PART 1: How it all came about
Alright, y'all. My mom has taken the kids to play at Chuck-E-Cheese and I'm taking advantage of the quiet to catch up on the posts I missed this week due to crazy schedules. I'll write a short "This is what you might have missed in your feeds" post that includes links for all the other posts later. Right now, I have to tell you about this conference!!!
It was going to be my "Go Here Thursday", and it will probably still get a tag as such. But the focus this time is going to shift from "Hey, I think you should do this" to "I have to share this awesome thing that the Lord did!". It's long, (so I'll break it into 2 parts) but it's from the bottom of my heart and I hope something in it touches your life and gives you hope and a smile. It's more personal than most of my posts, and there are friends (you know who you are) who would caution me to not publish some of it. But I can't tell the happy ending without the story of the hard part, so thank you for your concern, but understand that I prayed and thought and edited this carefully before hitting the Publish button and it's exactly how it needs to be.
Last year on J93.3, I heard this commercial for a conference by Feed Your Faith ministries called "Love Worth Fighting For" featuring Christian actor/speaker Kirk Cameron and musician Warren Barfield. It was coming to Marietta, which is fairly local, and promised practical, scripture based, solid support and encouragement for a Godly marriage and moving things from the way they were, closer to the way they should be. This all came in the wake of my own marriage being more or less in ruins and I was desperate for anything that could possibly help save it.
We went and it was fantastic. We were up at the table meeting Kirk Cameron and thanking him for the event and he asked us if we had seen the movie Fireproof. We had, about six months before then, but this was a really sensitive point for me, because not long after we had watched it and cried and promised to do better and love each other, some catastrophic choices were made that left me broken and hurting inside. I didn't want to talk about it because I felt like saying "Yes, but it didn't help at all!" I didn't say that, of course, but I was having a hard time staying composed. Kirk was so perceptive to the fact that there was so much happening there that wasn't being said out loud. So he asked us if we had done the Love Dare book from the movie (knowing full well from me falling apart what the answer was). We told him, no, we hadn't. The truth of the matter was that we had only barely scraped up the money to go to the event. We had nothing left to buy any more books, whether they would help us or not, but we were embarrassed to say so. What happened next blew me away:
He reached into his wallet and handed us the money to buy it right there at the next table over. "From me," he said "but for each other. I hope things work out with you guys. Let me know how it goes."
I was astonished and grateful. We thanked him and headed home. Fast forward a few months and the book was still sitting on the nightstand where we left it. We were in counseling, but with Jake's job taking him out of town at a moments notice (or sometimes no notice at all), I often went alone. He needed to be there. He needed help and therapy to fix what was wrong (and more issues came out later in a big blow-up-in-your-face kind of way that took us backward more than a few steps) but I felt like I was the only one doing any sessions or caring about it at all. Almost a year passed, but the wounds were still raw and I would pour my heart out to God daily and ask Him why I had to deal with this mess. One night I got this answer: "I'm sorry and I know it hurts. I love you. Watch Me make something amazing come out of all this. Trust Me."
I thought about the Love Dare book, sitting there on the nightstand day in and day out, unopened. I decided that instead of waiting on Jake to do it and be changed and suddenly be Super Spouse, that I would do the Love Dare for him and see if God would do something with me and change my attitude. I got to the second day and then more or less had a nervous breakdown. "I CAN'T," I yelled at God. "IT HURTS and he's not even HERE for me to do these acts of love and kindness. THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!" I yelled some more things at God and more or less threw the book in a pile of other marriage and self help books that I knew Jake had ignored and left to collect dust.
Even in my rage against Him and Jake and life in general, God held my heart close. I cried and cried and cried and He kept reassuring me way down in my spirit "Then don't do the Love Dare if you can't. There are other things I can give you. You have everything you need, but you have to trust Me and let Me move."
I asked Jake one night if, since we were having such a hard time making the counseling sessions, we should try to go to the conference again. I didn't know what else to do. He said yes, to see when they would be coming this way. I looked for tour dates, but the closest one was in Opelika, Alabama. Still, Jake's parents live in south GA and we could have made it work. So I watched and prayed and wondered where the ticket money would come from.
2 hour drive one way. Doable, but a hassle.
Then, in the week after that blow-up-in-our-face thing that happened, God provided a miracle: I got an email from the event enews updates that a new date and venue had been added: Douglasville, GA. God brought the conference TO US!
20 minute drive. Much Better!!!
What's more, it was the week of our wedding anniversary! The event was exactly 40 days away. The Lord was speaking to my heart saying "Do you need anymore proof that My hand is all over this??" He also answered the question of tickets: a wonderful friend of mine, who has been so supportive of my Lucy Jane endeavors, ordered 3 more stuffed elephants in order to send us to the event.
I was so nervous this time. I kept fighting to push away doubts. We had done this conference last year; why would this time be any different, or help in any way? Jake had to miss our anniversary on Sunday, because of work. He called me twice from Birmingham to tell me Happy 7th Anniversary and he couldn't wait to get home for the conference (he had cleared that day with his bosses in order to make sure he came to the event). I'm going to leave you in suspense here. What happened at the conference, night before last?? Part 2 is coming right up!