suburbs and be outside of God's will.

    Just keep following Him. He will carry them in the shadow of His wing.

  2. I hardly ever tell you what a blessing you are to me, Shannan, but you are! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.

    You make me want to do more too :)

    p.s. I've been praying for your sweet family...

  3. I am so excited for your family on this next new adventure. I love how good it feels to you. It is contagious, it feels good to me too. I just can't wait to hear all about it. You are inspiring.

    ALSO we were on our way out to a party last night and I saw this package on our steps. Martin? heh!? OH! I grabbed it and the girls and I opened on the drive. You will be happy to know Ruby arrived covered in flower stickers, Margot toting headbands and bows. So sweet and thoughtful, all of it. Can't wait to sow those sweet seeds in OUR new home!


  4. your faith has stretched me tonight.
    I've been trudging along in this move doing great...until today.
    pity parties aren't fun. at all.

    I needed to hear someone else say that they would rather trade the big house and big mortgage in for the chance to be able to give more and serve more and love more...

    can't wait to hear more details about your upcoming move...

  5. Your boldness speaks volumes to me. Although the impact is unknown by your littles now, they will have wisdom gained through experience as this next chapter unfolds for your family. One day at a time...

  6. "Because what if it's actually more dangerous for my kids to live fenced into an alternate universe where they never come face-to-face with reality?"

    I agree with the thought behind this---that other experiences aren't necessarily more dangerous---it's just that we don't know them and fear them that make them FEEL more dangerous.

    But I take issue with calling those experiences "reality." Whatever we experience IS our reality, and one reality is not better or more profound than another. To say otherwise is, I think, dangerous, because then it starts the grass is greener (or more nobler/moral/etc) situation. That's not to say that we ought not try to shift our realities or do something different, not at all. Just don't hold one reality over another. Does this make sense?

    And I know the pain of what you speak---watching our children be sad as a result of our upright/thoughtful decisions. It's a hard balancing act. My advice? Up the cuddle and conversation factor. (Which you're already doing.)

  7. Wow, what a moving, honest post.

    I loved this below.

    **So, we'll huddle up and watch it unfold around us. We'll see together the way God huddles with us, works in us, works through us.

    We'll all feel the way he rubs our backs at night when we're sad about leaving our house or our community or our cat. And in all of these things, He will become more real to the talls and the shorts.**

    Thank you ~ FlowerLady

  8. "Because what if it's actually more dangerous for my kids to live fenced into an alternate universe where they never come face-to-face with reality."


    I have to say that I want to encourage you in your interpretation and use of "reality" here.

    Here's the reality: Most of us have way more than what we need. We are accountable for what we have. Living behind a white picket fence with eyes squeezed tightly shut does not change the fact that there are people whom God dearly loves who are lost and hurting on the other side of the fence.

    And here's some more reality:

    "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" 1 John 3:17.


    "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" James 2:15-16

    There are many way to put these verses to task. But it sure is hard to see the hurting ones when you're sitting in the good seats. And let's be honest: the lost rarely come to the found and ask for directions.

    You have been saying all along that the sacrifice you're making isn't what God is asking every believer to do. This is what God asked you and Cory and Calvin and Ruby and Silas to do, so no one needs to think for a minute that you are choosing the only moral or noble response to God's call to action. I think also that all of us who eagerly read your blog here will be changed and challenged in your journey as we stand behind you.

    We are getting ready to embark on our third move in three years, and our kids are becoming old pros at this. They understand their dad's work is important because he tells sailors and soldiers and marines and airmen about Jesus. And to do this important work means that we have to go where they are. Yep, they are sad when they have to give up their favorite climbing tree, or leave their beloved horse with Uncle Josh a thousand miles away, or leave behind good friends and try to make new ones again. Or have no cousins at their birthday parties. But I love the people they are becoming. They are deeply rooted in God's love, and they equate home with family, not with a house.

    I venture to say that you are doing a good thing for your kids, my friend!

    Love ya! Praying for you!

  9. Jennifer Jo - Thanks for raising your point. It's my belief that only seeing a world devoid of pain and suffering is not reality. I disagree with the idea that reality is only what one person perceives. This is probably more of a philosophical discussion, and it's too early for that. :)

    I am not in any way stating or implying that every one should be doing what we are doing. We are not better, nobler, etc... and I'm pretty sure the grass will actually be browner. This is the plan for US, plain and simple. I was wrong when I resisted this plan by using my kids as one of the big excuses.

    I definitely do see the value, regardless of where someone lives, in getting out amongst the people - particularly the people who are different. I think it's good for all of us, even kids to understand that most of the world lives very differently than we do, and there are probably tons of ways to accomplish this.

  10. Jody: I think our comments must have passed each other in cyber-space. :)

  11. oh, friend! i've been trying to think of what to say in this process. i've traveled this road you're on and i want to chime in on every post. but every comment becomes a novella and so i delete them.

    what to say? except that God is building into you and your family that HE is home. wherever He is,wherever His people are. that is home. what a beautiful gift you are giving your family.

  12. None of this will be easy,(that you know). But you will receive a new understanding of faith, hope and love. That is what He wants us to GET. Many will question and that is okay too. You are doing the first step and that is obeying what God has told you and Cory to do. We don't all have to go to Africa(don't tell sis), but we all are to love those around us in a thousand little ways. We like to read about those who go and do, but as humans we can rationalize why we can't,at least not now or today. But today is all we have,and Jesus gave us the example to follow.
    By the way Ralphie is doing great!! I found him sleeping with Chester near by, and he even ventured out of the barn.

  13. Your faith IS beautiful.

    I found your post beautiful, poignant and funny.

    Yes, funny.


    It was this:

    "I have told myself that it was up to me to protect them from real dangers like kidnappers and toilet cleaner"

    Ahh..the dangers of the scrubbing bubbles or that danged toilet cleaner!

    In all seriousness, I know it has to be a dramatic time in all of your lives. Of course the littles are sad. I was a bit choked up when I read about their picture and the list for the barn cat. I had NO Idea you even had a barn cat that lived with you... but then memory is a bit poor.

    I just had a similar convo (talking about the house, how much it costs to live in it, etc..) with my sister and nephew this past weekend. We want to put our house up for sale next spring. It's too big for us, it costs too much and we want to downsize, but the peeps who don't live here don't seem to get it.

    I got this "But I love your house!" Me: "Me too, but it's too big, we planned on having three kids, we'll probably have one and it's too expensive and we want to be closer to the city." and again "Really? But you've put so much work into that house." Sigh.

    I live in the 'burbs right now/farm area, but when I lived in Minneapolis I always made a point of driving through the really bad neighborhoods. I think it's important to not shy away from those areas and pretend they're not there. It's also good to be thankful and to continually realize how lucky you are and how many peeps need help out there.

    I'm amazed by what you're doing.

    I've already said it, but I think that ultimately this will teach your littles to be adaptable people and to accept change.

    And that's always good.

    I had a dream I visited your house last night.

    How odd is that, considering I've never been there?

    Keep on Truckin'~ (<--Will Ferrell says that to his wife in "Old School" as they're separating and it always makes me LOL)



  14. I find the big changes are often so much easier for the kiddos than for me. We made a big move 5 years ago from the Pacific NW to Southern Cal. I was apprehensive because my husband and I had been on our own since we got married, and were moving near his family (who can be very intrusive) and giving up a big job in order to be a partner in the family business. It was tough at first, but I have no doubt God brought us here. I've made friends like I've never had before in this place and can't imagine not being here.

  15. Ooo, this is so interesting! What fun conversation!

    But here's another question, responding to your first sentence: do you KNOW anyone who only sees a life devoid of pain and suffering? Isn't that unrealistic?

    Some people live life more on the economic edge, without buffers of money, education, and community. To these people we are called to serve. I agree with you on this. And I agree that we often use children as an excuse to not stretch ourselves. (FYI, I had my first child while living in a dirt house in a small community in a 3rd world nation---what a rich/hard experience!)

    And I'm not suggesting that by doing what you're doing YOU are trying to be more noble---goodness, no. I'm talking about myself when I say that, too.

    Perhaps this is more a discussion of semantics? But no, I still react to the idea that a certain experience is Reality, capital R. It's too formulaic.

    Maybe you mean that turning toward that rawness is a reality that Christians are called to? Or a reality that brings us a greater self-awareness and compassion?

    (And I hope you know that by asking questions I'm not trying to attack you or be critical. It's a compliment to your honesty, really, that I'm even engaging the topic. So many blog writers are superficial, but you're not and I so VERY much appreciate that. xo)

  16. I so very much admire what you are doing. I grew up living in the city (NYC) in the less than desirable part of town, meaning we were working class and lived among crack vials, violence, and homeless eating out of our trash. To be honest, I never even knew there was another way to live until well into my adult life. There are so many who need help and need to be shown the love of God. I admire what are you are doing, because not everyone can handle it or is willing to try. I think it all comes down to knowing what God wants you (and me or all of us individually)to do and then just doing it by faith - Faith in a God who has a plan bigger than we can ever imagine - Faith in a God who can and will protect your children from bleach and all other evils. My prayers are for you and your family to happily serve God as you are living in your new home and neighborhood. Wish I could come help you pack and paint and everything else you need to do.

  17. What FringeGirl said. I heart her too in a big way.

  18. We moved to N IN from S. IN 7months ago. My husband and I are moving veterans. However this was our first move with kiddos. They had lived their entire life in the same place, a beautiful place, with lots of friends and people who loved them. But it was time to go, work was eating Daddy alive and he had nothing left to give to them or me. It wasn't easy, but it has been the right thing. Daddy is home when he's home. We thought adjustment was a breeze with the littles until about a month in, that's when our daughter went into full blown separation anxiety (super uncharacteristic of her). She's fine now and we are all settled. They too need to see that all of the world is temporary. You can't stop living your life because they could have may be the best thing for them, as hard as that is to grasp. Best wishes on your is a exciting and stressful time.

  19. My dear friend and farmgirl, Welcome to the hood. I have always lived there, once because there was nowhere else to live, second, because this is my home. It is hard for me to comment on this subject, because one, I'm not very good at the written word. But also my emotions are to close. I have lived two lives, and feel very protective of them both. This I do know, your heart is pure, and your love of God is evident too all who meets you. Your children understand that too.

  20. i just love you, and admire you and one day in Heaven I am going to give you a giant hug and remind you that i was cheerleading you all the way...

  21. I am crying as I write this comment because 6 weeks ago we moved 1100 miles away from the only home my 4 children had ever known. (The only home I always thought they would ever know) As Jesus tugged at the hearts of my husband and I we came to the same page. This home was also where all of our parent, grandparents, sibling, cousins (you get the point) lived. We were all home. So we thought. We knew this was a move that was what God wanted. That was truly the only reason we could give to anyone. As much as they could not argue with this, they tried to point our so many practical things to us. I must say, not one time was I swayed, or did I ever think twice. That is what God telling you your decision is correct will do. We are now settling into a new home, neighborhood, school and church family! It is marvelous, and a blessing, but my hardest days are as my children reach a bump in the road of adjustment. I know it is right and good, and I know they are growing through hard things, but boy oh boy, it is hard to watch. It is hard to say the right thing. I have to really try to do to them what the Lord would. It is good, It is hard, and that is good. I must say also to you, your blog has been inspirational to me as I have made this transition. Thank you!

  22. oh, fpfg. your words do such good in my heart. i do love you so. well, i would if i knew you.

  23. You have left me speechless.

    Is that even possible?

    I can not type through tears.

    Thank you for telling people that it is okay for their children to be uncomfortable for God.

    Thank you.


  24. These posts are slaying me. Tears. Sigh. God is in all of it.



  25. Shannon,
    Here is what I will never ever understand: how do people parent without faith? Where do you turn when you simply don't have the knowledge? Where do you turn when your little one is sick and you are exhausted? Where do you turn for answers, strength, FAITH?
    thinking of you and your family...xo, Cheryl

  26. This is beautiful! This is my first visit, and I think I just found a new favorite blog :)

    I blog at "Only a Breath" and would love for you to stop by if you have time! I'm writing about "31 Days to Love Your Neighbor". It has been a very interesting journey to say the least! :)

    Have a great day!

  27. When you're in God's will you are in the best place you can be. May He bless you and keep you, littles, talls, and cats.

  28. I absolutely love this. I respect you so much.

  29. Such a good one. Sanity is overrated.

  30. Would you clarify for us just where you are going and what you will be doing?

  31. So I sat down this fine evening to skim through some of my fav blogs and have spent ALL my allotted time right here...reading your comments and the conversation about "reality." And now I feel it's time to get all "social workie" on you. So here you go, three years, alot of money, and one advanced degree later, this is what I learned.

    In class we would talk about people's schema. We all have a schema. it simple means you, standing in the center of a circle and all that you are, all that you have experienced, your knowledge base is surrounding you. As you look out at the world from the center of your circle, you see everything through your LENS or SCHEMA. I would see things as a mother, daughter, sister, friend, social worker, wife, 34 year old, ect.

    Okay, so we all have a schema. What I hear you saying is that you want to open up your kids schema to include a depth and breadth of things, knowledge, feelings, experiences that goes past the "picket fence."

    That doesn't mean you think your kids or your own schema is better than another person's. Just that you want to broaden and deepen the experience for your kids.

    I totally agree with you (whatever term you chose to call it). I want to go through the yuck of life with my kids as they grow up, not shelter them from it so they live in an awkward bubble. They will leave the nest someday and when they do I want them to head out with a whole lot of tools to deal with the yuck of life.

    Good luck's a beast.


  32. When my brothers and I were similar in age to your kids, we moved to a neighborhood and school district that caused others to let my parents know that they didn't agree. But my brothers and I are so proud of where we come from - living there, with the backbone of our parents strengthening us in Jesus, equipped us for the road ahead. And I appreciate that even more as I am reading about your journey. Your children will appreciate it, too.

  33. I think it's amazing what you're doing. We did the same thing but not at all for the same reason. It almost shames me that I was SO worried about money and how we could do with less...when now I realize when we had more, it was excess that we didn't need. And we didn't do as much good with it as we maybe should/could have because of MY fear.

    You challenge me, Shan.

    Oh, and a word on the kids. Everyone said "Oh, kids are SO resilient...they'll be fine..." and it started to make me angry because they didn't know MY kids or the pain THEY would feel. They do feel sad sometimes, but more often than not, they are beyond happy now. We did what God told us and the results have been amazing. I know it will be the same for your kiddos. The most important thing is their family...and that is solid as a rock.

  34. what a gorgeous cat!

  35. You are a brave, strong woman who is inspiring many, am in awe of your faithfulness and wish I was able to come help you pack. xxoo

  36. I stumbled onto your blog recently and I'm intrigued with this story because this is so much like what God is doing in our lives. I've been homeschooling our 3 kids for the past 3 years and now God has moved them into the public school system. My youngest, who is in 5th grade, was bussed from our nice, safe suburban school to the school in the 'hood, because there was no room for him at our neighborhood school. As soon as we got the news, I knew it was God moving even though it made no sense. He basically moved from the nice, secure environment of our home to ghetto school.

    God's also working on my heart in other ways. We live in a neighborhood, but since I was a child, I wanted to live in the country. We are so close now. We bought 2-1/2 acres of gorgeous land and were making plans to get our current house ready to sell and build out there. Now I wonder if this is what God wants for our family. Does he really want us to isolate ourselves in the woods when his people in town need to know Him, and we can tell them???

    I was using my kids as an excuse, too, to insulate ourselves from the people who need God the most. Now God has taken that excuse away and made it quite clear that He wants radical sacrifice from us.

    It's so hard to follow after God when He takes us where we don't want to go. I commend you for obeying. You are so brave.

  37. Your words have moved me. I admire your outlook on life and pray that I'll have the same aspirations for my children one day. Living among the weary and weak... a beautiful example of Jesus.
    Thank you for sharing!