I spent last weekend in Dallas at Hope Spoken. The night before I left, my husband told me he was glad I'd have some time away to be refreshed, encouraged and deepened in my faith. He wanted me to go, free of the guilt that often comes when leaving your family behind, fully aware of the task that lay before him with five small children and baseball games, school schedules, and social obligations. I scrambled the week before, finishing up the laundry, doing the grocery shopping, arranging babysitters, praying that my sweet baby (who is really a toddler) wouldn't think she'd been abandoned, secretly hoping this would also be known as "weaning weekend". It wasn't, of course, but so it goes.
I climbed into the taxi in the darkness of early morning, made my way through the airport, got my giant coffee and sat at my gate, waiting to board my flight to DFW. I met a friend at the gate I'd only known through social media, and talked about our anticipation for the weekend ahead and the funny goodbyes we'd had with our kids.
I flipped through magazines on my flight because I didn't have a baby on my lap and I was not going to waste this solo travel experience with sleep, let me tell you. I can't remember the last time I made it through an entire periodical in one sitting. It was weird, you guys.
Soon enough we'd arrived, the warm Texas air hugging our shoulders as we made our way from the airport to the hotel, riding in sweet Sarah's Tahoe, chatting and laughing and catching up on our 20 minute drive. And then, magic. Walking into the hotel lobby, recognizing faces of people you've never met, awkwardly introducing yourself, giddy with excitement upon hugging friends you haven't seen in ages, breathing deep, knowing you are where you are meant to be. And then, waiting to check into your hotel room and who is standing right next to you but JEN HATMAKER and you suddenly become super awkward and silent because you know if you open your mouth you're going to ask if she maybe wants to share best friends broken heart necklace and that might make everyone uncomfortable.
I'm still processing everything I experienced this weekend, but every single detail adds up to feeling full and encouraged and truly experiencing something so lovely. From the love that was poured into every beautiful detail: backdrops and signs and centerpieces. Twinkly lights and garlands and treat tables. A beautiful devotional, a bag full of gifts, genuine care for every person in attendance. There were people there sharing their gift of music, leading us in worship. There were women there sharing their stories, being vulnerable and talking about the hard places the Lord has brought them to and through, speaking truth in love. We met in small groups to share our hearts and struggles and pray for each other. We were 250 women together for 48 hours, sharing life. We were encouraged and loved, we were challenged to dream, to remain faithful, to stay strong, to trust, to believe in His best for us. For me it wasn't a breakthrough or an "aha!", but it was a peaceful breath of life and refreshment over me, a gentle reminder of the love that God longs to lavish on each and every one of us as often as we will let Him.
And then almost as quickly as it started, it came to a close. We hugged and said our goodbyes. And there are so many wonderful women that I wished I'd been able to pull aside and grab a cup of coffee with. To hear more of their heart, more of their stories. It was like a little sampling of Heaven and the family He has established.
I was so grateful to have an extra day before I had to head home. A day to spend with my girls. To nap by the pool with, to laugh with, to help me fulfill all my taco and queso dreams (life changed, for real. tacos are my love language), to sit around a table with and take photos in front of turquoise walls with and cry and laugh some more. Another glimpse of Heaven and hope.
It was an amazing weekend, a gift. And I am so thankful for it.