Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Smoke Break

I don't remember much about our search to find the first "official" church home of our marriage. I don't remember exactly how many churches we visited or how many Sundays it took for us to realize the one we had found was "it".

All I know is, someone roped us into getting up an hour earlier in order to sit in the cold metal folding chairs of a Sunday school classroom.

Everyone was wonderful, so kind, quite funny.

But I didn't know we were home until the guy across from me cleared his throat and said out loud to the rest of the circle that he had trouble with his mouth. He cussed when he things didn't go well at his factory job. He cussed like a sailor.

I couldn't believe he was admitting this to the rest of us. I had never seen anything like it. It wasn't the discovery that I was circled up among cussers that almost knocked me out of my seat, it was the fact that he admitted to it. Without any unnecessary emotional fanfare. This was one of his struggles. He didn't feel super great about it. He needed help. And he seemed to profoundly, yet simply, understand this is why he had Jesus, and this is why he had the rest of us.

Last week, ten years and two towns away from that old Sunday School circle, I dashed out of church to run home and grab my side-dish for the post-service carry-in.

When I pulled back into the lot ten minutes later, I noticed an intriguing congregation of fellas on the North side of the building. There was the youngish guy who often wears a Cubs t-shirt under his choir robe, a couple of guys who have become like kin to us, the worship leader, and a quiet guy I don't know well at all. Loyal servants and leaders of our church. All of them were smoking.

This phenomenon wasn't a revelation to me. But I'd never received the gift of this sheepish collective.

From my van, I raised my eyebrows and grinned so hard.

"What's going on over there?"

"Oh, nothing good," he grinned back, tossing his cigarette butt to the asphalt and walking my way. "Need a hand?"

I loaded him up with pickles and beans.

And I knew for the hundredth time that I was home.

Not because this church is perfect, not because it's everything I always dreamed a church home should be, not because everyone gets along and behaves graciously, or because it meets every one of my piddly needs.

It's home because there are people - at least some - who straight-up wear their humanity, even on Sundays. The men I saw love Jesus and recognize their need for him. They have habits they'd probably rather break, and I'm guessing they also sin, every day.

They could wait until they got home.
They could take pains to relocate to a more obscure location.

All that would accomplish among the rest of us is the mounting dread that everyone is better at this holiness gig and the looming despair that what's required of us is either to get our crap together or to pull up our pantyhose and at least act the part.

I'm so exhausted by our filters. I'm worn bare by our refusal to live authentically, as actual humans.

As believers called into community, we are set apart, tasked with wearing the shine of a love we could never manufacture. Our job is to relent daily to Christ's molding, to wear our plasticity like a badge - "I'm In Need of Changing". Our job is not to be plastic, wearing our mask of perfection like a smug iron gate - "Come Back When You're Better".

Call me crazy, it's okay. But only in a place marked by visible imperfection and authenticity can I fully own my personal brokenness. And only in fully owning my brokenness am I compelled to chase heart-pounding after my Redeemer.

Let's honor the honest.
Let's be them, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Garden for Every Lady in the Land

Gardening has long been a part of our Martin family tradition.

And while that statement is technically true, I mostly just wanted a reason to post this old picture because ohmygosh, I can't even handle the cuteness. Forget the carrots, look at all those cheeks and baby teeth!

My reality is that we woke up to snow again this morning and I'm bundled up in sweats with a cup of hot tea. But one of the best parts about being a mom is the mental strength and fortitude it builds. We can compartmentalize and emotionally detach with the best of them, and that's what this is all about.

It's straight-up mid-April, and I'm jamming my flag in this frozen soil and claiming it not for what it is, but what it will soon be. It's garden time, and I've been dreaming.

Since I'm already tucked away in my shell of denial and oblivion, it's as safe a time as any to reflect on my gardens of yore:

It totally doesn't cause me any measure of pain to look at this virtual thicket of awesomeness that used to live in my back acreage.

And I'm not just saying that. It really doesn't bother me. Not one bit. Sunsets refracting off organic vegetable foliage are totally overrated and everyone knows it.

{{Help! It hurts so dang bad!}}

This is my reality now. Four raised beds against a gritty, urban backdrop of ramshackle, asbestos-shingled garages,automobile carcasses, and a weed-beseiged alley. 

Viva la 'hood!

Though it's true I miss parts of my old life, particularly the traipse-about garden, I don't miss my actual living life. This one here is the one I was made for, and we now have a solid season of proof in hand that tomatoes are tomahtoes no matter if they lap up well water or if their hydration is bought from the city.

 So now, all there's left to do is get busy deciding.

I've already called it: I'm splurging on more of this white hardware-store edging. It is 0% practical across every measurable axis, but it brought me unspeakable joy back on the farm. I need it in my city life, stat.

I also need ranunculus.

Whatever. I just need them.

They wonder-struck me at each stage of their high-brow, ruffled development. It was magical, watching them pop up despite my well-honed instincts to fail at growing anything remotely exotic.

Maybe because the beans flaked out last year and the zucchinis bailed, I find I'm far more concerned about the flowers I want to grow this time around. Cory has now said to me approximately 83 times, "Let's just make a cutting garden this year." And you know homeboy doesn't really even know what a "cutting garden" is. I think we're all just craving some low-maintenance pretty. We want some bang for our buck, and we can't chance losing face over finicky beans again.

Or maybe we're just becoming city slickers faster than we thought.

No matter who you are or which side of the tracks you find yourself, I'm here to tell you, growing stuff in dirt will change the way you see spring and summer and life and maybe even God. It's a reminder to slow down and stay home and pickle the dang cukes while the sun shines.

Where are you on all this gardening business?

Are you an expert? Tell me how to grow brussels sprouts and whether or not I should bother with asparagus.

Are you a novice? What's the best tip you have to share with other fellow novices?

Are you too scared to even try? Let me pet your hair and assure you - you can do it. Invest $2 in a packet of zinnia seeds and call me from cloud nine when they're in bloom and you can't stop loving them.

We're in this together, Sisters. Grab a row, and let's hoe!

Sunday, April 13, 2014


3 days in Ohio.

I mean, who's sick of me getting all moony-eyed over Ohio? Raise of hands?

I get it. I'm sorry. It's just that I can't help myself.

Being there made me remember (again) that it's okay if we can't take actual vacations. It's all we need. We walk into that back door to the immediate sensation of being tucked in under a fleecy blanket. I literally get sleepy just thinking about it.

Most relaxing place on earth.
Having said all that, this next part may not make perfect sense.
But my favorite moment was going to dinner (alone!) with Cory.

It was in the 70's so we parked our swagger van on a random side street and walked to the restaurant. ("Restaur-aren't", as Silas would say.)

Photo: Walking toward the salsa with Shannan.
I made him take a selfie with me, because hello.

And we had actual conversations about important things while we strolled. And, we scoped out all the pretty yards and day-dreamed about the future back-yard of our dreams.

And then there was this. Because, hello.

I can't entirely pinpoint why La Fiesta is my Happy Place. But it has something to do with the salsa. And the fact that anytime I'm there, I'm already in vacation mode. Annnnd...I almost always run into fun people there, because all the fun people know what's what.

Back at the farm....

This was happening.

Cousin fun.

They walked across the road and roamed around in the same woods I used to tramp through as a kid. They came home covered in mud.

My kiddos couldn't believe I used to play in the woods. Like literally, they didn't believe me.
I'll just put this out there now: I'm not "that" mom. I'm not super fun. I mean, I am, but not like that. You know.

I'm indoorsy.

It's an unpopular admission, but I'm sitting here making it. 

And on second thought, I'd really like to recant. 

Because I lovvvve the outdoors. 
If I'm in a hammock, with a book.
Or if I'm picking flowers.
Or weeding.
Or slow-walking.

Sidenote: I don't really know how to swim.

Again, unpopular.
I own it.

I blame everyone in my life except myself, because I managed plenty of interesting things on my own, but I couldn't be expected to teach myself to swim. Not when it was so traumatizing to have water up my nose or in my ears.

Besides, my nurse practitioner (yes, she's mine. I called it) recently diagnosed me with "faulty Eustachian tubes". So there. Boom. Vindicated.

Photo: Mama with Big Sis & Lil Sis! .. down on the farm!
Hey, when we meet, let's not start the conversation with, "Oh my gosh! You're so tall!"
I mean, I keep telling you guys.
No one believes the middle child.

File this one away as proof, and let me remind you now, my mom and sister are wonderful and cute and special in their own ways, but they are not Little People. Or vertically challenged at all, really.

They're normal people who don't require any design modifications in the kitchen. They don't even own a step-stool. (Weird, right? The step stool thing?)

Photo: Nothing beats FAMILY time, down on the farm :)
I spoke to another fantastic bunch of ladies on Saturday. And I didn't even sob! I didn't have to literally turn my back to the audience and compose myself! I only barefly wept a tiny bit! #success

I loved the day. Loved my friends. Some readers (Holla, Danielle!) drove over from Columbus. They found me and told me this 10 minutes before I took the stage. No pressure, or anything.

I was bowled over. So sweet!

The Oasis ladies put together such a great day. Everything was so pretty, every detail tended to. I saw some of the women who shaped me in my adolescence. And my mom, sister, an aunt and 2 of my cousins were there. So loved! So lucky!

The ladies gave me tons of the left-over food before I left. SCORE! Can't even tell you the excitement.

I crazy-love all these persons.

And although adults usually leave Ohio feeling refreshed with higher-than-normal levels of invigoration, this is what being in Ohio does to the shorties.

She was so tired, she couldn't even close her eyes!

Which reminds me, what's the all-time best love song ever written? Because I heard it on the drive home last night. Do you know? Any guesses?

Bryan Adams. Heaven.

"We were young and wild and free...."
Yes we were, Bryan. Yes we were.

I can't quit your gravel-voice.

There'll never be another.

Title: "I Swear I'm Not An Animal Person"

And on that note, the ball's in your court.

PS -  Don't forget - free shipping on all fashionABLE scarves with the code "flowerpatch" through tomorrow!

Friday, April 11, 2014

A New Door

We're here in Ohio, where the living's easy.
2 days of the usual: food, rest, and salsa.

Tomorrow I'll be speaking to a group of local ladies about some of what happened when God flipped our world like a hotcake. This will be my third "gig" since March, with another one still on the docket. It's a real head-scratcher, the way this has fallen together. It's a high and sacred honor to share our road with others. I never saw this coming.

There's a certain tension that exists in me when I share. It's hard to stand up front and pretend to know anything about anything, so hard to leave space enough for the simple truth that none of this was our idea. I've gone kicking and screaming, in places. I've clawed to stay put when I was supposed to be moving. 

Isn't that the sparkly wonder of it all? That God writes a story for us, nudges and pulls us across miles where we stand like stubborn children, all crossed arms and pursed lips. And not so differently than the way we coax anxious Littles to do what we know is best for them, we are loved enough to not be left pouting on the curb. He moves us, moves us, and we keep learning to trust.

It's becoming a bit easier to walk through the doors as they open. We've come to a strange place of belief that it's well within God's power to barricade as he chooses. We've had seasons where long corridors intersect with one another, almost comically door- and window-less. And when we least expect it, the hinges swing wide and the world suddenly looks new. 

Far more often than not, we point our feet toward the patch of daylight and walk its way. 

As of last week, I'm officially a member of the (in)courage crew, along with 35 other women, many of whom have heavily influenced my faith. In my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined this. It's the best kind of shock, the dreamiest kind of surprise.

Every 5 weeks or so, I'll pour some of my heart out on the (in)courage page. I hope you'll meet us over there.

I can't thank you enough for walking beside me, linking arms through quiet seasons and rowdy patches. You're my people; my sisters. You hold your love out to me like a banner and I pray you see mine unfurled for you.

Ever Yours, 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Spring Essentials

If you wonder why I can't stop waxing poetic about Spring's lazy arrival, it's only because it feels like I'm greeting an old childhood friend, like that new girl from 5th grade who had the nerve to show up wearing eye shadow and didn't stay for long, but whose memory still makes me smile.

(I'd still set a place for you at my table, Stacy. I quite like nervy girls.)

These days, the weather is drippy and impetuous.
Coldish and breezyish.
I'm doing my best to enjoy April as-is.

Under her influence, I'm a wild optimist, a risky dreamer, a friend of the rainy day.

My Spring Essentials

~ Ratty jeans and cardi (we're lucky to crack 50 most days) 

~ Enough black and gray to remind myself it's not summer yet

~ Punchy umbrella

~ A fashionABLE  scarf, bearing a perfect pop of lilac

~ All-seasons jewelry

~ Traffic-stopping (optometrist-annoying) rain boots

** fashionABLE  recently released the best batch of springy scarves! This one is my new favorite, but I say that all the time. :) They're offering free shipping through Monday with the code "flowerpatch". Scoop some up for Mother's Day or for the most rad end-of-school teacher gift ever.

(I'm more inclined than ever to believe our teachers deserve the moon or a field of one thousand daisies or keys to all the cities or one of Duchess Kate's weirdest hats. Or, you know, a hand-made-in-Ethiopia scarf.)

Lastly, I offer to you a quick glimpse into my springtime state-of-mind, music ed.

Every season needs a play-list, and mine happens to be, uh, retro.

Off the top of my head, these are 5 of the happiest songs of my former, quickly retreating youthfulness:

Michael Franti - Say Hey
Jon Secada - Just Another Day
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
SheDaisy - Passenger Seat
Freedy Johnston - Bad Reputation

Am I missing anything? What's your must-have for Spring? What's the song that makes you happy no matter what? Tell me everything.

*fashionABLE links are affiliate links

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Cost of Freedom

Two months have passed since we've seen him there, months of wondering mixed with some worry. I still don't really know him, but I've seen things. I've seen eyes like his that pace the room and hands that can't stop moving. I've seen the way a good man can get lost in freedom, the way a good man can get lost in himself, so far gone that he never even knew he existed, so far gone that he'd never say he was good.

It's hard not to think the worst, but it's harder to feel like a fool.
So we plummet past the trap-door of practicality and tell ourselves it might be bad but it could probably be worse. I'm sure he's doing fine, we say.

We know first-hand that church doesn't mean as much as we'd like to believe, especially for boys who grew up hating it. He came once. The bread was broken and he received.

And I trust in a God whose son could multiply the loaves, so I trust in a God whose son could multiply the grace unfurling in one slim Sunday hour. I trust that the same Jesus who came to walk among us, live within us, can climb inside a tatted, broken body, and find His home. Of course He can. Right?
We see him across the room, the same pair of khakis, the same tidy shirt.
We go to him, hearts sinking at the way his eyes are so lost.

A lot can happen in two months.
I can't even imagine what might have happened.

His blue eyes fill, red-rimmed, struggling to meet ours.
He's lost and broken. He needs a friend. He needs someone to fight for him. Someone to believe in him.

If there's a chance in the Universe for him to rise on up, he's got to walk away from everything he's ever known, every wrong person he's chased. Can you imagine? All of his history wiped clean. All the love he knew - all the wrong kinds of love - burned up and floating away.

Where that leaves him is weeping in a church pew, scared to death of his freedom.

What happens when safety only registers when all the decisions are made for you and everything you own fits under the bed of your cell? What do you do when, for the first time in 15 years, the world belongs to you, and it terrifies you, ties you in knots?

We know God can fix our middle-class problems. We thank him mindlessly for our lunch, veering off script just enough to remember a roof over our heads on these rainy days. We pray for our sick aunt and the babies in Africa. We say we trust Him. We say we trust Him.

But all across our towns, other prayers fall hot and soak the pillow. All across town, our brothers and sisters hope they're praying right, but aren't so sure. They believe there's something bigger than who they are, but they don't know if they've used up all their chances.

They beg for help and Jesus looks at you and me and asks, "How much bread do you have?"

Can we trust Him enough to believe He'll multiply our lack? Can we possibly believe we'll know what to say or how to act or what on earth we can possibly do to help? Can we stop telling ourselves what we have could never be enough, so why bother?

He kneels once more, receives Christ's body, broken singularly, specifically for him.

I say that I trust Him, and pray it sustains this friend who's so afraid right now of living.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Low-Key Sunday Notes

These photos are from almost exactly one year ago.
It's just that I'm really timely. I'm just exceedingly relevant like that.

Also, I haven't taken many pictures, lately. All the photographers seem to have left 5th Street. 
I mean, what will I share next year if I'm not taking them now???


Siley desperately wanted to pose like this.

Speaking of my inherent knack for eternal relevance, the most magical moment happened last Thursday night while I was dipping my chip into the salsa bowl with two of my besties.

Friend 1: So, how was Dallas?
Me: So good, so wonderful, blah blah blah, there were Instagram celebs there.
Friend 2: What's Instagram?
Friend 1: It's like twitter, but with pictures.You take pictures and follow people...
Me: Hahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Friend 2: I still don't get it. Just, what's the point?
Friend 1: I don't know, really. My brother-in-law follows me.
Me: (crunch crunch crunch) Hahahahahaaaaaaa! (I love you!)

That brief blip on the radar of life cured me of months of pent-up smart-phone inadequacy.

People, this is why the internet only gets us so far. I've met some of my favorite people in all the stinking land on the internets. If I were to get married right now, I would be wrangling a few blog ladies into strange, A-line bridesmaids dresses. Cyber-friendships have steered me delicately and hilariously through some of the darkest days of my recent life. They have shored me up and really known me in a shockingly short amount of time. They have understood me uniquely and challenged me gently.

But there's this whole other thing, where we scrabble together one free evening every couple months and catch up on all the dailies with local ladies and sometimes they read my blog but often they don't and it's all so okay. We're bound by my husband's history, by years and tall tales and proximity and motherhood. We're connected by our faith and our worldview. And our love for salsa. And our ignorance of what's cool.

This afternoon I finished A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. It took me months. I don't know.

It was one of those books that needed to be doled out. In my experience, this is usually a very good sign.

I also think timing can be everything for books, and lately, I've spent a lot of hours thinking about my art.

Why is it so hard to say "my art"? Try it. I'll wait.

But the thing is, we all have art to offer the world. The world needs our art. The universe and our communities and all our people depend on it. Can we really believe that? I wish we'd try.

I was uprooted by the words in this book. I was filled and settled and underlining like a mad fool.

I don't want to over-think everything, or bend the will of my art into something it's not. I don't want to believe art has to be fancy, that it has to be my most unique offering. Because sometimes, art is sauteed cabbage, offered with love. Sometimes it's the simplicity of a moment where the chips are warm and I feel completely a part of. Sometimes it's the bend of late daylight across the leaf of a houseplant or a little boy's hands covered in the kind of dirt that can only mean Spring finally came for us.

The ease with which I am able to release the art I was made to live seems directly related to my willingness to embrace wonder.  - A Million Little Ways

Amen, Sister.

That frozen wonder is starting to thaw and I think I see my art running back to meet me again. I need to haul the big camera out again and start taking a harder look at this world I'm in.

It's spring break here, and I can't wait to see what we discover.
Happy New Week, Friends and Dreamers.

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