Thursday, October 31, 2013

Breakfast and Some Books

The breakfast of my dreams!
Yoplait tangerine Greek Blended yogurt, topped with bran Chex and raspberries.
Half an English muffin with strawberry cream cheese.
Earl Grey in the Wisconsin cow mug.

I am obsessed with this yogurt. I can't explain it. (It's imperative that you put the Chex on right at the last moment so they don't get soggy.) Crunchy, creamy, juicy, heavenly.

THIS JUST IN: Thomas Pumpkin English Muffins are in the house! For the love of Pete, go grab yourself 8 or 10 packages and throw them in the freezer, the bread box, and your mouth. (I found some at my beloved Dented Can for $1 a bag, but now I'm just bragging again.) Top them with whipped cream cheese. Fall in love with breakfast all over again.

This? This was my night stand a few weeks ago. The stack has evolved slightly since then, but any changes have been more lateral than progressive.

What on earth am I saying right now? It's not even making sense to me.

The point is, I'm a flaming hot mess of good intentions. My drive to read is on par with my drive to wear gingham and eat salsa.

You see what I'm up against.

Holy Bible - New Living Translation 
I'm reading right now in Matthew and just, whoa. Jesus was pretty gutsy, right? I know this in my head already, but he really just didn't give a rip what people thought about him. He told it like it was. Also, he told a lot of it quite cryptically...I can't help but wonder what the crowds really thought of his parables. Some were real head-scratchers.

Meet Me in the Meadow: Finding God in the Wildflowers
A friend from church saw this and thought of me. Can I just say that there's nothing kinder in the world than being thought of? It makes me verklempt, if I'm not careful. As for the book, it might be my actual soulmate. Finally, someone understands me!

"Because God played this intimate role in each wildflower's creation, their features give insight to him." 

YES! That's what I've been saying all along! Call me a hippie. It's okay. All I know is, flowers show me God. Now I have proof.

Orphan Justice - Johnny Carr
I'm not all the way through this one. It's meaty and I'm moving like a slug in honey. But it's so good. It's affirming all of my hunches, which is to say it's affirming that God meant serious business about caring for orphans and Jesus wasn't just talking in riddles. This probably isn't the last you'll hear about this one.

"Stop and consider this: Just like the children of Israel, we, as God's people, will be judged for withholding justice from the oppressed and the orphan. If we have the means and the capability to care for orphaned and vulnerable children, yet fail to do so, we are in direct disobedience to God."

Jesus Freak - Sara Miles
One of you awesome readers recommended this book to me, I immediately clicked over, loved the cover, bought it, read it, BOOM. So thank you, dear reader. If you happen to see this, give me a shout so I can personally thank you.

Friends, this is one of my favorite books of the year.

I have some deep theological disagreements with the author, kind of like this book, which happens to be one of my favorite books in the history of the world. This sort of dichotomy used to really leave me conflicted, but this post helped nudge things into line. I can get a little angsty about sharing things like this, things I know many of you would not approve of. But here's where I fall: full disclosure. I'm okay with you disagreeing or thinking I'm wrong. And at the point that I believe I should hide something, I probably need to take a closer look at why I have it in my life.

Jesus Freak took me by surprise in more than one way. It made my brain hurt and my heart beat faster. It made sense to me on so many levels, and yeah, there were several babies I had to toss out with the bathwater.

So this one isn't for everyone. But it changed the way I think about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It helped shape the way I view ministry and service and loving hard people well. It shined a light on more of my failures (there seems to be no end to this phenomenon. Help!)

The copy I read was from the library, but I'll be ordering one to keep, because I'm dying to take my ink pen to it and I just need it to be another of my permanent friends on the shelf.

Chase (Bible study) - Jennie Allen
This study rocked me at a time when I really needed to be pointed toward some difficult truths. So often I fall into the trap of believing I need to be doing certain things in order to win God's favor, or His proximity.

And then there's David. Reckless. Emotional. Ordinary. Constantly tripping over His humanity while he chases the One he loves best.

So maybe my failures are fully expected by God and maybe He does just want my heart. Can it be??!

"David was not remarkable apart from God. God moved around him and through him in the most powerful stories. But something about the way David saw God transformed the way he lived. He saw God differently than everyone around him. He loved God and he lived like he loved God."

A Sweethaven Homecoming - Courtney Walsh
My homegirl wrote this, a sequel to this book.  I keep loaning my copy out before I get a chance to read it myself. Ack! The first one was so good. I need to know what's happening with Campbell, dangit! Courtney dishes about this one right here.

Activist Faith: From Him and For Him - Burroughs, Darling, King
This one's up after I finish Orphan Justice. I'm especially excited to read the chapters The Poverty Epidemic and Beyond Bigger Prisons. Stay tuned!

Ask the Passengers - A. S. King
I picked this up at the library and was instantly sucked in to the title, cover art, and the hook - a young girl escapes the angst of adolesence by sending her love to every airplane that flies overhead, communicating with the passengers, searching them for the solution to life's riddles.

I finished it, but reluctantly, at times. It would have been so much stronger if it had focused more on its hook. Bummer.

White Jacket Required - Jenna Weber
I traveled to Ethiopia in August with Jenna and describe her now to Cory and Sarah as "One of the chefs". (Man, I love those chefs.) It was such a treat to read her memoir. Her writing brought her into ultra-focus and I found myself wishing for a do-over of the trip. There's so much more I want to talk to her about, now.  Also, I dog-eared 90% of the recipes she shared. If you're a foodie and generally a nosy person like me, you will dig this book.

Dark Nights of the Soul - Thomas Moore
The dearest man walked up to me at church a few weeks ago during "greeting time" and said, "You and Cory are readers? Well, read this. Both of you. And then we'll get together and talk about it."

I haven't started it yet, but I will. And when I do? Best book club EVER.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
In case you ever doubted my cool-factor, which registers in the negatives, I tried to read this book and couldn't get into it. I'm the only person to grace the internets who isn't raving about it. I'm so sorry to disappoint. (In my defense, I historically always have trouble reading anything remotely historical. Also, I historically have trouble not using the same word multiple times in the same sentence, historically speaking.)

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality - Jacob Tomsky
It's unfortunate that we're ending here. 'Tis the luck of the draw, or the stack, as the case may be.
I'll cut to the chase. I loved this book for the first 4 or 5 chapters. I took a picture of the cover with my wonky flip-phone and texted it to not one, but two friends.

This book has rated-R language. I had a hunch it would. Take your complaints to the management, okay? (I talked about my thoughts on books with bad words here.)

Initially, I was riveted. It was so dishy and juicy.  Jacob Tomsky has a unique command of the written word. I loved his voice. But around the half-way mark it got repetitive, depressing, and boring.

I soldiered on and finished it, and I'll be honest, when I went to the fancy hotel last month for my fancy meeting, I saw things in a whole new light. 

So, what are you reading right now? Leave me a comment and I'll send one of you an FPFG-approved care package. It will be weird, I can promise you that much.

Flower Patch Nerdygirl

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dial Back the Day

I had one of those moments last night where I became overwhelmed with love for my people, specifically, my youngest. I don't remember what I was doing. It wasn't important, or, if it was, it was instantly overshadowed by the blinding light of I can't believe I got this life.

I struggle sometimes with over-thinking how my world should be/look/function. There are so many things I wish I could better, so many things I want to care about more.

But perfection is a lie and balance is a rip-off. Staring long into the heart of my wildest guy with the crazy-big almond eyes, it has never been more obvious.

A few Sundays back, I glanced across the sanctuary to a mama whose teenaged daughter had just taken the stage for the offertory solo. The song was bare-bones and lovely, the young girl a breathing picture of the sacredness of adolescence.

But it was the mom who took my breath away.

She was riveted. Frozen in that space of wood and colored glass. Too busy loving the girl on stage to risk a wasted movement, saving her exhale for the very last note.

I'm sure their life is no more perfect than mine. You'd never know it by looking, but I'll bet that beautiful girl has her weak spots and a few agonizing flaws.

But she is fully loved.

And that kind of love, the very kind I send to my children in quiet glances and open hands, buttered toast and back scratches, is made so small next to the way I'm loved by the God who created me.

So, today, I'm watching for all the ways I have the opportunity to love. I'm slowing down to listen, notice, feel. I'll push a cart through Kroger with my best daytime buddy sitting in the front. I'll boil macaroni for the Tae Kwan Do carry-in because it will thrill my ninja dude. I'll sit on the couch with Sweet Cheeks and tuck us both under the same blanket when she reads her book to me instead of the typical, harried dinner-hour-half-listen.

It feels like just the right day to pluck this rose and sniff it, because I want to feel all of motherhood deeply, not just the noisy parts that command my attention. I want to invest in the quiet places, where that unexpected jolt of love-sickness so often shows up.

And all the while, I'll carry this truth like a smooth stone in my pocket - I'm loved infinitely more.

Happy Tuesday, friends. Love and be loved today.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Make-Do Fall Decor

I stole these leaves from someone last year, pressed them in a ridiculous spiral-bound Congressional book, dug them out 365-odd days later, and tied them up with sewing thread.

Only, does it really count as "stealing" if they're on the sidewalk?

They're just so pretty, those ginkgos. And rare. At least around here.
Although I have to say, I'm not fond of the actual trees.

A reader commented on this post, "Just make a little fall banner to hang from nail to nail and it will look like they are there on purpose." With Howard the cat as my witness, I would have nevah, EVAH come up with that solution on my own.

True, my "fall banner" hits the paintings at an awkward spot, but we're making do, here. We're acting like those screws are intentional FOR THE WIN.

I bought this print at a local vintage market a few weeks back and then stewed around forever about where to hang it. (check out the artist's site here)

The thing about this house is, too few walls. And the ones I do have are all collaged up.
So, I'm making do.

Kitchen cabinets are totally frame-like, if you think about it.

Rubes & Calv frolicking in the leaves back at the farm.

I taped it right over the glass with borrowed washi.
Making do.

Does it seem like I'm more invested in fall this year than usual? I'm acting like it's Valentine's Day. I can't explain it.

My friend sent me this year-long calendar and I want to kiss it on both cheeks, European style.

I know it's not November yet, but it almost is, and I don't know, it made me happy that she let November have some fall fun, too. We always give the pumpkins to October, and November just gets the pie, which, let's be honest, isn't the best of the pies. (It's a texture thing.)

You'll have to close your eyes for this last thing, because I don't have a picture.
Are they closed?
Now are they?
Picture bushels of sweet, juice, Honeycrisp apples held together by just enough flour and sugar to qualify it as a cake.
Do you see the picture I'm painting here?
No? This might help.

It was so good. It probably goes without saying, but the caramel sauce is not even slightly optional. (I used whole milk instead of heavy cream and it worked just fine, I just had to cook it down a bit longer. Also, I added half a teaspoon of vanilla, because it seemed like the right thing to do.)

We're in the home-stretch of October. Can you believe it?
I'll be honoring the day with knee socks, crock pot root beer pulled chicken, a few cut-throat rounds of this game, and New Girl reruns after dark.

Happy fall, ya'll.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekend Faves

The kids and I have been in Ohio for the past 3 days. My head-cold descended the day we arrived. I feel like this has happened before. And in the scheme of things, could there really be a better time/place for illness? The answer is a resolute NO.

So, I've spent my mini-vacay sleeping in, chugging Nyquil, lapping up wifi, menu planning, lazy reading, and doing absolutely nothing that might fall under the heading of "Productivity".

It's just what the doctor ordered.

The kids totally followed suit, though they did manage to make it out of their pajamas most days, so they had me beat.

My mom nursed me to health with Midwest Living's Mediterranean Eight-Layer Dip.
It was fairly involved, but we all agree - well worth it.

Speaking of food, I have a new favorite lunch.

Do you ever feel like I missed my calling for Food Blogger Extraordinaire?
Me, too.

Well, here you'll see a dim and grainy photo of all required ingredients.
Laughing cow cheese, flour tortilla, thinly-sliced ham, thinly-sliced cucumber, dill weed, garlic powder.


And roll.
It's so good.


I fully intended to write a follow-up to this post, listing a bunch of ideas on caring for orphans. Then I discovered it has already been done, and done quite well. Since I'm not about re-inventing the wheel, take a close look at You Don't Need to Adopt to Care for Orphans - Rage Against the Minivan.


One of my favorite blogs had an excellent post yesterday, Downward Mobility as Reconciliation at D. L. Mayfield

"Much of the discussion about downward mobility is whether you should do it. Those who oppose the idea claim, “you don’t have to be downwardly mobile to be more spiritual.” But, really, the Kingdom isn’t about shoulds. It’s more like this: if you opt out, you’re missing out. By seeking out those exactly like us, we are impoverishing our own salvation."

 Just, YES.

"I don’t think everyone is called to live in a poor neighborhood. But everyone is called to love the poor. And so, here’s the secret. living in a poor neighborhood makes things easier."

And, BOOM.

My bathroom might need a collage...

I heart Ellen's bathroom. I found it on Pinterest and it had that keeping-me-awake-at-night affect, though I had no clue it was hers. Then Nester blogged about it the next day and I was all, "Ellen? Ellen!" and I suddenly loved it even more, somehow.

Please note that the flooring is of the make-do variety, and it appears the primper must turn around from the sink to preen in the mirror. My point? This bathroom is not brand new or high-end or perfectly designed. It was thrifty and simple and it makes its owner smile. That is what decorating is all about.

Also, take this as a sign, there are probably yet more collages in my foreseeable future.

(And they all sighed in exasperation.)

I understand I'm running the risk of collage overload. The only problem is, I do not give a rip.


11x14 Creativity print
Silas needs this in his life.  Silas's Mama needs this tattooed on the tops of both her hands and painted on all as-yet-unscribbled-upon walls.   But really, I love all of this art. All. Of. It.


There are a lot of people who support me and do their best to understand my life, but this girl really does understand, and then some. I read her words and they feel like home. Also? Her photography. That's all I'll say about that.


I guess that about sums it up for now. Honorable mentions go out to: Tom & Jerry, La Fiesta, and my black leggings/garage-sale-hunting-socks combo, worn with pride for 36 straight hours.

Happy Weekending, Homies!

Tell me something you loved this week. Or else.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Leaving A Legacy

Of all the ways we've slid backwards in recent years, the finances thing may hurt most.

It's not just that it's humbling beyond belief, it's that it's always in our faces. We're reminded every month on payday, every trip to the grocery store, every week, every day, all the time that things are quite different than they used to be.

We've set up camp in a land where there is always more month left at the end of the money. It's unsettling territory. Sometimes it feels a little crazy. And if we dare listen to all the moving mouths around us, we might even be convinced it's wrong.

We come from the school of Dave Ramsey, remember. We grew stout and sturdy, stable and so very able, in a reality where the goal was to have investments and many accounts, to balloon our savings, to "retire a millionaire". We profited from careers that paid Cory's student loans and financed three adoptions. We gave generously, if not sacrificially.

Since that time, our income has been cut by 80%. Our kids are on government health insurance and qualify for free lunch and reduced book fees at school. We avoid Target like the plague. Eating out means fast-food with coupons. And our smaller giving thrills us and leaves us feeling a bit bruised.

I share not as a martyr, and not from a place of pride. While we willingly walked in this direction, you'd better believe I would grab a raise with both hands if it came our way.

I don't believe living below the median is holier than living above it. I simply believe it's what was asked of us.

A new friend recently asked, confusion knitting her brows, "Did you choose to live in intentional poverty?" My response, "No, we're just lucky."

I said it as a joke, because the question took me off guard, but the more I thought about it, the truer it rang. Because while I don't claim to understand any of it, living with less can be strangely exhilarating in the right light.

The good news is, moving in the direction of less freed us to accept Cory's position as jail chaplain. Four years ago, his salary would have been laughable. Even two years ago, we couldn't possibly have made it work. But when it found us, though we knew it would require a little more leaping, we also knew it would be doable. So we stretched to reach it.

The truth is, I get whiny about money all the time. Sometimes I get judgmental. Often I feel sorry for myself. I want to fly around and visit friends, I want to buy shoes at Target on the spot instead of saving $30 over a couple of months or robbing our dwindling savings. I miss outfitting my kiddos in brand new clothes. I miss putting cash in the bank. A while back we heard exciting news from a friend about his new job opportunity and I broke out sobbing, because that used to be us. We used to move up the ladder. We used to know that feeling. 

I can't say for sure why we're here, but the truth stills my knocking knees and racing heart if I let it: God is made bigger in our brand-new smallness.

And so we keep paring down, knowing it's never really enough and even more, it's not even about what is or isn't "enough". God owns the bank. He trusts each of us in ways He ought to know better. He has things to teach us about extravagance, provision, and freedom. We steward what we have with as much wisdom as possible. We accept our inevitable failures. Even now, we have much more than we need, and we continue to wrestle.

What about leaving a legacy for our children?

We haven't forgotten. Our legacy to them is the Gospel, one where grace fills all the cracks and family is global. Our legacy is a front-row seat to our budgeting talks and all associated traumas. Our legacy is telling them no, it's hand-me-downs and the Goodwill, it's stretching the soup for one more at the table.

Our legacy is casting light on all the ways our daily bread finds us and reminding them who sent it.  It's the humility to receive. It's the slow-learning that "average" and "typical" are overrated and "low" is often the sweet-spot.

It's a foolish economy, where nothing makes sense until you stand on your head.

To read more about this journey:
How Much is Too Much?
How Much is Enough?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Day Casper Died :: My Twists & Turns with Halloween

The details are a bit fuzzy, but I once Halloweened as Casper the Friendly Ghost.  His apparition "body" was tied around my neck in the form of a plastic barber’s cape; his face clung to mine via an elastic band. I saw the world that night through his two little slit-eyes, and I have to say, it didn’t look so bad. There may have been some scary stuff happening around me, but I was too preoccupied with my pillowcase loot-bag to notice. Halloween was fun, never mind the fact that it got a little stuffy and humid behind my molded plastic mask.

One year later, someone jammed the brakes. And by someone, I mean dear ol’ Mom and Dad. In one fell swoop, Halloween was nixed, along with Smurfs, Rainbow Brite, Care Bears, and Scooby Doo. All the fun stuff. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt.

But I trusted my parents – I still do, and when they said Halloween was devil worship and Care-A-Lot was the veritable portal for New Age Mysticism, I believed them. Plus, they had a point, Fred, Daphne, and the gang did make it seem like violence had no permanent consequences.

So, we embarked on a unilateral boycott of All Things Halloween, which reached a fever pitch around 1987 when even participating in the school party felt a little too close to the fire. I stayed home from school that day and went Christmas shopping at the mall. It all made perfect sense.

I didn’t give it another thought until 20-odd years later, when I found myself with a husband and assorted small people, one of whom recently shrieked with glee, “Calvin, it’s the Arthur about Halloween!”

You may recall our impromptu, half-attempt from last year. 

Well, for all of my collective years spent in denial, it’s time to sort this out a bit. Here’s where I am so far:

1) Halloween is kinda creepy.
2) But, I'm not sure it does anything to further God's kingdom when the Christians lock their doors and pretend they aren't home.
3) Also, holding a Not-Halloween party, complete with costumes and candy, is actually sort of like celebrating, uh, Halloween.
4) "Pagan" holidays aren't automatically sanctified when they're held in a Fellowship Hall.
5)  And dressing up like Bible characters? Lame and confusing.

"Nice robe! But weren't you David last year?"
"Uh, I'm clearly Moses."
"But you have a staff..."
"Dude, it's a rod."
"But it's curved..."
"Look, my dad wouldn't let me cut the straight limbs, okay? Dang  you, Martha! You're such a    know-it-all!"
"I'm not Martha this year. I'm totally Mary. I've matured."
"But you're carrying a little bottle of olive oil."
"It's perfume. Duh."
6) I think Halloween can be "celebrated" with as much innocence or pagan fervor as we wish. Sort of like Christmas.
7) A pillowcase full of free candy? Come to Mama. No, really. Give me your candy already.

I don't know, maybe it's time to put the "allow" back in Halloween.

Then again, I've got zero practice making costumes and I'm way too cheap to spring for Plastic Casper.

So maybe we'll just wing it again and let the stale gummy bears fall where they may. 

Or maybe I'll kick it around for one more year and hope Halloween Arthur tides us over.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Investing in A Woman

So much of what we're called to do is so much simpler than we think.

I'm prone to complicating things, or borrowing trouble. I try to look too far into the future. I make unfair comparisons and imagine all the grim ways the train may miss the rails.

In the end, I'm usually asked to simply walk beside the hurting or the disadvantaged. I'm not called to fix them or even to teach them. I keep them company and remind them they're not alone. I offer support in the form of hand-me-down clothes, cases of toilet paper, an invitation to dinner, a full-on laugh - because they're funny, and I want them to know it.

I get to know them right where they are. I become part of their life and bring them into mine.

This is investing, I think. It feels small, but it isn't.

This week celebrates the 3rd anniversary of fashionABLE. To celebrate, they're offering 30% off all their products today through Friday.

I wish I could really make you see the impact your purchase has on the Ethiopian women who create these scarves. In the meantime, I'll keep on trying.

Do me a favor. Grab a tissue and watch this 2 minutes video:

These women have been handed their dignity back to them by fashionABLE and every person who buys their products. Remember, this isn't charity, this is their livelihood. This is, for them, an opportunity to show up every day and work hard. It's a chance to provide a future to their little babes. They're changing their family tree, and we get to be a small but meaningful part of that.

Buy a scarf for your sister or your Mom. Buy one for a neighbor. Buy one for that girl with the tattoo on her neck who makes you crazy while you walk beside her in a life you'll never understand.

Every purchase is an investment in a family half a world away. Amazing, right?

Happy Birthday, fashionABLE!

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Monday Offering

Monday morning and the weather matches my mood. Gray. Drippy. Can meteorological conditions be grumpy? This girl says they can be.

It's a morning when every start was false, one where all I can see is the sticky cup-holders in the van, the crumb-covered counter-tops, the left-overs rotting in the fridge. My eyes are fixed on every mistake, ever scribbled wall, every tiny disappointment.

I have a hard time knowing where to see God on mornings like this. I wish it weren't true.

I have trouble keeping my footing in a life that is increasingly less mine - isn't this what was asked of me? Then why does it feel so hard some days?

I think about what C.S. Lewis writes in Screwtape Letters, and it makes me mad. Not in a holy way. I'm adrift in this sea of Satan's charms, the way he worms his way into my head, my heart, my hands.  I try to offer grace, but yield to personal justice, so ready to rest a red-hot while in all that I'm owed. I try to pray when I want to cry, and find myself singing the theme song to Inspector Gadget instead. And all along I thought that was just me. If the devil wears the disguise of a cartoon I watched 25 years ago, what else is he capable of? How at-risk am I? Why can't I overcome?

I think about what my pastor said yesterday, that Christians are fond of repeating the line, "God never gives you more than you can handle." "It's not true," he says. "He does it all the time."

And I tear up again, because it's hard to feel weak and incapable. It's no fun being mean. I default so often to the tired place of martyrdom where I feel I'm owed a break, some help, a little kindness. I want thank yous for every single thing I do.

And all the while, I whine to God that this beautiful life He has handed me is too hard. That's the point, Shannan. He says this with a little smile, His eyes kind and wide, and I find myself sliding down the bench a little closer to where He sits. He tells me again that He understands all my feelings so I rest my head on His shoulder like a child. He made me small like this. He has His reasons.

I miss the olden days, those glory days, when my life felt more story-book, less scattered.

But I know I'd never go back if I could.

So this is my offering. This is what I have to give today, and I hand it over with blood-shot eyes.
I don't always understand, but I trust You. I don't always obey, so I need You.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Weekend Faves

Top Billing:
My friend Tara emailed me as soon as Robert moved in, "I want to make him a sign."

How amazing is that? Even more amazing, the split second I told him about it, he knew what he wanted his sign to say. And he knew the verse was from 1 Corinthians.

Stick a fork in me.


We still have zinnias. Go ahead and hate. I understand, just as you'll understand when it's March and I'm up to my bosoms in snow drifts and you West-Coasters are tweeting hideously hateful things like "Feels so good to get dirt under my nails!" or "Just planted some delphinium because I'm more special and loved than you Midwesterners!"

Also: I don't know how to readjust the white balance on Cory's camera. I'm on a need-to-know basis with the Beast. Whatevs. I sort of dig the look, me, the girl who usually wants all her photos warmed way up. 

I scored a completely free day last Friday and this is what I did.
It was between laundry, "important" writing, sleeping, and cleaning the bathrooms.

Or this. With a cup of Earl Grey.
Tell me I was wrong!

(Howard totally had my back.)


I'm still all swoony and moony over Carissa's Laundry Room (Brown Eyed Fox).


I can't stop loving and thinking about Paige's post on parenting teenagers with trust rather than skepticism. This was written for me. Especially during this season. Why do I love to bust people so much? It's dumb. I want to offer my trust. But still be smart about things. I think I missed my calling as a detective. You can totally picture that, right???

This is one of my favorite kids' books right now. If you live in the 'hood or even if you just want to talk to your short people about kids living different kinds of lives in different kinds of places, this will rock you right out of your shoes. The illustrations are insanely beautiful.


I got these earrings as part of the Craft Weekend swag. They're by Ike & Co. and I wear them all the time. I find I'm drawn to round earrings. I think it's because I wear a lot of stripes and gingham and plaid. And, you know, straight + curvy = perfection.

So, I signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime. Weird, right?
Totally not weird.

For one thing, we currently pay $8/month for a Netflix instant-streaming account that we barefly ever use. The yearly subscription to Amazon Prime clocks in cheaper. 2-day shipping on tons of stuff. Say what? I already bought two Christmas gifts for around 30% less than they would retail, and they shipped to my door 2 days later. For free.

I'm sold. Christmas shopping in my yoga pants? Sign. Me. Up.

Adding to the charm, we watched 50 First Dates last night (Robert's pick. I'm so for real) and it reminded me (for free!) that there really is something quite fetching about Drew Barrymore. I want to be annoyed by her, but I can never pull it off.

Amazon is offering free trial memberships through October. Technically, you could get just the freebie and get all your shopping done before you owed a dime. Of course, that would mean you're highly organized and on top of your life and I would probably never speak to you again, but it's probably a risk worth taking.


Back to that grody bathroom situation. I'm officially in amor with Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner. I'm sure it's toxic and ungreen and overpriced and blah blah blah, but it works. It cleans the grubby-small-person tub and the insanely-dirty-big-person-who-works-in-a-factory shower like it means serious bidness.

I love you, baking soda and white vinegar and lemon rinds. I really do.
But I love you more, poisonous mystery bubbles.
Ain't no shame in this game.

Happy rest of the weekend, Party People!

Be a dear and tell me something you're loving right now.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Why We Are Called to Davion

I read an article yesterday that brought me to my knees. You're welcome to read it if you'd like, but it boils down to this: A 15 year old child named Davion, raised his entire life in foster care, dons a second-hand suit and shows up at an evangelical church with clammy hands and a lurching in his gut to ask if someone - anyone - would adopt him.

I wasn't present for the service, but 300 people were, and I have my hunches about how it all went down.

He probably made the congregation uncomfortable at first, because we like our church services as tidy as possible. No surprises, please. Please don't put us on the spot like this. The ladies shifted in the pew. The men took an unusually keen interest in their wrist watches.

But the more he spoke, the more they listened.
The more they listened, the more they felt.
Now what? What on earth do we do with these big feelings?

Here's what I tend to do - I tend to start thinking about folks who should help. If I were there, I might have thought about the empty-nesters with the extra bedrooms and time on their hands. I might have thought about the couple sitting on the newborn baby waiting list for two years and counting. I might have thought about the friends with cash to burn. I might have thought about you. But probably not me.

Because while Davion stood shaking in the pulpit, having harnessed all of his guts to bring himself down into the low places of pleading for help from strangers and admitting his need, his piercing loneliness, his intense longing to be loved, I would sit politely in my seat and tick down my list of excuses.

I don't have enough time.
I have four children already, who demand so much from me.
Our home is small.
He could be dangerous.
He might be wounded.
It would disrupt my home.
I don't know how.
I have a sick kid.
I have a troubled kid.
The system is too confusing.
They system is too demanding.
I'm too old.
I'm too young.
My family wouldn't support us.
We can't afford it.
We've done enough.
This isn't my calling.

Of the 300 congregants present the day Davion stripped down to his emotional underwear and begged for a family to want him, not one of them stepped up.

''I'll take anyone," Davion said. "Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don't care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be."

This breaks my heart in half, mostly because there's a very good chance I wouldn't have stepped up either.

I would have smiled through a set of very sweet "Bless his heart" thoughts. I may have gone the extra mile and tracked him down afterward to tell him he was brave, a fine young man, so well spoken!, so mature! I would have promised my prayers. I would have turned around and walked away.

This isn't an indictment on *that* church, it's an indictment on The Church, who has handed us an out cloaked in a Holy-sounding lie - I'm not called to this. It's an indictment on us for lunging for that lie then wearing it like a mantle.

We have got to do better than this, friends. We have to decide - for real and forever - that Davion is our responsibility. He's our gift. If he continues to live as an orphan, it's on all our heads. 

This child who has never known the particular security of belonging decided, on his own, to find himself a family. He made himself the best he could be, swallowing the rage that comes from years of abandonment, rejection, and God knows what else. He studied hard and raised his grades. He shed 40 pounds.

And none of that matters at all. None of it is relevant to a God who scooped me up sin-soaked and broken from the ditch I dug with my own two hands and carried me home. When orphans believe they have to fit a certain standard to win our acceptance, we have failed to strike the mark of love that identifies us as followers of Christ (John 13:35). If Christ dwells in us, His love should flow from us, a wild river of foolish sacrifice.

Do I believe that every family needs to foster or adopt a child? Nope.

But I do believe that every one of us needs to figure out a way to do better at caring for orphans. And widows. And the poor. It can and should look different from person to person.

I believe this mandate is not a one-and-done. I speak from a heart that knows I default to withholding when I should be offering extravagantly.

Truth is, God could reach down and unlock all the chains Himself, chains of poverty, illness, addiction, loneliness, suffering. He could do all the work because He is the only answer, the only way out. But He loves us so much that He chooses to let us join in the redemption of others. He requires this of us because He knows that in laying our lives down, we are rescued.

So while we stew around, clutching the costume jewelry of "our" life, we do so at the expense of the riches of more of  Him.

It should feel like a no-brainer.

All the while, He waves us over to the gutter, where He waits. That is the size of His love, that He would invite imperfect, broken us out into the world with Him.

He asks us to share in His story for another broken human knowing we all walk away healed.

So I'm praying tonight for the excision of my paltry, worn-out excuses. I'm praying for more trust and bigger love. I'm praying for courage that matches Davion's by even half.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pinterest is my Muse

Since the world has conspired against me by refusing to allow my admittance into the cast of New Girl, I'm left to create my own fun.

That show. Listen. I enjoy some fine media, okay? And by "fine", I obviously mean sitcoms, reality tv and dramas that might cause you to judge me. I've made peace with it all.

Last night we were cackling our way through the part where Nick refers to Jess's bobby pins first as "a bunch of metal tooth picks" and then as "Bobby's pins" and I found myself thinking, That is the job for me.

Can you even imagine getting paid lots of cash to look pretty, eat at the craft services buffet, and hang out with a bunch of hilarious people every day?

I have missed my calling.

Goodbye, everyone! I'm headed to Hollywood. YOLO!

Okay, whatever. Moving on.

Hi, this is me in an outfit. It was carefully curated to highlight my new favorite fashionABLE scarf for this post. You've probably seen every stitch of the outfit one hundred times before, because most of my duds are pretty old, or at least tweenagers, which is old when you think about it.

A reader recently said something to me to the effect of, "All my friends would think I was so full of myself if I took pictures of myself looking cute and put them on my blog." I totally understood what she was saying and sadly, I couldn't, in good conscience, say, "Oh, no! Of course they'd never think that!"

Hear this, it is highly likely that some of the people in my life think similar things, and worse. But guess what? Oh Well. Because I happen to LOVE it when people blog about what they wear. Or what they did to their living room or their pantry or their hair. I like all the dirt and every flip-flinging detail. Give me more. Show me your face already. I like it when I can see you. It makes me feel like we're actually friends. AND it gives me great ideas to rip off.
Fall Style

Case in point.

Girl with the sun at her back: I do not know you.
But you gave me the idea to pull out my age-old American-Eagle-by-way-of-TJ-Maxx sweater and button it over my gingham. And I will love you forever for it.

Girl in pink: I do not know you, either.
But I liked the way you wore your scarf, so I stole the idea.
You also got my wheels turning with that bag of yours... Stay tuned.
Oh, and the pink shoes with the pink sweater? It goes against everything I believe. Yet it works.
I shall ponder that further.

Long story short, I grabbed a bunch of old stuff I've owned forever, fluffed my hair, and took to the alley. In a mortifying turn, my neighbor (the one who sent a platter of chicken and beef mole two nights ago but now I'm just bragging) was sitting in her back yard, talking on the phone.

I can only imagine what she thought of the whole scene. And really, I can only imagine it. We have a major language barrier between us, one that is currently traversed only by pumpkin cakes and tamales. Times like this, I'm glad for it.

Cory took about one hundred pictures, and that's no laughing matter.

I looked redonkulous in many of them. Like, truly unphotogenic. But hallelujah, there were a few that worked.

So, do I walk around in my regular life with my hair fluffed and my scarf wound fetchingly around my neck? I do not. But now and then, it's fun to share some good ideas and I hope you'll do the same.

I don't think I'm super pretty or extra fashionable. I know not everyone has a capable photographer or a fancy camera at the ready. I'm not about being trendy or goading you to spend more money on yourself.

I'm about sharing my life and who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

One last thing. This guy got his first 4-hour pass on Sunday. He spent it walking around the neighborhood, going to Wal Mart and McDonald's, and visiting his parents in the alley photoshoot. But that's not really the point of this photo.

The point is - What famous person does he look like? I mean, he's a RINGER! I died laughing and he vehemently disagreed but then Cory immediately confirmed it and I'll love you forever if you'll do the same.

Sidenote: I keep asking him if he would like a belt.

He doesn't find it particularly amusing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Balance vs. Survival

I wake to the yellow glow of the bathroom light and the sleep-clumsy clatter of the toilet seat falling in the next room. The quilt is still tucked perfectly beneath my chin while the world outside is dark and I hope it's 4 o'clock.

It's not.

The alarm is moments away from sounding and the kids are waking up in tides. My phone buzzes, a text from a friend, then another. And they talk about things like balance and letting go, things that take on an almost-magical shape under the shadow of a Monday morning. If only we could figure this stuff out.

I carry these early thoughts around me while I pour cereal and pack lunch. What the heck is balance?

I don't have a clue anymore. I've seen all its mythical features as the years have ticked by. I don't believe in it anymore.

But what I never realized until now is this :: If the idea of "balance" is even on the table, I live in privilege.

The work we do, no matter where we do it or what we're wearing when we do it, is important. Maybe we rise before the sun cracks the night and head to the factory along with my oldest son. Maybe we dress in wool gabardine and don heels while we boss people around (nicely, of course.) Maybe we wear our ugly green robe as long as possible, relenting only when there's simply no other choice. (cough cough)

We work because we need to. Or we want to.

We work because we're the mom, the wife, the daughter, the friend. And we're hoping for a life that makes a little more sense than it did yesterday. We want to do all of the things well.

But most of us don't work for survival. We could chuck our jobs from an upstairs window and the kids would still be educated. They'd still be fed.

The women I met back in August work to live. They work for dignity. They work for their children. Some work with HIV, some work to avoid it. Their other options are disease, shame, death. They aren't afforded the luxury of  "balance", elusive or otherwise.

It doesn't seem right to me. It never does.

I struggle to understand why they work in a room made of corrugated steel (with the coolest door EVER), stacking thread upon thread upon thread so that I can look cute and get compliments while I'm returning library books or eating chocolate croissants.

I don't understand it, but I can do it.

I've always been a fan of scarves. But since seeing their faces and watching their hands at the loom, it feels bigger, somehow. My scarf-wearing has increased by a factor of at least 10.

Only Jesus can heal their broken places (and mine, and yours) but I buy their art, wind their livelihood around my neck, and it matters.

Today I'm wearing my favorite (it changes by the day!) over here and sharing some other Fall Faves. 

Annnnd....fashionABLE is kindly offering free shipping on orders all day (Tuesday, Oct. 15th) using the code SHANNANFAVES

Check out the Fall Collection here and scarf up!

Monday, October 14, 2013

All This in Just One Day


Friends, we had a stellar weekend.

My sleep-over at Sarah's was all I dreamed it would be. We read mags and had snacks, then she put me up in the dreamiest guest bedroom and we texted from her end of the house to mine about important things like facebook stalking and Princess Kate.

I slept like a baby, then rolled out of bed 15 minutes before we had to leave for Holly's race.

Things were hopping at the Beehive.
The news was there!

"The news" - always so exciting. :)

Holly's brother Chuck took tons of video footage that he'll turn into something completely rad.

Chuck was one of the first friends I made my Freshman year of college. I love seeing him because he throws me right back to my youth. 

Holly's Dad said a prayer that made everyone weepy...

Then she RAN!

(I was somehow not prepared for this moment, and all of my pics of her taking off are blurry.)

I hauled back to Goshen, because this was happening.

He got his green belt, baby.
All weekend he's been telling us how he feels "older somehow" now that he has the green belt.

We're super proud of homeboy. It's amazing how much they have to remember! It all looks sort of the same to me... lots of arm-jabbing and kicking around. DO NOT tell him I said that, though.

 Back at the homefront, this was happening.

I grabbed grub and a shower and we headed out just in time for Calvin to remember that it was Pumpkin Extravaganza day at our church down the street. whew!

We took the little dudes. 

 I love our church!


Their Mama likes to tell me they aren't identical...and that they don't even look identical.
Say what???

We took the babies home, then hauled back to South Bend.

This is Holly, after running roughly 30-odd miles.

I mean, really.

Inspiring isn't even the word for her. Last I heard, she was up to $13,000 raised for Hello Gorgeous! And she was stopping at the pit-stops and doing ridiculous things like walking upright, laughing, and breathing!

In the sage words of Robert, "She be trippin'."

We drove around the city like a couple of idiots with no smart phone or GPS between them...

Eventually, we got where we were supposed to be.

We weren't able to stick it out to the end, but she made it. Of course she did! So proud of that lady. She decided to do something meaningful and important. She set goals and exceeded them. I know it took a lot of time, planning, training...not to mention the actual race. I know she was nervous at times. But she kicked fear in the shins and did what she was made to do.

It kinda makes me want to do the same!
I mean, minus the running part.

 Kids were showered up and in bed by 8, at which time Robert entered our room and didn't leave for 90 minutes. We had important business to conduct, on things like budgets and goals and other things he'd rather forget. :)

And that was just Saturday.

Here's to a new week, Party People!!