Heaven Come Down

{I wrote this after returning from the IF:Gathering a few weeks ago and am just now getting around to posting it:)}

My head is still spinning from the last few days, and I’m not sure I have enough perspective to articulate it well. I’m sure I’ll gain more as I go, but there’s something powerful about sharing from the “in-between,” so that’s what this is an attempt to do.

Let me first say this: I recoil at words like “world-changer” and “visionary.” Not for others, but for myself. I am a practical, deliberate, detail-concerned, often-too-nervous-to-get-in-the-boat-much-less-rock-it” kind of girl. And I’m not saying I’m proud of it; I’m just setting the stage for what I got to experience.

By nature, I’m a questioner. A doubter. A skeptic, if you will.

I’m sure I’m painting a picture that makes you dream of being my friend-what with all my positive traits and such.

But I think that’s why this weekend meant so much to me; because I didn’t see it coming the way others did.

In case you haven’t heard much about the IF:Gathering, the heart of it was a group of women coming together regardless of denomination and background and asking Jesus to bless our time as a collective whole. Through worship, teaching, prayer, and earnest desire to know Him and serve Him well, we just let it unfold.

As I hope was the case for everyone there and everyone who watched online, I heard from the Lord in specific ways throughout our time together. It wasn’t show, and it wasn’t perfectly coordinated or planned. In fact, as a part of the leadership team, I’ll give you this little glimpse behind the scenes.

We spent a whole lot more time as a team on our knees than we did micro-managing.

And whenever the Spirit lead Jennie to change something, no matter how absurd it may have appeared, she did it. She continually backed away from any plan she could have concocted and simply said she trusted the Lord and she trusted us. She didn’t flinch when there were challenges; she nodded. And I was moved by that trust many times this weekend, wondering if I would have done the same.

I won’t blubber on about the team that pulled this off, although I certainly could. These women are sisters to me in a unique and powerful way-a path that was carved from the purest motives and the most willing hearts I’ve ever encountered. There were hard conversations over the months, and many text messages asking for prayer and wisdom. But I hesitate to say more, and I’ll tell you why:

I don’t want you to feel like you aren’t a part of it.

That was our intention from the very beginning. How can we make it accessible? How can we frame it so it doesn’t look or feel like a clique or a cliché? How can we tell these women that we are for them, with them, and family to them?

If you were there, or if you watched, I hope you felt that. Because the heart of IF is the unity of women, and I think we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

On the way home yesterday, I cried on both of my flights. And for the record, this was not turbulence-induced, which goes straight into the noteworthy category. I listened to one song over and over (it’s called Spirit Break Out by Kim Walker-Smith…good stuff), and in the lyrics she talks about heaven touching earth. Staring out the window, miles above the streets, I had a thought I had never had before.

Do we really want that?

We hear the phrase often: heaven come down.

But in our heart of hearts, would we really want it?

If heaven came down, and all the people in it, we would have to acknowledge a few things I think might challenge us. Like the fact that we’re shoulder to shoulder with the guy we argued with on Twitter about what a Scripture passage meant.

We’d be looking in the eyes of people we had ignored our entire lives.

If heaven came down, we’d have to admit that maybe (just maybe) our humility should have trumped our pride a little more often.

But the issues, you say…all the issues…

And I hear you. But I need you to understand that the issues are secondary compared to loving like Jesus loved. They don’t go away, and we don’t have to turn in our conviction-cards in order to live in community.

Without question, I would be considered one of the more conservative members of IF, but listen. We never lined up according to our stances; we circled up because of Him. We didn’t wear badges to identify our opinions about women in ministry or how old the earth is.

It’s pretty hard to look people in the eye when you’re standing in that sort of line, isn’t it?

Ultimately, this is what made me cry on the way back to Nashville; the sense that I’ve lined up more than I’ve linked arms out of my own fear of being misunderstood. And at some point, I have to acknowledge that heaven looks more like a circle than I have cared to admit. At a very basic level, I’m saying there is at least a chance that I’ve been wrong about some of the convictions that kept my sisters at arm’s length. And for some reason I just don’t imagine I’ll be sharing eternity with them while continuing to hash out our differences.

Am I saying you should loosen the grip on your beliefs? Absolutely not.

I’m saying you should simply make sure you are embracing people with the same fervor.

So that’s my challenge for you today: live like heaven came down.

In your neighborhood, in your friendships, and even in the places you wander online. I saw a glimpse of it in a crowded music hall in Austin, and I’m convinced it’s beautiful, and maybe even more surprisingly-that it’s possible.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hallway

It was a lengthy consultation, and the end result was a plan to say goodbye to four teeth and several (SEVERAL) thousand dollars.

Two of said teeth would be Abby’s, and the other two would be Ellie’s.

The money would be ours.

We had prepared for the latter, but the former was troubling for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I was going to have to tell them they were having teeth yanked out.

Maybe I should rewind and clarify.

They are tender girls; prone to concern the same way their mother is. We cover our eyes when people get hurt in movies and we cry when we say goodbye for a few days. We don’t do “new” or “change” well, nor do we relish the idea of medical treatment.

When I was in junior high, my parents gave me a book about a giraffe who was afraid to have her tonsils taken out because they thought it would help me get over my fear. For the record, I still have my tonsils. And all of my wisdom teeth. But I got rid of the giraffe book. Never mind the fact that I received a cartoon book a few years before my driver’s license. Let’s not concern ourselves with labels here; tender will do just fine.

I told them about the teeth. Very nonchalantly, as if everyone did this sort of thing. They were watching carefully and I actually played it off pretty well.

It wasn’t a fantastic response, but we got through it.

Several weeks passed and the appointment was coming up, so I reminded them that this was the week that they were going to get braces and also maybehavetheirteethremoved.

There were mixed emotions. Some excitement about the braces, some nervousness about the orthodontist chairs and tools, and a whole lot of talking through different scenarios.

The night before the appointment, Todd and I kissed them to bed and sat on the couch to talk about how we were going to tag-team the next day. I asked Todd how we were going to do the payment, and he explained that we were going to split it up between 2 credit cards. Because I know that some of you like your envelopes and such, I will ease your minds. We don’t keep balances on our cards, but we (read: Todd) like to get our airline miles when we can, and let’s just say “braces for twins” is a RIPE mileage opportunity.

A few minutes after this discussion, Abby came down the stairs to where we were sitting and informed us that Ellie was sitting in her bed crying. I told her to tell Ellie to come down and talk with us, and a few seconds later our red-faced, tween-ish, how-did-she-get-that-tall daughter came into the room and plopped on the couch.

Because I have an advanced degree in these matters, I took the reigns by telling her it was natural to be fearful, because for CRYING OUT LOUD THEY ARE GOING TO YANK PERMANENT TEETH OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

She listened patiently and then explained that she wasn’t afraid. Or rather, she hadn’t been before my little tirade. I had successfully paved the way for terror, so I prayed the same prayer I do many times a day, in which I ask the Lord to omit this memory from her mental scrapbook and replace it with some sort of baking adventure.

“Oh. Okay. So you’re not crying because you’re scared?” I asked. “Then what’s going on, babe?”

She hesitated. She started to speak and then her lip quivered and she tightened her mouth.

“It’s okay, hon.” Todd offered.

After two more attempts, she finally got the words, “two cards” out and we pieced it together. She had come to the edge of the stairs and had heard us discussing payment options, and she was concerned that her straight teeth were going to leave us in financial ruin.

My heart broke. She kept telling us she didn’t care about her teeth and that we shouldn’t worry about it if it was going to be that expensive. We reassured her and sent her back to bed, both of us shaking our heads. Todd, because he thought she was so thoughtful and me because who thinks about money when there’s a drill with your name on it?

In any case, we made it to the next morning and joked around the whole way over to the orthodontist’s office. Abby kept reminding Ellie how much she liked the “funny juice” when her arm was broken, so Ellie was at least looking forward to having that experience.

Before we got out of the car, I prayed for them. I asked to take a “before” picture and we all smiled like we were happy. It’s what you do for scrapbooks, right? Even though years from now we will sit around a table and look at it and I’ll tell them I was trying not to panic. And then I’ll tell them that I watched their tall legs walk themselves into the office and I had to push my feet to follow because I wanted them to be too young to open doors alone.

We made our way back to the check-in area and as I started answering the questions the woman was asking, I noticed Abby swaying side to side. The sway is the pre-cursor to the tears for her, so I kept her on my radar.

Finally I looked right at her and saw that her cheeks were hot and her eyes were a blink away from spilling over. As soon as she saw me looking at her, she crumpled her face and buried herself in my side. Ellie was trying to be tough but she wasn’t far behind.

I whispered to Abby and rubbed her back, reminding her that this was a normal thing and we were going to be just fine.

The receptionist had watched it happen, and when she saw the tears she stopped tying and looked Abby straight in the eye.

“You’re scared, hon?” she asked. Abby nodded.

“Do you ever pray when you’re scared?” she asked. Abby nodded again.

Her eyes were kind and weathered with years of watching nerves and hormones collide, and without another word, she reached her hand over the counter.

Abby lifted hers up, placing it in the woman’s.

“Dear heavenly Father,” she began. “Please help my sister to be brave. Help her know she is in good hands, and that this is a place where we pray for our patients and take good care of them.” She continued for a few moments while I mentally thanked God for this provision. I watched her fingers smoothe Abby’s hand while she lulled her with the prayer, and they both squeezed at the end.

Now we were all teary-eyed, and the receptionist asked Ellie if that was her full name. Ellie explained that no, it was short for her middle name, Elisabeth.

The woman smiled and said she had almost named her daughter that but she was afraid people might call her “Beth,” and she didn’t want that to happen because she had been teased in her childhood by a “Beth.”

I giggled, asking Ellie what she though of when someone said the name Beth. I knew what she was going to say, and we all laughed when she said, “Umm, Mrs. Beth Moore.”

“Well she sure makes me like that name more!” the woman said. I nodded. Me too, I thought. Me too.

We sat in the waiting area for a few minutes before they took the girls back, and they drank their “happy juice” while we waited. Abby had told me (and the receptionist) that her biggest fear was walking to the area where they would work on her.

She wasn’t afraid of the braces, necessarily. And she was handling the tooth-pulling thing like a champ. But the hallway-that was the part she had dreaded for weeks.

I asked the nurses if it would be okay if I walked them back and they enthusiastically assured me I could. I put one arm around Abby and the other around Ellie and made small talk as we traveled that long hall. I talked about the paint colors and the funny drawings on the wall, and they just listened.

Finally, they got into the main room and the sweet ladies told them where to sit. They climbed up in the chairs and introduced themselves, and when Abby started to say she was fine, her face betrayed her and she had to wipe her eyes again.

I didn’t want to stay too long because I didn’t want to be in the way, and also I wanted them to see that they were fine without me. I told them I would be right outside the room and if they needed anything, the ladies could come get me. Then I squeezed their toes through their shoes and gave them a big wink.

“See you soon!” I said, and slipped out the door.

They were fine. They were really fine.

At one point the nurse came to get me because Abby wanted to show me that she was doing a lot better. She certainly was doing better. She was cracking jokes about wanting to drink coffee and she couldn’t keep her eyes from crossing, so there was that.

Right before the teeth yanking (which came after the brackets were put on), they got me and Todd again from the waiting room to show us their new braces. We told them how great they looked and then went back out while they went into another room for the “extractions.”

It didn’t last too long, and they both did phenomenally. All the ladies working there told me how amazing they were, and how their manners were so incredible. I nodded thankfully, saying how proud I was of them and how grateful I was to be their mom.

It seems like a silly thing to say, but it was a hard day.

I have spent so many nights tucking them into their covers and asking God to bless them, and I couldn’t help but realize that all of it-the years, the moments, the songs, the late-night talks, the pancakes, the gum in the carpet, the pages of books and life…

It’s all a hallway.

Arms around them, stepping forward, eventually to tell them I’ve done my part and then point to where I’ll be waiting.

You’ll be fine. You’ll be more than fine.

Just get me if you need me.

I’m not leaving, I’m just going to be out of eyesight. And if you call me, I will race right back here and stroke your hair while you cry.

And if you don’t need me? Well that’s okay too. I mean, I’ll make it okay.

Because you are brave and smart and strong, just like your mommy.

One day we’ll do it, girls. We’ll spill out the pictures on the table and you’ll say, “That’s the day I got my braces!”

And I’ll smile and tell you the truth.

That’s the day I walked back down the hallway by myself, and I cried when I did.

I didn’t want you to see it, and you didn’t, but I steadied myself on the bright walls and covered my eyes with my hands. You couldn’t have understood it, but I bet one day you will.

And until then, just know this in every breath God gives you:

Walking with my arms around you has been the greatest joy of my life.

 

Chasing God Contest

UPDATE: A huge congratulations goes to Jacque Watkins for winning the Chasing God Contest! I can’t wait to see you in Austin in a couple of weeks and hug your neck! My publisher will be in touch with you. Thanks again to everyone who participated and helped spread the word about Chasing God

Thank you SO much for all the support you have shown for Chasing God. The most exciting part of a book release is seeing the way the Lord is using it to minister to people. Your words have meant the world to me, and it’s been amazing to hear from so many of you who are in a similar place in your faith-thank you for including me as you process the book!!! Please continue to do so :)

B&H has decided to set up a contest for y’all, and the prize is pretty great so I hope you’ll take a second to enter.

I’ve talked before about how excited I am about the IF: Gathering coming up (Feb 7-8), and would love for you to be able to join us. The tickets sold out pretty fast (like, within an hour…wow!), but we have secured 2: one for you and one for a friend.

Not only will you get to attend the conference, but your travel and hotel will also be covered. Yep, 3 days and 2 nights in Austin, courtesy of B&H Publishing.

You’ll also get 2 signed copies of the book, which, quite frankly does not sound that exciting after the above announcement. And of course, we’ll set up some time for me to squeeze your necks at the conference. Bonus points if you can tell me how to potty-train my youngest while we chat.

And what do you need to do to enter? It’s pretty easy. Post on twitter, facebook, pinterest, or instagram (or all of the above, as many times as you want…the more entries, the better your chances of winning!) and use the hashtag #ChasingGodContest.

If you’ve read the book and you want to quote something you liked or talk about a way that the Lord has spoken to you through it, that’s awesome. If not, feel free to just mention something you feel like God has shown you in this season of life through scripture or even a life circumstance. Don’t feel too pressured-we just want to hear from you-and so appreciate you helping us get the word out about the book while also entering to win a fun trip. You can also feel free to just use one the images I’ve included here with the hashtag so we see it.

The contest will run through Jan 22nd and the winner will be announced on my blog on Jan 23rd.

Can’t wait to meet a couple of you!!! And thanks again :)
A

It’s Official!

Well, today is the day.

Chasing God has officially been released!

This one was such a labor of love…I hope it speaks to you :)

I hope you all had the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years, and that God has blessed you with a sense of His wild love in the midst of all the celebration.

Thank you so much for supporting my words and my work-you’ll never know how much it has meant.

xoxo

A

 

Chasing God

I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for a good long while now and I think the best thing to do is just start.

The thing is, I’ve been dreading this post for about a year and a half.

Don’t get worried-it’s nothing terrible or shocking-just your run-of-the-mill panic.

It’s always this way when I have to make a big announcement and I feel like lots of eyes turn my way, but this one is different. Every book I’ve written has been borne of struggle and crafted from the deepest part of me, but again, this one is just different.

Because it was, without question, the hardest work I’ve ever done. And I hope, the best. I don’t necessarily mean that the writing is perfect (it’s not) or that you’ve never read anything like it before (you likely have), but I will say that from the very beginning of the process I knew that God was working.

I labored with the Lord through some of the darkest hours of my faith, and I learned how to face questions I have long held silent in public for fear of being misunderstood.

I wrote through hot tears and fresh revelation, anxiously turning in a manuscript that nobody had even read portions of yet. It felt risky and vulnerable, and in a way, sad.

It was sacred to me, and I knew every twist in the road He had walked with me while I wrote. I remember the moment it began to stir in me, months before a word was written.

I sat in front of a computer with an assignment and the Lord told me I was in no position to complete it.

He was right.

And one day, out of pure desperation, I basically told Him I had no idea how to be a follower of Christ. I realized how much of my walk was focused on looking like other Christians instead of Christ.

 What is this supposed to look like? Am I doing it wrong?

And He brought me words that would spill into more words, and eventually, He brought me peace I hadn’t understood before writing. No matter how much I try, I can never convey the impact of one phrase that haunted me from the beginning- a phrase that shaped the book that healed me.

Stop chasing Me.

And I was-I can see that now. Chasing when I should have been following, always feeling like He was out of reach and up ahead somewhere. I was as honest as I could be about my struggles with faith, and I opened a door I wanted to slam shut because the bigger part of me just wanted to know I wasn’t alone in my experience.

My kind, supportive publishing company has always believed in me as a writer and has been more generous than I can say in every way throughout the years. And one afternoon, over chips and salsa, my editor got to surprise me with news that they had decided to make it a hardback book-my first.

 

 

I cried because they got the message of the book, and that they thought other people might get it as well.

My prayer (my solemn, heartfelt, voice-quivering prayer) is that it will speak life into you as well.

There will be more talk about it in the coming months (It releases on January 1), but B&H has agreed to do something pretty remarkable over the next 2 weeks, and that’s why I’m putting this note up today. I hope you’ll take advantage of it!!!

If you pre-order “Chasing God” in that time period, you will receive a free (physical, not digital!) copy of either “I Will Carry You” or “What Women Fear.” You just choose which one you want and it will be shipped to you directly in time for you to give away as a Christmas gift or whatever you’d like :)

Seriously. No catch.

Click HERE to fill out your info once you’ve preordered. And, if you’re having any trouble with that form, you can email your receipt and info to chasinggodbook@gmail.com and we’ll take care of the rest. :)  

Thank you for allowing me the privilege of this space to share my heart-and know that not a second of it is taken for granted. It’s been quite a journey this past year or so, and what has sustained me is the thought that it might be a beacon for y’all.

I pray it is:)

 

 

 

 

 

Of Linen and Grace

Sewing is one of my escapes.

I lock myself in my little room, turn on the machine, and wait for the machine foot to lurch to the side, indicating that it’s ready to go.

I start a lot of projects, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I finish about 1/10th of them. I don’t know. I guess they’re just better when they stay in my mind and the needle hasn’t pierced them poorly yet.

So they pile up and stare at me, taunting me with my own inadequacy.

Scraps lie all around the floor-some from an old baby dress I got halfway through and others from a quilt I have determined to finish before Christmas. They blend together in a hazy stack of discarded odds and ends, and I realize it’s been far too long since I cleaned the floor.

Ellie walks in and sees my hands grabbing anxiously at the colors and she looks concerned.

You aren’t throwing those away, are you? She asks.

Yeah, babe. They’re just the leftovers. She winces at my response.

Well, can I just keep them then? She asks. I nod, feeling a familiar sense of guilt run through my body.

It’s just been one of those days where my failures are shouting louder than my successes, and I’m convinced I’ve let them down. I don’t pray over them every night the way I should. I get distracted when I should be focused on conversation. I anger easily and form my own opinions before letting them speak their minds. I am quick to hush them and slow to spill grace.

I am the mom who leaves scraps instead of what should have been, and it’s eating me alive.

I see her scrambling and tears come to my eyes. I don’t even know how to verbalize it to her, because it is so profound a realization that all I can do is watch, my arms clinging to my elbows as I blink away my sadness.

What have I done?

That’s from a dress I started for you, Ellie. I manage.

She looks up at me and sees that I’m red-faced and broken hearted, and she comes to me with the fabric in her hand.

Mommy, I don’t need to take them… She starts. But I shake my head side-to-side. No, I assure her. They are yours. But you should be wearing it and not scraping from the carpet, I mumble. I explain that I’m just thinking and it satisfies her enough to go back to the gathering.

We do this, you know. We have great plans, grand ideas of mothering and care-taking and preparing a child for life, and at the end of many days we just feel like we’ve left it in pieces. What’s here for them to take is not near enough, we say. And we cry because we wish we had done it better.

We wish our fingers always zipped and buttoned the completed gown instead of staring at the remainders of our dreams for them.

It stays with me, this image. And in the middle of the night, for many nights to come, I will awake with her in my thoughts. She is kneeling, desperate, hungry for more than my gift to her. And I cry more than I remember crying in years.

It will be better, I tell her.

But she doesn’t know what I mean by that. She nods so I will wipe my eyes and make her feel like I’m okay, but she doesn’t understand my brokenness or my choppy words as I try to make right what she doesn’t realize is wrong.

I’m gone this weekend, I tell her. But I will be home.

I will always come home to you, Ellie.

It’s just that I have to do my job and it’s what the Lord has for me, and I want to be obedient and good and…does she hear me?

She is nodding and smiling and happy and I don’t know why because it’s all a mess, but I have no choice but to leave it be for now. I pack, I pray, and I drive away from the house and family I love so much, and I leave them the pieces again.

I feel the Lord’s peace as I go, though. And it doesn’t make sense to me but in a way I know He is saying, “Leave it to Me, love.” And so I do.

Two days pass and I come home to a clean house and a candle burning and I realize all the gaps that have been filled in my absence. The kids are joyful, eager to see me but not destroyed by the distance.

I give hugs and little airport gifts and we laugh and tickle and hope together for a few minutes and then I go to take a hot shower and wash the fear away again.

I stop cold in front of my sewing room.

The door is cracked and the light is on, so I push it open and I see a child-sized chair piled high with scraps.

They’ve been organized by color and size, and I realize there is more than I knew there was.

It’s enough to make something, I think.

And the tears come again, because I realize that in all the things I thought were failures, my love gave them something to take with them even if I never got it exactly right.

She tells me her plans for them, and I know it will be a more spectacular piece than anything I could have hemmed and ironed.

I’m giving her the pieces she needs-exactly the pieces she needs-to make her life an offering to the Lord.

She didn’t need the dress.

She needed the mother who gave her enough to sew something beautiful of her own.

What I thought was trash-what I thought was the remnant of my own mistakes-has become the fiber of her creation, and I stand in awe already of the way she has begun to join them together.

And so my prayer has changed.

I don’t spend more time worrying about what I don’t give them than I do praising Him for what He allows me to give them.

I am not their God, I am their mother. 

And they don’t need homemade clothes as much as they need to know how to sew life.

We give them more than we realize we do, and every time we step in obedience, we hand them more and more to string together in His name. They know I’m afraid of flying, afraid of speaking in public, and afraid of failing those around me. But they see the doorknob turn and they know that I’m stitching as well.

It’s more than we realize, this obedience.

It’s more than we realize, these slivers of linen and grace.

And God-willing, they will grow to love the needle as I do, and they will smile one day as their own children gather what’s left at their feet.

It is exquisite, this pieced-together faith.

And thanks be to the God of grace, I am finding it is more than enough.

 

IF: Gathering


It’s been a few years since I first sat face-to-face with Jennie Allen, listening to her pour out her heart for ministry. Our Mexican food got cold while we were caught up in processing important things like our calling, the meaning of grace, the nearness of a God who makes Himself small on our behalf, and where in the world she got that fabulous necklace.

I’m going to be incredibly (and very vulnerably) honest with you. For those of you who have read here for awhile it won’t be any great surprise to know that I have always struggled with the feeling of “fitting in.”

As an elementary school student, I blamed it on a combination of anxiety and the lack of a velour Jordache shirt (I got one eventually. It was maroon, and every bit as fabulous as you would imagine it was. It did nothing for my social status but it was as soft as…well, fake velvet. So there was that.).

In high school, I finally made the cheerleading squad. Fully expecting this to be a social pinnacle, I was disappointed the first day I wore my uniform to school and everyone still treated me like I was still a mere mortal. Did NOT see that coming.

I also didn’t anticipate the middle of the night prank calls, when they called me names and told me how much I was hated.

What stung the most was hearing my dad’s labored breathing, having picked up the phone at the same moment I had, pulling him out of sleep and into my shadowed world. I won’t forget that sound. Not ever. Because I knew he was more hurt than I was, and long after the dial tone stopped I was still crying and he was still listening.

The truth is, I have always played the part very well.

But inside, I’m restless and doubtful. I tend to feel like I don’t actually have much to offer and I’m just painting enough of the image to make it look like it might one day be a masterpiece. Just show enough, but not too much.

I spend a lot of my time doing exactly that, and it’s no coincidence that the word “sketch” has shown up here many times. It feels like an appropriate metaphor for me, and maybe for you as well.

When I show the basic outline, there’s room for it to become something beautiful and profound. But the moment I reach for the bold red for the flames that night or the deep blue of my childhood swimming pond, I’m giving away the truth that might paint me instead.

Before the beginning of time, God stretched out life like a canvas, rounding the edges of our days and setting us on display for Himself. But even here, in the room where I’m supposed to feel comforted and connected and understood, I don’t.

It’s not just one room. It’s a long turquoise-colored carpet in a Baptist church where I watched my feet go one in front of the other, praying they wouldn’t follow me out. I pretended to be on my phone because I knew I was going to cry if I heard their voices together. My third week there in Bible class and they never invited me to lunch. It’s a small thing, I know. But the small things add up.

Some of it is laughable now; all the times as a new believer (at the ripe age of 24) when I mistakenly believed that the land of the Christians was somehow different than all the other places. Should it be? Yes. But you and I know that’s not always the case.

Why ruin a beautiful work of art with details like my personal theology or doubts about faith? Because if I can just manage the outlines, I won’t have to bleed truth at the risk of being shut out.

There have been many conversations over the past several years where food has grown cold while words lingered and stirred my heart. And they have, in their entirety, convinced me of one very simple fact.

I am often much more consumed with the brushstrokes I’m making than the image He is  displaying of Himself through me.

He is the artist, not I.

My job is to tremble at the thought of being a part of it, pointing there and not here.

While it’s good and necessary to have convictions, we’re missing the point when we allow them to completely alienate us from those we could learn from. And when we avoid the conversation because we’re concerned with how it affects our presentation, we have put God behind a lens that makes Him blurry to a watching world.

When Jennie asked me to be part of a leadership team several months ago, I was surprised. I saw the list of other names and I couldn’t figure out why mine was there. It isn’t false humility; it’s truly how I respond. I don’t have a degree. I don’t feel capable. I had to google post-millennialism once on my pink-striped IPhone during a conversation so I would know why I was nodding my head.

I am one sweater away, people. One sweater.

And I wonder if you would say the same.

You can’t find your niche, your tribe, your cause, or your voice. Or maybe you have given up on finding those things because right now you just need to find silence in a house where kids scream and make art with your mascara (ON THE MIRROR, ON HER FACE, AND ALL OVER THE TOILET SEAT. Hypothetically speaking, of course.) and the word “purpose” feels loaded.

So instead of figuring out where we fit, we decide to draw boundaries instead. We use language and terms and issues to define ourselves by what we aren’t.

And quite frankly, this little crew that’s come together doesn’t tend to be in agreement about a lot of it. Don’t get me wrong; when it comes down to a Jesus-loving, gospel-saturated, God-seeking bunch, we’re there together.

Some of the words I’ve avoided for years have come up in conversation. As I feel myself bristle at that thought of being associated with that particular theology, I realize how outrageously egotistical it is to presume I honor God with that line of thinking. No, I likely wouldn’t have chosen these conversations, but that’s the wonder of it all. On paper it looks a little like a chaotic mess of belief systems and convictions.

But in person it feels like home.

Over and over what I feel like He’s saying to me (and to a lot of us) is this:

Have the conversations. Listen to the wisdom that’s been given to you. Realize that your time is short and the kingdom is close. What are you doing with your hours and your breath?

There is a tension that exists in our day, and I have done a magnificent job of teetering between pretending it isn’t there and feeling strangled by it.

But what if we didn’t?

That’s what she asked me over tacos and diet coke. And it’s been years, but the question still burns in my soul.

What if we had some conversations and let God be God, directing and equipping women to live in ways that magnify Him? What if we set aside our preconceived notions and just gathered to listen and obey Him?

What if?

And so, we are.

I want you to be with us if you can, because we want your voice, your opinion, and your heart. This is the beginning of something that will prayerfully honor the Lord and speak forward into generations to come, and we’re excited to be a part of it. I hope you will be as well:)

There are no pre-qualifications, no hoops to jump through, and no google prohibitions should the need for clarification arise. You’re welcome here, regardless of your views on   pressing issues or your inability to commit to velour this season.

Jennie explains the vision behind the gathering a bit HERE and also talks about how you can be involved on a local level or come to Austin and join us. Feel free to come to the IF: website as well if you just want to look around and make yourself at home.

If you choose to come to Austin on Feb. 7th-8th (and I so hope you do!), grab your tickets fast, because they are limited in quantity (not many) and price (whatever you feel led to give).  We will gather together and link our arms and talk about God’s work in and among us, and will gratefully accept the gift of togetherness for the sake of the gospel. And also we will laugh and eat a lot.

Tickets go up for grabs at 11:00 am TODAY for those on the email list. So exciting!!!!

Please pray that He would be glorified despite our meager offerings, and that we would continue to seek His face, His will, and His kingdom above all else.

With love,                          

Angie

Fall Bloom Book Club Selection

Jessica and I are SO excited about this fall’s Bloom Book Club selection.

Check out our video announcement:

We hope you’ll buy the book and join us! Visit the Bloom page for the study schedule.

See you soon!

xo

The Mark

I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be able to share this with you all, and I’m in tears (again) just mentioning it.

Evidently that’s normal for someone who is introducing her first children’s book, written in honor of the sweet daughter she lost several years ago.

It’s actually been really hard to for me to talk about it (which is why you may not even know I was working on a children’s book) because it was such a holy, healing experience. The Lord was so kind to me while I stumbled over my words and prayed for the end result and the message that would be conveyed to readers.

Yesterday was the official release day and I am already completely overwhelmed by the response to it. To me it is a representation of the way her legacy continues, and to be able to hear the way others are reading it to their own children over and over again has blessed me more than I could have imagined.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, or even if you are someone who vaguely knows her story, you’ll see a lot of “hidden” things within the book that refer to Audrey. I won’t give them all away, but I did want to tell you about my very favorite one.

It’s the one that means the most to me, and I’ve hardly been able to even talk about it before now…thank you to sweet Breezy Brookshire for supporting and loving me while we prayed through delicate decisions, and for Dan Lynch at B&H Publishing who always allowed me to have the final say, even when it made things harder for him. B&H has a strong history with me of always allowing me to have significant voice in any project, but this one was even moreso because of the sensitive subject matter. Dan, I appreciate you trusting me and allowing me to tell what was ultimately a story she could never tell for herself.

Ironically, I’m at Disney World now and the book released yesterday while I was here. So many memories and sadness associated with her here, and then to have the book in people’s hands while I am wishing she was in mine. It’s a lot to process and I know I’m doing it rather poorly here.

I hope you hear my heart, though. And I hope you know how I will forevermore be grateful for those of you who chose to be a part of her story. Please know that you have been my confidence on shaky nights and the love that propelled me to believe there would be a better day.

Yesterday we were near the carousel and our nanny Nicole saw a little girl who was lost from her family. I went up to her and introduced myself, shaking her sweet hand and asking if I could pick her up. She nodded, and tears filled her eyes as they frantically searched for a familiar face.

I told her I wasn’t going to leave her until we found her parents, and she described them very well considering she was a young child-even down to the color of stripes on her mother’s shirt. We found a man working in the park and he began to assist us, but it was clear that I was Madeline’s safety-net, her promise-giver, and her loving protector, so they requested I stay with her until her parents were found.

We galloped and she giggled.

I told her she didn’t have to be scared and I told her how remarkable her bright red curly hair was. She smiled. She wasn’t very nervous anymore because she trusted me,and we made a game of it while the men in uniforms paged one to another in search of her mom or dad.

At least 10-15minutes passed, and the man closest to me said he believed they had found them. We saw another man come around the corner and she wiggled out of my arms and ran to him, squeezing him with a huge smile on her face. She looked back at me and continued smiling.

It was at this point I realized she was almost exactly the age Audrey would have been, and I felt my throat tighten as I patted her back.

“She’s beautiful,” I told them “And really smart as well,” They agreed and thanked me. With that, she was gone. Back to where she belonged and yet I had, for a moment, felt so motherly with her that it had a twinge of sorrow.

The Lord is so kind to me in these moments, and I never miss the chance to remind me of truth.

We are lost here.

We aren’t home yet.

And we have people who love us and take care of us and steward the gift of watching over us, but they are not our ultimate home.

I believe that my Audrey has been returned to her home, and that I will see her there again.

It hurts so desperately sometimes that I don’t see how it could ever stop. But on some days I walk in the promise with a little lighter step, choosing to believe that the temporary will be swallowed and the eternal will give her to me forever.

It wasn’t an accident, what happened to my Audrey.

Who is to say exactly what or why, and I dare not suggest I know.

But I do know this.

His sovereign hand was the last she passed through, and He allowed her a few hours before He brought her to Himself. It wasn’t a mistake, a punishment, or a misunderstanding.

I am clear on the facts.

But oh…..how I miss her little red (maybe curly?) hair, and how I wanted to tell that little girl I loved being with her but I knew there was a better place.

At the end of the day, it can only come to this.

Either He is good, or He is not.

And I will say this with no sense of questioning or doubt. He is good.

He formed her and I love her just the way He chose to weave her together. I miss her, but my love for my Lord is uncompromised, and I see His hand on all the marks that the rest of the world sees as accidental at best, as punishment at worst. I see the hands of a loving Father, touching that which we may not comprehend until eternity, all the while whispering, “It is for good, love…”

That is why this particular “secret” of the Audrey Bunny book is so, so special to me.

I hope it will be to you as well.

Please watch the video and hear how it came to be…

 

 

And revere the One who wove her and spun her exactly as she was, and continues to love her in our absence.

With love,

Angie

The Left

It’s that time again.

The weight of summer heat is lifting, and the wind is whispering the first signs of fall. It’s this way for me every year, and I’ve come to expect the breathless moments that come quickly, undeniably, and often with a hunger that can’t be satiated.

I was 17, maybe 18 when it began.

My father bought an old MGA from a newspaper ad, and began to restore it to it’s original splendor, which was quite a feat considering that it had been sitting in a barn for a few decades. It wasn’t much to look at, at least not initially.

But then again, most of our best lessons come from realizing we’ve used the wrong scale to measure value, don’t they?

It was a convertible, and the torn leather seats smelled of age and memories we would never know. He sat in it and I watched him breathe it in. At the time I didn’t know what he was breathing in, but I do now.

When you were leaving our neighborhood, you could turn right and head into the main part of town. Littered with restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons and the chaos of life, it was convenient in a necessary kind of way.

But if you turned left, you would quickly end up on a winding road that felt like something out of a movie. For miles and miles there was nothing to see except trees that were towered tall and broad with invitation.

It wasn’t an easy car to drive. In the fifties they weren’t making luxury sport cars the way they do now. It was physically difficult to turn the steering wheel, and the clutch was short and unforgiving. The reverse on the stick shift was displaced from what I was used to, and it took me awhile to adjust.

When the first leaves began to fall, I took it out.

Left. I always turned left.

And about a mile down the road, with the music as loud as I could stand it, I felt like I could breathe. I mastered the clutch, intoxicated by how responsive it was-my bare feet balancing the pedals while crimson and rust-colored leaves fell by the dozens.

Hair all around me and not a single way anyone could reach me.

I whipped the corners while the tears raced back toward my ears and my eyes stung from the speed.

I could feel my fingers, sweaty on the leather-wrapped wheel while the sun splotched the road ahead of me, understanding freedom from a depth I couldn’t convey to anyone.

Even now I can’t explain it.

But I’m hungry for it. Aching for it. 

Eventually the road returns home, and life carries on. Dinner plates clanging on tables and papers to be sorted while the bath water runs. My suitcase lies empty on the bed, waiting for me to pack my beautiful clothes again, and I am grateful for the noises and the faces.

I am.

But when the wind starts to stir the grass and I catch myself staring out the window, I wonder if I’m the only one who ever wants to inhale the hours until the blood rushes again.

I find it still; I have to.

I know the way to the grocery store, the hotel lobby, and the reassuring glow of civil and gentle life.

And I live my days turning to the right, smiling and embracing all the goodness that lies there.

In my honest moments, though, I’ll tell you that I’m a girl who can’t live without the left, the wind-stung face and the roar of third gear at it’s limit just before fourth while I laugh because no one can hear me.

So if ever you should notice me staring wistfully into the distance, you’ll know why.

If you catch a look in my eye that doesn’t fit the pretty boundaries sketched out for me, or even in the event that I slip out of the room for a moment to let dusk sit on my skin-you’ll understand.

And you might even see me one day, sitting perfectly still in a car, breathing in that which was made to be more powerful than beautiful and more driven than displayed.

I suppose you could say I understand the value in that now.

It’s hard to resist the opportunity every now and then to flee-just for an hour or so-and let the roads remind me truths that often lie dormant in dinner parties and on stages.

Face flushed, heart pounding, ears ringing from it all-and summer gives way to fall again.

This life is only meant to be displayed and controlled to the extent that it glorifies God, but sometimes we get so lost in the logic that we forget what it sounds like to race against the nightfall. I know, because I’ve done it.

My fingers reach far above my head, reaching for the sweaters I packed away for them last year. As the box tumbles and they all spill out, I can’t help but smile.

I will dress them, comb their hair, and hang their dresses, yes.

But I will use the same hands that gripped the wheel, pulled the gearshift, and turned the volume all the way to the tip-top.

One day I’ll teach them how to drive.

And then I’ll watch them pulling left, wild with anticipation, and I’ll smile, knowing the truth of it all.

It’s the road that will teach them how to live.