Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted
Editor’s Note: Shannan (Garber) Martin ’98, who studied psychology at Bethel with a sociology minor, is a wife, mother of four and blogger at FlowerPatchFarmGirl.com, from Goshen, Ind. Her new book, Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted, with forward by bestselling author Jen Hatmaker, is available now for preorder on Amazon. In her own words, she shares about her Bethel experience, the writing life and her new book.
How did you grow academically and spiritually at Bethel?
Like many students, my college years were a formative time of exploring my faith outside the boundaries of my childhood home and family. Through the guidance of so many professors, mentors, and friends, along with chapel services, I took ownership of my relationship with Jesus and began to seriously consider what it meant to follow Him.
Q: What do you remember most from your time at Bethel?
A: The close community we cultivated over time. We studied, worked, and grew against the back-drop of a cobbled-together “family.” It was transformational to begin to understand why God calls us to be needy together.
When did you begin writing? Blogging?
A few years after graduating, I took a job as a researcher for a public policy think-tank in Washington, D.C. Thrown into a rigorous work environment, I continued to grow as a writer, though it would be several more years before I would transfer my writing skills into a hobby by starting a blog.
When did writing turn from a hobby into a career for you?
After a year or so of blogging just for fun, not long after buying our dream farmhouse back in Indiana, I began to find my voice as a writer. When we unexpectedly sold our farm and moved to the city, I discovered my unique story. I write most often about more serious topics, such as the continual stretching of my faith, surrender, and the beauty of loving people who are marginalized and ignored. When the opportunity bloomed in 2015 to write a book for one of the top Christian publishers, I was elated.
Describe the process of getting a book deal.
A little over a year ago, I serendipitously connected with my agent, Andrew Wolgemuth. He and his colleagues quickly put me to work writing a proposal. We pitched the proposal to various publishing houses, then chose the one we felt would be the best fit for me and my book. The process was a whirlwind; everything seemed to happen quickly. But you have to remember, this part only happened after seven years of writing for free.
The subtitle is Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted — what was the life you wanted and how did that stand in contrast to the life you’re living now?
A handful of years ago, my family was busy building the life we had subtly been taught to want: one that prioritized financial growth, professional esteem, and a focus on the security and comfort of our little family unit. Through a series of blind-siding events, we heard the clear call from God to move out from under the middle-class, evangelical bubble we existed beneath. Slowly, we were led to a new community where we began to understand the upside-down kingdom of God where little is much and our Americanized theology is challenged every step of the way. I had never considered that God’s “more” often looks to the world like “less.” God rescued me from the life I thought I wanted in order to give me the life I was made for.
Q: How has that experience shaped how you view the desires you have now?
A: I find myself holding so much more loosely to my own desires and plans. The lens has shifted from what the culture tells me to want to one in which I can just rest in God’s goodness. It takes the pressure off and makes for quite a bit of happy chaos.
Q: How do you balance your identity as a Christian and a writer?
A: My identity as a Christian is inextricably woven throughout my writing, and writing is among my purest outlets of worship. The two can’t be separated. As you can imagine, living somewhat publicly as an unashamed Christian can trigger small anxieties. I’m constantly aware of the ways I’m hard-wired to self-protect and gloss over my failures. I get things wrong. I speak when I should listen. I change my mind. I grow. There exists the temptation to style my online persona into something rosier than the person I actually am. The best way to combat this is to relentlessly hold to authenticity. Whenever possible, I try to tell the whole truth. It’s the only way to live without hiding.
See below for more photos from the trip to Ecuador.