In Earnest Appreciation of Quiet
(and the cover reveal for my next book - for your eyes only!)
I spent the better part of yesterday failing to write this email. It started with a treasure hunt for two cans of coconut milk, then spun into checks that needed my signature over at our church, a kid who needed picked up from school in the middle of the afternoon, an unplanned jaunt across town to drop off an ailing vehicle, and what felt like 25 text messages to mediate the delivery of a neighbor to an appointment. By 2pm my work day was almost over and I hadn’t typed a single word.
So, I ran away from home to my hiding spot at the library and sat there for the next two hours wondering when my brain had broken, and why. I daydreamed. I scolded myself. I ate my favorite Japanese gummies while my cursor blinked AT ME. Coherent thoughts hid beneath mental cloud-cover. Do surgeons routinely show up for work only to realize they forget how to make the first incision? Do teachers randomly forget how to teach first-graders to read? Or is this job perk reserved only for writers and other creatives? (I cannot help but over-explain that all people are creatives, but you know what I mean.)
Maybe it’s COVID. Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s…late March in northern Indiana, and the photos of tulips blooming in less meteorologically-oppressive zip codes have finally taken their toll. (It is so hard to be optimistic in these parts.)
I tried to be profound. I wanted to be witty. I spent a solid hour reading old (very old!) blog posts and remembering the golden days, when I had more important things to say.
My phone dinged. It was time to go. I finally had the time, but I’d wasted it. Trudging to my minivan in wintry air, I realized quiet does not mean broken. It’s a different kind of creativity, less showy but every bit as worthy as a hot take or well-crafted essay.
This is me, with the volume turned down. This is my ordinary world where interruption shapes my actual life.
In the past week or so, I listened to hours of SCOTUS nomination hearings. I watched “the slap” seen ‘round the world. I heard about war, and rumors of war. I listened to my kids. I listened to my body. (I spent 24 hours gridlocked in a boring, maddening argument with Cory and decided the silent treatment was my best recourse. Not all quiet is the good kind.)
Listening is almost always the right choice, but information overload is a valid threat and my soul is over it. It’s banging on the windows, begging for quiet.
We should always been listening. It’s just that sometimes, we need to hear the wail of the train more than a new batch of urgent opinions.
What would happen if we really got quiet?
We’d hear the warblers and sparrow and maybe for a second it would be positively poetic.
But I sat on my couch on our warmest day so far, with the windows open, and listened as six neighborhood boys poked sticks at a dead mole, dropping shaky f-bombs because they were sure no adults were listening. (Inevitably, the group scattered when one of them yelled, “It’s alive!”) It made me smile.
If you’re feeling a bit stuck, a bit rough around the edges of your emotions, a bit defensive, caught between winter and hope, or just plain bluer-than-usual, join me in the pursuit of quiet. Listen to your place. Locate its soundtrack.
the chirp of a morning alarm clock
the whistle of a tea kettle
raindrops against the window pane
onions sizzling in olive oil
the whir of the furnace, even as you wish it was no longer needed
This is the pulse of life. We are allowed to just be. Be present. Be aware. Be gentle with ourselves. “Quiet” probably won’t reveal itself as silence. But with any luck it will return us to the parts of ourselves that get lost in the noise.
The world won't accidentally fall into utter harmony without us carrying our part of the load. I promise, we are free to take some time off.
Let’s let ourselves get bored.
Unclench our jaws.
Make room for imagination.
It’s not profound. But sometimes the thing we need most is what's right in front of us, free for the taking.
Our Little Secret
For your eyes only! I’ve been DYING to spill this to someone, and that someone is YOU! I won’t be sharing publicly for a couple of months, but I cannot keep this one to myself.
Start With Hello comes in
hot light and lovely on October 11th.
I am absolutely enamored with the cover and I hope you feel it, too. This book is for all of us and we LABORED over those clouds. It’s the most practical thing I’ve ever written (while holding to my fondness for real-life storytelling.)
How can we learn to lean on each other?
How do we move together when our culture keeps wedging us apart?
Why does living as neighbors make life brighter, better, and truer?
Mostly, how do we *actually* do the thing?
Start With Hello is our field guide to being more human, together.
If those clouds do something to you and you just can’t help yourself, you can pre-order here, today. (even Amazon hasn’t seen the cover yet!) Your copy will arrive on October 11th like a gift from your six-months-ago self.
(Pre-ordering basically means your reserving your copy. You don’t get charged until it ships and you’re promised the lowest price between now and then. It’s a huge win and it’s every author’s love language. It also helps retailers understand the amount of stock they should order so they don't sell out.)
I’m planning lots of fun bonuses and surprises, which you’ll hear about first when the time comes, regardless of when you pre-order. I promise I won’t be badgering you about this forever-and-ever-amen.
I just needed to blurt out this secret, and you’re my best friends on the internet, so…
Lastly, you know I can’t leave you without passing along a recipe or two. There remains nothing quite like the solace of something delicious for dinner.
My coconut milk scavenger hunt was for the purposes of this slow cooker sweet potato curry. I’m positive I’ve sent this recommendation along to you before, but it’s a Martin family favorite. The recipe seems to have been updated for an instant pot, which I don’t have. I just throw it all into a slow cooker and let it do its thing on Low for 4-6 hours. Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I like to pre-sauté my onions and I find I like garlic powder better than fresh garlic here. We top ours with chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice. (We ran next door and asked to borrow a lime - a classic way to live as neighbors! Angel insisted on giving us two.) Salt to taste.
I also made a batch of Joanna Gaines’ After School Fresh Banana Bread and added both chopped walnuts and a smaller amount of large chocolate chips. It’s truly delicious and doesn’t make too much. (Covering the top with sugar before baking is crucial!)
Fare thee well, good pals.
Wherever you are, may actual spring be headed your way. May you receive permission to go quiet for as long as you need. May you pay attention to the sky and notice the daffodils. And may you hear the whisper of care you’re constantly under from a God who loves you, and believe it.