Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Land of the Living :: Volume III

I think I knew all along, in spite of those pesky fears that snaked around my ankles, that this was where we would be. It was what we just kept coming back to, this neighborhood with the two houses for sale.

So Cory put in a few more calls and for a week or so there was nothing but static. But one random evening our call was returned and we got the rest of the story, which was that the entire block is owned by La Casa. Those crumbling-down houses up the hill would eventually be torn apart and carted off, then rebuilt from the bottom up.

The goal, the whole purpose behind what La Casa is doing is to take a forlorn, mostly-forgotten neighborhood and pull it back up to its feet. They call it Neighborhood Revitalization. I call it Neighborhood Redemption.

Having been/being a girl who was/is forlorn and broken-down, mostly-forgotten and scarred by mistakes, I know the potential for redemption when I see it.

The La Casa guy said they were hoping for a stable family to be a part of what they were doing in its early stages. I don't know if they are praying people, but their hope was answered with our prayer. God was guiding us right where we needed to be.

And that's the rock-bottom truth of it all. This move has always been more about what we needed than what anyone else needed. We never set out to solve anyone's problems. We know that God doesn't let willing hands remain empty for long, we have seen that first-hand. We're sure He'll put us to work. But all the while, He'll be working on our own foolish hearts and I can't begin to imagine who or what He'll use to exact that work.

The stupidest part about the whole blasted thing is that I momentarily balked (internally) about a new house. It didn't make a lick of sense. I've never been a new-house kind of girl.

God does everything backwards a lot of the time. That's something that I'm learning. He creates us with certain things in our hearts and then He nudges us toward something entirely different. I don't call it a test. He's got better things to do than  pass around final exams and tally them all up. I think He just wants to show us something new - a revelation, a shiny-new possibility. He shakes the dust off our feet and gets us all riled up. We're left shaking our heads, but not in a bad way, more of a "life is insane and I love it" way.

I gathered pretty quickly that I'd be a Class A loser if I inside-whined too much about a new house. We'll figure it out. It'll be fun! A new adventure.

The house will be ready this Summer. We'll move in, settle in, get our bearings. The kids will start school a few blocks down in the Fall.

That's something people around here have trouble with - the school thing. When you happen to live in one of the most desireable school districts in the area, people are slow to understand why you would choose to move your family out. A typical response to finding out we're moving to Goshen is, "But your kids will still go to school here, right?"

This is at the root of everything, because there was a time when I might have thought the same thing. There was a time when I believed having your kids in the best, "safest" school should be the top priority. I don't think that anymore. I'm tired of this elite idea that one thing is so much better than another.

I understand the pull toward what feels most comfortable. I understand the deep desire to keep my children sheltered and protected. But what I feel even stronger is the hope that my kids will learn very early that God goes with them. He goes. With them. Everywhere they are, there He is. I want them to be around kids who are like them and unlike them and every variation in between. I want them to see beauty in every face and to feel their faith grow as they relate to the world around them with each new day.

It took me thirty-four years to start to understand some of this. My hope is that they won't waste as much time getting around to the truth.

 My kids won't automatically go down the pipes because the new school doesn't test as well as the old school. They won't lose their faith because more kids don't believe the way they do. I wish I could say that I came to these conclusions overnight, but I didn't. They came slow and painful over the course of months, even years. It hurt to realize that some of the things I hinged my faith on were false.

All of these steps, all of the wrestling and the arguing and the "I'll do this God, but I won't do that", they have been part of our journey. He prepared us, always, for what came next. He reeled our hearts toward exactly where they needed to be and He planted joy and excitement way down deep.

So maybe God is upside-down and maybe He's totally nuts, but He sure is kind and His mercy makes me cry.

This life, this adventure? I wouldn't wish a moment away. Thank you for playing along while I write it down here. I want to remember all of it. I want to remember the fear and the doubts, because that's what makes the Glory beam down ever-brighter.

**

A sweet reader sent this quote tonight, just as I was sitting down to type. I love it so much. Thanks, Mindy.

“And the only life worth living is the scandalous one: scandalous love, offensive mercy, foolish faith.” 

65 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness you are such an amazing writer and I just love your transparency and heart. I can see how God is molding you and shaping you and getting you ready for "something new" and that's my favorite thing about Jesus, He makes all things new. Bless this home and journey

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  2. redemption: the greatest story ever told.

    i love this.

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  3. It's all beautiful.

    I see His handprints all over it.

    xxoo

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  4. I'm just beginning the book Radical. I think of you through every page. have you read it? you are LIVING it. God's work is amazing, isn't it? i am loving, loving reading through your journey. thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

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  5. I'm glad you wrote it all down. And that quote has me singing "Beautiful, Scandalous Night" by Leigh Nash and Bebo Norman in my head. I love it when songs like this get stuck in my head for days on end.
    "Go on up to the mountain of mercy
    To the crimson perpetual tide
    Kneel down on the shore
    Be thirsty no more
    Go under and be purified..."

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  6. My Girls are mostly grown and let me tell you, there are drugs and evils in every good bad and ugly school.There is no safe haven in this broken world.I thought my girls were safe and I sheltered them and the brokenness of our world still found them.
    I know some of the best families, the richest families and most religious families and the evils of our world found all of them in some way or another.It's out there and we're all so naive to think that it can't affect us in some way or another.
    God Bless you for making a change and reaching out.We all need to reach out a lil and make a change~Blessings Kim

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  7. Your courage is a blessing. A book that you and Cory may be interested in is "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day", http://chasethelion.com/. It speaks volumes... God Bless, Patty

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  8. I love hearing the journey you have been on up to this point. Thanks for sharing what you have been learning. Thankful for the reminder that God goes with us. We can't escape him even if we wanted to. He is so intensely involved in each of our individual stories. I have to remind myself of that daily. Lots of love!

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  9. Wherever you live, there are mothers and fathers who want the best for their kids and raise happy loving kids. Our society is unfortunately built on living above our means. And that creates a whole slew of issues. Look at the whole debt/housing crisis in the USA. That's what happens when you have more than you have earned. Happiness is not a Mercedes in the driveway and designer clothes. I think you are actually entering the real world in your new neighborhood and your friends should support your decision to live honestly.

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  10. Although I am not familiar with Goshen or this neighborhood, it looks like a fine one to me! Just think: no more carpet in your kitchen! Woo Hoo! I LOVE old homes and their "character", but I have always wanted to live in a brand spanking new home as well, even though I know I would totally stress out during the building phase. Home is where the heart is -- and where your family is. This will be a new, fresh start to all those who participate in this neighborhood rebirth and that's exciting!

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  11. I love that you're writing down this journey that you're on. Whether it's grilled cheese sandwiches or redemption, I'm smitten with your words. What a gift you have.

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  12. Let me just say this: Your words stir hearts, bring tears to eyes and make us think! Most days I have a handful of blogs I check on, but it is yours that I look forward to the most because I know you will either make me laugh or cry, or both. Please keep sharing! :)

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  13. Let me just say this: Your words stir hearts, bring tears to eyes and make us think! Most days I have a handful of blogs I check on, but it is yours that I look forward to the most because I know you will either make me laugh or cry, or both. Please keep sharing! :)

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  14. Well I would have not understood your school system if it was not for watching the movie "Waiting for Superman" Schools in Canada are run completely different. It does not matter at all what neighborhood you are from. They are all the same.Same education in every town, and province. I think though, you can always supplement the learning at home. We are always supplementing our kids education everyday whether we know it or not. They will be fine.

    I am kinda sad to know they are tearing down those beautiful homes. Do you get to pilfer in any of the rubble pile for treasures?

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  15. Love this! We share identical views on the school thing, but you have such a wonderful way of putting it! It's like you stole the words out of my heart that I didn't know how to speak!

    Excited for you guys and your new adventure!

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  16. shannan. i love you. jesus is all over your story, your life. shine on! grateful to know you xo

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  17. Thank you for articulating some of our journey, too. You have found some words for the very things He has been teaching me. Perhaps I'll try to capture them...the work in My heart that He has been doing has been hard to explain...thanks for explaining some of it.

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  18. Definitely tearing up as I read this. God does things on his own, grand agenda, and how crazy is it when we see His amazing results? Thanks for all your inspiring posts!!!

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  19. There is no better place to be then where God wants you to be. You are going to like it.

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  20. again...all I can say is, "I love you" (((Shannan)))...that's hugs for you as the tears trickle down my face...tears of joy for you...tears of joy for Cory...tears of joy for the children. GLORY is shining right now.

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  21. lisa @ heavensongsFebruary 3, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    I, too, in a neighborhood that is no stranger to heartache and hard times, where vacant lots are often purchased by Habitat for Humanity and built on. We live here by choice, or as my husband says, "we're keeping it real." Just wanted to encourage you, if you already haven't, to get over to your new neighborhood often (take the kids!) for prayer walks. Just walk and pray and take in the neighborhood. I have seen God do marvelous things in our neighborhood--salvations, evangelists and missionaries have moved in, people have been freed from addictions, marriages healed, and the bar across the cove is now a community church! Some of the ladies from the neighborhood have expanded their walks to 4 miles a day, circling the entire lake. Go God!

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  22. i'm there with you on keeping our kids safe...i think every mom would be. but there's that pull in me to let them go and let God use them to reach others who wouldn't know him otherwise. i have loved watching him start to do this with my boys.

    He will go with your kiddos and use them in ways you couldn't even imagine!! and that will be one of the best parts to your story.

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  23. Your life story...especially in reference to the house search has me listening as I've never listened before. You are able to look beyond in a way I fear I do not/can not....but would love to. As for lower test scores, fewer prayers...I love how this does not worry you, when people get so consumed by those kinds of things when contemplating relocating. As a teacher, I know that a family involved in their child's education is all it really takes to keep scores up, and as a believer in God, I know that God isn't counting :) Thanks for opening our eyes a bit.

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  24. This post has stirred my heart today. As a mom with young kids looking around for elementary schools & anticipating a move, I know the feeling of wanting your kids to be in the 'best' school. But you are right, there is no best- there are problems and hard times everywhere. It's not our job as parents to create a bubble for our kids to live in.

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  25. I have been reading just for about a week. Your story resonates with me on so many levels. My husband is in ministry and for the last two years I have prayed that God would give us a fresh start and an authentic ministry. We had been somewhere pretty cushy and weren't stretched very often. God answered our prayers in December - and I panicked! I was overcome with anxiety that left me almost crippled. People kept telling us we were moving to the ghetto, and my husband was given 2 churches to pastor. It all seemed too much. I found myself identifying with the Israelites after they left Egypt and longed to go back. I was ignoring my manna! Anyway, thanks for sharing your heart. It's made me feel better about all of my doubts and fears (which have dissipated, btw). Blessings!

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  26. I love this. You can certainly see God's hand at work in your new neighbourhood already.

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  27. I feel this way right now. We are leaving the town we have raised out kids in for 8 years, and am moving to the town my husband and I grew up in. We have to rent right now so there is all this uncertainty that I dread.

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  28. Please don't fret too much about the school district! My children all attended different schools, and they've turned out just fine...two of them are teachers, and two of them married teachers. When I look back (which is often), I realize that it's what I taught them at home that paved their way. Sounds sappy, but it's true.
    And from what I read on your blog, I don't think you'll have a problem in guiding them! Good luck and Blessings to you!

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  29. Thank you for sharing your story. Two years ago, we moved from a well-off town with highly ranked schools to a nearby, less-wealthy town with not so highly ranked schools. I struggled with the decision, for the same reasons you did, but couldn't shake the feeling that this is where we were meant to be right now. Both of my sons are now in high school, and taking advanced placement and early college courses, so I don't think it's hurt them. And, they've had the opportunity to interact with people with a wider variety of racial and socio-economic backgrounds, which I think is important. In at least some small ways, I think we've been able to make a positive impact on people as well.
    Even though I still feel that we've done/are doing what is meant for us, sometimes in those quiet, middle of the night times I still feel like everyone we know thinks we're crazy and hope we haven't made a huge mistake. Seeing the similarities in your story reaffirms for me that we're not alone or completely crazy!

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  30. Thank you for the God does everything backward paragraph. Gives me perspective! And a bit more courage and excitement to see this great life as an adventure.

    Blessings!

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  31. You inspire me - always. Blessing to you all!

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  32. This is a first for me. I thoroughly enjoy reading from the variety of home blogs that exist out there. I stumbled across yours today and have to say how great our God is. I am a 40-something mama from Colorado that has always been a city girl. But in November 2010 God shared with my husband and I that He felt like it was time for us to make a change. Of course He didn't come right out and speak to us from the heavens, but He certainly made His presence known in so many small ways. How could we decline his request? What intrigued me about your blog posts over the past year is how similar our stories are. While you are leaving your country life behind always remember that God's Glory is found no matter where we may be residing at the moment. And the best part is we will all be joined together when He calls us Home! May God's grace continue to bless your and your family beyond measure.

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  33. I was recently talking to a girlfriend about being refined by the fire, that God as very slowly molding, shaping things in me. Not anything big has happened. Nothing dramatic. It is this small voice, a hush that I feel pointing things out that I have been able to over look before...but cannot now. But reading what you said about God preparing us for what is ahead really hits home. These small, but mighty life lessons that I have been served in the past few weeks have a meaning bigger than I know right now. I feel that. There are situations swirling around me right now that could significantly alter our life. They are not my own, not mine to talk about publicly as they effect many people. But I feel deep down that this lovely life that we are living in our little valley, in our sweetly remodeled house...it isn't all I will ever know...it is just a season. Deep thinking going on over here...deep....DEEP. I might just need to go get my water wings on or something.

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  34. I just came across your blog and it's a blessing. We move alot and I've been battling with alot of the same feelings lately. Since most people don't understand our constant moving (husband's job), I always joke that we're gypsies. In a recent bible study we were talking about being pilgrims on this earth and I realized through my speech that I was expressing the negatives of our lifestyle instead of speaking with a heavenly perspective. Hebrews 11:13-16 changed my thoughts and attitude. I'm proud to be a Pilgrim and grateful for God's redemtion. Enjoy your new adventure!

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  35. Your heart is truly revealed in this post. Thank you for allowing us to read and reflecting on His leading.

    I don't know all your options regarding schooling your children. I could go into length what happened to us but you need to consider hours spent teaching your children His statutes vs hours they spend in public school & sports, etc.

    Deuteronomy 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

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  36. P.S. I just started this blog yesterday, I think I just figured out how to show the address with my name;)

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  37. Pray for them and God will surround them. I know it for a fact. I will be praying too. Change is hard but not changing is harder yet.

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  38. I went to Goshen schools. I have heard there has been a change, but all of the amazing teachers I had cannot be gone. Always felt safe, loved, raised by a village, Wednesday night was church night...I could go on and on. I hope this is the experience you have or can share with others there.

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  39. Wow! I just have to say Wow! We are living parallel lives...just sayin'. Then I read some of the other posts....water wings for sure...it's getting deep. Ever pray for something and never think that the answer will come in the way it does? Hit straight in the heart...like an arrow piercing the liver. Wow...answers to what we've been praying are in your post, in your responses and in my heart....they are running, searching for a place to rest. Sometimes freedom comes most from the things we leave behind. Talking.To.Myself.

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  40. I for one think you are awesome to follow your heart and follow God! I for one would also glue and pate one of those faliing down house and make it mine. Such crazy history!!

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  41. Love this post and your heart and your courage and your love for Christ, your Savior and mine.

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  42. I'm loving your story. As I sit here with a dream of my own to move - away from a home a love, into what I think might be a good place. But I give up my dream, knowing my Creator knows what is best. So, will we pack our family and move? Will we stay? Will we move somewhere else? I have no idea. But we are on an adventure and your story reminds me of how good God is, how creative he is, how much fun I can have in between the uncertainty and fear. Also, we live in a really competitive part of the country in regards to school. I'm really glad for your school reminders.

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  43. I seriously hesitate to comment at all on big blogs where my comment will get lost among 44 others, but here goes. After three years of homeschooling, we felt led to allow our kids to go back to public school. It didn't seem like such a big deal, since we live in a nice suburban area with a nice suburban elementary school. The older two were registered without a hitch. But my youngest, a fifth grader, was told that the elementary school was full. Therefore, he couldn't go to our nice suburban elementary school. He would have to go to school in town, at a school with children from the wrong side of the tracks. I tried to NOT be a princess about the whole thing, but this was MY BABY. He's small for fifth grade. In school with the tough kids. The whole time, I'm wondering how in the world could this be God's plan for us? To take my babies out of our homeschool and put one of them in a school on the wrong side of the tracks?

    Long story short, he blossomed. He is a role model for the other kids, stands up to them when they are doing something wrong, and has no fear at all. He is a light. He's also compassionate and helpful in any way he can.

    God knew exactly what he was doing.

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  44. Just as an FYI: I graduated from one of the worst school districts in PA. I'm getting my PhD. The two have less to do with each other than what people like to believe. There is so much more blessing to be had by parents who follow where God leads them, than by being educated at the "right" place. Still so excited for you.

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  45. "Having been/being a girl who was/is forlorn and broken-down, mostly-forgotten and scarred by mistakes, I know the potential for redemption when I see it."
    Love your writing. Love it.

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  46. As you know, we pulled our kids from "that" school too....LOVE the new school! Great teachers who give out their home phone number and call us at home. Could not be happier with where they are. Your kiddos will be fine! You just may find Goshen to be the perfect fit :) Michelle B (hope you remember me! haha)

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  47. You HAVE to read the book "Theirs is the Kingdom" celebrating the Gospel in Urban America by Bob Lupton. Immediatly! This is SO important that if you email me (mattrach518@yahoo.com) your address I will ship it to you!

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  48. *This*: "I'm tired of this elite idea that one thing is so much better than another." --it's the heart of what God is doing in you. Something profound. It's He who reminds us that no one is any better than another. That there are people to be loved there. and here. And that we can learn a lot from even the {seemingly} least of us. And you sharing this...it's not just for you, you know. He's using what you wrote to reach some of us. In absolutely profound ways. Praying you peace as your vision is expanded.

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  49. I absolutely love that I've heard much of this story from your own voice but reading it, seeing your perspective on it, it's such a gift.

    one week and I get to hug your neck.

    but i'm not really a hugger. hm. we'll think of something.

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  50. Such food for thought. Thank you oh so much for being open with your readers - God is using you here too. Blessings!

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  51. I'm starting to "get it" too...this whole faith thing. This whole post summed it up perfectly in my head. I could've never put it into words, but you just did. Thank you. And I am totally behind what you are doing, your adventure. Wish I had the guts to do the same. I'm working on it....

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  52. But what I feel even stronger is the hope that my kids will learn very early that God goes with them. He goes. With them.

    i need to write this down. this, this is all i want for my children too friend. thank you for this beautiful way you have of putting faith to paper.

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  53. love what He is doing in your family....love that you are wise enough to have figured out that you will learn so much more than the people you will be living in community with.....this journey will be beautiful because your heart is open to learn and grow and be stretched.

    God will go with your kids....it'll all be part of their beautiful stories with God. And, if it gives you any comfort, we homeschool, and our kids are so far from sheltered, it's crazy. :)

    keep the writing coming...

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  54. I'm loving that I'm able to share this journey for you. You're taking my mind into little corners that it doesn't typically venture, and that's a good thing.

    Thanks & like Between You and Me said, keep it comin'!

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  55. I know you've got all sorts of support and commentary coming your way, but I just wanted to say that y'all are amazing. In my heart and mind, you are attempting to live in the way that Christ has called all of us to live. The other piece I want to share with you is this: your kids will be alright. You'll continue to love and teach them, and they won't end up any differently than the path that God intended them to walk upon. Growing up, I lived in both the city and the country and wherever we went, I always was equally friends with the "good" kids and the "bad" kids---and what I can tell you is that everyone has a lil bit of good and a lil bit of bad and who are any of us to judge? I learned just as much equally from each of them and I tried to love everyone for where they were....and I can also tell you that even though I've had friends who chose a different path in life, I was raised to choose my own.....and I'm pretty sure your kids have the same direction and guidance and I. Keep on the path set before you and it will be exactly what it should.

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  56. just wanted you to know (even when my lo-cal in the stix impedes my comments) i've read every single post at least once, sometimes twice, sometimes more since i got permanently hooked by this post http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.blogspot.com/2011/03/on-home.html

    i remember you telling us somewhere in the 31 day series (i think?) that you would one day explain everything & i'm glad to be along for the smooth-bumpy-exciting-scary, but ever trusting ride with you. excited for the next chapter & all the pages in between. love ya!

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  57. what a great quote, what a great story God is writing, I love reading about it!

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  58. Reminds me of the book I am reading... Don't Waste Your Life by JI Packer. Have you read it? It's gooood. I also recently read A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card, and Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb. So many things I have read lately, seem to be right down the alley your living. --- Thanks for sharing your pilgrimage!

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  59. I love what you're saying. Sometimes I feel like I'm lost amongst everyone else who is always struggling to find "The best" of everything. For a long time I would shrink in shame that I was content to put my kids in the school for which we are zoned - (even though it's a fantastic school, people around me are always fighting to find "better"). It wasn't until I took the time to articulate my feelings (to myself!) about it that I found some peace. Life is not always perfect, or ideal, or "the best". You can't always make it that way, and living where God puts us makes us stronger. I love your thoughts. They make my heart peaceful. Thank you. Your move sounds wonderful.

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  60. I love this story! Everything about it.

    and Mindy's quote made me cry.

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  61. Girl, I have been hit or miss with your posts {even though you are now in my reader!} Do not know how I "missed" this one but I'm so glad you linked back to it. I'm so happy you're sharing your journey with us. And so much of what you say here about kids and school and the slow unlearning that is so very good? Well, I can relate. It's where I'm living right now, in "the land of letting go." : )

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  62. Goosebumps. I got goosebumps reading this. We are at a crossroads in our life. Husband getting out of the Army he's been in the past 9 years and moving to a new place and not sure the job yet. We want him to get out b/c he is not home when he is in the Army. He is...but you know, 1 deployment is one too many. So we are trusting God. And I'm glad I read this, b/c here I've been dreaming of a big fancy farmhouse with lots of land...but your post got me thinking...I really need to pray and seek what God wants for us. It may NOT be what I have in mind..but it will be perfect. Thank you so much for your blog and your humble outlook on life. It is inspiring.

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  63. Your words resonate in my heart so much - thank you for sharing your story! Our God is so good!

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