For some reason I’ve been thinking about the leftovers from that big ol’ supper miracle that Jesus fixed by the side of the lake. 12 baskets filled with leftovers after feeding 5,000 hungry men, not to mention the women and kiddos. He did all that from the 2 fish and 5 loaves he had to work with.
The past few weeks I’ve been drawn to read and reread this story. What has struck me most was not the miracle itself but the directions before hand. He told these starving but committed folks to “sit down on the grass”. He didn’t say run into the village, grab a bite and come back. He made this miracle meal and then served it up. This was grace from start to finish. All they had to do was sit down and eat.
Because he had compassion on them.
You know, Jesus is good like that. Sometimes He just asks us to sit our booties down right where we are at, open our mouths and be fed. And there is such an abundance in this gift of grace that there is always available more than what we can eat. Overwhelming and overflowing into 12 baskets of grace.
This miracle can still happen. It happened this past weekend in Dallas at the first Hope Spoken conference. Abby and I had purchased tickets when they first announced this new event, primarily because our favorite author was keynoting. That and the fact that story language was woven all through the description of what was being promised.
And I’m kind of a fan of story and all the lovely things that go with.
We went into the weekend with zero expectations, which is a miracle in itself. So glad to have a treasured weekend together to catch up, we didn’t care if they just had us sit around and read the phonebook. (insert shameless Names and Numbers shoutout!)
So to say that Hope Spoken vastly exceeded our expectations is an understatement. Through the stories of women willing to share, this weekend was about providing a glimpse of a bigger glory, a vision of what could be in the lives of everyone who participated.
A team of extremely talented young women dared to plan a weekend that would bring glory to God and provide an environment for vulnerable storytelling. It. Was. Amazing.
Think more retreat than conference, filled with familiar bloggers and a few authors and a collection of gals willing to fly in from the far corners of our country to show up and get real with like-minded strangers. Many we met had the courage to show up alone. But this was the kind of gathering that didn’t allow any one to stay alone long.
We learned quickly that not only would we have the chance to meet the people whose blogs we’d been reading, but we’d have a chance to sit around a table and visit. It was sort of like catching up with friends you hadn’t seen in a while. It was surreal and incredible and encouraging.
Everyone has a story. That truly was the theme and they figured out a way for us to hear as many of those stories as possible. Of course the highlight, to be honest, was hearing Shauna speak such truth about a life with “more love and less hustle”. There were main speakers and smaller breakout speakers and then small groups of 10 or so.
Simply put this was a storytelling event. We listened hard and spoke our own. Validating hard, yucky stories that had been redeemed. Rejoicing with those who had walked serious stories of sorrow. Marveling in brokenness restored. Reveling in those who dare to live a radical “get down in the gutter with people” kind of love. Yeah I’m talking about you Shannen (Be small! Embrace the weird! Be courageously foolish!)
Lots of laughter and lots of tears.
How does something like this happen in a setting where I only knew one person? Well, turns out that when you call women together, who love the same miracle producing Jesus and aren’t afraid to run hard after him, it becomes quite a beautiful affair.
We came. We sat down on the grass. And boy did we ever eat!
There were no three-point “how-to” talks. Not a power point in the joint. This experience confirmed everything I’ve known and wrote about the power of story.
I was able to chew and process for 7 hours on the way home to quickly reconnect with my out-of-state inlaws who I’d left with my family for the weekend. Whoops! I started thinking about what the cute chalkboard title would be for my talk if I had been asked to speak.
I realize that the majority of my stories connect in sort of quiet, small places. Some of the dearest stories of my heart deal with the children and families I work with as a speech pathologist. Others involve my children and marriage. Some stories are happening in church family relationships and new adventures that, just because of their nature, need quietness, not publication or a platform.
But that makes them no less important just because I cannot stand up and speak about them or even write about them. They require anonymity except to the parties involved. And this weekend taught me that I’m more OK with that than ever.
I understand and am content that those stories are very much on the radar and heart of my Storyteller. And that is what matters. He sees He knows and I need to warrior on in the small.
I am so grateful for the fresh wind of innovative, creative, risk-taking believers that dare to follow God into the storyline He has written for them. It makes us all more courageous.