So I'll just start here: It's my heart. It's holy ground, my favorite, most beautiful weekend of the entire year. I'm more exhausted than I have ever remembered being in my entire life, yet I'm so filled up. I laugh harder and cry more and feel more deeply in this sacred place.
We arrived Thursday afternoon and went right to work, picking up loads at Casey's house and dropping them off at the hotel. We kissed our men goodbye and, before we knew it, left them to build the stage and work their magic, and whisked our sweet speakers away to our friend Sarah's house. She is the heart behind Neighbor's Table and one of the best people I've met in my entire life. Her love for others, her heart to create community around the table--- in Jesus name, it oozes with every sentence she speaks. You know on Food Network, when Giada De Laurentiis speaks about the meal she is making and you can't help but be entranced with her words. Even if you don't like the ingredients, it sounds like the best meal someone could ever prepare? That's Sarah when she talks about life. She lives it to the fullest, and her love mission, is just that. I'm honored to know her and couldn't have imagined this weekend without her.
Could the table have been more beautiful? The answer is no.
We finished up the night taping what seemed like hundreds of paper flowers to the wall, setting up swag bags and t-shirts, and and draping twinkle lights every where we possibly could. Our precious speakers connected over re-fluffing poms from last year, and it made my so heart happy, thinking of what was to come.
Registration came and went Friday and I saw so many new faces, and so many fresh faces. Women from all over the country, coming to know Jesus more and make Him known in their lives. Jen Hatmaker wrecked me in the best possible way Friday night. She's humble and gracious and hysterical and loves Jesus so much. She's the real deal, my friends. You do love her as you think you do. And you should.
Jason Castro shared his story through his music that night and sang his original songs and worship and closed the first night on the most perfect note.
The rest of the weekend was filled with so much beauty. The glory that is given to Christ through each one of these women's stories blows me away. Their faithfulness to our Savior, the way they choose to walk worthy for His name is made known. Jordan and Lauren (can we make you and website and I be your agent or something?) led us in worship throughout Hope Spoken ... these are some of the sweetest times all weekend. I affectionally call Lauren angel mermaid, mostly because her voice sounds like heaven and the most heavenly name we could come up with that moment was angel mermaid, just go with it. Her heart is even more beautiful than her voice, if you can believe it. You are my ultimate girl crush, Lauren. I love you.
Small groups happened where lives and hearts collided and the gospel was shared, hearts were broken and mended and I know people met Jesus there. They sought His face and felt His love. Kristin Rogers shared so beautifully about heartbreak and love and loss and Christ amongst it all. Breakout speakers shared their stories of Christ in their lives. We ate together, we laughed together, prayed together, and cried together. Casey, Emily, and I had a total Oprah moment where we gave away TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY of these amazing Day Designers by the precious Whitney English. We were pulling names from a bowl and Casey called a made up name first, which almost made me wet myself, and then the three of us yelled EVERYONE and women shrieked and pulled these beautiful planners out from under their tables. It may have been the best moment of my life. Don't judge me. You can watch the video here.
One of my most precious friends, Steph, closed the weekend with her story of grace upon grace. I ugly cried in the corner, rejoicing alongside her, as she read us a letter to her sixteen year old self.
I truly am still processing everything that happened in my life and in my heart this past weekend. What I know more than anything else is that when I am there, the Lord has me right where He wants me.
We spent a good part of our morning Monday meeting with another hotel, thinking and praying over changing locations. There are flaws to our hotel, no doubt. Things we would like to change a bit, in our heads. But after meeting with many others over the past couple years, we keep coming back to this place. The place where the elevators are debatable, and there's no shuttle from the airport. There's warm cookies, and a pool I've yet to jump in, but 2016 is gonna be my year. There's the sweetest, most cheerful man on the banquet staff that asks me if I'm okay sixteen times in a row, every hour. And when I tell him yes, of course and laugh, he asks again. It's imperfectly perfect and I can't wait to bring my heart back to that place again.
The professional photos in this post are taken by our sweet photographer for the weekend, Amy Teague. What a blessing she was to us! Also she sent over these pictures, I think, not even 48 hours after the event wrapped. Who does that? Amy does! You are awesome and blessed us in so many ways. We adore you!
Would you join us in 2016? We would be so honored to have you! March 4-6, 2016 in Dallas. Tickets go on sale May 1 and 12 noon EST.