Saturday, November 2, 2013

Standing in line for a Hug

On Thursday and Friday, I attended the Love Does conference in Austin. Yes, I went to the one in Washington back in May, but when Bob Goff gathers a group of folks just an hour away, I'm going to do my best to get there.

The golden nuggets of wisdom were incredible and endless. Jon Acuff and John Richmond were two of my favorites, but every single speaker was excellent. Rebecca Lyons, Don Miller, Mike Foster, and Veronica Tutaj had powerful stuff to share. Then, of course, there's Bob, which just oozes love and Jesus and all things WHAT?! and WOW!!!

I went to Austin on Thursday, on my own, and when I travel alone, day one is always the same.

I wonder what on earth I'm doing there.

I question taking off work, being alone, my decision making skills, and how I didn't lose 10 pounds before I came.

Then I get mad at myself for feeling this way and have arguments with myself about being normal as I'm talking out loud in the parking lot with a few people around...solidifying some of my, "ya, you're not normal" arguments...but whatev's.

I'll tell you what's not normal - sidebar - a man just walked into Starbucks telling his friend, "This place is weird! I've never been here before."

Um, ya, I choose to compare my normal status to him.

I may talk to myself, but at least I don't live under a rock where people don't pay $4.49 for their coffee.

Come On people!

(Sidebar over.)

After a few hours, I settle in and remind myself that this is why I travel gets me in that highly uncomfortable state where I must face some fears, talk to God, and hear the deep down hurts inside my heart that I can ignore when lots of noise is around.

You pair all of that internal chatter with speakers talking about love, shame, calling, Jesus, second chances, redemption, community, and living and doing, then you got yourself two days of awesome.

The Love Does conference really is incredible, and I might have to be a conference groupie...because that's normal, right?

But, then, there's always the closing of it. The walking to the car, alone, and all that quiet comes rushing back in.

I coached volleyball for years.  I hated the ride home after a big game or after a long day of a tournament. If Cade wasn't with me, I'd get in my car with the emotion of coaching this incredible game and then have no one to download any of what just happened to.

To this day, I can remember how empty those nights would be. It physically hurt to have ridden that emotional train and not have a soul to tell about it.

Those moments would be this huge reminder that I had no spouse and my mom was gone.

Often times, I'd cry the entire way home. The pit would be so deep, I'd feel like throwing up.

Don't get me wrong, I had friends, good friends, but calling them for a volleyball run down of girls they didn't even know just didn't make any sense. I couldn't ever make that call.

I would just tell God how much that moment sucked. I loved coaching, loved winning, loved the fire that sports brings, but those car rides home would just about do me in.

Friday, after Love Does, I felt that same pit.

For 2 days I was forced to face dreams, heart ache, fears, wisdom, pain, and hope. But then, I walked to my car. alone. With only the ringing silence inside my head and that pain within my gut.

I tried to shake it. I got mad at it. I asked God why I couldn't leave there feeling like taking on the world and not like I walked it alone.

Once again, I was disappointed with myself and mad I felt so alone.

Thankfully, 2 friends of mine had come up for Friday and even though they rode together in another car, I called them, we put ourselves on speaker, and as they drove a few miles behind me, we chatted.

(Thank you iPhone.)

I could navigate the backroads of Austin and listen to the voices of my friends and they could listen to mine as we drove home.

I was no longer alone.

Community matters.

I never knew just how vital it was until I was single.

My marriage was lonely and so jacked up that I avoided community...not knowing really why, but that was my was part of the unhealthiness of it all.

Part of being emotionally healthy is being part of community. When we begin to withdraw from it, I truly believe it is a sign that something isn't quite right.

For me, hermit is my default. Being on the fringe, staying back, and being invisible is my comfort zone. But when I choose hermit for too long, I begin thinking my friends are Tony and Ziva, I hold conversations with myself as I get dressed, and I wear the same yoga pants for 3 days.

It ain't pretty.

I convince myself that watching a marathon of What Not to Wear is better than going to church and protein bars can be a person's sole source of nutrition.

Red flags start flying, and I know it's because I pulled back from people. It's time to text some girlfriends, make some coffee dates, and get out of the yoga pants and GO TO CHURCH!

Community makes us better. 

My friends and I talked for the entire drive home. We each shared, questioned, challenged, and listened. That conversation made me process way more than I ever would have alone.

It made me see them, and it made me see me.

Even though traveling alone can be really hard, it makes me remember that God is always with me.

Being alone, in a place that forces me to rely on Him, makes me SEE HIM, and it reminds me that He sees me.

But, I also really love how God gave us people. He made us with this innate need to see others and to have them see us. In fact, we start going a little bonkers when we don't.

He knew that we were not to walk alone.

He walks in us and for us, but He sends others to walk with us and us with them.

I'm thankful for the pain of loneliness, because it reminds me that I matter. It reminds me that He made me to feel the pain of being alone, because He firmly believes that it isn't good for man to be alone.

I'm thankful my mind, body and heart agree with God on this: It stinks to be alone.

My prayer is that I see the lonely. I pray my heart is burdened for people who feel alone and need someone to call after a long day of excitement or a hard day at work. I pray I sit, and I listen, and that I remind them, they are not alone.

One of my favorite things about Bob Goff is that he hugs you when he meets you. I had no book for him to sign, I'd met him a couple times before, I had pics of us, but I still got in line...I got in line for the hug.

When it was my turn, he, of course, hugged me, told me his name was Bob and asked mine. He chatted with his animated face and eyes and when I told him I just really wanted a Bob hug, he took his hands, clasped my face between them, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I'm so glad you are here."

He sees people. He takes time and sees that people matter...they matter more than anything else.

Jesus came down to be with us, to save save people, because we matter to Him and to each other.

Jesus didn't come down to save a business or to show us how to make more money. He didn't come to save the whales or demonstrate the art of getting through Target without spending 100 bucks...cause that does take a miracle. He came down for you, for me, for us, because WE MATTER.

Praying I hug more people today, that I look in their eyes, truly seeing them, and tell them that I'm so glad they are here, and in turn tell them they matter.

In Him,


  1. I was by myself too. To bad we didn't meet up while we were there! We could have talked it out! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh man! I would have loved to have met you. Did you enjoy???

  2. And have managed to make me cry.
    "When we begin to withdraw from it, I truly believe it is a sign that something isn't quite right." <--nailed it, and unfortunately this is exactly where I've been lately. Trying to work my way out.
    Oh, and I'm going to the next conference with you! yeah, I just invited myself ;)

    1. I'm totally going to go again! Let's plan on it. :)

  3. Thanks for a very honest and encouraging blog post. I was also at the Tacoma conference and was crazy enough to go to Austin as well. You are awesome and you make a difference. Keep your eyes wide open for those people that we encounter every day that need to be loved and encouraged. It's great to see your heart for those people out of your own experience.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement!! It means more than you know. And, hey, I'm going to conference #3...I have to now! :)