-nothing to go on
and I said, "Yeah. I will wait by my computer and get a ticket."
Which was good because they sold out in 42 minutes. Thanks to the timer on my iPhone, persistence, and a gift to pay for my trip, I got to attend this "IF:gathering"thing.
Each time I talk about this someone asks me what IF:gathering is. I want to give you a brief explanation but it's, well, hard.
A bunch of intelligent, Jesus-loving writers and bloggers from ALL across the denominational and political spectrum came together and asked:
"If we really believe God is real, then what does that mean for our lives?"
And they invited us to explore that concept as well.
We walked into the music hall in Austin with a literal key as our ticket to the conference. The tables were farmhouse picnic tables with beautiful floral centerpieces and I began to wonder if I was out of place. If this was a place for fancy, decorative women who had perfectly-kept houses and put-together outfits. I seriously began to wonder if the colorful-tight-loving girl with puppy paw prints all over her wooden floors and fourth-day-wash hair would fit in.
I began to wonder if the whole thing was so tidy that we wouldn't really get to our dirt.
But it didn't take long to know that wasn't the case. I mean, the minute I heard Annie Lobert on stage, I knew the planners wanted more from women than a nice ambiance and false pretense.
So I dug in on Friday afternoon. I loved worshipping. I loved seeing other women really looking at their lives. And I loved running into old friends and meeting new ones.
I came with a group of 19 women but I am, as my friends say, a "super extrovert" and with a 1200 women I had never met, I was in extrovert heaven! I met so many new friends. And, of course, hung out with some old ones (not old friends, just old relationships).
- that we got to discuss in groups what God was calling us to
- that we had time to journal, one of my favorite ways to communicate with God
- that our meals were specifically planned to spur us on as we built community
- that we shared communion together in a reverent and real way
- that there was amazing free coffee all weekend long!
- that I saw so many adoptive mama friends who know my heart and share my DNA for loving adoption
- that we got to WORSHIP and I got to participate. This never happens at home!
- that theology was not discussed beyond the basics of Christianity--that it was more important to be unified than to decide whether Calvinists or Arminians were "right"
- that no one gave the "right way" to follow Jesus' calling on your life, that his plan was the right way
In fact, every single woman who spoke had a different story. No cookie cutters there. The only expectation is that we were expected to really spend time evaluating what God was calling us to and whether we were following him with reckless abandon. We asked hard questions of each other and didn't expect answers.
We were called to love our neighbors. Our literal neighbors.
We were called to befriend people. Like actual, real friendships through dinners and conversations.
I shed so many good tears at the conference and left renewed and really thankful for Jesus' redemption, joy, grace, and friendship with me. Wow. It was so much.
But the weekend wasn't over.
So adoption. It makes you super close to people you've never been in the same room with.
My friend J is one of those people. She, too, is a first time mama to an adorable elementary-age boy from ET. Only her boy is home! We've spent many an hour huddled around keyboards discussing what God wants from us and spurring each other on to hard things. We've listened and "chatted" and understood each other when no one else could.
So when she offered to pick me and my friend Courtney (another one of these friends who became an IRL friend in May and has been irreplaceable ever since) up for dinner, it was a no-brainer.
We went to 6th street and tried to be cool, Austin weirdos.
After all, if I can't keep Austin weird, who can? I am pretty sure weird is my middle name.
We had dinner and went next door to see an elevated view of the street, one of the hippest in Austin, I'm told.
And then we left and ate massive, delicious, fried donuts from a trailer.
I still have dreams of those donuts.
It was the kind of night that you feel like you've been together for an hour but you realize it's been four. And you have to wake up early. So you hug, knowing God brought you together to encourage and love each other in a way others don't quite get.
At 6 am we went back to the airport after about 48 hours away. I sent this goodbye/hello photo to the husband and took off, back to the land of snow and ice.
I left renewed. The kind of renewal that makes you so tired that you go home and sleep on your couch for two hours because you are so exhausted. But renewed none the less.
So what if? What if God wants more from me than to-do lists, half-lived lives and acquaintance-like friendships? What if he really wants me to feed the hungry, love the unloveable, and share his word with everyone in my path?
What if I am where I am, when I am for exactly such a time as this?
What if? Well, I think only time will tell. But I was so glad for a good reminder.