As I sit here at my sunny desk, with my sleeping baby on the bright stars play mat next to me, I can’t help but think on the adventures of the last couple of weeks. Okay, one big adventure. Here, of course, I mean the NACC. I love conventions probably more that most people should, or do. I love how many connections you get to make, and how everyone walks with purpose in their steps, and how the throng of attendees swashes (Yes. Swashes.) to and fro much like a flock of birds that you quizzically observe flying around in the same general area, seemingly for no reason at all. (Avian experts, feel free to comment with an explanation of that phenomenon…)
I love all the old friends who return to the convention each summer, how somehow they all know my father, mother, or my in-laws, and how we always seem delightedly surprised to see each other, as though we didn’t know they go to this every year just like we do. I love the exorbitant amount of coffee I get to consume, and of course, how schmancy and important I feel because my husband basically runs this shindig!
Oh, did I say he runs this shindig? I meant to say “this shindig, in which he runs” … from place to place… all week. In fact, I’m fairly certain this proves that he’s secretly the Flash, because 1) I barely saw him last week, and 2) the only confirmation I had that he was really there was whenever I had the impression of a button-down and/or khaki blur waving at me. Admittedly, this is a downside of his working for the NACC, but… the coffee almost makes up for it…
Before the week even began, we got to go with the others of Ryan’s office to an Indians game and watch it in the comfort one of the wonderfully air-conditioned suites! I have never been in one of those before- schmancy.
We didn’t stay for the whole game, because we were pooped (and the week hadn’t even started yet), so we went back to our hotel room, which ended up being fabulous!! First of all, we could see the Victory Field from our room, which was awesome, because when they began the fireworks, they were bursting into sparkling loveliness practically at our eye level- awesome!! And our suite was amazing and spacious and had a separate living space as well as a king-sized bed, AND was connected to the convention center via a walkway that took 2 minutes to cross. Yay for not having to walk outside (with my baby, stroller, and diaper bag) in the sweltering July sun! This especially excited me, because last year, somehow we ended up staying in a hotel that was about 5 blocks from the convention center (about 5 blocks more than I wanted to walk…) and which was just a normal, no-fuss room with a bed, bath, and tv. Don’t get me wrong: I had no expectation of a schmancy room, thus my utter delight this year. And of course, having a baby added a whole different layer of jubilation to my joy over our accommodations. Because she has So. Much. Stuff. (i.e. stroller, diaper bag, formula, bottles, burp cloths, back-up outfit, diapers, wipes……….)
PLUS, I have one word for you: BREAKFAST. Because of the type of room we had (“executive suite??”) we had access to this lounge up several floors which had a reeeeally good breakfast- only my favorite meal of the day!! Not only did they serve hot food like eggs, bacon, and such, and the normal bagels and toast, but they had oatmeal with all the fixins, fresh fruit, and (most importantly) the coffee was GOOD. And served all day… Sigh!! Be still my heart. And throughout the day, they served snacks, and in the early evening, hoer d’oeuvres and some alcoholic beverages (if only I liked any alcohol! I would’ve felt exceedingly schmancy drinking a glass of wine in that lounge overlooking the city), followed by a desert hour. Marriott Lounge, where have you been all my life? Suffice it to say, I was in heaven. If I had just hung out in that lounge every day, I still would have considered it a great week.
Weeks like this resonate with my soul, because (at least at this conference) so much of the point is simply connecting. But it’s not just connecting as in networking. It’s connecting stories; overlapping your own adventure with someone else’s in such a way as to ignite you- each step through the halls of the convention center- even the exhibit hall- a springboard into the possibility and potential of the future. Kind of like whenever I helped my friends, Wendy and Cheryl, work their booth for If Then Movement.
Here are some of the wonderful action-driven products of If Then Move. Everything is made from reclaimed materials, and this line specifically is all about prayer. That’s why on the back of every flower pin, every bracelet, etc. there’s a prayer pocket where you can keep a written reminder of what you’re praying over, and also be reminded of who you are and Whose you are. The flowers specifically make me so happy, because they represent all the different pieces of our lives, which often feel like garbage to us (all the fabric was either given away, or found at thrift stores- basically unwanted). The gem in the center represents Jesus, and how he binds us together like the gem binds the flowers together, to make us into something beautiful. This is who we are in the world- walking beauties, made impossibly out of brokenness into something whole- something redeemed and purposeful once more.
(Can you tell I resonate with that?)
I am SO passionate about what If Then Move is doing, not only because its ministry and events focus on discipleship- real, gritty, beautiful, fruitful discipleship, but that the founders, Wendy and Cheryl, are using their creative abilities to serve people in big ways. Click here to read about Cheryl’s creations and here for Wendy’s storytelling- and how together they pour life into other people!
I was also free advertising for them… As was Lucy. Observe, the cuteness:
There were so many God moments for me, as well as for Ryan. We got to see both my parents, my 94-year-old grandmother, and Ryan’s parents too (or more importantly, they all got to see Lucy), we connected with others in ministry which was awesome, and all 3 of my mentors were in town at the same time! My director for my home business, Wendy of course, and the breath of fresh air, the beautiful, the amazing- Aimee Brown! (Here I feel that 3 “Huzza!”s would be appropriate…)
I love the last one, because there were at least 3 other pictures like this, with a small, blurry figure darting into the frame, which occurred because all 5 of Aimee’s children kept wanting to see Lucy, hold Lucy, or fight over who got to hold her next… Love those kids!
Okay, so I had to include all of those moments with Aimee, especially because she basically helped deliver Lucy at the hospital (you know, because she’s kind of a pro at having babies), and she’s also pretty much the epitome of the kind of mom I want to be. I so pray that you have someone in your life to be that for you- to be a mentor and example- if you don’t, I strongly recommend finding someone like that. 🙂
I just love how all these stories- all these wonderful people- overlapped that week. And I love how God encouraged me about my own story. The wonderful thing about God, is that he is the genius orchestrater of paradoxes. Here, I am thinking of the paradox of all this deep, grand epiphanying I’m doing along with the minutiae of life- such as grocery shopping, renewing your driver’s license, or making dinner. (The last of which I probably ought to be doing right now… Love that patient husband of mine!) But all week, I kept hearing a whisper of, “See? There’s another one. And another…” and seeing example after example of people whose artistic abilities and endeavors are truly expanding the kingdom of God- people I can actually relate to! It’s so exciting, because I often feel at odds with the mindset of practicality, of the bare-bones obvious, of the status quo. But more and more, I realize that I must cancel out the thought that the world doesn’t need another artist, that what I have to offer affects nothing and no one, because that thought is not planted in my head by God. Instead, I realize that everyone feels at odds with the “status quo” no matter what your gifts are, because- spoiler alert- we weren’t made for status quo. If we were, the self-help/self-improvement industry would not exist. And no one would bother to create great stories of struggle and victory in film and literature. Deep down in our guts, we just know we are intended to play a role, to test our mettle, to take part in the feast of life. Though really, it’s an appetizer compared to what is to come.
And, if you’ll permit me to make a Lord of the Rings reference (just kidding, I’m going to make it anyway), what would Aragorn be without his sword, Narsil? A reminder of brokenness of kings past- his kin, and a representation of the choice before him: to serve himself or his people. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just stop reading this right now and go start reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Seriously. Go.) With Narsil, he defends and serves both his friends and his people; he defeats the forces of Mordor (okay, along with Frodo and the others obviously…), piercing the darkness. THAT is what we are called to do; pierce the darkness with the gifts you’ve been given. As for me, I will pierce the darkness with light with each stroke of a key (piano or keyboard), each inked letter, each illustration… I will share the Story in my heart. This is how I use beauty to serve the Lord. What about you?