We arrived in Greenville late Monday night to my sweet friend Christa's house. We were SO excited to see each other as several months had passed since our last "goodbye" in Katy while their house was being packed away. How wonderful it was to see her sweet face and hug her!
We spent three awesome days with Christa, Charles and precious Audrey. We played outside, explored their backyard bamboo forest, walked by a stream with flowers and hiking sticks (exciting stuff for 2 year olds!), went to the zoo, ate awesome food cooked by the famous Chef Christa, and just wore ourselves out talking. It was such a blessing to see their new home, see their smiling faces and walk away knowing better how to pray for this family that we love so much! By Thursday morning, Deacon, Ita and I all settled back into the car for the drive back to Atlanta. Deacon was getting excited for his second part of the trip with Ita and I was getting excited about my second half of the trip too... the trip to see the girls I have "known" for so long and yet never seen face to face (except my sweet Kim!).
I arrived at our hotel to see Yvette, Trayc and the boys coming out of the doors to greet us. It was amazing as we hugged and instantly everything just felt right. I knew it was going to be a wonderful weekend of deepened friendships and lasting memories.
A short time later Yvette and I hopped on a shuttle to wait for each of our friends at the airport. I anxiously awaited each arrival, so excited to hug and love these girls that have meant so much to my journey. Chrissy and Kristy arrived first, then Angie, and then Kim. Much later that evening Emily arrived and the next afternoon Karen's flight finally landed.
It was absolutely amazing to see each of the girls face to face. We all commented on what seemed to be just as we pictured and other things that seemed very different than we had imagined. Each moment was amazing as we talked openly and honestly about our babies, the time they spent with us, they way the Lord has brought each of us through, and how He has brought all of us together. We also were blessed to spend a short time with Kirsten, who also lost a baby recently. For those intimate moments we were 9 women standing together, united in Christ and in our common circumstances. The beautiful thing that I instantly recognized in each of us was that through the grief and pain, each of us were still able to laugh, rejoice, and praise God... maybe a little like the Proverbs 31 woman.
Friday evening and all day Saturday we spent at the Deeper Still Conference. In wearing our own Tshirts that linked us together as united women, we each represented our own child/children that are now with the Lord. It was an incredible opportunity to give witness to the faithfulness and power of Christ. We were each stopped numerous times to ask about our shirts and, often through the tears, we were able to stand by each other and simply nod in agreement as someone described the beauty of us being together for the first time while our children in Heaven are also together. The speakers (Priscilla Shirer, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore), the worship (Travis Cottrell & worship team, Mandisa), the blessed company... everything was perfect. Probably the most impactful of everything I heard during the two days was Ms. Priscilla speaking of God using the Israelites in their wilderness period (Exodus 19). She spoke regarding how although "the wilderness" is uncomfortable and nothing we would ever ask for ourselves, our Father uses us, molds us and blesses us in those times. Amazing how He can speak to us so personally with 19,000 other people listening too.
The worship... I honestly can't even describe the feeling I had during praise & worship as I raised my arms and praised God with these incredible women that have truly "carried the mat" (Luke 5:17-20). With tears steaming down my face, my eyes closed and my hands high in the air, I could only imagine what a beautiful sight the arena was to the Lord. I pray that He has been pleased with us... with each of our families as we have trusted in Him.
As the Saturday conference drew to a close, we were ushed backstage by Michelle Hicks, one of the event coordinators. As we were arriving, Beth Moore followed us in with her daughter Amanda. The time with them was something beautiful as Ms. Beth talked to each of us and then asked us to kneel all together. As she began praying the sobs throughout the room were audible and authentic. If there was ever a time of surrender and giving everything to the Lord, that was it. Ms. Beth prayed a prayer of boldness, courage and strength over us as she, Amanda and Michelle each walked around and laid their hands upon our heads and shoulders. To see someone so strong, so passionate, so ordained by the Lord and so touched by our stories was breathtaking. I know the work she is doing for God's kingdom has been well-received by the Lord Himself.
Sunday came much too quickly and with all the late nights (or maybe I should say early mornings!) we were exhausted, but overflowing with joy and thankfulness. To meet each precious mother and be able to hear about their sweet babies that are now with Maddox completely filled me up. Shockingly, I never felt nervous or afraid of all of us finally meeting... I just knew all along that it was meant to be. I quickly realized that through each other, God has given us a tiny glimpse of Heaven.
To my girls: Yvette, Angie, Kim, Emily, Chrissy, Kristy, and Karen~ Each of you are amazing! Individually you have blessed my life in a way that is unmatched with words. Through your openness, your boldness, your trust, your falling apart, your vulnerability and your falling down at the feet of Jesus in surrender, I HAVE BEEN BLESSED. Each of your babies, Tristan Asher, Poppy Joy, Mary Grace, Miller Grace, Eva Janette, Issac Matthew, Asher Joseph, Jacob Ryan; each of your stories have brought me closer to the Lord and have challenged me to stand with boldness and courage to face tomorrow. Some of you began your walk before I did and some of you have followed behind... but we have all been in this together. Thank you for the blessing of knowing you, seeing your hearts, hearing your words, listening to your prayers and mostly for loving me, my family and my Maddox with everything. I am truly blessed!
"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come...Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." - Proverbs 31:25, 28