Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Yellow and Red

Last night, I drove the three little kids to see a Christmas lights display in a city 45 minutes away, in Cory's old beater with no working radio. I'm not sure how or why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

When we discovered a new-to-us sub joint with bottles of malt vinegar on the tables for the hand-cut fries, things were looking up. But when we found ourselves at Wal Mart to do last-minute Christmas shopping after dark, the evening took on a decidedly bleak tune.

I've spent the past few weeks in a dash to finish the edits on my first book, and it's not the writing or the work that exhausts me. It's the worry that I'll hold it in my hands in the end and believe it could have been better.

Can you imagine a better way to suck the soul out of art? The fear that maybe it won't be perfect?

I promise you: it won't be perfect.

But as much as I kept reminding myself of the truth, it didn't sink in until Silas came down with one of the scariest kid-illnesses in the history of my motherhood, three days before my deadline.

He's fine now, and it whipped my priorities into shape - but quick.

A few nights ago I lay in bed, eyes burning, and told Cory I wished I would come down with a sore throat. Not strep, just sore. And with a low fever. I wanted an excuse to be taken down for a few days. As soon as the words escaped I wanted to gather them up like a burst of confetti and stuff them back inside. But I knew I'd never find all those little pieces and most of them had already hit the floor.

Maybe it's the exhaustion I'm feeling. Or the sensation of having all of my emotions siphoned out through my fingertips. Maybe it's the two guys staying in the basement for a while who simultaneously fill me up and make me tired.

Maybe it's the fact that I feel extra-needed right now, when what I really want is a maid. I want to stop waking up the next morning realizing I was too spent to tell Cory really important things that had happened the day before, or even two.

Just like last year and the year before, I have neighbors sending me desperate text messages this week about eviction notices and loved ones who are slowly killing themselves before their eyes. I have friends hiding out in fear, nearly snuffed out by the oppression life deals them. There are people I love leaning hard toward chemical love, unable to believe the real kind stands right next to them, waiting.

Surprise, surprise.
Christmas is hard this year.

It's bright and warm and it is so, so sad. I fight back the temptation, just like always, to huddle up and pretend the problems banging on my door are not my own. I say I want a simpler way, pretending Jesus came to bring joy and forgetting that he also came to suffer life with us.

We get to taste all of it, with him at our table, along with whoever else happens to stop by.

Last night, after the Italian subs and the cheap, Wal Mart tokens of our unending love, we hit up a massive, subdivision lights display.

It was fun until it wasn't, and as we (finally) escaped and drove away, Silas said, quietly, "My heart feels yellow. Yellow means lonely."

We know Christmas is red and green. It's been ingrained in us since birth.

But do we have the guts to admit it's also kind of yellowish? Can we possibly bear all three?

His law is love and his gospel is peace.
He knew we'd spend part of life swimming in sadness and at war.

He didn't wave a wand and spirit it all away from afar. He came to bear it alongside us, and ultimately, to conquer it.

I wrote a post today over at (in)courage, sort of a manifesto for all our happy/sad, battered hearts. I hope it brings you comfort, somehow. I hope you'll pass it along to someone who might need the reminder that they aren't a misfit or a weirdo, they're just a little yellow, along with Silas and the rest of us. 

Hopeful Always,


  1. Shannan I feel like you looked into my soul and expressed what I am feeling this year. I have been struggling with the discord of a world "pretending Jesus came to bring joy and forgetting that he also came to suffer life with us." As I watch a loved one ebb towards death and someone else in my family make poor choices I find that I am feeling yellow in my heart too. I find peace in knowing that Christ came to overcome sin and death and feel "a thrill of hope" and my "weary world rejoices" in this knowledge. Stay strong in this truth. I will be praying for you! Thank you for blessing my life with your goodness.

  2. Thank you for this post. It is so good to know that I am not the only one, and that of course in this world our Christmases will sometimes be hard. And mine have been both good, and really hard, for the last few years. I just wanted to let you know the meaning of "red and green" though. I read that it came from the colors of the holly and berries, and that the holly symbolizes the crown of thorns and the berries, the blood that Christ shed for us. Anyway, the red and green are BOTH ... both horrible and sad, AND also joyful because of the victory that He gave us through His suffering. Here's a link about the holly, look down to "Christmas and Holly" ... Merry Christmas!

  3. I love you, friend. Happy to hear Silas is feeling better. Praying for you all... and so excited for your book! Merry Christmas - in red, green, and yellow!

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  5. Your gospel is so raw and tender at the same time. Pointing out all of our flaws and failures but without harshness. You do a fine job and do not punish yourself wondering if it could be done better. It is already better than most! Merry Christmas - may you find the peace your heart is craving and your Christmas spirit through your service.

  6. I just read your post over at in courage. I don't know how you do it! I've felt for awhile now that I seem to be on the outside looking in at most of our Christmas traditions and now I know why. Sometimes I forget that we are not part of this world. We are just in it. Thank you so much for reminding me.

  7. The season is too long. The season is too short. I'm not making the most of every holiday minute. I need to rest. Look at all the happy faces! Hunger and job loss, home repairs and not stop for the holidays. Maybe that's why the lights and ornaments on the tree are multi-colored - Christmas, no matter what the ads say, it not simply red and green.

  8. I read what you wrote over "there." It was great!

  9. Oh I love this. As someone also having a hard Christmas, this was such a huge comfort.

  10. Your words and images have long been a balm to my soul--candor and whit and grace all wrapped up in one. Have you perchance read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, "Big Magic"? If you haven't, might I suggest you add it to your reading list? She dishes on the creative process and speaks with candor and whit and grace about what it means to make things. Wishing you and yours a few days filled with a slice of solitude and much beauty.

  11. I'm grateful for your transparency. Your writing challenges me to "get real" with my thoughts. Thank you for this blog post. I appreciate you.

  12. The weather(record rains in GA) has sucked the life out of my dh. He struggles with needing a schedule on days that are supposed to flow naturally into family joy... yellow.. oh my, so well said. Eyes on Jesus. Christmas is come. It will be bright and merry in a perfect way, just a the moment we need. Thanks for sharing your window to the world. You've captured some of the deepest needs and walked them to our front door... sticking your foot right between the door and the sill. Relentlessly holding the hands of those in need, walking them into our lives. need is 365. Thanks Shannan.

  13. You have a gift to see it like it is and then tell it like it is. Thanks for leaning into that.

  14. This brought so much comfort to my heart this evening, and I am thanking Silas for being so honest and allowing me to be honest with myself and say there is yellow in my heart this Christmas as well.

  15. Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful inspirational family. Every post is a blessing. Thank you for sharing your faith and honesty with the rest of us. Blessings in the New Year.

  16. It is so hard to watch our neighbors suffer. We're right there with you. Sometimes I want to not answer the door. But Jesus keeps stretching our hearts. And family stuff is hard. Choices made by others that we wish were so different. It's definitely not a spotless season...but I don't think it ever was intended to be.

  17. our christmas was hard as well. all different reasons than yours but bottom line the same. lonely is a good word. missing the mark. disappointing everyone everywhere we go. and disappointed by other as well. sigh...