Soul Whisperings

Offer… Return… Listen.

When I get still and listen, that’s what I hear: Offer… Return… Listen.

When I look outward… Things get foggy. And inevitably I start hustling for my worth. Not on purpose, mind you, but because I was made to be connected to my Creator. Looking outward, no matter how innocently it begins, has a tendency to put my eyes on human comparisons, numerical production, and impossible perfection in nearly every realm. All of this pulls me away from my Creator. I forget what I’ve heard, I forget the two-square-feet where He’s placed my feet, and I ultimately forget my true self.

When I turn inward… when I get small enough to return to my Creator and listen, the fog lifts and things become clear. A deep inner calm wraps around my insides, like a faux fur blanket for my soul. I’m sure of what I’ve heard, I remember the holy two-square-feet where He’s placed me, and I know my true self.

We live in an insatiable world, with an insatiable appetite for the next big thing. On the contrary, we serve a God who satisfies all our desires with good things and who created us and said, “It is very good”.

So, as a creative, as a mother… how do we keep creating, teaching, being from a true place? How do we keep showing up and participating in sending up our offerings as an act of worship to the God who made us?

And I just keep coming back to slow and steadyBit by bit.

I send out my offering… I return to the One who calls me… And I listen for His whisperings.

I don’t want to be the next flash in the pan in our modern era, but a child of God who answers His call to be his hands and feet with a resounding “Here I am. Send me.” I want to be someone who is steady and true and trustworthy with what He has put in my hands. And honestly, this entire steady-stance in and of itself keeps me returning, because it’s not in my natural nature. Instead, I tend to be an “all or nothing” type of personality. Yes, you can read into that and say patience is a challenge for me. Practicing this rhythm is a practice in and of itself.

In the writing world, “they” the experts tell us to be on social media daily, to produce profitably. But when I try for this, when I put the pressure on myself to create at a pace that gets its cues from an outside voice…. I burn out. Listening to “they” tends to lead me to a place that feels a little bit like Soul Death.The whisperings in my soul tell me something else. Something echoing freedom.

The whisperings in my soul tell me something else. Something echoing freedom. So maybe my rebellious act in this world, in this season of my life, is to not listen to the experts but to listen to my soul. That whispering voice that tells me to slow down, to return, to listen and offer from a place that is rooted and grounded in His love.

So where does this leave me?

This leaves me walking out a rhythm with palms up, eyes fixed and heart content with small and simple. Tending to my soul means trusting that as I listen, God will make my paths straight. Trusting that what He has for me is good. Trusting Him to grant me peace in the places He invites me.

Turn up the Soul Whisperings and turn down the noise… I hear freedom.

What soul whisperings do you need to honor? Do you need to rebel against what ‘they’ say? How can you set aside time to listen to what God is saying to you?

Coffee with Jesus

In this journey of reclaiming our soul voice, it’s not about simply learning to be loud or learning to be confrontational or direct. And we don’t want to mistake finding our voice for an excuse to become overly focused on ourselves. Being on this journey, holds far deeper meaning.

It’s about healing the broken parts inside of us so our soul voice can be brave, strong and free. It’s about learning to be in touch with who God made us to be and then living from the fullness of that beauty. It’s about silencing the lies we’ve believed and, instead, allowing His truth to rejuvenate us at our core. It’s about trusting God to love us and use us exactly how He’s made us. It’s about perfect love casting out fear.

But how do we do all of this? I’ve learned this can only happen through our own personal encounters with the Holy Spirit.

The small, still voice had interrupted me before. I had heard it whisper to write my story at a time when I was wondering what my purpose was. I had heard it whisper to hold on, you’re not alone at a time when I was disrupted by suicidal thoughts. I had heard it whisper to go on a radical journey of self-love at a time when I could not love myself.

Amidst all the cacophony of noise in my soul I knew, beyond doubt, that this voice was true. This voice was leading me towards wholeness and peace. This voice was saving me.

So when our church challenged us to be still and pray fifteen minutes a day, I was IN. Each morning, I set my alarm early – really early – to ensure some quiet before my kids woke up. I’d pour a piping hot cup of coffee, tip toe over to my favorite chair, wrap up in my faux fur blanket and I’d sit. Coffee in one hand, iPhone (opened to Notes) in the other. And I’d wait. I waited until I heard that still, small voice begin to speak to me. Some days I’d have to wait longer than others, depending on the noise in my head. But eventually, I’d hear.

My child…

Do not be afraid…

I am with you…

Trust me…

Put your hand in mine…

I love you…

Because self-doubt is second nature to me, every once in a while, I’d wonder if what I was hearing was actually God. But then I’d remember a simple explanation I had learned: the Holy Spirit sounds like our stream of consciousness in our head, but it speaks only what is good, lovely, encouraging, convicting and true. In essence, this voice produces what is known as “the fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

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Bit by bit, morning by morning – coffee in one hand, phone in the other – I’d hear truth. Truth about who I was and who I was not. Truth about where I had been and where I was going. Truth about my pain and how I was healing. I’d imagine Jesus sitting in the chair next to me, I’d imagine him looking at me and it always came back to those eyes. Those eyes that loved me tenderly, deeply – ever FOR me. I’d type down what I’d heard and let it sink into my soul. If something was weighing on me that day, I’d ask what he thought about it. Drip by drip, my “coffee with Jesus” moments breathed life into me when I was in a season of feeling entirely breathless.

Have you ever stopped to be still and just listen?

Mended

Tonight, I’m very simply sharing the lyrics to the song ‘Mended’ by Matthew West. My two tiniest loves have been dueling throughout the last few nights, including tonight already, so I have to wave the white flag and change my posting plans.

I’ve had a few people reach out to me recently, asking if I’d heard this song before. I hadn’t… but I’m so glad I was encouraged to listen. I’m literally in the middle of writing a post (I hope to share with you tomorrow) very related to these words. It’s about when we finally see how Jesus sees us – that He sees us through eyes of love amidst our pain, brokenness and all – it literally changes everything.
Enjoy my friends! ~ Audi

Mended
How many times can one heart break?
It was never supposed to be this way
Look in the mirror, but you find someone you never thought you’d be

Oh, but I can still recognize
The one I love in your tear stained eyes
I know you might not see him now, so lift your eyes to me

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

You see your worst mistake
But I see the price I paid
There’s nothing you could ever do, to lose what grace has won

So hold on, it’s not the end
No, this is where love’s work begins
I’m making all things new
And I will make a miracle of you

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

I see my child, my beloved
The new creation you’re becoming
You see the scars from when you fell
But I see the stories they will tell

You see worthless, I see priceless
You see pain, but I see a purpose
You see unworthy, undeserving
But I see you through eyes of mercy

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
You’re not too far gone
You’re one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet, no
When you see wounded, I see mended

Ooh, I see mended
Woah, oh I see mended
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

Songwriters: Matthew West
Mended lyrics © Atlas Music Publishing

Into the Deep

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A few months after my 4th of July breakdown, I experienced a moment of break through that empowered me and brought me a breath of life. I had spent the in-between months trying to see and understand why I had been making myself small in life, why I had deemed myself unworthy of love and belonging.

Our family was up in Oregon at our family lake cabin. The majority of our family and extended family had decided to go swimming at the communal swim dock in another part of the lake. While everyone else was in the water having fun, I sat in a chair on the dock disheartened because I had forgotten my swimsuit. I guess I would be a cheerleader and observer from the sidelines today. I felt my heart sinking deep in my stomach. Isn’t this how it always goes? Me sitting on the sidelines, watching, while everyone else fully lives?

I watched Harper scream with delight as Jeremy threw her into the lake. I felt my soul sinking down into the deep, dark pit of hopelessness. For a moment, I fully embraced the storyline of me being a mom who wasn’t any fun, who did her duty to care for her family but never engaged in the party. I felt trapped and incapable of playing any other role.

Having perceived what I was feeling, Jeremy walked over to me and said, “Remember what Elaine has been saying: don’t allow yourself to be small. You still have a choice here.” Elaine was my therapist and in our previous session she had challenged me to find moments where, when all I want to do is be small and fade into the background, that I choose to practice doing the opposite.

Instead of living out a life contract of “miserable victim”, I had a choice to make. I stood up and called to Harper to join me at the edge of the dock. “Do you want to jump in with me?” She studied my face to see if I was serious. When I raised my eyebrows and smiled in confirmation, her eyes sparkled and a smile swept over her face – “Yeah!” I grabbed her hand and we counted together, “One…two…three!!!” And there I was in the deep end of the pool with all of my clothes on.

David Benner says this about going on our soul journey:

Hear God’s call to a deep personal encounter as an invitation, not a reprimand. It is an invitation to step out of the security of your boat and meet Jesus in the vulnerability and chaos of your inner storms. It is an invitation to move beyond objective knowledge to personal knowing. It is an invitation to truly know God.

This is the choice we all have in front of us. Will we stay in our boat or will we brave the deep waters?

The confines of our boat offer us a certain kind of security and comfort. It’s where we’ve been able to rely on ourselves or the things around us to keep us afloat. It’s where we’ve known much about God and have forgotten who we really are. The boat is where we’ve been small, bound and voiceless.

Stepping out into the deep waters takes courage and faith that God will meet us in our need and carry us. It’s the scary place where we leave behind the security of who we think we are or who we have been until now. The deep is where we break contracts we made with ourself years before. It’s where our true self is revealed to us and where we were meant to thrive. The deep is where we get to know God personally and intimately because we are trusting Him to help us walk and not sink. There is no safety net other than a God who is ever so closely abiding with us. The deep is where we find our fullness, freedom and voice.

When I jumped into the water that day, clothes and all, I knew it represented more than a mere “carpe diem” moment. I knew I was committing my soul to the deep. To the things God wanted to reveal to me and restore in me as He journeyed with me in reclaiming my soul voice.

I’m believing your invitation into the deep is simply awaiting your ‘yes’.

Where do you find yourself living today? In the boat or in the deep?

 

How Do We Find Our Voice?

Many factors contribute to us not knowing our soul voice. Things like broken relationships, loss, abuse and shame can all been contributors. When we’ve lost our voice and our internal “true North”, we feel disoriented, disconnected and small. We feel afraid to be seen, because we’re not sure what other people are actually seeing – since who we are, can be lost on us.

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Reclaiming our soul voice is all about reconnecting with the person God intended and created us to be. It was never His intention for us to feel lost, afraid, disoriented, disconnected or small. In turn, it is His heart for us to feel loved, confident, worthy, secure, guided. The journey of reclaiming our soul voice is a deeper discovery as to how we grasp onto these truths with our own hands, how we believe them, deep in our soul, for ourself.

The journey is long and sometimes difficult, and although we’d love to just arrive to a place of everlasting beauty, we remember that healing is a bit by bit process. To truly experience solid, lasting transformation, we must show up every single day and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And that’s what we’re choosing to do.

As I’ve put one foot in front of the other in my own life, I’ve learned a few practical things that can help us begin reclaiming our soul voice…

1. Acknowledge the TRUTH about our pain from the past.
We all have gnarly scars from our past. Not one of us escaped experiencing pain. I’m learning that true healing can’t occur until we’re ready to look at our pain in the face and call it what it is. We need to speak the truth about our pain and stop shoving it in the closet, believing it will just go away. If we’re experiencing shame, let’s call it shame. If we’re experiencing addiction, let’s call it addiction. If we’re experiencing depression, let’s call it depression. When we’re willing to call our pain for the truth of what it is, only then do we open our arms wide to true, lasting healing.

2. Pay attention to our thoughts and feelings (Without Judgement).
It’s important we allow ourself to feel our true emotions and acknowledge them. Seems like a small thing, right? When we pay attention to our internal dialogue, we realize how difficult it can be to allow ourself the space to process what we need without trying to squeeze it into something more acceptable. A friend recently shared with me a “cheesy” little therapy strategy where you try to visualize and personify all of your emotions sitting around a single, long table in a board room. Anger pipes up and takes over the meeting in his tight collared shirt and suit, his slicked back hair, beady eyes, bulging neck and his fire-y red face. I look at him calmly. I tell him I see him and I hear him. I thank him for his service and then I kindly excuse him from the room. If there is anything to learn from Anger, I’m willing to take his complaints, and review and process them further. I’m learning that paying attention to my feelings sounds more like saying to myself, “I see you are feeling (blank) right now. It’s ok to feel (blank). When you are ready, let’s look at what might be causing your (blank).” Let’s stop judging our process and white-knuckling to get results. Our internal responses are telling us a story.

3. Connect with our childhood loves.
No. I’m not suggesting you research and connect with old crushes from elementary school. In fact, it’s important to remember what made us feel alive when we were young. Even if our growing up years were painful… Can we remember what made us feel free, lovely and US? For me, this has meant embracing my tom-boyish side whom I forgot about for many, many years. The tom-boy part of me loves going running, watching ice hockey and shooting guns at a range. I feel empowered when I remember this part of me. At the same time, embracing the elegant side of me is just as important. I forgot that my absolute favorite color my whole life was sparkling, glittering GOLD. Remembering things we loved is an important step in reclaiming who God made us to be. Can you make a simple list that helps you remember?

4. Trust ourself (Again).
This can be a hard realization. When we’ve lost touch with our soul voice, a very common correlation is that we can tend to over-apologize for things or distrust our own decisions. For me, this had much to do with the fact I spent many years in an abusive relationship and acting on an eating disorder. I’ve realized that both actions were HUGE betrayals of myself. Even though the internal red flags were there, I didn’t listen to them. Not listening to our own soul causes us to feel shaky in our opinions and decisions. Each decision we make that lines up with who God created us to be – that rings true in our heart of hearts – slowly erases our past betrayals and builds self-trust.

5. Practice using our actual voice.
Not exercising our honest thoughts and opinions can be a way of life for many of us who have lost touch with our soul voice. Fear of not being accepted, ruffling feathers or appearing imperfect covers up and silences our actual voice. We keep our opinions safe and tucked away, only making ourselves smaller and more invisible. We can intentionally practice finding ways to speak up, share our honest feelings and allow ourselves to be known by others.

How will you make space for your soul voice this week? Which one of these practices seems the most challenging to you?

When it’s Time for a Little Self-Love

Have you ever felt struck over the head by a seemingly simple concept? A few years back, when I was beginning to realize I had lost my soul voice, I felt like a whole new reality was opened up to me when I read a verse I’ve known my whole life. In Mark 12:31, Jesus says, “the second (greatest) commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.”

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I was dumbfounded…

What if I don’t really know how to love myself?

What does this verse mean for someone who’s spent more time beating herself up than loving herself? How do you follow Jesus’ words then? How can you turn outward with anything authentic to give someone else, when every time you turn inward you beat down a piece of who you are?

Here are a few things that have helped me move towards loving myself (and ultimately better able to fulfill Jesus’ command of loving my neighbor):

  • Ask God to show you the way. God is WITH you and is all about molding you into His image. He’s not giving up on you or walking away. Ask God to show you how to have a heart of compassion, understanding and love for yourself and your story. Ask Him to give you the ability to forgive yourself for the thing you’re holding yourself hostage over.
  • Would I say it to my daughter? When the Soul Bullies get going (as my friend likes to call the ‘not good enough’ voices), I like to ask myself, “Would I say this to Harper or Kensi or London?” The answer is always a resounding NO! I would be absolutely heart-sick if anyone ever said to my daughters the things I think about myself in my head. Let’s give ourselves a little self-check every so often to see if we are loving ourselves or tuning into the Soul Bullies.
  • Write down the truth. When the Soul Bullies get going, it can be pretty difficult to get them to back down. I like to give myself physical reminders around my house by writing down words or phrases and putting them in prominent places. I have signs around my house, sticky notes on my bathroom mirror, and notecards in my car. Seeing words that pull me towards the truth can save me when I’m being pushed around. Try writing down the things the Bible says about who you are. Two of my favorites are: We are chosen, special, holy, His from 1 Peter 2:9. We are blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed and forgiven from Ephesians 1:3-12 MSG.

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How can you practice a little self-love today? Do you have other helpful ways you silence the Soul Bullies?

Do You Know You Are Wildly Loved?

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This past weekend, I had the kids on my own while Jeremy was away on a guy’s (long) golf weekend. I am 34 weeks pregnant which makes me not quite miserable, but definitely not as confidant in my ability to chase after my 2 year old in public (She’s one fast mama-jama and, believe me, we call her “firecracker” for a reason).

Whenever I’ve been away for the night or a weekend in the past, Jeremy has always been incredible about seizing the time with the kids. He isn’t afraid to take them to restaurants, the beach, parks – you name it. He wears them out and they always have a blast. With this in mind, I wanted to make the weekend a fun time for the kids while on my watch. But I could also sense I was carrying some anxiety inside about my growing limitations to keep up with them in certain public settings. I was having a hard time settling my spirit.

Our first 48 hours had been pretty simple. We did the normal school day routines, played games, played outside, read books, watched a movie and cooked together. When Saturday morning rolled around, I didn’t have a plan for what we’d do after we made cinnamon rolls (which were made and eaten by 7:30am, I might add). As I grew increasingly indecisive and semi-anxious about how to spend our day, I almost missed the fact that Harper and Bentley were playing a full-on soccer game in the backyard, while Kensington dribbled a playground ball in the grass nearby. This had actually been going on for much longer than I had realized in all my hand-wringing glory AND they were playing nicely. And every parent knows: don’t ever disrupt your kids when a good thing is going on!

As I stood on our back deck, my yellow coffee cup in hand, I took a deep, grounding breath and made a conscious decision to let myself off the hook of “entertaining” the kids for the rest of the weekend. I was reminded of the beauty that can emerge when we let things happen organically from time to time. I grabbed a warm blanket to wrap myself up in, to save me from the crispness of the coastal morning air. I settled down in my favorite chair on our deck and watched my kids play and laugh together. I felt thankful for invitation and the sense that it was ok to just be.

A few minutes into enjoying my simple view, I remembered I had promised to send Jeremy a picture of my new haircut. I had gotten my hair done two days earlier (the same day Jeremy had flown out of town) and hadn’t worn makeup or done a thing to my hair since. Oh well, I’ll send him a picture anyway. After picking a few selfies, each showing a different angle of my hair, I sent them off to Jeremy. But as I continued to sit watching my kids play soccer on the grass, I felt drawn to keep looking at one particular picture of myself.

In the past, I most definitely used to look at pictures of myself obsessively and unendingly critically. The years when I struggled with my eating disorder were marked by me either obsessing over my looks or, in harsh contrast, not being able to look at pictures of myself at all. I knew this draw to look at my own selfie was not at all similar with my past tendencies. I sensed it to be an invitation from God.

When I looked at myself in the picture, I felt God nudging me to notice myself in all of my simplicity and beauty. I noticed the freckles on my nose my makeup usually tends to mute. I noticed the dazzling blue color of my eyes I usually describe (completely underwhelmed) as “gray-blue”. I noticed the pretty pink in my lips somehow reminding me that I’m alive.

But then I felt God guiding my thoughts towards everything I can’t physically see in the picture. In that very moment I felt Him say:

Audi, take notice of this moment…

You are just BEING.
You are not performing, accomplishing or fulfilling a role. You are not making something to show others. You are not cleaning up or covering up for appearances. You are not chasing after something that is yet to come. You are not reaching out towards something more. You are not adding anything to the beauty I made when I created you. You are just being.

In THIS VERY moment… Do you know you are wildly loved?

I sat in stillness for a long moment, His question echoing deep within me. This, of all questions, is the one I’ve been intentionally seeking to mend and heal my answer to over the past few years. One thing the journey has taught me is that these God encounters are to be honored, held and savored.

Do I know…
When everything seeking/pursuing/striving is stripped away and I am just me…
Just being…
In all of my simplicity and nakedness…
Do I KNOW I am wildly loved?

Then everything in my soul whispered a resolute and confident: Yes.

Putting aside all of life’s demands, roles and expectations… Do you know you are wildly loved?

In the comments, I’d love for you to share with me how you sense God showing you that you are wildly loved.