Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Poverty Changes Things


I should be in the church hall eating pizza right now instead of sitting here in the near-dark dusk of dinnertime, hearing only the hum of the fridge and the open quiet of a drier that just made its last go-round.

I should be there with Cory and the kids, but I'm not, because my husband loves me in every right way. He reads the words that aren't written and the ones that are and he tells me to stay home.

I remember a handful of years ago, reading the Gospels and wondering why none of us were suffering. Isn't that what was promised us? We wondered about the absence of suffering, Cory especially, and it weirded me out. It seemed like he wanted life to hurt a little. It seemed like he thought it might dip down from the sky like a winged creature, landing crow-like and ominous at our door - suffering.

Now, everything I ever knew about life has been tilted. The light catches different parts and sometimes even that changes by the day.

But today I spent the morning cleaning my friend's new apartment while the babies lay curiously quiet and Silas caught blips of cartoon between static pops.

The thing about poverty is that it's hereditary, contagious, an epidemic. It's not one person with nothing, it's her along with everyone she knows.

The thing about poverty is that it's worn and eaten. It's the dingy house and the car that no one can drive. It's the gallon jar of banana peppers because that's what the church was giving today. It's fuzzy house slippers with blackened bottoms and so many clothes that she doesn't know what to do with them, can't possibly ever wear them, but can't bear to part with them because they are hers. Poverty is every single one of these things but it's not her. It's a condition, not a personality type.

The thing about poverty is that it makes "small" wealth look opulent on a good day, disgusting on a bad one.

The thing about poverty is that it makes me tired. It spends me up in ways that don't cost money. It changes my relationships, forcing bloom from understanding, turning others into ghosts.

So here I am, tapping my toe in a wide arc around me, looking for sure footing. I want to find that secret place where there's time for everything and my selfishness loses its swagger. I want to swear off the feeling of fraudulence. I want all the incoming texts to be happy ones and I want to not feel guilty when those No days come around. I want to make sense to someone, mainly me.

I'm the girl who appreciates courageous layering and judges a meal by how many things I get to chop. I'm the one day-dreaming about art for the walls; the one who watched every single minute of the Golden Globes because it mattered enough to know that Jessica Alba looked most beautiful, Jessica Chastain had problem hair, and Jennifer Lawerence might spend the rest of her career dodging questions about her acceptance speech.

I'm fitting jail visits and diaper drops and everything else into a life that was already fluffy-full. But I'm sure not suffering. I'm caring for my family - a family that looks straight-up crazy compared to the way it looked just one year ago.

I know some of you want a little crazy in your life. You know it won't be without a price, but I promise you this: it won't be without shiny prizes, either. The crazy will wrap its many arms around you and squeeze you 'til you're blue. It'll stir you up until you're confused about the place of new Winter boots in the broad scheme of life. You won't care because God told you to. You'll care because the thought of losing track of those faces will hurt more than a thousand tired nights. You'll care because you'll fall in love.

I don't know what to say about suffering - maybe suffering by osmosis counts?

All I know for sure is that balance is a lie, a too-full life is better than a quiet one, and it all started because I finally believed that the Bible was true, so I asked to see what I was missing and I asked to give a rip.

Oh, I also know that sometimes solace can only be found in the saggy middle cushion of the couch while everyone else eats pizza down the street.


34 comments:

  1. Beautifully written. I love how you wear your heart on your sleeve.

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  2. Yes. All of it. And the best part? You're living it right alongside them, and not from the comfort of your long-gone farmhouse beauty. They know the real deal when they see it. So proud of you today, and all the other ones too.

    xxoo

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  3. I am struggling because half of me wants to make a comment with a lot of words and the other half of me knows no words are needed. You said it well.

    Ok, I'll just say this one little thing (I'm sure you figured I had to say something right?). The gallon jar of banana peppers pretty much sums up how we view the cure for poverty. We're missing the mark, and I'm using some kind of vague, universal "we're".
    ~FringeGirl

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  4. Like FringeGirl, I want to respond but feel you've said it all.

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  5. I can't explain how much I relate to this-- my very favorite post you've ever written.

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  6. We all will suffer.
    I've been around long enough to know that.
    And we do.
    If we're rich, we might be poor in the quality of our relationships.
    If we are successful in our jobs, we just might lose them.
    If we have everything we ever wanted, something is probably still missing.
    If we appear happy and content to everyone else, chances are we are lonely and in despair when we are out of their view.

    God puts us in different situations for a reason. He doesn't want all of us suffering all the time. That doesn't glorify Him.

    In other words, I'm no theologian, but everyones' suffering will come.
    God is waiting to see who is there to help and love those in need.

    If we are okay and content, we are called to help those who are not.
    If we are well-off or even financially just okay, we are to give to those who are not.

    Shannon you have given your time and love and much more, because you can.
    That is God's gift to you.
    At some time you will need. Something.
    And God will be there for you, through others.

    You are doing such good.
    I thank you. It makes us all much more aware to be seeing God through you.
    All good comes from God.
    Just wanted to say good job, and keep on keepin' on!

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    1. I had these same thoughts but will just say ditto. We all suffer in different ways. I understand the need to be charitable and give to the poor and help the poor and do all Christ commanded us to do "to the least of these," and I applaud this blogger for doing what is within her power to do.
      However, just because someone is "well off," doesn't mean they aren't suffering. Take a look at the many wealthy people who take their own lives.

      I also believe it isn't God's will for us to live beneath what He wants us to have. In John 10:10, Jesus said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

      Whenever we become believers, no matter what kind of suffering we go through, there remains JOY in our hearts, because we know the Lord. We know the Truth. We know what's coming at the end of the book. This world is temporary. The joy of the Lord is our strength, no matter how much we suffer.

      This world needs Jesus more than ever before and it's our duty to share the Good News with those who have yet to discover that deep joy.

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  7. I've asked for a little crazy in my life and I am worried about the price. But I also believe that a too-full life is better than a quiet. I've been leading the quiet one for too long. I keep reading you for the pathway. Thank you for the bearing of your soul.

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  8. A few years ago when I studied 2 Timothy 3, I couldn't stop thinking about verse 12 and persecution. It was the way you said you felt when you read the Gospels and thought about suffering.
    As always, you make me think. Thank you.

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  9. For reasons I can't explain, this has made me cry. Thank-you for speaking to a part of my heart that's newly awakened. Thank-you for being a blogger whose not afraid to bare her soul.

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  10. This was a really nice post. Glad I stopped to read it.

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  11. Learning a little of what you speak of. It is making my life feel so bright.

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  12. Please, please tell me you've read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. If not, you need to and you will love it. If so, it sounds like you're thinking a lot about it. Such a good/life-changing book.

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  13. *a too-full life is better than a quiet one*

    It is the summary of our month; what already seemed full is now bursting with the addition of others' suffering and our part of walking with them. Going to bed with this line in my mind, knowing my husband will say it sums it up just right.

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  14. "WHAT's UP WITH THAT HAIR?" I asked the TV on Sunday. I always wonder when you'll crack me up, and your Chastain comment certainly did.

    Thank you for describing poverty in ways most news articles don't. You bring color and passion to everything you do. And it's challenged me to think outside my comfortable box.

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  15. THIS:

    The thing about poverty is that it's worn and eaten. It's the dingy house and the car that no one can drive. It's the gallon jar of banana peppers because that's what the church was giving today. It's fuzzy house slippers with blackened bottoms and so many clothes that she doesn't know what to do with them, can't possibly ever wear them, but can't bear to part with them because they are hers. Poverty is every single one of these things but it's not her. It's a condition, not a personality type.


    thank you.

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  16. I love the way you write, Shannan. To be able to not only have the courage to change your life and open it up to suffering like you have done, but then be able to write about it so that it stirs others to action - what a blessing.

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  17. I love that you took the time to work alongside her to clean her apartment....and then realized the need and took the time for solitude!

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  18. You said it all and beautifully. Bless you and your new friend.

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  19. Thank you for forcing me to recognize what is right in front of me as I walk this foster care path that we are on. My only desire is to be pleasing to the Lord. Thank you. Somehow it doesn't feel so lonely.

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  20. It is a gift--the way that you communicate! How well you express ideas and emotion. I stop by your blog when I need to be grounded...and lifted. Thank you.
    Jennifer

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  21. Praising God right now for this post.... Thank you for being transparent and for this encouragement to take the Gospel seriously- to stop hoarding it for myself and my comfortable relationships- to face head on my ugly fear of suffering, my desperate clinging to control and comfort and ease.

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  22. i'm so glad you're writing a book sister.
    you make me think about so much. and you shine the light. you're that city on a hill. salt and light. yes. that's you girlie

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  23. again...you are a treasure.
    not just talking the talk, but WALKING the WALK.
    xoxoxo

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  24. um amazing. balance is a lie. it really is. guess what? we may move to a 650 sg ft apt. and i am actually excited. it seems like the less i hold on to in this world, the closer i am to Him and His people. win-win.

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  25. Beautiful truth...thanks.

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  26. i understand this 100%. god has taken us on such similar journeys!

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  27. you really are a lovely communicator
    if i've said it once, i've said it a million times.
    i like you.
    i like listening to you.
    thanks for being you.

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  28. Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day...but give a man a jar of banana peppers? Really help us, Lord. Suffering by osmosis must count because it calls us to action, which helps everybody. Keep sharing your heart, FPFG.

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  29. Thank you for this post! This soothes my hurting heart tonight. My husband and I were called to foster over a year ago. We have had 16 kids in 15 months and with each child comes pain with their pain and leaving. We recently decided to adopt our current foster son (we never planned to adopt!) Today at court we found out we might not be ale to adopt him. Our hearts just ache with pain but you know it would hurt more if we never got to know him our experience our "crazy". We love our "crazy"! Thank you for shinning the light on that and the joy of knowing our 16 children!

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  30. "You won't care because God told you to. You'll care because the thought of losing track of those faces will hurt more than a thousand tired nights. You'll care because you'll fall in love." - thank you!! your perspective is so settling to me in the midst of changes. Love your words so much! What is new with the book?

    xox, jenny

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  31. i'm telling you what...and you better believe it.....God has used you to call me to MORE action.
    please keep writing.

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