Wednesday, February 3, 2016

If I Have Gingham But Have Not Love

If you happen to subscribe to my Super Scoop newsletter (basically a top-secret blog post I write once a month) you received a post in your inbox the day before I left for Ecuador detailing what I packed for the trip.

Tucked into my "curated" (think comfy and grime-friendly) mix was a gingham shirt.

You know the one.
Except you actually don't.


I need to back up.

A week or so before the trip, I was going about my usual business. Writing. Mothering. Trying my best to be an engaged wife and a committed neighbor in the mix of the daily grind, which had temporarily slid off the rails it into even grindier territory.

In the midst of a whole string of those days, I unexpectedly found a bit of extra cash in the budget.

What I mean is, after already having every single thing I needed for the month, after buying (among hundreds of dollars of other things) containers of feta crumbles, organic bananas, a case of chicken stock, a jar of pitted olives, fig jam, unsalted pistachios, Honeycrisp apples and two bouquets of Kroger flowers, after accidentally letting a package of chicken breasts rot in the fridge, after a few meals out because "I needed a night off", after ensuring our gas tanks stayed filled, the lights stayed on, and our family had the chance to go ice skating (again,) there was still more left.

I didn't want to see it go to waste, so I paid a visit to my old flame, J Crew. After scrolling absentmindedly through the clearance section long enough to make the whole thing look casual, I went in for the kill.

A brand new navy gingham button-down, bought without a single percentage of discount, because I could.

No worries, I deserved it. I'd worn the old one, bought from the outlet store, for over five years. Almost daily. It was starting to get that funky smell.


I needed this new gingham shirt with its mystifying "Boy Fit". The fact that it came in a Tall - sleeves that would actually cover my wrists! - was but the final link in the chain. It was meant to be. I'd earned it, and I would not feel guilty.

The honest truth is, I still don't feel guilty.

I packed it in my bag and lived one of the most significant days of my life with its easy weight on my skin, the collar half-popped. Though it didn't make me a better dancer, it somehow made me a braver one.

The problem is, I can't stop thinking about that dang gingham shirt. It niggled into my thoughts before I even arrived and keeps chasing me down. It's causing me some tension, and crinkle cotton is sort of supposed to be the opposite of that.

The point is obviously not that gingham is bad. Not even overpriced gingham. 
I love my new-and-improved gingham bestie.

But I can't outrun the reality that my impulse purchase which brings negligible improvement to my quality of life, would translate into a monthly sponsorship of two (almost three!) of the children I played with today.

The money I spent on longer sleeved-version of a shirt I already owned would dramatically alter the course of these young lives.

It sounds dramatic. Before this week I might have given a comment like that the low-grade side-eye myself. (Reeeeally??)

Today, I'm telling a different story.

Today, I sat in a one-room, bamboo home and watched a young mother tear up as she told us how her twelve-year old son's Compassion sponsorship has changed the entire course of their family's future. Their local church, which partners with Compassion to release these kiddos from poverty, has become a tremendous source of hope for them, offering counseling, healthcare, and above all, the life-giving hope of simply being known and loved, by neighbors (near and global) and God.

The shirt was never the thing.  The thing is this: if I come to a place where I value my want over someone else's need, I've become a clanging symbol dressed in rags.

God loves us too much to watch us go down this way. He wrote the end, and knows what we stand to gain by laying ourselves down for the sake of another.

He wants our hearts, our service, our willingness to throw our tchotchkes and dreams on the altar of much better things, things that might look to us like less.

But then we stop. We look harder.
The universe flips in the favor of our Rescuer.

And we're all a little more free.


If I could pull you through my laptop screen and into Manta, Ecuador, not a single one of my words would be necessary. Since I can't, I humbly ask that you take my word for it and sponsor a child through Compassion. Lives are being changed, including mine.

Read more from:
Our fearless trip leader, Bri, as she writes about her cutie-pie friend Marcela at A Holy Experience. "Marcela, today you reminded me that my life is worth losing so that Jesus can save so many others."

Ashley Ann at Under the Sycamore. "When we consider how we want to raise our kids – the characteristics we want to cultivate in them, the type of influences we want in their lives, the kind of faith that demonstrates a dance between faith, love and action – we can’t afford not to expose them to hard realities."

Ruth at Gracelaced. "It's just that Jesus gives us eyes to see when we let Him show us how Gospel-living is upside down in this fleeting world." 


  1. I might have been waiting up for this anxiously to read your words and hear your heart. It is a gift to walk beside you this week.

  2. Yup, finished my much needed shower, and knew this post would say words I didn't get to say. Grateful for you, friend.

  3. here i am again with the three of you... but not! shannan!! you are so dang good with words! i love the shirt and now it is a reminder shirt right? you will remember the day you felt different in it. love you!

  4. My biweekly grocery trip was delayed by 3 days this week due to kid illness. This morning I was creatively finding things to pack for the healthy kids' lunches and was suddenly humbled that even though we are "out of everything", we are not actually. And then reading this - humbled again. So grateful for the universe flipped in favor of the Rescuer, for the gift of being myself rescued, for the too-hard-to-fully-fathom privilege of being able to return everything I am and have to Him to be a part of His rescue of others.

  5. I love this post...thanks for sharing and challenging me!

  6. I love this post...thanks for sharing and challenging me!

  7. Oh this. "The shirt was never the thing. The thing is this: if I come to a place where I value my want over someone else's need, I've become a clanging symbol dressed in rags."

    I love how you bring light to the "things" we forget. Praying for you this week and waiting anxiously for the words from this journey each day.

  8. "He wants our hearts, our service, our willingness to throw our tchotchkes and dreams on the altar of much better things, things that might look to us like less." Things that might look less but are better... Lord, loosen our grip on the things we hold too close.

  9. I love this. This is something God has been teaching me over the last year - releasing my wants for something much better, and more eternal. Thank you for sharing and continuing to challenge us all with your God-given words. Love you friend!

  10. Putting our wants before someone else's needs slips in so easily with rationalizations galore. But once you know, you can't not know. Thank you for sharing your heart. Your words make a difference (and I totally have that shirt too.).

  11. Child sponsorship looks so good on you. xoxo

  12. The words typed on this blog and on Ashley's and Ruth's are bringing awareness of needs that I simply did not "know" about. Oh, I know that there is poverty in El Salvador, but I am seeing it through the eyes of you women and your sons. And, through your sons. (Those son's amaze me!) I see them growing in the photos. Thank You, for showing me the faces of the children and their families. I will be finding a child to Sponsor.
    Shannan, your shirt. Your new, longer gingham shirt? I saw it tucked up against that to the cage. Did you leave it? Gosh, I sure do love and care deeply for you and the others who are teaching me through this journey. Jo

  13. Yes!! This is exactly what God has been teaching me lately, too. About a year ago I ran across a Ghandi quote that said, "Live simply, so others may simply live." I think Jesus would agree. The less I spend on myself, and my wants, the more I have to give others. My word of the year is "Simple" for these (and other) reasons. I've blogged several times lately about what I'm learning on this journey of life.

    Since the Compassion Bloggers trip in 2013 God has done amazing things in my life in this regard and now I'm a huge advocate for the work of Compassion and am constantly looking for ways to trim our budget to come up with an additional $38/mo to sponsor another child since the reality is our family of 4 spends more than $38 each time we go to a sit down restaurant. Thank you for this beautiful post!

    1. Nope, it was just there when we arrived. Yet another reminder to me and, honestly, the biggest inspiration behind this post. :)

    2. Ha! A bil ol' Jesus Smile, put there especially for you! I noticed it immediately. : )

  14. Man, man, man.

    Gingham is always going to be like string tied around my finger now - it will help me not to forget.

  15. Shannan. Thank you, for showing us another part of the world, and a way that we can express our love for Jesus. Another way to let His light shine into dark and shadow of these young lives. I signed up for supporting one of the longest waiting children, and i am blessed by it in so many ways. God is good.

  16. It is a constant battle, feeling the need to satisfy our wants, when we know the need that is out there. Thank you for sharing your stories this week. Praying that many people read these words and take that step to change the life for a Compassion child. You guys are making a difference!

  17. you, you, you. always with the words. meg is right, its a reminder shirt now. (i have too many of those because, well i am a hoarder.) i'm so excited for the way Jesus is opening your eyes on this trip. He's doing something in my heart through the three of you, and i'm grateful for your "yeses"

  18. Wow! I am so glad that you joined this trip and I have had the pleasure of reading your words this week. They wreck me, but in a good way. I've linked one of your posts with all credit to you that has helped remind me of why I sponsor kids. Thank you for sharing and for your words. Praying for all of you as you finish out your visit.

  19. I had a dream last night that I went to a store and bought a full outfit, including a necklace. I was so uncomfortable about the whole thing. All I could think of was the necklace was $85 and I could be buying so much prettier from the girls in Africa. I like it that I dream about my sisters and brothers in my sleep. It makes me more aware during the day that life isn't about me. Love you both so much!!

  20. Oh, this hit me! So often I think about budgeting for my wants and when I do that, it's easy to forget the need all around us and what more I could be doing about it. These Compassion blogs really do open my eyes to the wider world out there.

  21. So interesting to read this today...the verse is one I almost used in my own blog today...glad I saw the tweet from @LizCurtisHiggs and found my way here. I write at if you care to check it out...just getting back in the groove so it looks disjointed right now, but I will get there. ( :

  22. Whoo, baby, I've been having the same exact thoughts, I saw a purse for $250 in a magazine last night and thought, wow, that's about half a year of changing a kid's life through the sponsorship program I am privileged to partner with ( And you're right, it's not about the shirt, the purse, the dress or the shoes, because maybe you do smell a little nicer now :) It's about the power that the gift has.

  23. This olive gingham casual check shirt capabilities a completely unique, outsized gingham sample in military and olive inexperienced take a look at. presenting a button-down collar with contrasting collar & tender hand feels material | Info Shared by Pay Someone To Write My Essay For Me Services Cheap - Apex Essays.