Disclaimer: This is one of my least eloquent blogs ever- and that is saying something. How can you sum up grace? How can you describe real magic? I'll leave it to the poets and Carry On.
For those of you who follow The Homestead, you know we just finished a BIG weekend. By some miracle, my favorite voice of authenticity, NY Times bestseller, Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery agreed to come be a keynote speaker at our retreat Breaking Open: The Phoenix Process of Spiritual Rebirth, and then appear in public at Mississippi State University.
I planned this event - made it up out of my own brain, spirit, whatever. I thought, because I was the organizer, I would watch from a distance as things unfolded. I did not plan to have a phoenix experience of my own. I wanted to provide a space where other people could have one. I learned so many things this weekend. So many things.
1. I have good, big ideas. I was brought up with the courage to go after dreams, and without the fear of failure. I am thankful for parents who raised me to believe it is okay to fall on your face. But, I don't make these things happen. I surround myself with people who do.
Hiroko Clay, Rosa Vozzo, Rosie Oppedal, and Tammy Gammill wore hideously ugly vests and served as ushers (I owe you for those vests). Whitney Hilton rolled up to Lee Hall with two broken legs to sell books. My roommate from college, Susan Murphy, is the most organized person I know. She brought a friend up from Jackson, Laura Wesson, to take over registration because, let's face it, she knows me. Marion Sansing, of course, cooked soul nourishing food all weekend for our participants. Meredith Shapley produced a beautifully wrapped gift for Glennon. Pattie Molen and her daughter, Amy, helped me decorate because decorating had not occurred to me. Cat Walker bailed me out big time on the set up at the University because I had no idea what "informal moderator set up" meant until 4pm on Friday. Shannon Voges-Haupt sent her husband and son (thanks Jeff and Beckett) to try and unclog the toilets at 11pm. Kate Fable agreed to teach 7am yoga when I called her in a panic at midnight, realizing I forgot I put it on the schedule. Hill Plumbing in Columbus came at 8am to save us. My in-laws took good care of Cecelia (thank you Oma and Opa.) My husband had the boys. My mom sent encouraging texts all weekend.
People ask how I pull this stuff off. I'll tell you. I have a good tribe.
2. The theme of the weekend was a cosmic joke on myself. Friday night, our first talk was on Embracing the Darkness. Usually we run from it, but this is not a healing tendency. Healing begins in the darkness. Let me tell you, Friday night was dark.
I had begun to have my doubts about The Homestead when we got back from our summer trip. I mean EVERYTHING that could go wrong with a house and property did. Okay, maybe not everything, but The Homestead had begun to feel like a giant suck on energy, resources, and time. I have not even changed the hideously ugly curtains in my own house since we moved in three years ago because I am always working on The Homestead. Somehow, with the help of friends and a landscaping company, we got it whipped into shape hours before the retreat began.
But, I had begun to have other doubts. What if Glennon was a huge fake? What if she was not who she says she is? I didn't think I could handle that landmark disappointment. My stomach churned. Then, four participants left after the first evening saying, "It was not what they expected." Knife to the gut. And then, the toilets exploded. Holy sh--, literally.
Darkness? I wanted to crawl under a rock, curl up, and turn in the keys.
3. Suck it up Buttercup and prepare to be amazed.
Thankfully, my parents also raised me as a descendant of good, midwestern stock. "Roll up your sleeves and clean the toilets," I heard them whisper. I decided to drag my butt out of bed Saturday morning and face the remainder of the weekend. I walked into The Homestead to laughter. These saintly women were on the porch with coffee mugs, snuggled under blankets, and glowing. Now, I have to tell you, some of these women were intimidatingly well put together when they arrived Friday night. How many times do we have to hear it? Don't judge a book by its cover. They trecked over the levy to shower at my house. They peed in the woods until the plumber got there at 8am. They LAUGHED about the whole thing. God bless them. God bless them!
And, the weekend got better and better. From the minute Glennon and Amanda, her sister, walked into the hotel lobby where I went to pick them up, I knew. I knew they were the real deal.
We are so hungry for authenticity, that we doubt its very existence.
4. Everybody needs a phoenix experience.
I think some of the women just came to see Glennon, but I don't think one of them left, including myself, without major healing. My prayer the week before the retreat was this: Let this be a healing place. Let Glennon find the peace she gives to others in our space.
Why don't I have faith in my own prayers?
The Homestead was a healing place. Bettersworth auditorium was a healing place. The community among women who were brave enough to be broken, vulnerable, and audacious created that healing space.
Glennon said, "God can't work with you until you are on the floor." We need the darkness. The brokenness is our greatest gift. Fixing it isn't the way forward. Sitting in the darkness with others is grace in action.
I am so thankful to our powerful and kind presenters this weekend: Rev. Ashley Beaty-Perry, Lynn Peterson, Jan Lemon, and Buddy Wagner. I am so thankful for the tribe of women who came to The Homestead, including Glennon and Amanda, who sat around my old living room, drinking tea, laughing, crying, and healing - oh, and dancing. My mountain top experience was dancing to the Indigo Girls with Glennon and Amanda behind the curtain, just before we went on stage. Dancing. That's good stuff.
I think I'll keep The Homestead.