I guess it isn't often you think of monkeys and hope in the same 2 seconds, but trust me, there's logic to it. :)
First, my apologies to Thomas Nelson and Women of Faith for the ridiculous delay in posting. I initially wanted to take a couple of days to process and actually have something substantial to say, aside from "It was awesome!" (which it was) - and then my grandmother passed away and there was the flurry of the unexpected trip out east for the funeral, and the craziness of trying to catch up on work, and the odd paralyzation of my usual bent towards productivity that came with all the emotions involved with all of that - and I've just been procrastinating. I don't really have an excuse at this point. Just... I'm sorry. Please forgive me. And thank you for a life-changing weekend.
The Women of Faith conference was exactly what I thought it would be. I met with God. He had some things to say that I needed to hear. It was fun - I laughed a lot. And I came away refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to re-imagine the possibilities of what God could do in and through my life.
I also came away feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, emotionally speaking anyway. Friday was awesome - it was relatively light-hearted most of the day (tho definitely not without depth), and fabulous to just be away. We had seats in the second row, and were seven feet from Natalie Grant at one point. It was pretty amazing. And then Saturday - wow. Saturday was one big long emotional haul. I could write for days about everything we saw and heard, but honestly - to all the ladies who read my blog, I will just recommend that you go. Listen to the stories these women have to tell. You won't regret it.
But here are my three big takeaways:
1) Without a doubt, my two favorite speakers over the weekend were Sheila Walsh and Henry Cloud. Henry was a very good sport about being one of the only men in the building. They tag-teamed beautifully all day on Friday, and I learned a lot from both of them. Henry asked an unusual question during one of his talks, tho: "Who's your monkey?" - and it really made me think.
The premise of his question is that in stress-test experiments with monkeys, a monkey who has company during the stress-test will inevitably be less affected by the stressors in his/her environment than the monkey who is left alone in a room with those same stressful factors. And so it is with people. We're wired for community - we need it to survive. Something that's come to mind often since that weekend is that, while Adam (before the Fall) walked and talked with God all the time, God still looked at him and said, "It isn't good for man to be alone." I find that interesting, in the context of American Christianity, where we're so fond of saying that Jesus is enough. He is - and yet. I haven't come to any conclusions about that, except that I want to study this idea more, and read a bunch of commentaries on the subject, and see what smarter people than I am have to say about it. And in the meantime, I think Henry Cloud is right - we all need a monkey. Sometimes we need twenty.
And so I've taken a good long look at the relationships in my life, and realized that I've been incredibly blessed with very good friends, several of whom have stepped up in some pretty awesome ways over the past few weeks and just been there to cry with me as I've been grieving. It's been pretty amazing, and I've felt far less alone these past few weeks.
2) One of the themes I heard in every talk throughout the weekend is that God has a purpose in every thing He allows into our lives, good, bad or indifferent. Each woman who took the stage (and both of the men as well) had stories to tell about some of the tough places they've been - and the way God worked through those situations to bring them to a place of healing and wholeness and then used their stories to impact hundreds of thousands of people every year, giving them hope for their own situations.
and 3) This very fact gave me hope for my own future - that all I've been through, all I'll go through - will somehow bring Him glory. I've felt a number of my dreams start to die these past few years; there are so many obstacles, so many things that just haven't worked out the way I thought they would, so many reasons why "I can't" seems the logical conclusion - and yet. And yet. Just because a dream lies fallow for a very long time doesn't mean there's no life in it. Hearing the stories of ordinary women who have been given extraordinary opportunities to share their stories with the world, and to impact the world for the kingdom of God on an international level gave me hope that God can use my stories to change lives as well. That is no small thing. It's extremely humbling, actually. But it's exciting, too - and leaves me wondering - what's next?
And glad for a handful of monkeys who will be there to see it.