Friday, September 30, 2016

What it Feels Like {& Giveaway Winners!}

I woke up two Tuesdays ago - the birthday of Falling Free - in a state of emotional disarray. The fact that I'm just now talking about it should tell you something. I was jumpy and on guard. Excited and strangely, a little sad. The sky kept talking to me, saying in shades of amber and coral, "all is well, all is well.

Morning stunned me into a place of quiet, so I followed it home to the rhythm of surrender, then sat at the edge of my neighborhood and took a few deep breaths. What did it feel like to have my book "out there"? I had no clue. And that scared me. It was a new day. I was still me. But I couldn't help looking over my shoulder and straight into the sun. I prayed along, "World without end, amen," yet found it impossible to ignore the urge to race ahead of this slow, steady start, or simply to retreat.

The thing about publishing a book is that you both anticipate and dread what people might say about it.

So I hopped into the van with Cory and my travel mug of tea, and we drove North, to the shore of Lake Michigan. I thought I just wanted to look for sea glass - an easy distraction. What I soon realized was that I wanted to stand near the edge of something much bigger than myself, and my long string of words. I wanted to stare at seagulls and contemplate the tides. 

There was no sea glass. None at all. The one piece I found was jagged and crystal clear, not so much treasure as actual trash. I hesitated, felt its weight in my palm, did my best to convince myself it counted. Then I threw it back, wondering why my pulse wasn't slowing down, wondering why escape always seems like the best option in a pinch.

I swear I tried to rally. But I was cranky with Cory, and more sullen than usual. I'd been tempted to hold onto that gnarly, unready piece. I didn't want to leave empty-handed, not in the state I was in. It doesn't make me selfish or scared. Only human. The part that embarrasses me is that I had the nerve to wish God might reward my surrender. Isn't that the point of the book I had written? That surrender is the beginning of a better dream? Didn't it make sense for God to prove it (again)?

Heading back to the van, I veered over toward a cache of boulders. And there it was, as the water rushed over and away, the faint glimmer of mistakes that had been remade into something so much better. Redemption. Sea glass, catching the light and holding it strong. 

Yes, I'm typing a lot of words about sea glass. Yes, I know how ridiculous it might sound. No, I don't fancy myself a modern day Anne Morrow Lindbergh. 

I'm just a woman on the verge, a woman afraid the world isn't small enough to keep me safe, a woman still afraid to come to God like a child, needy and single-minded. I can talk about laying things down, but I am still prone to holding them, instead. I can tell you about surrender, but it remains the fight of my life.

We ate lunch on a roof-top patio, me, still in yoga pants and unwashed hair. The waitress recommended the Reuben for Cory and handed me the most breathtaking salad with giant globs of goat cheese. She was guarded at first, so obviously wary of humans, or at least humans like us. She was tatted and tattered and I looked across a sea of privileged people eating overpriced sandwiches in the middle of a Tuesday, and I wondered if she could begin to imagine that she is who I would take home with me if I had to pick just one. She is my people. That's something I didn't know about myself a few years ago when my life felt simpler and I was all angles and edges. She is the one I'd most want to talk to as the city around us slept and raged, as my children dreamed and maybe hers did too and as dishes waited dirty in the sink.

For the past ten days, I have been loved well. It's undeniable. That so many of you helped spread the word*, sent notes of encouragement, bought a copy and read it? Well, I don't know the best way to carry that debt. So I'll just say thank you. 

You are the glass and life is the sea and yes, you have been banged up and tossed around. You've been cast aside, overlooked, and the world has often been unkind. But look at how much softer you are for it. The pain that should have hardened you made you smooth, instead. You catch the light. You shine it full and bright in my face. You show me a better way, a quiet redemption.You show me Jesus.

Confession: I came here to talk about my trip to Nashville and all the wild places I've been in a week that felt like five. I came to be funny and self-deprecating and to pretend that it isn't awkward at all to keep talking about myself. 

Apparently, this needed to come out of me first. In retrospect, it makes all the sense in the world.

I'll be back soon, with stories, pictures and sky-high drama. 

Until then,

* I randomly picked two winners from the comments of the last post. JS McCabe and Denise (@mimipapa07) you are each the winner of a Shannan Martin Writes exclusive plate collection! :) Email me at and we'll round out the details.

 ** Amazon affiliate link used

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Strange Afflictions & a Launch Day Giveaway

A little over a year ago my heart started doing strange things. Per my usual, which is hardly ever normal-usual, it was difficult to explain. The symptoms didn't fit neatly on a diagnostic checklist. I made an appointment and sat awkwardly on the little table while a cranky doctor squinted at me a bit sideways, unable to hide his confusion. (If you've been around here for a while, you'll recall this isn't really anything new.) He asked questions, I answered. "No, it doesn't hurt." "It's not skipping beats." "It's sort of...vibrating. And I can hear it. With my ears."

He was skeptical. But he hooked me up to the monitor and told me again, "You are fine. Everything is okay. Is it possible that you're under stress of some kind? Let's have a look again in a year, just to check in."

I wandered out to the front desk and they scheduled me for September something-or-other, 2016. All I could think was, "The next time I'm here, my book will be out."

The same book I was neck-deep in writing at the time. The one that made it hard to sleep. The one that made me believe my ears could hear my heart buzzing.

I recently canceled that follow-up appointment. It seemed like the least awkward response and honestly, though my doctor is nicer than I originally thought and would happily take my cash, I'm not sure I can bear his questions, which he (rightly so) forgets he has already asked me several times over the past six years. I know what's happening now when it happens, this collision of excess energy.

I am fine. Everything is okay.

But it's September 20th, and my book was born early this morning. I've never given birth to a human, much less a paperback.

I don't know exactly how I feel right now, and it's much too early in the day/week/month to anticipate how I'll feel overall.

As I told Jamie Ivey on the Happy Half Hour podcast that aired earlier this week, "It's like standing in my underwear." (I listened to this one with my family because it's SO MUCH FUN and you cannot imagine how happy this line made Silas.)

Just know that I'm here, alive and kicking, a little nervous but not too nervous to eat. Cory surprised me by taking a vacation day and we have big plans to keep ourselves distracted.

But mostly, I'm just grateful to be living this dream I never could have anticipated. The book is written, people will respond like they do, whatever that happens to mean. Some will love it. Some will not. But God will use it to wake us up and shake us up, I believe that with my whole heart. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Throughout this post I'm sharing quotes from some of you who have already finished the book and so sweetly wrote and shared reviews. (Click on their links to read more and to check out their blogs. There are some talented writers on my launch team!) It is so much fun to watch Falling Free find a home in the hearts of other fumbling humans longing for home and willing to get banged up and messy while they wait.

If you haven't ordered your copy, you can do that at Barnes & Noble, Amazon,, Books-A-Million, or iBooks, to name a few. You can also go crazy-analog, drive to a bookstore, and bring home a physical! It's so weird. It's so amazing!

I would love you forever (on top of the forever-way I already love you,) if you would be willing to share Falling Free with your people. I simply cannot pretend to be the girl who "doesn't care" if people buy the book. I care. I believe in the message of the Gospel, to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves, to care for overlooked and forgotten people, to make kin of lost souls, to identify with broken humans. I believe from my graying roots down to my size 9 Converse tennis shoes that freedom comes after surrender, and that one of the best things we can do for the kingdom is hop off the ladder, relinquish our DIY plans, and fall down to the low places around us, where God is already very much at work, waiting for us to join him.

Here's where it gets even more interesting: I have been collecting plates. Long after our famed Plate Auction. I have no explanation. It is an affliction which is impossible to diagnose (I see a theme!) and one for which I hope to never find a cure.

(If you feel a giveaway brewing, it means you're perceptive and should be rewarded with a generous slab of pumpkin cake or whatever else you happen to have lying around.)

All you have to do to enter is share Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted. Share it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, your personal blog. Share it with your pastor, your lady's ministry, your book club. Share it with your neighbor. Get all Dr. Seuss if you want and share it here and there and everywhere. You can find shareable images on the book website, search the Instagram hashtag #fallingfreebook, or just go rogue and do your own thing.

In the comments below, tell me where/how you shared. That's it. You don't have to include a link and I'm not going to check up on you, because I'll be busy looking for sea glass up on Lake Michigan or stress-watching episodes of American Crime or praying haphazardly and out loud, or baking, or folding laundry. Or all of the above.

I trust you. Of course I do! You are my actual people, and if you don't believe me, then why did I thank you in my acknowledgements in the back of the book? I simply could not have done any of this without you, my tribe. So allow me to call in every favor in two little words, "Please Help".

This giveaway will run through Friday at 11:59 Eastern time, in which I will close comments and choose two random Plate Collection winners. (Disclaimer: I'm traveling this week, so I won't announce winners until next week.)

We did it. We're doing it. Let's never quit.

Please keep falling with me,

* I can ship plates only in the Continental USA
**Amazon affiliate link used


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Love on a Monday

Yesterday morning I dropped Silas and Ruby off like I do every day, where the sidewalk splits, kissing their faces and whispering final thoughts. We were running on the later side, kids filed into the building for breakfast and learning. Another Monday morning. I pushed ear buds into place and headed toward the walking path. It had taken just one complaint about a sinister looking guy watching me from up under the eaves of the bridge before Cory ordered me a can of pepper spray. I often wonder if I'd even know what to do with it, or if it's one more hassle I'll never use.

The leaves are just starting to fall, brown and not at all beautiful, the first to give up. I listened to a friend as she burned her sweet potatoes from across the miles, delivering the sweetest monologue about the ways a family can turn on a dime, how we're so much readier to offer love than we could imagine, how we're more resilient than we even know. Her laugh rang in my ears, effervescent. Monday was off to a fine start.

I saw him from a short distance, sitting alone on the bench, his dirt bike cast aside. I did the necessary, knee-jerk mental math, calculating risk and plotting myself on a map no one else was close enough to see. I said hello. Made eye contact. He did the same and we were fine. We were fine. I kept on walking.

I walk because I want to know my place is lovely. I walk because I want to know I belong. So if I happen to catch dew bouncing light off the leaves of a very tall weed, or the sun slants just right through trees and breaks the asphalt into a million stunning promises, I will stop to take a picture. There's no other way, and I don't care to return to the days when I didn't notice.

Stepping out from the brush, he blew past me on his bike, turning around just a little. It was that fraction of a moment, that slight twisting of his neck, that worried me. No doubt, that's the only reason I'm still talking about him today. The truth is, I will never know what he was thinking, or why he sat there early on a Monday morning. But I know it made me nervous, and I know I wouldn't have felt the same if his hair were tidier, his clothes less baggy, or if he'd worn a helmet like the good work commuters do. He was probably my people - one of the lost boys of this city who prowl the streets alone, avoiding eye contact while begging someone to look them in the eye. My gut knew we were kin, but my brain protested. Isn't that what life asks of us, to lean heavy on the scale of our perceived self protection?

Well, I've been called a fool before.
I walked the rest of the way home, past spitting-mad pit bulls and windows dressed in plastic. I saw morning glories creeping through chain link and saw myself, not sure whether I was the flower or the fence.

I came home asking questions, "How can we be nearer to one another today? What do we have to offer? What do we need? How can we carry love with an open hand?" A few minutes later, a police officer sauntered past my window and I edged it up so I could hear the drama through the screen, like any good neighbor would do. No lights or sirens, their cars eventually pulled away, and that's when the shouting began. Monday morning, and some of my neighbors hate each other. Monday morning, and you couldn't tear me away from this busted up place with its busted up people.

Cory and I have cycled back down into some kind of emotional low place. At least now we know to expect it. I worry about repeating myself here, frustrated by the way my heart wants most to write the hard stuff, skewing my reality and what filters out to you. Please remember, so much goes unwritten, especially the beautiful mundane that holds us together between the rough spots. Just this morning a neighbor boy at the bus stop showed me his broken pinky finger and I wished for two strips of tape to hold it steady against his ring finger while it heals. That's what we are. That's what we do. Sometimes I'm the sideways pinky. Sometimes it's you.

Here's what I know today about love - it demands every cell of me. It requires long stretches of wandering through the parts of life that have had the color sucked out of them. It means losing sleep over children who call me "Mrs. Martin," or, "Calvin's mom," or who don't call me anything at all. It means almost giving up - almost - before remembering the heart truly does not choose who to love, and my heart loves folks who might fall into early graves with a twist of track-marks only mapping half the places they've been. It might happen. It might be happening. If it does, they'll know I love them to the bitter end. They'll know none of it mattered, not really, and that I always knew there was hope, I always saw them through the lens of their healthiest self. They were welcome at my table and their jokes never lost their punch. Their eyes, as dim as they might have been, never stopped bouncing love and light back to me.

Love means sitting together in sadness, in the dark of night, driving drunks home and hearing their pain. It also means feeling it with them, grabbing a corner to lighten the load in ways that might be imperceptible, but believing it matters anyway.

Love means powering off my phone. Love means burning the noodles and showing up instead with just potatoes and cabbage - this is all I have to offer. It means you'll heap it onto your plate, tease me, and talk to me about what's real in a sacred space carved from our collective doubt.

Love means hearing, "I'll do anything to make it up to you. Anything," and realizing the only thing I want is to keep him by my side, to have him near, to know he believes all my truths were forged for him, too.

Love is a back-rub. A pile of tear-stained kleenex.  A brand new set of teeth, offered free of charge. It's telling the hardest truth and believing we'll survive. It's answering the phone after midnight. It's asking the complicated questions, mining my history and spreading it out in before me for a long, honest look. This is where I came from. This is how I got here. This is why I stay.

Love means being willing to be lonely. It means feeling out of place so others can feel known. Love means having little but offering it anyway. It also means having a lot but realizing it's not helpful in the first place.

At first glance, my Monday offered little opportunity to love and be loved. I hate feeling ordinary. I miss the days when life buzzed with double-shots of emotional espresso. It made for good stories. It made me feel useful. It made the days fly by.

But when I stay stubbornly awake, pinching my arms and slapping my cheeks when necessary, I notice that love often lives somewhere in the spin of tires, the whir of lawnmowers, the school bells, the timer on the stove. Love loves slow and quiet places. It dares us to enter in, where we cannot be distracted by the bustle and where emergencies show up small.

In and out. On and on.
We are all still very much alive.


{One week left to pre-order Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted and grab the pre-order freebies! And there's a good chance people who pre-order will actually end up getting it early.}

Saturday, September 3, 2016


We are alive! The Martins are alive and well! We were busy last week and then decidedly unbusy this week and now that we're staring down a long weekend, we've decided to continue with the unbusiness. It suits us.

Tonight we wandered around our city's First Friday, scoping out VW camper-vans (Silas was tremendously impressed not by the fact that they had beds and kitchens, but that they had electrical outlets,) we hit up the churches that offer free food, we played corn-hole, we said a few hellos, the kids had snow cones, we and we held hands for a very long time, in air just the right shade of perfect.

One of the teacher's from the kids' school stopped and offered to take our pic!

{Please notice Ruby's Barbie, which she had to bring with her, and posed in a variety of ways throughout the night, but please don't ask her about it because she's apparently very uncomfortable talking about this portable show-piece of hers. She hates to attract attention.}

I hope you have lots of nothing planned, yourselves.

No laboring! None at all! We shall not be laborers!


::  This photo essay of two sisters will split your heart open! (And the third photo down looks just like Ruby River.)

::  My favorite source for colorful, durable, super cute, first-hand kids clothing is having a massive sale - 20% off everything (including clearance!) and free shipping. We love their global perspective and their commitment to ethical sourcing! 

:: A heartfelt black perspective on white privilege.  

::  This blog post wins as the most hopeful things I've read all week. I keep finding myself thinking about it.

::  I'm obsessed with these flowers. Obsessed! {Follow them on IG for a sunnier feed.}

::  I won bonus points for making these carnitas tacos this week. (Silas: "Do we eat tacos every day?" Only when we're lucky, son...)

:: Remember the time I celebrated back-to-school by decorating my house with trash?

::  In recent weeks I've been on a few podcasts. Catch me on the Billy Graham radio program and on Around the Table.

:: I'll file this one under, 'Gimme back my theological comforts! I don't like being convicted!' {"We rely more on the Bible than we do on the living and active Spirit of God within us...While the Bible is an important and authoritative guide for Christian faith and practice, it isn’t the foundation or center of our faith- Jesus is."}

::  I love my city so much! {"It’s not unusual for today’s American cities to have a demographic makeup that is more diverse than in years past. What is unusual, however, is for a city government to not only adjust to the changing population, but to acknowledge that it is a better place because of it. Of course, Goshen has always been known for being a bit unusual – in the best possible way."}

::  Loving these letterpress state flower prints. (Indiana's flower is the peony! Swoon.)

::  5 Reasons to Quit Your Church. Boom/Ouch.

::  Getting ready to dig into this with a side of this.

::  And pssst! I'm two point five weeks away from this. It's surreal. I can't talk about it. Unless it's after midnight and Cory's trying to sleep, and then I actually have quite a bit to say. ;)

Happy Weekending!

*Amazon affiliate link used