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 🙂
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’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.
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.
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?
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.