Monday, May 4, 2015

Scenes from a Throw-Back

It's Monday morning, and I'll confess, I could use a little tenderness.

Don't we all feel this way on the kind of Monday mornings that start on the slow side while rain pings the pane? Or is it just me?

Complicating matters, I'm fresh off an Ohio adventure with Si and Ruby. Just get ready, people. Prepare yourselves to be deluged with numerous play-by-plays all summer long. Here's a preview: food, hammock (hom-mock, not hammick, what is wrong with everyone???) salsa, flowers, pie, books, ice cream, pickles, books, hammock, naps, GOODBYE FOREVER.

Are you excited???

Me, too.

I've had some trips to Ohio this past year that were real duds, but this weekend made up for every single one of them.

There's something about the way the breeze blows through the screen off the tulip poplar that takes me back to my childhood, and when you're pushing 39, anything with the power to do that deserves a place of high honor in your heart.

Today, I'm 38.11 going on 13.

On Friday I left the kids at the homefront and drove over to Columbus for my first ever Women of Faith event. WHAT THE MIND-BLOWING WHAT.

A few of us showed up. Just a few.

If you have the chance, you need to gather up your girls and go. You can still use the code FARMGIRL20 for $20 bucks off!

The speakers blew me away, Sandi Patty sang with her entire, blended family and brung the house wayyyy down, causing all of us to wonder if they hold auditions for prospective in-laws.

Which had me thinking, what kind of family variety show could the Martins have if our life depended on it? The best I could come up with was a show where we tell jokes, cook, and lounge around.

Would you put that on your DVR?

Confession: I don't actually know what a DVR is.
I barefly know how to operate our DVD remote. But that's why we have Silas.

WoF strangely gave me lots of time for contemplation. We were in a packed-full stadium, but big crowds put me in a really insular frame of mind. I jotted a hundred notes for my current writing project. I pondered God and love and what matters most about all of it.

I don't know if it's normal to do that. Is it? I'm super thinky lately. I'm way inside my head and it's all fine and well, but I'm going to have to eventually come out. It can get a little wonky in here, and I'm not just saying that because I dreamed last night that I was chosen to go on a date with a young millionaire who ended up trying to kill me.

That sounded more awful than it was.

Don't worry, there was no blood or gore, just me hiding under a pile of blankets in an attic room and knowing if he found me, I was a goner. I hope this isn't stressing you out. Go in peace.

Spoiler: He CAME INTO THE ATTIC ROOM looking for me and I was all, "Can he see these blankets moving ever so slightly from my breathing????" Then he left the room, I was still alive, and when I woke up, the blanket was pulled over my head and my right hand was so asleep, it felt like a dead person's hand when my alive hand touched it.

I feel like I've lost my way in this post. Just a tad.
I feel like I came here to be optimistic and pensive and thoughtful and fun, but now I'm just weirding everyone out.

The hotel had a profusion of full-length mirrors, and like DVRs, our home is entirely devoid of them. I couldn't stop staring. It felt like a brand new world. So I took a selfie in one while I waited for an elevator, in awe of the way my head is connected to an actual body.

Related: I shared this with my friend Jen at WoF and I know it's true because I've had this thought consistently for the past three conferences I've attended: If I were in charge of a conference, I would enforce a dress code of jeans, gray t-shirt and converse.

No T, no kicks, no service.

What would that be like? And why do I keep having this thought?
I'm not sure if it falls into the "things that really matter" column in my brain.

But it might.

Another deeply profound thought from the weekend: food, books, and flowers feed my soul.
This isn't really newsworthy.

But I thought of all the dumb things I spend money on, and at the end of the day, they don't even feed me. They don't return me to myself. They don't give me joy. They might give me a little endorphin surge or something, but in the past month I've bought two cheap shirts that I don't even love anymore. I probably never did! (Will I ever escape this soul defect???)

On the other hand, I've never regretted a single flower, even though at least half of them end up dead.
I've also never regretted taking the time to feed myself and my people well.

This feels like an epiphany, or maybe like the Holy Spirit, which is actually something else I've been thinking a lot about lately...but that's another story for another day, because daaaang, the HS is sort of the most amazing thing ever.

Driving home last night with the windows down, I came upon the gift of a radio station that plays 90's music all weekend.

In other words: MY DREAM RADIO STATION. I knew every song, even though I haven't heard some in over 15 years. That's what I call muscle memory, people.

After a weekend where I felt a bit like a kid again, this was the Universe telling me it's okay to grow up, and it's okay to stay small, and somewhere inside of us live all those selves; the scrawny, bookish kid with the lace-up K-Mart tennis shoes, the middle schooler who owns the world on her new 10-speed bike, the 15-year old plagued by the thought that boys won't ever think she's cute enough, the 18-year old who runs off to college without looking back, the 19-year old who sings every one of these songs because she believes there's a place for her in the world and she finally understands she doesn't have to hold all the answers in order to live in it.

Here's to another top-notch week, lady frands.

Play List (Because you know you were wondering...)
Santana - Smooth: "And if you said, 'This life ain't good enough' I would give my world to lift you up"
MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This: "So move, outta your seat and get a fly girl and catch this beat"
Gin Blossoms - Found Out About You: "I was yours and you were mine forget it all"
Collective Soul - Heaven Let Your Light Shine Down: "Teach me how to speak. Teach me how to share. Tell me where to go. Teach me where to go. Tell me will love be there."
Verve Pipe - The Freshmen: "We tried to wash our hands of all this. We'd never talk of our lacking relationships"
Nirvana - Come As You Are: "Take a rest, as a friend, as an old memoria..."
Goo Goo Dolls - I Won't Tell No One Your Name: "And scars are souvenirs you'll never lose, the past is never far"
Mr. Big - Be With You: "When it's through, it's through. Fate will twist the both of you"
Oasis - Champagne Supernova: "Wake up the dawn and ask her why a dreamer dreams she'll never die" (<<< dream alert!!!)
PM Dawn - Set Adrift on Memory Bliss: "Destiny is everything, reality is replaced with you"
The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be: "And when the money comes in for the work I do, I'll pass almost every penny on to you"  ("almost" lol)
Puff Daddy - I'll Be Missin' You: "Seems like yesterday we used to rock the show, I laced the track, you locked the flow"

Friday, May 1, 2015

DIY Bi Bim Bap

It's been a while since I've posted a weird recipe, so I thought I'd better fix that.

Soy-Ginger Pot Roast is the base of this dish, and it's so easy. You season it, sear it, then roast it slow and low. When it's all said and done, the meat falls apart with a fork and you want to ferment a veg and marry an Asian man.

The first time, I served the meat over egg noodles, like the recipe suggests. But I'll be honest, this beef cries out for white rice. Just trust me. And now is literally the worst possible time to go healthy-rogue with brown rice.White rice. Repeat after me, "White rice". What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Maybe even wiser.

The next day, I used the left-over roast in a thrown-together, made-up version of Bi Bim Bap. IT WAS SO DELICIOUS. Must be something in the umami. We couldn't stop eating it. The more you have, the more you want.

From now on, I'm skipping the first step and going straight to the BBB. It's what the people want, and I'm not just saying that because half of my people are Korean.

Here's the rest of the skinny:

While your meat and rice are cooking, stir together a quick batch of this pickling brine for the cucumbers and carrots (I cut both into uniform matchsticks because I'm apparently filled with self-loathing) and thinly sliced cabbage. I also put each veggie in a separate bowl to marinate IN THE SAME BRINE because I'm a middle child and I can complicate life if I want to.

Next, you need to spice your broccoli in an Asian sort of way. I steamed mine in the basket over the rice steamer then tossed it with a little sesame oil and Chinese 5-spice seasoning. See? Totally made up. Totally easy. Totally addictive.

Crack open a can of bean sprouts, and the only thing left to do is pile it all into a bowl, then drizzle it with sriracha.
(Two of the males in my house also top theirs with a sunny-side-up egg, but I'm not quite that legit.)


Or your money back.

(Not really.)

Give Me All the Brines,

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.

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