You are Strong

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I live in the south where sometimes people break into random conversations with strangers.

(We do that here. It’s called “being polite”. For introverts, it’s called “being assaulted”.)

It can happen anywhere, any time, and recently it happened to me.

A stranger asked me what I do, and I said, I write books for teenagers. How ironic, she said, because she teaches school to teenagers.

There was that awkward silence that happens when you’ve been assaulted, and so I blurted, “What do you want to pass on to your students most?”

And she said, “Respect. There’s so little of it these days.”

Then she got on her phone and cussed out her husband for being late to pick her up.

(True story.)

That wasn’t the only assault that happened that day. A few minutes later I stared at a TV screen and heard another stranger say, “Do you see those two lines right there? YOU’RE HAVING ANOTHER GIRL!”

And my husband’s eyes got big and my three-year-old shouted “NO!” and I thought Heavens To Leah, what are we going to do?

Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy about girls. I am one. I wrote a book for some. Because hey, I navigated some strange teenage years while trying to figure out the most important thing, which was, ironically, what that school teacher said I needed most—respect.

For myself.

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Let me tell ya, sometimes when you have two X chromosomes, you’re going to get the wrong message. You have to coach yourself that you can do anything a man can do. That you are gifted and talented and intelligent. That beauty is overrated.

And so as I stared at that giant television screen with no penis staring back at me I thought, how in the world am I going to teach TWO innocent little girls what I struggled for so many years to figure out? I mean, I could hand them this newspaper column, but somehow that lacked the motherly touch.

And then, out of the panicked silence, my inner voice reminded me… you have to learn to respect yourself. Again.

So here I am, and this is my declaration: I refuse to yell at myself inwardly for not being “man enough”. I refuse to tip-toe toward my dreams while thinking I can’t accomplish what’s in my heart. I refuse to sit by while others do what I have always wanted to do.

And I refuse to forget that part of what I’ve always wanted to do is love two little girls—little girls who are relying heavily on me to show them what respect really is.

New Release!

9780310749691_imageWe’ve had our own brand of crazy over here at the Martin house (more on that soon), but I wanted to make sure you know about this–

I feel super blessed to have shared my thoughts in the study notes for this Bible! Have you picked up your copy? Not for my sake, but because Zondervan has just done an awesome job compiling so many useful tools in this version.

Pick it up for your group or for yourself today!

 

No Longer Three

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On the outside we’ve looked like a happy family of three for some time, and I admit, I was doing my very best to accept that.

We prayed. For several years. God, if another child is not what you have for us… 

Going public about choosing fertility treatments was painful for me. I knew some people would judge–why weren’t we considering adoption when there were so many children without families?

While we haven’t ruled out adoption for the future, this personal decision was based on a know-in-my-gut that if I do not get solid answers while I am in my early thirties, I will always wonder what could have been.

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14 Weeks

Getting pregnant the first time around was not unassisted for me, but for some reason the second time around was like admitting I was broken.

The first thing the endocrinologist told me was that if we did in vitro, because of one of my autoimmune conditions, we might get one or two good eggs out of thirty. On the flip side, someone with other fertility issues would have 11 or 12 good eggs out of thirty.

I left the office in tears.

The next month I was pregnant… sans in vitro and with just some prescriptions (after a year of trying RX’s from my OBGYN).

I stared at the two pink lines that first week and begged them to be true. I’d shot myself up with pregnancy hormone a few weeks before and it was still leaving my system, so the lines could simply be artificial.

The minute I got my blood results I called my mom, who I’m pretty sure stood up and shouted the news out the sun roof of her car. (Actually, it was more of a stunned silence.)

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At week twelve, the nurse handed me this onesie. We graduated. 

It hasn’t been an easy pregnancy. Thankfully the baby is great, but I’ve spent weeks holed up in a dark room vomiting and watching reality TV (probably the cause of my migraines??).

I’ll take it any day if it means I’m growing this little miracle life I knew was meant to be.

Your Gift

free-printablesWe’re emotional creatures, we creative-types.

We don’t have to have mood swings or drama or crazy (though I probably have all three) to be ourselves… but we do have to feel in order to help others feel. And most of us came into the world feeling deeply.

We hurt for the girl with the tracks on her arms at Old Navy. We are physically affected by the thought of kids without homes. Some of us become emotionally paralyzed when our own grief hits, reflecting rather than doing.

{I would argue that taking a little longer to reflect is actually healthier than what American culture tells us… which is, move on without processing.}

I was twenty-one years old when someone told me, “There is nothing wrong with you. Deep feeling means deep caring.” I’d lived my whole life believing I was too sensitive. That somehow, some way, I would grow thicker skin and become “normal”. That eventually my compassion level would switch to average. A gift.

Dear creative friend, your ability to show compassion is a gift.

Your pain, your agony, even, is your gift to the world–one that says, I see your pain. I feel your suffering. You are not alone. Sound familiar? God with us… Emmanuel. His Spirit inside of you.

Keep being you today. Keep feeling. Keep loving. And keep knowing when it is time to hand it off to Him… the one who comforts us so that we can comfort others with that same comfort.

I love you, and so does the one who never ceases to be with us…

True love is when the dog is vomiting

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Originally posted April 27, 2013.

Every now and then I walk past our wedding photo, and I see my dark tan and shockingly white teeth, and I barely recognize that girl.

Don’t get me wrong. I still take care of myself. But on weeks like this one–when the stomach bug runs through our house faster than a wild mustang stampede–time to sunbathe simultaneously with Advance White Vivid on my teeth is a little less available.

And yet… when my man pokes his head around the door at 5:00 and I’m still in my mismatched socks and snotted on blue jeans, his eyes light up. And he says, “You’re cute.” And all I can do is roll my eyes and wonder,

How deep does this guy’s love run?

True love is when the dog is vomiting, and the peas are on the wall, and the only action in bed that night is the noise of the keyboard going clickety-clackety (working on deadline for a new book idea).

True love is when the car payment’s due, and the grocery money’s gone, and the laundry’s piled higher than the kitchen table, but you sit down and watch a movie anyway, because you missed the smell of his skin all day.

True love is when you’re trying for a baby, and the artificial hormones leave you more bloated than a mama sperm whale, and your gums feel like they’ve been injected with Botox, but he still thinks you’re beautiful.

True love is pacing the floor at 4 a.m. with a squalling newborn when the artificial hormones work.

True love is forfeiting the motorcycle for Elmo because your wife has another column to write. True love is taking a four year pay-cut so she can work on her “voice” before even selling a book. True love is never wavering that the book sale will take place.

I am blessed to be truly loved.

These are my snapshots of true love… what are yours?

How to Stop People-Pleasing

how-to-solveThere was a time in my life I so desperately wanted to be THAT woman. To have thick callouses and deep tree trunk roots and strong arms that push back and say Don’t Mess with This.

But I’m The Woman with my guard down. Open. Relational. In a sense I love that… in another, I might as well hang a shingle that says Take Advantage.

(Don’t ask me to tell you the story about the time the Craigslist guy drove off with my car and decided not to bring it back. But I guess I just did tell you that story.)

Continue reading “How to Stop People-Pleasing”

So You Wanna Be A Minimalist?

“Hell hath no fury like a woman bent on becoming minimalist.”

If hoarding is a disease, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed the opposite one.

Is there a name for throwing out everything you own? Oh, wait… I think it’s called “minimalism”.

So much more socially acceptable… and yet so much more disturbing.

Continue reading “So You Wanna Be A Minimalist?”

Why Kids Are Leaving Church

wh30-ways-toI get to decide where I’m safe.

No amount of guilt or shame will ever change that.

-Michelle Pendergrass

I sat in the church classroom, completely paralyzed. For ten years I’d loved these kids and others like them, watching each heart and each trial and each suicidal tendency… only to see these fragile stems become torn and beaten down by spiritual pressure.

The leaders, the ones I’d grown to love… didn’t see their admonishments as verbal abuse. They saw it as verbal encouragement to do the right thing.

Looking back, I realize that the “encouragement” of those days was a result of fear.

Fear that these kids would fail.

Fear of the tough questions.

Fear that they would make the same mistakes we did.

Fear that they would get hurt.

Fear that they would leave the church.

My youth leader friends had good hearts. They may have been in the right place, but the pressure they placed week after week on the kids to perform — to ignore the tough questions — to serve wholeheartedly when they were hurting — all of this pressure left everyone disappointed because it didn’t work.

At some point we have to stop caring more about results than people.

There were attempted suicides. Broken relationships. Agnosticism. Anger. And on that day, in that classroom where I could no longer bear to see so much heartbreak, I walked away from what I saw.  

if-they-did-notBecause on that day, I began to realize that I could make a bigger difference in these kids’ lives if they did not associate me with this church and the “God” who had no grace or room for brokenness.

(My relationships with the group deepened immensely when I walked away. They gathered in my house (with leaders’ permission), shared in my life, walked and talked and cared deep. We cried together. We laughed together. I moved on to serve in another church simultaneously.)

I left on good terms. I sat down with leadership, and we talked.

But it felt like I was speaking a foreign language… like when I used the words “spiritual abuse”, I was a hypochondriac diagnosing all of us with an imaginary disease.

Looking back, I wish I would have thought through it more. Explained my heart, explained the damage I saw, explained what I wanted to see happen for these kids.

Because here’s what I find again and again now that I’m older: people who are being spiritually abusive, or spiritually abused, don’t often recognize it until it’s too late.

And it will be too late. Because spiritual pressure–a focus on what Christianity looks like, rather than caring like Christ no matter the results–doesn’t work. It might yield the desired results for a time, but eventually people who buck up and conform without grace fail. I see it here and I see it here again. 

Pressure doesn’t work. Loving people does. We were never designed to be the Holy Spirit in anyone else’s life. 

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This is the beginning of a series on Spiritual abuse and the damage it can create.

Your thoughts? Please share in the comments.