Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Gospel of Flea Markets




They've been saying Spring is coming, that it's waltzing our way.  I didn't believe them until yesterday.

My right hand clamped around Silas's, my left carried a loaf of French bread and ten plum tomatoes. We pushed the button, waited for the signal, then I pretended to be brave while we crossed four lanes of city buzz.

I eyeballed the Buick that stopped too closely for my comfort and it struck me that my kids will grow up believing that cross-walks and city streets and cars, cars, cars are ordinary. This is the wild that will raise them.

I was raised by stretches of green and a wide yawning sky. My wild was sticky afternoons with no where to go, drippy orange push-up pops and forest moss beneath my sneakers. We tended carrot seedlings in a secret garden, crafted make-shift slip-and-slides and swam in giant plastic trash cans. I never once played with a neighbor because there was no neighbor. So I hid in the forsythia with my brother and caught craw-dads in the creek instead.

Maybe there were questions to ask back then, and maybe my parents asked them. But it seems to me that the answers must have all been easy.

Is there a way to make my kids believe the same, twenty-odd years from now?

I exhaled on the other side of the street, the scariest, "citiest" leg of the trip behind us.

We tossed a letter into the big blue mailbox. I sat on the sidewalk and held Silas in my lap as a train screamed past. We kept on walking.

We stepped over broken beer bottles and tried not to notice the trashed-out mess around us.

We walked the back blocks where no one goes unless they have to. It's Poverty Alley and you'll know it by its smell - that unmistakable scent of decay and lost hope.

Silas held my hand, saying on repeat that I'm cute and he "still" loves me. I caught his falls as he tripped along the buckle and crumble of sidewalk that someone keeps pushing to the bottom of the repair list.

We smiled and said hello to neighbors with cigarettes dangling from their lips. Their teeth were missing, their hair greasy, but their eyes were just as kind as yours. Sheets covered windows and pain lined their faces, but they thought my son was cute and daffodils pushed up around them in patches. It was spring in their yards, too.

I'm a collector of the discarded and the worn. I've paid cash for five defunct sprinklers because they're quirky and I'm fond of their rust. I don't mind taking the quilt that's fraying at the edges - I prefer it, in fact. The flower pot is chipped? Hand it over. The knob is broken? Sure, because it tells a story.

I've chosen to decorate my life with things that someone else has rejected. Things that aren't done living, things that can be bought for a song. They still have something to offer and maybe I can provide the context to prove it.

Why is it so different with people? My instinct is to back slowly away from the broken and the hurting. Why do I strain to see the beauty in their chips and dings?

For years I've convinced myself that my love is earmarked for the broken like me. I'm more cut out for middle-class heartache, thank you very much. My solidarity is with people who think/act/talk/smell/live like me.

I'd really rather forget about the dead streets covered by canopies of oppression. I'd like to never know in the first place about the boys who lurch down them at dusk.

I want to look away. To hide. To pretend life could always be what it was when I was eleven.

But I'm learning the beauty of meeting the eyes around me. I'm forcing myself across the busy street and I'm doing it with precious cargo, not because it's natural or even because I always want to, but because I suspect it's the only way I'll learn that we're all the walking wounded.

I used to think God gave me a particular heart to love the tattered things that other people pass over. Only now do I see the incompleteness of that belief.

I am called to love broken people. Loving broken things is just a hobby.

 My childhood was a dream. It shaped me. I see no fault in it and I'll always thank my lucky stars.

But my kids were called someplace different.

My hope is that everything that jars my senses and makes my heart lurch will become their ordinary wild. My prayer is that they'll walk with ease to their neighbor's table and notice early the way shards of amber glass can catch spring's light.



39 comments:

  1. the best kind of prayer for your little ones. what beautiful words. what a beautiful soul. xox

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  2. That is what I want for my little man too. Just this weekend while we were working in the yard my 4 year old started asking to go out of the fence and play with the neighbor boy. I wanted to say "never" He's not like us. There is no fence, no rules, no guidance - but instead we found ourself opening the fence and letting our little man ask him to come inside the fence and play. I know eventually we're going to have to throw that gate open wide and let our son run between the yards - but we're not quite there yet.

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  3. I am a lover of the chippy, tarnished, and worn. How astute of you to realize that this love should, of all things, encompass people. Thank you for an eye-opening post. I will think hard about this long after I closed this screen.

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  4. Beautifully written...yes, this is the love and compassion I also want my children to see as normal--not shrinking back from the "least of these" but loving them because it's HIM we're loving when we do.

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  5. I'm learning the beauty of meeting the eyes around me. I'm forcing myself across the busy street and I'm doing it with precious cargo, not because it's natural or even because I want to, but because I suspect it's the only way I'll learn that we're all the walking wounded.

    YES. We're all the walking wounded. Yes.

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  6. Your words are always ridiculously moving, thank you for the truth and conviction you write. You are a blessing!

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  7. Just perfect! I love the contrast! I love your heart! I love that your prayer is that your children will love the broken..are we not called to let our hearts be broken by the things which break His? May we learn from your gift of words, allowing them to soak into the crevices of our hearts and each of us go into the uncomfortable areas and just love them like Jesus! Praying with you!

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  8. THis is just wonderful. One of my favorite things you have written. I'd like your heart. I think I'm headed somewhere else, but I want the same kind of heart, His heart.
    I loved this.

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  9. "But my kids were called someplace different.

    My hope is that everything that jars my senses and makes my heart lurch will become their ordinary wild. "My prayer is that they'll walk with ease to their neighbor's table and notice early the way shards of amber glass can catch spring's light."

    Scary good.

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  10. What you said in this post is profound. It affected me a lot. We are called to love broken people because God loves us in our brokenness and out of love Jesus was broken in so many ways for us. Broken things are just a hobby, not something to build your life around. Loving people, yes even the really broken by sin people, are worth loving because they are made in God's image and He loves them.

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  11. I love the way that you captured my attention with the title, tied flea-market finds into a love for broken people and told a story. Not a "we did this, this and this" but a real life story, it was captivating and beautiful and poignant! Well done!! You are brave and tender! Thank you for leading us through the places that God is leading you - daring us to believe He wants the same for all of us and giving us the courage to follow <3

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  12. everyday I'm here...I'm inspired...

    thank you xx

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  13. I don't pretend to understand what everyday life is like for you there but I do so love hearing you talk about it and how it's changing you. We are scarcely the people we were when we first met. Sometimes that other person feels a bit foreign to me. I bet you are the same way.

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  14. So beautiful. You inspire me so much as a mama, as a lover of Jesus. Thank you.

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  15. This takes my breath right away.

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  16. Ok I could not love this any more. See, when I want to write brave, I want to write just like you about the lost and broken and hurting that surround me. I love you! :-)

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  17. Shannan, that's beautiful. Not in an "oh, isn't that pretty, I'd decorate with some of those words" sort of way. More in a "This speaks truth to my soul and calls to the beauty that Creator God has placed within us" sort of way. Thanks for pouring out your heart & dreams.

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  18. But my kids were called someplace different.

    Thank you for this. I am finally comforted and confronted with the truth of His plan for my life and not my own. I, too, grew up in the wild of nature and ache for my kids to live in that simplicity but we don't. We live in the city where the only way my kids will get to see a cow is if we take them to the zoo. Mud is even scarce around here. But, after reading this sentence... Somehow it is very clear to me now. I thought before that maybe we are missing out!! But no. We are here. He doesn't make mistakes.

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  19. In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

    I think your story over the last couple years is a perfect personification of this. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

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  20. I love these thoughts!! I am the same way! I love things and people w/ a little history and a little quirky!

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  21. Beautifully written....you are an inspiration!

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  22. "But I'm learning the beauty of meeting the eyes around me." Oh girl - how you speak to the heart. Your posts are not a one time read. I read them twice, even three times, to drink up all that God is speaking through you.

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  23. You speak right to my heart...every time!

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  24. Oh, I just loved everything about this post, especially regarding the differences in other people who aren't just like you and me. Love your writing. I feel like we are friends and you update me here and there, even though we've never met.

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  25. You have a rare beautiful gift that exposes itself when you put pen to paper.

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  26. I so completely understand your feelings.

    Beautiful.

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  28. "I've chosen to decorate my life with things that someone else has rejected. Things that aren't done living, things that can be bought for a song. They still have something to offer and maybe I can provide the context to prove it."
    I have read this post 6 times now and still tear up each time. I feel as though my own heart is flowing out on the screen. My husband and I are churchplanters and we are reaching the...um...less than glamourous section of our city. Far too many times to count I have looked across a table, a couch or a large meeting space and been overwhelmed by the beauty in the precious found. I'm a firm believer that wholeness and perfection do not form beauty. Rather, it's our cracks and scars that reveal the truth of Love, the context in which life is discovered.

    Thanks for such a beautiful post.

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  29. This post is an absolute treasure, my friend. You have a knack for finding the gospel beauty in everything and everyone.

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  30. beautifully written - very evocative & thought provoking

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  31. Dearest Shannan,

    You. Rock.

    You and me? We ain't called to go "off the grid for Jesus". :)

    We feel His heart for His Favorite Things: people. As lovely as "nature" and mountain ranges and rivers and flowers and Nubian goats can be, we are not called to have a home where the buffalo roam, but where people actually live.

    I love broken stuff, too. Quirky stuff. Yard sale art.

    You and me? We don't need deer or antelope playing in front of us to be inspired. We see the same cloud formations that a country girl sees, daisies are still daisies in our vases on our middle class kitchen windowsills...we don't have to view them in their native habitat to feel their wonder.

    Keep writing from this place in your heart. Keep writing about God's favorite things: broken people. Quirky people. His masterpieces.

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