Last month, myself and eight other women I love traveled to St. Paul for a weekend getaway, sans kids and husbands and laundry and cooking. We took Friday off and packed the car with suitcases full of cozy knits and our favorite blankets, stopped for cinnamon chais at Starbucks, and made sure to carve out enough space in our day for a not-so-quick trip to Ikea for a blue and white ticking stripe chair, picture frames, and a cartful of other goods that just barely fit in the back of the car. We sipped sangria out of mason jars, talked about everything from politics, to our marriages, to our favorite grocery store chain, and finally pulled down a little dead end road to our home for the weekend, a quiet and quaint two story nestled amidst the prettiest fall trees and a crystal blue lake. We unpacked grocery bags of Riesling and fancy cheese, Dove chocolate and popcorn, and crackers, hummus and veggies, and laughed over the fact that all nine of us had to be ready by 8:30 the next morning with one shower and a "pretty good" working toilet.
We spent a good portion of our weekend attending the BELONG Tour, a conference put on by two of my favorite women - Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist, along with other women warriors and story-tellers like Nichole Nordeman, Angela Davis, Sharon Irving, and the wonderful, Patsy Clairmont. The conference is about empowering women to find community, passion, and purpose in a life that doesn't always feel like our own, and is told through stories, songs, and inspiring talks by this wise and wonderful group of women. We laughed a lot, cried a little, and I scribbled notes in my journal like "Do it afraid!" and "Clear the shelf", as we soaked up a rare weekend to connect, reset, and grow in community together.
I loved the conference, but loved our time at our Airbnb the most. I loved sharing pots of coffee with these women in our pajamas, gathering around the kitchen peninsula while Jess cooked eggs. But most of all, I loved the afternoon that followed the conference. After two days of sitting and hearing the stories of the speakers, we had an entire afternoon and night to process it all together. We filled the kitchen with finger foods, changed into our coziest knits, poured wine in plastic dixie cups, and sat around a table on the deck, overlooking this lake on the prettiest fall days, and talked until the stars came out. And then, we filed in to the living room, Katie built us a fire, and we piled on the big sectional until most of us fell asleep. And even more than those big voices of the women who write the books I read before bed, these women who live in my own community inspired and challenged me with their stories, their struggles, and their depth of faith in a God who made them each so unique and equipped with their very own piece of His story to tell. I marvel at God's majesty - his beautiful earth and all that's in, but most of all his people. I shake my head in wonder at a God that created us all so different, and then equipped each of us with our own unique purpose to live out his church during our short stay here. It's so important we carve out time to stop and see God's face in the stories of the people around us. Whether that's the people we live with, the people we work with, or the people in the grocery store line. Weekends like this are a rare gem, but our everyday encounters with others are not.