Guess what day it is? Your favorite and mine: (author) Tuesday! And today is GLORIOUS because it brings with it one of my new favorites, Shannan Martin. Shannan’s book, Falling Free, came out last fall, and when I finally read it a couple months ago, I couldn’t get enough of her style, her stories and her God. She’s got wisdom to impart, y’all, so take the time to read the story behind the story and leave a comment at the end to win a copy of her book for yourself.
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? Like most of my favorite people, I’m a walking contradiction. I was born of cornfields and one-light towns, but I found my true heartbeat in a neighborhood tucked against the north side of a city. A hundred years ago at midnight, standing in the middle of a soccer field, I begged God to let me marry a boy named Cory and eighteen years ago, I did. Our marriage has been anything but simple. We’ve seen the brink of disaster from the close seats and walked together through the years of rebuilding. We’re not overly sentimental, so we don’t describe ourselves as best friends, but we totally are. (Our marriage has never been stronger than when we found ourselves intentionally on mission together.) We have four kids, all of whom came to us through adoption, but if you ask our kiddos how many siblings they have it gets muddy quickly. Our view on family is that we draw the circle as widely as possible. Are there six of us? Eleven? Eighteen? Your guess is as good as mine.
I’m obsessed with noticing beauty and redemption wherever it exists. I’m a relentless hope-holder, some would say to the point of foolishness. I outfit our bodies and our home almost entirely from thrift stores and my favorite food is chips and salsa. (Not to brag, but I took my category last year in a city-wide salsa making contest and I have the certificate to prove it.) I’m a writer, a speaker, and a pretty picture taker. Above all, I’m on a journey toward understanding that my highest calling is to be a woman who loves my neighbor more than I love myself. I’m not very awesome at this yet, but each day is a new opportunity for growth, for guts, for compassion, and for open hands.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway?
Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted is the story of my undoing. A handful of years ago I was living in a very different way. I had all of these big ideas about what my life was going to look like, what I had to contribute to the world around me, and what I deserved. Cory and I were both working in federal politics and after moving back to Indiana from Washington DC, we bought our dream farmhouse on six pretty acres. We were low-key obsessed with saving money and achieving financial peace, but we had no idea that the only way to be financially free was to be freed up from our finances. Our goal back then was to build a life that was a safe, secure, stable, and comfortable as possible for ourselves and our kids. And then everything got really funky.
We ended up losing and surrendering most of the things we thought we wanted most, through some of the most unexpected circumstances. Over and over, God nudged us toward truth, which looked nothing like we thought. We began to understand that for us, God’s more was going to look like less. We sold our farm, moved to a shabby little neighborhood, adopted our fourth son while he was in prison, and set out to see what all the fuss was about Jesus’ relentless focus on being oriented to those around us. We started to notice all of the scriptures about justice and loving those at the margins of society, but all of the people we knew and spent time with lived, looked, and believed almost exactly as we did. We had our work cut out for us, and all of it would begin with surrender. Falling Free is a peek behind the curtain as we journeyed from our life that was primarily about us, to our new life, where we became dependent on God to show the way, and to trust him even when it seemed everyone around us had some major doubts.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? It didn’t take us long to see that the only way to really live is fully surrendered to the weird way of Jesus. This life asks that we spend ourselves for the sake of God’s kingdom coming down to our city and our streets. We continually have to let go of our tight grip on our schedule, our plans, our finances, our dreams. Our hearts have learned what it means to walk toward the pain around us, rather than away from it. Our neighbors have changed our lens and our life. Selfishly, the best thing about living this life God created us for is that we get to be loved by them. To our core, we know we did nothing to deserve them.
Now, life is about understanding that we all need each other, and we all desperately need God to be our goodness here in the land of the living. I’ve lost interest in the “American Dream with a side of Jesus.” The rich, abundant life is lived way down on the bottom shelf, in the gutters and in the overlooked places. I want more.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? My greatest hope is that readers will discover the freedom of surrendering those things the world tells us to want. It takes some courage, but that’s why we have God. We all want a vibrant faith, and I’m learning that’s only possible when our faith costs us something. Everyone’s story will look a bit different, which is pretty amazing. But as my readers begin to step into the wild unknown of a life they couldn’t have even imagined and one they came close to missing out on, I want them to picture me on the sidelines, cheering them on. The wisdom of Jesus values the low and the wonky, like little old us. He invites us into this grand plan to subvert the culture around us. I don’t want anyone to miss that!
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? Putting all of this in writing has been therapeutic and also a little nerve-wracking. It’s one thing to quietly believe something, and another thing entirely to put it all in writing in a public way. Talk about backing yourself into a corner! I continue to be challenged by the truths inside Falling Free. There are days I want to give up. There are days I know our old life was so much easier. It can be tempting, in low moments, to deny what I know to be real. But I didn’t understand the power of God in my life and in the world back when I solved most of my problems myself.
Now, we’re all about what we can do over the long haul. How can we be even more connected to our place and our neighbors? How can we love even more radically? How can we fight for justice in our local context? There’s no end to this story. This isn’t some two-year mission stint, in and out. This is the abundant life and we want to be a little more committed every day.
How and where can we find you on the internet? I sent a letter out once a month called the Super Scoop. It’s one of my favorite ways to connect with readers. I share my favorite things and generally write with my hair down. Sign up here. (I also send out some really sweet freebies from time to time!)
I love Instagram! I post almost every day and I do a fun thing during the school year called #heyletswalktoschool, where you’ll see glimpses of my neighborhood life. Find me here.
I mean, is it just me or did you just fall in like with Shannan from what she wrote above? Do subscribe (as I just did) to get updates from her website and wherever else Shannan is found. It really does mean the world to us writer-types! Otherwise, whether you’d like to encourage our new friend with what she’s written here or win a copy of Falling Free, leave a comment below – be sure to write “Pick me!” somewhere in there so I know to count your entry. Contest ends Sunday, July 2nd. Good luck!
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