EE Author Interview: Shannan Martin "Falling Free: rescued from the life I always wanted." #EEAuthorInterview
Q: In the book you write: "When we gauge our sense of security on things like low crime rates, high-achieving schools, and padded retirement accounts, what we're essentially saying is, "We'll take care of ourselves, thank you very much. We've got this." Honestly, it's really hard for me to think otherwise...I have felt for most of my life that it's MY responsibility to find safe, good schools for my kids to live in. Now that you've lived this new life for awhile, how have your kids adjusted? How did you—practically speaking—overcome your fears of living in a "bad part of town"?
Shannan: Trying to stop solving my own problems was one of the most challenging heart shifts. It was also really necessary in order to trust that God is so much bigger than we can comprehend.
In some ways, my family was sort of forced to recognize we were in over our heads, which honestly helped.
We had so much transition coming at us and we were losing so many things, including
our sense of control (financial and otherwise) along with our basic reputation as good, Christian
people who had their lives together. During those times, we found ourselves needy and desperate
for the compassion of God in a new way.
Because of the abundance of our community, we are surrounded by people who don’t have it in
them to pretend to be something they are not. When we moved, people were lining up to tell us
we were going to ruin our lives. We were afraid we would arrive to gangs, drugs, and crime. And
on its face, that’s exactly what we found in pockets. But we also found a community that teaches
us about dignity, generosity, community, and grit. Once we actually got to know our neighbors
and started walking with them through everyday life, the potential problems became distant
We have been here for five years now. This is our new ordinary. Our younger kids, now ages 12,
11, and 9, adjusted really easily. For our two youngest, this is by far what they remember most of
life. It’s interesting to think about how that will shape them into the future. I was raised in a
really homogenous, tiny, rural community and though no one overtly taught me to fear the
“other,” over time, I just did. We can’t love what we don’t know. My hope is that in living in a
richly diverse neighborhood, in terms of race, socioeconomic structures, and politics, my kids
will hold a wider view of the kingdom of God and understand what it means to live as neighbors
Q: 4. Your chapter on hospitality struck a chord with me, especially when you wrote on page 133:
"But it seems the best way to welcome the broken neighbor is by hanging up the charade that weare somehow more whole." This really flies in the face of the Put Together Christian who, out of some kind of spiritual noblesse-oblige, helps the broken other people. Has this way of
hospitality brought new and true relationships into your life? How has it leveled the
playing field in terms of realizing that not only are you serving others, but THEY are
SHANNAN: Yes! I don’t think we can claim to give hospitality if we aren’t ready to receive it, especially inunlikely places.
Jesus was a pro at receiving hospitality. He modeled this far more than he
modeled the flip-side. My whole perspective on hospitality has shifted pretty dramatically. In my
“old” life, when I hosted, I definitely wanted to bless people, but I also wanted them to be
impressed with my skills. It was more about hiding all of the chaos and clutter and creating this
enchanted reality that I don’t actually live in.
I still enjoy throwing a real party now and then.
There’s nothing wrong with doing that. I just can’t roll that way in my regular life every day. For
one thing, I couldn’t keep up with the sheer pace if I was still trying to be fancy.
Our home has become the landing place for friends in work release who need somewhere to
spend their Sunday pass after church. The house is always a disaster when we walk through the
door together, but they don’t even notice. They don’t care that I usually serve soup. In fact, they
are more comfortable with really simple, familiar meals, so I have learned to save the
adventurous, foodie side of me for other days.
I want to provide a tangible place of welcome for lonely, weary souls. I want to give our friends
the true solace of home, where they know they belong just as they are. This is something I’m
actually learning from them. So if you ever come over for dinner, (and I hope you do!) you will
probably find me in yoga pants and no make-up. The sink will be full of dishes. The plates might
be paper. The kids will be naughty and loud. The bread might be burned. But with any luck,
we’ll see ourselves in all of it, and remember we are fully loved by God and each other, no trying
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