I recently went on an incredible trip to Austin, Texas to meet up with over 230 ladies that I have had the pleasure to connect with through an opportunity to be part of the book launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s newest book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace In a World of Impossible Standards. The launch team was made up of 500 women chosen out of 5,000. Over 230 of them were able to meet up for a launch team party at Jen Hatmaker’s farm house. Most people who knew I was going to Austin have asked specifically about the party because…Jen Hatmaker. It was quite the soiree, but it’s not the party or meeting “JHat” that made up the penultimate moments of the weekend for me. In fact the party was my least favorite part. I’m not a fan girl, so meeting “JHat” was cool, but I was there to hug the necks of the sisters I had come to know, love, and admire since March. Trying to talk to every single one of these women that I have been genuinely excited to meet in person after experiencing a vulnerable, transparent and supportive community online is daunting and decidedly impossible. I missed so many faces that I had really been excited to finally get to hug in real life. There were a few faces that I felt disappointed to only get a few words in with and others that did not reciprocate in excitement to meet me. I actually left the party a little bit disappointed and a lot overwhelmed. After the party I realized that I am not quite as extroverted as I once used to believe I was. Instead of thriving in large groups with superficial small talk I now find myself preferring to be in smaller groups with more one-on-one interaction and deeper, lasting conversations. Which thankfully is what the rest of the weekend turned out to be before the party on Saturday evening.
When I arrived in Austin I thought the weekend was going to be an opportunity to be filled-up. A weekend of refreshing. A weekend of being poured into. And it was. Just not like I thought it would happen…it was better.
I thought it was going to be a carefree weekend. A weekend of outpouring of all the stress and hard of the last 5 months of my life. And again it was, but not like I thought it would be…it was more.
I thought this weekend was going to be all about quantity. Quantity of places to visit and people to meet, but it was the quality and smallness of the weekend that made it special. I realize now that I went into the weekend with a skewed perspective. One that was based in how I used to operate in such environments. I no longer thrive in large group settings and casual conversations. I am glad God had such bigger plans than just a weekend with the girls, which I think is what I had planned in my mind.
I’m both sensitive and compassionate…sometimes to a fault. I cry at most anything, meaning if you start to cry or get choked up, I begin to cry, too. I feel all the feels, a lot. I have BIG feelings. My go-to mode is to root for the little guy, the underdog, the unlikable one. And part of being compassionate is taking action; a giving of ourselves. Whether the action is consuming of our time, money, or physicality it has a common denominator; giving of ourselves.
My weekend in Austin was a weekend of giving. Not the receiving that I had planned for myself. Yet in actuality I received more through the giving. I spent my weekend in coffee shops, listening. In a hotel lobby, counseling. In a car, taking U-turns all over Austin, handing out (my very frugal amount of available) cash to the homeless and hurting. In a bar, preaching. And in a cafe, vision sharing.
God used me all weekend to hear, to see, and to share with a few. I didn’t take any photos because I found myself being present in each moment. Just being. It was a time of being small. Yet, impactful…perhaps even mighty. The residual effects still echoing among the few with which I spent the majority of my time.
And it was beautiful. Fulfilling. Remarkable. Full of revelation. It was Jesus. An abiding overflow of Him.
And it filled me.
As I sat in the Austin airport getting ready to fly home I began to slowly recognize the beauty of the weekend. In my mind I saw each face I spent quality time with and in their eyes saw Jesus. How it was a weekend of “just” Jesus with (230) friends. No conference…no speaker…no exciting worship experience. Just Jesus. Just love. Just the Church being the Church.
The last two weeks I have slowly been processing my reaction to the interactions over the weekend, and at the party specifically, has left me contemplating several things about myself. Mostly, I have been thinking in regard to my expectations of myself and others. It has been both beneficial, yet difficult to sort through all the feelings, expectations, and demands I have unknowingly placed on both myself and projected on others. I am slowly releasing myself and others to grace in regard to these feelings, expectations and demands.
It’s Freeing. Filling. Small. Enough.