Category Archives: faith

from the dust

I love the last day of the year.

New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite days. Because it feels like one last chance to breathe deep before the canvas is drenched in white again. One last chance to sit in the quiet with myself, contemplating all the remarkable possibilities that are held inside the walls of a new thing.

This year, the inhale of possibility and the exhale of a year feels more like relief than it has in many years. So much so that I’m starting my own quiet festivities early. Husband and puppy tucked into bed, I take to the kitchen to make some vegetable soup. Because chopping vegetables feels a little like liturgy, and God knows 2014 has needed more than its fair share of that. So I stand at the stove, and I chop, and I breathe in the smells of things that have risen from the ground, that have been brought up from the dust, and sometimes everything I need to know is in a pot of vegetable soup.

God’s best things are the things raised from the dust. The things that have been buried. The things that have been made into something new, the things brought low and destroyed in the process.

This year has been so very hard. Is it okay to say that? I hope so, because it has been.

Hear me when I tell you that I don’t say that for pity. I don’t say it to open up a public forum for me to air my personal grievances with life

I say it because I know, to the depths of my soul, that I’m not the only one.

I’m not the only one burying dreams.

I’m not the only one desperate for the clean oxygen of a fresh start.

I’m not the only one thinking, “Is it okay to say this year has been REALLY damn hard?”

I’m not the only one who needs a pot of vegetable soup and a reminder.

A reminder that God’s best things are the things raised from the dust.

You have not been left buried, dear one.

You’re being raised from the dust.

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fear and flying

Dearest one,

It’s a rare day when I genuinely feel like I have some thoughts worth offering, thoughts that might be worth adding to the noise of your already crowded mind. But today, the stars align and the words just keep falling out of my mouth, and I feel like maybe I do. 

You think me this brilliant, amazing creature. And I love that you see that in me. But here’s the truth, a truth that’s not far from your own.

I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day. 

The reason I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day isn’t because I don’t have things to say. I do. It isn’t because I don’t have a decent command over the English language. I do.

The reason I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day is because in my mind, I’m already thinking about writing a book. And none of my thoughts are connected enough for that. I have so many thoughts about a million different things, but I don’t have enough thoughts about ONE thing to justify writing a book.

And so I don’t write. Because I’m so busy thinking about the end product that I am paralyzed. I feel like none of it matters until I know exactly what it’s going to look like in the end. I feel like none of it matters until I have a plan. Until I can nail down what it’s going to look like. Until I feel safe and secure and like its all something I can control.

I am a walking, talking definition of missing the beauty of the forest because I can’t see past the trees.

And so it is with you. 

See, for all the credit you give me and all the shame you so effortlessly give yourself, you and I are not that different. Not at all. Steps without an endgame feel pointless to you. And I know that feeling. They feel pointless to me, too. But the thing I’ve been thinking about today is how there is no endgame until you take steps. If I don’t start taking some steps without knowing where I’m going, the endgame is RIGHT HERE. This is it. The endgame is me, sitting around and wanting to say something worth hearing, but not saying anything because I want a roadmap first. If I don’t start taking some steps, I will still be this person in forty years, only with a whole lot more regret and a lot more untold stories and a lot more unlived life.

And so it is with you.

I remember his words to you one day, months ago, about how the greatest enemy of the next step is the fear of what’s across the room.

You and I, dearest one. We are one and the same. We are both so focused on what may or may not be across the room that were frozen in place. Stuck. Afraid to take a step for fear that it might be the wrong one.

But grace, man. Of all the things I’m unsure of, and there are many, Grace doesn’t make the list. Not even close. Grace may, in fact, be the one thing I know like I know my own name. Mostly because of the frequency with which I’ve had nothing else to fall on.

I believe that our steps will be messy, and some of them will be the wrong ones, because we are nothing if not fully human and prone to being and creating disasters. But I also believe they’re all important, every last one of the steps. All necessary. All growth. All Grace.

Some of my biggest missteps have turned out to be my biggest graces.

And so it is with you.

And so it will be.

Breathe. Crawl. Step. Leap, even. Jump off a cliff knowing that your wings get built while you fly. Growth and movement and purpose doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Doesn’t happen at a standstill. It only happens in midair. In discomfort. In dirty soil. 

All you can do is this one moment. You can’t handle the overwhelm of a lifetime, all at once. All you can do is this one moment. One moment that looks like crawling, but is really more like flying, when you’ve spent all this time standing still, rooted to your fear. 

Fly, mine. Don’t stand rooted to your fear. There is nothing worth fearing more than that.

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words are sharp and shiny things

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. I always have been. I can twist and shape them into whatever form I wish. I can take you places and bring you back; I can make you feel things and ask questions and draw pictures and crave adventures.

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. But I have learned to wield them reverently. I’m good with words in the same way I would imagine a sniper is good with his rifle, holding it with a healthy dose of both adrenaline and fear, because he knows that what he holds has the power to decimate anyone in its path.

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. I am also terribly afraid of them. Because I know my words, the words close enough to my chest to be called mine. They aren’t easy ones, to write or to hear. They might be packaged neatly, but there is no resolution. I won’t ever give you a conclusion, and the loose ends don’t sit comfortably.

Because the words close enough to my chest to be called mine aren’t even completely mine. They are mine, but they’re also the words of at least five different people, from five separate conversations that have taken place in the past month. They’re also the words that I haven’t heard, but have seen in the eyes of more people than I can count. Words that don’t get a voice because they’re terrifying, and they can plunge a person into a rabbit hole that may cost more than they’re ready to pay.

If the North American church is a true reflection of who God is…

It feels a little bit like God doesn’t have space for messy people, for broken people, for lamenting people.

It feels a little bit like all God wants to hear when He asks how I am is “Great! How are you?” And then for me to be on my way.

It feels a little bit like God doesn’t want my love and affection as much as He does my blind and unquestioning acceptance.

It feels a little bit like I need to be successful and happy to belong to God. 

It feels a little bit like issues of race and poverty and slavery and gender and sexuality only matter to God so far as they can be dealt with as “issues” rather than dealing with the messiness of the real, vulnerable people behind the issues.

If the North American church is a true reflection of who God is…

…then I’m afraid that God maybe wants nothing to do with me. And I’m not positive I want anything to do with Him.

And if all of that isn’t true, if it’s my perception that’s flawed…

Who IS God? And what does He care about? And where do I find Him? And how do I reflect Him? What is my responsibility in this? How do I love like Jesus does, in real life and real time?

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terrifying and true

31 days of WTHKW

There are days when I hold words close to my chest. Because words are wild and powerful, and sometimes I just have to wield them quietly, carefully, reverently. As though they’re capable of most anything.

And they are. Don’t ever underestimate the way that words are capable of most anything.

These past couple of days, words feel like that. I keep writing them, but in the way that I always write the things that feel most sacred. On paper, with my own hand, in the quiet of the morning. Sometimes I think that’s the space my best words were created for. I don’t kill my darlings. I don’t have the heart. But I shelter them, and I hold them close to my chest.

And sometimes I don’t know why.

On my better days, I believe it’s because I’m aware. Aware of myself, aware of my tendency to need people to approve, to need feedback on my own soul in order to feel validated. Aware of how easy it is for me to put myself out there to people and let those people affirm me, rather than God Himself.

Some days I think I hold my dearest thoughts in private places because for once in my life, I want to express my own thoughts without worrying about what anyone things about them.

And on my not-so-much-better days, I believe it’s because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of myself sometimes.

I said it last week, out loud for the first time, that sometimes one of my major disconnects with the church these days is that sometimes when I speak about things that actually matter to me, one of the most common reactions I get is something that closely resembles fear. Is it okay to say that? Sometimes I worry that people, particularly good God-fearing church people, are a little bit afraid of me. That I’m just too much. I have All of the Big Thoughts and All of the Big Feelings and my brain wades into All of the Grey Areas. Literally nothing is off limits to my questions.

And sometimes I think that’s terrifying to people. I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that it’s terrifying to me. And so I find myself holding on to those parts of me.

The parts of me that I would define as the most difficult…but also the parts of me that I would define, without hesitation, as the most lovely. The most genuine. The most true.

The most me.

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under the sky

Sometimes, church is pipe tobacco and a shared bottle of wine.

In moments like that, the Texas sky seems exactly as big as all the old country songs claim, freckled with stars and nearly swallowing the moon with all its navy blue.

I didn’t know that first night, months ago, how immediately they would be our people. You know the ones. The people you sit around the dinner table with, laughing and talking, and a split second later, you look up to find that hours have passed and it’s tomorrow already and you instinctively know that this conversation has only just begun.

The night ends and months go by, because life is busy and there are jobs and kids and soccer practice and piano lessons and all of the things, but eventually you’re gathered around that same dinner table and it just feels like you never left.

So you take it outside, under the sky, because all the best things should always happen under the sky, and conversation like that is the best thing. Honesty like that is the best thing. Laughter like that is the best thing. Hope like that is the best thing.

In those moments, with the voices and and the stories and the sky and the same pipe tobacco Tolkien loved and the red wine, I feel it in my chest again. Church. I believe in it. I always have, but some days it comes easier than others. Some days it’s a picture I can see clearly, and some days the picture looks like nothing, clouded as it is by my own imperfect vision.

I sat out there, stars blinking and wind blowing my hair, and I wondered if this was what it felt like in the beginning. If this was why Jesus felt so strongly about gathering with people around a table. If maybe, when Jesus talked about the church, he was talking about this. This lack of pretense, this lack of politics, this lack of a business model, this lack of programs, this lack of agendas, this lack of cultural success. This presence. This presence of real, messy, disastrous, beautiful human beings who just want to know Jesus and do things the way he did, love people the way he did. Even when that feels impossible, wrapped as we are in humanity so frail it’s been known to shatter.

I want that. I want so much more of that. All of the fibers of my being strain toward it. Toward Jesus. Toward his people. Toward church, for the first time in so very, very long.

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to be your girl

Dear my love,

It’s in my chest on all of the days, but I am so beautifully aware of it on this one. And on the days when it’s so close to the surface that it threatens to break my heart wide open, I realize that I don’t tell you enough. That in some inconceivable way, my heart knew yours from the beginning, knew that you were the one I wanted to belong to, that you were the person I would always want to follow anywhere.

I knew it small in the beginning, and today I know it in a way that has depth and breadth, but not as much depth and breadth as in another five years, and five after that.

I am so very proud to be your girl. And I am so very humbled to be your girl.

I spent the first twenty-three years of my life surrounded by an army of people praying that I would find a good man, a spiritual leader, a man who would lead me and our family toward God in all the seasons of life. And I thought for so many years that I had a solid grasp on what that would look like. It would look like initiating family devotions and holding my hand every night to pray together and making sure we were in church every Sunday. It would look like Christian music on road trips, like small group Bible studies in our home. It would look loud and public and like leadership.

And it’s not that. It’s not any of that.

But all those people who spent all that time praying? God knows they got far more than they bargained for.

Because you, my love, practice love in the most unexpected places.

You practice love that is quiet and genuine and selfless. You practice love in no particular spotlight. You practice love when it costs you your pride and all the things you’d silently hoped for. You practice love when it is beyond reason. You practice love when it is not in your best interest.

I can think of no better spiritual leadership than that of a man who quietly goes about the work of practicing love everywhere he goes.

I sit back and watch it every single day.

Watching you love recklessly and without regard to yourself–it opens up the wild place God put in my chest on purpose, the wild place from which I live fully alive. The wild place from which I love all the wrong people, or all the right people, depending on how you look at it. The wild place that feels the most like Jesus in me.

You give that wild place wings by being exactly who you are. You remind me who I am with your quiet ways of doing Love. You remind me of my Creator, my purpose, my place in the Kingdom-come-and-Kingdom-coming-ness of life.

It isn’t Chris Tomlin and Max Lucado, that’s for sure. Bless it. But I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it with the last breath in my lungs.

I can think of no better spiritual leadership than that of a man who quietly goes about the work of practicing love everywhere he goes.

Thank you, today and all of the days, for being the kind of man I would fearlessly follow anywhere.

Always, Audie

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paint always grace

I long to always paint in shades of grace.

But God above, how easy it is not to. How easy it is to grab a brush dripping thick black ink and stroke wide. To color outside the lines of understanding, of compassion, of actually knowing a human. How easy it is to glance, to assume, to paint my assumptions and call them another’s truth. How easy it is to wander off, looking for inspiration, and to find my inspiration in the obvious. In the loud and the bold, in the wild and flailing. How easy it is to ignore that which is quiet, sitting in the corner of a coffee shop, hoping to escape notice while she thinks her thoughts, engages her common sense, filters through equal parts curiosity and compassion.

How easy. And how truly pleasurable to the masses when we paint that way, in a way that’s easy and clear and palatable, that draws clear boxes to be checked off with that same thick black ink. Us. Them. Me. Other. Right. Wrong. Wonderful. Terrible. Intelligent. Idiotic. Honorable. Detestable. Truth. Lie. All. Nothing.

How easy. How clear. How gratifying.

How not at all the way I want to live.

I long to paint people as souls rather than positions, with vulnerability one can only earn by investing time and life in another, from a place that bears no resemblance to personal pride or superiority, with only the slightest streaks of black paint and rarely on a white canvas. I long to paint small and private and humble and always, always asking questions. Always assuming there is more to the subject that I don’t know. Always more to learn.

I long to paint people as though my art is a mirror turned on myself, rather than a lens through which to view a person. Because it is.

The shades in which I paint are always far more indicative of the artist than the subject. Art is always autobiographical, if you look closely enough.

And so, let me paint always grace.

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