Leah, Heatherly, and Leigh (at left)
I didn't know what to expect, and was honestly very hesitant to go just a little over eleven weeks after my husband's tragic death. But, prior to that, I had so looked forward to my 2nd annual She Speaks conference. So, through the financial and logistical generosity of others...I went...this past weekend.
God met me there. Big time. I can't begin to convey everything that took place in one blog post, and I'm not even going to try. But, there is one story...one major event...that I just have to share now. I only hope these words do it justice.
I was registered for the Speaker's Track (like last year). Attendees have the choice of participating in one of three tracks, but our breakout sessions can come from any of the three. Since I was already registered for the Speaker's Track before the "events of May 3-4", I decided I'd just continue down that path. As a Speaker's Track participant, I would be expected to prepare two short "talks" for evaluation by speaking peers and a Proverbs 31 Ministries professional speaker. I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to emotionally do this or not, but I prayed for weeks that God would be glorified through me this weekend regardless of what I was or was not able to do.
That said, the first talk was Friday evening. Only by God's grace, I got through it without shedding a tear. I was stunned! It certainly wasn't the best talk I've ever written, and it definitely wasn't the best delivery. However, God brought me through it!
Saturday morning typically brings back-to-back breakout sessions. I was registered for several writing sessions actually, but this is when God intervened with a different plan...His plan! Now, before I go any further, I have to say that I've asked permission to share the events that follow, because it involves a bit of transparency from a sweet friend of mine. I'll use her first name only, at her request, but if you happen to know who I'm talking about...let's just leave everything on a first name basis please.
Before breakfast, my friend Angie came up to me and asked if she could share something with me whenever I had a chance that day. "Sure," I replied. I could sense that God was working up something big for sweet Angie, but I didn't know what part I was to play. I was just willing to be a listening ear.
I grabbed Angie right after breakfast, so we could sit down and chat. Yes...I had sessions to attend, but God said to skip them. This was far more important than a writer's session. And, so we sat down...and the conversation began.
I'll have to back up briefly and share that I learned the night before (Friday night) that Angie doesn't cry. At all. As a matter of fact, Angie hasn't cried in nearly 20 years. 20 years folks! It's not that Angie doesn't get emotional. Oh...she most certainly does! However, she's learned how to suppress those feelings when she feels like she's about to cry.
So, during our nice long conversation Saturday morning, we talked even more about that, among other things. Angie must have felt safe in pouring out her heart to me, and I'm so glad she did! She talked, and I listened (and talked some too). I lovingly expressed concern over her choice to suppress her tearful emotions. She finally admitted that she knows when the walls started going up nearly 20 years ago, and she knows God is working through her to tear them down, but she's still resistant to the tears. She's fearful that one tear will lead to a gushing of tears. I smiled, because I know that's where God will eventually take her. So, how did our conversation end? With these words that I shared, "Angie, I'm going to be praying for you about this. I'm praying that you have a 'Niagra Falls' experience. I'm praying the floodgates open, and you learn how to cry again. I'm praying God meets you where you're at and heals you. And, if I have to...I'll fast over this." Angie simply smiled, and we parted ways for a few hours.
I went back to my room to get ready for talk #2, but as I walked, I prayed for Angie - just as I said I would. However, I was really struggling emotionally at this point. With talk #2 just around the corner, I was fearful - once again - that I wouldn't be able to get through it. But, God whispered to my heart. It's not about the talks Leah. Your reason for being here this weekend is so much bigger than that. Just wait...and watch...and you'll see My Glory.
Now...I'm going to fast forward...right through talk #2. I'll share more about that in a future post (but, yes...God brought me through that one too). I'm jumping ahead to post-dinner.
We had the privilege of getting to hear the radiant and godly Ann Voskamp. If you haven't yet read her book, One Thousand Gifts, you really should give yourself that gift and do so! You will be so blessed. Well, she certainly blessed us that night, and my heart was already softened to the absolutely divine grace that God allows me to walk in each day. I was abundantly full of joy at that moment! But then...
Our worship artist closed out the evening with one more song. It happened to be Chris Tomlin's Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone). This was Chris' favorite song, and we even played it at his funeral. I've heard it a couple of times since he died, but I apparently heard it with different ears this time.
I could feel my throat tightening, my chest aching, my eyes filling with salty water, and then it came...my own Niagra Falls. I began to sob, and I mean sob! I couldn't stop it. And, I'm not sure I even tried to at this point. I was losing complete control of my emotions. Suddenly, I felt the arms of my friend, Lorie, around me, and I heard her cries as well. Then, I felt someone else in front of me, someone else behind me, another lady at my knees praying, another sweet sister to my right side. I was surrounded by the tangible of love of Christ through my She Speaks sisters. The tears continued...abundantly poured. I struggled to breathe at times, and one of my sisters kept whispering, "take slow deep breaths, Leah. God is right here with you. He. Is. Here." I've cried a lot since Chris died, but this was probably the deepest sorrow I've felt in several weeks. It was so deep that I honestly didn't truly understand what was happening to me until God calmed me down and told me to look back and see who was rubbing my back. As I did, I smiled so big with new tears pouring down my face...
It was my friend Angie...crying! I was witnessing a miracle. My friend that hadn't shed a tear in nearly 20 years...my friend that has had tremendous walls built up that nothing could seem to topple...my friend that shared with me earlier in the day...the same one...now CRYING! God had already and so quickly answered my prayers for her. And...He allowed ME to not only witness the miracle but to be used in the creation of the miracle.
The sorrow that God allowed me to endure that evening...for what seemed like an eternity...wasn't about me and wasn't for me...it was for Angie. All for Angie! And, to see that look on her face when she realized what was happening...I'd let Him put me through that all over again...just to see His glory through Angie's miracle!