Thursday, January 8, 2015

What it Means to Come Home

A year ago, Robert was living under our roof. It was six months of learning as we went, a time of angst and struggle and so many misunderstandings ohmygosh.

It didn't go down like I'd pictured.
Even though I knew better, a tiny part of me thought he'd fold into our lives seamlessly and walk away a really tall, really loud, unexpected, brash- and-wild Jesus guy.
Whatever about the rest. It didn't matter.
I said.

But what I meant was, "We'll help him get strong in his faith then God will scrape out the parts of him that need scraping."

It felt like a win/win.

When I tell you it was hard, I'm not done talking.
There was so much more. So much good.

Like how I'd wake before dawn and hear his boots across the kitchen floor and the universe couldn't contain my pride for my hard-working son. I'd listen to him coo at his boys and my heart would split at the seams. We watched bad 90's movies and one time he "fried up" a bunch of potatoes with the fanciest bottle of olive oil I'll ever own, then did a boil/bake combo-of-doom with a New York strip steak. There were laughs. And nonsense. He taught me to be a better listener. He taught me the importance of saying, "I was wrong."

But by the time he left, we rarely even talked about God. When we did, it was complicated. Frustrating.

He taught me I can never be good enough, middle-class enough, or faithful enough to change someone's eternity. It's not my job. Never was.

Can I tell you how humbling it is to do (most) things "right", and end up further away from the prize than when you started? You cannot possibly imagine the doubt this brought to my door. Or the ways I replayed moments and nitpicked my best effort. (Maybe you can imagine.)

I worried we had somehow, accidentally, squandered one of our best gifts. I knew we'd missed the mark, despite our best efforts. It wasn't long before we watched from the sidelines as things got worse for him and eventually blew up in his face.

I cried on the phone while the jail-house line crackled in my ear like deja vu. I wanted him to be  ashamed of himself. I wanted him to feel guilt for the pain he was causing me. I hoped he'd default to Jesus like he had before, but I was well past holding my breath and in the end, I decided maybe jail was the best place for him.

I decided all these things and did my best to burden a young man who was already carrying bricks.
It didn't make my load any lighter.

I'm sorry if this story reads like a burned-out bulb.
The good news is, there's always good news. Jesus wasn't playing when He said I'd never outrun my chances.

Robert moved home yesterday.
He called from the factory and phrased it just like this, "Mom, I reached the highest level at work release. Can I come home for the rest of my home detention?"

Cory and I laughed, because the kid is smart. His word choice? Brilliant.
Of course he could come "home".

We're at it again, only this time, we all know what we're getting ourselves into. There's no room for anyone to feel duped or jailed. He knows we'll keep telling him to run to God and we know he might ignore us forever.

We can't give him back his first 18 years. We can't unstitch old wounds or paint him a rosier future. We sure as heck can't hand him eternity or make him want our faith.

But we can show him that faith of ours, and hope it matters.
We can prove again that he can't outrun his chances.

He's home. So we are, too.
We did it together.

The next six months will be full of outlandish misbehavior on all our parts. At some point, I'm sure I'll cuss, and I know I'll eventually cry.

God will use us to show him; he'll use him to show us, one more time, over and over again, who He really is and how crazy He is about us.

Because we never outrun our chances to come home.

*The photo happened yesterday, and it wasn't staged or my idea. The Littles are out-of-their-minds-relieved to have him home.


  1. OH Shannan! That picture...... and a place to call home!!!!! (Yep, his choice of words was brilliant! He's a smart, smart guy! :-) I will pray for you each and every time God places you on my heart!!

  2. This is so great to read! I'm overjoyed with you that your son is home. Yes, he knows where to tjrn, he loves you all and that...That is God! (at least in my book)

    Have fun, laugh, learn, cry, cuss, pray, but most of all keep loving limitlessly! :)

  3. Just ran into your blog this morning. What a treat tonight. Talk about unconditional love. Thanks for the example...and I will pray for you! Good stories here.

  4. Such an emotional picture. Glad things are lining up for him. You are doing amazing things by him.

  5. So happy for all of you, and so thankful that you have a way with a turn-of-phrase. We are blessed by your writing!

  6. Home is such a complicated yet tenderly sweet word. Praying y'all through.

  7. You CAN go home again!

    I am a lot older than you Shannan, but your writing speaks to me almost every time. Your words touch those deep protected places in me that need to be exposed to truth and transparency. Without being preachy or judgmental, but always sharing the love of Jesus, you reach people where they are and have the ability to speak through ages and income brackets and stages of life. You have a rare gift to share with your readers, and those kids of yours are sure blessed to have you for their mom!

  8. Love. How I would love to skip to the last page of this story and see what happens right now and then go back and savor it as it plays out in the story, but since this is real life, I'll just be rooting for you all and trusting that God has this young man in the shelter of his wings and your hearts FOREVER.

  9. Sorry to hijack the sweet comments. Cranberry salsa recipe link-->
    (Important stuff) :)

  10. "Liking" this picture on Facebook isn't adequate for how much I love it.

  11. #Swoon (and prayers, too - but mostly - Gah!!!)

  12. This is why I don't hang my head and mumble anymore when I tell people I'm a home-maker. This is a big job. BIG. May God flood you all with grace.

  13. home is a lot of things, but first and foremost and always: home is where your mom is.

    so glad he's home.

  14. A 'home' filled with love and 'real' people, a 'family' is where your son wants to be. Hurray and God's blessings on all of you.

    Love that photo ~ FlowerLady

  15. The moment when we surrender our idea that *we* can change a person and we let God be God. Amen.

  16. This is real religion - your honesty always amazes me. Press on and Fear Not!

  17. "I worried we had somehow, accidentally, squandered one of our best gifts. I knew we'd missed the mark, despite our best efforts."

    Don't equate other people's choices with "missing the mark." You are leaving a mark.

    And he is leaving a mark on you.

    Maybe that sharing with each other enough to leave marks is THE mark?

    I think you've hit the bullseye. Carry on.

  18. I love the word picture and the literal picture of grace. Praying for your family, your Robert, and your grace house this morning!

  19. The "win/win" thinking that you describe in the beginning reminds me of a conversation I had with my supervisor last year. I was meeting with someone and she wasn't taking my advice, which would (clearly) get her life back on track. In talking to my supervisor and describing the formula I had laid out for this woman's success, my supervisor kindly, gentley reminded me that formulas eliminate the need for God's grace. My formula assumes I've got all I need to get results and turns lives around. Ha. I honestly had not even considered the ugliness of this formula-living I was doling out. Ugh.

    So glad your son is home again. Grace to you all!

    1. What a great reminder. I have a coworker that struggles with debt and an addict husband, and the rest of us struggle with how to be her friend and offer appropriate help without enabling. I love your comment.

    2. Thank you for sharing this reminder. We want to be "fixers" and then see results. That is not our role most of the time.

  20. Love your blog and how you write so candidly about everything. You're a blessing to blogland :)


  21. Oh happy happy day!!!!!!!! I am thrilled for your guys!!! God is so sweet ♡

  22. Yeah he is home!! Can't wait for a hug. I love you Robert MARTIN!! And always will. Love Gram

  23. I'm so glad he asked to come HOME. He doesn't know how much he doesn't know but he's smart enough to want to come home to people who love him and tell him the truth.
    You wrote; "how humbling it is to do (most) things "right", and end up further away from the prize than when you started?" This was an arrow shot directly into my heart. I know that experience, I lived it with my son and it's beyond humbling. For me it was the realization that I never ever had any control when I tried so hard to pretend I did. In the end the only thing I could do was love him. That turned out to be the most important because now it's what remains, what I will always hang onto.
    You all are always in my prayers. Love the picture!!

  24. You know what you can never do? You can never erase for Robert the effect of you and the Mr. loving him so, trying so hard. He may not be in a pew every Sunday morning (and I don't belittle that, I am in a pew and it's important to me), but there is no where in life he can go that will fade the love of his mom and dad. Isn't that what Jesus asked us to do? John 15.12 - I just happen to be wearing a dogtag necklace that has that stamped on it today. He didn't tell us that the greatest of all commandments was to get him in a pew, it was to love.

  25. Oh, my. This made my heart crack wide open. I was making a list of all the reasons I had to be depressed and moody, but then, there you were. In my email. With the message from Jesus that we can't outrun our chances. Surgery, chemo won't hold me back from him, because he is there with me. Pure, healing grace.

  26. Had I been your neighbor, I would have quickly put up the balloons, gathered the confetti and baked a cake for this grand homecoming. May God's grace ooze out ...all.over.your. home.every. single . day! Praying for a covering of all that you need from God as you walk out His plan for your family one. day. at . a . time!

  27. "He taught me I can never be good enough, middle-class enough, or faithful enough to change someone's eternity. It's not my job. Never was."
    Those words, this entire blog - speaks to me. Thank you.

  28. um, wow - beautiful Shannon!


  29. Read this- had to click away to keep from bursting into tears. I'm back...feeling your happiness, trepidation, joy, fear and all the rest. My prodigal has come "home" several times- this time I had to say "no"...and trust that he can make it work. He has grown stronger, smarter, so maybe...?
    I pray daily it is so

  30. Well, I love you- don't even know you in 'real life', but I don't have to. Love you and sending lots of hugs your way my dear.

  31. Oh, Shannan, SO glad the LORD brought your big boy "home."

    Have been praying for him every day and I'm not stopping anytime soon.

    LOVE, love that way y'all love him so well!

    My friend, you make me want to do it better!!

    Love you homegirl,

  32. I am full on weeping here. I didn't expect it at all! I saw your insta saying Robert was home and thought "Oh, that's awesome!" but when I came and read it here your words hit deep into my heart. Home is such a powerful thing. I've always had a 'home' but there've been many times when I didn't have a place that felt like home. I don't even know what to say, I'm not sure what my heart is feeling. I know it's aching, I know you hit something really deep. A longing to provide home for the ones who don't have somewhere that feels like home. Thank you for your words and your life. If I was there with you I think I'd be weeping on your gingham. (Fortunately for your gingham the Atlantic's in the way.) I'll just have to send a (very not British) squish instead.

  33. #thereisntahashtaggoodenough Welcome home, Robert!

  34. This gives me a bit of hope about a situation that is near and dear to my heart.

  35. So wonderful. I just popped on over to your blog for the first time - what a great way to "meet you". You are marvellous. And by the time I'd read through this post all I could think of was this quote that I also stumbled upon today:

    "I don't want you to save me. I want you to stand by my side while i save myself."

    In the end, only the individual, Heavenly Father, and Jesus can sort it all out and make sense. Our job is to love unconditionally and stand by their side.

    You go girl!

  36. Welcome home, Robert! I hope the coming days are full of blessing, growth, and love (even during the really crappy moments).

  37. yes!!!!!!
    just read this & had no idea when i was coming undone yesterday this was going on in your world.

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  40. oh friend, this good for me. I keep re-reading it and I just need to say thanks. I have learned many of the same things this past year. So thankful there's always good news.

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