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.


 *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


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.

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
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.


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.


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,

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

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