I know I have a habit of going on about this...but I have to.
My husband gives the best gifts.
I just turned 35, something that continues to confuse me since I don't feel anything like a grown-up. Donnie was out of town on the actual day...you know...helping orphans in Guatemala and stuff.
But when he got home, he gave me my birthday present. He made the envelope out of a paper grocery bag.
(photo to come)
Inside was a ticket to a women's conference in Dallas--Hope Spoken. I hadn't heard about it, but it is a conference that is centered around women telling their own stories, and the Hope they have in Jesus. (please visit the link--the pictures are amazing!)
I was moved that he thought of something like this, even more when I found out that Jen Hatmaker and Meg Deurkson were two of the speakers. I've been a fan (understatement) for a while. But I could also feel the anxiety creeping up my throat at the thought of attending a conference by myself. With no one to talk to about what was going on, no one to sit with. I set my face in a forced smile as I felt the panic about to take over.
That's when he presented me with the second ticket. He had bought another one for my friend Mary. She's one of those people who I crave time with, and who I never get to see enough. She was my second gift. And of course, that's when the tears came! (Also, let's all agree that he's a little bit of a jerk for letting me get so nervous before he told me she was going with me.)
Before I left for the conference, I downloaded Jen's book, Interrupted and read the whole thing in a couple of days. Her writing and point of view always wreck me, and this was no exception. So I spent the next couple of days texting every friend I could think of to also read it asap, so I would have someone to help me chew things over.
(If you haven't read it, please do so now. )
The whole trip was exactly what it was meant to be. Night one was full of worship, Jen Hatmaker, and amazing food. Seriously, there were tables spilling with cake pops and macaroons. During worship I watched Jen like a stalker and tried to stop imagining meeting her and pawing at her face. And then I did get to meet her in a burst of stifled self-consciousness, in which I blurted that I was trying hard not to touch her face. (Freak!) After that, I stood slightly out of her sight range and took mental notes on how she effortlessly flowed between conversations with strangers with grace, love, and sincere friendliness. She has I gift, I'm telling you.
(This is my look of total restraint. Because inside I'm losing it.)
Mary and I had a room in the hotel, and even though Donnie had meant for the weekend to be a restful experience, to go along with my word of the year, we stayed up talking until the wee hours, our conversations ranging from compassion for the homeless, to our love for the movie Rocky. Cause that's what friends talk about when they have the luxury of time.
The rest of the weekend was one delicious meal, one profound tesitimony of God's grace, one spirit-moving music session after another. I did get to meet Meg, and she was really great. We're basically the same age, so we'll probably end up friends at some point, right? Meg?
But there was one moment in the weekend where I knew absolutely that this was the reason I was supposed to be there. Right before lunch, when only a fraction of the women were in the room, a woman named Sarah gave a presentation of a ministry that God dropped into her lap. She only talked for about 10 minutes, but I was struck by emotion, so moved that I couldn't even get up and talk to her when she was done.
She talked about being lost in a job that took her away from family too much. That even though she was great at it, her passion was closer to home. She talked about how she discovered that she is a people gatherer, and that her happiest times are while she is feeding people. She asked her dad to build her a huge table, and they put it in her yard...and started inviting her neighbors to dinner. And after a few years, she has met over 1600 people at her table, and she knows more than 80 of her neighbors.
You can follow her ministry here.
If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I feel like God has put some major restrictions on my life and my would-be ministry. Every time I try to venture too far outside of my family/neighborhood, he pulls me back in, asking me to think smaller. And it has been driving me crazy for years! Because I have huge plans and dreams for what I could be doing for Him. Anyway, I'll link to some of those posts at the bottom of this one, if you are interested in knowing more about that.
But this woman that I heard speak, as if directly to me, has been having a huge impact on the Lost without ever leaving her backyard. And not only was I moved beyond words, I was moved into another planning phase. I can't get into it too much yet, because I don't know exactly what's going to come of it, but we are hoping to start with some Saturday morning breakfast parties, and another big block party for the neighborhood. (Only three years after the first one.) Friends, I'm excited! I feel like I finally have that next step to take instead of just another closed door.
And I have Donnie to thank. For a birthday gift that changed my thinking, and possibly how I do life.
I told you he gives great gifts!
Some other posts about ministry, neighborliness, Jen Hatmaker, and thinking smaller.