I'm having trouble coming up with the words to tell you about the last two days. Looking back, it goes back even farther, so I guess I will start there. One day last week, Sheila Walsh and Mary Graham both tweeted about looking forward to their first stop on the 2010 Women of Faith tour in Billings, Montana. Now, who's ever heard of Billings, Montana?? Me. Because I live there. Last month I would have been excited because I planned on going. I had inadvertantly made two car payments in February and therefore didn't have one due until April, so I was going to use that extra money to buy my ticket for WoF. But then we found a house, and needed ernest money, and inspections, and all the rest that goes with buying a home, so I set the conference aside in my mind, and moved on to being excited about the house. But those tweets made me wish I could be there. Knowing I couldn't afford it, I tweeted back that I wanted to go, but didn't have the money. I also assured them that I would be praying for Sheila, Mary, and the 5000 women expected to attend. Within minutes, God showed me the hearts of two very giving women. I received a direct message, not only from Sheila Walsh, but another from Mary Graham asking if I would attend if they were to give me a ticket. I was overwhelmed at the thought that these ladies would make an offer to me, a complete stranger, just like that. So I took a minute to get myself in check and replied to both ladies that I would LOVE to go. Then they sweetened the deal by adding a second free ticket!
This deal excited me for roughly five seconds. That's how long it took for me to realize that I haven't formed any real friendships here. My family has disowned me. And now I had this amazing opportunity, but no one to share it with. I'm pretty sure this was God's first step in showing me the direction I need to start moving my life. I'm great on Twitter, or facebook, or MSN Messenger, but I am NOT a people person face-to-face. I long to be outgoing, but feel much more comfortable as a hermit. So, I did what I knew to do, and posted a new status on facebook. "I have an extra ticket to the Women of Faith event in Billings this weekend. Let me know if you'd like to join me." And then I waited. And waited. And with no response, I moved on to playing Mahjongg Dimensions to take my mind off the fact that I have no female friends.
Now, I'm a night owl. I tend to sleep between 2am and 7am. Aunt Ronda, however, isn't normally up as late, so it took me by surprise when she responded to my fb post in the wee hours of the morning. She said she had planned on going, but since she hasn't been working was afraid they couldn't afford it. When I assured her that the ticket was free and she could stay with us, she agreed to come. That's when God's plan started coming together for us. What I didn't know was that she had been in bed for a few hours when she suddenly woke up. She tried for over an hour to go back to sleep, but with no luck, she decided to check in on facebook. That's when she saw my staus update and responded. After talking to me that night, she went back to bed and immediately fell asleep.
You have to understand that God had plans to make serious strides in Ronda's confidence with this conference. The first challenge he put in front of her was driving the 229 miles from Butte to Billings. Ronda is terrified of driving alone, but God wanted her to be here, so he gave her the courage to get started and keep going, and and let her pass before sending white-out snowfall and extremely high winds in her wake. She arrived safely in Billings, and her self-esteem was boosted.
Friday morning, we made our way to the Metra, parked (a fair distance away), and headed in to pick up our tickets. The first snag was that no one had our tickets. One person had at least heard of me, and told the frazzled ticket lady to please give me "two good seats in a floor section." Boy, this lady did just that. When we found our seats, the were on the end of an aisle, on the floor, even with the Porch Pals chairs next to the stage! We were sitting six feet from the stage with a great view of all the ladies of Women of Faith! (You can bet I tweeted my little heart out through both days.) As we listened, we heard messages of trust, building up our individual gifts, love, loss, pain, hope, desperation, and God's countless blessings. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but we were more than happy for the ride.
This is how close we were to the ladies as we rocked out to Nicole C. Mullen!
This same day, Ronda was waiting to hear about a job she interviewed for, but halfway through the day, she leaned over and whispered to me, "I'm not going to get the job because God wants me to step out of my comfort zone and make real connections with people. In my home. I don't do that." She could feel through these messages that God was telling her He had bigger plans for her life than the job she wanted.
Saturday started out much the same. We stood in line for 30 minutes to get coffee, squealed over our wonderful seats, readied the tissues (cause it was a serious cryfest. Next year they should just call it CryFest 2011.), and opened ourselves to the wonders of God. It was during her first smoke break of the day that God whispered to Ronda that if she would give up smoking, she could afford to sponsor a World Vision child. He then led her to the table where the older kids, the ones about to be too old for sponsorship, were located, placed a picture in her hand that resembled a little boy she knew in real life, and said, "This is the life you will save by saving your own life." Without hesitation, she filled out the card and never looked back.
During the lunch break, I was sure she had lost it when she stood up quickly and needed to get past me. "I need to take my cigarettes to the World Vision table. I was going to finish the pack, but I can't. I need to start now." But God is funny. We never made it to the table. In fact, we only made it about four feet from our seats when God placed a World Vision worker directly in Ronda's path. She pulled out her pack and handed them to the startled worker while quickly explaining the significance to her. I'm not dramaticising at all when I tell you that tears welled up in that woman's eyes as she hugged Ronda and thanked her for being such a faithful servant.
Sheila Walsh was kind enough to have a picture with me!
While I was so proud of Ronda and all God was doing in her, I also felt a little disappointed. I really thought that the way the story went down meant that I was meant to be there so God could do something huge for me. I will admit it. My thoughts were selfish because when it comes to many facets of my life, I'm lost. I feel helpless, hopeless, and stunted. I didn't realize until Saturday's last session was almost over that God was working in me as well. But God knows me, and He knows that I would not have responded well if He'd acted in me as He did in Ronda. My tweaking was more subtle. It was in learning that I didn't have to keep trying to fix myself because God didn't accidentally make me who I am. In finding out I have gifts, but I need to nurture them instead of trying to grow new gifts that will benefit all the world. In the smiles, kindness, and hugs I received in person from Sheila Walsh and Mary Graham who were genuinely pleased that I could attend. God showed me the little cracks in my heart that I've tried over and again to cover with steel, that they are still there, and only He can fill them.
In short (ha!), our two days with the Women of Faith were miraculous, heartbreaking, healing, surreal (Did Sheila just say my name on stage? Yep. She sure did!), and potentially the most eye opening time of our lives, delivered on high heeled shoes and sparkled up by disco balls while surrounded by 5000 women in this little, unheard of town I call home.
These were the lights and disco balls over the WoF stage.