Thursday, May 21, 2015

Enough is Enough

This is for all of you with your toes gripping the edge of change, moments from tipping. It's for you,  half-breathless in worry over the future. It's for the one carrying homesickness around like a stone in a bucket, and for the one forcing her feet to move forward, every day, every day, when everything in her wants to sprint back to the past.

Mostly, it's for all of us who have made a friend of fear.
It's for the woman trying so hard to find herself again.
It's for all of us confused about where our real self lives and that she never really left.

I woke up thinking it would be fun to post another throwback today, something I wrote on this exact day, a few years back. As luck would have it, or maybe because I used to post 5-6 times a week (HOW did I sustain that for so long? And why? Questions for Jesus.) I had plenty of 5-21-** options. As even bigger luck would have it, I found a draft, something I wrote but never published.

I rarely draft anything. I'm a total Pantser, sitting down at the computer, pouring my guts out, and hitting publish. I don't let much simmer. Who knows what must have happened on the 21st day, three May's ago, in the Betty Draper Rental. I'm guessing it had something to do with the wiry toddler I might have literally been wrestling.

(This is what my kids looked like exactly 3 years ago. Please note the random small objects in Silas's hand. Marker - check (the better to deface personal property!) Medicine Dropper - check (that was the year he called medicine "funameen". More questions for Jesus.))

Reading my dusty words today, in the light of the change and sureness that only comes with the slow passing of years, I see God's steady hand at work.

It's a beautiful reminder to me, forever in the midst of change, that my anchor is the wide expanse of Him, not the confines of a property line, not a zip code. He leads us, yes, but He also walks beside us. I happen to need both.

(This is what my neighbor's peony bush looked like three years ago, but now I'm just torturing myself.)

The post sat in my drafts because it was unfinished. You'll see that it drops off the cliff, right at the end. No closure. No pink bow.

That's perfect for all of us, today and every day. This is our wild life, always ready to surprise us, poised to shock and stretch us, persistently proving and re-proving that the best things happen when we jump right into the flow, jangled nerves, honest insecurities and all.

I'm feeling mad love for you, friends.
Who knows how today might go down in the books?


 Enough - Written May 21, 2012

I'm sitting here with my feet propped up on the coffee table - this, the only time of the day I sit with the computer on my lap. There's a really cute guy to my right with a computer on his lap. Three different shades of brown drift off to sleep down the hall. Just past the screen, a full choir of birds make the most of the fading day. It's quiet, the kind of peaceful ending that pulls us tighter on the inside.

Less than a year ago I looked out my kitchen window at acres of hay and wondered if you could take the country out of the girl. Would I be the same person, standing there on a different plot of dirt? So I made a pact with myself - I would surprise everyone and be the very same girl. I'd surprise myself. I'd move into a beige rental and shove the toys in the corner of the living room, I'd wash every spoon by hand and hum while I did it. I wouldn't miss the past. I didn't need pretty. I'd be living proof that when God makes you go, it's nothing short of freeing and bright.

Here's one thing I learned: Never make a pact with yourself. Especially when it involves the impossible seeing of the future.

This move was not smooth or sparkling. It wasn't legendary. It wasn't brag-worthy. The hidden condition of my heart made me ashamed, so I started doing what I am prone to do: I began exposing it. I got bluesy and whiny and I made sure people saw it, because it was the truth. Sharing the truth seems to help me really see the truth, which happens to include the following:

I am worried that my children will not be hardy and creative if they grow up in town.
I want to kick people in the teeth when they say about country living, "It's such a perfect place to raise children", even thought it's true. 
I don't care as much about keeping my house tidy when it's not really my house.
I get grumpy when my house isn't tidy.
I cry sometimes when I think of Springtime on our farm.
I get jealous when people talk about their gardens.
I believe my mojo was buried somewhere near the corner flower bed on County Road 3.
I miss my trinkets.
Having pictures on the wall matters to me.
I like natural light in my bathroom and an absence of swine-flesh tile.
If I can't have a dishwasher, no one should have a dishwasher.

It was easy to tell myself that I'd handle it all like a champ, back when I wasn't handling it at all. I thought I knew so much. Things got scarier when it was game-time and I realized I wasn't taking pictures anymore because nothing seemed worthy. Nothing was good enough anymore.


What was your life like exactly three years ago? What has changed? How have you stayed the same?
I'm all ears.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Let's Pretend it's Saturday

I had every intention of posting this over the weekend, but the view kept getting in my way...

Alas, here it is, all the important stuff to start your week!

:: You guys about slayed me dead with your comments on the post I wrote about The Good Story. See how vibrant we are? See what a creative genius God is with the way He speaks directly to our hearts and births these wild, hopeful dreams in each of us? (Hey, Emily Kate, you won the t-shirt! Email me at shannandmartin at gmail)

:: Emily Freeman wrote a poignant post about self-reflection on the heels of this truthful post about Esther Emery's post about meeting Emily for the first time. It's a lot of E names, I know. But both perspectives left me sitting still and thinking long and hard. These women are my heroes.

:: I'm still kicking around this post at Grace Table, entitled Who is my Neighbor? "Christ explicitly calls us to extend our invitation and love towards those who have nothing to offer in return. We are to open the door and set a place at our table for those in need, who may be perhaps, the most difficult ones for us to invite." Am I inviting the most difficult ones? Or am I playing favorites? These are questions I hope I never stop asking myself.

:: I've been struck by an inexplicable urge to cook something with anchovies and I think this might fit the bill.

:: This pin and others like it are killing me softly because I find myself peony-less in late May. There's really no excuse.

:: This video by my current favorite band, Trampled by Turtles, is so worth watching. (Have I ever steered you wrong??)

Viva, Monday!

Friday, May 15, 2015

What it Means to be Wanted

{Matt - released yesterday}

My life has become inextricably, intoxicatingly enmeshed with prisoners, women and men who have known a life without freedom, who understand what it means to claw towards the light. Though my relationships with them don't match the intensity of Cory's by half,  my worldview continues shifting and I see glimpses of life through the lenses of who they are (which is not much different from who I am.)

Picture me just a few years ago, a churchy girl who pretended to be good and did everything in my power to avoid hard places and busted-up lives. I had never set foot in a jail and had no intention of changing that. It wasn't on my radar. I saw inmates as criminals if I saw them at all, a different class of sinner than myself. I figured they were getting what they deserved.

And maybe some of them are.

But it doesn't change God's wild love for them, or the fact that He commands us to make them our family, just as Jesus did.

One of my favorite books this year helps make sense of my heart. The author, a jail chaplain, writes, "This was what I'd always wanted, the culmination of my pursuit through the night, the jail portal, crawling into padlocked trailers and into locked-down lives: that is, friends outside the church who can help me find the heavenly banquet, who will dream with me through the barriers that stand between this world and what is still possible, friends who want more than this world, who will accompany me through my own rebellion and despair and foul language, who will pray with me." - Wanted, by Chris Hoke

Cory hosted the first annual Elkhart County Jail Ministry banquet and debuted this video of one of his dear friends, James, who was recently sent to prison.

I'd like you to meet him, then I'd like you to go meet a James and love him with all the hot pursuit with which you love yourself. I'd like you to experience the piercing beauty of realizing James is you.

To those of you who know the pain and glory of loving broken people, I'm standing here with you, linking my arm to yours. To those who want to but haven't yet, come with us. You'll never be the same.

(And to my friend Katie, who emailed me the prayers her and her friends recently spoke over the inmates of the Elkhart County jail from hundreds of miles away, your kindness broke me in the best way.)

 Thank you all for being my family. Every day, we grow. We do it together.

Elkhart County Jail Ministry website
Elkhart County Jail Ministry facebook page

*affiliate link

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ruby's 25:40 Love

You know how moms are always joking that they blinked and their kids were grown? I'm starting to understand just how stone-cold serious it is. We're in a phase right now where our middlest, Ruby River, is blooming right in front of our eyes.

I think it only has 15-27% to do with the fact that she got her ears pierced back in February. I wasn't allowed to get mine pierced until I was 15 (and my earrings had to pass the "quarter test", which seems sort of ridiculous until I remember it was the early 90's,) so seeing tiny gold stars in her lobes has me thinking I might as well order her class ring and a pair of high-waisted Guess? jeans.

She's becoming all legs and curls, and that slow-poke front tooth is finally peeking through. At the tail end of 2nd grade, she's discovering who she is - a girl who loves to read and create, a sticks-with-it learner, a friend to the kids in class who are hard to get along with. She's learning the true beauty of choosing "the least", and I don't mind admitting that I can't type those words right now without sobbing.

Back in January, Rubes was graciously sprung from the stinky boys' room and moved across the hall, to share a room with Avery. It happened quickly and we've been in 4th gear ever since, but slowly, we're making it her home.

When I saw this barn wood horse from my friends at 25:40 Love I knew it was perfect for my quiet adventurer/expressive dramatist/equestrienne-in-the-making --> Ruby Girl!

I'm a big, big fan of what they're doing over at 25:40 Love, which is basically creating top notch home goods (and rad baseball T's) and donating 15% of all sales to various global charities. Their charity for May is Healing Hands International.

"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" Matthew 25:40

Fiercely committed to authenticity, I'm careful in choosing who I partner with. I want to always stay true to who I am and who I know you to be. Along the way, I've said no far more than yes. But supporting 25:40 Love was a no-brainer for me, and I'm not just saying that because of the barn wood chalkboards.

When Ruby came home from school and saw her gussied up bed nook, she ran down and plowed me over with a grateful hug, which in mom currency is the equivalent of a spa week in Tucson or having one's own, personal salsa chef.

I'd call it a win.

Since I'm already here and half-past nostalgic, this is what my baby girl was up to about five years ago....

And here she is now:

Happy Wednesday, pals!
Don't blink. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Trading Nickels

"The life I have chosen as wife and mother entrains a whole caravan of complications." 

I sit here with my oatmeal and my tea, a slow start while the train screams and the wind howls.

Three times today, I've checked to see about all the fuss. Through my kitchen window sit two brand new homes, carbon copies of my own, empty and waiting. The trees stand unwavering and still. I see no evidence.  But I hear that wind, a lonesome and dreary sound. It makes me want to crawl back into bed, but I tried that already, and here I am.

I know wind is an invisible thing, but I'm not sure what to make of this moaning. Hiding under the covers moments ago, God spoke just one line, about new mercies in the morning. I'll tell you exactly what I told Him - I have my doubts today.

Sometimes life feels like two nickels in a tin can. It can feel empty for all the space between, but those two coins rattle around and before long, you swear they're making a song.

Right now I might be choking on nickles. My can is packed so tightly, I don't hear a thing.

The nickels are words and feelings, pain and hustle. They're service and dreams, uncertainties and daily bread that somehow has to get baked. Some nickels are actual things, and I want to sweep them into a tidy pile and toss them out the door. I want bare corners and empty drawers. I want clean floors and children, but it'll cost me.

My can is filled with good intentions and the persistent longing for meaningful community. It's heavy with understanding my job, and heavier with uncertainty about how to do it. It's crammed with burdens that aren't exactly mine, yet feel familiar for all the miles I've walked with them pressed against the shoulders of my heart.

This is life. The days that feel beyond us might be the truest gifts.

As sure as I pray for a little more space in my can, the winds of change blow. Old nickels are traded for different ones.

I exchange things like the physical presence of my oldest son for the anxiety that creeps in after he's off on his own again. The break was nice for a minute, but I sure felt safer with him here.

I juggle parenting a two-year old and parenting her mom, all while I do my clean best to parent Calvin, Ruby, and Siley.

Day by day, we check things off the list. Just as those nickels start to dance, something new pops up and life goes quiet again while stare at the ground and plow on through.

Through the pane, the trees seemed to have leafed out overnight. I'm not sure I noticed until this very moment. They're kicking up just a little as the wind sings its dusty tenor. This might be mercy, the brand new kind.  It almost looks like a dance.

Limbs bow and leaves sway, but they're not going anywhere for a good, long while. This is their season, their A-game. They're prettier in October, but they didn't come to look good. They came to clean the air, throw us shade, kick up a breeze when we need it most.

We've got jobs to do, too, and who knows, tomorrow might find us with some wiggle room. For now, the only thing I know to do is to keep my ear pressed against the Holy Spirit and pray I have the courage and fortitude to dance when He comes sweeping through.

Happy Tuesday, Amigas. You dance, I'll sing.

*Amazon Affiliate links used. (Do yourself a favor a find a copy of Gift From the Sea. I'm not even half-way but it's already been such needed reflection in the midst of all my current crazy.)

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Good Story - A Giveaway

When I was a kid, I believed some unlucky suckers were called to be missionaries and the rest of us got to just be normal. (See what an entire lifetime of full-immersion evangelicalism can get you? Yeesh.)

In more recent years, God is shoving nudging us along the path of believing we're all created to be locked into a unique mission. Part of our mission included lowering our overhead so we could support friends doing other, more traditional kinds of mission. 

We're the body, right? It extends beyond the sermons we've all endured about spiritual gifts and why someone needs to staff the dang nursery. This is the good stuff, this interdependence that finds our talents, passions, and sacrifice being used to bolster the work of others toward the building of the kingdom.

My dear friend Kelly Portnoy and her husband Ryan are basically being creative-mission-geniuses and it's one of my favorite things to watch right now.

The two of them, gifted in the creative arts, are launching a ministry in which they provide full communication, technological and visual services (think story-telling photography, web design, secure email training, etc...) to cross-cultural missionaries across the globe.

Cory and I are just floored by this brilliance.
In their own words, "We believe missionaries could cut their pre-field support raising time in half if they were properly undergirded through the creative arts community to communicate their passions and initiatives with visually excellent and compelling materials." 

They are currently building a team of Ambassadors, in the visual arts and technology, interested in donating their skill (and time) to missionaries in their pre-field (think stateside) stage of support-raising. If you or someone you know is interested, please go to their Ambassador page and fill out the form!

Kelly and Ryan are making two upcoming working vision trips, the first to Slovenia.
One of the ways they are raising funds is through The Good Story Shop, where artist friends have partnered with them by donating really beautiful prints.
 They've generously provided FPFG readers with a 15% off discount code. Discount code is FPFG15 and expires on May 16th.
Last but not least, they are giving away one of their exclusive The Good Story t's!
In Kelly's words to me, "They're the super gorgeous, soft, buttery kind of t-shirts."

A super-soft, gray t-shirt?
Yes, please.

To enter to win the t-shirt, tell me something GOOD. Anything good. I'm particularly interested in what your dream ministry would look like, but you can also just tell me what you ate for breakfast as long as it was newsworthy. :)

(And to fill in any gaps, check out the video!)

If you'd like to follow the journey you can follow The Good Story on instagram at:  the_good_story  or on Facebook at

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Freedom of Not Knowing Much

There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought I knew a lot of things.

I could spout off at the mouth with the best of them. I knew the lingo and could parrot all the lines. It was my duty to be right. That's what I told myself.

It was important to have convictions and to stand on them, because wasn't that what I was taught every day, for my entire life?

"You have to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."

So I stood. I postured.

It wasn't hard for me at all. I was immune to peer pressure, but the real problem was, I told people I was immune to peer pressure. In literal words.

God bless all of my high school friends, because though some of them were similar to me, most of them weren't, and I'm not sure why they didn't punch me in the face sometimes. I'm not sure how I got away with it, and twenty years later, I'm not entirely sure I did.

I clung to my dogma because I didn't want to "fall for anything", even though I couldn't say what that  meant or what it might look like.

Yesterday I sat at two different tables, across from three of my newest, shiniest gifts, admitting how little I know, and that what I do know can't be boiled down to three talking points or emblazoned on an evangelistic t-shirt. (<oxymoron alert)

It felt good to confess my relative in-the-darkness.
It felt even better to hear a version of the same from across the table.

I'm grateful for my heritage of faith that raised me well and grounded who I am today. I'm not sure it couldn've been done any more effectively. As parents, we do the best we can, and mine did a bang-up job if I say so myself.

But I'm achingly aware that I can't hand down to my kids my love for Jesus as if it were an antique watch or Grandma's faded china.

I can stir it into soup and they can swallow it down, but the day will come when they'll have to really sit and sort it out for themselves.

They may have to learn the hard way about that politics is not our allegiance. They may disagree with me about certain things. They might hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them in a way that isn't entirely clear to me and, let's be shockingly honest, it's possible they might choose to walk away altogether.

All I know to do is to keep showing them the guts of my faith and hope it settles down around them like a long Summer day.

I want my life to present itself to them in such a way that when my words fall, there's no confusion, no disparity, no uncomfortable discrepancy. The two have got to align.

I want them to understand much earlier that their worldview wasn't cookie-cuttered. I don't want them to be afraid to peel away from the pack. I want them to have a deep understanding of the love to which they were called.

The truth is, I do want them to know what they stand for, and then to stand.

But the flip-side of that coin is, I equally want them to know sitting is often a more gracious posture, and questions are more compelling than dogma.

I can't begin to count the number of sermons, classes, seminars, and workshops I've attended across my lifetime about the principles of my faith and why they matter. They have value and real worth, and I know God has used them, brick-by-brick, to fortify my faith.

But I find the living, laughing, come-sit-by-me-Jesus who named and called me across rickety wooden tables and over salted baskets of chips. I see his grace in worry lines, theirs and mine.

He is all I have, and I meet Him at closest proximity in authentic community, the kind where we each decide to risk being misunderstood, and we tell our truth anyway.

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