Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Life Lived Ordinary

Way back in May, on a lightening-speed trip to Nashville with Cory and Calvin, I stole away for an hour to a little pea-gravel patio with this book, found on a shelf where we were staying. It was the first crack of true-spring, pop-up showers and sun on the bridge of my nose both within the same afternoon. I remember the damp grass, the trees leafed out around me and flowers pushing up through the soil around me.

It had been quite a while since I'd spent time frivolously thumbing through page after page of high-style, high-design homes. Though most images were either outside my personal taste or way outside my budget (or both,) I found myself exhaling. 

Then and there, I decided this would be my summer of freedom. I would take back the days, one leisurely afternoon at a time. I would slice stone fruits and rearrange my furniture for the joy of it. I would remember the parts of me I had forgotten along the way and make no apologies for any of them. I would let my graying hair bleach out in the sun. We would visit the farmer’s market every week, read towering stacks of library books, and ride our bikes everywhere. We would.
It was a nice idea that didn’t come close to touching my actual life.

What really happened was far more ordinary. In the scheme of life, my summer wasn’t an empty hour plucked at peak freshness and lingered over with a glass of iced tea. It was long stretches of long days, doing chores, mitigating sibling drama, and forgetting to water the flowers. It was also sleeping in later, staying up later, and shunning most to-do lists. (In this moment, I have no idea what my family ate all summer. I think I remember making BLT’s once, but other than that, they must have sustained themselves on fresh air, rainwater, and snark.)

What I’m trying to say is, it was a terrible, wonderful summer. The best of life tends to fall somewhere in the middle.

In just ten short weeks, my family tumbled through our share of harrowing days. There was a kid hit by a truck on his bike (Calvin, he walked away with only minor injuries but a good bit of anxiety,) a couple of kids fending off the lingering sadness and unanswered questions of adoption, and a kid on the receiving end of a stunning injustice. There was also general work stress, seventeen medical appointments (17!,) boatloads of dramatic “neighbor” minutia, and sassy attitudes (occasionally not mine.) And all the while, Cory and I managed to maintain our summertime tradition of constant gridlock over whether or not to turn on the central air. (I told him more than once, “I have to smoke the kids out of the house!”)

In so many ways, summer did not live up to my ideal. 

And yet, most days I as I stared out at my messy kitchen or my mishmash patio, a wave of gratitude crested over me. 

I was invited on three out-of-country trips, places I have always dreamed of visiting. I watched the trips play out online, a tinge of regret occasionally curling my edges, but my overwhelming thought was that there was nowhere I would rather be than right here, with my family, my neighbors, and every complicated, imperfect person I love most. 

A life rooted to our ordinary place, intentionally present and actively engaged, even on the most boring of days? It matters. Deeply. This is our solution, pals. When the world feels sideways, this is our horizon line.

A friend and neighbor wrote this in an email earlier today, paraphrasing this On Being podcast series, “We could all do something new, even one small thing, to express love and compassion for others. If enough of us do that, our nation can move beyond the goal of tolerating one another to loving one another.” 

August is winding down. My kids are already in their third week of school (so early, I know,) and I’m equal parts melancholy and relieved about falling back into my own routine. 

I'm facing this shifting season like I always do, with a little too much idealism and the understanding that life will just keep having its way. 

Here’s to fresh starts that are actually old beginnings, and the grace to remember just how precious all of this is.


My newest book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God's Goodness Around You is now available for pre-order! We've put together a collection of extra-special free gifts for anyone who pre-orders, including a fine art print, a printable calendar featuring photos from my neighborhood, and a book discussion guide. You can also download the first chapter for a sneak peek. 

Pre-orders are tremendously helpful for the success of a book (they help ensure that retailers stock enough and don't run out!) and remember, when you pre-order, you don't pay until the book actually releases (Oct. 9) AND you're guaranteed the lowest price, as book prices fluctuate often online.

I'm so thrilled to share this piece of my heart with you. This book is a deeply personal look at what God continues to do around me right here, in my ordinary place, and about really being with the people near us. The world feels pretty wonky right now, and the problems are way over our heads. But this is where we can start and it matters. 

It thrills me to no end that we're still here, together, journeying through all of the surprises of life. Thank you for sticking with me and supporting me along the way. 

So much love to each of you!


  1. So happy to read your blog today.I missed you!

  2. <3 Thank you Shannan, for writing fearlessly. <3

    1. Laura! Hi! Thank you for continuing to show up here. <3

  3. I love the way you look at things. It feels like free and easy with a side of reality. Best "end of summer" blog post!

    1. Thank you so much! Free and easy with a side of reality. That's all I want! :)

  4. I just stumbled upon your blog and read it all in the past 2 days. I've been doing that lately...finding something that speaks so loudly as it seems to be winding down. I'll keep checking in and hoping all is well with your corner of the world. Love how you've grown over the years.

    1. Isn't growing up amazing??? :) Thank you for reading. And commenting! (Blog comments are endangered species these days!)

  5. Shannan! I've read your blog for several years and have been so influenced by your words and ministry! As leader of a small group at our church, I am trying to find a video (every wants it to be a video cause no one has time for a book, groan!) and thought of you! Any ideas or anything you have put together about racial reconciliation, drawing a wider circle? Kinda thing? Like your book only in video discussion form! lol. Let me know if you know of anything! Thanks so much!


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