I will love, love, love: reflecting on Texas

Over our hopes; over our fears
God, you are over all
Over our joy; over our tears
God, you are over all

I got a chicken tattoo this weekend.

chicken tattoo

It feels a little odd to preface any blog post with a statement like that, but there you go. It happened. It’s a thing. It is, in fact, a permanent thing.

I could leave the explanation of this weekend at that, because to be honest, it totally sums up everything my heart and body experienced this weekend. The story of the tattoo, the sweetness of the pain, the helpfulness of the adrenaline rushing through me — if ever a picture was worth a thousand (and eight hundred and seventy two words), this is it.

It’s been really hard for me, dealing with reentry back into real, everyday life. Leaving Texas was so much harder than I could ever imagine. I thought I’d go to Texas, like the ladies in the #BudaCoop, our henhouse of party planners, meet Jen, have some margaritas and tacos at her house, and leave the next day with some good memories.

I’m such an idiot for thinking that.

Because here’s what happened: I went to Texas. I loved, right away, with no hesitation, the ladies in the #BudaCoop. I met Jen. She offered to hold my chicken tattooed arm like our wedding picture. I had some margaritas. I went to church the next day, cried from the first song until the final benediction, and I wept on the plane from safety instructions until cruising altitude.

Y’all, that’s a very long time to weep.

But it, too, is a thing.

Six months ago, I got a life-changing email in my inbox while I was standing in line at Vons, buying really important things like cookies and flavored water. I squealed in line when I got the email saying I was part of the launch team for For the Love. But I didn’t even know at the time just how life-changing it was going to be. I think it would maybe be this fun thing were I got an advanced copy of the book and some share squares and called it a day.

I am laughing and cringing in equal measure right now at myself and the memory of my naivete in that grocery store line as I savor the aftermath of Texas.

So many powerful, dear things happened this weekend and the initial thing is that from the moment of meeting the first of my girls in the Phoenix airport as we waited for our connecting flight to Austin, I never once felt like I was meeting a stranger. In the last six months, I have poured my heart and soul out to these girls. I’ve shared things about my experience with the church breaking me and the church helping to heal me. I’ve shared about a baby I’ll never know this side of heaven, different kinds of abuse I endured at the hands of adults who were supposed to care for me, struggles in my everyday life, joys and good things, and I’ve prayed for and with others over their own struggles and rejoicings. These women were not for a single moment strangers. There were and are world-changers and some of my dearest friends. At dinner at the Hula Hut on the first night, someone joked to our server that we were here for a family reunion and we all had the same father. It wasn’t meant in a Jesus jukey kind of way, but it was true.

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We all have the same Father.

How sweet and how good is that?

I hope you know or will someday know this Father who gives us the sweetest of gifts in connecting us with others.

Whatever may come in this life
God, you are over all

I connected with everyone I met throughout the weekend, but what’s so very special to me are the connections I made with the #BudaCoop chickens. We gathered in the mornings in one room or another, always a room that wasn’t big enough for all of us, but like the fishes and loaves, we somehow fit every time. We drank coffee and passed around plates of bacon (#nomeatscraps) while we crammed 10 women in a tiny room with two twin beds and no extra seats. We shared our hearts. We did grad school homework while we talked. We drank margaritas and worked on coloring books for adults together. We shared the things God has done and is doing in our lives. We talked about the times we walked away from God, hurt by imperfect people, and we talked about the times we fearfully and with reservations walked back to Him, and how we were welcomed by Him so openly.

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We sat in a room and lifted up a friend in prayer and there was no pressure to pray out loud. We talked about the church hurting us and healing us. We lived out what it means to be in community. We devoured queso and fresh chips. We made inside jokes and giggled at each other and were safety nets when meeting two hundred people we didn’t know yet on Saturday evening. We were extroverts whose voices raised above the rest and introverts who we talked to at the outer edges of the group and abmiverts who shifted back and forth all weekend long. We were a group of women whose voices, no matter the volume, we heard and appreciated and so wanted.

We were the Church and we were beautiful because of God’s goodness. On Saturday, we gathered in Jen’s yard and we met her – not a “Christian celebrity,” but a real, beautiful, kind woman who loves God and loves others with the very entirety of her big, precious, wild heart. We met my friend Jen. Our friend Jen. A woman who has taught me so much over the last three years, one whom I respect madly and deeply — not as a Christian celebrity, but as a humble servant of God, mentoring me from afar. I have much to learn from the way she and her family live their lives and the words she shares.

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How do you even start to describe how simple yet profound these kinds of interaction are? It seems like there are no words and yet I might need all the words to make you understand.

From touchdown in Texas I felt known. I felt like every bit of me, from the roots of my hair to the bottoms of my feet and everything in between, was seen and known and loved, even the ugly and angry and hurting parts. Especially those parts. I was precious to others and they were so, so precious and close to me as we labored and toiled and worshiped together. My chickens knew me. Jen knew me. They all loved me and showed me God’s love loud and large and in my face.

To be known that way is exhilarating.

I’m not a thrill-seeker in the traditional sense, but I do love adventuring my way through life. Texas was a great and wild adventure, perhaps the greatest I’ve taken thus far, and it has left me energized and breathless to not let the feelings of passion and the hope of the Gospel fade from my heart and hands as I return to be every day life. It has left me craving that adventure in my current season and in my own city, for however long it is my city.

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I have been blessed in life with many tribes throughout many seasons. Some tribes have been strong and mighty fortresses for my heart for most of my 32 years. Some have been tribes that have taken root for only a short season and have since withered and faded away. I’m thankful for both kinds because they have been the sustenance of my lifetime. Leaving Texas, I am confident I have not left behind something, but have been folded into a new tribe: another kind of lifetime, for eternity, never-gonna-end tribe. It’s two-fold: it’s all of my #lovies, and it’s my #BudaCoop chickens. In the years to come, I will write them handwritten letters, I will send them texts and call them. I’ll celebrate their birthdays and baptisms and babies and beyond. I will love them hard, with my whole, aching heart (how my heart aches in beautiful ways after what I lived through this weekend). I will rejoice in their good times and grieve with them through the hard things.

My life has been full of scattered pieces of hurt. I have been happy but there is been much shame and brokenness. In the last few years, I’ve slowly turned that all over to God and He has said, “Behold, I am doing a new thing;/now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19, ESV) to me so many times. It humbles me to no end to trace back all of the steps that have led me to this place, this time, these women, this book, this adventure. This opportunity I have been given.

I will sing, sing, sing
To my God, my King
For all else fades away
And I will love, love, love
With this heart You’ve made
For You’ve been good always

It makes me feel so small and so full of awe and wonder at the greatness and holiness of God in this world. The only reasonable explanation for what happened in Texas this weekend is a great, big God empowering women to be the ones to do the work in their cities all over their world.

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And this is what I’m left with. This is how I want to love and live in the space around me – the women at church, the women at Starbucks, and just the women in my city. I want to look at them in the eye and hear their stories and respond with tenderness and compassion. I want to laugh with them and grieve with them in equal measure, as the time is right, as the days permit, for as long as I can, as hard as I can, as much as I can, with all that I have within me. I want to encourage them and be that person for them, whether it’s for a season or for a lifetime. I want to watch as we live out what I saw happen in Texas over the last four days. We are burning embers, warmed and fanned by the Creator of the Universe and by the hot Texas sun, and we have two choices: fan the embers into giant, consuming flames, or die out.

Over the earth; over the sky
God, you are over all
Over the dark; over the light
God, you are over all

For the love. Lord, make me a flame that does not die, a light that ravages its way through the darkness. Thank you for setting this girl alight.
– – – – –
A few things:

  • If you haven’t yet bought For the Love by Jen Hatmaker, you are missing out. I get zero perks for telling you this. No kickbacks, no royalties. But I have seen and lived first-hand the changes it’s brought in countless women from so many different seasons of life and walks of faith. You can get it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distributors (the cheapest at the time of posting), Indie Bound, and more!
  • The two songs quoted here are “Over All” by Phil Wickham and “My God, My King” by All Sons & Daughters . Links take you to iTunes. Again, I get nothing from you using these links to download the songs. We sang them at ANC on Sunday and they were and are so deep and simply wonderful to my God-hungry heart and I’ve been listening to them on repeat.
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