Thursday, April 30, 2015


A few nights ago I read something that referenced 40 being half a lifetime. It wasn't exactly news to me, but statements like that take on a new air of urgency when you find yourself standing at almost-39.

I don't mind aging, but I'd rather not be confronted with a half-over life.

For the first time, all the dudes putting gel in their (vanishing) hair and driving off in sports cars made just a bit of sense. From these front-row seats, I can feel the pull to recapture some of what's left. At a minimum, it makes me think about what matters most. It makes me want to make things count.

Truth is, I'm of the opinion that life isn't short. It's long. 
The eighty-odd years of a full life hold so many opportunities to get things wrong. It would be easy to squander them on irrelevant or temporary things that won't ever fulfill.

That's what I don't want to do with my second half, or what's left of the first.

I spend a lot of time thinking about community, about what it really means and why we need it. I write words and connect with friends I may never meet this side of Heaven. My heart lands in inboxes and pings around cyberspace and I know what we've created is real. It means something, and I don't take that for granted.

But if I find myself too busy to cultivate relationships with folks in my own back yard, those online words about walking and growing together lose their color. 
Recently, I sat across a coffee shop table with a bow-tied stranger as he extended an invitation to write an unpaid, monthly column in our local newspaper.

Like everyone else in the universe, I'm trying to figure out how to trim the fat. But first, what exactly  is the fat? And does it really need trimming?

Sipping my Earl Grey, I thought of every reason why I should politely decline. When it rains it pours, and I've already confessed that I can't swim.

Because he's a wise man, he didn't push. His offer was full of grace, and nothing makes me want to move forward more than kindness and space. Sitting at that tiny table, I already knew I was in.

Now I get to write about community for a new sort of audience - one made up of people I pass on actual streets. It makes me vulnerable in a brand new way, but I like it. Vulnerability grows authenticity, and that's one thing we never outgrow.

Each of us has been planted with purpose, and we really are better together.
Here's to a life half-full and ripe with promise.

{You can click here to read my first column!}

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Importance of Noise

I’ve always been a homebody.

After my first taste of working from home, some twelve years ago, I swore I’d never go back. I had arrived. I honed my skill-set of puttering around in sweatpants while cranking out high quality work without leaving the comfort of my living room. My interactions with others were at a minimum and, God Bless America, this was even before the height of video conferencing.

In the years that followed, we brought home our three kiddos. Life took on a new sort of rhythm, one revolving around nap-times, snacks, and tall stacks of library books. They were my new community, and we grew together.

This year, for the first time, they all went off to a small public school at the end of our street. Weighing what matters most for our prized treasures, we see real value in the knocking around of their little lives with the lives of others.

For the first time, my house cleared out every morning at 7:30 and didn’t rally again until 3:00.

The timing seemed perfect. After years of writing for free, for my own personal joy, my work was shifting. It would be the year I began saying, “I’m a writer,” and meaning it.

But the strangest thing happened.

Click here to continue reading...

{PS - Are you going to the Women of Faith event in Columbus, OH this weekend? I'll be there! If you want to meet up for coffee, I need you to shoot me an email (shannandmartin@gmail) no later than Thursday night so I can coordinate! Would love to meet you.}

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Bits

It's Monday morning, and I'm feeling like a million bucks.

Cory and I got away for the first time since October, and while that doesn't sound that long ago, the months since then have been weird and hard in the way real life is prone to being.

We've been operating in a place of quiet exhaustion. Some nights I feel like a total cry baby, like what the heck is my problem??? Then I remember what happened in January and what happened three days after that. We've rocked it, but we've earned the right to be tired.

It's amazing what a couple days of space and calm can do.

And I use "calm" in its most relative sense.
Friday night we stood in the second row, front and center, for my first Trampled by Turtles concert.

(and I don't say that lightly)

I'm hooked. Officially. I've been to tons of concerts over my lifetime but nothing has matched this, not even Avett Brothers, and I don't mind at all that it makes Cory mad when I say so.

You need to get acquainted with TBT. And if you ever get a chance to see them, GO. Do it for me.
It's pure art. For me, it was almost church.

You already know I'm an affiliate for Tea Collection.

Here's the thing, I could never/would never pay full price for their stuff. But they have the BEST sales. And it's all global-minded (love), super comfy and cute (love-love), and made by folks who are paid a living wage (gah). 

Right now they're running a super-secret sale that you can only access from their affiliates. This sale isn't available on their website, but you can get there from here!  

Stock up, sisters. Sale starts today and runs through Wed. April 29th.
Oh, and one last thing.
I got this guy back last night.


I'm so happy about it. I can't stop staring.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Me Right Now

I'm sitting here in my stripey pajama pants with a cat on my feet and a smile on my face, because it's FRIDAY! Gah. Finally.

The last few weeks have been so intense. Last night Cory pulled off the 1st Annual Elkhart County Jail Ministry banquet for over 400 people. It's so fun to watch him do his thing. He morphs into this uber-detail-oriented dude that just takes care of business. Who would have guessed jail would end up being his passion? Not moi.

Aside from that major event, I've been stockpiling smaller things to tell you, because it's just what I do. I leave nothing to the imagination...

...including my kitchen shelves.

I spruced them up for Spring. And by "spruced", I mean I collected a few random, clashing dishes from the thrift store and a rogue trip to Ikea and threw them all together. It's like a flower garden, only the kind where some of the flowers are actually blue zebras and some are jailbirds.

Whatever. It makes me really happy.

Sidenote: Do I need to lecture you again about decorating on-the-cheap with things that just make you happy? Because it feels like it's been several weeks since I've preached about this.

"Don't overthink. Don't spend cash you don't have. Don't worry about what Pinterest or that one redonkulously stylish friend would say. Swim towards the happy. Float in its sea. It'll make your heart feel prettier."

(Lecture over. Until next time.)

Can you even believe this stunning art from the hand of my lady, Aliza?
She just dashed it off, just for me. When it showed up at my door I felt like I'd just won the PowerBall.

Visitors in my home think it's sort of fun and ironic. BUT YOU KNOW BETTER.

In related news, I found myself growing weary of the circus tent curtains, so I started an exhaustive search for something new. Since curtains make my eyes cross with their inane price points, I considered stitching up some sheets again. But then I remembered the last time I tried to sew and shelved the idea.

In the end, I found these polka-dotties from Joss and Main. They're more sheer than I thought, but I sort of love them, and not just because they cost me $20 for the pair, but mostly exactly because of that reason. (And the polka dots.)

It's such a fun source for quirky, inexpensive stuff. I need to remember to look there more often.

When we're not working and fluffing our shelves and hunting for curtains, we're still doing regular living, and while it's been extra full lately, I find myself more thankful than ever for those normal, everyday moments that bring me right back to the core of who I am.

Things change, but some things never do. I need that reminder playing on a loop.

Last weekend I got an afternoon with just Ruby and Si. They were so dreamy. They got along like old mates and we ate Subway in the sun. It felt like summer, in all the right ways.

(Then it SNOWED on Wednesday. SOB!)

Silas has been ultra-adorable lately. He usually tells me at least once a day, in a voice dripping with amazement and awe, "I'm so glad I got the best mommy!"

(((Heart eyes! Heart eyes! All of the emojis!!!!!!)))

Maybe he's always been this way? I can't remember.
He's always been charming and easy, yes?

NO. The answer is everything that is the opposite of charming and easy. So Mama, if you're in a rough stretch right now, one you've renamed "eternal reality", take heart. Hope is somewhere on the horizon. I never would have believed it myself, and yet, here it is, right in front of me with a missing front tooth and a premature mustache.

He ebbs and flows. We all do. But I'm happy to hang out here for a while.

Other Important Stuff:
Just finished: The Rosie Project (So funny and strange! Loved it.)
Starting: All the Light We Cannot See
Listening to: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors - Good Light (my kids are OBSESSED, too)
Eating: black bean/brown rice bowls FOREVER. Not a ton of "real" cooking happening here lately, but these are easy, healthy and delicious. I top mine with avocado, tomato, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, a little sour cream, and sriracha.

Welp, Chunky Pants is here visiting with my sis and Ihear him stirring. Gotta run!

I'm sure you understand, but on the off-chance you need convincing, try this. Or this. I have watched them both one hundred times and have no plans of stopping. Instant day-brightener!

Luv to all the homies,

*affiliate links present!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Love Like A Human


I spend an unusual amount of time thinking about love. Or, at least, more time than I used to. What does love look like? How does it act? Does it somehow achieve a balance of justice and mercy, or does it automatically fall on the side of grace?

What exactly is love? And how can I get better at it?

There were years I took love for granted. While I would have said it was a fundamental part of my life, I assumed its presence and kept on living. I’m a nice person. I love people.
Not until I fully recognized my God-given birthright (love Him, love my neighbor as myself) did love become a tangible thing. I knew I was not fulfilling my job, but in order to fix things, I needed to make up for lost time. I wanted to. I needed more love, in and through and pouring out from my life.

You know what happened next, how we sold things and moved places and surrounded ourselves with neighbors who can't help but respond to love. You know I'm being changed by their love.

You may have also gathered that I remained a bit lost in my mission. I routinely believe I’m missing the mark.

Yesterday my hunch was proven, but I need to back up.

Saturday found me at what was easily my personal, recent worst. What began as a stellar slash of white space across my overly-inked calendar spiraled without warning.

I had hatched a plan, and it just wasn't working. Aside from the general failure of my plan, there were other humans involved, and they were behaving badly. 

I stomped my mile-and-a-half around the pond at break-neck speed. I was fuming. Appalled. I felt so sorry for myself. I wanted justice and if I had to be the one to dole it out, well. I could do that.

Back home, my anger, unrelated to my family, spilled over to them. Naturally, I went on a cleaning rampage. I wanted to throw things away. Slam some stuff around. The kids hustled, following orders, keeping the peace, willing me out of my funk when it wasn't on them in the first place. I knew what was happening, I felt the tension mingle with my shame, but honestly felt incapable (unwilling?) to stop. It felt too good, too justified.

Then Cory threw a wrench in my already-torqued day. It was a total accident. He made a mistake, a simple, harmless one, and I lost it.

I cursed under my breath, shouted into the phone, made sure he knew he'd managed to make my bad day worse. I told myself my anger was validated. I raced sweaty and breathless back to my old stand-bys, "I'm the only one holding things together around here." "Everything falls on me." You know, complete lies.

In my blind, bratty mini-rage, I wanted him to feel some of the pain. I wanted apologies, and then some. I wanted everyone to acknowledge my faultlessness, but I'd settle for him.

Only because there's a God in Heaven and an empty tomb, I eventually recovered. The day wasn't as ruined as I had insisted.

Cut to yesterday.

Cory and I had just spent over an hour in our accountant's office, trying to make sense of a bunch of numbers. He did this without a single reminder that it was the busiest week of his entire year.

He drove me home, ticking down his mental to-do list, then kissed me and headed to work.

I drove back to the pond for today's 1.5 miles before diving into my own work.
And immediately locked my keys in the van.

When I called, he said he was almost to work. Why? What did I need?

Having no other choice, I humbly told him what I'd done, and apologized.

Guess what he did?

He said he was already turning around. He'd be there in twenty minutes. "Go ahead and start walking. I'll take care of it." 

He never once raised his voice. He didn't berate or shame me. He showed no sign of anger. He didn't make me pay for my sins.

I walked that familiar mile, the wind whipping my hair, my eyes trained for his van in the distance, coming to my rescue when I'd done nothing to deserve such mercy, nothing at all.

Around the furthest curve, I saw him pull up, a tiny speck across the pond. Though I should have felt deep shame, what I felt instead was tremendous grace. I felt love that was freely mine, no strings attached. A kernel of regret was still wedged in my heart, but he came for me and the cost was all his. He came, and it didn't make me want to hide, it made me want to live. It made me want to love him better, to somehow try to match his kindness.

I wondered if he could see me in the distance. Was he looking for me across the pond? I didn't blame him if he wasn't.

The gap between us was closing while I walked, but I was still only half-way there. I watched him drive away, still astonished by his goodness.

Then the van stopped. It reversed.
And he waited there for me, on his busiest day of the year.

He didn't wait because he was itching to remind me of my inadequacy, or point out all the ways I'd inconvenienced him. He didn't wait because he wanted my apology in person.

He waited because he saw me coming his way. How could he drive away?

It's true, love does things, but love also is things. 

It's patient. Kind to the core. 
It might be forgetful or distracted. Maybe it's not always the best communicator or the picture of romance. Love is Jesus, wrapped in a human. There's bound to be some fall-out.

For all I've learned in recent years about what it means to love hard people, I learn the most by being loved by one of the easiest.

I'm ready to take a closer look not at the things I do in love, but the simple way I am. Am I loving? Do I represent grace, or carve tally marks?

I can do loving things until my hair turns gray and still not be a person defined by the way I love. 

That's what love really does, it inspires growth. It makes us want to be better.
It settles into the cracks of our soul and tells us we were made for more than our shabby excuses.
It silences the clang and makes a melody of our mess.

Love is free.
Love is reckless and foolish.

That's what love is.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grow, Baby

I'm rolling down a back street in my janky mini van when I get the news. Another neighbor had showed up back at the jail, and this one was a sucker-punch.

Sometimes we see these things coming - there's heartbreak cooking and it's only a matter of time. Other times they simmer; and we watch from the outside in, staring at that pot and daring it to boil. You know what they say about a watched pot, right?

This guy fell into neither category. I knew he'd seen his fair share of trouble, even recently. But he kept showing up, and his hand rested lightly on his girlfriend, the small of her back, her forearm. He wore his nice t-shirt and met my eye when we laughed about the day we'd met, and the unlikely incident surrounding it.

I don't know why, but I didn't worry about him the way I do others.
It never crossed my mind.

I won't pretend to know him well. But I had my plans, and this wasn't part of them.

Around every corner, I'm met with dead-ends. My good ideas chip away, hit the dirt, crumble at my feet. It shouldn't surprise me, but I'm left slack-jawed and spent.

Good news mingles with the bad until what's left on the table is somehow both bland and risky.

I could get comfy here in this desert, because the truth is, growing hurts. It requires things, like loppers and rain. I'd rather not sit soaking wet, and please don't prune me.

Truth remains, and I repeat it on a loop, allowing my dry bones to be filled with the promise of living water. This feels like endurance and my character could likely use a boost.

Around town, our friends are nudged to new growth, and I with them. So different, but so strikingly similar. I know I'll see another flash in all this dirt, and you'd better believe I'll be ready to snatch it up when I do. But if you believe it for me, you have to believe the same for them.

This is the season of quiet work, hours clocked beneath the soil and hidden in gnarled limbs. It might be quiet here, with gusting winds and the bone-chilling dampness of spring.

But summer is coming, and we're all equal shareholders.

So we'd better grow.

:: This was me almost exactly one year, so maybe there really is something to the seasons. (Or maybe I'll still be dealing with this same exact stuff forever. ;)  )

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Little Bit of April

This month is FULL. And we're not even a third of the way through!
So many good things to come, mixed with a few of those nights when I whine in the dark about how unmanageable life feels.

Deep breath.
We can sleep when we're dead.

All of that, right?

Here's what we've been up to so far:

The weather can't make up its mind, in classic Northern Indiana style.
When it's feeling cooperative, we go to the park or take a walk.
These are the days when I think dumb things like, "We'll take long walks every dayyyyy!"

And then June hits and we're all, "Meh. It's cooler inside."


(oh my word don't show this to any kid grade 4 or above at Chamberlain elementary school, promise?)

We're busy flinging gravel around and wearing mulch in our hair.

(Sidenote: If I could freeze Silas at this cuddly, wiry, front-toothless stage, honest to goodness, I might. He has reached his peak cuteness.)

Calvin is working hard at TKD.

Ruby has gotten the hang of tennis. Chica is so strong. Also, #lefty.


These two can't decide how they feel about each other, but I'm happy Cory captured them in an agreeable moment.

We walked right past all the chain link and random carpet remnants in the alley (??? I thought alleys were just for old tires, but whatever.) and showed up for Easter Sunday, where nothing mattered except the hearts who gathered and the Reason we came.

For all the angst I've felt over The Church over my lifetime, my heart is healing, bit by bit.

I surprised Rubes and took her to pick out an Easter dress. Guys, I have never done this before.
I don't think she even knew "Easter dress" was a thing.

In related news, I have bought umpteen egg dyeing kits over the years with the noblest of intentions and my kids have NEVER dyed eggs.


It's not you, Easter. It's me.

We hunted eggs. More than once.
Yesterday I let each kid pick 10 pieces of candy to keep, then threw an entire grocery bag FULL away.

Ain't no bunny trying to eat fifty-five Laffy Taffy's.

(I hoarded the Reese's PB eggs in the freezer, but if you tell them, I will kick you in both shins.)

We spent some time near water, with people we love.
Calvin begged to bring this guy home and not a day has passed since that he hasn't said to me, "I miss my turtle..."

And I'm just over the turtle. I lack turtle empathy. I didn't get the turtle gene.
Enough about the turtle!

Sue me.

Incidentally, when did Ruby turn 19?

She is the dreamiest of all the dreamies. Her heart is pure gold.
I can't stop staring at it.

So that's us, April 2.015.3

Now I'm making up weird codes that only seemed funny and clever in theory.

Goodbye forever,

*Photo credit for all photos except one goes to the famous Jailchap.