A string of snarkiness


This post was original titled: “No I don’t go to church. No my soul’s not in jeopardy.”


And let me just tell you there are a lot of post titles sitting in my draft queue right now that have that same snarky tone. I’ve had a lot on my mind the last year. And I mentioned in the last post that I felt like I had let the blog hold my words hostage for some time now. And that I was going to write about what I wanted, when I wanted.

And while I’m still going to do that and haven’t deleted those drafts, this one got a new intro and a new title after a heartfelt conversation with an old friend today. It was just a casual conversation that started out rather benign and turned into something AMAZING. And I decided to forego the snarky title for a second.

Don’t you love when that happens? When you can look at an event and see that it was meant to be documented. Meant to stick out and be remembered. Even though you had no idea it would be so significant on a random Thursday after barfing your pregnant guts up and remembering that you forgot your deodorant for that day. The way God uses mundane days and turns them into amazing life moments always amazes and surprises me.

Which brings me to my point: “No I don’t go to church. No my soul’s not in jeopardy.”

There are two groups of people who generally make me feel like I’m not doing it right in the spiritual world these days. Christians and Southerners.

And, yes that is an extreme generalization. I have southern christian friends who do NOT make me feel this way. I myself would be classified as a southerner and a christian so I am generalizing about a category that I technically fit into. So, don’t send me your hate mail. I will preface the next bit with a general “In my experience I have found that…..”

In the South, it’s not IF you go to church, it’s WHERE and how much. There’s just no question about it. Either you go….or you “don’t go” and are now the personal project of a lot of well-meaning people.

Among Christians in general the trend is that you aren’t wholly committed to your faith unless you attend church at least sometime somewhere. Because, really, what’s really going on with you? There are some issues there if you don’t go on purpose, out of principal, and that’s a dead give-away that you should probably be going.

Well, guess what. We don’t attend at all, anywhere. And we are just fine with it and we are actually thriving, spiritually.

Some people would say that the whole “I don’t need to go to church to be saved” bit is a cop-out and that you either don’t understand the bible fully or that you are in complete denial of your true salvation. The truth is, for many christians you just aren’t “legitimate” if you don’t go to church.

Let me give you a tiny bit of backstory about us Mandins.

Mr. Thistle used to work for a church for many years. That made me the wife of a church staff member, which is pretty much like working there. You’re “in the loop” and you’re thrust into the middle of the pastors’ wives club and the like. It was a mega church. I’m not sure I even need to say anymore about that. It mostly wasn’t pretty in the circle. Not for me anyways.

And I didn’t like who I’d become. I was narrow and judgemental and often bent the gospel to suit what I needed. It wasn’t real and I can’t imagine it won many souls to my cause. I had a distorted view of the world within those walls. I don’t look fondly on those years.

And, while I take nothing away from what GOD did in our life in those years, I can say with 100% confidence that the experience there left us wounded and much wiser to the inner workings of such social dynamics. Now, that’s not to say that all churches, big or small, are bad and I am in no way trying to discourage anyone from attending church. “To each his own” is how we operate in many areas of life around here. But, we did attend several churches after our split from that church job and I did not find the climate to change all that much for us.

What I have found since our great exodus from the church is humanity. For me, there is a great deficit of “humanness” in the church. When I read the bible it’s ugly and messy and sloppy and dirty and there’s Jesus. It’s dusty and gritty and there are deserts and there’s God. When I go to church it’s polished and there are so many rules and doctrines and Lord forbid you should have a moment of humanness. Goodness knows you better not have it if you’re a staff member. At least not in public.

And I see these very big contradictions and I begin to question God, rather than man. And it throws me out of balance.

But outside of the church I have found spiritual giants. And do you know what the most humbling and life-changing bit of wisdom is that I have found in them? The willingness to say, “You know, I don’t know” or “I’m kind of a mess, too. We all are.” And they point me to God with those words.

And a well springs up in my soul. Because they don’t have it all figured out. And they’re not too proud to say it. And they don’t even put on airs to make you think otherwise. They just love Jesus and people (or sometimes NOT people) and they’ve embraced their messes right alongside Him.

Royal Daughters Glampout, Glamping, Texas

And I’ve been able to breathe around them instead of feeling the corset strings of church tighten ’round me at every Wednesday morning ladies’ bible study or Pastors’ luncheon.

There’s a humanness I’ve found. And it’s drawn me closer to God in leaps and bounds. The presence of God is more apparent in our home and I’m more sensitive to his voice instead of relying so heavily on the voices of man.

And as new-age as it sounds, I’ve learned more about God in the garden than anywhere else. There’s life and death and enemies at every turn (bugs, weather, time) and summer and winter and abundance and scarcity and you have little control over it all except to plant a seed, nurture it and water it and protect it as best as you can and pray for God to do the rest. You can’t MAKE a tomato plant bear fruit. And you can’t MAKE the sun shine. But you can do what you can and leave the rest to God. And sometimes the weeds grow faster than you can pull them. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, the squash bugs take over and leave you with nothing to show for all your work but sweat and dirt. And sometimes there is no garden at all. But there is God.

John Muir says it perfectly:

“I’d rather be in the mountains thinking of God, than in church thinking about the mountains.”  

I don’t have it all figured out. But right now, we feel a very personal pull to cultivate a relationship with God in our home and in the garden (though we are currently lacking in that area) and in one-on-one relationships rather than in a formal church setting. I realize that it troubles some people’s soul when I say that. But I can’t worry too much about that really. Because the whole point of this journey we’re on as a family is learning to listen to God and trust him more and live the life he has called us to as a family….our very own specific life and not necessarily the life someone else has imagined we should have. Because isn’t it so much work tending the garden of your own mind and home and family without tending others?

It sounds so very harsh to say out loud, but the truth is, I grow weary of having to politely turn down invitations to ladies’  bible studies and church dinners and “Bring a Friend Sundays.” I feel slighted by friends who still, after many years, do not trust that we are “ok” spiritually.

And then I get angry and I know they say, “Oh she has anger/resentment issues and really SHOULD go to church.”

And then there are days like today, full of raw “humanness” with an old friend and I hear God speak so clearly and I know that it’s ok. And it encourages me to keep doing what I’ve been doing and just focus on the simple act of showing up in my own life to meet with God, everyday and anywhere, rather than a very specific setting.


August 10, 2015 - 9:23 am

Brooke - I wandered over here from Adproval, and I’m so glad I did. I appreciate so much of what you’ve written. My husband worked for a small church years ago and when we left, we were both raw and wounded. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to return to church for years. After we moved a few years ago and our kids were young, >1 and 3, we made the decision to find a church again. We’ve found one we love. But. It stretches me in exactly the ways you talk about. There is hypocrisy, and narrow-mindedness, and false humility, and false perfection. We’re doing our best to not fall into it, and instead be open, and as real as we can manage in our own insecurity. It’s left me, once again, feeling uncomfortable at times, but I also feel like it’s important for us to go against the grain at church. I don’t mean to sound like we’re the solution to the problems of American church, but I do believe for us, right now, we benefit from being involved with a church of people in all their messiness (though they may disagree that that’s what it is) and I’d like to think God uses us to benefit them in ways, too. Christians can be the most wonderful bunch of people to be around, and they can also be the most uncomfortable to be around. We’re trying to be accepting and grace-filled to people in the church, allowing for them to be a lot of the things that drive us crazy, while hopefully presenting a different picture of what it is to follow Christ. Whether you feel God urging you to return to a “church” someday, or you feel led to be part of the church from outside the traditional sense, your willingness to love people and God in such an honest way will move hearts, at least the ones willing to see who you are regardless of your church affiliation, or lack thereof. Thanks so much for writing this post. I didn’t find it snarky at all. It’s not fair for people to presume anything about your faith based on one small outside appearance. Attending church doesn’t secure faith, and it doesn’t ensure a solid relationship with God, it just means you go to church. Well, now that I’ve inadvertently written my own mini-post in response, I’ll stop. Because really, you said it all very well and I’ve just gotten long-winded because I loved it so much!

Running without looking at my feet

Every time I sit down to write a blog post I have no idea where to start. I want to say something clever or insightful or really just get down a complete, coherent sentence from the mush that is my pregnant brain these days but the words just don’t come.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I need my temperature checked when I “can’t find words.” I’ve always got words. And lots of them.

But the truth is the plans I had for my life and the way my life actually looks right now are so far from each other, I’m not even sure who I am or where I’m going or which way is up. I’m in this weird season of growth and stagnation. I feel like I’m being stretched and primed for something but then I see no obvious forward momentum towards anything at all in any area. I’m sure there’s momentum somewhere. I just can’t see it.


The truth is I’ve been in mourning. And, let me preface my explanation by saying that I know how ridiculous it sounds. But it’s just time to be real. I’ve been mourning what I thought would be; what I felt like we were so close to so many times. I’ve been mourning that fact that we worked so hard early on in our marriage to be able to craft a life that we wanted for our children only to end up so far from what we envisioned. One night, a few weeks after our whirlwind move to Tennessee, I sat sobbing in the bathroom over the fear that the dream I longed so much for might not be the one God had in store for me after all. That it might be time to let that dream die. And that I wasn’t sure I was of strong enough character to truly do that should it come to that.

And you know the rest of the story. Here we sit in an apartment (albeit a very nice one and much more than many have to come home to) and I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been robbed. And the crappy thing is that my head knows how petty that is and that we should be thankful we are fed, warm, and safe, and that God is good no matter what and it could be MUCH, MUCH worse. But my heart aches. For things like chickens and our own home and teaching the kids the value of hard work and a yard to run and play freely in and the treehouse that Owen has wanted for so long and something to pass down to my children. And none of that really matters in the grand scheme of things because all we really need is to love each other BIG and not sweat the small stuff. The kids don’t NEED treehouses. They need love. And if we are deliberate about our days we can still get outside time. And there are other ways to learn the value of hard work without waking to feed the chickens.

I know all of this. I know how ridiculous it sounds. I know these are first world problems. I know it could be so much worse and that I am blessed beyond measure. But knowing and feeling don’t always match up. Can we just be real with each other? Surely there’s something you know about your life that comes with feelings that don’t match.

And throw in what has been my hardest pregnancy yet with health issues piling up alongside the doctor’s fees and Mr. Thistle being out of state for work weeks at a time and you’ve got the recipe for a really ugly attitude.

In the midst of that ugly attitude I’ve been learning a lot about myself. A lot of it hasn’t been pretty. But some of it has been rather freeing. For instance, I want to write about what I want to write about when I want to write about it. I’m not sure when I let my blog start holding my words hostage but it obviously has been for a while now.

So, I’m taking it back. I want to write. I need to write. I need to purge all these words in my head, ugly or not. And let the crazy out. Those of you who know me well know that I am a bit (Ha!) of a control freak. I’ve felt like I’ve had little control of much of my life the last few years: the craziness with our first home, two out of state moves in 14 months, starting over. But this is MY blog. I DO have control over it. And I can write whatever I want, right? Especially if it’s freeing at this point in my life. Because Lord knows we all could use something that gives us that.

So it might get ugly over here. I’m just going to write and not edit. (That’s terrifying to write and I almost edited it right out and said something else.) But I just need to be 100% me and nothing else over here. There won’t be any cute kids in mud boots holding fluffy chickens or lush garden scenes. There won’t be any barns or farmhouse renovations to follow. It won’t be Pinterest-worthy. There won’t be any exciting moves (that I know of) or shots of how I’ve decorated the apartment. There might not even be pictures at all (which I know is a giant no-no in the blog world) or maybe just phone pictures. I’m just going to write about whatever hits me and see where it goes. Because that’s kind of how life has been lately…a little out of left field, sometimes ugly, but always worth it.

Anne Lamott says this about trying to write (and live) perfectly:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it. 

Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (those are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground — you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.” 

So, here’s to running without looking at my feet and all my clutter.


Blessed little bundle

Oh brother. It has been FOR-EV-ER since I posted over here.

Do you guys even remember me? Is anyone still popping in over here from time to time?

HULLOoooo……Is anybody out there?!


Well, for the tens of readers who visit this blog I’ve got a LOT to catch you up on. Put on a fresh pot of coffee y’all. And you might want to be sitting for this one.

Remember when we lost our dear, beloved family dog, Daphne and had to move unexpectedly back to Georgia….in a hurry….in a major ice storm….into an apartment….and give away our chickens and abandon our garden plot once again….and reevaluate our life plans?

And remember when I told you we were adding to our family a Newfoundland puppy?

Ok, good, we’re all up to speed.

We brought home that Newfoundland puppy and we named her Rosie. She is a giant and growing every second of the day.


But let’s back up and tell all the parts in between that you DON’T know.

Rewind to June 2014. I was a couple of days late so I took a pregnancy test and got this:


Please note the date, June 2nd.

Obviously the pregnancy never progressed and I miscarried two weeks after getting that positive result. It was fairly low-key and not my first rodeo in the miscarriage department so that’s why you’re only hearing of it now. It was early, nature handled everything without medical intervention, and I bounced back fairly quickly. We were sad, but again, we had experienced this before and felt at peace with it all after a grieving period.

Fast forward through all the job loss, family pet loss, chicken/farm loss, ice storms and stress to May 29th, 2015. We had waited several exciting weeks to pick up our sweet puppy. We made the 4 hour drive to get her and we were all so very excited. She was the fluffiest, snuggliest thing and we were all on a puppy breath high the whole ride home.

Fast forward through a few sleepless nights (because having a puppy is pretty much like having a newborn). I was a few days late but I half chalked it up to being stressed from not getting enough sleep the last few days. But since I had a test on hand I decided to take it one morning before Mr. Thistle left for work. And, wouldn’t you know, it was positive.

I laughed at the timing and went to show him and we both nervous laughed because, news flash, WE JUST BOUGHT A GIANT BABY DOG! (For those of you wondering, her mother is 150 lbs and her father is 180 lbs. And she’ll be her full grown weight at a year old but won’t “mature” mentally until 3 years of age. So a GIANT BABY DOG is the best descriptor of a Newfoundland before the age of 3). 

The timing of it all was laughable. We are in a holding pattern, so to speak, in this apartment and we just got settled from a big move (again) and we were getting back on track with homeschool and had just took on the monumental (pun intended) task of training a giant baby dog.

Sure. Tiny baby, apartment, giant baby dog. Seems about right.

But the real highlight of this story is the date. The very specific date that I nonchalantly took a pregnancy test. Please note the date on this picture:


June 2nd, y’all.

June-freakin-2nd. I found out I was pregnant again one year to the day!

Now, let me say this: Miscarriage is a HIGHLY sensitive and personal subject. Everyone deals with it in their own way and the physical and mental aspects can change each time. It is a hard thing and I am in no way diminishing the process. But the way I cope is to be very pragmatic about it all. I got very caught up in the “why” and all the answers I wanted from God about it all the first time it happened. It did not lead me to a good place. So I stick to the science of it all now and I do not try to figure it out or reason it in any way other than being very matter of fact about it. That’s hard for some people, including my husband, sometimes. I’m not sure it’s the most popular way of handling it but it’s how I go about it.

HOWEVER, there are times when it is just HARD for me to ignore the “whats going on here, God?” questions. The very precise timing of this pregnancy feels like there’s something big in the background of it all. Couple that with the fact that it is, by earthly standards, rather inconvenient timing, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a very, very odd and interesting coincidence. You can’t know the very intimate details of my prayer life or spiritual walk, obviously, but let me just say this pregnancy has really kicked up the interesting factor a notch or two. I am amazed and astounded by the very delicate process that is unfolding in our lives over here.

So, here we are.

We’ve seen the heartbeat on ultrasound several times and everything looks good and I am just nearing the end of the exhausting first trimester. I’ve had several panic attacks alongside joy and amazement over it all. It’s all been very manic. Yay for pregnancy hormones! I’m not quite sure where to put it all, mentally and emotionally. That’s one reason why I haven’t been blogging. That and the nausea and fatigue.

In February the Mandins will be a party of five + one giant baby dog + one cat.


Hold on to your hats folks. It just got real up in here.



July 15, 2015 - 12:18 pm

Ash - Cutest belly pic, I love your blog and the joy & purpose you find in every day, Congrats to you and the fam!

July 15, 2015 - 5:47 pm

Christy - AWw. Sweet Ashley! Thank you. It’s been way too long! Glad you stop by over here to follow along with us!

How to remove pilling from diy drop cloth slipcovers

Remember that slipcover I made for the hideous eye-sore futon a while back? Well, it’s been used and abused as I hoped it would be living with two boys and a husband. It’s taken a lickin’ and kept on tickin’! The thing about drop cloth slipcovers is that they’re cheap to make, easy to wash, and ultra durable. Win, win, win.

How to remove pilling - DIY dropcloth slipcover

However, in the last month or so I started to notice pilling on the seat portion of the cover. Pilling puts my heightened senses on alert and I had gotten desperate for a solution. Not wanting to defeat the original purpose of the cheap-factor I decided to pass on buying one of those sweater shavers or any other “device” to remove the tiny offenders. I decided to take matters into my own hands and DIY the removal of those little suckers with something I already had on hand.


I reasoned that the drop cloth was designed to withstand a lot of handling and abuse so I headed to the garage to find a sandpaper block. I figured I would just sand them right off. And guess what?! It totally worked like a charm and in a few minutes I had a smooth, new looking slipcover. It was so smooth and even looked cleaner!

Now, keep in mind this is a drop cloth slipcover. I’m not entirely sure what this would do to any other kind of fabric. But with the popularity of them on the rise I figured this could come in handy for someone out there needing to take back their beautiful creation from the evil that is pilling.


  1. Get mad at your slipcover for offending you so with those hideous little monsters.
  2. Head to the garage and dig out one slightly abused coarse grit sandpaper block. I’m sure regular sandpaper would work too but this is what I had on hand and I imagine it was easier to hold.
  3. Sand in one general direction. I didn’t sand in the same direction the whole time but I mention this because it’s easier to see where you still need to sand if you’re going in the same general direction. I used a pushing motion with fairly heavy pressure to work them off. The sand paper will spread the pills around making it hard to tell where you still need to work if you sand in circles or a back and forth motion. Be aware that they’ll start to pile up and you’ll be horrified at how much comes off.
  4. Scoop up your pile of offensiveness and throw away.
  5. Vacuum to make sure you got them all and then lay down and take a nap on your smooth, beautiful slipcover.


D i s c l o s u r e