Friday, July 22, 2016

Launch Team & Summer Pics


It's Friday! It's Friday! And I have news.

My publisher is currently putting together a team of folks to help me launch Falling Free into the stratosphere. Are you interested in being part of the team?

If so, click here and fill out the quick application. (Don't sweat it if you're not active on all types of social media. We just really want people who care about the message of the book and are ready to share about it.)

All launch team members will receive a free (early!) digital download of Falling Free, along with lots of behind-the-scenes action and general tomfoolery. You guys have already been so supportive as I've lived these past several years and then sat down to write it all down. (Spoiler alert: My readers received an extra thank-you in my acknowledgements. Of course you did!)The team is taking applications through midnight tonight - so don't wait. And pass it along if you have a friend who might be interested. The book releases on Sept. 20th and lots of good stuff is coming between now and then. We're going to have so much fun!

In other news, I've been hoarding random summer pictures on my phone and this seems like the perfect time to unload. :)

Happy Friday, Homies!


























(My friend Kristen Strong)









(taken by Calvin)












*Amazon affiliate link used

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Morning

It has been years since I was up before 6 a.m. for no reason. (I've documented the very life out of the fact that I'm not a morning person.)

I'm the type of woman who, for example, might stir at the quietest mouse-noise when her husband is up at 5:15 to drive an inmate hours away to the rest of his life. I'm the type who will feel slightly annoyed, then will toss and turn for the next 45 minutes, trying to recapture sleep when what she really wants to do is lay there wide awake and marvel over the fact that her husband (even less a morning person) counts it a high honor be the person who walks with men out of and back into freedom, the kind that takes different shapes and blooms unexpectedly, the kind very few of us understand.

But somewhere in the midst of that false start to my day I realized summer wasn't going to enjoy itself, so I boiled water in a barely lit kitchen while Calvin stood beside me with a wad of toilet paper held at his bleeding nose. "Why are you up so early?" Ruby asked, twisting her curls into a cornrow, biding her time until they could turn on a cartoon.

I was up because I know sometime around January, or even November, I'll look out on the slick, black morning and wonder why I didn't take this opportunity to sit on my back patio and drink tea before seven in a t-shirt.

I wish you could see my world right this second.
Lean in. I'll show you.

Across the alley, a neighbor I don't know at all is seizing these first hours of light to mow his grass. He weaves back and forth in his chain-linked postage stamp, ducking under the metal frame swing set each time. I have never noticed that swing set. How long as it been since a child played on it? Does he miss that?

One block west, I hear the morning commute. We live hemmed in by traffic, it's part of the soundtrack of our life now and honestly, I'm not so sure why I ever saw this as a problem. It's its own kind of quiet, sort of like the stillness of the farm, only less alone.

If you look to my left, you'll see our blackberry bushes unable to contain their enthusiasm. Hand to heart, we have never in our lives grown anything more successfully. And it happened here, where I once thought my farmgirl heart would be buried.

Wind chimes sing from the play house along with the birds, a black squirrel races the edge of a chain link fence-row. Steam rises up from my mug. It's supposed to hit 91 today, and feel nearly 100. I will miss this in a few short months. I will miss this.

Maybe later I'll sit and read on the patio bench Cory made me out of an old headboard and a crib mattress, fenced in by our neighbor's coneflowers. Maybe this breeze will stick around longer than they say.

We waited for all of this, through long icy stretches of crystallized breath, mornings where we needed flashlights to walk to school, those snow-boots days where we imagined this and were tempted to believe it was some sort of urban legend. But those months taught me brand new things. The winter of 2016 will go down as the one that made me believe beauty could be found outside of new growth. It's around us, always. It's not hiding. If I'm being honest, there's part of me that has missed its unobscured views, when my vision could stretch further, past bare limbs. and where my ears didn't have nearly the competition they do right now.

A train whistles down the track. (Some things never change.)

Cory has the van today and his muffler-less car is humbling to drive in a way for which I'm not always spiritually equipped. Aside from orchestra drop-off, we have no plan at all today. Taking inventory last night over barbecued chicken and a just-right pineapple, we agreed these days have been our favorites, but I have a hunch that part of their appeal rides in the fact that they're sandwiched between the going, the playing, the dripping-cone, sunburned, tired-out way summer always has with us.

This is the rhythm of life I keep learning to love, where all of it fits within the slow arc of actual living. Up, around, back down. Begin again. Slow then slower, now hurry up.

I'm telling you, if God can hold us here, if He can catch our eye and show us His bright beauty at every point, if He can promise us summer in winter and winter in July, then He can carry our lost sons and our heartbroken daughters. He can carry us.

It's 7:32 and the neighbor's lawn is mown. But look up from his yard, past his red pickup, past the cardinal that perfectly matches its hue, sitting high on a wire. Find the abandoned swing set and look up - right there. Do you see what I see?

Sometimes, if we bother, if we climb out of bed for no reason with sleep in our eyes and bedhead, we'll catch the unexpected. This world won't stop splitting our hearts and healing them up. We are living, breathing contradictions set into haphazard motion of awkward stops and starts from the foundations of the earth.

But if we're willing to wake up to the world pulsing around us, if we're paying attention, we just might catch the moon in the morning.

Happy Thursday, pals.


PS - Years ago, during our first months in this "new" house, I wrote an essay for a compilation book titled Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption. It includes essays from some of my favorite authors (Kris Camealy, Emily P. Freeman, Seth Haines, Sarah Bessey, to name just a few) and it's available now for pre-order. A couple of months ago, the publisher recorded me reading my piece, which then became the trailer for the publication. I'm honored to share it with you today.



Monday, July 11, 2016

Dear White Christian Women,

Can we just agree that last week left us all pretty heartsick? As a woman who writes publicly, who has a 22-year old African American son (with a record), who worries for him to tears, who has witnessed injustice dealt to him, who recently witnessed profound kindness toward him from a white police officer, who desperately loves my community and my neighbors, who aches for the white church to begin bearing the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are People of Color, well, there's just so much to think about. And the thinking doesn't always lend itself to speaking (or writing).

I'm also quite sure in these situations that my voice isn't the one that needs to be heard. I fear adding to the noise. I want to stand for what's true and right, but I want to listen and learn from those whose experience is so vastly different from my own.

I received a beautiful email last Thursday from an African American reader-friend. It was clear to me that we all needed to hear from her. I'd like you to meet Jess. She has been such a gift in processing these hard things and I'm ever-grateful for her willingness to give voice to her pain so we can all grow.


Dear White Christian Women,

I wish I were writing to you today for lighthearted things, but I'm reaching out today because I wanted you to know that I'm broken-hearted. I'm a black woman married to a white man, raising what the world essentially sees as "black males." But they are more than that. They are my babies.  They love me dearly and serve others with all their heart.  But with recent events, I can't help but fear that they will one day be seen as a threat, simply because of their skin color.

I know it's my privilege to serve a savior that is near to the broken hearted.  But I want to walk alongside a community of believers that are near to me as well.  Sadly...that's just not the case.  For every #AltonSterling and #TamirRice, I notice an overwhelming silence from my white Christian sisters.  It’s deafening.  I support every missional cause that my white Christian sisters push on social media for every impoverished country. But where is my community of believers when injustice is happening right in our own backyard? Is it less of a cause because there are no artisanal crafts to sell in honor of the slain?

I'm hurting here.  Really hurting.  Like the kind of hurt that leaves you with no eloquent words...just sobbing.  This. Should. Not. Happen. Whether you believe the victims are criminals or not, they deserve to make it to the police station, just like the police officer deserves to make it home. They deserve due process.  They deserve a trial.  They deserve to see their families again.  They do not deserve to be pulled over for a traffic violation and lose their life.  And when this happens, I want to know that my sisters care. That you think my son shouldn't have to fear for his life one day should he find himself in an encounter with a police officer. 

So what am I asking of my sisters in Christ?  Well, I read Colleen Mitchell’s piece, 10 Reasons I Don't Want to Be Your White Ally. I hear your fears and your questions.  You don’t have to worry about getting it right.  Please just let us know that you “get it.”  Let us know that you acknowledge the pain we feel when we witness another news story about a police officer unnecessarily firing on a man that reminds us of our sons, fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins.  If you have a social media outlet, we don’t expect you to pen an essay every time this happens…because frankly, it’s just too often.  But a statement of solidarity goes a long way. 

And I’m #sorrynotsorry, but I must go there.  Please, if you have an ounce of sensitivity, stop posting #alllivesmatter in response to #blacklivesmatter.  It is dismissive and suggestive that anyone using the hashtag thinks black lives matter over others’ lives or that only black lives matter.  Can we just all agree that ALL LIVES SHOULD MATTER.  We are ALL image bearers of God.  But we continue to see that all lives are often not regarded equally. 

Please know that I write to you not to scold my sisters.  But instead, I pray that God will use my words to serve as a call to unite. 

Your Black Sister-in-Christ

Jess

 //
Additional reading:
 

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Purpose of Church

We walked down the back alley to the church balancing a topped-off bowl of cucumber salad, our bag of paper goods, our Bibles wedged between paper plates, and an unruly stack of napkins. Heat blistered up from the street and radiated down from a cloudless sky. As we passed the pink trailer parked in a neighbor’s back yard, I remembered how pretty it had looked back in February, when it seemed to be the only bright spot of color in a world that defaulted to gray.

So much can happen in a year.

Given just a bit of perspective — the snow melting into spring, the tiny buds leafing straight up into a hot summer sky — the old pain wrapped in triumph is enough to catch our breath.

This alley owns a portion of my heart now. It’s a strange extension of our home, its lines and dips now grafted into my long-term memory. It’s part of what I’ll grab years from now when I want to remember this particular life season, with young kids who aren’t too young, our long days and short years, and the brick building at the end of the alley where God patiently waited for us, near us, with us, as we wrestled against His goodness arriving, at times, in the most inconvenient ways.

Six years ago I wondered if church really mattered, “showing up doesn’t make someone a Christian,” and all of that. I asked Abba the hard questions, awaiting vindication, very sure He’d let me clean off the hook. He looked me square in the eyes and with so much kindness, began to answer. He still hasn’t stopped to take a breath...

Click here to continue reading at (in)courage... 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Problems and Peonies




At the risk of repeating myself, I knew I was in for some real trouble today when I woke up in cold sweats because I had casually not gone to a single class all semester and tomorrow was finals and I had to race to the Registrar's office to find a handbook on the policy for these situations but they were all out of handbooks so I raced to the bulletin board where all the syllabuses (I can't do "syllabi" when I'm in stone-cold REM sleep. You understand.) but some rude jock had taken them all down and sprayed them with graffiti, rendering them illegible.

(For what it's worth, I don't remember ever visiting the Registrar's office in real life, and there was no such bulletin board.)

But the more pressing question is, WHAT ON EARTH IS MY PROBLEM? And even more compelling, why does my brain, at the very least, not know to switch to a more seasonally appropriate recurring nightmare?

It's not like I'm behind the eight-ball or drowning in a pile of deadlines or tasked with doing anything even vaguely productive right now.

Nope.




I'm baking muffins, reading on lounge chairs, refereeing arguments, eating Popsicles, getting groceries (< this would actually be a more logical nightmare. Will she ever get out of Kroger? Will she have forgotten her Plus card at check-out again? For the love of all that's holy, will she ever remember to buy Worcestershire sauce? Or learn to pronounce it???)

Mostly, my full-time job is keeping my wits and repeating my mantras and clawing for perspective and patience like my life depends on it.

Mostly, my job is waving it off when my kids decide they are "tired of grapes" and would rather have a cache of perfectly ripened mangoes at their disposal.



Mostly, my job is to listen to hours upon sun-soaked hours of this:

Si: Mom, how much hours is it?
Me: How many hours for what?
Si: No. How. Much. HOURS. Until the thing.
Me: What thing, buddy? You need to give me more than that.
Si: Why do I need to give you something? Just how much hours???
Me: (gives up)

And this:

Si: Listen, Mommy! I'm going to say all the numbers but like they start with F. Fun Foo Free Four...Fenty-fix...Fifty-five! Hey, that worked!...Feighty-feven...
Me: (retreats to a happier place around fixteen)

And this:

Ruby: When do we get to go back to that one place?
Me: I need more info, Rubes.
R: 'member? We went that one time? Never-mind.
Me: Just give me some details! I don't like it when you guys never-mind me. Just try again!
R: Well, we like went there and...like...stayed at the house and played with...like...our friends.
Me: Think about what you're saying and try again (simultaneously dies a small soul-death).
R: We went to that one place and like, I mean, sorry, we went there and played with...(trying so hard not to say "like") our friends?
Me: Who? Or where were we? Describe the place! (Miraculously opts not to pick the battle of ending statements with a question mark because Jesus died, rose again, and sits at the right hand of God.)
R: I don't know! We went on a tube in the water.
Me: Melinda's house at the lake?
R: Yes!
Me: Oh. I don't know when we'll go back.
Si: Wait. Go back where???

Let's just say I catch myself saying things like, "You're going to have to do your best to not be annoying on purpose or we'll all lose our minds."

I'm not proud of it.

Let's just say, hypothetically, that my youngest child padlocked the closet where I keep the broom then LOST THE KEY.

Enough about me, how's your summer going? (She asked, brightly.)

Here's the thing, and I don't want you to throw a cream pie in my face (please actually do throw a cream pie in my face) or egg my car (we might not even notice.) I hate to be too ridiculously optimistic and I suffer daily the impulse to rebrand myself as a staunch alarmist. But all things considered, I'm still landing on this is the good life.

And I say that as a woman who knows.
I say that as a woman caught in a speed trap this afternoon after spending hours in the 90-degree heat at a pool with 3 children and a neighbor girl, a woman issued a ticket by an officer younger than her oldest son who dared to say, "I have to do this, Ma'am. Please watch your speed", a woman who was greeted at home fifteen minutes later by a fine for an unpaid toll which she strategically missed after carefully weighing her options and deciding against the one that would have threatened her very life along with the life of countless other motorists.

Sue me.




Actually, please don't. Not with the streak of bad luck I'm dangling from today.

Because today's mail also brought a notice for a parking ticket incurred last month in an unknown city wherein myself, Cory, and two equally-educated friends stared at a street signage long enough for our eyes to cross and unanimously decided it was a safe public parking space.

HELP A SISTER OUT, LAW ENFORCEMENT.

I retreated to my room and cried for a solid hour, which did strange things to my heart, and I'm not just referring to the fact that God and I had a come-to-Jesus moment (??) or the fact that Silas crept in and fought back his own tears over my sadness while silently rubbing my back.

>> This just in: The Martin kids now believe a speeding ticket is just one degree removed from death itself.<<



Tomorrow is a new day. We'll pick berries and remember how much we love each other. We'll land softly in a new place of perspective. I'll remember how impossibly wonderful Cory is, how widely I miss the "deserving" mark.

 
 


I'll remember the no-brainer-good days, like the one a few weeks ago when we tooled around Oscar Morse Peonies, just a few miles from our front door and in full bloom. The owner's daughter took her time showing us around that afternoon and let Si and Rubes pluck as many petals off the ground to make perfume (eau de Rotting Raccoon Carcass?) I'll remember how, before we left, she opened a giant refrigerator in the garage and handed me two bundled of dormant peonies that bloomed in my kitchen the same afternoon and in my soul for the next two weeks.

As with all of life, this is summer.
We get to live the weird, the wonderful, and even the grim. We get to call it all Good.



PS - Early next week I'm sending out a Super Scoop newsletter where I answer a bunch of questions my email-friends have asked me, and y'all, they went straight for the guts, light, simple fare like, "how do you survive in marriage," and "how do you deal with fear?" and "What do you do when you feel alone?" and, easiest of all, "How do you discern God's will?" Gah, I LOVE MY EMAIL FRIENDS! They got the memo that I hate small-talk and it blesses my murmuring heart. Make sure you've subscribed to the Super Scoop newsletter so you don't miss out!