I read a book recently. It had no cover and no binding, but it had a strong spine.
Somehow, I got to be part of a launch team for Shannan Martin's book, Falling Free.
Blast off is today!
A few weeks ago, I downloaded a paper copy and got comfortable in my bed.
I figure that my best move and highest honor as your friend (and hers) is to tell you about it.
Falling Free is about a girl and a boy with a farmhouse dream. Shannan by her own words "was supposed to be a farm girl catching raspberries in the bowl of my apron".
Instead she and her husband, Cory, found themselves in a
"world outside our windows of a mash-up of buckled sidewalks, heartbroken humans, truant teenagers, and the occasional peal of mariachis."
And they fit right in.
Poetic. And I have my own farmhouse dream so I ventured in with some fear.
The Martins kept finding their farmhouse dream coming up short, not in the peaceful scenery of six acres for her free range children or in the hard work it took to get there, that was all safe and secure, maybe too safe and secure, but deep down in what she calls the un-fancy gospel.
The un-fancy Gospel is the upside-down world of Jesus the Christ walking around in skin and sweat in a pack of disreputable friends without a place to lay his head. Jesus, the King and Son of God walking around in dirt and dishonor among us.
Here I have to stop myself, because I say I know this about Jesus and his un-fancy Gospel, that he bent low to be with us, but I start getting uncomfortable if it presses in too close to home. I go for comfortable and safe - comfortable shoes, safe neighborhoods, comfortable Gospel. I want everyone safe and comfortable and generally trending up.
Here is what rolls around in my head for myself, my kids and well, pretty much everybody.
Come on people, let's make good decisions and work hard and do good. Let's be responsible, finish school, get good jobs and live in nice neighborhoods where we can send our children to the best schools. Let's make the world a better place to live.
What 's wrong with that?
I still want that for my grandchildren too, toddling around this world already.
Not a thing, really. We all want better lives for our children in this world. But there might be another economy at work, one for the children who are lost and abandoned. The Martins heard a call (a push really) to apply their dreams and grit to a less idyllic spot in the world. Turns out it was not so far from their farmhouse, but it was miles away.
They went and took their children. There's that spine I was talking about.
And they looked for more children to love on, "big kids with hard lives".
Part of why I connected with this book is that I've seen these kids up close. I didn't raise them, but they walk through our doors at Door to Grace* everyday.
In the coziest home-like place we could create, we welcome them with open arms, help with homework, sit around the dinner table listening and laughing. We try to build trust, mentor, meet their teachers, go to court with them, visit them in the hospital and in jail, and welcome them back again when they run. Again and again.
Talk about upside-down lives. These kids have been legally and physically removed from their families for their own safety and survival, but not before they were unsafe and barely survived.
Sometimes I want to run.
It is hard to hear about their lives (and bodies) before they ever learned to read and write. Add to that the decade since with as many foster home placements as years, more exploitation and their own scary choices and you've got big kids with hard lives.
These kids are in every city in America. Most need a home, and one single true and wise friend, a consistent, trustworthy and familiar face to love them in their hard lives. They all need the loving hands and feet and heart of Jesus right where they live.
So do their teachers, case workers, foster parents, adoptive parents and after-care providers.
That kind of gritty love is within our hands to give. One way or another. It doesn't have to be just as the Martins did it. I have seen there is a lot of room here. But it will take that same falling free heart.
Shannan describes so aptly the scene of loving these kids,
"These big kids, they will wreck you.
They won't always be as grateful as you hope and will expose your own selfishness. They'll storm off when you tell them the truth about things.
They'll smoke on your front porch. They'll tell you lies.
They hog the couch and make you laugh when you're trying to read. They'll eat nasty food. They'll teach you things you never wanted to know about a life you couldn't possibly have imagined.
They'll find the loosest seam of your heart , and they'll yank that thread.
They'll go home. Go to jail. Go missing for months on end. They'll avoid your calls. They'll unfriend you.
You'll tell yourself you're done, then wonder where they're sitting as the moon lifts higher.
You'll worry every single day about them and their failures, but you just won't care too much about the mistakes. You only want them safe under your roof. You want to feed them peanut butter cake and heat them a bowl of soup.
In many ways, this book will wreck you, but don't stay away. You'll get uncomfortable reading it, but you'll be alright. Read it and be inspired in your own way to follow Jesus to the run-down, buckled-sidewalk part of town.
It might start as a walk down an iffy neighborhood street. It might be for an hour or a day or to live for good. It might start as an offering of school supplies, art supplies, sports equipment, books, food or your own self. It doesn't matter, but it will be for good.
You'll feel upside-down, but it might be because you are doing cartwheels.
I was on my way to Door to Grace* one day when I snapped this photo out of my car windshield. At that time, I was in the midst of reading Falling Free and Shannan's words kept me going with fresh resolve.
I realized I can be uncomfortable and right where I am supposed to be.
Happy Birth-day Falling Free!
Help me celebrate by ordering Falling Free and see the world upside-down.
*Visit Door to Grace to learn more about helping sexually exploited children find freedom and family.