Monday, May 30, 2011

Lace and Stitches

This little gown was given to me by a friend in Virginia Beach before we moved. I remember searching for just the right tiny shoes and finally settling on a satin pair with delicate crosses.
We dressed Hope in it and stood later that morning in front of our beloved church, surrounded by family and many cherished life group friends, and promised to raise her to know the Lord. Afterwards we gathered at the home of some dear friends both to celebrate her special day and to fellowship one last time before our family loaded up in the car to drive to Nashville and begin again.

We could have never guessed that same small outfit would adorn not one...

But three little girls, on three different days-- yet all with the same purpose. To promise that we will raise them to the best of our ability to follow Him in love and in truth.

Just a few weeks ago was Alysse's turn. The afternoon was sunshine filled, the prayers were sweet, and the church so generous in how they honored the families with thoughtful touches and dinner. Ironically enough, our hearts were full once again in knowing that before long... we will begin again in the state we left just three short years ago.

Someday soon I hope to hang these clothes in a shadow box, so I can remember our promises and the sweet memories tucked into its lace and stitches.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It's coming, even though we're going. This season of life is making me nostalgic, making me blow the dust off this little blog, making me want to treasure it up through my lens so I'll have it with us... no matter where the rest of our summer takes us.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just Wanted You to Know

Dear Girls,

Lately I have to laugh between you Hope and Maddie, your beautiful companionship and stark differences. The examples are countless but none so evident as in your views on growing up. Hopey, you are definitive. Not going to be a Mommy myself. I'm stopping my birthdays at ten, so I never have to leave you Mommy and Daddy! You want to stay little and in our family of five for as long as possible. You are wise beyond your years in realizing that this time is precious and goes by all too quickly.
And Maddie... you gravitate toward babies. It's in the way you cradle even the smallest of toys and how you gingerly hold the hands of little ones you meet when we're out. It's in the way you gently sing Alysse our special nighttime lullaby when she is crying. Just about a week ago as I lay next to you in your toddler bed you wanted to play a new game, pretending that each of your body parts is a baby and each of my corresponding ones are the Mommy. Baby foot (your wiggling foot) say hello to Mama foot (my wiggling foot). I cannot wait to be a Mommy someday, you say. I already know you'll be amazing when it comes your turn.
No doubt you both and Alysse will grow and change over the years to fulfill the special purposes each of you is here to accomplish. I don't know for whom that will include motherhood, but I can tell you that the three of you are the greatest gifts I could ever receive. I know that you are a huge part of my great purpose to accomplish, and I so desperately want to do it well.
So very, very well.

This part of the post isn't exactly fun to write because admitting to one's faults is hardly ever fun to face. Then again, anything worth having usually comes with its share of "not fun." Much of this blog remembers the way I enjoy raising you all to the absolute utmost, how I strive to make your childhood a special and safe start in this world. I actually think that most of the time, the heavens open to give me the strength I need to work through a challenging circumstance or moment when my hands are completely full. He gives me lots of laughter and perspective, and for that I'm quite grateful.

But I want you to know I'm also totally aware that I sometimes make mistakes.

Sometimes my patience waivers, sometimes I raise my voice. Sometimes I get frustrated when I should laugh and sometimes I am not as consistent as I should be. And sometimes I really should give myself a good, old fashioned time out.

Yet, let me tell you, it's good to know and understand your imperfections and your shortcomings. There is great growth to be had when you can own up to your mistakes, pray and seek wisdom, forgive yourself, and learn from that which you are not proud of. So though I have my sometimes times, I want you to remember that your Mama was quick to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. That, if a day was hard, I stayed awake at night talking to God about it and purposing in my heart how tomorrow would be different. That Daddy and I talked long, hard, and often about each of you and about how to be the parents God wanted us to be.

That we love you all without condition, without strings, and fiercely. Why just the other day as we had a blast at a Children's Museum together, Maddie accidentally knocked over Alysse who was on the ground in a hiking backpack. I had gone to get some forks for our lunch and could tell from twenty feet away something was wrong in the way a very worried Daddy was holding you baby girl. I ran to him, quickly got the details, and snatched Alysse for myself. My heart was torn between her sad face, which turned out to be fine, and Maddie's heart which felt responsible for the accident. All at once I was fiercely and wholly in both your corners, breaking for both of you at the same time.

This is motherhood.

I am not perfect and neither can you be, but we know the One who is. Take it to Him, knowing that in our weakness He is strong, and grow from your mistakes. Take responsibility for your actions and live an honest life. You will be stronger and better for it, no matter the direction you are intended to travel.

Just wanted you to know.

With All My Heart,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Little Miss

Today is the anniversary of one of the three most precious days of my life. The day I locked eyes with another little girl, new and tiny (well pretty tiny, as far as nine and a half pounds go). The day I held her close and cried tears of relief and whispered "I love you" in the dark of early morning.

I just cannot believe this baby is now one.
Sometimes I wonder if we should have slipped the name "Joy" in there somewhere because of how much she has brought us in the last year. But Alysse fits too, our little miss Leesie... and though she flaunts many growing up milestones daily, she still likes to cuddle and nurse and smile in that pure beautiful way that only a baby knows how to do.

In the last month she has begun to stand unassisted, and she's mighty proud. Might even give you her famous backwards wave to make sure you're paying attention.
She has become a solid sleeper in the last few months who usually nurses one last time in the old chippy rocker before laying her head on a small checkered pillow-- paci inserted just so and the tiny yellow braid of a most favorite baby clutched tightly. It was bittersweet to move her on to the crib PopPop made for his granddaughters, but she was ready. Waking up to this well rested and happy face each morning is good stuff.
She has discovered the park swing. Give her one small push and, boy, what a treat. I have never met a baby with a more wonderful straight up belly laugh. She's also recently begun to really enjoy books, one of my favorite milestones for sure.

In true "turning one" fashion she has come to believe diaper changes, too much wiping of the face, delays during meal time, and leaving her out of any action cramp her style. Such things are a right of passage in our household, however, and remind us that she's all Martins through and (opinions are meant to be heard) through.

A bit earlier in the month we celebrated our little miss with a low key backyard birthday party among some of her closest neighborhood pals. There were kites and bubbles, picnics and sidewalk chalk, borrowed bounce houses and lots of silliness and conversation. Thanks to some pretty great friends who shared their perfect backyard with us, it turned out just as I hoped it would!

And it would be a crying shame to forget the cake because she had me laughing until I was, actually, crying.

Alysse Maribeth, I'm truly not ready for your baby year to be behind you. I still love the way you fit on my hip, nuzzled closely into my side. I have so enjoyed you from the day you became ours. People always say what a sweet baby you are, and we thank God that He gave you to us. As much as I long to keep you little forever, I also cannot wait to see you grow and hold your own among your crazy wonderful and adoring older sisters. I can tell you have so much to show us, so much to share. I can't imagine not having this seat in the front row for watching it all unfold. Love you... to the moon and back again!
~Mama (for Dada too!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Time is like sand anymore. Really. I'm not just saying that.

Over the last weeks so much of life has changed, or promises to change rather, and so we wait to begin again in days that are slipping by. Big things hang over our heads, big things have come seamlessly together. This strange season of holding on, yet yearning to get started, is so beautiful and hard and annoying and grand.

Turns out it's also monumental.

This photo of Hope at her preschool program makes me laugh. What you can't see from that little angelic face was the fact that she had been partying with her Nana all week, late to bed and early to rise. You know, just to make sure Nana had not skipped out of town a moment too soon. Joe and I cracked up as Hope bopped between singing with much gusto the most perfect of o-shaped notes and yawning her head off. At one point she actually had to bend over and rest her weary little legs. She wiped her nose no less than 500 times, chewed on her dress's sweet bow, and at another point could no longer ignore the bug bite on her back. That was grand finale time as she both got a good scratch in and flashed her Dora undies for the crowd to see. Rare form, to be sure, but typical preschooler and quite hilarious.

But this picture captures more how I'm grinning from my inside out. Mostly because of that verse behind her.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." ~Luke 18:16

I said monumental because this verse came together with a Starbucks parking lot to give me one of the most precious, life changing moments as a parent of this amazing child.

Back in the fall, when things became unexpectedly tight, Joe and I wondered if we should cut preschool for Hope. I knew I could continue homeschooling, but something stopped us. We really felt like Hope was supposed to be there and I could not shake it. My best friend, upon hearing my heart, offered to help pay for her to go! We never did have to accept, but it further confirmed the Holy Spirit's gentle nudging. I remember saying, "I really think God has something great for Hope there, and she just has to go. We'll make it work."

Throughout the year I have been so impressed with the curriculum, with the depth of how they help the children understand faith. Hope has been a sponge, absorbing and questioning so much that I began to wonder if maybe I should have gone on to seminary after all.

In the last several weeks the questions became more numerous, especially after we purchased her preschool CD that showcases all the great scripture based songs they've been learning all year. Many times Hope talked about Heaven; we would respond that as she grew and understood more she would someday have a choice to make when her heart was ready.

That brings me back to Starbucks.

Thanks to a gift from my Mom, I went through the drive-thru and then pulled over to nurse Alysse while the big girls sat content in the back. We were listening to the school CD again and out of nowhere Hope declares, "I WANT to go to Heaven!" I could tell this time was different, there was an urgency to her tone that struck me deeply.

I asked her what she meant and she repeated, "I WANT to go to Heaven!" We began talking about what this meant and affirming what she believed. In mere moments she wanted to pray the prayer of salvation! My typically shy one in such a thing as this would likely say something to the effect of, "You pray for me Mommy!" But no. Not this time.

She repeated after me with confidence. Oh the privlege to be the one who God would allow to be there, to pray with her! I am so proud and so humbled at His work in her life. Almost every night since our girls were born we have prayed the same prayer, "Lord, please help them to know You at an early age and to walk with You all the days of their life."

We are so grateful that He answered and trust that He will continue that answer as Hope grows and her "yes" gets bigger and deeper.

The next week at preschool Hope's wonderful director shared with her friends about her decision and it was so neat to hear the other boys and girls wonder and question and share about Jesus in their hearts. It is easy to say, "But they're too young! How can this be so?!"

That's when Jesus showed me my yawning, scratching, bending, deep thinking, big questioning, beautiful four year-old and reminded me of His words... do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

We marked this occasion over breakfast for dinner by candlelight. Then we recorded it in the family Bible Joe and I received way back when we said, "I do." Again I was struck pretty deeply.

Things do not happen by accident, there is a purpose to the waiting. There is a purpose to the trusting, to the yearning. There is purpose for all of us. Each and every one of us is where we are for a reason, no matter how big or small we are. No matter how big or small we feel.
And that is pretty monumental, indeed.