Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace on Earth

Like most us, I am still under the spell of the tragedy in Newtown, still resonating with the remnants of communal grief. Like you the tones of it are quieter now and taking the shape of a tear or two still, but for me they are coming more in the form of sudden hugs as my five year old walks past my chair or a stunned realization and quick prayer when I fold a pint sized sock from the laundry.

I have waited to write about it. I waited until now, when most of the media has moved on, because I have only one insight to share. I waited until I am settled enough with my feelings and because anything I can say is less for those involved than it is for all of us who do or will grieve. It is simply this: give the grieving quiet. Be there, do everything you can, but don't feel you have to fill the silence with anything more than a hug, a touch, or even your shared tears. Having watched my parents grieve all my life for two gone ahead older brothers, I know that there is nothing that you or I could say or do in the face of such a tragedy or any tragedy. Those who are grieving do not grieve any less or any better by anything from us. It is more in the resonance of silence and the knowledge that our griefs are shared that comfort comes.

But sometimes not even then.

We must do what we can but do it with care. Those platitudes we speak at such times and especially online? They are nothing. They mean nothing. Sometimes they even hurt. Don't be afraid of the grieving, don't avoid doing all that you can, but don't be afraid to allow silence to sit with you when you sit with them. "I'm so sorry" or "I'll remember" is all you really ever need say because it is true. Let the half truths and false notes of our platitudes fall somewhere other than the ears of someone who can barely raise her head above her burdens.

Time does not heal such wounds. We simply need the time to gather our strength to bear the burden of life's heavier loads. Nothing like this heals.

God did not will for death. In the Garden it was not so. Our very bones know that death is not what was meant to be.

More faith and mere faith does not prevent our suffering. Mary, who knew more perfectly than you or I ever will who He is, suffered her own agony as she stood at His feet and watched that life slip away in torment and anguish, drop by precious drop. Surely no one has had more faith in the Son than His own mother?

Do not offend any such moments of ours with clumsy and heavy platitudes, be quiet instead.

If you are called to sit and grieve with those who grieve, your main task is to listen, to hold out a moment of peace in the maelstrom. We have all grieved something. We all know how it is. Grief differs only in the matter of degree. Let that be enough for you, let that be your gift, that dim understanding shining out across a dark ocean of tears. A rocky shore is near, treacherous and dark, but near enough for the drowning to seek it and come in from the wreckage if they will.

Be peace for someone in this year. Just a glimpse of peace.
That's all I really have to say here, my readers. Thank you for suffering this fool awhile. I hope this helps you because writing it has helped me some. I'll see you on the other side of Christmas. I will be spending some time with my loved ones and hope you are graced to do the same.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Martin Family Tradition

We make homemade Christmas candy to fill our stockings. We also send a few pounds of the goods East and a few pounds West to our family in other states. Last year I shared our gum drop recipe on the blog. This year I give you, as my Christmas present to you, Stained Glass Candy.

It is beautiful. It is easy. It is a family favorite. It ships very, very well.

Stained Glass Candy

                  2  15" x 10" x 1" pan
                  heavy saucepan
                  candy thermometer

                   3 3/4 cup sugar
                   1 1/2 cup corn syrup
                   1 cup water
                   2-3 drops food
                   1/4 tsp. flavoring
                   Cooking spray

Spray 2 15x10x1 inch pans and set aside. In saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, water and food coloring. Cook, stirring constantly over a medium heat until boiling. Cook without stirring until candy thermometer reads 300 degrees (the hard-crack stage). Remove from heat and stir in flavoring. Immediately pour into prepared pans to cool. Break into pieces. Yields about 2 pounds of candy.

Tip: If you forget to treat the pans before pouring in the syrup, don't worry. The sheet of candy will release if you heat the bottom of the pan on the stove for a minute or two. Pry it up and then hold it up while it cools, then shatter it.

Be aware: This syrup will reach 300 degrees. Take all precautions to prevent spills.

Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Quick Panicky Takes


I am so nervous! We are having our final inspection to qualify our new house for foster care and adoption today at 2:30 p.m. Central. Today. My husband and I wanted to finish several more projects before the inspections needed to happen, but some funding got held up and we are simply out of time. I am waiting for the person to show up in mere minutes and would appreciate prayers from anyone reading this.


Completing all the paperwork and classes to keep up the certification for foster/adopt is akin to labor for the adoptive and foster parent. In truth, I slogged through that portion of the work with a relaxed attitude stemming from the fact that the house was not ready. There were no high stakes at any other step of the way. Until today. It is a bit silly of me because if it doesn't pass we can always begin the paperwork trail again. I am thinking of some child needing a soft, safe place to land at one of the worst times of the year to enter into foster care: Christmastime! My nervousness stems from worrying about letting that little person down because we didn't manage to pull our house together in time.


16 minutes and counting...


Please take a moment to pray for all those children who will be taken into foster care in the next several weeks. It's never good to have your family come apart at the seams, but it just seems to happen more often with the pressure everyone puts on themselves over the holidays.


If you have ever considered adoption or foster care, even though I am a bit nervous and flighty today, don't let that turn you away. In fact, I would invite you to consider the thought as an invitation. I tell everyone who considers adoption and foster care to treat it like a vocation. When you think you are being called to it, prayerfully assume that you have the calling and take all the steps necessary to bring it about. Let God make it clear whether or not this is in His plans for you. He will. Loud and clear. Trust me.


8 minutes, Lord have mercy!


I am going to leave this blank for now. I'll let you know if the house has passed and where we go from here momentarily!


We passed! We passed! We passed! I'm so excited to be looking forward to being a momma to a new little person!

I hope and pray that your next update will be to announce the gender and codename of our newest addition, long or short term, to our family!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Can Not Touch The Tragedy

It is impossible. I can not express the depths of my reaction to this tragedy with something as inadequate as words. This little blog does not seem the place for such a thing at such a time. I will pray instead. Feel free to join me there.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes


Brace yourself, lots of talk about budgeting is coming. It took me years (years, I tell you) to finally get to the point where we created one based on what we actually spend. I'm now a zealot, a financial convert. I have drunk the Kool-Aid. Nothing will make me happier than convincing all others, including our federal government, to do the same.


"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." - G. K. Chesterton.

As part of the budget, I am cutting our hair most of the time. Yesterday was haircut day for the boys. Yes, I did it myself, and no, I have no shame. I've been cutting boy hair since I was in my young teens. My older brother started growing his curly hair out in his Freshman year of high school. He discovered early in the process that any beautician not properly trained on curly hair would make so many mistakes that precious inches would be lost in the unending quest to "even it out." Since curls do not grow in a straight line but grow around a curve, and since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it takes a whole lot longer to get a 1/4 inch of length back in curly hair than in straight hair. My brother didn't care about evenness so much as keeping that hard earned length. His younger sister, unlike a paid professional, would experiment a bit and then prudently say, "You'll need to use a ponytail for the next few weeks," when all hope was lost. He was good with that. I learned how to cut hair on some of the hardest to cut hair but with the most patient and tolerant of brothers (at least in this instance). Because of him, when it is time to tackle a few cowlicks in my boys' stick straight locks 20 years later, I have all the false confidence necessary to proceed.

I learned to cut hair by making all the mistakes possible on a challenge. When something finally went right, it was noted and repeated until something else miraculously righted itself. Eventually, mostly, the job was done passably enough. I now know enough to keep the damage to a minimum between the visits to a professional.


A Job Done Is a Done Job

 I learned how to ride a horse the same way I learned to cut hair: by doing it badly until I did it passably. The first horse I ever rode with regularity was a barn soured mare. The very first challenge I faced was to catch her and gear her up, and since most of my time with her was spent chasing her down, I tended to skip the gear entirely. I counted it a victory just to mount her and stay mounted with nothing more than her lead rope and halter.

Unknowingly, I had broken the job of riding and retaming her into small, obtainable goals. First job, catch her, mount her, hang on for dear life. That was enough for weeks. When that no longer sufficed, I added the idea of stopping at will (mine, not hers). When that was accomplished, I started to steer. After we had all that worked out, I started to saddle her regularly which involved a near return to ground zero and a whole lot more ground time for me. Me and the saddle, that is.

Eventually, over the course of a summer, I was able to safely ride her out of the corral and around fences, trees, and other people with little trouble and very little bloodshed. I knew I had accomplished a bit of mastery when someone started a weed whacker while I was riding her. She, who had a fear of bees, heard the machine as an angry swarm of them. She jumped up and bolted. Not only did I stay on through that first surge of fright but she trusted me enough to allow me to calm her down afterwards.

She never was much horse for anyone else, and she wound up being sold off when she bit a hunk of arm out of someone, but she taught me a lot. From her I learned I don't need an endless supply of persistence and will power. I just need a fraction of a second longer than any adversary. That's all it ever takes to win.


This persistence and willingness to do a job shoddily brings me back around to the budget. I don't have to follow it perfectly. I don't even have to have a perfectly running home. In fact, some things are going to be a little slip shod until the funds are available. The point is, with this budget, I am locked eye to eye with my income and expenditures. It's a battle of wills: mine against mine. I don't have to out stubborn the economy to win a money battle, I just have to make it home from the store this once without buying something I can't afford on this particular paycheck. Staying on budget is a lot like staying on a horse, I've fallen off enough to know it's better to just hang on. I just have to hang on a fraction of a second longer than any temptation to outspend ourselves. That I can do.


I'm not saying the whole budget process was easy. I'm not saying it wasn't done with a lot of prayer and sacrifice. In fact, I shocked my husband terribly by laying my head down and bawling my eyes out over the last few thousand. You see, I'd miscalculated and given us too much for the year. When the mistake was discovered at the very last, and when it was the exact amount it would cost to take a trip to California to see my family,  and when I had to cross it out and give that up, I had finally reached the end of my own strength. That was the exact point where I stopped relying on my willpower and began to rely on God. Those tears are when I took that leap of faith. I even prayed aloud, "I don't want another 10 years to go by without seeing them, Lord, but I will trust You when You show me that it won't be this year either." It wasn't the faith that shocked my husband, I give plenty of that when it is easy enough, it was that this particular act of faith took the surrender to tears before I could surrender my will. I'm not the crying kind, so it was an unexpected moment for him to find himself in the middle of a puddle of a wife. I still don't like it one bit and I'm still a bit  sullen, but there was no denying that the money couldn't come from anywhere else, so Thy will, not mine be done.

Luckily, God doesn't require something more than mere obedience. Even Jesus wept. I just have to do the job, liking it can come later.


Last year, instead of doing all the shopping ourselves, we took our Christmas money and gave the kids $5 for each person they wanted to buy for. Some of the gifts chosen, especially from the 3 year old, were unexpected or even outright funny. It was sweet though, to see each child make his or her decisions in the store and light up with the hope of Christmas at the thought of the recipient opening it. Each gift was a part of each child who chose to give it. So much so that Christmas morning was full of, "This is from YOU! Watch me open it!" and "That's from me! I wanted you to have it!" even over something as simple as a laminated book mark. My husband and I were struck with how much more everyone loved their Christmas, how much longer into the year we would hear such things as, "I got this from John for Christmas." By doing this instead of making all the purchases ourselves with the same amount of money, we accidentally discovered a way to make Christmas more about the giving than receiving. Sure, the kids enjoyed what the received, but they also managed to focus on what they gave, too. It helps that our kids are still pretty little and we've always made an effort to tone down the consumerism of Christmas, but every family can make an effort in the direction toward self donation and love of others. Any more of that in the world and we can count it as a win.


I want to reiterate Chesterton's quote above. Don't worry too much about the perfect Christmas, a perfect haircut, or a perfect plan. "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly," includes aligning your will to God's. You can go into most anything, knowing you are most likely going to make a mess of the job. Rest assured that as in most things, God will take a good faith effort on your part and bless it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: Budget

It's a short post. Today, instead of writing about my wifely duties, I was performing them. It is the end of the year and after much struggle and resistance (mine), we have our very first ever workable family budget. It's very tight and it's not pretty, but it is within our means. It took a lot of work, discussion, and cooperation, but we are ready to face the year financially.

Today, I plugged the budget into the family computer and got the kinks worked out. As it turns out I'd miscalculated our tax rate and wound up with an overage to the tune of $3,000. More belt tightening and vanity squashing had to happen than we would have ever thought possible.

I'm excited about trying to live on a budget based on what we actually have available versus living on what we think we have available. Everything is laid out in black and white. There's no more need of discussion about where the money should go; we've already decided. Everyone has been part of the process. Everyone knows where the money is coming from and where it is going to. Keeping track of the money has always been my job and it has caused me no end of stress. Now, keeping track of the money is every body's job.

It was a lot of work to get here, but I feel a sense of freedom now that I've done it. I don't have to worry about money for this upcoming year because we did all the worrying up front. The worry is over. Now, it is merely a matter of discipline and diligence. Pray for us, my friends.

Even if it is going to be tough going, with many fewer luxuries, we will achieve balance in the checkbook and black in the ledger at the end of the year. I highly recommend this whole process.

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes


My spiritual director gave me quite a penance yesterday. We got to the assigning of a penance portion of the Confession when he said with a twinkle in his eye, "How do you take your coffee?"

A cup of blech coffee...
He had watched me doctor up a cup mere moments before, so I said, "Oh, no! You're going to take my coffee!"

He laughed at me, "Answer the question."

I bowed to the inevitable and answered, "I mess with it a lot. Cream, sugar. The works, Father."

He nodded and bowed his head. "For two days, drink it black."

"Can I do without?"


"You know, I can do without it. I thought you were going to tell me to do without."

"You are to drink it and you are to drink it black."

"I can do that," thinking I'd drink one cup and call it penance.

"I want you to drink it and I want you to be sure that you are not drinking any less."

I wondered if he could read minds.

He had that twinkle in his eye again, "Think about the bitterness of sin with each sip."

I laughed, "That won't be hard."

"It could be," he said.

He knows me well enough to know me. I'd rather do without than put up with.

Lord, have mercy.


As I was reviewing the above, I realized something about myself--I am constantly bargaining. It's not just me in the Confessional, it's me everywhere (just ask my mom sometime). I don't think I accept authority very well. I also think I need to quit blaming my husband for our son who does the exact same thing to my authority.

Mea culpa!


Today I had the pleasure of going to Mass. It's First Friday. We Martins haven't managed to ever complete the First Friday Devotion, but we do go frequently. Any day with Mass in it is a good day.


I am also fasting today. The first coffee penance was served today, too, and yet today wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be. It did take me until 3:00 p.m. to choke down my usual dose of morning coffee. I thought of the bitterness of sin with every sip, too. I can not believe that this is all it takes to tame me. I am an incredible wimp.


The weather has been so cooperative that I decided to work outside. We are renovating an old farmhouse that we moved onto an acre of land we purchased a few years ago. Last year's massive drought took us down to bare dirt, though I had managed to section off and compost a large garden bed out front. This week I began transplanting bulbs and perennials. Today, my neighbor and I hit the town's free mulch yard. We loaded up a trailer full of mulch and dumped it on the new plantings. I'm watering it all in even as I type.

I'm also hoping for snow on Sunday. It's been the only promise of moisture for months. C'mon snow! Ice? Anything!!


My neighbor and I are going to share our resources for gardening in other ways, too. Next year I will be in charge of all the gourds here at my house. She will grow everything else. We began pooling our resources because I wanted to garden but didn't have the soil ready. Instead of struggling to produce a measly crop in poorly prepared soil, all last year I churned the dirt and added manure to my future garden and earned my summer produce by working in her garden and helping with the harvests and canning. Gardens around here take tremendous effort and much preparation. I'm only just to the point where enough compost has been added to enrich the soil in my main garden bed to consider being in charge of the gourds. We'll still pool our resources, we've just increased the pool for next year. I'm excited.

We're moving all the gourds to my new bed because the ongoing drought has created a surplus of squash bugs. We're hoping to get a better harvest than this year if we move next year's crop of pumpkins, butternuts, and squashes to my plot. You think maybe the bugs will simply get lost between here and there? I am happily working on the project now at any rate. Next year I will have some flowers and some greenery about the place.

So help me!


Well, I promised a special Advent Post and then I went and took all my notes and made a Podcast out of them. I was able to go so far afield and so much more in depth talking about Advent that I now have enough material to write a small book on the subject. Gracious sakes, I'm not up for that at the moment (though I will take this opportunity to announce that I have two children's books being penned as well as a sci-fi story bubbling around in my cauldron of Too Much To Do Stew), so I've decided to leave it as a Podcast for the moment and let you listen to the post I had fully intended to write for you.

Here it is...

Listen to internet radio with Deeper Truth on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: Fasting and Praying

Sheila Wray Gregoire is tackling a painful subject in marriage today: porn. It is an epidemic. Statistics show that even in Christian marriage where we know better, it is just as prevalent as it is in the rest of the culture. I invite you to read her posts. Before you do, I want to arm you with the arsenal of God. If you are suffering under the effects of this scourge in your marriage, I want to offer you two weapons to combat it: prayer and fasting.

Yesterday I posted about fasting and prayer and today I am posting about it again. This post is more specific to the love of your life and your family.

First, let me be clear, the love of your life is not your husband (a shocking thought). The love of your life is Love, Himself. He is the center and epitome of all you are. From cleaning up a sticky spill from a dropped bottle to quelling your temper when interrupted for the 53rd time by a colicky baby, all that you do is in service to Him who has breathed life and love into your very bones. You are His in order that you may be the hands and feet who serve the people He has brought into your life. Do not let your outrage and pain of discovering porn use in your marriage stop you from serving your Lord through your kindness to His child, your husband.

Please note that I have purposely given examples of motherhood and not wifehood in the above paragraph because we can readily see how we serve God through our children. It is more difficult for us, as enculturated as we are, to see how we also serve God through our spouses. Modern men and women have been taught that spouses are to serve us and our feelings, when in fact, true happiness lies in a life of service to others. Take for your example your Savior who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). All that talk of marriage being a two way street means that you are very likely headed in opposite directions, each of you growing more selfish instead of growing towards each other and God. Christopher West (author, speaker and authority on Pope John Paul II's work on the Theology of the Body) in describing spousal love, says that the love between man and woman, fueled by the sexual urge, is designed by God to launch us to Heaven. That sexual attraction and energy of spousal love is like...

the fuel of a rocket that's meant to launch us towards eternal bliss with him. But what would happen if those rocket engines became inverted, no longer pointing us towards that stars, but only back upon ourselves? Set that rocket off and the only possible result is a massive blast of self-destruction. (link to Christopher West)

Porn is our self-indulgent and self-centered modern American life expressed sexually. It is all about the observer, without the slightest concern about the social and personal problems infesting the porn industry: the rate of disease and drug abuse in the industry, the sex slave trade fueling it, the continuation of childhood sexual abuse that many of the actors are acting out. In fact, the actors are merely the meat of the dish. Literally, they are just bodies for the camera to film. No one cares about their story lines. It's all about the satisfaction of the observer, without the complications of any other personality. Spiritually porn use is merely a step along the way to the utter self-centeredness and desolation of Hell. It is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself.

We have gotten it so wrong that we can't even see that selfishness, the cult of me, myself and I, is the disease. We are all infected. So infected, in fact, that we can not even see the cure as a good anymore. Selflessness and service are so foreign to our way of thinking that even mentioning it brings on a barrage of criticism and ridicule.

I don't care. Call me oppressed. Call me an anti-feminist. Call me what you like. I am a Christian and I know this: the cross. It is my duty and my honor to serve and suffer there with my Lord. I am to pick it up for my fellow man, especially that fellow my Lord allowed me to particularly serve, so...

As the Lord has said that some things will not be cured except by prayer and fasting, I will tell you from personal experience that you can do something about a porn addiction: you can pray hard and you can fast often. Fast from part of a meal. Fast from one meal one day. Fast from eating one day, one time. Fast once a week. Even just once a month. Fasting is voluntarily putting yourself up on the cross for another. Do you not believe that Christ will bless that?

Remember that fasting is a process, an act in response to the faith you have received. It will not be any more perfect than any other thing you do. It is not a failure to fail at an all day fast. It is not a failure to be unable to sustain a fast for more than a few hours. It takes practice to get to the point where you can decide, "Today I will eat only one small meal." Not many people make it to that point. Instead, you can say, "I fast from those last five bites on my plate," or "I fast from any sugar or sweetener this week," or even, "I fast from saying any hurtful words during this fight."

Offer these moments of denial as a prayer that includes your very body to invite God to heal your husband's sins of the body. Stay prayerful and stay strong. In God's time, miracles happen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting

Advent is sometimes called a mini-Lent. It is a time of fast and preparation. In that spirit, I invite you to join us this month to Fast for Life.

Originally Published on March 29, 2011
Fasting Once a Week 
for Life

We do not have an abortion facility here in Amarillo. What we have is a bus. This bus takes pregnant women down to Lubbock every Thursday and brings them back again after their abortions. It's a two hour trip down and an eternity back according to one woman who made that trip.

Her story inspired a small movement among those who cried with her through the retelling of her heartbreak. Two of us were there to hear her out and the two of us have resolved to fast and pray for women who suffer the choice of Abortion. Upwards of 64% of women who abort report being pressured into doing so. I invite you to imagine a world with better choices for women and their children. I invite you to join us in our fast.

My dear friend Rozanne, will be praying and fasting every Wednesday in order to open the hearts of these mothers to the alternatives to abortion. I will be praying and fasting every Friday to help heal the women who got on that bus because they felt they had no other choice. Our fast is simple: bread and broth for the day with a big serving of compassionate prayer. Pick your day, give God your intention, and join us.

Rozanne and I feel called to do this because we listened and heard first hand the story of one woman who felt she had no other choice. We heard the echo of countless voices crying out that they, too, had no choice. Rozanne and I are also Texans. Roe v. Wade was a Texas case. America's first abortuary opened in Dallas. Our state's legislature and judiciary first unleashed this devastation on the women of our country and we Texans who voted such people into power have a responsibility for the wounds inflicted upon our sisters in the name of Choice. Texas is acting. Texas is the state that has begun 40 Days for Life and we can do more. Will you join with two Texans in fasting and praying once a week for life? There are seven days in the week, pick any one.

Again, the fast is simple: bread, broth and prayer. If you can't fast from food, fast from something else (coffee, radio, Facebook). Help us spread the word. Join us. We can one day end the need for abortion facilities by providing more than just one choice.

To contact me:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Stuff

Today I got up early to clear out my living room and begin finishing the wood floor. It was in pretty good shape, so I decided to forgo the sanding. Really, I just wanted to seal it and protect it now that I've yanked the carpet off of it. I've cleaned the floor repeatedly and have the option of renting the sander and starting over again next year. I'll let you know how it goes.

In between coats of polyurethane (or whatever this stinky stuff I'm using is called), I'm playing with horses. Our youth group is working on horsemanship this month, so they are all visiting me at a neighbor's house and grooming their horses for them. We even got to ride around their arena! I'll try to get some of the pictures of the event up before too long.

Right now, I'm just a little busy...