Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Jesus on the Under-Arc


There are days when things seem to be going well around here, when all the tides seem to turn our way. Weeks, even. Maybe months. These stretches aren't perfect. They aren't scripted for a show, plucked clean of shadows or mistakes. They're normal, run-of-the-mill days.

These are the days that make me suspicious. I pat down the urge to sniff the air for trouble.

A curious existence has found me believing something's missing with the pain. Keeping company with all our people has branded us with their trouble and all their darkened days. It lives in us now, lives in our home and along every street we find. It's hard to remember life without it.

When things start to feel too simple, I'm sure we're missing something. I'm sure someone is being forgotten. I can hear rumbling far out at the edges and I know it's coming for us.


I comb these blocks for beauty, desperate to be reminded that love lives here, and so does hope. Jesus made this the land of the living, and His goodness breathes life into the cracks. 

I want to get better at simply living the easier days.
It's so pointless to waste them in worry or in guilt.
I don't want to spend them looking over my shoulder or casting long glances in the rear-view mirror.



Because without doubt, someone's heartbreak finds us again.
It never takes long.

All the shoes drop and too many people need us.
I listen to our pastor through a wavy blur of held-back tears.
Contact burns are real.

You can't get too close without walking away singed.



I'm not good at making sense of the world I'm in. I've tried.

And in this harder, ordinary state of living, hope is found when we cobble together a few broken pieces and shape them into something whole and new. We re-frame our expectations for the zillionth time and wonder all over again why we ever thought black and white were real.

Almost all we ever see is gray.


Our biggest kid is locked up again, though hopefully not for long. He's at a work release center, which is kind of like jail, only he can go to work. (Except getting locked up meant he lost his job.) He made a dumb mistake, and it's costing him. It's costing his boys. It's costing the people who depend on him. It's costing us.

The phone lines crackle and pop and it feels like last year. It feels like he should be more frantic, more contrite, more ashamed.

I never thought of myself as someone who would wish shame onto one whom I love.

I also never thought of myself as the mother of a kid who sees incarceration as inevitable. Add up all the proof throughout the corners and creases of his life, and that's the conclusion you would draw, too.

But he laughs on the phone, tells me (again) that things will be alright. He adapts in 2.8 seconds.

None of this should surprise me.
Adapting is one of his most valuable skills. It has allowed him to survive.

It allowed him to be our son.

The reel spins back and here we are again.
I don't know why anything happens, anymore. I knew our job was never to fix people.
But my heart is tired of breaking and spending itself for pain.

I miss the days when poverty and injustice and racism and crime were only stories on the news.
I miss what it felt like to walk this life with lightness, holding a faith that didn't cost me a dime.

I don't know if 7 months with us can ever stack up against 18 years without us.

I don't know how to love this guy well enough, to give grace unending, to measure my reality against his and believe they are very much not the same. I don't know if what we did was enough. And I don't know if all our chances are up.

I do not know how to completely entrust his life to Christ when he says he can't even find Him anymore. I don't know how to help when all his patterns repeat and most of them aren't good.

Can I ever stop believing my middle class solutions are the Gospel itself? I keep seeing the danger they carry, the way they run contrary to the foolish truth Jesus spoke. But I default to them. They're all I know.

And if I can't break away, how could I ever expect Robert to?

It might be time to stop stacking hurts against graces. Aren't they all the same, anyway?
God is teaching us right now. He's pulling us near again, because we are weary. He's got us in a lock-hold so we can't sprint to cynicism or jadedness.

He's keeping us busy with diaper drops and phone calls and as the mess piles up around us, we recognize it for what it is. This is the circle of our life.

There are no clean lines around here. Just smooth curves and wide arcs that eventually take us right back to the place where we started.

And then they begin again.


*If you feel compelled to see R's cute face right now, click over here and look for him in our short video. I watch it ever single day, just to see the way his smile eats up the rest of his face and the way he looks so shy at the end. I can't stop loving that kid.

55 comments:

  1. I will pray for Robert. And you. One of my babies was sent to prison yesterday afternoon also. It's very sad.

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  2. Oh friend, you know I love this and you so much. Also, your words sound like they came straight from my own journal (except obviously more beautifully written than my journal scribbles) . . . Anyways, you're totally right -- so much easier doing this with you than alone!

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  3. I understand your heavy heart. Those old patterns are so hard to overcome. Thank God we don't have to do it in our own strength. I will be praying for all of you.

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  4. I have a child who insists on the hard road. I have found the book The Language of Letting Go very helpful. It reminds me of hope and prayer and helps to keep my fear where it belongs.

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  5. Praying for Robert and all who love him. Our hope does not disappoint.

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  6. movie The Hours on Netflix perfect for Mothers Day Weekend and this situation and this is my devotions today : Colossians 3:12-17 New International Version (NIV) 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

    15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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  7. "Can I ever stop believing my middle class solutions are the gospel itself?"

    Word, sister. Praying this for you and me.

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  8. Love you friend! Praying for you, your family and for your big boy. Hugs.

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  9. I needed this. Offering solutions from my middle-class perspective doesn't cut it at all, with some of the relationships God has brought into the curves and arcs of my life. This was good... I'm searching my soul today, pulling closer to Jesus to see Him in the broken places and pieces. Thanks, Shannan.

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  10. "It might be time to stop stacking hurts against graces. Aren't they all the same, anyway?" And HE is sovereign over all.

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  11. Oof. That's the sound of me wishing I could take a portion of this punch in the gut for you. I am just so sorry. I watched that video when you posted it the other day, and as much as it was cool to hear about your husband (I know that was the point of the video), I couldn't help being much more captivated by two other things: 1, seeing you "in action" and hearing your voice (for the first time after reading your blog for a long time. . .it was fun to hear you), and 2, seeing your darling kids, but honestly mostly robert. I don't really have words for that. . .I just felt so much, seeing that boy in the arms of a loving family like yours. So I'm heartbroken for you all today. Praying for you.

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  12. There is so much beauty in the broken places... so much grace that just rushes right on in! Praying for Robert and all of you... for all of us!

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  13. Poor, dear Robert. Poor dear you! Seven months stacked against 18 years is not outside the realm of God's possibility. You came into Robert's life for a reason and maybe he can see the hope in that.
    Love you lady.
    xo

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  14. Dadgum. Get out of my head (but don't actually, please!) … i have so many of these same thoughts so often but you articulate them so beautifully i almost want to scratch out all of my rambles and put these words in instead. such a sweet gift that you share them with all of us on the world wide web :) thanks for that!!

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  15. I miss the days when poverty and injustice and racism and crime were only stories on the news.
    I miss what it felt like to walk this life with lightness, holding a faith that didn't cost me a dime.

    me too.

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  16. Thanks for sharing another piece of your heart today! Know I am praying for you and Cory today. Lamentations 3:22-24...esp. 24....I love the NLT!

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  17. Words often sound so frivolous when you're commenting on other's blog posts. I pray that my words come across as sincere as they sound in my own head. This road that Robert's on right now is a mighty bumpy one. Ever since your family began loving on him, Satan's grip began to tighten. His grip is mighty firm. Since Robert joined you in your home, he's been doing his best to stay on a straight and narrow path. You've shown him a whole new world, and that world comes with a whole new instruction manual.The whole time he's been trying, Satan's tugging on him waiting for one slip up. Robert's journey is a series of steps and missteps. Once he's out of jail, he'll begin down his path again. You just continue to shower him in love and goodness and he'll gradually stay on the straight path longer and longer, and Satan, well, he'll finally just get frustrated with all your goodness showering on Robert, and he'll go and find a new soul to pick on. It's a long path and it's measured in God's time, not ours. You just stay patient, yet proactive. You and your family are in my continued prayers.

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    1. Thank you so much for this. Y'all are making me cry a hundred times today.
      "he'll gradually stay on the straight path longer and longer" this is sincerely all we really hope for.

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  18. This is one of the most beautiful blog posts I have read in a long time. As these commenters before me have also said, I will be praying. Thank you so much for your honesty and openness. You touch more hearts with your words than you may realize!

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  19. Today, I'm wishing for a switch. An easy button. I can't find it, and it feels heavy. I know that love is the answer and giving grace, but man, it is not easy. Remember what you said to me--"run to the crazy and brokenness, He is there." and that is getting me through so much of this crazy. Praying it can get you through your crazy. I think I need to call you.

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  20. My heart has sunk, sunken, sank? Anyway it dropped and I'm sad for you and the fam and for Robert.

    Here's the thing with this life, it truly is a series of falling down and God helping us back up. His grace over us is endless. This gives me the courage to keep extending it to others. Nope, not easy and yet somehow God carries that burden and it doesn't always feel as hard as it I think it should.

    I believe that his seven months with you will definitely make a difference (at some point) because those seven months were not just with you but with God! He never lets anything go to waste!!

    I love watching Robert in that video. He is a beautiful man, an image bearer of Christ. God has him in the palm of His hand, even Robert is unaware ♥ I love that about our God.

    I am praying for you all!! Keep on keepin on sister!

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  21. I knew he would go back, because I've lived it over and over... I hoped he wouldn't, I hoped your love and acceptance would be the miracle that would change things, just like I have hoped mine would... but I knew in my heart it wouldn't... I know, you knew. But still you keep loving, hoping praying, so do I.

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    1. Just to be clear, I would NEVER have said I "knew" he would go back. I worried that he might. But I had great hope that he wouldn't. He is beautiful and wonderful. He's a miracle.

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  22. No words... just a virtual hug, a prayer, and a box of tissues to share. Of course, it's a super cute tissue box that we'll later tape to the art wall. ;)

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  23. yes, life coming back the same, yet new..
    just read about this over on emily's blog.
    think God's making a point with me.

    love to you and your robert.
    not all of us parent a child locked behind real bars of steel..
    but i'm reminded we all have a very real enemy of our souls seeking to lock every one of us right up.
    to shut down. give up. quit loving. quit trusting.
    thankful for a saviour always bringing us round again. holding us tight.

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  24. Oh, Shannan. I will tell you what I would tell you if you were my own girl. What I've told my own girls many times over. As long as there is breath in the body, there is hope. I pray that you wouldn't let his (Robert's) words of inevitability penetrate your heart; that you would let His (Jesus') words speak life. Praying for your family.

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  25. "I don't know if 7 months with us can ever stack up against 18 years without us." Oy. I feel that everyday. This post put into more beautiful words the thoughts I have thought. Praying for you, Your Sister in the Trench.

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  26. just keep loving him unconditionally - show him jesus - the healing doesn't come from us, it comes when you finally believe that god does love you and you start letting Him

    I'll be praying for robert (and for you)

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  27. This post haunts me...in a good way.
    It reminds me to keep praying, loving, and hurting with people.
    This is real.
    This is what counts.

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  28. No. I'm really sorry. I get what you mean about the shame...not pointless guilt, but smelling the coffee, so to speak. Seeing a different way. I'm praying and believing.

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  29. Just, this!!
    "Can I ever stop believing my middle class solutions are the Gospel itself? "

    You're amazing!

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  30. My heart is with you tonight as I read this. Your family is a constant inpiration to me, and that video only makes me feel it even more!

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  31. Here's my Silly Sally Sunshine take: he's "locked up again, though hopefully not for long. . . he made a dumb mistake. . ." From where I'm sitting, that's a victory! It would be a shock if his life (anyone's life) turned around 180 degrees all at once. It's happening in degrees, but it is happening. This time, it's a dumb mistake, not really bad mistake; locked up for a short time, not a year or more. 'Two steps forward, one step back' is a tired, worn-out cliche for a reason. This is a crappy, crappy pothole on his path, but love -- yours, the love of Jesus through you and in him -- is pulling him those two steps each time.
    It's not good that he's locked up, it's not expected or inevitable, and it's absolutely not a defeat.
    Plus? Lay it down. He's got this.

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  32. I hadn't seen the Fatherhood Project video before tonight. So powerful. I remember thinking when I worked with Cory that he had a pastoral spirit. He is like a hipster shepherd in this video and you a prophetess. So grateful for you both, Shannan! For your voice and this platform from which I have l learned so much. Isn't it crazy how deep pain runs? How much we can love someone and desperately want the best for them, but their pain drives them from us? I know this in my life - often my own pain drives to me repeat a destructive path -- pushing me from the people who love me - almost as though it were reflexive, something I can't help, involuntary, though I know I have a choice... I can relate. I am surprised by this struggle (that sometimes sneaks up on me) and drives me to make less than wise choices. SO deeply thankful for people who just love us any way -- a skin and bones extension of the force of God's unconditional love for His children. His love heals and He loves us so much no matter what - so incomprehensible and yet so so wonderful - like Christmas morning all the time. I'm rambling... this why you blog and I don't. Thanks for saying so well what is so hard to put into words. Its a delight!

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  33. I keep going back to the time Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him, yet Jesus says in Luke 22:31, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."--there is hope! Jesus sees beyond failure!


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  34. love you, shannan. keep pressing into the fixer, healer, comforter, holds-it-all christ.

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  35. Oh Shannan. Love to you and Cory and to dear Robert. I will pray for him and you. Jesus won't let go!
    This also makes me think of this quote from CS Lewis.
    “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which,if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - These are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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  37. and you guys have yet another opportunity to show him what God's love REALLY looks like...the kind that is relentless and keeps coming and calling and forgiving. thanks for your vulnerability...and openness!

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  38. So so sorry, Shannan. Robert is a sweet spirit, and although I have not met him, I feel he has "eternity in his heart" from what of his sweet, joyous smile comes across in his pictures. I agree with so many of these sweet comments, and I, too have a "Robert" in my life who I struggle with. Some days I think the grace and kindness and advice I try so hard to lay down just falls right out the back of his head. So, as many of the commenters have also said - I will also be praying. We will be your Aaron and Hur holding up your hands, sweet Shannan. And I will add it to my prayer app right now so I'm not tempted to forget. ;)

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  39. Love......it's all we can do! Through it all....... Not always easy, not always understandable, sometimes, not willingly, a choice.....LOVE! You are good at this love thing!! :) Prayers headed your way!!! <3

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  40. okay, call me shallow, but, aside from all the thinking that this post made me do about the condition of our world and how we can each make it better one.thing.at.a.time, it made me wonder one thing: could i buy a print of that water picture? it's amazing!

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    1. OMW, I'm sorry this is so late! Email me at shannandmartin@gmail...
      :)

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  41. Just the fact that he can adapt in 2.8 seconds means that if he can adapt to this - he can adapt to getting back to happiness :) YOU ARE making a difference ........your courage and zest is so inspiring. Always follow your heart - I'm sure he knows that he wants to get back to his family as soon as possible. A slip up (even a dumb mistake) happens with young ppl - - stay strong for him. It is so tough not to worry but let your LIGHT inspire him and he will come around- God bless you all oxox

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  42. This right here? This is gospel, this is grace, this is gorgeous. Thank you for your faithful love of this young man, for your commitment to him, for your hope for him. Praying for you all and trusting that the next round will be two or even three steps forward. There will be steps back, there just will. There are for all of us - why should he be any different? But see - he's got you in his corner now. And 7 months will become 7 years and he will grow. And so will you. Though I'm not sure your heart could be any bigger without busting.

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  43. "Can I ever stop believing my middle class solutions are the Gospel itself? I keep seeing the danger they carry, the way they run contrary to the foolish truth Jesus spoke. But I default to them. They're all I know."

    This post is beautiful.

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  44. Are we living parallel lives?? I know exactly what you mean, I have a son incarcerated in spite of all the love in the world given to him. He's a charmer, handsome and talented, right now, all for naught. My son is adopted, the answer to long years of prayers and it breaks my heart to see what he's done with his life. He is due to get out next year, we shall see. I often fear I will go to my grave watching that horizon. Thank you for this, beautiful writing. Blessings.

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  45. Sweet Shannon, thank you for again sharing your heart, even if it is heavy. I join all the above, esp. those who related to your "middle class solutions" not being the answer. I fall in that trap too. Praying for you, sister.

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  46. My mom's neighbors are more than neighbors....they're family. They're youngest is currently out and in a special program that requires his parents and sometimes my mom to schlep him all over town to various meetings and appointments. He's spent the past couple nights in "detention" for screwing up somewhere along the time. I stand by 60 miles away and wait for him to completely lose his hold and end up back in for good. It's hard and it's ugly and it hurts sometimes. And we wonder where we went wrong.

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  47. This moved me more than I can say. Tears. Praying for Robert and for you all that God will hold you close through all the ups and down. We've been through our own dark valleys loving people in hard places. I've known the pull of cynicism, but Jesus keeps showing up. Let us readers know how he shows up for your family.

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