My face still hurts from all the smiling I did last weekend. What we planned was exciting enough, but then God added serendipities that only he could orchestrate. On Friday morning daughters-in-law Linsey (Pete) and Erin (John) and I headed to the airport to pick up Quinn, who flew in from Denver. Then we continued north toward Seattle, where we met Cary and Jeff for dinner. Jeff is Dusty’s (Quinn) brother and Cary is Jeff’s girlfriend. You’re getting the idea—this is a family affair. I’d never met Cary, so it was very fun to see the two of them together before we whisked Cary away so that we girls could attend the Beth Moore Living Proof Live conference being held at Overlake Christian Church. Now, to get the full picture of this event, you need to visualize a church large enough to hold the 5,068 women who bought tickets before they sold out months ago. The doors opened one hour before the first session began, but we got stuck in the long line of cars waiting to park and once we actually passed through the front doors, the helpers directed us up one level and then another level until we found ourselves choosing five seats together on the highest row of the highest balcony. In case the name Beth Moore is not familiar, she teaches Bible studies for women. The studies are recorded on DVD and come with workbooks that groups can do together. I think she has a series of 11 now on different topics. I’m just finishing up “The Patriarchs” as an independent study. Quinn bought “Living Beyond Yourself,” so I bought the workbook for that study and will start on it next. While these are wonderful, there’s nothing quite like attending a conference with so many other enthusiastic women, all eager to know God better and how to follow his truth. She’s an excellent communicator, using wit and straight talk to drive home a point. And the worship singing! Imagine the voices of 5,068 women lifting exuberant praise to God in unified song. A taste of heaven! And sharing that experience with women I love dearly just can’t be beat.
One of the serendipities of the weekend happened when I bumped into Heather, a friend from Quinn’s Seattle days. Quinn has always shared her friends with me and I feel completely blessed to know so many wonderful young women—Heather being one. Who but God could have thought to lead us to seats just a few rows up from Heather in that huge auditorium? After the evening session we headed back to our hotel, but before calling it a night we unanimously agreed that we had the best seats in the house and that we would aim for those same seats the next morning.
If you ever have a chance to hear Travis Cottrell sing, go! He, along with other remarkable singers, led worship at the conference. I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of the CDs I bought. This highly trained (I don’t need documents to know this) young man had me singing my little heart out at the conference, and he will again once I’ve learned these new songs.
The final session ended around noon and we headed toward the conference store (though there was absolutely no pressure to buy their product). On our way through the milling crowd of women God provided yet another serendipity. Standing around with other women from her church was Julie. To explain who Julie is would take more words than appropriately fit into this post, so I’ll just say that Julie and Quinn and I had some unfinished business that might have gone on unfinished indefinitely had not God intervened at that moment. See his humor, putting all of us together and surrounding us with a cloud of witnesses as we hugged and cried and healed our old wounds.
So Julie asked Quinn, “Do you have pictures of your kids?” She didn’t. Then Julie turned toward me with the same question in her eyes. I didn’t. A mom not carrying pictures of her kids—now that’s quite normal. A grandma not carrying pictures of her grandkids—that’s unbelievable! So, Julie, here’s a picture of my precious grandchildren, and just so you know, today I printed and laminated this same picture in the size of a credit card, and next time I’m asked—I’ll be ready to whip it out like a true grandma!
Connecting with Heather for lunch at Claim Jumper gave us even more girl time. And then with our tanks full we headed for IKEA to shop! Come fall, we’ll have one in Portland, but for now it’s still a big treat to push a cart around that city and try to talk myself out of buying six of these and ten of those. I ran out of energy before I ran out of time, so headed for the checkout, only to find Quinn had beat me there. As we shared a bench and she sipped her $1 latte, she asked if she could tell me a story. Of course she knew I’d say yes, but it wasn’t what I expected, which was a grandkid story. She described how she had asked God to use her, beyond the way he uses her every day as a wife and mother. Then she unfolded the beautiful story of how God used her through unplanned circumstances to bring healing to the broken marriage of a couple in her church. As Quinn expressed her joy over this obvious answer to her prayer, I realized this was also a defining moment for me as her mother. What greater joy could I have than to raise a daughter who wants to be used by God? He uses all of us through various means to accomplish his work here on earth, but he must find special pleasure in those who ask to be used.
By then I was fairly well spent. Can happiness wear us out? Erin took the wheel for the trip back to Newberg and we returned to a house with three waiting husbands. The four locals went to their own homes, but the next day returned for our Sunday family potluck dinner. By then I had already taken Quinn to the airport for her flight back to Denver and had the tables set up for the 16 local family members who come for dinner once a month. Each one brings a one-minute show ‘n’ tell. During dessert and coffee we go around the table, taking our turn with the “floor.” Erin showed and told about the e-mail she got from her writing partner that told they got a big bite from a publisher on their book, “Mind Over Motion.” (Be watching for it!) Linsey showed an article in Real Simple magazine that featured a girl she used to “baby”sit in Alaska. I showed my Beth Moore booklet and the video panorama I took with my little camera of the huge hall full of women, starting with my companions sitting up in the nosebleed seats. You can be fairly sure I couldn’t tell this whole story within my one-minute limit. No, the “sand” ran down to the lower half of the timer before I could even begin.