Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Land of the Living :: Volume II

 Our farmhouse sold back in September and in no time flat, we were way behind in finding what came next. It took nearly 18 months for us to find a buyer, and all along, we resisted the urge to window shop for something new. We didn't want to get attached. Besides, the market was saturated. We knew it wouldn't be a problem.

Within the week of the sale, we were out with our realtor. We'd always felt drawn to  Goshen, but we didn't really know why. So she took us around. In one afternoon, we toured four beautiful homes with hardwood floors and wrap-around porches. We rumbled down the cutest brick street in town and the yards all looked so tidy and fenced. Inside, I could imagine the possibilities. The moldings were thick and the windows were charming. There was a butler's pantry. Our would-be neighbors were college professors and bankers. It was walking distance to the coolest coffee shop around.

We drove away from the last showing in the rain and I felt hollow inside. Cory's first pick was my last, and vise versa. For the first time in our history, we weren't meeting right in the middle, together.

But mostly, it just didn't feel right. That's my surest indicator, my trusty "feels right" gauge. It didn't seem to me that we sold everything we loved best to move to a manicured back yard on a brick street.

A few rainy blocks down, I saw the most gorgeous home. Kelly green, to boot. It was for sale. How the heck did we miss it? I didn't even notice the rumbling sound of brick under my wheels.

There was a sign for La Casa in the yard. I knew only enough to know that it was "a program" and that we probably didn't qualify. But we called anyway and learned two important facts. 1) We did qualify (most people do) and 2) The green house was already sale-pending.

I went to dinner with a friend and Cory sent me antsy texts that we were "on to something". La Casa had just landed on our radar. We felt a rush of breeze as the curtain pulled back a little.

It turns out, the green house was an anomaly. It was displaced. Most of the La Casa homes were over on the other side of the tracks. That felt right, somehow. Peace swept down and settled around the cracks and we hoped hard that night that things would make even more sense in the morning.

They didn't.

Silas and I followed the directions under gray skies and the further we drove, the more real it got. It wrestled with what I knew was true - that we were headed to a neighborhood that would never be in a magazine, or even the town paper. I kept driving north, resisting the urge to turn it around and drive back to the shiny hardwoods. Maybe we were wrong all along and that's where we were supposed to be. Maybe I was just in a bad mood yesterday.

The houses on the block were mostly vacant, crumbling down to the foundations, windows busted out. There were two La Casa homes, one a new-build and one a remodel. Both were nice. Neither had a yard. How do you raise kids without a yard? That may have been when I started to cry. I can't remember now.

Here's the thing I need you to know: It's not about the neighborhood, really. It could be so much worse. It could be a whole lot better. It's not inner city. It ain't the Projects. It's not about the broken glass or the trees. What it's about is the fear. It's about fear of letting go, fear of trying something new, fear of people not understanding, fear that maybe we're altogether wrong. It's fear that your good kids might be good because of all the room and the air and the public school Bible class on Tuesdays. It's fear that the neighbors won't like you and your old friends might forget you.

That fear creeps up on its own. It doesn't need an invitation. It can take something a little unsettling and turn it into a nightmare. I hear what many of you are saying, that it's not so bad after all, and I understand.

But what I also know is that when I stood on acre 6 with all of my flowers and the orchard and the swing-set and the barns, when I cooked in the kitchen we built ourselves, I knew that I never wanted to be anywhere else. I knew I had been blessed with a dream and I could never have imagined handing it back over and walking away, down a street with no lamp-posts, without a clear idea of why.

We're not going to start a ministry. We have no immediate plans to round up a Bible study or canvass the neighborhood. We aren't going there to rescue our neighbors or teach them a particular truth.

We're just going. We're going to live among them, be their neighbors and let them be ours. That's the beginning and end of the story. It's a short read.

So maybe that's the biggest thing I've learned so far, that it's not about the why or the where. It's about the Yes. It's about not wanting to walk around slightly ill from the knowing that we didn't go when we were supposed to. It's about kicking fear in the teeth and shrugging off the nay-sayers like a bad sweater.

This thing that we're doing? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense tonight just like it didn't back on that September morning when I called Cory and told him I just couldn't do it, I couldn't live without a yard. (I'm not sure what I would have used as a scapegoat in the presence of yards, but I know I would have come up with something.)

I drove out of the neighborhood then all the way out of town. I took us back to that one place that felt safe and I tried to forget that its days were numbered. We were back to square one and time was running out, but I was confident that God had something for us. It was just a matter of finding it.


  1. oh I love this. The terrifying "yes" you are living.

  2. You are far more brave than you give yourself credit for. Every word you share. BRAVE.

    Every day closer. BRAVE.

    And no one ever overdosed on salsa, so there's that.

    Be brave. Fill in the fear with salsa.

    And Jesus.


  3. amen. oh, so much i want to say to/with you here.
    i will choose to marinate instead. these testimonies pierced me.
    a familiar feeling, your just going. press on!

    i love you, praying for you too {always}

  4. You nailed it. I struggled for a year to figure out what in the world we were doing and why it made me sick to my stomach most of the time. I got a lot of "Poor on an island...", but you are spot on with how fear can bind you up and steal your joy. But even in the low moments, I agree that the thought of not going was far worse. I can relate so much to your story and am super excited to see where God is taking you guys.

  5. I love every one of your stories about this change your family is making...the thing is, I think it makes a whole lot of sense. There doesn't always have to be a "why" or a final plan....there just has to be a heart and a little courage.

    I've wondered what your plans were ... I bet yard or not, your children will have an amazing time and grow up knowing that change start with a first step. Can't wait to hear more!!!

  6. I have 4 kids and no yard. Not the best neighborhood,not the worst. But this house is our home.We have made it ours.As my children grow and we get to know people in our community I don't want to be anywhere else.

    Blessings to you as you embark on this {somewhat scary} adventure!

  7. I am excited for you.
    God is going to do big things : )

  8. Love reading and following your blogs!!

  9. obedience. it's not for the faint of heart.

    i love you for your heart. it's not faint at all.

  10. Whew!! God is got something amazing ahead for you. We are in transition right now and may also be needing to make a change. I keep telling myself to let go... hanging on to my idea of comfort is not alway where the Lord wants to take me, usually he has so much more "wonderful" waiting for me when I just let go....

  11. No nay-saying from me. You, I love. Your heart, I amire. Your faith, your trust, your honesty and even your fear inspire me.

  12. "So maybe that's the biggest thing I've learned so far, that it's not about they why or the where. It's about the Yes." Thanks for that little nugget of Truth today.

  13. I love you...know I don't know you that well, but I do, you know? Praying for all of your YES moments.

  14. ah, you are an amazing breath of fresh air as i sit and covet a better home/yard, etc. you are beautiful.

  15. Fear. I know fear. Fear is familiar even on days when I try to ignore it or cover it up with a dish of ice cream....tonight I settle for frozen bananas. I am thankful for you sweet lady. I can't wait for God to open that curtain a little further & see the sunlight come streaming in.

  16. I get it Farmgirl.
    I'm excited to see around the next curve in your road.

  17. why is that while i'm reading these posts my heart starts racing and my hands get clammy? i know your words like the back of my sweaty hand. you have a beautiful heart. there are no mistakes.

  18. I luv that you don't have an agenda, that your going to be a neighbor. Afterall the best preaching we can do is with our mouths closed.

  19. ...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6

  20. "We're going to live among them, be their neighbors and let them be ours." I love your heart. I know it's full of fear, and that you're not doing any of this to try to be special or prove a point, but that's exactly part of what makes your heart so beautiful. It feels like an honor to get to hear your stories as you experience this journey.

  21. Not all of us live in a fairy tale farmhouse or have fancy houses in fancy subdivisions. I live in a neighborhood with cracked streets that flood every time it rains and older homes with neighbors that may not have spotless yards and some even speak languages other than English, yet they are the most wonderful neighbors who are always willing to do anything for each other at the drop of a hat! I know that moving - and change - can be scary, but you have such a huge heart and I'm sure you know that there are good - and bad - people everywhere - even in the best neighborhoods. Children who are raised with love and guidance and who are taught to respect others can still grow up to be respectable citizens even if they don't live in the best neighborhood in town. It may not be the environment where you dreamed of raising your children, but it doesn't mean that special memories can't and won't be made. There are so many people struggling to make ends meet and many are being forced out of their homes. I am very thankful to have been blessed with a home and wonderful neighbors, even if it's not the house of my dreams or the area I pictured myself living in.

  22. I just read John 9 this morning. The people asked Jesus "what did this man do or what sin did his parents do " Jesus said "it's not that, it is so that men may see the work that my father is doing in them " Please Cory and Shannon don't turn back, keep keeping on.....let yourself be put in situations that your Father can work in you ! It will not go unnoticed.....when it is ALL FOR HIS GLORY ! Love you guys

  23. if you chase the peace you can't go it girlie!

  24. I'm not sure how to put what I'm feeling into words, so I'll just say that I am unsubscribing. I'll add that I find it it somewhat insulting to continually read of your struggles of moving from your perfect home to this dim and dismal new world. The bleak street that you fear looks like any regular street around here. Add some leaves to those trees and it's not so bleak any more. Many people would feel ecstatically blessed to live in one of those houses. In fact, all of the people that you worked so hard to provide a water well for, would live in the garage and feel like kings. I think you've missed something and it's not for me to say what that is. But reading this journey is becoming frustrating and repetitive. I don't know you outside of this blog, but I do know that God has a real and true plan for your life. Accept it, move on, and stop lamenting the fact that the farm is gone. The harvest is before you. There, I guess I found my words. I hope you understand that in some weird way, this comment is said with love and nothing more.

    1. Dear Melissa,
      Today seems to be a day for finding words, because while I'm not a huge fan of the whole writing process, I've got a few words of my own to share.
      The first words I'm tempted to share would be that the last sentence in your comment actually made me laugh.
      Because it's true. I almost spit out my coffee.
      But I won't say that, because just because something is true, it doesn't mean you should say it to a perfect stranger. Plus, it would set a snarky tone for this comment, and even though snark is my default behavior when I am insulted on either my own, or a dear friend's behalf, it wouldn't be nice, and nice is important.
      So, instead I will simply say that I totally appreciate what Shannan shares here.
      "Here" being her very own personal blog. Her online journal. A journal being a place to document your life journey.....however you see fit.
      I have a blog, too. My blog is light and fluffy and fun. I don't open my heart on my blog. I play it safe. My worst criticism came from a post I did on Velveeta.
      I followed your profile link and see that you have a blog set up, but have yet to create a post, so you are in the safest spot of all. Safe from the criticism of "well meaning" strangers.
      Shannan is brave enough to document all sides of her journey and has chosen to be real with her readers. That choice to be real opens her up to both encouragement and unfortunately, also criticism.
      I met Shannan when she was firmly tucked away in her dream home, on her dream farm, living a beautiful life with her adorable family.
      I also live in my dream home on my own dream farm. I was extremely comfortable with that old Shannan. The beauty-ful life Shannan. We were birds of a feather.
      This new Shannan makes me uncomfortable. She makes me squirm a little. She makes me think about things that I don't want to think about.
      But, I am in awe of what she is doing, even though "all" she is doing is following where her God is leading her.
      Maybe there are people out there who can transition from one way of life to another without a hiccup. Can go from living the American dream to living a life of obedience and sacrifice without skipping a beat. Personally, I don't know anyone like that.
      You say, "accept it, move on and stop lamenting". Wow. If only it was that easy.
      Shannan IS in the process of doing that very thing, She is accepting it, and she is moving on, and I have no doubt that she will get there. But moving on is a process, not always an easy, two second decision with no looking back, and I appreciate the fact that she is documenting that difficult, yet rewarding journey. She's letting those of us sitting on the fence and those of us who are still firmly on the other side of the fence and those of us who don't even have the fence on our horizon, come along for the ride. If she didn't....if she just magically went from life "A" to life "B" without a hitch, I would be out of here. I would not be able to relate to her journey in any way, shape, or form. She would seem inhuman and unreal.
      But Shannan is the real deal.
      I'm proud to call her my friend.
      I do hope that Shannan can find a way to see that what you said was in love, because if she can't, your comment probably made her feel pretty crappy.
      It made me feel crappy.
      For myself, I don't see the love. I see harsh judgement and superiority. I see a person who sees fit to tell another how she should feel and what she should and should not say on her own blog.
      And obviously, I didn't like it.
      If you are true to your word and have unsubscribed from Shannan's blog, then you'll never read this. But Shannan will, and to be honest, that's all I really care about.

    2. Well said Teresa.

      I many people would still be inspired by Jesus' story if it was all roses and sunny days?
      Part of our journeys are struggles. Sometimes dark. Bleak. Unknown.
      This is how we experience life and learn.
      I look back at my darkest and hopeless times in my life and think: "Thank you dear God for the important lessons that you taught me during those times".
      I love coming to Shannan's blog and reading about REAL life. It snaps me back into reality from all the other blogs that showcase their spotless model homes and "perfect" children.
      Shannan's online journal is what I wish for in my own heart.
      To be true to myself, and to God.
      Isnt that what life is all about?

  25. you've harkened me back to my days teaching at parkside. (promise me you'll get something greasy from ss soda shop.) i love your take on this, the doing life with people, the daily neighborness. keep on keeping on, my friend.

  26. I feel me in your words....and the thing that scares me is I don't know if I could do it. I don't know if I could give up the trees, the yard, the back acre my kids run free in. Oh my but it is scary. Please abe strong. Please keep going. Please don't give up. The rest of us need to know that we can do it too. It might not be my season of life right now like it is yours, but when my season comes...I will think of you. I am indeed whispering prayers for you I drive my kids to school, as I clean the kitchen, thinking of someone far away that is not just thinking about living their life....but doing it.

  27. I have had these same thoughts for our family. Here we are living in a restricted neighborhood, lovely home, nice neighbors all doing their own private thing. That's just it, we have so much time on our hands in the evenings because everyone is in their own little house doing their own little things, no fellowship, no daring moves, lukewarm living???
    I have read radical and have seen friends make some amazing moves in their lives because of it. I am ready but scared. Hubby does not feel the urgency that I do though so I wait. I think of helping the poor and this is sad, I don't even know who or where they are!!!
    Praying for you and keep living by faith, not by sight. Our Lord will bless your efforts and He will raise up your children in a mighty way!

  28. Beautiful blog! And so nice to meet another shannAn!!!!!! I will be following fornsur, I have lots to learn in blog land!

  29. Can we be friends? Like real friends? You seriously read my mind, I was sitting here reading blogs and I thought to myself I hope FPFG posts, it always feels like a great cleansing conversation with a friend, and then you did! I so need a friend like you in my life! You always say everything I'm feeling. Except you're way more faithful than me. Thank you for your example of following God's path, I struggle with that sometimes (alright almost all the time.) I usually take His path eventually but I walk slowly or drag my feet. Anyways, there is so much beauty and fear in what you are doing. Just keep trusting that God is leading you. It's so easy to doubt yourself, to doubt that you know what His guidance or spirit feels like. But you do.

  30. Even when we KNOW we are doing what God calls us to do we keep hearing that little voice say,"what if"? I know Sis says all the time we in America are so isolated and we live our lives as individuals, but in Africa everything is a community. That is how God intended us to be, a unit,together, laughing with those who laugh and crying with those who cry(my version). But its hard when we are tucked into our comfort zone and the only contact we have with those in need is from television. You will need your new neighbors just as much as they will need you. I can't wait to be a foster Gam to all the new littles in your back yard. And if I need to learn a new language, I will. But smiles and hugs cross all cultures!!

  31. Shannan, you're doing the right thing, feeling the right way. If it were so easy to follow God's plan for us, we'd all be perfect. I'm glad you let us in on your hopes and fears. You're just human like the rest of us. Only waaaay more obedient to God's will then I am.

  32. your story inspires me. and i know that's not why you tell it. but it does all the same. i have followed you for a while. we put our house up for sale last year and played the waiting game. nothing happened. and i know things like this take months..even years. you make me want to open my heart just a little wider to hear God speak His plan loud and clear to me. maybe it will go back on the market in the spring and we'll wait. thank you again for telling your story as he unfolds all of it to you. i love that you said right now it's a short read..."be their neighbors and let them be ours" and He will take care of the rest and i will be sitting on the edge of my seat to waiting to read what happens next!

  33. I'm baaack!

    haven't left for Mexico YET..

    Just wanted to say that I agree with Mama above: We are all meant to live as a unit, we've just gotten way off base here in america.

    I just keep thinking of Hillary and how it takes a village to raise a child.

    Who knows what will come of this? Maybe you're meant to be the lady in the neighborhood who cooks and eats crack bark or whatever. you just never know. Maybe you're meant to be a woman to look up to for a girl or teenager whose own mother isn't so great. On the flip side of that (just trying to keep it real!) maybe your fellow neigbors will say "What's up with all of that crazy layering that woman does??!"

    Whatever goes's where your supposed to be.

    You are much more obedient than I am. When I am and life blows up in my face I have been known to cry this to my best friend (hasn't happened in a few years now) "I stupidly told God to use me in this world a few back and now it's all crap! I'm an idiot!"

    I'm also kinda growing up, finally.

    Peace out, Girl.



  34. you think it's a short read.
    there are so many chapters to come.
    excited to follow you on the journey.....

  35. Yes, the fear creeping in...SUCKS. Our first homestudy interview for our adoption did not go well. The fear set it and is fighting its way to stay. I will try and kick it in the teeth today!

  36. It all makes perfect sense to me and I am so enjoying hearing your story! We felt the call and moved from the upscale 'burbs to the unknown city into what we thought we were called to about 4 years ago. Turns out it is a lovely neighborhood with nice people that are not as isolated and individualistic as were in the 'burbs--a great training ground. We learned, though, that it is just a stepping stone to expand our trust and reliance on the Lord and to create relationships with others who have the same call. . . so that our hearts would desire that inner city neighborhood with broken glass and crazy homicide rate. And we go there with a heart to share our lives, not fix the folks that live there.

    BTW, I saw the When Helping Hurts book in one of your photos--and the short read is what will fill the need.

    My friend introduced me to your blog a few months back, because of the similarities in our stories. I would love to see a summary or 3 paragraph synopsis of what has brought you where you are today in your 'about' section for folks like me who have missed the story as it has unfolded and need an accelerated catch-up.

    You go girl! Keep trusting and when you feel the fear creeping in, turn to Joshua and give it a read. Be strong and courageous, but place your courage in Him and draw your strength from Him. He will bring you into a land that will lead to LIFE.

    Blessings to you on your journey and cheers to your willingness to crucify self and fight the temptation to worship the (lower case g) god of personal peace and affluence.

    You and your family will be in my prayers.

  37. I love following along on your life/house journey. But I can't wait to read more...I am dying to know which house you picked out. Have a great weekend.

  38. you wrote "a short read" and i thought no way. there's so much more to unfold, and to come, in this story. can't wait to read it.

    ps: i think you are amazing and brave (my first impression of you, too) and am so glad you are taking us along on this mission

  39. Wow...I love those opportunities where we really get to see what we are made of. Those moments where we know what we are supposed to do, but resist it because of fear...and then ultimately where we let go of that fear, put our faith and trust in God and let him do his thang. It always brings about such a calmness...where your mind is quiet and you stop thinking and just do it. May this bring you much peace and calmness. It sounds like you have BIG plans laid out for you. I will be here praying for you and your family each step of the way. Love your you (even if I don't "know" you). Thank you for being so honest and open.

  40. I'm so glad you're just going with no agenda. I promise (from experience) that you going and BEING neighbors and loving neighbors and being Jesus' body there, people will notice - and you entering in with them, that will mean the world and will shape your "ministry" or just your lives really!

  41. Why don't blogs have "like" buttons under each person's comment. I love what Becca said! Agendas make projects of people. Love opens doors.

  42. Someone taught @ Parkside! I went to Parkside...forever ago. We lived in a house with the shiny wood floors. I have heard things have changed in G-town. Maybe you're helping to bring them back around.

  43. "So maybe that's the biggest thing I've learned so far, that it's not about the why or the where. It's about the Yes. It's about not wanting to walk around slightly ill from the knowing that we didn't go when we were supposed to. It's about kicking fear in the teeth and shrugging off the nay-sayers like a bad sweater."

    YES!! amen and I'm praying for you sweet friend, xox