We topped off the first night of our spring leadership training with pizza (and birthday cake for Misty) in Marlene's room. It was Friday night... well, actually it was Saturday morning after 1am local time, 2am our time, we were all a good 20+ hour drive away from our homes, we'd been crying and laughing and learning with tens of thousands of our peers for 6 hours, we were tired and excited and vulnerable and giddy. It was the BEST!
Phil asked us each to share what we were excited for the most about the direction LIFE was headed, and then to talk a bit about the person to our right, what we liked or admired most about them. The answers around the room were full of hope and joy and enthusiasm, and there was growth and maturity reflected in each response. And the genuine praise and admiration for each person in that room was expressed so eloquently, with so much love and transparency. Looking around at the faces of these people I've grown to love like family, I was so proud to be there with them, so honoured to know each one. As they spoke I found myself both listening carefully and praying for them, for their families, for their circumstances, for their futures. That hour was probably my favourite hour during the whole conference, but not like a cookie after a decent meal, but more like the caramel sauce drizzled carefully into a design atop an elegant dessert after a sumptuous meal aboard a cruise ship filled with your closest friends headed somewhere warm on a month long vacation paid for by someone else.
Yeah. It was pretty much like that.
When I first met Claude, who eventually led me to the rest of this room full of wonderful friends, I was so afraid of what he was offering, of what he was bringing into my life. I was beginning to take myself seriously as an artist and writer and I was ramping up to start my career now that my children were all about to be in school. When Claude sat at our table that night I had absolutely no time for him and let him know that I didn't want his little idea to get in my way; to distract me from becoming a rich and famous artist and writer.
Well it DID distract me.
It distracted me into learning to love my husband again; into being a better mom; into learning to be honest and transparent; into caring more about being good than looking good. I was distracted into returning to being a Christ-follower, and into leading my family to follow Him as well. It distracted me into becoming the woman I always wanted to be but just pretended to be. Into living the life I'd always wanted.
I've painted more, written more, spoken more, made more friends, made more of a difference since meeting Claude and Lana than I would have thought possible. I love my husband dearly and he knows it. And Andrew and the children love the Lord and have given their lives to Him.
And I'm so excited that what Claude brought to us that evening has evolved from a weird, uncomfortable little business into a brand new industry where I'll never have to distract someone from their purpose or path again. Now, what I do with LIFE is to offer people information that can compliment, augment and improve their lives, wherever they're looking for growth, doing whatever they're called to do. I was terrible at selling makeup, soap, pots and pans and juice. It's just not my calling. I was a terrible banker. I was a terrible beauty consultant. I was a terrible parts and service clerk, a terrible merchandiser, a terrible barrista. I was sweet and bright and kind through it all. But none of those career paths had anything to do with my calling.
But helping people figure out what they're here for? Pointing them to information that will change and enrich their lives the way it has mine? Helping them live the lives they always wanted? Oh, baby, now THAT'S something I can do. And I can do it while I grow my own character and follow my own gifts and talents to live out my unique mission. While I'm painting and writing and singing and leaving a legacy.
I'll be sharing more of what I learned this weekend at another time, because it profoundly affects my life from this time forward, but right now all I can think of is the blessing about to come. After church today, there'll be another dessert of the last bits of leadership training and then Andrew, Gaelle, Jordan and I will hop in the car and drive the 22 hours home, finish up the last few details, grab an awesome supper tomorrow night with the whole family, get a good sleep and then we'll head for the airport for our flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
I don't want anyone to think we're going over to save the Ecuadorians. They don't need 12 Canadians to come rescue them from their lives. They're already building these houses for those who need them. They're already filling countless backpacks so marginalized kids can go to school. The church we'll be visiting has a bigger weekly attendance than our own.
Originally I did think some of those things and I'm pretty sure I was proud and patting myself on the back for going. But after learning from Carito and Adam and Pastor Les, after much study and prayer and training, I know now that I'm going there to be with part of my family. To visit my brothers and sisters. To serve where I can. To listen carefully to what they tell me. To watch and learn. To see another reflection of the face of God, mirrored in the faces of the people I'll meet. To hear His voice in their voices, His songs in their songs, His love in their eyes and arms and hands.
And probably to learn something very much like what Jill said last night, that I must stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side and start watering the grass around me. I have brothers and sisters here at home who need me to listen carefully to their voices, to serve their needs, to just be with them. Mother Theresa told Shane Clairborne to find his Calcutta, so he headed back home to serve his people.
I don't know what I'll learn. But I'm ready to learn it. I'm ready to get distracted.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."~Romans 12:2