Navigation


In which I am among the Spanish oaks again

Do you feel a bit tender hearted towards the red-headed girl who got off that plane in Austin? I can see her today, standing in the airport with her young husband, both of them looking like teenagers playing grown-up. I think they have duffel bags instead of suitcases, but they are so desperate to appear capable.

Someone picked them up from this airport and took them out to Chili’s for chips and salsa. She watched the other couple, the real grown-ups, as they talked about their church and their people with great pride. The wife sprinkled salt over the chips before she ate them and the girl filed that away in her memory: this is a thing that people in Texas do, remember now, don’t mess it up. This is his first in-person job interview as a youth pastor, it will last all weekend long, and she is determined to be an asset all the while feeling like a liability. On the Sunday morning when she woke up in the Holiday Inn, he was sitting in the chair watching her. He said he had been waiting for her to wake up because he felt like he heard from God last night: this is their place. He cancelled every other job interview he had – before this place even offered him the job – and he is not the guy who usually does that kind of stuff so she believed him.

She moved here just a few weeks later, upended her small life and headed for the hill country. Her husband felt like he had come home, she felt like an exile. He picked out a nice new house on a nice street with church people and she felt surrounded. Her old friends were travelling, having adventures, taking risks: she was arranging a guest room in a bungalow and commuting to an office.

But she tried, bless her. She put away her flip flops and jean shorts for outlet mall Ann Taylor suits and sensible heels in an effort to appear older than her years, to appear like she knew what she as doing. No one asked her to do this, no one implied she should, this was all her own insecurity in a costume. She put on certainty like armour, determined to do the right things and say the right things and be the right person by sheer effort alone.

Some people need to learn to set boundaries but this girl’s boundaries were no bigger than her view of life and church and faith at the time. She said “no” more than she said “yes,” and she was poorer for that decision. 

That girl received love and friendship and guidance but took them for granted, like they were her right. Yesterday, I arrived in Austin nealry thirteen years later, and I remembered her, standing at the baggage claim 3 in the Austin airport, heading out on the adventure she disdained, and I loved her, the earnest know-it-all fool of her.

Yesterday I saw those Texas years snap open like a sheet. The girl grew into a woman right here in the hill country in those years and what a generous place for that experience. Now she looks back on the men and women who surrounded her, and thanks God for their grace with her, thanks God for the ways they challenged her and made her uncomfortable, thanks God for the risk of community – what is that compared to London and Paris?

I called my husband who is back home and said, do you remember? Do you remember our little brick bungalow and the way we used to sit out on the porch with our best friends in the world and at the end of the night they would walk home to their houses next door and across the street and down the corner? How we would sit out on the back drive-way, looking up at the Texas stars, drinking beer, because we couldn’t sit on the front porch and do that?  Do you remember Wednesday night church and Sunday night church and the way we loved to sing out loud? Do you remember this person and that person? Do you remember the heat and humidity and good tortillas? Do you remember our friends and our mentors and our kids and our people? We were part of something amazing here.

Do you remember all the teenagers that filled this house – they’re all grown-ups with mortgages and toddlers now, but do you remember how we loved them beyond all reason? Do you remember all the people who loved us, who tried to mentor us, who tried to teach us? I learned more than I thought I did then, I still remember all their words even though at the time I probably looked like I wasn’t listening. Do you remember watching Trading Spaces with our friends? Do you remember when our friends had the first baby of our little group and how we loved that little baby, how we passed her around and dressed her up and bounced her on our knees? Do you remember growing into your calling here? What a gift, what a gift.

Do you remember how much I wanted to leave and now I look around and think: what a beautiful place to stay and grow up.

I’m far away from that girl, now, and sometimes she makes me want to laugh and sometimes she makes me want to roll my eyes so hard they would fall out of my head. Wake up, wake up, wake up, I would say. Look around you: you’re being broken here I know, but this is embarking point for your wilderness and in the wilderness he will be your God. You gathered everything you needed for the journey among the limestone and the bluebonnets.

Maybe healing stains backwards, in the same way that sorrow stains backwards through our lives.

Young woman in the Austin airport, you’ll look back, I promise you will, and you will be filled with love and certain gratitude for the days you lived among them.

What a privilege to set out into the wilderness from among the Spanish oaks and the Guadalupe river, what a gift to be equipped for the journey by the saints of an old German town and the prayers of the earnest at the big evangelical church and the friendship and love of a few good people who loved Jesus and loved you.

church, community, faith, journey
  • JennaDeWitt

    Oh, Sarah. I love how you can speak so kindly to your past. With peace and growth and grace and thanksgiving.

    • Elizabeth

      Yes – ‘speaking kindly to your past’ – well put. It takes a certain kind of wisdom and writerly talent to be able to look at the past without rose-coloured glasses and without disdain. To be kind to the old you and tell about that time without making yourself sound better or worse than you actually were. Great writing, as always, Sarah.

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    This is so lovely, Sarah, and so full of grace. I grew up in Texas and I know those people and that church culture – and you’re right, it is a generous place. Such wise and gracious words.

  • http://oshetablogs.wordpress.com/ Osheta Moore

    “Look around you: you’re being broken here I know, but this is embarking
    point for your wilderness and in the wilderness he will be your God.” I needed to hear that today. Thank you.

  • http://silgeland.blogspot.com/ Julia Silge

    Oh man, I have not gotten there yet. I grew up in Texas evangelical culture, moved away for my early 20s, then moved back as an adult and had such a hard time finding a place for myself in that specific world. My family is 3 years removed from our time there and I don’t yet have the gracious, kind perspective you communicate here. Hopefully soon…

  • Beth Summers Cole

    This gave me chills. So thankful for the people who loved me as a “know it all” young youth pastor’s wife.

  • SAHMmelier

    Welcome to Austin! I have similar flashes; as usual, so perfectly worded.

  • Jenn LeBow

    Lovely words, Sarah. I, too, found just what I needed for a season in the city we came to call Perfect Austin. Enjoy it – and eat a few of those chips with salsa for me!

  • kitzya

    This brings tears to my eyes and beautiful memories….xoxo, lots of love….Kitzya

  • http://www.allthingstruthful.wordpress.com/ Bethany Grace Paget

    So much of what you wrote is hitting my spirit right where it aches.
    In that broken, healing, wilderness place where He WILL be my God.
    Resting with this today.

  • pastordt

    Lovely, lovely. Enjoy your time away – and that hill country is pretty spectacular in its own unique way. Laity Lodge is one of may favorite places on the earth.

  • http://www.michaelaevanow.com/ Michaela Evanow

    so beautifully written. you just stripped everything away and I saw right into your heart. not many can do that, or are vulnerable enough.

  • Jill

    Hello Sarah….I follow your blog entries as often as I can. I enjoy them all. I really, really loved this one. In addition to the graciousness and thankfulness that you reflect as you look back, I could also identify so much with your story, not only for the growing up that each of us goes through from young adulthood to older adulthood; but also because I, too, landed in Texas from another state as a young adult (single rather than married) and I came for ministry reasons. It was a fun, awkward, sometimes painful, memory-making season for me in the Hill Country, specifically San Marcos and Austin. As I read your entry, it brought back so many memories, it flooded my heart with gratitude. I´m a missionary now in Spain and, although I´m older, seem to be passing through some of those same fun, awkward, some times painful moments. It´s good to be reminded that these days will soon be memories….helps me to make the most of them, to be thankful for them and to keep learning as I go. Thank you!

  • http://Ashpittman.blogspot.com/ Ashley

    Oh, this. I’m in one of those wilderness places. Sent to a place I didn’t want to go, but went because I knew not to would be disobedience. I know it will be for my growth and good. This is encouraging.

  • SortaCrunchy

    “The girl grew into a woman right here in the hill country in those years and what a generous place for that experience.”

    You and me both, sister. The Texas Hill Country – where my daughters were born and where I was birthed into motherhood – will always be so special and tender and dear to me. From Austin to San Antonio and all those hills to the west – I’ll never stop loving that hard and beautiful sliver of land and life.

  • http://www.caramichelestrickland.wordpress.com/ Cara Strickland

    I always love your stories. (though I love all of your writing).
    Such perspective, such hope, such beauty.
    Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    so beautiful. this might just be my new fave of yours.

  • Pingback: When I’m Gathering Basil and Acacia | Powerfully Quiet()

  • zinncristy

    I feel like you might have time-traveled a bit with this one ;) Beautiful. I’m still learning this… you made me want to open my eyes right now, where I am, breathe deep and love well. Thank you.

  • Mindy

    Thanks for this. I needed to love a girl of my past today.

  • April Heather Art

    I read your posts daily…but this one sent me to tears. I’m a puddle on the floor in front of my mac. I too spent my formative young adult years in Austin. It felt like home from the moment I came over the hill on I-35 and saw the expanse. My 17 yr old stomach turned over and I caught my breath. My new home. I loved it. I met the man who would be my hubbie 2 years later, we studied, lived, loved, danced, graduated, started a business, had a baby. And then we left and I’ve missed it from the core of my being ever since. Thank you for this walk today, for remembering-and letting me go with you.

  • Alison Brinton

    Oh my, I love your blog and it has left me crying happy sweet tears of understanding on multiple occasions. This one in particular really resonated with me as a young red haired girl preparing to move to a smaller rural town (albeit not in Texas) with my soon to be husband as he ministers to college students. Thank you for this beautiful picture of both struggle and grace and the goodness that may come.

  • Alison Brinton

    Oh my, I love your blog and it has left me crying happy sweet tears of understanding on multiple occasions. This one in particular really resonated with me as a young red haired girl preparing to move to a smaller rural town (albeit not in Texas) with my soon to be husband as he ministers to college students. Thank you for this beautiful picture of both struggle and grace and the goodness that may come

  • Dave Horrocks

    Sarah,, you are inspiring. Thank you for your words and your willingness to share them. The “armour of certainty” spoke to me so much, I just had to quote it in my blog. I hope that is okay, I did link back to you.

  • Pingback: Weekend links | Simple Mom()

  • http://www.lovewellblog.com/ Kelly @ Love Well

    “Maybe healing stains backwards, in the same way that sorrow stains backwards through our lives.”

    My goodness. Yes. So much. I believe it’s true. It’s when we see the past for all its grit and glory and recognize God’s presence there with us that true healing begins.

    I love every iteration of you, Sarah – the old one, the new one, the one yet to be.

  • fiona lynne

    “maybe your healing stains backwards”. Yes. Beautiful.