This past weekend I had the opportunity to get away with my dear friend Kami. We made a little road trip down to Newton, IA to attend a women’s conference where Angie Smith was speaking.
I have long followed Angie’s writing. In 2008 she started blogging as a way to communicate with family and friends as she carried her daughter Audrey. A baby that doctors said was “incompatible with life.” Angie and her husband Todd (from the band Selah) made the brave choice to carry Audrey even though her doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy.
It wasn’t too many months later I would find myself losing my own pregnancy. A baby we desperately wanted and lost so early on. I was so angry with God during that time. Fully aware that He had the power to stop my miscarriage and yet didn’t. Why Lord?
I wrestled with my faith and found myself in a dark place. But there was something that continued to draw me to Angie’s story. A woman full of hurt and questions and loss and yet trusting God with everything. If she could carry her baby and have to let her go and still trust God….why couldn’t I?
Angie’s transparency compelled me to seek God myself. To ask those hard questions and fight for my faith in a way I hadn’t before. It would be the beginning of a journey that would lead me to this season.
It is one of the reasons that I feel called to share my heart and my stories now. Not that I am doing this all right along the way, but if even the smallest thing can bring someone else hope, can point to Jesus….then the sharing was worth it.
When I saw Angie was speaking a mere 5 1/2 hours away I knew I needed to go. Initially I just bought a ticket for myself and then on a whim messaged Kami and asked if she would be willing to join me for a girls weekend. I was so excited when she said yes!
As we approached the weekend I started to have second thoughts. I knew leaving my family was going to be hard. Karlena especially is struggling when I am away from her. Things are different now, we all struggle with fears of something terrible happening to another one of us. I guess because the worst did happen….it just opened up the reality that it can, and it could again.
Even Thursday night when I heard Kami share how hard her week had been I thought maybe we should stay home. But her husband, a man familiar to grief himself, wisely encouraged us to go. I am so glad that we did.
We met at a middle point for both of us and drove the remaining way together. We laughed when we realized that having frozen hotel pizza in our PJ’s at 8pm sounded like a perfect evening in. We both brought our own blankets and settled in for a few episodes of HGTV.
On Saturday we went to the conference. The theme was “Overcoming.” I had purchased VIP tickets so we got to sit in the front row and have a meet and greet before lunch. The day started out with worship, claiming victory through Christ. I wept as we sung those words, believing them so much in my spirit, but also still so wounded from the hurt of Isaac’s loss.
Angie shared about her family and then we looked at the story of Lazurus. She also walked us through the story of how Jesus calmed the storm. What is it that the disciples were afraid of?
As we broke for lunch we headed out to the place where we would get an opportunity to meet Angie in person. She is every bit as lovely in person as you would expect. I had an opportunity to share a bit of my story and just thank her for all she has done in encouraging me over the years.
“What you are doing is making a difference” I told her. Sometimes we just need to remember to tell people that don’t we? Has someone been an encouragement to you? Tell them! Has someone been brave and shared their hard story? Thank them and then go be brave yourself….your story matters too!
At lunch we ran over to a Mexican restaurant and met another friend of mine, Janelle. She and I met years ago at a blogging conference and have kept in contact through FB. I happened to see that she lived in Newton and while she couldn’t attend the conference, she volunteered to grab us a table early and wait for us so we could have lunch!
It was so much fun seeing her in person, hearing about some of the things she is doing to encourage women in her community through her own church! She had some great ideas that they do at conferences she leads that I have already shared with my NSB team! Janelle, our visit was super short, but meant so much to me – thank you for making time for us and making lunch possible!!
The rest of the conference was a Q&A with Angie and then the MC’s did something I wasn’t expecting. They said that they knew there were women there that day who had experienced the loss of a child (at any point) and they wanted us to stand and be prayed over.
Kami and I both stood, she having had a miscarriage herself, we hugged and I sobbed. I didn’t expect to cry so much, I guess the sorrow of it all just came to the surface.
Then the MC asked us to take these cards and they wanted us to have some time for reflection. To write down something we were overcoming and how we have been an overcomer. I just wrote out a prayer to God and I want to share here.
“Lord I guess it is and will continue to be my deepest heart cry that you take my broken heart over Isaac and use it. Right now it feels like an impossible thing to overcome. I don’t know how to move forward, I don’t know how to walk this path well but I will continue to put my trust in you Lord. I don’t like this and I don’t agree with it but I submit to you. I don’t know any other thing than to lay it at your feet and humbly pray you will use it. How and in what way I can’t possibly know – but I trust You. I feel a lot like the disciples in the boat, in the middle of the storm and they just want Jesus to wake up and calm the storm. I also realize that even if You calm the current storm in my heart, I still won’t have my son. I can’t place my faith and my trust in my circumstances. I won’t ever find peace. Instead in the storm and in the calm, with or without my son I must put my hope in You alone God. Help me to do that. Help me to come to You with every moment. Even the ones that hurt and give me Your peace Lord. Please just give me Your peace.”
One of the questions that Angie asked us to take home and consider was this: “Am I searching for the absence of the storm of the presence of the Lord in the middle of it?”
While I absolutely wish this wasn’t our storm, it is. And the only thing I know to do now that we are in it is seek God in it all. I just cannot imagine walking through this and not having the assurance of His hope and peace.
I am so grateful that Kami and I had this time away. She is a treasure of a friend and was such an encouragement to me the entire weekend. Having trusted friends to walk with us in times like this is crucial. Thank you Kami for loving me so well this weekend.
Kami and I joked (ok it wasn’t a joke we were totally serious) that we wished we could have just hung out with Angie and her assistant Audrey after the conference was over. They were both awesome and I am pretty sure pizza in our PJ’s would have been totally appropriate! ha!
God was so good to me this weekend and this time felt like a gift. I am grateful for the people that put on this conference, for Angie coming and giving of her time away from her family and for my family and Kami’s who encouraged and let us go away for a time to connect and recharge. So so grateful.