Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Intentional Act of Eastering Together

Easter Sunday, like every other Sunday, our pastor passed the microphone around our small sanctuary to anyone who'd like to share. She asked us, "What difference did God make in your life last week?" We're often slow to get started, but it only takes that one brave soul to go first. Sometimes I nudge Cory to get things started. Now and then I raise my hand first.

Last week, it was Charles. He told us about a letter he had finally written to his Grandma, how he had stuffed a few Polaroids of himself into the envelope, and then promptly lost it somewhere between his home and the post office. "Two days later, she called to tell me how much she loved the letter I sent her, said it was exactly what she's been needing to hear from me, and she really liked the pictures." He paused. "So, God made a difference by allowing some kind soul to find my letter lying on the ground and drop it into the mail box for me."

Sunday afternoon as I washed up the last dishes from our Easter lunch, the sheer level of my gratitude hit me straight in the tear ducts. There have been Easters where I held every symbol close to my chest, suddenly absorbing meaning from stories that were worn down over the years through uncertain repetition. I have wept through each consecutive church service during Lent. I've surrendered sweets and staying up late. I have prayed for understanding and felt the quiet thrum of awe when those prayers were answered. There had never been an Easter bunny for me, but there had also never been a smudge of ash on my skin or a liturgy of lament. There had never been a congregation so frail that even trying to pretend otherwise would be utterly pointless.

It shouldn't surprise me that my soul is at home in this bruised and beaten body. We could pass the mic and never stop passing it, each one taking our turn, peeling back the story like petals on a rose. We are bitter, angry, grieved, addicted, lonely, stubborn, weary, and often cynical. But we have our reasons. We know what it means to search for hope as though our actual life depends on it. Through this sharing, we are somehow fortified, God's trick math showing up once again, abundance arriving at the back door of surrender.

I spent a good chunk of Easter weekend in the kitchen. We had taken a spontaneous turn with the mic the previous week and offered anyone without a place to go on Easter Sunday a seat at our table. I thought we would have our usual gang. I wasn't prepared for hands to fly up across the sanctuary. And I wasn't prepared for one of the many grandmas to draw in inches from my face after service and press a twenty dollar bill into my palm. "I can't do the things you're doing anymore, but I wanted to help." (I cannot type her words today without tears.)

We changed the venue. Ruby helped mix an industrial-sized pan of hash brown potatoes and I conquered my first (and second) ham. I baked pies and knew it didn't matter when one of the crusts fell in under its own weight.

Late Saturday night, I contemplated the dress hanging in my closet since October with the tags still attached. If there was ever a day that warrants a special dress, it might be Easter. But I thought of my friends from the Work Release center two streets over who would slide into the pew a few minutes late wearing the same jeans they wear to their factory jobs and knew I'd be there waiting in my own Easter jeans.

I'm guessing God has the kind of spiritual X-ray vision that sees past our attempts to polish ourselves up or pretend we're harder than we are. I delighted in seeing Ruby twirling in her dress and in Silas, decked out for the most important day of the church calendar in athletic shorts with five lanyards draped around his neck. It's safe to assume God doesn't have big opinions on this. But kinship is an interesting friend. It draws us together and changes our lens. God keeps showing me His goodness in the faces of my neighbors and the ways they mean it when they say they love me just as I am. It makes me want to keep offering the same back to them. It makes me want to sit in solidarity with them, to really be with them, not out of pity or some off-brand of Christian service, but because I recognize how badly I need them to be with me.

Lunch was as weird and wonderful as I had hoped, a hodge podge of twenty-five loners and lovers, the drifters and the deeply misunderstood. Lisa helped me glaze the ham. Josh asked for the recipe for the potatoes. Becca put Stephanie at ease. Jesse swung the kids around by their arms until one of them legitimately thought he might puke. Cory held the brand new baby. And as Brian zipped out the door to meet his work release curfew, he locked eyes with me, kissing the tips of his fingers like an Italian chef. No big surprise, we all love pie. 


I'm becoming more convinced that this is how God moves among us. This is how His kingdom comes down to meet us, not so much through the grand gesture but in quietly compelling our hearts toward togetherness. We chop broccoli. We look each other in the eye. We hold out our breaking hearts with shaking hands, choosing hope over history.

We keep our eyes fixed at ground level, paying attention to what might have been lost along the way, and carrying it home.


Saturday, April 1, 2017


Yesterday I spent a few important hours drinking tea and eating delicious frozen pizza and holding a chunky, scrumptious toddler while the bigger kids ran through the kitchen now and then, costumed and squealing. We don't see each other enough as we should, given our proximity, so we filled in the gaps since our last chat and sometimes we just sighed together.

My sense of normalcy continues to slip away.

I find it harder and harder to not venture into the rogue alleyways of my brain, where I have no easy answers and where I'm prone to lapsing into judgment then circling back around to confession, a long winding loop. I cannot help it any longer. I won't bear the lie that each of us is just fine the way we are. I know for sure I'm not. I'd rather not pretend otherwise. There's deep soulwork here waiting to be excavated. I want to wake up tomorrow a little closer to the character of God.

It sounds so good, in theory. So Christian.
In practice, it costs me things I'm not sure I want to pay.

What does God want from us? I can't say for sure, but I can promise you, He has some things in mind. Grace is free, I know this well. I'm faced with it daily. But transformation doesn't happen in a vacuum. It implies an altered state, something like a chemical reaction or the burn of a white-hot flame. If we want to change, it will cost us.

If we don't want to change, we need to look long and hard out our window and ask ourselves why.

In the end, it usually feels more comfortable to stay the same, pat each other on the backs. We're fine the way we are.


It's easier to run off to Target, or maybe to pour another glass of wine, or scroll Instagram for the seventeenth time or scoop another serving of chicken potpie into our favorite bowl. It's easier to take a nap. Eat half a sleeve of thin mints. Obsess about our bodies. Spend our time worrying about things that were only intended to improve the lives of the privileged.

I'm sorry to be such a downer, especially on a Saturday. There's been plenty of good news around here, too. The Christmas cactus is in full bloom, our favorite four-year old is here for a couple of nights, Silas keeps busting out in spontaneous prayer, Ruby won the Craftsmanship award at school, I've been making a lot of soup, Calvin went grocery shopping with me yesterday, and Cory is everything. It's the good stuff with the hard stuff. The whole two bucket thing, and I'm honored I get to live every bit of it. Soup has its own theology, you know? Sunshine and warm laundry are hope enough to burst a sturdy heart, on the right day.

I just have to wonder, what would it look like if we grew wary of comfort? What if we committed to be transformed? What if we cared even less about stuff and more about our neighbor?

I asked those questions out loud yesterday, and my friend asked her own. We stared down our own complicity and munched on discarded apple slices.

It felt good, to just say the truth out loud.

So, I'm just putting this out there - if you find yourselves asking weird or unpopular questions, I'm here for you. You can't scare me away. You can only make me feel more like a soul and less like a body and honestly, that's right where I want to be right now.

Here are a few good reads for your weekend and a wish that it would be spring in your heart.

::  This renewed my vows with wanting to cram as many people into my home as possible.

::  I desperately wish more people would get comfortable talking about pain and addiction.

:: We love spur-of-the-moment adventuring and Ashley's trip to Casey, IL is calling our name!

:: It took me a very long time to begin to understand the prayer of lament. This is piercing.

:: I just made my first-ever batch of Rice Krispie Treats (say what?!) and they're LEMON! (scroll to the end of the post)

:: We're road-tripping with friends later in the week, and I'm deeply committed to providing treats.

:: But please don't worry, because we'll also be eating lots of vegetables.

:: This month-long series on understanding immigration issues and our response is a gift in these confusing times. I'm grateful for those willing to educate us. Now is the time to learn!

:: My friend Lisa-Jo Baker's new book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding & Keeping Lasting Friendships, releases in just a few days! She is the perfect person to write this book, and I can't wait to dig in. You can grab your copy now for less than ten bucks and be one of the first to read.

::  Friends, Cory was monkeying around on PhotoShop and showed me this creepy, post-apocalyptic cow pic, laughing. I immediately knew it needed to be shared with you. If this doesn't make your weekend, what will?


- Flower Patch Farmgirl
(Oh yes, it's still deep within me. I blame the cow.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Raising Kids Near Pain

On Monday a letter arrived bearing all the tell-tale signs: Jail Mail. My favorite. There was the nondescript legal-sized envelope, the blue lettering, the stamp across the front which always reads like a warning. This time, it wasn't addressed to Cory or I. It was addressed to Calvin.

Inside, a thin sheet of white, unlined paper folded into thirds with a full-color sketch of the solar system and a greeting written with a flimsy, nearly unusable jailhouse pen. Calvin beamed when he read it. I tear up just thinking about it.

Back when we first knew we would be selling our cozy farm house and moving to a disadvantaged neighborhood in a nearby city, we were pummeled with doubts, criticisms, and wary looks of skepticism. By far, the most common question was, "What about your kids?"

We swatted at the words as if they were flies, as if we could shoo them away without menace or attack. But they always circled back, buzzing in our ear, blending into a new soundtrack of worry and mystery. A few times, we were bit, but the pain was never enough to keep us down, and here we are. The skeptics have long given up. I'm guessing they see that we're all okay. It's clear that the threat of danger was only imagined and besides, we never listened anyway. Some have become more supportive over time. Others have realized it's more fun to chalk it up to foolishness and smirk from a distance.

Me? I wonder with increasing frequency how all of this will play out in the future lives of my kids, and even in me. That's what time will do for you. It'll strip away the sheen of adventure, that hard glint of adventure. The unfamiliar road map in your hands will eventually be ground into your heart as your feet hit the same earth, again and again.

Before long, you'll have trouble remembering the long gravel lane and the rusty mailbox at its end. Months will pass before you stop to consider the upstairs bedroom with the train wallpaper, the one you hadn't had time to fill. Back then, in that old life, there were entire rooms that sat stuffy and needless. There was always plenty, then. Always excess. There were vacations every year, trips to Old Navy for the heck of it, new lamps and lavish, futile gardens. There were rows of strawberries so thick you stopped trying to keep up. You wiped juice from your chin with your shirt sleeve with no concern for the stain. Why did we so rarely walked back to the row of pines? What did the kitchen smell like? How exactly did we spend our lives? The answers are long gone. You'll never know.

I used to imagine my kids growing up with calloused feet and tender hearts. I guess I was half right, but not for the reasons I assumed. I thought tenderness was the result of careful vigilance. Keeping my little buddies as protected from the world as possible was my goal. I day-dreamed in fences. I willed their brown eyes to stay pure, shining light to the darkness without absorbing the remnants. I was nervous about the start of Kindergarten in our highly ranked school, nervous about the big, bad school bus, nervous that if they ever saw someone sneaking a cigarette out behind the garage they'd take up the habit and never look back. (In the scheme of all I'd seen of life, which wasn't much, cigarettes remained one of my primal fears - a sure sign pointing to a life lived in the wrong direction.)

What I didn't realize is that enduring tenderness of heart, the kind kids can carry with them as they grow, the sort of tenderness that yields empathy, solidarity, and kinship comes from marinating in places where God's presence is vital and his power is sure.

This doesn't require a move to the city, a new job, a new school, or new neighbors fresh from jail. It demands attentiveness. Humility. Grit. We have a say in what our kids are exposed to, and how. We can choose to toughen-up our faith (and theirs) while the stakes are still low, giving them glimpses of God's kingdom here on earth, in all its busted-up beauty. The question is, do we want it badly enough? Do we believe the cross is worth it?

Two days ago, I ran a quick errand with my sick little Silas. We drove past the row of houses that were leveled earlier in the week, past the empty store-fronts and the sad looking homes that remained, sucked dry of color and life. "Why did God invent drugs" he asked.

I'm still surprisingly unprepared for these questions, but I drew in a breath and we did our best to hash it out. I offered the necessary back-story, about Adam and Eve and what God intended for the world. We talked about the sin we're all steeped in, and how Jesus is our only escape.

Those answers have always been easily within reach. They're true and necessary, the foundation of the thing. But the longer we're knotted up with broken, beating hearts around us, the more familiar we become with the rest of the story.

So we talked about that, too.

"Sin opened the door to sadness and loneliness. When we don't know the love of God and when we don't feel loved by the people nearest us, it makes our hearts and even our bodies hurt. And when we feel that kind of pain, when we believe we are not lovable, we reach for the wrong things to try to feel better."

He nodded along slowly.

"This is why it's so important to invite people over to our house for lunch. We want our friends to feel our love, because that's also how they can start to feel God's love. Then they won't feel so lonely..."

He finished my thought, "And then we won't be lonely, too."


As our kids get older and more aware, I'm struck by the different kind of normal their childhood is providing them. What will they embrace? What will they reject? When they look back on all of this, will it feel like a massive rip-off? Would they cash it in for clothes that weren't bought second-hand or fancier vacations? More privacy? Less commotion? Will they grow weary of hearing about our squeaky budget and race to high-paying jobs and gated communities? Will they join the dominant culture in despising the poor? Will they climb the ladder, puffing up in superiority over those buckling under heavy loads? Will they forget their inborn smallness and believe what they have is theirs to keep? Will they take up smoking, or worse?

I hope not, but I don't know. If I'm learning anything here, it's that I wasn't charged with guaranteeing anyone's future or scrubbing clean their sins.

All I can offer is the best I know of life, the celebration of suffering along with the abiding hope of joy. We need not fear brokenness. We can choose to gravitate toward the unfamiliar, then stick around until it feels like home. We can leave our front door easy on its hinges and choose the comfort of a family forged of misfits. We can identify ourselves as the misfittiest among them.

Calvin is twelve now, in all of its glory.  He's not in my space quite like he used to be. He isn't as cuddly. He asks harder questions. His brown eyes still shine, but with complexity. It's uncomfortable to watch him navigate friendship, status, belief, privilege, and responsibility. I didn't know how much I would strain to steer his ship. I didn't know how wobbly my faith would be.

He showed Cory his birthday card as soon as he arrived home from work later that evening. Here's what I had forgotten: just as there is no natural light inside the jail, just as there is no fresh air (ever,) there is very little color. Beige uniforms, gray walls, gray floors, gray dinners on gray trays.

Crayons, markers, and colored pencils and inks are banned. So in order to make a full-color greeting card, an inmate has to launch an expensive and complicated process involving candy wrappers, overpriced jail deodorant, and hours of meticulous scraping and depositing. There is no room for error. And it will cost them.

Have I ever cared that much?

I grabbed the card again, held it closer, studied it with blurred vision. "Thank you for being our friend," it read. 

Sometimes, life plays to my basest worries. Aren't we all doing the best we can, sweeping all the pieces of life into one pile and calling it good? I cannot pretend to read the future, but I have been handed the gift of living very near the poor and overlooked, and I'm passing it onto my kids. The box is obviously recycled, the corners softened and worn. The bow is wonky. The paper is torn.

But open it up, sweet boy.
What you find inside will change you.

"We're often asked if our unconventional life puts our kids at risk. Do they suffer for it? Are they safe? At times, we settle for the easy answers. Yes, of course they're safe. They don't suffer. They're never at risk.

The longer truth is, risk swirls around us, sinister and unseen. Suffering tails us daily, not because we live in a particular neighborhood or welcome hard lives to our table, but because we are broken humans in a fallen world." - Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted (still just $1.99 on Kindle


My friend Emily P. Freeman wrote a beautiful piece on what it feels like when our kids grow up. "It feels like torn lace, like smoke, like wedding mints melting on your tongue." Read it here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


It's been a weird couple of weeks.

All I know is, I had a really fun* visitor, then it was Cory's birthday, then Calvin's, then Silas got sick for a week and started saying things like, "Mama, sometimes when my body starts to get hot I feel really...angry." And, "Is there a tube inside our body for, like, food and water and stuff?" (Yes.) "Well, my main question is, is the tube made of plastic? Or glass?"

What I'm trying to say is, the weeks have been a blur of the best of everything. On Tuesday afternoon I deferred all responsibilities, watched Zootopia with Si, then we both took a nap. In the middle of the day. With lots of cuddling in between, no unnecessary hygiene, no constricting fabrics, and I can't even remember, but I'm guessing I found a way to not even cook dinner. (Sick days are kind of awesome when you're not even sick.)

I also did lots of reading. Want a teaser? You got it.

"We don't want to be part of something ordinary; we want to be part of something special. Being a part of God's kingdom just doesn't feel exciting and sexy enough. The day-to-day reality of being with God in our work, in our home life, and our community lacks the power, the transcendence, the specialness we crave. We long for the validation of our importance."

Or if you're in a hurry, "The Tower of Babel is in our hearts."

I'm struck speechless by The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus' Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel. Cory read it first and couldn't stop yammering about it, so I got my own copy and it's a good thing, because I don't want to share this one.

Here are a few other things that grabbed me this week:

::  We need more honest words about mental health. Depression feels like, "...knowing a fire is burning but never feeling warm."

:: This post by Alia Joy took my breath away. Especially this, "food has no morality. It is not good or bad and the consumption of food does not make you good or bad.  It doesn’t make up the value of someone. It simply is."

:: Dream job!!

:: Silas keeps fighting me for this lotion (and I also love the soap.) **shannanmartin20 for 20% off through the end of March AND 10% of sales go to the Elkhart Co. Jail Ministry!**

:: Duran Duran + Joy Williams = GET IN MY EARS.

:: Consider these tacos queued the heck UP.

:: Is your church doing any short-term missions trips this spring or summer? Read this.

::  We need more words about things like choosing childlessness (and less churches with "family" in their name, but that's another post for another day.)

::  I watched this with Calvin.

::  And this with Calvin and Ruby. (We have massive feelings about the oppression of North Koreans around here.)

:: Okay, that got intense for a minute. But I promise you, this is such a sweet note to end on. (I should know, we got to see them live last weekend for Cory's birthday!)

And because I love you, and because I know you'll care, here's a pic of Siley's plate at our trip last weekend to Golden Corral (Calvin's bday pick.)

Happy weekend, homies.
Onion ring dreams (this was his second plate of onion rings, by the way) for all.


* "Fun" is defined by being super chill, enjoying thrift stores, eating enthusiastically, keeping an open mind about movies, staying up too late, and talking until you go half-hoarse. Go have some.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weekending :: Letting in the Light

Guys, it's 10:31pm right now, which apparently in 40-year-old-woman time means 3:79 am. Time makes no sense to me anymore. I've lived my whole life as a raging night owl and now it's 10:31 on a Friday night and I'm panicking that I've already ruined tomorrow by not getting enough sleep.

I don't know myself.

It would be like if I randomly became grossed out by salsa.
Or if I suddenly realized gingham is not, in fact, a neutral.

It would be like if I started exercising for fun.
Or if I thought nicknames were lame.
Or if I quit writing to become a zoologist.

Who is Shannan Martin? What exactly is my identity at the point that 10:31 pm feels too late to bother?

Unrelated: Do spider bites cause exhaustion?
That was the first thought I had this morning at 6:45 am.

I Googled it, and Google is saying they do not. But the spider bites are saying something quite different and anyway, no one wants to talk about spider bites on a Saturday. Or ever.


I rounded up a few fun reads for your weekend.
I'm scanning my foggy, 40-year old brain and I don't think any of them are too depressing....nope. Not too depressing. We're keeping it light today, sisters and friends.

It's what weekends are for, or at least this weekend.

::  This podcast is giving me life today OH MY WORD. (Emphasis on the "Oh".)

::  Cory and I have followed this with laser intensity, often cackling in bed (sometime before 10:31pm)

::  I have always felt like my introvertedness is a handicap when it comes to be a mom. The STRUGGLE!! This piece had me nodding along and feeling more like a human and less like a mistake.

:: Surprise! Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted is available on Kindle for just $1.99. Scoop it up! Save it for later! Tell a friend! If you've ever wondered about my backstory, it's all in there. My heart. My soul. And lots of Robert stories. ;)

::  This was beautiful and inspiring. We're all so complicated and art lives in each of us. Find a way to pry it out and share it with the world! (We're waiting.)

:: I'm currently re-reading this classic novel. (Swoon!) I had no clue it was written by a teenaged girl!

::  This one stops me in my tracks every time. Her pictures, her words, her soul.

::  This cracked me up in a very "smh" sort of way. Also, I could use some help adulting because I have problems locking myself out of various places, I'm usually 5 minutes late, and I couldn't remove a red wine stain if it bit me on the ankle. Like a spider. For example.

:: The grand finale! Please, if you never do another thing I tell you to do, watch this clip. I laugh-cried when I saw it this morning, and not just because it's all so very familiar. The work-from-home struggle isn't actually a struggle...until your baby rolls into the room while you're filming a life spot on the BBC then your wife crawls in to retrieve him with her pants half down.

Happy Weekending, Homies!


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Year 4.5 - the Look of Life

Sometimes my fight is against cynicism. Sometimes it's against apathy. It's always against the fleshiest part of me that wants what I want when I want it, the part that is never satisfied, always longing, always turning away.

Lately, my fight is against the urge to shut it all down and sleep for the better part of a week. It has been a tiring couple of months (yawn.)

So, yesterday, when I found a rare ten-minute window, I decided to spend it sitting on my front steps in peace. Just ordinary me, the birds, the bare Maple limbs and the familiar wail of the train. No people. No words.

Not thirty seconds later she passed by on the opposite sidewalk, a cigarette dangling from her lips. She walks by a few times a day, her face lined with hardship more than age, her skin closely matching the tan of her backpack. If I had to guess how old she is, I'm sure I'd overshoot it.

Warily, she said hello.
A minute more and she crossed over to my side of the street.

This neighbor cares for her disabled granddaughter. She writes letters to her daughter at the women's prison every week and wouldn't you know, her daughter just won a coveted spot in the Dog Program. (I assumed this was an acronym for something. Drugs? Daughters? Who knows. In fact, it's a program where inmates learn to train dogs.)

I asked about her grandkids who, like so many others, broke my heart when the hard-luck housing market swallowed them up and they were forced across town. "Oh, they're much better," she smiled. "I still can't believe it."

She railed against mistakes made, injustices dealt. There's the daughter serving time downstate on a meth charge when "so many damn people are out there doing so much worse." There's the school who tossed her grandson out when he was just a kid. He's better now, back in school. He found a new friend and they share a name, but they also share the weight of the world pressing down on them, daring them to survive. "He's a good friend, a true friend." She paused. "I don't have many of those, myself. I'm too honest, I guess."

Tell me the truth. Show me what is real. This is my ten minute window, but I'm willing to stretch it to twenty if you are.

I did little more than listen and nod along, watching the ash grow longer between her fingertips then fall to the ground. "This weather is really something, isn't it? They say global warming is a bunch of BS, but I don't know, this doesn't make much sense. It's weird." She trailed away, we said our goodbyes, for now.

I recently sat with a late cup of steaming tea and listened to a message from a new friend, hundreds of miles away. Through tears she processed her own journey from safety and comfort to one marked by the weird way of Jesus.

"I'm so confused... I feel so disconnected from my old life but I'm lonely here, too... My life used to be so much simpler... When will this start to get easier?"

Staring out my window at the street that keeps pummeling my pride along with my heart, tears streaked my face. I shook my head and wept. Then I messaged her back, "It will never get easier."

We are four and a half years in and here's what I can tell you: I know my place. It is no longer unfamiliar to me. I know the smells. I expect the shattered glass gleaming underfoot on our slow morning walks to school. I know the cars and the kids. The sounds have formed a particular sort of white noise; the hammer, the chainsaw, tires on wet pavement, the train. I am no stranger here. I'm not new anymore.

This life is exhausting, it's not going to change. But there's more to the story, and that's where words often fail me. 

The longer we stay, the more closely I'm drawn to these struggling, optimistic, frustrating, beautiful, hard-working humans. I am bound to them inextricably. I know their pain. I know there's no sense bearing witness to it unless I'm willing to bear it physically, to hoist part of it onto my shoulder then walk with them in the same direction.

I want their pain. And that's a tough one to explain.

The faces change. They move away. They are sent away. They're locked up, driven apart, uprooted. They are talked over, looked over, despised for their poverty and the way it shines on our own. But the trouble they know is ground into the asphalt lining my streets and yours. Nine year olds casually mention there's no food at their house between hands of Go Fish. Men and woman talk without emotion about abuse, about shame, about what it feels like to plunge a needle into a ropy vein and know peace for a moment. Here, there is simply no point in making small talk.

Meanwhile, we buy toilet paper. We brown onions with meat, unclog the drain, scratch down reading minutes with the dried up marker found underneath the table. We laugh every day, especially when it's all we can do. We live mostly paycheck to paycheck, hunted down by the fact that we still have far more than we need. We field requests, praying our love is enough. We battle our own entitlement and frustration with every "No" we speak, and our energy bleeds out between the cracks of this very good life. We erect barricades of paperback books and stream Dawes from the speaker hidden above the kitchen cabinets. We sing along. We eat with our neighbors every chance we get, knowing this is the "work" we've been called to, knowing it isn't work at all.

It is exhausting.
It is liberating.

It doesn't get easier.
It gets harder.

But I have wonderful news - we were not called to comfort. We weren't called to be unshakable portraits of courage or calm. We were not intended to self-soothe with warm messages of false pride and emotional placidity. We were not made to be happy. And we sure weren't made for small talk.

We were made for the mess, that ridiculous mixture of suffering and gladness, that disquieting blend of love and grit that stresses us out and raises us up. This is our birthright.

Four and a half years in, I have never been more sure that the only way to live is at the razor edge of myself, in full view of my rebel God who prefers low places.

Life stopped being simple long ago. I still fight the chaos. There are days I so desperately want to believe the common narrative, that I should come first. That I should say no. That God does not need my exhaustion, so I can go ahead and hang it up. From every side I'm told I am enough, even if I never answer the door again.

I suppose all of this is theologically sound, if you hold it in the right light. Thankfully, I'm a neighbor, not a theologian. I'm no Biblical scholar, just a woman who has learned through tears, scheduling nightmares, lost keys, and the occasional, well-timed triumph that as image-bearers of Christ inching toward the character of a Holy God, we are promised a life that will only be saved if it's lost.

It's hard to put all of this into words, so hard that I sort of gave up for a while. But the world is on fire and the church is burning to the ground. This cannot wait. I need the truth in my ears, in my retinas, floating on the page and lodged down in my throat. We were called to so much more than comfort, and the cost will be our reward. 

Come with me. Find your chaos. Call it good.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Around Here // Weekending

Yesterday I walked the middle school boys up to the corner to catch their bus and this scene stopped me cold. It's true that my kids went to school in shorts this week. It's true that they have been playing out in the garden boxes with the neighbors until dark, coming in covered in dirt after dinner has long gone cold. Yes, indeed I have noted a significant lifting of my spirit correlating with the reappearance of the sun and chirping birds. BUT I AM GRAVELY WORRIED ABOUT THE TREES. They are covered in buds and as God and the BBC are my witness (holla, The Crown!) winter is not over yet. There will be snow and it will come late enough to make us weep. It will likely come during the week of Spring break, as it did last year. It will be biting and crackling and so very discouraging. And on top of all that, I'm now concerned that it will annihilate the trees. We will suffer a shadeless summer. Or something.


But speaking of winter, not to brag, but I've become something of a soup aficionado this year. I've fancied myself a foodie for ages now, but it wasn't until this - the winter of my 40th year - that I braved the trusty seas of a homemade, made-up soup. Apparently, if you have some broth and a few veggies on hand, bliss is just thirty minutes away.

My first attempt included a couple lonely potatoes found rolling around in the bin and half a head of cauliflower that had seen better days. If memory serves me, I threw in a can of corn and I definitely tossed the dregs of a bag of shredded cheese in at the end.

It could have gone either way.

But when I showed up late to Monday night Bible study after a PTO meeting, the pot was empty, and my neighbor Jasmine swore it had healed everything that ailed her. (Typical "Jasmine" ailments include mysterious stomach pains, a possible gall bladder situation, and an aversion to both chocolate and left-overs.)

I didn't bother telling her the soup was basically the very definition of left-overs. And I've never known what to say about the chocolate drama.

{This winter has been the ugliest ever, but we had a foggy morning earlier this week and I couldn't stop taking pictures. Fog. The ultimate filter! Earl Grey tea for the soul!}

Aside from making a lot of soup, I've been pondering the meaning of life and my place in it. Raise your hand if you're with me. And remind me in exactly one year, if you don't mind, that I always get this way in February.

We're still here, and we've still got things to do. I don't want to spend my time wishing things (such as myself) were different when I could be grabbing all of it up and stuffing my pockets.

If you're reading this, you're my people and I'm yours. Let's stick together.

{We did an overnighter in Grand Rapids last week since the kids had a long weekend...and ran into this statue of Rosa Parks!}

{Cory and Rubes trying to channel Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.}

Here are a few things that have caught my attention lately:

::  Inclusivity is More Than Tolerance by Preemptive Love Coalition
"Inclusivity isn’t about how a community looks, it’s about how a community functions."

::  A simple, tested idea to help the homeless. "Don't assume they are lazy."

::  I have been catastrophically bad at making brown rice and never thought it tasted good, anyway. Then I found this recipe and I literally eat it out of the pan. 

::  5 Instagram Photos that Stopped me in my Scroll by The Lettered Cottage (One of my decorating and EVERYTHING soul sisters!)

::  Church Planting in the Age of Desire by Ashley Hales for The Gospel Coalition

And here's a little of what I've been up to:

::  I wrote about Sharing the Communion of the Whole Truth at (in)courage. "Whatever the reason, having grown weary of my typical deflections, this week I decided to start telling the truth."

::  I also got to speak at the chapel service at mine and Cory's alma mater - Bethel College, Mishawaka, IN. You can watch or listen by clicking here and scrolling down to my name. Disclaimer: I do a good bit of claw hand flapping.

::  I was interviewed by Charissa Steyn about how I'm alive to adventure. Read here!

Happy weekending, homies. Hope you have something scandalous brewing.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Frogs and Living

I have learned over the past several weeks that it’s possible to go into hiding without meaning to. It happens in the slow drip of fast days, the ones that leave you empty, the ones that split your seams. I’ve experienced both this February, I always do. I used to think being simultaneously spent and topped off was impossible, or maybe the symptom of a larger problem. 

Now, I can only draw one conclusion, and it feels more like a song than a statement: I am alive. (Can you hear the music?)

Part of this epic “being alive,” at least lately, has involved conversations about frogs. Isn't that just the sort of thing that keeps us interesting in living? Not the frogs, but the striking reality that every single piece of it, every slice, every sliver, every atom holds the potential to grip us? One day, we’re roaming room to room in our cluttered home, wondering why we don’t just go outside and shake off our blues. The next, we’re hearing affirmations from the clouds and storing up accidental wisdom like a squirrel with nut-packed cheeks. 

I re-learned the distinctions between toads and frogs while sitting for an entire day in the vinyl chair by Calvin’s hospital bed. (He’s fine.)  A few days later I stumbled on twin stone frog statues on a warp-speed trip to Arkansas. The night I returned home, Silas asked to read about Moses in the Storybook Bible. I’m guessing he wanted the comfort of baby Moses sailing downriver in his pitch-sealed basket, being rescued from the reeds. My guy feels kinship with these stories of being found. For every story of rescue, for every baby dealt a new hand, there first came loss. Without release there is no capture, and this is enough to break us both. 
But anyway, the frogs.

The Moses we found that night was bearded and tall, railing for the captives to be freed. The answer was yes, and then it was no. This happened on a loop, to the soundtrack of creative, maddening disruption. Assault by nature – the parts of it that seem like mistakes to our untrained eyes. Eventually, the frogs were called out of their cool-earth hiding and into holy action. 

Silas wondered why God made everyone suffer, and it’s a very valid question. I personally wondered what God had against the poor frogs. They were made for the mud. Minding their own business. I'm guessing they never imagined their services would be needed to set captives free.

Here’s what I’m holding onto: none of us was promised a life of comfort. We’ve been called to a faith that will cost us something – must cost us something. Often, what it costs us is our preference for engagement. It costs us our big ideas on what it would take to really fix the problems we’re faced with. If we pay up, we'll never be more sure of our inability to solve a single thing, and that is a death worth suffering. So, we might mourn. We might gnash our teeth as we bury the mantles we’ve carried to “win souls for Christ” or whatever we were taught to call it. But after that last shovel of dirt is heaved, we’ll feel the looseness in our shoulders and our souls. 

This is freedom.
We’ll do anything for more.

I don’t believe I’ve been called to the holy war of disruption or the righteous battle of driving someone mad. I’m not that kind of frog. But I think it’s time to dig out from under this blanket of mud. Bury the old, awaken the true. I’ll squint at the sun and my thin skin will surely cry for mercy. None of this means it’s a terrible idea. It just means I’m a frog. It means I’ll need help along the way.

The miracle is this abundant life, the one we say we want. Though the details change from person to person, the themes are all the same. It will break our hearts and send us to bed at 9 o’clock three nights running. It will weary us. Wreck us. 

It will give us a glimpse of God’s kingdom here on earth, and we’ll find ourselves willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of it. We'll find ourselves stone-cold stunned by the strange and ordinary work God has for us.

It's somehow both February and spring outside my window. The physical world is calling us to wake up, and it's calling us early.  

Dig your way toward the sun. 
Come up out of hiding. 
Listen for the music.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Shared in Common

I first met Amber last Spring at Rooted Chicago. I had known her name for a while from social media and admired her knack for always pulling the best quote out of an article she shares online - something I'm not particularly good at. Standing next to her in that darkened sanctuary, I was able to really see her.

As I have mentioned, I'm being very intentional about listening to the voices and stories around me which might be different than my own. I am tremendously weary of the prevailing echo chamber concept, where we're quick to huddle up with others who look, live, and believe just as we do. I'm desperate to learn from friends who experience life differently and I'm committed to sharing some of those voices here on my blog, just as I shared Jess's story several months back.

Amber is a beautiful writer with an important story to tell. I asked if she would be willing to talk with us about what it's like (and what it could be like) to be a single woman in the church. I'm beginning to see the way we cater to marriage issues, quietly implying that our single brothers and sisters are not yet whole people. I'm recognizing our tendency to idolize families, quietly implying that a single person doesn't *really* have one - yet. I've been guilty of this myself. These sinful biases are inflicting real damage throughout our churches and we are missing out when we push politely push people to the margins until we feel that they're ready to hang with us.

Just last night Calvin was being DJ on the way to get groceries at Aldi. Naturally, Lacrae ended up in the mix. In one of my favorite songs he raps, "Your money your singleness marriage talent your time They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine."

I'm grateful that Amber is stewarding her gift of singleness well, willing to share with us so that we might see more clearly just exactly who God is and how He loves every single one of us.

Shared in Common
by Amber Wackford

After I was fired at the beginning of last year, I went home to Maryland for a couple of weeks. I needed to hug my mom, pray with the ladies from my Bible study, and eat at my best friend’s table.

Years before, when I was in my last year of graduate school, finishing classes and interning, my best friend, Jesse, worried about me. I had mentioned offhandedly that my days were so busy I didn’t even have time to eat a sandwich, and she immediately bought protein bars for me to keep in my desk and insisted on making dinner Tuesday nights before we went to Bible study.  I didn’t have to do anything, she told me, I just had to show up and be okay eating whatever she was making.

Because of this invitation to simply come, their table became for me a place of sanctuary. It was a respite from the craziness of that busy season. I was allowed to come stressed. I was allowed to be tired. I was allowed to talk about work or school, or I was allowed to not talk about work and school. I had all permission in the world to just come; to not take care of anyone, and instead let my friends take care of me.

So, it didn’t come as a surprise to me in that season when my job was gone and I started to question everything about my cross-country move, all I needed to was to sit at my best friend’s table again.

We planned it on a Tuesday night, as we had done some many times before. Only this time, while I set out plates, napkins, and forks and she stirred a pot at the stove, Jesse said without prompting, “I love when you’re home and in my kitchen!”   

From the table where he was buckling their youngest into his high chair, her husband, Matt, piped up, “She’s not kidding.”

“I know,” I said. 

Matt must have heard the dismissing tone in my voice because he didn’t let it go. “No, you don’t. She pines for you.”

I busied myself filling water glasses, and let their words hang in the air. I realized in that moment that the sacredness that I had experienced sitting with them week after week, eating and sharing stories and praying, they had experienced too.

I realized that over the course of several hundred Tuesdays, God had made us family.


I wonder sometimes when we think about Church if we’re too quick to forget stories like this. The ones where people are welcome to come however they are to eat, and pray, and not be alone.

If we’re not quick to forget it, then I think we’re quick to dismiss it.  We’re quick to neglect that the Church is built in ordinary moments, and often in ordinary ways. And that this was always God’s design. It was always meant to be built on shared meals, shared stories, and shared prayers. It was always meant to be about people who love Jesus sharing their lives with each other, becoming friends, becoming a family.

The Church was always meant to be built on what’s shared in common, and too often we focus instead on what makes us different.

Nowhere in my life is this clearer than in my friendship with Matt and Jesse. I am single, and my best friends are married. While I was busy with graduate school, they were busy building a home and starting a family. They have settled in our hometown with their boys, and I left our hometown a year ago to try my hand at a new job.  We are in different seasons, called to prioritize different things, now living in different places, and we remain as connected and smitten with each other as ever.   

Because love is the thing we always hold in common.


When I graduated with my Master’s degree, my married friends sat outside in rain with my parents and witnessed my walk across the stage for my diploma. They threw a party so I could celebrate with my people the accomplishment that came after years of hard work. They rejoiced with me, and they were proud.

Two weeks later, Jesse found out she was pregnant with their first son, the now-nearly-five-year old who calls me Aunt Amber and tells people I’m his best pal. Throughout the months of Jesse’s pregnancy, I ran errands, vacuumed, and scrubbed their kitchen floors. I painted the nursery, and helped Jesse’s mom and sister throw a baby shower. I rejoiced with them, and I still am proud.

I’m proud of how they parent, and proud to be part of the family that’s helping them raise their sons.

Because the thing is when you’ve sat at the table together week after week, and you’ve had all permission in the world to be yourself, and you build these relationships that bleed friendship into family, and you all love Jesus well together, you’re being the Church.

You’re being the kind of Church that Jesus wanted us to be all along. The one that says no to nonsensical divisions and embraces the image of God we see in each other. The one that creates space for the tired, the lonely, and the broken. The one that lets you come as you are have a seat at the table.

So that the things that are seemingly insurmountable differences become the things that are holy and beautiful.

It all works because we hold Jesus in common. And that’s enough. That’s everything.

Follow Amber:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Dismantling White Supremacy Begins with Me

Supreme: su-preme (adjective) Highest in degree or quality, ultimate, first, foremost, predominant, highest-ranking. 

When I was in first grade, I had a classmate who had come to our village public school from somewhere in Asia. It was so long ago, but I remember him standing quietly in the background and I remember his name sounded like a food, not a person. We did what first graders in small-town, white America did - we giggled, not because we hated him, not because we thought of him as less-than, but because he existed so far beyond the scope of our worldview. We pulled the corners of our eyes back towards our ears then ran off with him for kickball or tag; he in crisp, cuffed jeans, us in our raggedy hand-me-downs. We liked him. If he'd stayed longer, we might have learned something from him, though our gain would likely have come at his detriment. Tell us everything. Spill your history so we can lap it up. Make us better people.

Kids came and went, passing through the red brick school. The most memorable were those who stood out, marked in some obvious way. We were part of something much larger than ourselves, far above our own blond heads, the drawing in and churning out of those who didn't "fit."

We were Christians. Everyone knew it. An entire town of honest, church-going folks with the gall to sing religious songs in high school choir, steeled by our assurance that no one would protest. We memorized Bible verses at Wednesday night Awana. We sucked barbecued chicken from the bone on Memorial day, following veterans, firemen, farmers, and the marching band from one end of town to the cemetery where we saluted the flag then bowed our heads and prayed.

We tanned our skin to look more like Oprah for a school project. We moon-walked with Michael Jackson, coveting the sequined fingerless glove on the right hand of our lone wealthy classmate. We took what we wanted and objectified the rest, though we didn't quite see it that way. We didn't quite know. Once, on a field trip to the city, I brushed aside the uneasy feeling in my stomach and threw my head back in laughter as a classmate made racist jokes about the city buses and the people riding them.

Later, in high school, one of my best friends was an adoptee from South Korea. I envied her thick hair, her perpetual tan, and the way it seemed she could be scooped up at a moment's notice, cared for and adored. She fit right in with the rest of us, but she certainly didn't blend. When she began cracking jokes about being Asian, we laughed along. In the winter, our basketball team played against the one school in our conference with a black player, and the tension crackled for days. He could dunk. He could play. Once, (we weren't quite sure how,) a game ended with many of our God-fearing fans spilling onto the court, throwing punches.

I wonder now, did that happen at all of his games, or was it just us?

These unspoken beliefs floated on our fresh, country air. We swore we weren't racist, discriminating people. Most of us knew at least one person of color, and our interactions were vastly positive. Yet in our everyday lives, we were simply conditioned to understand that Black was different and Asian was different and dirt-poor was just different enough from our unified, blue-color working class. Catholic was slightly suspect. Democrats could blend in if they tried. Mexicans (as we called them) picked strawberries and tomatoes in the migrant camp ten miles away where we drove, on occasion, to practice our Spanish. We entered what we mistakenly thought was their world, then flipped the frame, believing we were doing them a favor. A couple hours later, we'd drive off to munch on a Taco Supreme and a Nachos Supreme, grateful our morning charity hadn't taken too much of our day.


Last week I read several recountings of the White Supremacist who pulled up a chair in a community Bible study, sitting quietly through thirty minutes of reading and discussion. He was soft spoken. Gentle looking. And then he gunned them down, unloading over 70 shells into nine men and women, because of their race.

(Or was it his race that made him load the gun?)

At his core, he believed he was better than them, that he was entitled to their lives.
This is why we call him a white supremacist.

We don't hesitate, the two oily words dripping disdainfully from our tender lips. He is a white supremacist. He is the prototype. He is not us. No. We have never seen anything like him before.


I moved away from my hometown after college, though I return every chance I get. My community raised me well. I love it. I'm grateful. But with time and perspective I see the cracks that exist everywhere, if we're willing to search. If I'm inclined to offer the benefit of the doubt, it's that it did the best it could with what it had. It didn't know what it didn't know and maybe, hopefully, it knows much more, now.

But tell me, how could I not have believed my race was somehow "highest-ranking," "foremost," or "predominant"? How could I have seen whiteness as being equal with blackness, when the minimal information I received on other races was most often a biased caricature? Having been raised on a media diet of Small Wonder, Alf, Mork & Mindy, Star Trek and the Jetsons, I had a broader cultural context for robots and extra-terrestrials than People of Color. How could I possibly have known the scope of what I was missing?

We are, in many ways, indelibly shaped by our personal history. This doesn't mean change and growth are not available, but like a splatter of ink on a starched button-down, it will require some scrubbing.

There's no sense grabbing a stiff-bristled brush if we can't even see the stain.


Another week has passed, and I'm reaching the limits of hope for sweeping clarity to fall upon us. It's far too muddy. When I am expected to disavow her and endorse him, when I'm told I'm too quiet and too loud, when we are all both too political and not political enough, well, I get weary. And I know I'm not the only one.

So many of us are reaching out to grab thin air, trying with the best intentions to shift the momentum of humanity just a smidge. We're marching. Writing. Discussing. We're using our voices for worthy yeses and non-negotiable nos. We are praying. We are holding our children close. We're reading different books. We're shutting our mouths. Finally, we are ready to listen.

Still, I can't help feeling that beneath this passion is fear (of not falling into the "right" camp) and desire (to be seen, to lead, to fix.) There is a time to pray for justice and a time to fight for justice while we pray, but fear and selfishness are not compatible with justice.

I thought the fight was only against uncaring institutions and harmful, fear-mongering leaders. I have known the urgency for a holy war. My heart has sparked at the thought of lacing my boots on behalf of the pushed-aside and talked-over. I have wept for the church to care in meaningful, visible ways.

I'm an child of white, Middle America privilege, unaccustomed to seeing myself as the problem. Before I even pretend to approach these broad, systemic issues, I owe it to a world longing for equity to first recognize and dismantle my contributions to the pain.

It is easy to throw stones at "White Supremacists," to see them as racist beasts with white hats and dead eyes. Of course we are not them. But whether we can accept it or not, we have been quietly conditioned to see whiteness as the default, the Human Supreme.

I invite you to think on this. Peel back what you have been taught, what you simply lived. Mine your history for possible blind spots. Consider that "greatness" was never the reality, or even the goal. Should we acknowledge our real and equal human limitations, we run the grave risk of blending into obscurity and being seen as entirely ordinary. Scary, isn't it?


To learn of the Kingdom way is to stare long and hard at the ways we've misunderstood. Though we thought ourselves wise, we are fools. Though great, we are actually quite small. We are not the forest after all, but the seed. There is only one Supreme, one default. He is God, who splits heavens and parts seas and subverts common logic with the cry of a babe. This is very good news.

We were created to kiss the dirt, to exact beautiful change from low places. If we want God to be glorified through this mess we made, we've got to get busy with the right kinds of work.

First up: Repentance.
Second: A posture of quiet learning.
Third: Persistent prayer for fresh Kingdom eyes.
Fouth: Persistent prayer for Kingdom wisdom. (Note: this will reek of foolishness. We have been duly warned.)

From there, we commit to the taxing grind of advocating for life at the macro level, in the folds of our regular lives where our work will exist in hidden places and our deeds will not go public.

We commit to collecting stories of pain and disaster, holding them closely enough to feel their burn, allowing them to change us in ways that don't sacrifice their honor and dignity.

We will do this work for no reward.
We will do this work because it's right. It's our calling.

I don't want to diminish public protest (the language of the unheard), but if we are not honoring all life we have forgotten our place as image bearers of our Creator.

If we are chanting along with the President, "America First! America First!" we have forgotten our place as last and least. We have forgotten the weird way of Jesus.

If we cannot offer solace and refuge to our neighbor* who is terrified and out of options, we have forgotten our place as Christ incarnate.

If we cannot love our paranoid, Trump-supporting neighbor*, we have forgotten our place as agents of peace in these heartbreaking times.

If we believe our whiteness is the answer to anything at all, we have forgotten our place as seeds pushed into the vast garden of God's kingdom.

We are not great or special and we certainly aren't supreme.
It's time to stop pretending otherwise.

We are small, and we have work to do in these low and hidden places.

*Editor's note: These two examples are are specific examples from my actual life and neighborhood. As always, I write from my everyday ordinary life. Simply put - I am often preaching to myself, but anticipating there might be others who relate. I in no way meant that all Trump supporters are  paranoid. (Most of the people I love voted for Trump.) I apologize if this wasn't clear.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Curtains as a Happy Distraction

In the months leading up to our move to our home, I worked myself into a lather over a few "critical" things, the most embarrassing being outlet placement (don't ask) and the most memorable - curtains for our living room. I shudder to think of the number of hours I spent scrolling online sales for affordable, dramatic curtains to cover the supersized windows the builder had accidentally installed. This was particularly tricky since the quest fell during a time when our family was adjusting to a much lower income and I'd fallen into the habit of quantifying every unnecessary purchase in terms of how how many mouths it might feed or how many wells it might build.

As usual, this middle class tension rattled my cage for a while, then ended with a quick trip through PayPal. Push the button, move on. A girl's gotta have curtains.

I settled on the famed, bottom dollar "bed tapestries." (I still honestly don't know what this means, but I can tell you they arrived looking like a slightly thicker flat sheet.) A friend lined and hemmed them for me, and up they went. Cheery and unique, they made me happy, and I'm not just saying that because they evoked a certain Mexican restaurant vibe.

Everything was fine until December, which, if you're keeping track, was only two short months later. How on earth would my beloved curtains ever coexist with the Christmas tree? I took them down and ordered bamboo shades, trading Latin-esque for what I tried to tell myself was Scandanivian but what actually, looking back, amounted to barely trying mixed with a dash of festive gaudiness. We needed blinds anyway. (We did not. We did not need blinds. The blinds have been nothing but trouble.)

The following Christmas, a friend gifted me with a new set of curtains in a gorgeous buffalo check and I officially had a problem on my hands. But problems come in pairs, so it shouldn't surprise you to hear that the next year, our old rug lost its fight against humanity. Of course we ordered a new one, something quirky and different.

When we realized the rug clashed with the curtains, the only thing left to do was order different curtains. Again. I'd been feeling pigeon-holed for a while with the green and orange color scheme, not my favorite by a long shot. I took to Ikea, soothing my conscience with their budget pricing and goes-with-everything sensibilities.

I had officially become the seasonal curtain rotator I had quietly judged back when we packed up everything we owned, including our plans for the future, and hauled it to the city. Up and down they went, a chore I both dreaded and looked forward to. There I was, in my pared-down home, stockpiling curtains like they were thrift store mugs, loose socks, or extra Taco Bell hot sauce packets. 

Was it dumb luck when I spotted my dream curtains created by one of my favorite artists on yet another ill-advised "pretend shopping" rendezvous? Was it fate?

In any case, I took measurements and did the math with skittish hands. I had invented yet another fun curtain game, this one tiresomely called Will She or Won't She but Seriously Shannan, No One Actually Cares.  "I'm getting the curtains." "I changed my mind, it's too extravagant." "I'm buying them as a gift to myself for publishing my first book." "I deserve them!" "I don't deserve anything ever again." "Wait a minute, will they clash with the rug?"

This went on for weeks or even months.

Then I arrived home from a trip last November and was confused to see a mysterious package waiting on the dining table. The confusion grew when I read the card. The package was from my mom, an extra-special curtain gift to celebrate the birth of Falling Free (this was a belated celebration, as the curtains took 6 weeks to ship.)

Sidenote: The Garber family is not historically known as being a big "gift" family. My dad usually gifted us with things like jumper cables or cases of motor oil, although one year he did buy himself an expensive gift, wrap it up, unwrap it, and feign surprise while we all looked on in confusion. We err on the practical side and sometimes veer into forgetfulness. (Which reminds me of the time my mom wrapped our Christmas gifts using a code number system but forgot to record the key. My brother opened a pink, pinstriped denim purse. My sister opened a basketball.)

Sidenote two: My mom bought a set of beige thermal-lined "drapes" from the J.C. Penney catalog when I was in Kindergarten. When I was a newlywed, she replaced them with an identical set.

Sidenote three: My mom doesn't have a Smart Phone and remains confused and unmoved about many things, including the following: Instagram, decorating trends, and pattern mixing (or patterns at all, for that matter.)

So anyway, I felt tremendously loved. It was my 11th birthday all over again, but instead of a lavender 10-speed, I got bright, eye-catching, totally unnecessary and entirely dreamy curtains.

I keep meaning to tell you about them. I've thought about it a hundred times. What happened to the Shannan who would have casually styled the living room and taken photos on the first sunny day, posting them here the next? What happened to the "me" who would have spent time and money pulling the room together with the perfect ratio of casual and curated?

I waited for my mojo, and dangit, the punk never did show.

I has come to my attention that I've lost the fortitude to change out the art on the wall behind our couch. I slapped up my beloved Joshua 1:9 sign using an nail hole left-over from back when the couch was considerably taller and tan. In other words, three curtain styles ago.

The new curtains didn't get along with the pretty rug, just as I expected. I spent one half-hearted hour looking for a new one, something neutral again like this, then swapped it out for the two little rugs in the basement. Though it's true this combo doesn't exactly "work", our toes are loving the fluff and our visitors couldn't possibly care less about what's on our floors or our windows or even what's simmering for them on the stove.

Oh, hey there, Legos. Hey, basket of tangled charging cords and sundry Silas paraphernalia.You somehow make our everyday life both more and less pleasant, and I'm not asking questions. Who cares if you're pretty or not. You live here in our tiny living room. The end.

Raise your hand if you've bought a living plant since January 1, and bonus points if you got it at Aldi. (Raises hand.) I intended for this jade plant to replace the hanging plant that met an early demise, then I realized I liked this one better as a regular sitter.

Reindeer head still hanging from Christmas? What reindeer head la la la I can't hear you!!!!!

We have a legendary book situation on our hands. I blame myself.
But I also blame my kids because they're hoarders and stackers and sometimes, dare I say, slobs.

While I'm over here still feeling smug, I also blame Beverly Cleary, Rick Riordan, Dr. Seuss, and a lot of other people whose names I won't drag through the mud.

Next to the wall over the couch, my second favorite thing to decorate back when I decorated was the space above the TV cabinet. I've always thought of it as sort of like a mantel for the girl who has everything but a mantel.

For years it's been an ever-rotating display of seasonal color and swoony quirk. But then Silas built this structure and said, "I feel proud of myself!" with his upper lip curled all the way under and I couldn't take it down. I stare at it often and have resisted evening-out its legs, though I have one leg longer than the other, so I should really know better.

Howard has started biting the ankles of our company under the dinner table.

Hey! Cory had the genius idea of repurpose these printed-off Instagram photos used to decorate our tree this year by taping them down the length of this wee support wall. I love it like red beets and tulips and naps.

(Sorry, but I forgot to ever show you a single one of the Christmas decor photos I took and edited. Christmas in July??)

Fine. Christmas in January.

In other news, my war against Legos continues to gain steam. I have stopped bending down to spare them from the vacuum unless they are a "guy", an accessory, or large enough to be grabbed by my toes.

We gave our mini van to the neighbor guy because it wasn't worth paying to have it towed and scrapped. He put eighty magical dollars into it, and she's purring like a kitten. Next, he bought a vanity plate which says "Grandpa's Toy", something I find both funny and cute, but when he had the gall to put hubcaps on it, I'll be honest, it made me a bit covetous. #whatmighthavebeen

The curtains are too long.
Oh well.
The gray situation has reached its limits.
Oh well.

The Christmas cactus is blooming!!!

I've forgotten to dust for the last 3.5 years.
Oh well.

So, here you have it. This is the room where we do the most living. There was a time I loved sprucing it up and showing it off, but these days, I mostly just love sitting in it along with my people - the ones I live with and the ones who rotate in and out each week.

You are welcome to wear your shoes in.
You are welcome to eat on the sofa.

You are welcome to put your feet up, though I will warn you, they'll probably fall asleep since the table is a few inches too high.

One of these days, I'm sure I'll get my head fully back in the game.
Until then (and even after,) come on in.

Stay a while.