Ah. Birthday!

You guys.. I originally had the saddest most beaten-down post all written out for today. I talked about what this past twenty-fourth year of my life was like (hint: it was REALLY hard). I talked about my dad’s cancer and my family's journey and all my fears, how disconnected I feel, how vulnerable it is just to be alive sometimes. I talked about how perseverance and hope have proven to be less of a soft pretty ideal and more of a raw, gritty and exhausting marathon. I talked about being tired, battling the temptation to submit to depression and to be vacant and numb. I talked about how messy this past year was, and how uncertain I am of myself, now more than ever.

And it was a good and honest post and I will probably still share it on my personal blog because I think it was worth sharing. But that downcast and low spirit isn’t where I’m at today at the outset of this new year. So I won’t write to you from that old place today.

This morning I spent a while chatting with my mom on the phone and had a delicious breakfast with my dad. With a quick wind of fresh gratitude, I was able to see our situation from a different perspective. I realized that despite cancer and financial craziness and just one heck of a beat-you-down year, our family absolutely refuses to give up on each other. In fact, I have witnessed us fight to love each other better than ever during, despite, and because of this illness. That is awesome, isn’t it? Like, somehow, God has taken something as wicked as cancer and used it to bring life and love even deeper into my family.

And I’m not saying this journey is easy or fun or even resolved. We have no true resolution, I’ve discovered. Even with clear scans and good reports, there will always be a latent fear of “what if it returns" looming over our heads. This rollercoaster ride called cancer will never truly let us off. It’s woven into our stories now and for that, I am deeply grieved. But the Lord is faithful, in that even something as broken as cancer can be the very mechanism He uses to bring us healing.

So yeah, the twenty-fourth year of my life was impossibly hard. But here I am anyway. It didn’t beat me. Cancer, fear, worry, depression, complacency – to all those things I say this: you didn’t win, you won’t win, you can’t win.

Admittedly I am starting my twenty-fifth year from a pretty low place: Tired. A little afraid. A little nervous. A little reluctant. Entirely too young, entirely too vulnerable to the chaos of this great big world. This is what I have to offer the Lord this year. I believe it is enough. I believe He can use me, even if I'm weak. Actually (and this is the wisdom from a beat-you-down kind of year): especially and preferably if I am weak, He can use me. Here we go.


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10


These photos were snapped by my dear friend Jesse Walsh. I wanted to document this birthday, wanted future-Shan to be able to look back on this season. I'm grateful for the gift of photography and the way it can capture us in various life stages.

It's funny how from time to time you can have such a heavy heart, but still always find so many reasons to smile. I think that's been one of my favorite discoveries this year.

Let me also take this time to confess that I have found exactly 10 grey hairs on my head. I'm getting old, people. Below, some iPhone pictures from my birthday date this past weekend. Museums, pumpkin patches, delicious cocktails, kitten faces, golden hearts, and so on. It was a true treat. I'm so grateful for the gift of joy and fun and laughter, no matter the season and no matter how old or grey-haired you are.

For the past few months I've been volunteering as a teacher's assistant at a local elementary school (which has been the most amazing blessing to my heart) and my sweet kiddos drew me these cutie pictures when they found out it was my birthday this week. Also mixed in there are the adorable cats my roommate drew me when she surprise decorated my office with birthday cats! I am so blessed, y'all!

Also today, I partnered with Mohamed from Kenya to buy beehives to help him with honey production and with Maria in the Philippines to help her with her farming endeavors. One of my favorite things to do is partner with people around the world with Kiva. It's my personal belief that Kiva offers a socially responsible and interactive way of being generous with our brothers and sisters globally and I would love to invite you into that journey with me! If you want to join the Vine and Light Family Kiva team and lend with us, just follow this link. If you have any questions about Kiva please don't hesitate to ask!

Oh and happy my birthday to you all! ;)