Saturday, July 22, 2017

Extreme Summering, Roadkill Edition



This has been a Summer of extremes, and as such, I'm not quite sure where to begin.

One minute it was May and we were making our plans. Then I fell into a rabbit hole of terror wherein my life revolved around taking Calvin and Ruby (she's playing the cello!) to and from orchestra practice across town at different times of the day, navigating the maddening Labyrinth of Emotional Dysregulation the city of Goshen has become. (And that was before the fair started...)

Throw in two conferences, my birthday (or, my "unbirthday," as it was,) a vacation, and Calvin's illness doing it's typical summertime ramp-up, and you might expect to find me hiding in a corner somewhere under a therapeutic weighted blanket.

But, no. I'm just here, sitting on my bed in my pajamas at 1:03 pm on a Saturday, writing my first blog post in almost two months.

Oh, how far I have fallen. I remember thinking it was so weird when bloggers would take the summer off, and even weirder when they would warn their readers that they were taking a break. I was all, What's the big deal? and What's so hard about blogging in the summer?

Ho, ho, ho! (That's my sardonic laugh.)
Now I know. Now I know what it's like when life just completely takes over and priorities shift a little bit. Now I'm fielding comments where people are asking if I'm still alive, and if I plan to ever blog again. Now I'm thinking about re-entry.

The hard truth is that my kids return to school in less than two weeks. From the marrow of my skinny bones, I do not understand how we possibly lived eight weeks. I have loved every inch of them. Work and rest, sadness and hope, laughter and sticky marshmallows and interrupted plans.

We've found a groove around here, and it's not always easy and it's not always fun. But it's growth and it's goodness and I'll take it. I will miss this time and I'll miss these kids.

But also? I HAVE A BOOK TO WRITE.
So, I mean, it's TIME for me to miss them. If you know what I mean.

This is a whole 'nother story, and I'm not sure what all to say about it, so I'll do what I am wont to do in times like these, and illustrate it with an exceedingly strange, seemingly unrelated story.

Last week, I spent 4 days speaking to a group of pastors in Ohio. I have stewed and sweated and prayed about this since December. It was intimidating, okay? Throw into the mix the fact that I distinctly knew I was supposed to share my feelings about church on my closing night. To a roomful of seasoned, long-haul pastors. Who did God think I was??? 

It went really well. I love speaking. I love the feeling of the Holy Spirit rushing through me until I'm ready to fall off of the stage by the end. It's emotionally exhausting and epically humbling and I love it.

After my last session Thursday night, I decided to drive the four hours home when I was done, rather than waiting until Friday morning. It made sense for a lot of reasons, and I'm a night owl. Simple enough, right?

Here's what ended up happening.

Try though I did to avoid the toll road option on my map, I ended up on it. (Don't ask.) Feeling like there was no other option at that point, I grabbed my ticket and drove. Within fifteen minutes I was suffering a mild panic attack of unknown origins. I keep getting more and more squeamish about the toll road as I get older. I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT, EITHER. Whatever. I tried to be brave. I prayed. I used some positive self-talk. But semi trucks were passing me on both sides (major speeding ticket anxiety has also thrust me into granny-driving territory of late,) construction cones and lights and those really narrow lanes were everywhere and I couldn't escape the sense that something terrible was about to happen.

I finally called Cory and he found me an alternative route. But my map didn't like his route and re-routed the re-route. I turned around, a ball of jitters somewhere around midnight, out in the middle of no where, vaguely aware that I was Michael Scott in the flesh, driving straight into a pond because my map told me to, but fundamentally incapable of doing anything else.

And then a wild turkey flew into my windshield. Or maybe an eagle or a chicken. A goose? It was white. Lots of feathers. It sounded like a sack of flour falling on my windshield - startling, but leaving no trace. A second later, I wasn't sure if it even happened. I had no witnesses.

I then realized the map was taking me back to the toll-road. So I cried.

I drove an additional thirty minutes out of my way, then Cory patiently told me to go back to the route he gave me. "Ignore your map!"

I had to pee. I was so hungry. I was tired.

I turned around, back into the pitch-darkness of sinister back roads, map be danged. I drove straight into a gaze of raccoons, hitting one, which seemed to yelp up from my driver side door area.

My life had gone from the thrill of accomplishing a major task and feeling quite good about it, to a real-time Edgar Allen Poe poem. I was certain every car following me was about to intentionally rear-end me then do something unspeakable, out there in the middle of no where.

((WHAT IN THE ACTUAL WORLD, SHANNAN?))

This went on for hours untold. On the one hand, I knew I was being irrational and way out of character. On the other hand, I drove over a large roadkill of unknown origin and I believed (you guys, I really believed) I had lost my mind. "That was the night Shannan went South. That was when we knew something had snapped."

I was honestly too tired to drive, but it felt ominously dangerous to pull over anywhere.
I queued up the recent episode of "Up and Vanished" to take my mind off things. IT DIDN'T HELP.

I obsessed about my life. I decided to quit writing all together, nevermind that I love it and need it and am under an actual contract to do the opposite of quitting. I decided to leave social media, nevermind that I feel no pressure from it 99% of the time and I thoroughly enjoy it. I decided to never speak publicly again, and especially not to pastors, even though it was deeply satisfying work and they were more encouraging that I could have imagined.

In the end, I made it home just a slim two hours behind schedule, at 3:30 a.m., though not before hitting an overweight groundhog. A few miles from home, a pack of wild youths emerged from the shadows, quite drunk, and one of them almost ran straight into my path. I swerved to keep from hitting him, and they all screamed for me to come back. I have no idea why.



Yesterday, I did laundry. Got groceries. Went to the library. Washed sheets and swept floors. I watered my flowers and read a magazine on the patio. I stayed very close to my people and my place.

My summer has been two solid months of intensity, boomeranging into the delicious liesure that happens best on this particular plot of earth. It has filled me straight up.

I don't know what to make of Thursday night or why I'm telling you any of it, other than the fact that it's strangely funny to me now and entirely surreal.

Just this morning Silas woke me up from a dream where I was driving down a highway with a herd of stampeding elephants. (Thank you, Silas!)

Here's my best Dream Doctor guess - I have work to do, and it feels a little scary right now. (It also feels pretty needy and dramatic to refer to writing a book as "scary," but I killed three wild animals in one night without even trying. This world is much bigger than me and I control very little of it.)

My excuses are almost long gone. I have work to do, and it's crunch time. I don't know exactly where I'm going with all of it yet. I'm driving in the dark. I'm afraid to fly up the road at seventy miles an hour. My van has a terrible suspension system and one door that doesn't shut all the way. I feel unequipped, small, and a little tired.

The glitter is settling on Summer, 2017. I have to keep reminding myself there's still plenty of time to enjoy the patio, pick blueberries off the vines, can pickles, wear flip flops, take bike rides, and eat ice cream. But between all those perks of the season, I'll be head-down, laser focused, beating back the lies Satan tries to whisper when he senses our weakness.

I'll be doing the work, working up quite an emotional and spiritual sweat, because what's the point of living life in the dark? Right now, I'm choosing to trust that the Lord will see all of this to completion, and that I can just ignore the map and drive, arriving exhausted but alive in the end.

Whatever you're facing, I'd love to be near you in spirit.
Whatever you're tackling, just remember, wherever you're standing is the land of the living. You can be sure of God's goodness there.

xo,
Shannan

PS - I have grand intentions of sharing some of my truly true, real-life summer favorites with you soon. (When I do these posts, I'm never promoting anything other than what I'm really loving, so expect some randoms!) In the meantime, have you susbscribed to my Super Scoop? It's a personal email from me to you, where I share things I don't share anywhere else. In my next email, I'm sending out a fun surprise. :)

You can also always find me on my fave, Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter.


13 comments:

  1. I literally laid in bed and cracked up, got the giggles reading this (while my husband laid in bed next to me giving me odd looks). I just so related to Everything. I love your analogy of driving in the dark, and how little control we actually have of things that happen in life. I needed this reminder to just keep going even exhausted and looking for God's goosness in it all. Right now we are awaiting news on our foster daughter's case and its going on 7 months that we've been waiting for this news. So much of life seems to rest on the outcome, but I know God is calling me to keep my eyes on Him rather than what may or may not happen.

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  2. I hope you don't mind if I throw "Labyrinth of Emotional Dysregulation" at my kids to describe our summer. And thank you for thinning the wildlife population of the Ohio Valley. Blog when you can - it's always a treat to read your updates.

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  3. Bless you, Shannan! Your blog post and words were just what I needed -- this summer has been the summer of dumpster fire after dumpster fire in my family's life, and I have cried more times than not (so unlike me). Your words, "But between all those perks of the season, I'll be head-down, laser focused, beating back the lies Satan tries to whisper when he senses our weakness.I'll be doing the work, working up quite an emotional and spiritual sweat, because what's the point of living life in the dark? Right now, I'm choosing to trust that the Lord will see all of this to completion, and that I can just ignore the map and drive, arriving exhausted but alive in the end," are just what I needed to hear right now!!! Thank you!!!

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  4. I love when you blog!☺ Come to Ohio again and speak to non-pastors and I'll be there...on the edge of my chair. Also, I'm going to do two things: follow you on Instagram and put you on my prayer list (except I don't technically have a prayer list 🤔) but I'm going to pray for you and your book whenever you come to mind, how's that?

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  5. Wow. To quote Garrison Keillor. "For a writer, there is no such thing as a bad experience. It's all material."

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  6. Had me crackin up over here Shannan! Thanks for the great read and praying your writing mind shifts into high gear at the right time! :-)

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  7. This made me laugh so hard. Thank you for sharing! And I am sending you all the prayers and ooey gooey best thoughts as you zone in on your book. I'm two weeks out from my manuscript deadline, and I am a total wreck, so it's nice to hear a seasoned pro like you share how overwhelming and scary it all can be! :)

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  8. Our favorite bloggers often, miraculously, have stories parallel to our own to tell, in a much more dramatic and entertaining fashion. Their words then allow us to see ourselves through another's insanely trying path and take our less interesting story and make sense of it. That's exactly what "Extreme Summer, Roadkill Edition" did for me. Thank you (and I'm sorry about your harrowing drive.)

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  9. You have extra material for a book now! What an adventure! You had me laughing and scared at the same time.

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  10. Love this post. Great title too!!
    Blessings,
    Julie

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  11. Oh, my gosh, Shannon, your story is exactly why I rarely drive at night. I live a half hour outside of a small town and it is a major roadkill highway. I think you are braver than I am. I would have asked to be routed to a motel! Eleanor

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  12. 1. You wrote "Epically Humbling" And I thought Awe she misspelled "especially" Eye roll emoji and I repeat "Epically Humbling" judgy bones come so naturally to me
    2. That back porch, that blue bench, that rug, lock your children in the house and make old school shannan style and photograph it real good for us
    3. My dreams this week have me asking Jesus if he wants me to be a screen writer or something cue, surrogate parenting trickery and unzipping a backpack to discover a giant life sized head
    4. What is wrong with the world?!?! So glad you survived your night of terror, I might have made Cory come after me

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  13. Just how many animals did you run over? What are you writing about this time...? And, when I read your email about the pickles too fast, I wondered why you wanted to know "can pickles wear flip flops"? Anyway, I need to read slower and I just love reading your blog. You make my heart sing/cry at various times.

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