Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Monday Miracle and Love for Yo Mamas

Guys. I spoke last night at a Women's banquet at the church where Cory grew up. And I didn't even fall into the ugly cry. What does this mean????? I was shocked. I got quavery a few times, but halleluyer, I might be getting a bit more stable when it comes to telling my story!

I was completely wrung out afterwards. Maybe it's an introvert thing? I don't know. When I got home last night, I only had enough energy to sit on the couch eating pie while Cory told me jail stories. I really love speaking. I'm the most wrong introvert in all the land. I told someone last week, "I'm an introverted people-person". That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I shared about my bombshell family, and the way God keeps pulling us together in strange and wonderful ways. I always get a little nervous when I speak. I always think afterwards about things I wish I had said or things I didn't expect to say. It's hard not to do a little hindsight obsessing. But my prayer is always that God will be made known among us, despite my failings and the awkward way I stand at the podium. (But that's a whole nother thing.)

I dragged my friend Jolene along with me. She's my local Noonday Ambassador, a new friend of mine, and I'm just growing to really love that funny lady. She's my kind of people.

It's so fun to introduce the awesomeness of Noonday to the locals. I'm passionate about championing organizations that have amazing products and accomplish the broader goal of serving our global sisters in meaningful ways. Noonday just added a new tab to their site detailing the impact of our purchases in the lives of their employees. Win/Win/Win/Winning all the time!

Since I have yet another trunk show open, I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to order again. Think Mother's Day! :) If you do want to order, go here then put "Shannan Martin" in the section "Trunk Show Name" at the end.

I tried on a few more pretties last night. Hand to heart, I would wear every single thing Noonday makes. 

Aida Necklace

This is one that I keep being drawn to. It's made in Uganda and has a bit of a different look than the stuff I usually go for first. The colors are light and pretty and it has a delicate feel. Plus wood beads! It has wood beads. (My friend Erin will tell you that I've always had a fondness for wood-crafted jewelry.)

If you're having trouble narrowing down what you like best, please allow me to recommend All of the necklaces. 

Was that helpful??

I'm also digging these staple earrings, made in Peru. When I wear a wild necklace, I like to keep my earrings really simple, but I don't actually have simple earrings, so I usually default to naked lobes. These would fix that kind of scandal, but quick.

Cubed Studs, Gold

While I'm at it, my other love, fashionABLE has put together some fun bundles for Mother's Day, pairing one of their scarves with a Miriam Designs necklace. For one super-rad price,  your purchase will provide opportunity to an Ethiopian woman and a woman in the Nashville area, fighting her way out of a life of addiction.

This stuff is a no-brainer, which is exactly why I can't stop yammering about it.

Go here to order from Noonday and here for fashionABLE.

As for me, I have a luxurious day of grocery shopping and laundry before me. I get to hang with my littlest homeboy, who at the moment is busy hauling his "desk" from the basement up to his bedroom. We'll be listening to this cd all day, because the lyrics drip redemption and because Siley thinks Ellie is "so cute". (First crush, and it is a DOOZY!)

I think I'm making risotto for the second time in my life tonight. I'll keep you posted on that.

Happy Tuesday, Homies!

Monday, April 28, 2014

On-the-Cheap Magazine Flower Garland

I feel like it's no secret that I'm a garlandy sort of girl.

I blame my garlands for the fact that many of you have accused me over the years of being "crafty". I keep trying to tell you, I'm not that crafty! I'm garlandy! My ridiculous paper escapades may have even played a role in landing me squarely in the hilariously-unqualified territory of "Craft Helper" at the famously fun Whatever Craft Weekend.

I clearly know my way around a stack of magazines and a heart-shaped paper punch, but do not ever ask me to thread a bobbin unless you have an emergency inhaler handy and you don't mind sharing.

The garlands. I can't quit them.
A couple times a year, I get a crazy hair to make one, usually reinventing it from a garland of yore.

My newest magazine flower garland evolved over the years from this to this to this (flip to page 20).

The same batch of heart "flowers"* that graced the wreath I made for Layla's e-zine, wearing pennies in their middles, were taped to a length of basic white thread.

For the centers of these flowers, I cut pom-poms from a left-over bit of pom-pom trim and hot glued them to the middles.

I am convinced that nothing livens up a space faster (or more inexpensively) than a garland.
(Other than maybe salsa. Or my kiddos hopped up on Easter candy.)

Instant cheer! Automatic color and pattern!

And all it cost me was a stack of trash-bound catalogs and magazines, some scrap pom poms, a stapler, a hot glue gun, and 20 minutes of my time.

If you squint when you look at it, you almost don't even notice my dirty dishes!

So, there. There's my suggestion for today, especially if it's as rainy for you as it us for us.

Happy Monday, Party People!

ps - Someone more sensible and savvy than I sent me the direct link to my Midwest Living story. Check it out if you want to see the old girl sans dirty dishes.

*For full directions on how to make the flowers, go here and flip to page 20.
All you really do is punch hearts from a magazine, then fold them in half then unfold. Staple a few of them together at their center. (I used around 5 hearts for each flower.) To "fluff" your flowers, just re-pinch the fold-line.

Friday, April 25, 2014

What I'm Reading

Every six months or so I'm obligated - by the sheer height of the stack of books in my world - to unleash their awesomeness to the blogosphere. I have to dish. Because 1) I love you all too much not to share and 2) I read a stinking lot of books, man.

My urge to read competes every single day with my urge to lie slothfully about after the kids go to bed. My brain is gridlocked in a heated spar with my best intentions to do what I do best after 9 pm - vegetate. At least half the time, the book stack wins. I'll be honest, I makes me strangely irritated. Also, it interferes with my sleep, and sometimes my reality TV (and that's no joking matter.)

I've read a few of these, am reading a few more, and will soon dig into the remaining. But I promise you, these will all be read. Oh, yes, they will.

United: Captured by Diversity by God's Vision for Diversity by Trilla J. Newbell
This was in the swag bag for speakers at Hope Spoken and in a sea of beautiful jewelry, gorgeous bags and clutches, amazing prints, hand-stitched needlework (right?!) and even a gigantic can of hairspray, this is absolutely what excited me the most. I haven't started reading it yet, but you're guaranteed to hear more about it when I do.

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker
"when we metabolize love, it can sustain us for years."
I wrote about this gem a couple days ago. Since then, I've read more of it, and it continues to wow me. Lisa-Jo shares her history against the exotic backdrop of her South African childhood. There are few things I love more than a dreamy memoir and this one drips with poignant, piercing clarity. It calls me back to my skinned-knee childhood and helps me connect those days with these right here. It's a book that'll make you both lost and found, both in the best possible ways.

Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee
We all want someone to think we’re sensational. We desire to be recognized, to be valued, to be respected. To be loved. Yet this natural yearning too often turns into an idol of one of God’s most precious gifts: love itself. (via Amazon description)
JDL, as I like to call her, is a new friend of mine, who spins wonder with her words. She's gutsy and generous and I already know I'm going to love this book just as much as I need it.

Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons
Full disclosure: All I know about this book is 1) I adore the cover art and 2) I've heard a lot of buzz about it. I don't do this often (enough), but I ordered it on a lark. Stay tuned!

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch
Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough
Just - hello. I was predestined to read this book, TULIP or no TULIP. As sure as I'm sitting here in my wonky ponytail, dreaming about mocha almond fudge, I'll have more to say about this one.

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live
As I mentioned here, I moved through this one at the luxurious pace of a sill-napping cat.
There was so much depth and goodness and Emily is one of my favorite writers in the history of all the things. I accidentally based an entire workshop at a recent women's conference on A Million Little Ways. It just happened. I made the ladies pull tiny notebooks out of their purses and write down the title. It will change the way you view your world. (I'm still thinking - all the time thinking - about the profound truth that I am an image bearer with a job to do, not a job doer with an image to bear. Whoa.) (Full review here.)

Flesh by Hugh Halter
Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth - Learning to Be Human Like Jesus
Hugh is my homeboy, he just doesn't know it. Or care.
I'm exactly half-way through this book, and it's wowing me with its simplicity. Hugh has a way of cranking the Gospel down to its simplest beauty, without trying to erase its wild mystery.
 "Incarnation is going to ask you to see people like my Haitian driver saw other Haitians. Second Corinthians says this, 'We no longer view people from a worldly point of view' (author's paraphrase.) This one verse can be your life force. Incarnation is going to ask you to have full faith in God's ability to transcend what you presently see in someone's life."
Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson
Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World
I'm so excited to read this that I keep not starting it. (Does that happen to anyone else??) I may have cast my expectations irretrievably high. Stay tuned.

Love Does by Bob Goff
Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
Listen, I know this sounds like a self-help book. But it's not. It is changing mah life right now. Bob Goff is a brilliant story-teller and lives an incredible story. He makes me want to be a better person, not because he is so awesome, but because he seems to really understand the simple, profound love of Jesus. And that understanding changes everything about, well, everything.

To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam
One of the fundamental shifts in our daily life is that many of the people in our circle have spent time in foster care. That fact alone is enough to make me care more about the system that has failed all of them. This book wrung me straight out. It takes a hard look at the connections between foster care and eventual incarceration. It also made me wonder about what I have to offer to these kids, marginalized through no fault of their own, thrown precariously on a path that leads, for many, to self-destruction.
"...people don't go from foster care to jail because they don't have resources and need to steal (though that is sometimes true), or because an institutional life is the only life they know (though that may be true too). They move between the systems because a life stage has been irreparably damaged. They can't trust enough to care, and they can't care enough to hold on to a better life."  (emphasis mine)
Those words ring so true. It's time for the rest of us to join those already working hard to figure this stuff out. It's that important.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which confirms my suspicions that I'm not a Pulitzer-Prize kind of girl. I made it to page 321 before it had to be returned to the library (no renewals bc someone else was waiting) and it wasn't even worth it to pay the late fees and keep it. I know!! I'm sorry! So many people recommended it, but it didn't meet the hype for me. And I was over half-way. I loved it in a few parts, but it got so dreary and it the author seems to prefer taking the long, painful road around a story. (That's saying something, coming from me.) I've considered checking it out and finishing it. Does it get better? Help.

That's it for now.
What are you reading? What book should make me drop everything and quit my life for a while?

*Scope out my last book-stack post right here.

*All book links are Amazon Affiliate links

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Ways I'm Surprised by Motherhood

Yesterday I announced on facebook that my kitchen is in a magazine. An hour or so later, I posted this: Silas, stirring the marinade, "I'm glad Jesus gave me the right Mommy and Daddy." Words like that cover a multitude of sins around here. 

The second status update got four times the response as my "big news". Because anyone who really knows me, or even just knows me a little, understands there couldn't possibly be bigger news than my youngest child ruminating loveliness to his Mama while he stirs lime juice into oil.

To say I have been surprised by motherhood would be the understatement of the millennium. My journey to motherhood knocked me sideways. I've been surprised by the way hearts from different wombs and distant nations can stitch together in an even line. My capacity to love the children entrusted to me has left me wonder-struck, at turns.

But it's more than that, because as much as my family makes me grateful and amazed, I had a hunch it would be this way. I never really doubted my ability to love my own children.

What I didn't expect, the thing that renders me breathless and spent, crazy-talking in the middle of the night, flailing and reaching, failing and begging, is the searing pain of motherhood.

I have been a mama for nine years now. For almost half of those years, I have parented a child from hard places, one who has turned me inside-out. He has systematically drained me of every stout and sturdy mental faculty I once claimed to possess.  He has infiltrated the peace-keeping zone of my inner sanctum and shot it through with more combustive emotional leverage than a child should ever carry.

He has been explosive. Exhausting. He's alienated his siblings and even, on our darkest days, me. There have been months that have started and ended, every day, every day, every day, with his small-voiced insistence that he doesn't love me, doesn't want me. He's tried everything in his power to prove it. At least twice.

All the while, every moment that I've folded in and lashed back out, I have loved him.

I never, ever imagined the pain of loving someone who didn't seem to love me back. 

I have failed miserably on many days to live and breathe and prove my love to him. I've resented the whole set-up. I have wanted to hurt his feelings in return.

But my child gave me the gift of ripping the mask off my ugly, making me face it every single day, no where to turn, no where to hide. Loving him has set me free from the stunning arrogance that I could fix him, or anyone. It's not within my skill set. It was never meant to be.

Loving imperfectly, and unconditionally, has struck my soul like a bell - This doesn't even come close to the way God loves us. I sort the laundry and stir the soup and hold my tired, scrappy little boy to the echo of its reverb.

Loving Silas, and watching him start to love us back, prepared us to welcome another hurting boy into our life, arms-out, heart-bare, pride and expectations and all the world-wise conventions smashed to bits back at the curb.

What surprises me most today is that it's simply not as hard anymore. We've covered a lot of miles with our heads down and blinders on, lock-step with our goal, which changed daily but ranged from survival to balance (guess what? it doesn't exist) to fishing around in the dark for a little bit of peace, a tiny scrap of hard-won joy.

Every day, the dynamic changed just a little. Often, it had to be pointed out to me. I was so lost for so long, I had trouble recognizing success. The scales wobbled and shook. Eventually, for our years lived and spent, we were rewarded with a dead heat, as many good days as bad. That was a party begging to be celebrated. So we did.

And now, though this boy and all his gusto may always tumble jerky and wild rather than rolling with anything, he's come to a shy place of security where he no longer slams against our every conviction. He's stepped into the predictable line of a loving family where it's no longer as necessary for him to "control" his world in ways that make me weep.

For the hundreds of times I felt consoled in knowing - really believing - my love for him was not dependent on his love (or lack of love) for me, I'm finally and fully letting myself believe it's real. Our stubborn love for this beautiful, complicated, tender boy is being matched and reflected.

He crawls in for a cuddle each morning and tells me I'm his "best love". He promises he'll keep being my boy "even if I boss" him. He doesn't want to move away. He doesn't want a different mommy anymore, or at least not often. He says he'll "try to stay little" for me. He says he wants to marry me.

I'm surprised by how badly it hurts sometimes to be a mother.

I'm even more surprised by the way the world stops turning and the sun circles back around just to shine on me and my Little Love, stitching hearts and stirring marinade in the kitchen on a regular Tuesday morning.


This post was inspired by a book I'm currently reading, Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker. I am loving it. The writing is gorgeously relatable and every line reminds me that this is one of my greatest callings. There are always surprises, some good and others traced in blue.

That's the full beauty of this gig. We get to live all of it.

Watch the trailer, but be warned that it made me cry all three times that I watched, and I was only PMSing one of the times.

Find your copy of Surprised by Motherhood here.

*book links are Amazon Affiliate links

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Kitchen is a Total Diva

Smack-dab in the middle of an ordinary, slightly-strange day...

...this little bit of happiness blooms.

My kitchen is in this month's Midwest Living mag. 
You know I'm fond, fond, fond of all kinds of magazines, right?

As much as I've never held this sort of thing as a goal, it was a lot of fun.
(Except for the part where I felt the need to scrub my kitchen to within an inch of its life.)

The story was supposed to run next summer, but something changed and they asked if they could bump the shoot up to February, with roughly a 10 day notice. So, we did! As usually happens, we were shooting a summer story in the dead of a polar vortex winter.

There was so much snow piled up outside. Everyone trudged in wearing gigantic snow boots.

The stylist (Sara Reimer) and photographer (Werner Straube) were amazingly kind and interesting and down-to-earth. It was a long day (10 hours!) but such an interesting and fun experience.

One of my favorite things is that they didn't bring in many props, other than food. Several times, Sara asked me, "Is this something your family would actually eat?" I loved it. I loved that she was committed to keeping us real and authentic.

Hi, Siley!

We got our wires crossed a bit and I didn't realize they wanted a kiddo in a shot. Cory and I unanimously agreed that Silas would be the least camera-shy and natural, so we ran down the street and grabbed him from school.

He was, uh, not happy that we made him leave his Happiest Place on Earth.

He wouldn't smile for any of the pictures.
There were tears.
And bribes.
Everyone was probably thinking, "This is your most camera-ready child?"

But they rolled with it, because they're normal, awesome people.

In the end, he smiled for exactly 9/10ths of a second. And they caught it! And it looks ridiculously genuine, which profoundly illustrates the power of media.

Later in the day, after school was over, he was all smiles and a million questions. (Ruby ended up with a last-minute cameo, too.)

If you want a closer look, go grab the June issue of Midwest Living. I'll save you the leg-work and tell you Walgreens is your best bet. (Cory discovered this on a wild goose chase yesterday.)

Meanwhile, I'm filing this experience under Life Almost Never Makes Sense Anymore and heading in to tackle the dishes piled up in my messy, well-loved kitchen.

Happy Tuesday!

* Follow Midwest Living on Pinterest for more Midwestern goodness.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Greens

We hit 70 degrees today and I have the pink nose to prove it.

And while I'm gridlocked in a daily battle with one Calvin Lee on whether or not this is "summer" and whether or not he should be allowed to wear shorts, what this actually means is that it's officially spring, in the most legit way possible.

So, let's not jump ahead, homies.

Let's chill here for a while, and by "chill", I of course mean, let's sun our ankles and sing along with Phil Collins on the radio because it feels like the right thing to do.

This right here is another good way to start.

I worked from this recipe, but added more lemon juice (along with some zest) and doubled the dressing, because if a little is good, a lot is better. That's my motto on most things in life and it's never much of a problem unless we're talking about eyebrow tweezing (they grew back) and that Bohemian Rhapsody bender back in 1992.

I've also been springing things up around our digs. I never used to switch things around to this degree until we moved to the city. I think it's a combination of the white walls, the smaller space, and the growing need to exert some control in my environment. Plus, having just one main living area makes it easy to focus and all our moving forced me to weed out a good bit of my extra junk. I never realized how overwhelming I found all my stuff until I got rid of most of it. And having less cash-flow has forced me to exercise underused portions of my psyche and soul. Letting go oddly made me a more creative and inspired person.

But I digress!

I bought this Lucky Money plant from Aldi over a year ago. It doesn't seem to be growing as much as it seems to be not dying, but I call that a major win for this Zone of Utter Houseplant Destruction.

Overall, this minor success has made me extra-gutsy. I think of myself as a plant person, now.

You're a dog person?
I'm a plant person.

I don't know much about all the plants, just my personal ones, and yes, I have plural plants now. Because I'm a real plant person.

Oh, the stories I could tell about me and my plants!

They're just the cutest things. Little rascals.

I keep taking them in when I see them at Aldi looking so forlorn with their big, leafy-plant eyes.
This one is particularly loyal. He almost never needs watering. So crispy and stout!

(Another part of my Spring redecorating jaunt is the magazine ad I tore out and taped to the main wall in my living room. It has an inspiring message and has a decidedly Springy color scheme. I'm of the opinion we often overthink this whole decorating thing.)

Then  I saw the idea to stick a couple plants in a drawer and call it a day.
That is my kind of decorating trick. And I happen to have drawers.

Open drawer, insert plants, close drawer, just not all the way.

This one? I have no idea. It looks like a geranium leaf or a hollyhock, but both of those options seem
far from likely to this plant person. All I know is, it was $2.47 at Wal Mart and it hasn't died yet, even though Silas took a mini star-shaped hole-punch to several of its leaves.

We're even growing our sunflowers by seed this year.
Because we're just a bunch of plant people now. We can't even help it at this point.

So there you have it, my best tricks for welcoming True Spring. Asparagus, lemon, and cheap houseplants, though I prefer to call them economical houseplants, because maybe they're sensitive about things like that.

Do you decorate for spring? Do you let your kids wear shorts to church on Easter Sunday when it's only supposed to be a high of 70 and it's in the low 40's in the morning? Might you be one of the parents of a child in Calvin's class, and, if so, is it true that he's the "only kid in the entire class who has to go to bed at whippy 8 o'clock?"

(Because that's what he said. And he was realllly mad when he said it. But that "whippy" thing immediately diffused any angst I was feeling toward him. And I laughed. Then he laughed, too, but only for a second. And then he got even more mad.

The end. For now.

Friday, April 18, 2014


The curtain was torn, and what looked like crushing defeat was victory in the making. There are no chains that can hold us, no bars that can keep us. Our life is hidden now in Christ, always, and we don't get to decide who is worthy. His death paid for each of us - individually and intentionally.

His feet were blistered from walking among us; bloody and broken from carrying the weight of our humanity past the gates of eternity.

The veil was torn. We don't get to decide who is worthy of our time, our resources, our love.

There is nothing now that divides us, no separation between us. If we believe otherwise, we're not looking closely enough. If we believe otherwise, we don't really believe it was finished.

"If there is a fundamental challenge, it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives."  Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When Hope Floats Away

I sat down tonight to write about tacos and books.
I thought I had things to say about the way we're nourished, and about the plain way we celebrate.

But those words drifted out to the sea of everything weighing my today, and I'm still standing here ankle-deep in grit, facing a horizon-line that can't be contained in the span of my two hands.

The world just seems big today, and I prefer it small.
It feels heavy and I want feather-light.

If I were a nobler girl, I'd pin this funk on Holy week and tell you my heart is pulsing backwards-bruised to that single moment in history when the world went black and every living thing held its breath in despair.

Truth is, I'm caught in a net of ordinary worry, carrying burdens that came packaged with some of the best gifts I'll ever see this side of Heaven.

I'm tangled up here, desperate to shuck this pain and swing my leg over the side of the boat. I don't want this bland reality. I want waves beneath my toes like a smooth path of river rocks, my eyes locked on Jesus. I want to do better than Peter, not just match him.

I want all the Bible stories about faith for me. I'd like to back myself up to the flannel-board until it grabs me and I only move in the right direction, standing still and smiling, a lesson of His goodness, his unfailing kindness, his strength, his power.

I believe all of those things. I know He is always good, only and ever.

But the feeling - the sureness - has sifted through my hands today and I'm cornered in the
human-beingness of this world I knock around in. From where I stand today, everything looks so precarious, the strength of my exhale enough to tip the glass off the edge - shattered.

This is the ache of discipleship, friends. This is the power it holds - that our feeble, everyday act of shuffling down the buckled sidewalk with another soul could eventually break our hearts. Any ground we make together might end up jack-hammered into street pulp. Every victory might turn around and bite.

I wish I could love perfectly, like God does, exempt of fear and full of hope.
Some days, I dare to think I'm half-way to close.

But these gray Thursdays roll around, and I know He understands. He didn't ask us to love our neighbor as robots or avatars, or to lurch behind them at a wise distance. He asked us to come beside them, our knees grinding the asphalt, and heave their timber onto our backs. He asked us to hand over our last pieces of bread and let him create magic for all of us.

He made us human. To level the field a bit, he practiced our part for a while.
He hasn't forgotten the way things hurt. He sat in the garden alone, grieved beneath the weight I feel right now times the Universe.

He asks me to hand over my last shard of hope and watch him shape it into a sturdy life-boat, a bridge of river rocks, a faith that's shatter-proof.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Smoke Break

I don't remember much about our search to find the first "official" church home of our marriage. I don't remember exactly how many churches we visited or how many Sundays it took for us to realize the one we had found was "it".

All I know is, someone roped us into getting up an hour earlier in order to sit in the cold metal folding chairs of a Sunday school classroom.

Everyone was wonderful, so kind, quite funny.

But I didn't know we were home until the guy across from me cleared his throat and said out loud to the rest of the circle that he had trouble with his mouth. He cussed when he things didn't go well at his factory job. He cussed like a sailor.

I couldn't believe he was admitting this to the rest of us. I had never seen anything like it. It wasn't the discovery that I was circled up among cussers that almost knocked me out of my seat, it was the fact that he admitted to it. Without any unnecessary emotional fanfare. This was one of his struggles. He didn't feel super great about it. He needed help. And he seemed to profoundly, yet simply, understand this is why he had Jesus, and this is why he had the rest of us.

Last week, ten years and two towns away from that old Sunday School circle, I dashed out of church to run home and grab my side-dish for the post-service carry-in.

When I pulled back into the lot ten minutes later, I noticed an intriguing congregation of fellas on the North side of the building. There was the youngish guy who often wears a Cubs t-shirt under his choir robe, a couple of guys who have become like kin to us, the worship leader, and a quiet guy I don't know well at all. Loyal servants and leaders of our church. All of them were smoking.

This phenomenon wasn't a revelation to me. But I'd never received the gift of this sheepish collective.

From my van, I raised my eyebrows and grinned so hard.

"What's going on over there?"

"Oh, nothing good," he grinned back, snuffing out his cigarette and walking my way. "Need a hand?"

I loaded him up with pickles and beans.

And I knew for the hundredth time that I was home.

Not because this church is perfect, not because it's everything I always dreamed a church home should be, not because everyone gets along and behaves graciously, or because it meets every one of my piddly needs.

It's home because there are people - at least some - who straight-up wear their humanity, even on Sundays. The men I saw love Jesus and recognize their need for him. They have habits they'd probably rather break, and I'm guessing they also sin, every day.

They could wait until they got home.
They could take pains to relocate to a more obscure location.

All that would accomplish among the rest of us is the mounting dread that everyone is better at this holiness gig and the looming despair that what's required of us is either to get our crap together or to pull up our pantyhose and at least act the part.

I'm so exhausted by our filters. I'm worn bare by our refusal to live authentically, as actual humans.

As believers called into community, we are set apart, tasked with wearing the shine of a love we could never manufacture. Our job is to relent daily to Christ's molding, to wear our plasticity like a badge - "I'm In Need of Changing". Our job is not to be plastic, wearing our mask of perfection like a smug iron gate - "Come Back When You're Better".

Call me crazy, it's okay. But only in a place marked by visible imperfection and authenticity can I fully own my personal brokenness. And only in fully owning my brokenness am I compelled to chase heart-pounding after my Redeemer.

Let's honor the honest.
Let's be them, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Garden for Every Lady in the Land

Gardening has long been a part of our Martin family tradition.

And while that statement is technically true, I mostly just wanted a reason to post this old picture because ohmygosh, I can't even handle the cuteness. Forget the carrots, look at all those cheeks and baby teeth!

My reality is that we woke up to snow again this morning and I'm bundled up in sweats with a cup of hot tea. But one of the best parts about being a mom is the mental strength and fortitude it builds. We can compartmentalize and emotionally detach with the best of them, and that's what this is all about.

It's straight-up mid-April, and I'm jamming my flag in this frozen soil and claiming it not for what it is, but what it will soon be. It's garden time, and I've been dreaming.

Since I'm already tucked away in my shell of denial and oblivion, it's as safe a time as any to reflect on my gardens of yore:

It totally doesn't cause me any measure of pain to look at this virtual thicket of awesomeness that used to live in my back acreage.

And I'm not just saying that. It really doesn't bother me. Not one bit. Sunsets refracting off organic vegetable foliage are totally overrated and everyone knows it.

{{Help! It hurts so dang bad!}}

This is my reality now. Four raised beds against a gritty, urban backdrop of ramshackle, asbestos-shingled garages,automobile carcasses, and a weed-beseiged alley. 

Viva la 'hood!

Though it's true I miss parts of my old life, particularly the traipse-about garden, I don't miss my actual living life. This one here is the one I was made for, and we now have a solid season of proof in hand that tomatoes are tomahtoes no matter if they lap up well water or if their hydration is bought from the city.

 So now, all there's left to do is get busy deciding.

I've already called it: I'm splurging on more of this white hardware-store edging. It is 0% practical across every measurable axis, but it brought me unspeakable joy back on the farm. I need it in my city life, stat.

I also need ranunculus.

Whatever. I just need them.

They wonder-struck me at each stage of their high-brow, ruffled development. It was magical, watching them pop up despite my well-honed instincts to fail at growing anything remotely exotic.

Maybe because the beans flaked out last year and the zucchinis bailed, I find I'm far more concerned about the flowers I want to grow this time around. Cory has now said to me approximately 83 times, "Let's just make a cutting garden this year." And you know homeboy doesn't really even know what a "cutting garden" is. I think we're all just craving some low-maintenance pretty. We want some bang for our buck, and we can't chance losing face over finicky beans again.

Or maybe we're just becoming city slickers faster than we thought.

No matter who you are or which side of the tracks you find yourself, I'm here to tell you, growing stuff in dirt will change the way you see spring and summer and life and maybe even God. It's a reminder to slow down and stay home and pickle the dang cukes while the sun shines.

Where are you on all this gardening business?

Are you an expert? Tell me how to grow brussels sprouts and whether or not I should bother with asparagus.

Are you a novice? What's the best tip you have to share with other fellow novices?

Are you too scared to even try? Let me pet your hair and assure you - you can do it. Invest $2 in a packet of zinnia seeds and call me from cloud nine when they're in bloom and you can't stop loving them.

We're in this together, Sisters. Grab a row, and let's hoe!

Sunday, April 13, 2014


3 days in Ohio.

I mean, who's sick of me getting all moony-eyed over Ohio? Raise of hands?

I get it. I'm sorry. It's just that I can't help myself.

Being there made me remember (again) that it's okay if we can't take actual vacations. It's all we need. We walk into that back door to the immediate sensation of being tucked in under a fleecy blanket. I literally get sleepy just thinking about it.

Most relaxing place on earth.
Having said all that, this next part may not make perfect sense.
But my favorite moment was going to dinner (alone!) with Cory.

It was in the 70's so we parked our swagger van on a random side street and walked to the restaurant. ("Restaur-aren't", as Silas would say.)

Photo: Walking toward the salsa with Shannan.
I made him take a selfie with me, because hello.

And we had actual conversations about important things while we strolled. And, we scoped out all the pretty yards and day-dreamed about the future back-yard of our dreams.

And then there was this. Because, hello.

I can't entirely pinpoint why La Fiesta is my Happy Place. But it has something to do with the salsa. And the fact that anytime I'm there, I'm already in vacation mode. Annnnd...I almost always run into fun people there, because all the fun people know what's what.

Back at the farm....

This was happening.

Cousin fun.

They walked across the road and roamed around in the same woods I used to tramp through as a kid. They came home covered in mud.

My kiddos couldn't believe I used to play in the woods. Like literally, they didn't believe me.
I'll just put this out there now: I'm not "that" mom. I'm not super fun. I mean, I am, but not like that. You know.

I'm indoorsy.

It's an unpopular admission, but I'm sitting here making it. 

And on second thought, I'd really like to recant. 

Because I lovvvve the outdoors. 
If I'm in a hammock, with a book.
Or if I'm picking flowers.
Or weeding.
Or slow-walking.

Sidenote: I don't really know how to swim.

Again, unpopular.
I own it.

I blame everyone in my life except myself, because I managed plenty of interesting things on my own, but I couldn't be expected to teach myself to swim. Not when it was so traumatizing to have water up my nose or in my ears.

Besides, my nurse practitioner (yes, she's mine. I called it) recently diagnosed me with "faulty Eustachian tubes". So there. Boom. Vindicated.

Photo: Mama with Big Sis & Lil Sis! .. down on the farm!
Hey, when we meet, let's not start the conversation with, "Oh my gosh! You're so tall!"
I mean, I keep telling you guys.
No one believes the middle child.

File this one away as proof, and let me remind you now, my mom and sister are wonderful and cute and special in their own ways, but they are not Little People. Or vertically challenged at all, really.

They're normal people who don't require any design modifications in the kitchen. They don't even own a step-stool. (Weird, right? The step stool thing?)

Photo: Nothing beats FAMILY time, down on the farm :)
I spoke to another fantastic bunch of ladies on Saturday. And I didn't even sob! I didn't have to literally turn my back to the audience and compose myself! I only barefly wept a tiny bit! #success

I loved the day. Loved my friends. Some readers (Holla, Danielle!) drove over from Columbus. They found me and told me this 10 minutes before I took the stage. No pressure, or anything.

I was bowled over. So sweet!

The Oasis ladies put together such a great day. Everything was so pretty, every detail tended to. I saw some of the women who shaped me in my adolescence. And my mom, sister, an aunt and 2 of my cousins were there. So loved! So lucky!

The ladies gave me tons of the left-over food before I left. SCORE! Can't even tell you the excitement.

I crazy-love all these persons.

And although adults usually leave Ohio feeling refreshed with higher-than-normal levels of invigoration, this is what being in Ohio does to the shorties.

She was so tired, she couldn't even close her eyes!

Which reminds me, what's the all-time best love song ever written? Because I heard it on the drive home last night. Do you know? Any guesses?

Bryan Adams. Heaven.

"We were young and wild and free...."
Yes we were, Bryan. Yes we were.

I can't quit your gravel-voice.

There'll never be another.

Title: "I Swear I'm Not An Animal Person"

And on that note, the ball's in your court.

PS -  Don't forget - free shipping on all fashionABLE scarves with the code "flowerpatch" through tomorrow!