Monday, October 10, 2011

31 Days: Letting Go of a Dream

I grew up in a town that was one mile long, one mile wide. It had a single stop-light and a tiny convenience store that kept us in Hostess Fruit Pies and Mountain Dew. Our school was the heart of the town, we went every day from the time we were five up until we were eighteen. The class of '94 graduated 43 students and for the most part, we had grown up together. We memorized Letter People songs and Robert Frost poems and marching band music together. We were all smack dab in the bottom fringes of middle-class. We were mostly all the same, in every way.

My house was two miles out of town, though it might as well have been twenty. I lived my childhood with the best of both worlds, Summers spent lounging around in the solitary confinement of corn fields and occasionally tearing around Pleasant Hill on bicycles with my best friend Angie, a townie.

My Dad extolled the virtues of parenting away from city limits. "You couldn't run around with your friends every day." Since it was my only frame of reference and he was a pretty smart dad, I decided early on that he was right. The ideal for my future children would be to attend the smallest school around. Small equaled Best. Smallest meant safest. Because my childhood was idyllic and safe and naive and fun, it had to have been because of the town I lived in, the school I attended. I never even considered an alternative.

I imagined my future babies, all fine-tressed and knobby-kneed. I might have called them Stella or Fisher or Maizy or John. I don't know. But they looked like me and they lived like me. They were safe, happy, like me.

As it turns out, I've only one fine-tressed child and he doesn't resemble me any more than the other two. They'll soon be part of a school system that graduates over 400 students each year and they'll be in the minority not just because of their races but because they are not Hispanic.

They will memorize Robert Frost poems and marching band songs together. They'll pick up some Spanish. They'll own the neighborhood on their Wal-Mart bikes. And if they're lucky, they'll find a pop machine that still carries cans, because there's no better sound than that pop-hiss on a hot July day.

They'll feel like the world is theirs.

They might come to believe that a big, ol' city school is really the only way to go. And I'll sit back and smile as God takes their big dream, and forms it into one that is entirely unexpected and new. Because in that forming they will see for themselves that maybe they're not as smart as they thought, that every single success is only by the grace of one who sees beyond student:teacher ratios and standardized test scores. He decides what "best" really means. We can never take the credit.

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

PS - I read this last night in about 2 hours. It's fantastic, beautifully written, and important. It will change the way you see the world around you.


  1. Oh how I can see my childhood dreams dancing in my head.

    I am so thankful for a God who had much better plans than I did!

    Welcome Home, Shannan!


  2. Have you found everything we put away for you yet??

  3. I graduated in '94 with 48 fellow students (I made 49) in a little farming community. We moved there when I was in seventh grade but I fit right in. I miss it sometimes. When my husband started graduate school we moved to the inner city of Rochester, NY. It was so different than how I grew up and so eye opening. And so hard. And so good. I miss it sometimes too.

  4. my hubby was also a 94er;) i think it's simply amazing that you are letting go and letting God. it's been a privilage to be a spectater in it all...

  5. I just read the entire series from the beginning. I've missed so much. You are an amazing writer to be able to hold this girl's attention for a solid 45 minutes :) I look forward to reading the rest...

  6. I too graduated in a class of 43! Most people can't fathom that. I loved it! Except for being a dork, but I've since come to embrace it.

  7. I have been following along in this journey of yours since you first put the house up for sale. I appreciate your honesty, your zest for life, your love for the Lord and your family. I have seen you grow through this time. When we are in God's will, He blesses us. I am reminded of a song, "Lord please show me every day, as you're teaching me your way, that you do just what you say, in Your time." I know that you and your family can make a beautiful home together no matter what house you live in. Christian Love & Prayers, Terry

  8. Had a dream last night that we had to move again after living here for only 10 days. It was funny (but NOT) and when I woke up I wasn't panicked but more, "Whatever, Lord". Love being able to be 100% comfortable that He's got this...ALL of it!

  9. I grew up in a town like that too, only we didn't even have a stoplight. I LOVED the letter people and their songs. :-)

  10. Oh. my.

    You are beginning to rip my little world apart, through the Holy Spirit. Thank you for being his words to me. You are my local Francis Chan.... putting Jesus's words into action.

  11. Beautiful, as always. I grew up in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area and I now live in what many could describe as "the middle of a cornfield." It's funny how we grow up thinking we have it all figured out (a plan we have created for ourselves, that is) and then God picks us up and places us where we never imagined--but where we are meant to land. It's a beautiful thing and I am reminded of that each time someone says they don't understand why or how I could live here. Like everything else, it has to be lived to be understood. Oh, and I love this series.

  12. Thanks for commenting on Emily's piece over at my place. It was good to see you there. As an adoptive parent, I have long enjoyed your thoughts on adoption.

    We live about 25 minutes from Pleasant Hill, in Greenville. I know exactly what you mean, but I feel torn. I split my time between loving small towns and desperately wanting the diversity and culture of a city. Sigh. I suppose I'll always feel this way.

    Thanks again!

  13. Lovely post.

    I also saw my future (back in the day) with very blonde, fine haired chitlins that would say things like I would such as "How DARE you!" I have no clue what my future baby or babies will be or look like. I'm just excited.

    I hope your home is starting to feel cozy to you and your family. I wonder what kinds of things your littles are saying about it so far?

    I'm impressed you read that book in two hours! It sounds sad and awful, but something we all should read and be aware of.

    I'm reading this right now:

    Sad as well...but necessary. Until we stop all child exploitation all over the globe, we cannot call ourselves civilized.



  14. No matter what school they attend, or what neighborhood they live in, my wisdom (and years) have proved that it's what happens in your own little home that influences our babies!
    Good luck to you and all your changes!
    You're one strong mama : )

  15. your childhood was mine...almost exactly. and their future school is just like ours. big chick is one of over 400 6th graders. so weird and yet so good. it's never a bad thing to do something completely different. it's a little uncomfortable at first, but good.

  16. Hi There,

    I would love to move down to our shore house. However, I would never do it because the school system there is not as good as the one my children are attending now. We live in a town where there is a relatively small amount of drug use, teenage sex, etc., and where the standardized test scores are relitively high. However, I do not think my children are sheltered. I talk to them a lot and try to explain topics such as bullying, etc., the best I can. Through our church, they also go to homeless shelters, etc. to help out.

    I understand where you are coming from. If I really believed that God wanted us to move, I would do it. But I don't think I need to move to a neighborhood that doesn't have a good school system or not as nice as ours to serve God.

  17. letting go of our dreams is the hardest thing, though I know you've done it some before.

    I remember so vividly God telling me that His dreams for my life were far greater and more beautiful than the ones I had dreamt on my own, if I would only follow Him. I know I've got farther to go in giving up control but when I look at my children which are so different than I had dreamed I know that I want His dreams always.

    loving this series, your writing makes my day :)

  18. My husband and I both grew up in a small town. I graduated in 94 with 94 kids. Our town was surrounded by much larger suburbs. We loved riding our bikes to allsups, or sonic, or the snowcone stand. There were homecoming parades on homecoming day, and the whole town who shut down. I miss that. WE live in that large suburb now, and out children attend an elementary school that has more kids than our whole highschool did when we were there. I miss it. I miss the small town feel. I would love to have it back.

  19. God has led me to think about this Different-than-I-expected way He has {already} made and brought up my child. I wrote about it yesterday and you've got me thinking about so much more, as you always do. How He opens our eyes to possibilities we can't even begin to imagine; knowing our children so much better than amazing!

  20. Sounds a whole lot like my childhood growing up in a teeny tiny town. One gas station where we could buy 5 cent candy bars......I know I am ancient compared to you. I lived about a mile out of town amoungst all the farmers.
    I still live in a village. But we are close to Columbus.
    Sometimes our dreams don't come true but we are still blessed in other ways. We just have to remind ourselves of that.
    And as I type those words I need to say them over and over again today in particular myself.

  21. The series of yours is just too good. I am left a little bit speechless.

  22. Shannan,

    I have been following your 31 days of letting go and as you have gone through the lows and highs of this journey and commend you one your courage. Your faith is deeper than mine and you have reminded me that I need to talk and trust more in our Lord. It occurred to me, as couple of posts ago that while you are on a new journey, Our Master has already made this trip a success for all. The inspiration and strength you have given myself and others is a blessing that we will now pass on to others. You have helped with empathy and giving which will help us as winter approaches and those that have less than us are in need. I have already started collecting things for the shelters and food banks. We ourselves are not in the best positions but we try to find what we can to.

    You have raised my hope that I will be led on a purposeful journey of my own. I will continue to look to you as an inspiration with respect. I will honor your courage, not only in what you do but in sharing it with us. I will thank you for showing me the way back to a deeper relationship with Him. I will thank Him for you and for helping our paths cross.

    You are a treasure and inspiration. God bless.


  23. Hi Shannan, I found your blog through Rene at Miss Gracies House. I love your post and your 31 day challenge! While I did not grow up in a town that small, your post opened the pages of an old book in my childhood I had not visited in a while. Thanks for sharing your memories and helping me recall some fond memories of my own. ~ Heidi

  24. I think this one of my favorite things you've written. So beautiful!

  25. Oh so often, I read your words and see myself reflecting back in them. Only Jesus could write stories so similar and yet so completely perfectly unique.
    One of my favorite quotes is "God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame." I never really understood that until we had our Si....and moved to a place I never would've lived without Him putting us here. And I'm still learning and letting go.
    Thinking of you lots and lots this week!

  26. I really liked this post beacause I have foudn that life is about letting go and moving forward. Thanks for sharing this from your heart

  27. I love this series and I love your posts! Just visiting and wanted to say hi. :-)