Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A friend came over last night, I love her dearly and she helped me to have the obvious revelation that I am suffering from wait for it.... burn out.  

I had an "a duh" moment.  Those moments generally consistent of someone pointing out the obvious and me scratching my head wondering how I didn't realize this myself.  Please tell me I'm not the only one this happens to.  

I have discovered that there is a relatively simple way to combat burn out.  It is to list the gifts that I have on a daily basis. (and to actually get sleep every night)  I've been counting my 1000 Gifts for over a year now and this morning, I got to 758.  I've made it my goal to get to 1000 by the end of July.  Surely I can come up with 200 and some odd things to be thankful for in a month?!

Some of the gifts of this week:

744 - hammock time with a book that makes me laugh so hard my stomach hurts

750 - awesome new tats

751 - persevering with Rowan yesterday despite how much parenting well cost me personally

753 - the laundry staying under control 

757 - tears, crying real tears and lots of them (this is a gift to me because I used to not be able to cry)  

I can count by the way, these are just some of the gifts, not all of them.  This morning I feel better.  Well rested and glad that I can embrace the perspective that there are still many things to be thankful for in my life.  This is one way that I practice God's presence.  I know when I am in the space where I am thankful for the very best things in my life and even some mediocre things that I am more aware of the Spirit.  It gives me the lenses with which I can view the world and see that God's hands are still all over my life.  They are not rose colored glasses.  Listing gifts does not somehow negate all the crap in my life and the fact that yesterday totally sucked for me.  It is a whole other thing entirely - it gives me a more balanced perspective of how there can be really crappy parts of life, but that does not mean that the sum of my life is crap.  If you add it all up life can still be good.  

So I am thankful for today, for the fact that I got a whole night's sleep last night, and for the fact that there is a balance to viewing life.  Life is both good and very very hard.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Tribute to the Barnes Crew

Yesterday was a tough day on me.  We had our last court appearance that is required for a while.  And this one was about money.  Can I tell you how much I hate this topic?  Historically my ex has had a strong propensity toward frittering away cash in large amounts.  This explains of ton of things but foremost in my mind is how he got away with paying prostitutes and for the gas to drive his truck to Baltimore and Philly on a regular basis without me having any idea.  

Basically as it stands now I'm completely financially screwed.  I get to stay in my house for a while which is a huge benefit but I'm hundreds of dollars in the hole on a monthly basis.  Not staying in the house and receiving everything he's giving would seem like a wiser move for me but as the agreement stands that is not an option.  Insert teary frustration here.

So I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I sort of figured that yesterday would basically reveal to me whether or not I was moving and whether or not the kids were going to go to daycare.  It has revealed one but not the other.  I have not at this point figured out how I could afford to pay someone to watch my kids and take anything substantial home on an hourly basis.    And as awesome as my local friends and family are I don't have a "watch the kids for free" option that would work well for us.  I've cut and cut the budget, there's no more to cut.  I have canceled our vacation and eliminated Jonathan's idea that the kids are going to private school. And I'm back to selling stuff on craigslist.  It seems like the best option at this point would be to find something I could do from home.  And make about $600 a month.  And watch the kids at the same time.  If you have any ideas that fall into that category I'm ALL ears.  

Last night about bedtime the tears finally hit.  It was great and relieving that they came but the dam that they were shut up behind is formidable.  No sooner had they come then three cousins of mine came waltzing in the door.  I could kiss them and their mother that sent them.  She knew I had a rough day and that the hours that would be hardest for me were the evening ones.  The girls streamed in washed dishes, swept floors, pj'd kids and loved on me.  I gave them ice cream and chips and laughs and helped them scan and frame pictures for their house makeover.  They came under the guise of me helping them frame pictures, but it was a thin veil.  They were here because I was wounded and they had some salve for the wound.  

I have a loud, crazy, huge family.  They are somewhat unreliable, always opinionated and the noise can be deafening.  We are prone to drama, love beer and playing games and the Steelers.  But what my family knows how to do, what we will do for anyone within it, what we will do for you if you come join our circle, we will love you fiercely.  Passionately and without ceasing.  We may annoy you, get sick of you, or think you should drink less beer.  But when tragedy or difficulty comes to your life, we will be there.  

If you move 8 hours away from the only home you've known with your family and children to somewhere you know no one and that scares you.  And you're afraid that your family will never come see you again.  We will show up before you even get there and start unpacking boxes.  We'll buy flowers and sweep floors and clean bedrooms.  You'll walk into a house that looks like a home and your family standing there.  And you'll know we will never leave you.  There isn't any place too far for you to go.  We are there and sometimes you don't even have to call.  

Like today.  I didn't even call.  Leah sent the girls and I made it to my bedtime.  

Thanks girls, Thanks Aunt Leah, Thank you Barneses everywhere.  You are my family and I cherish you for it.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A little late

I totally stole this picture....

I have two dads here on earth.  My biological one, Jim, and my step-dad, Billy.  They are very different guys and I'm thankful for the influence they both had on my life.  

I have learned over the last few years of getting to know my dad, Jim, better that my contemplative side totally comes from him.   I might not be as introverted as he is read occasionally socially awkward ;-) but he and I process much the same.  At least as much the same as a man and a woman born a generation apart can.  He has stacks of journals, have you seen my attic???  The only possession he cares about me having when he dies - his Bible.  I can totally relate.  Words to him are to be cherished.  He doesn't waste them as I am prone to do and when he's out of them he says just that.   "Well Shannon, I'm out of words"    Can't tell you how many phone conversations we've had end this way.  I may waste a good deal more words than he does but I value them the same way.  I cherish them, I treasure them up in my heart and when you use them to bless or curse me I totally notice.  If I'm pissed at you, you'll know it, through my words.  And satire, oh how I love satire, totally get that from him.  My dad loves knowing people, he wants to know about their lives but has little patience for small talk and has lived alone for the last thirty years.  I also get some frivolous things from him like freckles, more Irish temper than I care to admit, and my absolute propensity to be on time and calculate exactly how long it should take to do something.  Oh and my last name, the one I had for 23 years and recently reclaimed.  So thanks Dad, you may not realize that you affected my life so positively.  You may not realize how much I cherish our visits and really look forward to you coming to see us.  You may not realize that all your idiosyncraisies that totally used to annoy the crap out of me are now really endearing.  I love you, Dad.  Sorry I haven't been better at showing it.  

Jim may have come first, he may have helped shaped me biologically and through my very nature.  But to be fair Billy was there for all the nurture.  My mom and Billy married when I was three.  I don't remember life before him and although there was a year when he and I weren't speaking not so long ago, I could not give up life with him now and shouldn't have then either.  He was the man that raised me.  He was my Dad is my Dad and has been my Dad day in and day out.  He is a grandfather to my children and he loves all four of us tremendously.  Billy, my dad, was the one who took us to church every Sunday.  Taught me every limited thing I know about any sport.  And confronted my teachers when they wronged me.  He was the one who drove me to band practice, he helped pay for college and taught me how to drive stick shift.  He was the one who came over with mom the day of my great reveal.  And he's the one who threatened (as of yet has not followed through with) physical violence to anyone who would hurt me.  He loves my babies fiercely and Eowyn is the spring in his not so spry step.  He's stood by my mother through thick and thin and he was the father to my sister that we buried.  He is just as much my dad.  From him I received so much stellar advice, much of which I ignored over the years and now causes me to pause when he gives it because he doesn't just hand it out like free lollipops.  I've seen him laugh and cry and he has taught me what a man's quiet and gentle strength looks like.  He finally convinced me after years of telling me that if he ever stops picking on me then I'll know he has stopped caring.  And because of him I have a great southern family who really taught my mom and I how to cook.  

I have much to be thankful for with both of my fathers.  But what I'm the most thankful for today is that they've both pointed me to Jesus.  As we sat in the courthouse waiting last weekend, Billy did something I hadn't remembered seeing before, he stopped and prayed just with me, he asked God for his hand over everything that was to happen that day.  God answered that prayer very clearly for us.  And the last time Jim visited, he encouraged me to look heavenward.  He talked about the fact that we need to take our focus off of the temporal and the earthly.  He told me to focus on the eternal.  What will I really do that lasts forever?  And he gave me a wonderful gift of telling me that as far as the hear and now goes, I'm it.  I'm all he's got.  

Thanks Dad...  Thanks Dad...  for being my earthly fathers, may I be able to honor you both with my life.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Writing Heros

I met a hero of mine last week, a hero of sorts.  As I sit here writing I'm listening to the perfect music that plays when you read her blog.  Ann Voskamp, she is an author, blogger, speaker, farmer's wife and mother of six, and she loves Jesus something fierce.  

It was a brief meeting, a hello, tell me thirty seconds of your story in a book signing line.  There was an iPhone picture and my tattered copy of her book "One Thousand Gifts" was signed.  She gave me the grace of encouraging my writing and I gave her the grace of having not responded to my email.  

It was perfectly lovely - something Ann would say.  She looked stunning and svelte, I looked, well...  happy, happy to be graced with a birthday gift of meeting a writer, not a random one, one I felt as if I knew from her work.  I felt like I had been to her home, shared a pot of tea and had our children run around creating chaos together.  

None of those things have happened but when you blog your life; your life becomes an open door.   Those you know and those you don't who read they feel like they're sitting in your kitchen with you as you tell your story.  They know the color your walls are painted and the screech of your youngest when she doesn't get her way.  And if you're exceptionally blessed they know all this and love you too.  They would gladly bring you a box of tissues, their favorite book to borrow and a bottle of wine to share.  They would be right there with you as you celebrate your victories and mourn your defeats.  They pray with you on the other side of their computer screens, on their knees and in their cars as they run errands or drive to work.  This kind of love may not be the love of the nitty gritty doing life together, but it is love.  

When a reader reaches out to me and is kind with their words I feel their grace.  I feel the church surrounding me with the love and acceptance that I was looking for preceding the great reveal.  The love I wasn't sure I would ever receive again before I left.  And frankly it's love that if I did not know the truth about Jonathan's actions I'm not sure I'd be receiving today.  I can rejoice in knowing the truth.  I can be grateful for kindness granted to me from all of you.  But I have to wonder what about the person who left not knowing... what about the man or woman who left a spouse not knowing how to explain the reason?  Not knowing why they felt so awful, so abused, neglected, mistreated, so callously apathetically ignored...   

Ann's book line advice to me: Keep writing, sister!  I intend to, to write, to live life and to love and to learn to do those things better.  

I hope you are here to learn from my story, love another sister, and discover more about Jesus with me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Early yesterday morning and as the day went on I dreaded and prayed for our afternoon custody mediation.  I sent texts to almost everyone in my contact list asking them for their prayer and attention for the 3 p.m. meeting.  I was so consumed with trying to not freak out that I called my best friend, upset and forgot to wish her a happy birthday.  DOLT!!!!   She had to mention that it was her birthday for me to say something!  Pretty sure that's never happened to me before.  I'll get her an awesome gift to make up for it.  Maybe I'll craft her something.  

So, come 3 o'clock, all the saints I could call on were praying and I was repeating my verse for yesterday over and over again in my head.  I should mention that my Dad went with me.  He uses a cane to steady himself as he walks and we had to park three blocks away, and it was raining buckets, and we went to the wrong office in the wrong building, twice.  It's a good thing I'm always early, because dagummit that was a royal screw up.  Did I mention I'm a detail person?  This stuff just doesn't happen to me, if it wasn't such a serious meeting, Dad and I would have been laughing at the hilarity of it all.

We got there with time to spare, and Dad should be exhausted for a week because of my screw up.  My attorney showed up, he briefed us, confirming what I wanted regarding custody.  Jonathan's attorney showed, Jonathan showed last, but was not late, surprisingly enough...  

How these things go in case you ever have the awful need to know, is that the attorneys go meet with the mediator first to state what their clients want and then they come back out, tell their clients what the other side wants and then you all go in with the mediator to hash it out.  

When my attorney, Max, came back out, he basically told me that Jonathan's attorney had no idea what he wants.  So Max said, lets go in and find out.  I went in with a resolve to speak as little as possible.  BTW, no one has ever been to able to nail the moving target known as Jonathan down on anything.  He just doesn't commit to anything ever.

We go in.  Mediator states her role and Jonathan speaks.  Long winded as usual.  Finally the mediator asks me what I would like.  I freeze and say "Umm," brilliant Shannon, brilliant.  Then I look at Max.  Thankfully he saved me. (That's what I pay him for.)  He stated what I would be willing to accept.  The mediator turns to Jonathan basically he says he just doesn't want a week to go by without him seeing them.   So that's what he gets, a guarantee that seven whole days will not go by without him seeing them, as both parties agree.  I didn't know I was a whole party, parties are fun.  That's fitting, I'm fun!  ;-) I have primary custody and we make decisions together regarding school, church, extra curriculars and neither of us can relocate to a place that would be too far away to make this agreement happen.  

I didn't realize I haven't been breathing for so long.  I forgot what it was like to breathe normally through my mouth and nose rather than through a teeny straw hole like I was.  We walked out of that room and the angels and I rejoiced together.  I could have collapsed in a puddle of happy tears right there on the floor if it hadn't been in the middle of a courthouse.  Maybe even in the middle of a courthouse if only my ex hadn't been there.  I don't have a very sensitive public embarrassment meter.

We have one more important meeting next Monday to decide child support and alimony and then the rest is just legal nonsense.  Frankly I'm so relieved at this point I'm having a hard time caring about anything else.  Although I don't want to move, I have my kids and we can live in a hut and eat rice and beans for all I care.  We're together.  Be still my beating thankful heart. It's ready to thump right out of my chest.  Praise be to Jesus, thank you Spirit for your care and thank you Father for your loving hand on all of us.  

We're happy...

We're chillin'...

And filled with wonder...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I've been quietly preparing for a big day today.  Preparing myself for a week or so now.  Today is our custody hearing.  While I know I don't have to agree with anything I'm uncomfortable with today; I also know that if we don't reach an agreement then I turn our fate over to the hands of a judge.  The fate of the custody of my children, what that looks like here and now.  I realize that God does reign supreme over all of us but I don't know how he would or would not choose to intervene in this scenario. 

I know that God goes with me.  But for all the confident, competent Shannon that is usually presented I am freaking out internally.  

I am repeating 2 Tim 1:7 over and over to myself.  "For God has not given you a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love, and self-discipline."  

Please pray with us.  For the highest good.  For God's kingdom to reign here and now in our lives.  And for the grace and peace that only he can give.  



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy Song

I was tempted to deliberately craft a happy post for all of you out in the blog-o-sphere.  Just for you, to let you know that I'm not unhappy or depressed or going to jump off any bridges any time soon. But I'm not any of those things, many of you interacting with me regularly know that.  I'm happy most of the time.  And crafting something just to reassure the rest of you is really out of line with my birthday gift to myself.  So instead I'm sharing a poem that spoke to me:

Everything is far
and long gone by.
I think that the star
glittering above me
has been dead for a million years.
I think there were tears 
in the car I heard pass
and something terrible was said.
A clock has stopped striking in the house
across the road . . .
When did it start? . . .
I would like to step out of my heart 
and go walking beneath the enormous sky. 
I would like to pray. 
And surely of all the stars that perished
long ago,
one still exists.
I think that I know
which one it is--
which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,
stands like a white city . . .

Rainer Maria Rilke

Special thanks to Sarah Bessey for mentioning Mr. Rilke, not sure how I lived 32 years without her, or if my soul only recently awoke to the gift of poetry.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vodka with My Coffee

The last few days have been a little stressful.  I've been thinking maybe I should pour a little vodka in my morning coffee.  ;-)

I've been needing to get my car looked at it, either a brakes or tire issue.  Stressful new thing that no one helps with now, car maintenance.  Hmm.  How do I handle that?  

Then Sunday morning I woke up to a broken washing machine.  Completely broken.  Not flooding the floor but big holes in the rubber gasket and parts where they clearly shouldn't be and very dirty laundry in the already having been run washing machine.  SHIT!  Do you have any idea how much laundry three children produce?  It's a lot.  I've learned that you generally discover broken washers after you haven't done laundry in a week.  

The laundry is mostly done now.  Thankfully local family members have washers and dryers.  But every time I walk past that machine I wonder when it's going to be fixed and what I will owe when it is?

Today I take my vehicle in, on my own and take my chances with car mechanics.   I have no idea how I will know if they are taking advantage of me.  No clue.  But here goes nothing.  I will have a little trouble being forgiving and gracious toward someone if they hand me a bill that is outrageous, but perhaps I'll just make him pay it.  Hahahahaha, not gonna happen.  

And there's the real issue that nagging in the back of my brain.  One week from today exactly, I will be sitting in a courtroom and someone will be telling me how often I will have my children and how often he will.  And if I don't like it, I will have to fight, for my children.  The ones who exited my body and who I carried for nine months. I didn't just donate sperm and stand back and watch it all happen.  I threw up 20 times a day for five to seven months.  I went through labor and pre-eclampsia and only being able to eat crap. I gained and lost weight, more gaining than losing.  I have the stretch marks and the abused body to prove it.  And the hormones, ohhh the hormones.  Those children... that I went through all of that for.  Some custody officer will tell me when I have to give them to someone who disregarded their lives so completely.  

I often say they're not mine, that they're on loan, they're really God's.  But as far as the court is concerned I think everyone should know they're mine.  And I shouldn't have to give them to anyone who disregarded their and mine existence so pervasively.  I shouldn't have to give them to anyone for any reason ever.

How do we get to this place?  How do we get to the place where fathers and husbands or mothers and wives can destroy their families and still maintain their rights to the members therein?  How exactly does that work?  This is in the court's mind about rights.  In my mind this is about respect, humanity and love.  When you treat others with apathy, as if they are not human, you should relinquish your rights to them.  For you have already abandoned your responsibilities to them, why should you maintain your privileges?  People, little and big ones, should not be forced by the courts to spend time with anyone who has knowingly played Russian Roulette with their lives.  

I grieve and pray.  I ask God for the strength to do this thing.  To place my children in God's hands instead of my own every time I give them to Jonathan.  After all, they are much safer in His Hands then in mine.  I try to trust that God does love them more than me, despite the nagging in the back of my brain that reminds me how many of my loved ones have buried their children.  I know those children are with God and I know they are better there than they would be here but I have watched those parents suffer.  I would not ever willingly walk into that suffering.  

Yes, this is dramatic.  

Are my children going to die on Jonathan's watch?  

Probably not.  

But my heart doesn't play the lottery, especially not with the health and well being of my kiddos.  My heart can't translate statistics.  My heart just knows that next Tuesday someone will telling me that I am giving them up to some extent.  And my heart grieves, disregarding all logic.  And I cry, big fat alligator tears of grief.  Lord, I know you will keep them when they go.  But can you keep me as well?  Hold me together.  Sew up all my loose ends, prevent me from fraying.  I don't want to idolize my children, help me to want You even more than I want them.  Reaffirm your place as the first love of my life.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday.  I am 32.  Yep, mid-thirties.  I dreaded the turning of time on my previous two birthdays, I did not want to turn 30 and then 31.  But this year has me staring 32 right in the face.  I think I like her. 

For my birthday this year I am giving myself the gift of being me.  The best possible, non-striving version of me.  Not the me that happens when I perfectly control all the sin in my life.  Not the me that happens when I manage my outwardly appearance really well and contrive what I want other people to think of me (that would be the narcissistic me).  

I'm giving myself the freedom to be me as I am today.  The wonderfully supremely confident in some areas me, and the hopelessly insecure in other areas me.  The me that sets clearly in the corner behind Christ and lets him duke it out in the boxing ring for me person.  I am letting go of the striving to be something that I'm not.  I'm letting go of the need to always produce something.  I'm letting go of the drive within me that tells me if I don't fight for myself, my children, my world no one else will. 

In the past months I have learned that there is more love in my corner than I could have possibly realized.  God's love, absolutely, I am seeing that grace daily.  But there are also people in my corner.  Remember way back when I said I had friends coming out of the woodwork to step up and love us?  Yeah, they're still coming.  So grateful, so full of praise for that.  

But this is not just about other people loving me.  This is about me loving me.  I have spent long enough in my life worrying about whether or not I was worthy of being loved.  The dichotomy that is required to believe that God loves me and yet I am not worth being loved by humans here on this planet is mind boggling.  I have decided, I am worthy.  God said so and I'm going to believe it.  

Does this mean I love everything about me?  No, there are plenty of things I would love to change. But the truth that I am coming to realize is that the reason I never believed any one else could love me is because I never loved myself.  Somewhere along the line I decided that I was too flawed to deserve to be loved and until I got my crap together I would not love myself.  After all, we should have standards, right people?!  BS

If God thought I was worthy enough to love while still in a sinful state, who the heck am I to argue with him?  I didn't create the universe out of nothing.  I would have at least needed some building supplies to get started.  ;-)  

Happy Birthday Shannon.  You are worthy of love.  You are wonderful as you are today.  No man or woman on earth should ever make you believe otherwise, including yourself.  

Now, go find a hobby that doesn't produce anything.