Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flash Sale!!


Summer Pals!
I've been missing you.

We're not quite home from a whirlwind trip to "Phillydelthia" (<< Silas, haha) and you won't even believe the way God took care of us. More on all that soon!

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a fashionABLE Flash Sale happening TODAY ONLY (Thursday July 31) from 2-6 Central time.

40% off scarves to make room for the Fall line!
This sale applies toward the following scarves:  Frehiwot, Etanesh Stripes, Alem, & Anchinalu (while supplies last). 
 
This is an amazing opportunity to stock up.
I wear these scarves ALL the time, especially as summer winds down and fall ramps up.

{You can see some of my favorite scarf looks here, here, and here.}


To get the 40% off -- enter the promo code SEEYASUMMER2014 at check-out.
As always, there is also FREE SHIPPING for all orders over $80! 

Get shopping, homies!

Talk soon,
Shanny

PS - Just saw that another favorite FPFG affiliate, Canvas People is having AMAZING end-of-season sales right now. Free 8x10 or 60% off custom photo canvases!!  {The canvas I'm loving right now is at the bottom of this decorating post. Time to order a new one!}



 *affiliate links used

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Letter to my Littles


Hey, guys.

Remember this day? The one you spent trucking down our half-finished sidewalk and deciding for sure that you really do love each other?

It was one of my favorites of all time.

I look at you there, and here, right now, and I know we take turns failing each other.
And I know that's how it's supposed to be.

Sometimes life seems scattered and rushed.
Sometimes I worry that I'm not doing enough.
That I'm not enough.

I question and second-guess, doubling back to where I started, only to begin again.

I spend time missing all the right things.

I trip into my "old people" stories and ask you to learn from my mistakes when all you want to do is watch  Peg + Cat and tie your toys together.

What can I say? It's the sickness of parenthood.
One day you'll do the same thing....

(There I go again.)

It's just that I love you so much.
I feel the years we have left pressing in and I want to redeem them all, and I know that I can't.
I know in my heart it doesn't have to be that way, that there's room for mistakes and missed chances.

I just know I want you to live in freedom starting today and continuing into forever, to not wait until you're 30-odd years old to understand grace and the way it makes you worthy.


I don't want you penned in while you try to measure up.
I want you to see the pain that might come with that name-brand thing.

I want you to look back on your small years and lose your breath over the way they shaped you.
I hope you always keep noticing the bigness of the small pieces.


Our summer went way too fast, homies.
I'm not ready for it to end.

But you have loved me well and I hope you remember the sticky days stretched out in front of you, the times I threatened chores if you said you were bored, the moments of inspiration where you took up that stick/box/scooter/sprinkler/bathrobe and decided to live a while in another realm. And love it.


I'm telling you, I'll never stop thanking you for being mine.
I know the heartbreak that brought you here and I'll kiss those scars until my lips fall off.

But this is your story, guys.

It's so beautiful and I sit here slack-jawed at the way you're teaching me a kind of courage and strength I didn't understand. Until you.

Please don't worry over your beginnings. Don't wish away this long middle stretch.
I'll do the same.

I'll stay right here, when the days are long and the years knock the wind from us and we'll keep fighting for our family, for the love given to us out of the fullness of God's grace, shaped by all our broken pieces until all that's left is beauty.

I don't deserve your radness.

But I'll take it.

Love,
Mommy

 *Ruby's shirt: House of Belonging shirt shop

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Faith Like A Kid


We're coming up on two years here in the 'hood we love.

A few of the crumbling houses are ancient history now, long gone, bulldozed over and hauled away.
A few more slide deeper into ruin, the sheet-covered windows telling stories and keeping secrets.

Brick by brick, our block is breathing new life, life composed of giggles and the whir of bicycle spokes.


Across the street a For Sale sign hangs. I'm praying for the future owners, that they would find a true home here, just as we have.

I pray we welcome them well, but that's easier said that done when I fall so easily into old grooves, looking in rather than out. I keep my mouth shut, muzzled by a strange shyness, deciding my efforts make them uncomfortable when really I'm the one with sweaty palms.

I know God is in this.

I know He called us here, and though 90% of His reasons were to save us, that left-over 10 taps my conscience. It raps and knocks and stares me down. There's work to do here. Not the work born of obligation or pity, but the kind that believes in its bones that everyone needs company, everyone needs a champion, a friend, a neighbor in the truest sense. We all need Jesus. He's all there ever was, the only thing that ever mattered, and He comes to life in the everydayness of ordinary love.

This love changed me. Why does it feel so sticky in my hands?

I know the beauty of surrender. I've seen it up close, smelled its freedom.
Two years is a speck when aligned against eternity and I can't help hoping we're here for a good long while, that we stay put, even when the buzz dies down and the skies stay blue. 

There's "hard" and there's "easy" and I jumble them up. I tear the corners and pull their middles until nothing makes sense. I wonder and scheme then fall into bed like a stone, my heart cast on a plan I can only trace in patches.

It's dusk outside, the kids have been pulled in hard, against all the sweaty will of their collective years. "But it's light out," they say. "The neighbors are still out." I've never heard a more compelling argument. But we have tomorrow. And the day after that.

Their breathing steadies, settling in to the last phase of our day as light spills and filters and moves its hips.

A knock on the door, and I roll my eyes at every kid in this neighborhood who lacks boundaries and bedtimes.

It's not who I expected.

They're in shorts, they're shy. I have never seen them before.
He carries a familiar box, she does all the talking.

"Do you have kids here? We brought cookies if they want one."

Three cellophane-wrapped Oatmeal Cream Pies pass from their hands to mine.

"We had extra," they say. "We just wanted to share."

They run to the next house, and then to the next, like it's just that easy.

This is everyday Jesus, wearing the skin of a blue-eyed third-grader.

This is the simple, profound love that saves us.


** If you're at all interested in community living and blooming where you're planted, I highly recommend Slow Church (Smith & Pattison). I'm not even half-way through but this book is blowing my mind and affirming all my hunches.

(Amazon affiliate link used)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Believe in Tacos


Well hello there, strangers.

Hi. I haven't been around in, oh, about a week.
But I had my reasons.

I just spent four days in Arkansas with most of the (in)courage contributors, and I learned a few things while I was gone, things like Don't Forget To Pack Deodorant, and If You Do, Pray For A Really Generous Roommate With A Low Germaphobe Index.

Give me a little space, an extra glug of oxygen and air, and I end up figuring out what I believe in. I believe in not opening the laptop for 5 days straight. I believe in crazy wallpaper. I believe (still) that gingham is a neutral.

I believe I landed the best kids and husband on the planet.

I believe there's a thread of solidarity and humanity stitched between every woman. I believe our differences make us stronger. I believe in telling the truth.

I believe in lime La Croix. I believe God loves me enough to draw me in and settle me down, every time, no matter what.

I believe the best way to keep writing is to sometimes stop for a while.

I believe in affirming each other and not laughing when I am affirmed. (I believe I still need help with this.)

I believe in tacos.

If I have one regret from my time away it's that I didn't properly prioritize the taco truck across from the hotel. I just can't shake the guilt.

Which may explain why the first thing I did after coming home and tucking my babies in was to plate up one of my favorite meals in the history of always. At 9 pm.

Because I believe a pork taco with asian slaw is a perfectly acceptable re-entry plan.


{I swear there's meat under there...}

Pork Tacos with Asian Slaw

2 T chili powder
1 T coarse salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
pinch of cloves or cinnamon
1 bay leaf

Combine all spices except bay leaf and rub into all sides of a pork roast.
Sear rubbed roast over high heat in a skillet, until browned and a crust begins to form.

Transfer roast to a slow cooker.

While skillet is still hot, pour 1/2 cup of water (or stock/broth) into the pan, deglazing the browned bits from the roast.

Pour this "broth" over the roast. Top with 1 bay leaf, or 2 if you're wild like me.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

I usually check the meat an hour or so before dinner. If it's not falling apart yet, I crank the cooker up to high.

When meat is tender, pull it apart with two forks.

Chop half a head of cabbage and mix with the juice of one lime, a little salt, and a couple glugs of Thai chili sauce.

I like my tacos topped with sour cream mixed with a little chipotle-in-adobo, sliced avocado, and a hearty drizzle of Sriracha.

PS - Robert (snifffff) taught me to cook the tortillas over the "eye", which translates to holding each tortilla over the open flame of my gas stove and setting off the smoke alarm approximately 62 times over the course of the 8 months he lived with us. Be careful doing this. Be ye not distracted. But oh, WILL YOU EVER BE A BELIEVER.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Waterline


The part of my life I'm most apt to share is the half-full glass.

But I know you're no fool. Nothing is as straight as it seems around here where the sidewalks jut like busted teeth and the train cuts each quarter hour like a hundred broken hearts.

We're all just human, walking through the pitches and dips of life. The pulse doesn't change even if the skin around it does. This is what we signed up for when we put down our nets - a little ebb, a little flow. Right?

So I won't sugar-coat, and pretending makes me nauseous. When I say I love this life, that I'd never go back, I mean it.

But the flip-side is that I sometimes choose silence. It's safer. Easier. I don't trust myself to speak the hard truth well. People will misunderstand, or the weight of my words will pull me under for good.

Like a wife encamped in the truth that the love hiding in shadows will find its way back out, I know the boundaries of my belief. I've learned the angles and I've lived on every side.


Mine is a soul that pleads for beauty. It's a visceral need, a longing cast far past wishful thinking. I have to track it down. When I do, I fold myself inside it, a shawl for the colder nights.

This is what's necessary for me to exist between the cracks of a life I never asked for, one I was too naive to hope for. I must see the good. I have got to believe this right here is holy.

The waterline inches up the glass, its delicate weight like a clipped rose, a ripe peach, a snoozing infant in my hands. This is what I want. I want this glass to be filled. If it sloshes over the sides? Even better.

But sometimes it fills by the drop. Some weeks I'm left pacing the smudged floors, my eyes darting to gauge where we're at. Is life good right now? Is it on its way?

Now and then the glass slips from my hands and I can't see hope for all the mess we've made. Those are the days I choose to start over in quiet.

But maybe there's a place for the barren words, stripped of all the good-looking graces.


Tonight, life glitters on the floor in pieces, not so much the victim of a single tragedy but of the pound and blast of an ordinary Tuesday followed too closely by a Wednesday.

Tonight, nothing we do seems to be enough.
Tonight, everything we do feels like far too much.

The words seep through my shards and I know the truth before I even punctuate their end: It's not about us or what we do or don't do. It never was. 

It helps, but only a little.

Is there beauty here, where mothers don't cherish their children? Is there loveliness among dirty toddlers who speak in grunts, too alone to cobble together a first language? Where kids are passed and passed and passed along?

I stand surrounded by people who assume all the wrong things about my life, and as soon as I get close enough to touch theirs, any commonality we've crossed gets lost in translation again. We retreat to our separate corners. My head beats the wall and I love these people while I resent them. I defend them and I judge them. I believe them and I ignore them.

I love them and I love myself more, far too often.

This cannot be beauty.

I sit at the tracks while a train screams by. The gates lift and I'm swept back into our neighborhood, where nothing makes sense at all.

I can't explain why I exhale, I only know I do.

A family on bikes races across the street with smiles as wide as the low-sinking sun. I don't know a thing about them, but maybe they're enough right now. This is where God made my home, and beauty lives here, even when my eyes can't see.

Somewhere, a leaky faucet drips. It drips.

Before I know it, I'll be filled again, promising that every inconvenience matters, in my life and in yours.

I won't say it until I mean it.

And in the end, I always do.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Master Bedroom Spruce



I think I've mentioned before our pattern of neglecting our bedroom when it comes to decorating.

It always gets the minimum amount of attention to make it liveable. And it's usually a mess, since that's where I often fold laundry, sort kids' clothes, and a certain mustached individual has an aversion to relocating his items to their appropriate homes.

Que sera sera, you know? It happens.

And it usually doesn't bother me that much, because I don't spend that much time there, especially considering our bent for staying up half the night.

But sometimes I see fancy rooms on Pinterest or in mags, bedrooms with things like "working lamps" or "proper storage" and I think, nope. That kind of luxe just ain't for us.

Or is it?????

So I'm starting to daydream about what we could have up there. Someday.
And in the meantime, I'm taking baby steps.

Taping cool prints to the wall by Cory's dresser is my favorite baby step so far.

It's one of the first things I see when I wake up and I'm loving it.

This cost me zero dollars.

The Love Alone print was a gift from a friend, the smaller prints were swag from Hop Spoken, I painted the vase at the dining room table while the kids painted, and the butterfly is actually a greeting card that came in a boxed set about 10 years ago from TJ Maxx. This is proof that we can make a little magic with stuff we've already got. Take a look around and see what works together. Live with things that make you happy. It's not as complicated as we make it.
What's the state of your bedroom?
Tell me almost everything.


Sources:
Butterfly greeting card  - Katie Daisy
I'll Keep You Safe print - Lion Named Parker
Flower painting - FPFG
Love Alone print - Katy Girl Designs
Birdcage print - Beautiful & Beloved

Dresser - Thrift store circa 2000 ($50) (We almost broke our backs hauling this thing in.)
Mirror - $40 Allegan flea market circa 2012
Green box - gift
Plant - Aldi, relocated from the living room


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Partay

UPDATE :: Party is full!

This is it, mamacitas.

Who wants to come and Noonday it up with me on August 7th?
Sarah (aka Ozzy) (Don't be mad, Lovey. It's just how some people know you. It's okay. I'm sorry! Forgive me!) will be joining us on Thursday and possibly Friday. And you will LOVE Jolene, my cute, local Noonday Ambassador and friend.

At some point, you'll totally meet my Littles and Cory. I WISH you could meet Robert. But I'll drive you by the Work Release Center where he lives. Ha.

 
Late Thursday we'll all head over to a local hotel (still tbd) where we will don our pajamas and hopefully watch the Hatmaker's reality show.

There will be a little sleeping, but not a lot.

Don't worry, because Friday a.m. we'll go to one of two fantabulous coffee shop options where we'll caffeinate our bods and prepare for a fun day of thrifting, more eating, and associated tomfoolery.

If we have reserves of time and interest, there are a few AMAZING antiques shops in a nearbyish town we could hit up. And then dinner? Maybe? If you're up for it?

And then we all head home chipper and rejuvenated.


If this is your jam, email me asap at shannandmartin at gmail.com
Let me know if someone is coming with you.

The first 20 people to email me are IN! It's first come, first served, so don't tarry, lassies.

I'm super excited. I think it's going to be a wonky blast!



Sara (of Rod and Sara fame) you won the Noonday necklace!! Email me your addy at shannandmartin at gmail. :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

An Invitation to Party and a Giveaway From Moi


True story. If you invite me to a Noonday trunk show, I will most definitely come and there's a sky-high likelihood I'll buy something. Cannot resist. At all.

A few weeks ago, I attended my homey Heather's trunk show and I knew deep in the marrow of my knobby bones that I didn't need more Noonday, but oy, I wanted to buy something. It felt criminal not to.

Then it hit me. I wanted to buy something for you. Because I love you's. I do.

So.

Voila. Here she is.

I feel like I deserve many pats on the back and maybe a Perfect Cheer for going a somewhat practical route.

I usually gravitate toward weirder, crazier pieces with personalities that remind me of Karen from Will & Grace. But I know many of you are Noonday tiny babies, so I gently guide you along with kid gloves. Except I have man hands and you've seen my gloves before.

Don't worry about the fact that the necklace comes pre-worn. It's not even weird at all. I left the tags on it, and I only wore it long enough for my neighbor man Mike to wonder for the nine thousandth time why Cory takes so many pictures of me in our yard while he smokes cigs on his porch and tries to look natural.

I'm sure we seem creepy.

I planned my outfit just to show you the versatility of Noonday pieces. My fave jeans (cuffed), sandals, a white shirt I should really wear more often (circa 2004) and yellow Noonday.

But.

It's even better if you layer on a bunch of other stuff with it. (My earrings are from here.)

Do you love it?
Woo hoo!!!!

I wish I could've bought these bad gals in bulk and shipped one off to each of you along with a bag of Santitas.

Alas, there's only one.

So, tell me something in the comments to be entered to win. Tell me anything. I just love hearing you talk.


But Wait! There's More!

I'm having a Noonday trunk show on August 7th.
I happen to have completely saturated my local friend market with Noonday, so genius befell me once more.

I'm inviting YOU.

Party's at my place, Thursday the 7th at 6:30. (Goshen, Indiana)
There will be many good things including but not limited to: Sangria, salsa, dessert. Probably a soft cheese or two. I'm thinking dinnerish, even. But not fancy. Think paper plates - but pretty ones!

With any luck, the patio will have a roof and furniture.
If not? We party anyway.

I have room for 20 of you.

AND...since I don't know if some of you may be troopers willing to drive a bit to get to the partay, if there's any interest at all, I think we should sleep over at a hotel in town (working on those details, but something like Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn) and then tool around all day Friday SINCE MY KIDS WILL ALREADY BE BACK IN SCHOOL.

I'll take you thrifting and out for fancy pizza on Friday.

What do we think? What do we think????!!!

I get excited every time I think about it.
Noonday. Salsa. Me. You. Fancy Pizza.

I will do a separate post on Monday July 14th at noon ET for the trunk show. Take some time to get your ducks in a row if you're interested and meet me back here then!

For now, tell me something GOOD for your chance to win a little blinga-bling.

Yours Truly,
FPFG


(I don't allow anonymous comments because trolls LOVE me. Sorry!)


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lately


We had a jam-packed June.



We visited our favorite (only?) vacation destination, where we played with cousins, chased lightening bugs, read books and napped in the hammock, and ate pie for dinner.


The two Biggers had a week of fun at Spring Hill day camp.
Each camper is awarded with a special word at the end of the week.
Calvin = helpful
Ruby = creative

(swoon)




We did two days at the annual Martin (no relation - ha) campout, where we ate s'mores, cook eggs in a giant kettle over an open fire, fished, swam, ran laps around the pond, and I didn't die from exposure to the outhouse.

Also, Calvin lost his glasses and I discovered the original ombre. Nice work, God! Such a trend-setter, you!

We visited the most magical place in the county, some of us in costume.

Parker Posey!

(This joke is only funny if you know I call him Parker a lot.)

We built a new playground for Chamberlain Elementary School.

I hit up the Allegan flea market with one of my homegirls.
My stuff: H&R Block sign ($5), Giant M ($10), Blue metal box with lid ($5), Antlers ($5), Curtains ($5), Orange stool ($10), Orange coat rack thingy ($6), Two metal trays ($10)

Last week, the cah-ray-ziest storm blew through around 1 a.m. I was just barefly asleep, or maybe not even. It was the loudest, strobe-lightiest storm I'd ever seen. I tried to look out the window, but then got spooked over the thought of exploding glass and hopped back into bed.

All of the kids slept through it.

I kept waiting for the tornado siren to go off, but it never did.

Except that IT DID, and I somehow missed it??

I was stunned the next morning when I saw the destruction. Our street was a disaster. Most of the city was a wreck. Giant trees clipped in half - hundreds of them, everywhere.

It was eerie!
A tree fell on my neighbor's house, two doors down.

I've never been happier about our lack of mature trees.

Crops were destroyed, the roof was torn off my favorite little church.
It's hard to believe no one in our area was hurt.

So thankful.

Last weekend, on a lark, we headed up to New Buffalo Beach after church.

It was suuuper rocky, which was a TOTAL JACKPOT as we spend most of the afternoon looking for sea glass.

Guys, it has been my lifelong dream to find sea glass. I've searched on every tropical and Floridian vacation, and found nada.

I was starting to take it personally with God.

Years ago I whined about this and a reader MAILED me a handful of sea glass! Can't handle the kindness.

But still, I wanted to find my own.

And I did!  I found 4 pieces in just a couple of hours. Can you believe it???
Me, either.

But it's true.

We've done some regular, not-fun things like laundry and doctor's appointments.

And we've done lots of wonderful, blissfully boring days where we putter around at home and try to stay busy. Or not.

We've stopped to smell the flowers.

We've done crafts and recipes and invited people over.

We've done bike rides and umpteen ice cream cones.

The Biggers learned cursive. 


We ate plenty of $1 tacos on Wednesdays.

Maybe I've said this before, but I think this is my favorite summer ever.
I can't stop loving it.

And we still have 4 more weeks until school starts!
(I'm actually despondent over only having 4 weeks left, but I'm trying not to show it right now...)

I love ya, Summer '14.
You're being so good to me.

RELATED: Calvin's nurse asked him how his summer was going so far.

"Boring."

:/

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The World as a Marble


In a day or two, a bunch of my favorite ladies will be boarding a plane to Rwanda.
I'm so excited for them.

I did something similar last year, and it changed me. It sounds like a cliche, but it's truth. My experience in Ethiopia was personal and, at times, achingly difficult. There were things I needed to know and I learned them there.

I think about that trip and those faces all the time.

Walking in their space shrunk the globe down to marble-size, and I know now I can carry it in my pocket. It doesn't have to be so big that it keeps us all off-radar, or so incomprehensible that we default to selective forgetfulness.

We're a team, each of us with something to give.
We're in this together, and it matters to all of us.

A bunch of you linked elbows with me by joining the FPFG Mocha Club team to support the women I met in Ethiopia on their journey toward economic freedom

We are making a difference in the lives of women I stood next to and sang with. They are real. They aren't hypothetical or theoretical. They feel what we feel. They hope for many of the same things.

You can read a moving update on what they're up to here.
"As members of the Mocha Club, we are also invited under that scarf. We share in the responsibility of supporting this community of women who are longing to leave their desperate circumstances to a place of love and hope." 
Because they have partners like you and me sending just $9/month, they are able to receive training and enter into a sustainable business. They can send their children to school. IT MATTERS.
Education Flowy Racerback Tank

When I stumbled on this Sevenly tank on Instagram yesterday, I bought it within 3 minutes. You guys, I almost never do that. (Please don't make me remind you of the whole Clearance Pants Situation.) This week, for every sale made at Sevenly, $7 is donated to one of my dearest organizations, Mocha Club, to provide meals and education for orphaned children at the New Dawn Educational Center in Kenya.

This is worthy business. Like Nicole Baker Fulgham said so well, we're called to care not only about the education of our own child, but the education of all God's children.

I didn't even plan to share this until about 10 minutes ago, after a long day at the doctor with Calv, a sub-par dinner, and episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and Bewitched.

I'm overwhelmed with gratitude right now, the ordinary, end-of-the-summer-day kind. The extraordinary kind. I have so much - everything I need, and then some.

I've been thinking long and hard these days about the right ways to spend my cash and my time and my life. It's probably not as complicated as I make it out to be. I just want to be more generous. More extravagant in letting go. I want to be life-giving, dream-sustaining. Maybe you're feeling the same way.

If so, you could buy a cutie tank or a baseball T. 
Or sign up and join us in doing something small that adds up to something worthwhile.

You'ns are my people. I really love it that way.

Summer Tuesday Night Sap For All,
Shannan


*Amazon Affiliate link used.

These Are The Glory Days




I'm a summer girl-at-heart, born and bred for flip flops and popsicles and all-things-garden.
As a Mom, it gets harder, some days, to delight in these days. They aren't exactly as restful as they were back then.

But I'm still that girl, still exactly the girl I was designed to be.
The magic is still here, just waiting to be found.

Today, I'm over at (in)courage talking about everything I love about summer and the ways it'll always be just what I need.  Join me.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Be Free



He had forgotten our kids were adopted, so when I walked downstairs to meet him for the first time, he expected me to be Asian. Black hair. Diminutive. I'd thought I caught a beat of recovery in his face, that flash of a moment where reality quietly realigns with expectation.

All I'd seen of him was a picture, one tiny square holding bulging biceps and broken teeth.

My husband calls him his friend now. He calls lots of the men from the jail "friend", because that's what becomes of humans after tears are shared, and trays of high-sodium institution food and the Good News.

Our day was already inked up and scheduled out, but he lives in a homeless shelter now, and no one should be homeless on the 4th of July.

I rolled his name around in my head while I dabbed concealer on my dark circles and wished again for a better head of hair.

If you assume this thing comes naturally to me, nothing could be further from the truth.

I wanted him to know peace here. I wanted to welcome him into our world with authenticity, refusing to style a snappier version of who we really are. I wanted to create ample space for him to feel the full lightness of his worth.

But the potato salad was store-bought and I can be shy with new people. I worried about things like dead air and imminent boredom. I didn't know yet that he hates vegetables. All of them.

He held out his hand and I lunged for his neck while he processed me as blondish and taller than him. It was settled. This was what we were doing - becoming friends and kin in a narrow strip of shade on the unfinished back patio.

"Thanks so much for coming!"

"Well, thank you for asking me."

His eyes dropped down to his second-hand lace-ups.

"You guys are pretty much my best friends. My only friends, really."

And it didn't matter at all anymore what he thought of us or our crazy kids or our messy kitchen or the store-bought red potato salad.

If I know anything at all, it's that the shortest routes to relationships are carved when everyone takes two giant steps past the fences of their comfort and toward each other. It has been worth it every time. 

He took his two giant steps and then he took some more and what he brought to my table was vulnerability and honesty. He brought fist bumps for my boys and compliments for the cook. He brought friendship for my honey, the kind that isn't fabricated.

He brought me things I never knew I lacked about sacrifice and discipline and pride in the kind of work that leaves your back aching but your soul uncaged.

Left to my own devices, I prove my foolishness in innumerable ways. I walk away from this wild love God knit and spoke and spilled and flung into the atmosphere like so much glitter.

And I miss the freedom to love beyond my own demographic.
I miss the opportunities to see the ways I align with friends I'm never supposed to have known.
I settle for low-grade fear and call it wisdom.

I can't hack the thought of what I've missed in light of a man who tells me thirty seconds after meeting me that I'm his best friend.

Charcoal wafting laughter floating windows open soda cans popping he taps his thumb on the banged-up kitchen table while he speaks and it's all so easy.

And we're free.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sturdy Rope



My summer wake-up call happens in phases. Somewhere around 6:40, I hear Calvin sneak downstairs (rascal is "supposed" to stay upstairs until 7...). Ruby trucks down 15 or 20 minutes later.

I doze and wake in fits, their heels stomping across the downstairs floor, Howard skittering around in his morning frenzy, a little giggling, the unmistakable sound of Legos being sifted around in the box.

With any luck, Silas sleeps until 7:30. I listen for the sounds of his steps, bending my ear to catch the clues they hold about the day ahead of us.

We're a wiley collection of opposing preferences and personalities. Ours is an existence of rushing and waiting, push and pull. We're human, but we sure do love each other.

On my very best days, I offer a quick prayer before I roll out of bed. It's usually more of a plea, really.
Follow closely.
Let us feel you near.
Give me what I need.
Show me joy.
Dear God, grant me the miracle of patience. Quickly!

Leading 3 small people through a long string of long days is no monkey business. Many of you might enjoy amiable children with easy-going demeanors and matching socks. That sounds entirely foreign to me. It's mandarin Chinese.

What I enjoy are 3 funny, short people with various ills ranging from "anger mismanagement" to "excessive sarcasm" to "chronic tattling". Everyday, we have fighting and belly laughs. Every day, we see bright moments of pure genius and lapses into the kind of boredom that can't be fixed, just survived.

I'm on a mission this summer to just make it all work. And I'm finding it's so much easier to go with the flow when I'm really okay flowing.

I don't have to decide everything.
I don't have to say no just because it wasn't my idea.
I don't have to make everyone happy.
I don't even have to make myself happy. (Oy.)

One kid wants eggs, one wants cereal, and one wants toast? I would be wise to save my controlling tendencies for something a tinge more dire. Toast your heart out, Silas! Master that elusive sunny-side, Calv!

This is my life, the exact one that I happen to love. Even when it's hard and crazy-making.
This is what pulls me from my earliest squinty-eyed moments of the day, into the very heart of Christ. Faith and family can tangle into the loveliest rope, a double-helix of home and everything it means.

God gave me my heart by making me a Mama. It wasn't the way I thought it would be, and I'm so glad the choice wasn't mine.

What we are is imperfectly perfect for each other.
What we are is something pretty wonderful.

**

My dear friend Emily Wierenga just published Atlas Girl, her memoir about arriving at the heart of her faith through the twisting road that led her across the world and back home again.

I started it late last night and slipped very quietly down into the wonderland she creates with her prose and her truth-telling. The way she weaves time, place, and bare-faced truth are already amazing me. I'll have it finished by the weekend. I can't think of a better Summer read.

I intended to share about her book today, but I didn't plan for the way her words would have my head in overdrive, thinking about the way my faith and my family are twined.  That, friends, is what great writing will do to you.

Find your copy here


(All the proceeds from Atlas Girl go towards The Lulu Tree, an organization seeking to prevent orphans in the country of Uganda by supporting and empowering Ugandan Mamas.)


*Amazon affiliate link used

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

3 Things That Keep Me Sane


When Cory and I finally make it to bed, it's usually already tomorrow. I've been this way for, oh, at least 25 years. I'm a night owl. A morning dreamer.

Sometimes it catches up with me in the form of scrutinizing the day ahead of me, combing it for the possibility of a nap. It doesn't matter that I almost never actually take one, it just helps to know I could if I wanted to. In theory.

I mean, it's messy. It doesn't make a lot of sense and there are a hundred different times I wish I'd been wired like a normal person. Alas.

I want to be organized and buttoned-up. I want to be that mom, task-oriented and scheduled. I tried for years.

But then I realized it actually caused me more stress than it curbed.
I'm a spicy mama, and this? Our spicy home.

We're mild spicy. If we were green curry, we'd be a four, which is pretty dang hot if you're a non-Thai lady, but also no cause for fire extinguishers.

Our home rockets wildly between tidy and the kind of disorder that inspires my four-year old neighbor to sniff, "It's a mess in there."  (Come ON, Yahir. It was laundry day! Cut me a little slack. Jeez.)

 But.
 
There are a few, teensy weensy things that have proven to bring order to my wonky life. They often align right around the first of the month.

 
First, we do our budget. Every single month. For the past 9 years.
Getting paid monthly has it's down-sides (see end of month near-starvation and general edginess), but it does make it easier to know exactly how much you have coming in, and exactly how much you have going out.

There have been times, over the years, that we've ended up in bi-monthly pay situations, but in our minds, it's easier to think of it all as one lump sum of cash.

Across the financial hilltops and valleys of our marriage, this budget has saved us. Now, making less than we have made since our second year of marriage, it shows us that everything is going to be alright. Or it'll at least be close enough.

Besides, next month? A clean slate.

I love that. (Clean slate carrot dangles on the end of the string only if you spend less than you earn!)


Second, I make a menu plan.

Or not.

But it's always so much nicer when I do. It simplifies life, gives me one less thing to lose track of or flake out on. This tends to happen when I'm in a more cookish mood, which happens to be occurring right now.


Here's my menu for this week:

Sunday - Grilled hot dogs with cabbage slaw
Monday -Greek Quinoa Salad
Tuesday - BBQ Chicken and Avocado Quesadillas (but with red onion and jalapenos added)
Wednesday - Tomatillo-Braised Chicken Thighs, Corn, Melon
Thursday - 5-Spice Beef and Broccoli, rice
Friday - Thai Quinoa Salad (around the world with quinoa!!!)
Saturday - Fish tacos with mango salsa and purple cabbage, black beans



I also planned to make:
Blueberry Coconut Pecan Breakfast Cookies (GF!)
Carrot Zucchini Apple Bread
Fresh Cherry Tart

Breakfast is usually peanut butter toast, whole grain frozen waffles with PB, homemade egg McMuffins with ham, smoothies, or cereal.

Lunch is Fend For Yourselves, which usually involves left-overs, but sometimes Ramen noodles. Once a week we try to meet Dad for lunch for $1 tacos or at the pizza joint that gives jail employees a ridiculous discount.

This works for me because it helps me keep my food budget in check when I shop for groceries ($500/month for food, toiletries, cleaning stuff)  and we eat out less (separate budget) because I have a plan and boatloads of produce and meat that'll spoil if we forget about them. It also helps me retain my mind and morale since cooking is cheap, edible therapy for me, especially when I'm here with all of the peoples for all of the days.

The last important thing I do is wipe the calendar and get a start fresh. Nothing feels better than seeing a clean expanse of white. Helps me breathe. It doesn't stay that way for long, but it's a great mental re-set for me, and I'm reminded that almost all the things that fill our days are good things. If they weren't? We would chuck 'em.

There you have it. All my tricks, and I do mean all, except for the one about my elbows bending backwards, but that lost its cool factor somewhere around 1989.


PS - Word has it my blog has been raised up from the dead. Hallelou! Technology is such a brat, sometimes.