I’m just back from James Madison University where I was invited to speak at a women’s conference. Here are seven reasons I’m feeling full and incredibly thankful for my time there:
I love all worship bands. I do. But there was something inexplicable–a warmth rising within me–upon being led by an all-female worship band. Each played her instrument as if completely captivated by God’s presence, seemingly unworried about the end result, which was beautiful nevertheless.
p.s. It’s rumored that, before this weekend, various ones had led worship, but never all together which leaves me dropjawed. p.p.s. Mattie, I’m sorry your beautiful face is hidden behind that mic!
It was special to share the stage with other women who love the Lord–most of whom I’d never met before–and to hear the unique messages God wrote on each of our hearts. Distinctly different parts woven into a beautiful and unified whole = a mysterious wonder. I particularly loved these nuggets:
- “The woman who fears the Lord has no compartments that God is not a part of,” Janielle.
- “As you spend more time in the Word, God will get bigger–not because He is bigger–but because you are growing,” Kimberly.
- “God cares way more about our hearts and ‘the process’ than us moving on quickly enough,” Diana, as she related it to Jacob’s time of wrestling.
In between the bookend talks I delivered, I learned these female students don’t currently have older women teaching and leading them. The conference seemed to offer up cool water for thirsty travelers and I was honored to be a small part of that, even if for only a weekend.
Upon debarking my plane in Virginia, I received an unsettling text from our daughter. As we drove through a mountainous area toward our ultimate destination, I could hardly wait for the empty circles in the corner of my phone screen to blacken again so I could call and hear her voice. When I finally did, I was met with tears.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” I offered, feeling helpless and sad. She’d been on the receiving end of some very real disappointment in friendships. After hanging up, I sent a text to Jon asking him to give her lots of extra love. Would he pull her in close although she wouldn’t ask for it? Would he create space for her to process so she wasn’t left alone with her thoughts? These questions and more consumed the ticker tape on the backs of my eyelids as the miles between us stretched further and I silently prayed.
Turns out, it was both brutal and unexpectedly beautiful to have that ordeal playing in the background while, in the foreground, various women wrapped me in kindness and encouragement, running the gamut from “You got this,” to a bombshell in the bathroom who told me I “rocked the bobby pins,” although it took me EIGHT attempts to put up a small section of my hair and, still, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the result.
After spending a weekend surrounded by women, I’m happy to report: Girls don’t suck. Plus, Jon passed with flying colors.
The conference gave me a unique opportunity to visit my cousin, Emma, on her own turf and meet her incredible friends. Not to mention eating breakfast with her and our mothers alongside this awesome kitsch before hopping a plane back to sunny Florida.
On a side note, Jon told me this photo (below) was too “propped.” Little does he know there was absolutely no staging involved. When a girl’s only company is her bible and a blinking cursor, she finds herself bringing in objects every hour, on the hour: flowers for beauty, plants for fresh air.
More on point: I’m convinced no one benefits more than me when I spend days holed up in my laundry room studying, writing, and delivering messages to the walls. Digging into God’s word will pay dividends for months, even years, as I marinate with my own favorite nugget, relating to God’s provision for His people in the desert: “Manna isn’t sexy. Manna is beautiful.”
As I bask in the afterglow of a day set aside for worship and studying The Word, I am so thankful to have been invited in the first place. Being trusted with space to use my gifts for my own pleasure and, I pray, the benefit of others, is one of those rare things in life which brings me much joy. After a month or two of naps, I can’t wait to do it again. If your church or group has a women’s event at which you’d like me to speak, pass me a note down the aisle.
To the young women of JMU: I miss you already. I’m honored you trusted me with small bits of your stories and am praying for the ripple effect I believe will continue as a result of our time together. Please, please, keep me updated. If you’d like to keep up with me, you can subscribe at that little “Receive blog updates” button down there. I share posts a couple times a month and promise not to junk up your inbox with meaningless chatter. Also, you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
Blessings to you lovely ladies.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
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