Tuesday, November 30, 2010

beautiful words

This quote is speaking so much to me this morning. I love everything Annie Dillard writes. She has a wonderful way of words.

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” –Annie Dillard

Friday, November 26, 2010

I send you...

I wrote this for a few different friends who are walking through some very difficult times.
These are my words to them.

I Send You

I send you warmth on a cold winter's night.
I send you quiet moments to be still in the presence of your God.
I send you a tiny spark into your darkness
to light your way when you don't know which way is up and which way is down.
I send you hope in the most unlikely of people
to speak a kind word into your ear
or a smile into your eyes.
I send you freedom from secrets and expectations you've long held onto.
I send you freedom to change and to grow into the person you were created to be
and patience in the process.
I send you the strength to be laid bare and broken and vulnerable
before a community that loves you
and a God that loves you even more.
I send you peace in those moments of despair and loneliness.
I send you truths and stillness to calm your anxious thoughts
to give your weary body rest.
I send you strength and courage
to sit with the anger, the pain, the guilt, the disappointment, the sadness, and the loss,
to watch it change shape, soften and transform
into something new and holy and good.
I send you powerful moments of knowing
deep down in your bones and insides that you are kept and you are loved.
I send you grace.
I send you grace into darkest corners of your being,
places you wish to be left unseen.
I send you the lightness that comes with a burden lifted and sins forgiven.
I send you the feeling of God's love
in every pulsation of your heart and every breath let free from your chest.
You are so deeply loved.
Know that.

heart full of thanks

Sometimes I wake up less than excited about life. Sometimes I just want to curl up in my bed and forget the world around me and sleep away the day. I have the tendency to lose myself in those darker places and shut the curtains on the world around me. I don't always know where it comes from; sometimes it's weather induced, other times it's situational. I'm tired of waking up less than excited about life, because life is something to be excited about.

I've started a new morning ritual and it's made all the difference.

Right when I wake up, before my feet touch the floor, I grab my laptop from the floor and write in my word document, "heart full of thanks". Each morning I just make a simple list of things I am thankful for. Sometimes it's a long list and sometimes it's short. Sometimes they are trivial things and sometimes they are meaningful things. It has done wonders for my attitude. I start my day in a posture of gratitude and praise.

I just read something I had scribbled from a sermon I had heard in college.

Praise is the permanent pulsation of the heart

Praise and gratitude should be like the rhythm of our hearts. We breathe in the brokenness, joys, sorrows and heartache that life often brings and we breathe out praise and gratitude. Each breath is an opportunity to see all that is in and around us and to be grateful. Grateful because we know we are being kept by one much greater than ourselves.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"It will all be okay"

There is a young homeless woman who frequents our coffee house. I have gotten to know her story a bit over the past few weeks in brief snippets of conversation. Rarely does she come in for more than hot water for a sample tea bag that she received at the co-op next door. But today, she came in excited to buy a hot chocolate. She was able to pan-handle more than she needed for a place to stay tonight and was excited to be able to purchase a treat that would double as a hand warmer in the dropping temps.
As I made her drink, we chatted about how it had been a rough couple days and she had barely found the time to sleep, with having to leave the awning where her and her husband sleep by 7am before the cops come and tell them to leave. The rain and the colder nights that have moved in with the winter's air make it difficult to truly rest and I could tell it's starting to wear on her.
She paid for her drink with a five dollar bill and I handed her a couple dollars and some change in return. She paused for a second looking at the dollar bill on top and then said, "huh, that's strange." I questioned what she was referring to and she showed me the bill that had,
"it will all be okay :)"
simply written across the bill. She smiled and turned away and I got goosebumps and felt confident that those words came across the eyes that needed to see them most.

Monday, October 11, 2010

bikes, bridges and new phones

Can I just say real quick that today is the most beautiful and perfect of fall days in Portland.
So sunny and crisp and chilled.
I went running after work last night (I'll pause for a gasp because I rarely run, ever).
Then, I rode my bike to work today (allow for second pause...). I decided to ride my bike after I looked at the weather last night and felt the beginning pains of sore legs. It's best if I keep them in motion so as not to feel the pain of working out once every four months.
The run and the bike ride were perfect.
I might even do it again.
Back to the reason I am writing this post anyway. I got a new phone, a fancy phone with all the frills. The best thing about it is that I am paying less per month than I was before because I am now on a family plan with some friends, score.
One of the main reasons I wanted a fancy phone was navigation, but I'll write about that another time.
More so, I wanted a fancy phone for the fun camera apps and mobile upload.
I am all about it. I'll probably be an over-poster, but I can't help it. It's just that so many times during the day, I think, "this is so cool/pretty/awkward/strange, somebody needs to see this." and now it's possible. I can share those moments with people. YES.
A couple shots from my ride to and from work over the Broadway Bridge.
Such a pretty ride. I am lucky to live where I do.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Guest House

My friend Janine, the beautiful soul that she is, sent along this lovely poem. It's been a week of ups and downs and heavy thoughts. And I just keep coming back to one of my favorite songs by The Weepies, The World Spins Madly On. Janine sent this along with the subject line "Sometimes when the world spins too madly, I like to read this poem". I love it. Sometimes I am sent words at just the right time and this was one of them. Thank you Janine :)

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

Monday, September 27, 2010

Camp Hope, Haiti

I've just returned from my second trip to Haiti. I have so many thoughts running rampant through my mind and haven't quite found the words to explain them all. I'm not sure I ever will. Last week, I was with Haitians living in a refugee camp in Fond Parisien. Their entire lives are held within a small tent, and their belongings inside could likely be held in a single bag. I found that even though many own but a few possessions, the one thing many hold most tightly is their God.
Our translator Thomas had written verses and statements of belief all around the outside of his tent so that every time he came home he would see and be reminded of God's promises. He spoke confidently about God's love and faithfulness and how his faith in Jesus was all he needed in these tough times. I admired the way he so fearlessly and confidently he talked about his faith.

In the past few years I have seen God work in amazing ways. I've seen Him restore hope to lonely and broken hearts. I've seen him bring redemption to seemingly irredeemable circumstance. I've seen him bring joy where there was once only sorrow. I know that God is faithful and I know he will restore and rebuild what has been broken. And I believe that He will comfort all who mourn and rebuild and restore the places long devastated.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

Isaiah 61:1-4

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Feel It In My Bones -Tegan and Sara

These Blogotheque Takeaway Shows are awesome. I always get sucked into watching a zillion of them. I just love live music. I don't have much music by Tegan and Sara but they are one of my favorites to watch live. Their voices are just so unique and together just so beautiful.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday Bobby

One of my customers told me the most beautiful story this morning, sad but beautiful. Stewart ordered his two double espressos and was coming back into line to receive his second. We had already cycled through the two minutes of small talk that accompanies most coffee orders in the amount of time it takes to pay and get one's coffee. So with talk about the weather and the weekend behind us, he gently throws into conversation that his grandfather passed away early this morning. It fell out of his mouth so delicately that I had to ask again to make sure I had heard correctly. He nodded and elaborated a bit more saying that he passed away first thing this morning, and they as a family knew it was coming and that death was imminent. The man had been saying all along that he would live until he was 100 years old. He was set on it, a ripe long life of 10o years. Stewart went on to say, "today is his 100th birthday...they called me this morning to tell me he had awoken this morning, smiled widely and said 'I am 100 years old today. I made it.' ..and just a couple minutes later he passed away silently into the morning." It gave me chills right then and there. I was holding Stewart's espresso, feeling the chills on my skin and watching the line of customers grow. Wow. What a story. This man had willed himself to live to one hundred. That was his goal. At 100, he could move on from this life into the next, knowing he lived a full century, a century full of stories, laughs, adventures, travels and millions of moments of love and sadness. Today, his family is sorrowful but will remember in awe today and always the life he lived and his sheer will to live and die on his own terms. His name was/is Bob; though most knew and loved him as Bobby. I told Stewart they should all buy birthday hats, streamers and balloons and cheers to a long life lived full and well.

Happy Birthday Bobby.
You are so loved.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Paul and Paul

The name Paul is being redeemed in my life.

I met a man named Paul about a year ago. I met him through a community at my church. He had asked some of the church leaders about getting involved in a community. I had some time in my schedule as classes were winding down and summer was rolling in and I offered to contact him and help him get involved. Our first meeting was at the Taco Bell down the street from his house. We had some pretty intense conversations and I felt that God had crossed our paths with purpose and I was excited for the ways that both of us were being stretched in knowing each other’s life stories. We were connected in the pain that we carried. Not as much in experience but in the feeling of carrying a burden much larger than ourselves. Rather suddenly, our acquaintanceship/friendship was ended when he asked me never to call him again. He told me I would never understand the extent of the things he had been through, and he was right, I would and will never know what he has lived through and see the things that he has seen. He told me then that he prayed with all his strength for God to take him away and for me to not contact him and he hung up the phone.

I sat there and stared at my cell phone for what felt like hours and sighed. I’m not one to blatantly do what someone tells me not to. If someone doesn’t want me in their life, I’m not going to force it. I’ll honor that. I felt like someone placed a brick on my chest. I wanted so desperately to call him back to tell him over and over that there was hope. That there is so much more than pain and sorrow. That he is loved and the pain he was experiencing wouldn’t be forever.

The whole experience left me feeling uneasy and sad. I wanted so badly to know how Paul was doing and to check in, but he asked me not to call, so I tried my darndest to let it go. It couldn’t have been more than one week when I was working at the coffee house and a homeless man walked in offering to sweep our sidewalks for a bowl of soup and a bagel. “That sounds like a fair trade, deal,” I said. “What’s your name?” I asked. He followed me to the back as I went to grab the broom and answered, “Paul”.

He must have thought I forgot to breathe or something because after an uncomfortably long pause, I answered, “It’s really great to meet you, Paul. I’m glad you’re going to help us out today.”

I laughed to myself at the fact that less than a week had passed and another Paul had crossed my path. I had a feeling that this Paul would be an impactful person in the same way that the first Paul I met had been and I was right, Paul began coming into the coffee house daily. He would help out with sweeping or washing the windows, but as the seasons changed and there were no longer leaves to sweep, we just invited him in to have a meal and to talk with him. He told us the story of how he came to be homeless, how he graduated with an MBA so many years ago and used to own a fancy sports car. It became part of my day to see Paul and to check in with him. I would always offer him food and sometimes he would decline and I would insist, “at least take a little for later” I would say. One day he confessed to me, “I’m not really hungry most of the time when I come in here. You guys talk to me like a real person. Nobody else talks to me out there.” We had a great friendship going, Paul and I, but it didn’t stay great for long. When I first met Paul, he hadn’t been on the streets for very long and as the weeks passed by, he became more and more sad and each day his hopes of getting off the streets died a little more. He began using his money for alcohol and not for food and showers. He would come in slurring his words and reeking of alcohol. Several conversations were had but ultimately we had to tell Paul that he was only welcome at the coffee house if he were sober and that was a decision he was going to have to make for himself. Months went by and no one at the coffee house had seen or heard from Paul. I felt that same uneasy feeling that I had felt months before when the other Paul asked me never to call him again. Sigh…Once promising relationships had disappeared and left me wondering what had become of them both and worried about where their paths may have led.

Several months had passed since Paul had asked me not to call when one evening my phone rang while I was in a meeting. I glanced at it and saw his name across the screen. I watched it ring silently and watched the missed call replace his name. I hoped and hoped for a voicemail and a minute later, a voicemail message appeared. I listened after my meeting shocked at what I was hearing, “Hi Shannon, this is Paul, blast from your past! …Just wondering why I haven’t heard from you in ages. Call me back.” I was so confused. His voice was chipper and cheerful and hello, he asked me not to call. I called him back and he acted as if no time had passed. He was cracking jokes and quoting verses from the Bible. He’s smart as a whip like that. Our friendship was back on track and he apologized for the way things had ended before and told me he was ready to be in community and to seek help. He’s been coming to the recovery groups at our church and has never been better. He has remained a good friend of mine and thanks me again and again for being a friend to him. Just my knowing him through the seasons and through the rough patches of life, I have been stretched and grown and ultimately have become a more gentle and persistent person. I have been so thankful for him and his will to keep on even when life seems like too much and when he wants to just fold his cards and bow out of the game. He survives.

If this blessing weren’t enough, maybe a week had gone by after I had reconnected with Paul when I was working at the coffee house and who walks through the door but my old friend Paul. I barely recognized his cleanly shaven, tanned and slim face. His smile stretched from ear to ear as he greeted another coworker and I heartily and happily. He said he only had a moment but wanted to stop in and see his favorite people. He told us about his new job and his holidays with his family and how he had been clean and sober for a couple months. Me and the gal I was working with were just glowing. All of us that work at the coffee house had been worried about him and where he might have been. Last we had seen him, he was not in good shape and the weather was getting below freezing at night. But here he was, standing right before our eyes, alive and well, making jokes and asking us about our lives. Oh man, it was a glorious and happy day.

After he left the coffee house, I swear I just stood there smiling for a good hour. Two Pauls had come into my life and then out of my life. I thought that was it, I thought the name Paul would always stir that sense of worry and unease in me, but here I am writing about the two of them and the joy just bubbles up in me. The things they have been through and seen, I will never know, but I am so encouraged and filled with hope in knowing them and their unfailing desire to keep living and giving thanks in the midst of it all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"love to the max"

Today, I imagine, my grandmother is sitting in her wheelchair in the nursing home she now calls home. She is frail and small and feisty. She is no longer the sweet presence she once was. We mourn the loss of her as she sleeps more and more and remembers less and less each day. Her body has been claimed by an awful disease we call Alzheimer's. It is so hard to come to terms with the fact that this is my grandmother, the woman who is remembered by most she has ever met as one of the sweetest women they have ever met and was voted citizen of the year many moons ago. How does one reconcile the loss of the woman she once was?
My best guess is by remembering the woman that she once was and that I believe is still inside buried in the darkness of this tragic disease. Rhea was born in the 1940s on Bainbridge Island during the boom of the Port Blakely Lumber Mill. She was the last of five children and quickly named "her father's darling". Her high school years were seemingly idyllic. She was a cheerleader, sang in the glee club, and played in the orchestra. Lest you think she was all roses and dresses, after learning how to drive a Mack truck, she quickly became known as the girl who could "double-clutch like an old pro". She was sunshine and auto grease. She'd drive trucks with the best of them in the morning and later waltz and Jitterbug the nights away.
Growing up, I couldn't get enough of Grandma's house. I remember hours and hours of play in her attic. Dressing up in her old clothes and playing on the old rocking horse and creating endless imaginary tales and scenes. The aroma of her goulash creation, perhaps the one entrée she knew how to cook is stamped in my memory along with the cans and cans of Diet Coke lining the fridge. I felt safe in her house, running up and down the stairs and in and out of rooms lost in a fairytale wonderland my cousins and I had created.
Her house may have been safe but her driving was a whole other animal. I don't think she once wore a seatbelt. She would zip around the island at least 20mph over the speed limit in her little sports car. I remember she let my cousin Erin and I squeeze in the back seat for a joyride around town. The wind blowing our hair every which way made us laugh 'til we thought we might pee our pants or fear we might swallow a bug. I loved every second sitting behind my Grandmother driving fast just to feel the wind in her hair. That may have been the only joyride as our parents were less than thrilled that we had been driving with Grandma and without seat-belts. I didn't walk away from that one without a record breaking lecture around driving safety.
She was a woman who had a kind word to say about everyone she encountered. She knew everyone and we could rarely go anywhere with her without being stopped every ten feet with another friend stopping to say hello. She is one of those island staples of my hometown. People I've met throughout the years who happened to have been to Bainbridge maybe a handful of times will jump in excitement when I tell them my grandma is the sweet old woman they remember from the small little grocery store or the little ice cream shop. She left an impression of kindness on everyone who crossed her path. It brings me comfort to know that so many people will remember my Grandma for the compassionate, loving, and vibrant presence that she was so many years ago. I know that piece of her is still inside, but it's such a shame that it just appears for fleeting moments like shooting stars. But for those of us who catch a glimpse of those precious moments, we are blessed.
She used to call me every year on my birthday and sing me happy birthday while playing the piano and signing off with "love you to the max". It was the most precious gift I received every year. This is the first year I didn't get a call from her, but I will definitely remember when she did.
love to the max.
This video is from a couple years ago during one of those precious moments, sorry for the sidewayziness..
love you to the max, grandma. :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010


"Do not look for rest in any pleasure , because you were not created for pleasure, you were created for joy. And if you don't know the difference between pleasure and joy you have not yet begun to live."
-Thomas Merton


I can't get this boy out of my head.
I met him at the Love a Child field Hospital in Haiti.
His smile made me melt from the start. He had so much joy and pain and life in him and he shared that with us. That boy, he's a fighter. And I can't stop thinking about his story and the scar on his face.
I look at scars in a completely new way after my time in Haiti.
Just the other night as I was looking through some of my pictures from Haiti, I found myself thinking about scars. I thought about how people often want to hide their scars or buy creams to make them disappear. We want to hide the fact that we were hurt. I thought about how scars are often conversation starters because there is a story behind every scar.
I thought about Andres.
Scars show us and others that though we have been hurt, we survive.
Andres was caught in the rubble during the earthquake. He survived the building's collapse while many others did not. Andres now has a large scar on his forehead. In some pictures of him, the scar almost resembles a lightning bolt. Behind this scar is a story, a sign of the hurt he has experienced, a sign that though he has been hurt, he survives. Though it may remind him of the pain he experienced. It will remind him that he is still here. It is a sign of God's goodness and protection. For years to come, he will wear the marks of the earthquake on his face for everyone to see. For years, people will ask about the scar on his face and he will be able to tell them about the devastation he experienced and survived. He will be telling the story of how God has shaped him into the boy he is today and the boy he will be in the future.
His scars will ultimately tell a story of hope.
There will be marks of the earthquake on the bodies and hearts of the people of Haiti for years and years to come, but these marks will tell a story of survival in the midst of sorrow and devastation. A mark to all around them that they continue on. They refuse to give up. They are the resilient ones that stand as a reminder to the world around them that life is here for living, even in the midst of hurt.
The thing about scars is that we all have them. Whether they are physical scars or emotional ones, we have all been hurt, yet we survive.
Our scars weave us together. No one is exempt from suffering.
May our stories and our scars encourage and remind us that we are all in this together.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Friends, I am headed to Haiti next Tuesday for ten days.

I am so so so excited for this opportunity, my buttons could just burst right off. From the second I heard about the earthquake, my heart just broke for all the people and the country as a whole. I wanted so badly to go and be with the people and help. Just a few weeks ago everything unfolded so perfectly and fast for me to join a medical and counseling team. We'll be working in a medical clinic in Haiti and doing some counseling there and then the counseling part of our team with head into Port Au Prince to lead a conference for Haitian counselors and locals on counseling techniques and coping skills. It couldn't be more perfect.

I have never enjoyed the process of fundraising and asking people for money for trips like this but this trip was completely different. Everything just fell right into place and donations came in from close friends and from family and from people who I don't even know. I was completely humbled at the generosity of the people I surround myself with and not just with funds but with encouragement and support and excitement. I am so so grateful for it all.

It just affirms to me that this is where I am meant to be and what I am meant to be doing right now. I am so thankful for this opportunity to give of a skill that I have and to be present in the midst of both joy and sorrow and to bear witness to the lives of those who have been through immense tragedy yet choose to fight each day for more.

It's work like this that makes my heart come alive and as this great man says,
"Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -Howard Thurman

Thank you all for standing by me and helping me to do the work that makes me come alive.
For that I am forever grateful.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Sometimes life is just hard. It’s been one of those weeks.

Needless to say, it had been a long day and I was emotionally spent. I was closing down the coffee house and sweeping the floors like I always do. Sometimes it’s nice to just have a routine to fall into and just do mindlessly. The pile of dust and coffee grounds and crumbs collected at my feet when I looked down and right there in that gross pile of garbage was the word trust. I stopped and bent down and just looked at the word. Someone had torn the word out of a magazine and it was jagged around the edges and covered in coffee house debris. I smiled and let out a sigh and was thankful for a perfectly placed reminder.


Life gets messy and complicated and starts to look like a pile of garbage, but even in the midst, I choose to trust that one day all that is broken will be redeemed.

I taped the word to my phone to remind me throughout the day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

photo shennanigans

So, I've decided to accept the challenge to take one picture every day and post it to a blog as part of the 365 Project. Simply put, one picture a day for three hundred and sixty five days (one year).

I love taking pictures and this will keep me doing what I love and keep the creative mind fresh.
If you would like to be awesome and join me in the 365 challenge... Please go to blogger.com and set up a blog. Then come here and leave a link to the blog so we can follow each other.

Follow my daily photo shennanigans here!

here's a sample with today's photo.