Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Good Excuse to Love Bigger



I don't remember when I became a Valentine's day fanatic, but I'm guessing it happened well outside the scope of age-acceptability. I'm sure the roots are tangled up somewhere in the naked, improbable hopefulness of my teenage years, when my best friend Sarah and I, doomed to schools in different counties, would write notes to each other on notebook paper in which we talked almost exclusively about our unrequited crushes. Against all reason, we hoped. Romantics to the core.

I secretly like the idea of invisible cupids taking aim on unsuspecting fools who, shot through the heart, turn the tables on classic rock and give love a good name.

I also like Galentine's day. There. I said it.
It's dopey and cheesy. I don't care. Valentine's day does not just exist for the coupled. It exists for any human who needs a reason to throw some puffy-heart pink around and love with extra intention. It's love, and love is for everyone.

So, I've done my due diligence. I brought out all the pink. I hung romantic plates on my wall. (As one does.) I've hatched plans to surprise my closest loves in some weird ways. I even have a plan for dealing with any Valentine's related angst, such as eye rolling, unexplained surliness, and general crankiness. (Hint: it involves believing with my whole heart that they actually love every second of it, despite obvious evidence. It's not denial if it's truuuue!!!!)


Valentine's day is a real, bonafide "you do you" situation. It's okay if you don't geek out over it like some of us. Honestly, it's okay if you're the one rolling your eyes.

But what if we all decided to take the excuse to love bigger and run with it?

What if we reframed February 14th as a strange Thanksgiving/Christmas love-child, where we gather up the love we're given and fling some of it back out into the world? (Heart-shaped glitter optional.)

Two years ago, I spent part of February in Ecuador with Calvin Lee and now, the two are tied up together somewhere on the February calendar of my heart. February is chocolate truffles and it's bearing witness to poverty through the eyes of my ten-year old son. It's grocery store sushi and it's the one-room, tin-roofed home with a romantic, flowered curtain for a door. It's whimsy and silliness, but it's also the triumph of hope. It's resilience.

It's my son, piecing together the puzzle that he was born across the ocean, but lives in Indiana. He was first loved, held, and named by a woman he might never meet, but he also has a new mom who won't ever stop loving him, holding him, and calling him hers. It's loss. And it's love.

This year, it's Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday, and there's room in my heart for all of it. To me, it makes perfect sense.

I've been working with Compassion International on a way for us to come together as a community and fling some love around. I do believe today is our moment.

The Martin fam has sponsored children (which is to say, families) through Compassion for over a decade now, and we'll never quit. It works. It matters. But today, it all goes a layer deeper. If you click here you'll find a page set up just for us, filled with kids waiting to be sponsored. Every one of the kiddos on our page is an orphan, having lost one or both parents.

Child sponsorship is a lifeline that helps hold vulnerable kids steady, and these are the most vulnerable. These kids need hope more than ever. We have seen it for ourselves. One of the happiest days for a child is the day they are sponsored. They have lost some things, yes. But they are loved, called by name, chosen.

What would it look like if we, as a team, scooped up the entire page?

Mexico. Ghana. Indonesia. Uganda. Ethiopia.
The list goes on and on.

From the looks of it, they are all boys, in desperate need for a shot of hope and love across the sea.

 

We don't need an excuse to care for orphans as we care for ourselves and our "own".
But today, we have one anyway.

Click here to consider becoming a vital part of the life of one of these boys.

Happy ThanksChristTines Day.

We are dust and to dust we'll return.
We are loved and we give love away.

Ever Yours,
Shannan


* Click here to see more of our time in Ecuador. 

** I am a long-haul, devoted partner with Compassion. This means that in addition to over a decade of sponsorship and joining one of their blogger trips, I am also compensated as part of a focused partnership to help spread the word and gain sponsorship for more kiddos. It is with gladness that I share my platform, as I have always done, with this message that beats so strongly within my own heart.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Sweeping the Floor

Back in the day it irritated me when other bloggers would explain why they hadn't blogged in a while, or warn everyone when they were getting ready to take some time off. It seemed a little self-important or something. The world will keep turning, I thought. Just live your life. 

But I logged into this dusty blog last week and did the math. It's been over two months. After a few of you reached out to see if I'm still alive, I was forced to sit with my feelings on my long hiatus. Here's what I know - I've missed you. I've missed this space where we've gathered for so many years to share life.

I don't have any big explanations, I guess. But I'm still here. Hi.


Cory and I were driving the back street that hugs up behind our neighborhood over the weekend. I know it well now. We moved east over ice-slicked roads and I looked to the right, at the porch with the profusion of silk flowers shoved into a wayward shopping cart. There was a time I would have seen it as trashy. Now, it stops me in my tracks, all wild beauty and artificial color. It's resilience. Hope? Yeah, I think so. I looked left at my friend's house, recently painted a pretty shade of blue.

Two summers ago on a rare evening alone Cory and I had walked the buckled sidewalks and alleys of the adjacent neighborhood at dusk. It's one of our favorite things to do, but we didn't do it once last summer. I'm not sure where last summer went, or what I did. But the next one doesn't seem so far away, and I'm already looking forward to really feeling it this time around.

The last year has been a doozy.

As my work made the shift to writing deadlines once again, I sat most mornings staring at a blinking cursor, trying to figure out how to uncork what I know about life and pour it bubbling onto the page. Writing often felt like roaming from room to room, looking for a window that might creak open enough to draw in a fresh stream of air.

When I truly found myself stuck, when every window was painted shut and every door sealed (and those days were many,) I would shove away my laptop and grab my broom. Always, without exception, I would be stunned by the amount of filth five people and a wide rotation of neighbors could drag into one home.

The piles would collect strategically throughout the kitchen, the dining room, the mudroom. Dirt, grime, clumps of fur from the cat, tiny rubber bands, minuscule Legos that wouldn't be missed, scraps of paper, stray Cheerios, and crumbs from our morning toast. By the time the floor was cleared, I usually remembered the one west window that would open if it was jimmied, just so.

And the air would blow through, like magic.

Sweeping my floors didn't exactly unlock the hidden mysteries of extracting the truth and the pain and the solace of living, laying it cleanly on the page with no effort. It's more that sweeping my floors reminded me of who I am and where I belong. There's real freedom in that. And freedom is its own sort of open window, even when it still has to be propped up with a sawed-off tree limb or a hammer, like the bedroom window of my childhood. Air is air. We'll take it however we can get it.

I'm out from under that deadline, and my floors still need to be swept.
Life right now feels new-to-me, like pulling on a forgotten, favorite flannel. I'm remembering that blogging and floor sweeping are the first cousins of everyday living, as long as I'm willing to believe it.

There have been times I have worried that what I write here needs to be Really Important. Or Really Funny. Or Really Well-Written. I have occasionally made it something it was never meant to be, wandering from room to room with a wet paint brush and sealing off any stray breeze that might whistle through the jamb.

I don't know what you expect when you show up here. I'm sure it's different for everyone, but that's actually fantastic news. Because I'm someone a little different every day, and so are you. Life wears against us differently. Some days I'm funny. Some days I'm sad. Some days I have something important to say.

Most days, I just have a few piles on the floor, a collection of the bits and grit of my ordinary life. It's shockingly messy, I know. But I also know you understand, because your piles are no different. I don't mind if you don't.

 

Yesterday I stayed home from church with a sick little girl. Our boys came home and we ate left-overs for lunch. We had a kitchen meeting with one young neighbor and I stood there very aware that my life now lends itself to being bare-faced and wild-haired in the presence of those around me, dealing stern words and fierce love because it's real and it's necessary.

In the afternoon we lounged around in our sweatpants. I read a story to Silas about a room with no windows and three locks on the door, about kids who love life so much that they can't hold it in, about the ways we force them into a box without meaning to. He didn't want to read that book. "Too many words!" he said. "The pictures are boring!" The truth is, he'd never tried it. So we talked about poetry and we talked about freedom while the snow fell outside in thick tufts of white.

I stuck my hands in a bowl of ground beef and pork and squished it around, then rolled out a double-batch of these meatballs that cooked into the best pot of spaghetti I've ever eaten. (No fresh parsley, because this is February and I'm not trying to complicate life.)

I sorted hot air balloon puzzle pieces with Silas and Ruby while Cory and Calvin watched the Superbowl. All afternoon Silas had been confused, saying things like, "Are we eating the snacks tonight when we watch the ball drop?"

I made lists. I wiped off counters.

I swept the floors.

When it was nearly midnight I lay in bed with Cory, listening to Dawes and talking about whatever came to mind. The last thing I remember is rolling over and praying, "I'm sorry I haven't been paying enough attention to you, God."

What I meant was, "I'm sorry I haven't been reading my Bible as much lately."

As sure as I sit here with Monday's sun streaming through my smudged window panes, God chuckled. There hasn't been an inch of space between us. He's always been right here, in every sliver of life. He's in every pile. He's the air. All of it counts.

This is longer than I meant it to be. (There was a time I'd have worried about that, too.) But seasons change and there are no rules to blogging anymore, at least not here.

This is my home. My life. The things we shed without even noticing.
Welcome. I'm so happy you came.