Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Edel: Finding Authenticity In 200 Women I've Never Met Before

I’m sitting in Panera with my laptop, trying to settle my emotions and process all the words and experiences of this past weekend at the Edel Gathering (a conference for mama's to come "refresh, connect, and enjoy").  Have you ever experienced something you knew impacted you on such a deep level, but couldn't quite put your finger on how?  That’s where I’ve been for the past three days, post Edel.  A bunch of whirling thoughts and emotions with no place to land.  

In the spirit of full disclosure.....from the week leading up to the conference to peering through the doorway of the welcome cocktail party (of which I knew not a single person in real life) I was plagued with nerves... 

What was I thinking?!?  Why didn't I gather a posse to come with me to this thing???  
I'm covered in travel grime and should not be anywhere near a fancy event right now.  Deodorant is failing. 
Maybe I'll hide in the bathroom...

Thankfully, I had met Susan at the airport and was not walking into the room alone.  I still felt uneasy, but I was taken aback at how freely the women struck up conversation with each other.  Our simple desire to attend an event like this was common ground, and I started to feel better.  

(I'm so thankful to Kathryn for opening her home to a few of us this weekend - my awesome roomie Bonnie & one of the only pics I grabbed this weekend)

The nerves promptly returned the next morning, but then Hallie spoke the words God placed on her heart to share with us:  "It is good that you are here."  My doubt melted away, and I attempted to meet every nerve and anxiety that tried to sneak in throughout the weekend with those words.

It was an incredible time.  The speakers, the thoughtful details, the location, the FOOD....it was all so amazing.  I didn't leave myself much cushion on either end for travel, so the whole thing just felt like a whirlwind.  I've been praying for the Holy Spirit to help me sort through all of it since.

Right now there's a large group of mothers and their pre-teen daughters sitting next to me.  At first I was annoyed, because I’m a terrible person, and I thought they would be loud and boisterous and keep me from my "work".

But I keep hearing names of different parishes and mentions of Bible studies, and excitement as they catch up with each other on life’s happenings.  A new job, plans for the upcoming school year, sharing pictures of their latest jaunt.

They are exactly what we are meant to be: a living, flesh and blood community.   So, many of us at Edel have lived in the isolation of motherhood.  As Jen said in the final address of the weekend, we can be honest that the work we do as mothers and wives is hard.  And it can be painfully lonely.  Many of us found connections through the interwebs, thanks to bloggers who share their experiences and foster a place of safe community. 

But my biggest take away from the weekend, is that God does not desire for us to stay there, behind our screens.  Edel lifted the electronic veil and enabled a real “I totally get you” bear hug embrace.   We need to look into a real set of eyes…with or without mascara.
 (stolen from Susan)

We also need those relationships to be authentic.   In a culture that loves to criticize, we must meet each other in a spirit of camaraderie, not judgment.  We’ve each been uniquely created, which means that our mothering will look different from the woman next to us.  Isn't’ that a great thing?  There isn’t a one-size fits all pair of mom jeans.  Thank God, right?  For more reasons than one! 

Some of us work full time outside the home, some are at home all day with the kids…some homeschool, some do public school….some love fashion, some love their Burks…some are introverts, some are extroverts.....some rock the red lipstick, some are addicted to their chap stick.

We are all exquisitely different from one another, but even more beautifully connected by our shared call:  to love.  Love God. Love our families.  Be the light of love in this world.  Everything else stems from there.

Before I left for this weekend, I was feeling overwhelmed by a self-imposed standard of womanhood that was crushing my every thought.  As a mom, a wife, a blogger, a homemaker, a friend, as a daughter of God…I felt like I was failing in every way.   According to who?  Me.  Well, not just me…..

Anxiety. Failure.  Self-doubt.  Fear.  Pride….none of those things are from God.  They are from the king of lies, and he works a very covert operation…..sneaking in when we aren’t aware and growing seeds of self-doubt.  Whispering our failures into our unsuspecting ears.  

I felt it even as I left the conference…

Why didn’t I introduce myself to more people? 
Why was I too chicken to talk to some of my favorite bloggers?  Or that woman across the room with her adorable baby?  
Why did I book the first flight out at 6am on Sunday??  Why didn’t I stay longer at the party?

Back. that. train. up.  That’s someone trying to steal the grace filled moments from the conference that I need to take with me - the unprecedented welcoming spirit of the women there; the anointed words of gifted speakers; the well of hospitality poured out on us; the honest conversations; the dancing; the karaoke.  

It was so good that we were there, regardless of our doubt.

Which made me think about why we can get so down on ourselves.  Between blogs, magazines, media, and Pinterest there's a standard of stylish homes and uber crafty mom-ness that is straight up unrealistic.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love me some Pinterest and I blog about making your house home, so I appreciate all those inspiring ideas...it's more the spirit of the unattainable standard. 

It’s not enough to have a pin-worthy home, it's the pin-worthy life with pin-worthy houses…pin-worthy clothes…pin-worthy hair…pin-worthy kids…pin-worthy marriages…pin-worthy bodies…pin-worthy meals….pin-worthy hobbies….pin-worthy faith.

What kind of reality is that?  Staged and exhausting. Void of real life. 

And what does it say about joy? That it comes from a picture perfect life and a super-woman cape that proclaims we can do it ALL.   Joy is found in much messier places.  In much harder places.  In much more raw moments.  

In a world that is often confused about true joy, we don't need to be afraid or ashamed of a messy life.  Your mess might look different than mine, but in one way or another (thank you, broken world) we all live messy lives.  It's why we need each other and our Redeemer so desperately. 

I read a timely morning devotional from “Jesus Today” by Sarah Young before I started tapping the laptop keys. A few highlights…

Take hold of the hope that I offer to you – and be greatly encouraged…….notice, however, that take hold is an active verb – requiring effort on your part.  As the apostle Paul taught, you need to press on toward the goal and live up to what you have already attained.  This requires you to exert yourself – grasping onto the heavenly hope from which so many blessings flow.

One of those blessings is encouragement.  Be encouraged is a passive form of the verb.  You receive encouragement as a free gift from Me when you make the effort to hold on to your hope – focusing on what I’ve already done…what I am doing….and what I will do.  I love to give good gifts in generous proportions.  So cling to hope, beloved, and you will be greatly encouraged. “

It’s important to understand our part, and it’s important to understand God’s.  We can often put the weight of God’s work on our own shoulders…and then fall under a burden that was never meant for us.  We are called to look heavenward, clinging to hope.  And God, in his goodness, gives blessings and grace for each moment.

As women, our words are among the most powerful when it comes to hurting or to uplifting our fellow sisters.  Edel was one of the few places I've been where there was a safety and solidarity from one woman to the next....an acknowledgement that our work is hard, but the sweet assurance that no matter our place in life, we are not at it alone. 


*There have been so many wonderful recaps of this epic weekend and Jen's hosting a link-up where you can find them all!  Hopefully the talks will be available on audio here soon too - gems, I tell ya!!

5 comments:

  1. Sarah Young is AWESOME! I love that devotional.

    Everything I've read about Edel pointed back to one word: authenticity. I didn't go this year, and a big part of me wants to next year. On the other hand I'm thinking nope, I'm not a mama and not Catholic. I'm a Christian woman, but I fear not fitting in that "niche." Your post (and others, especially Leticia's) has reassured me that maybe it would be ok anyway. In any case, this whole fear of vulnerability is clearly on all our minds as women. I think you nailed it on the head with the Pinterest connection, to the point of wanting a Pinterest faith! Sounds silly, but the trap is real.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Caroline, you would be completely welcome! The conference was designed with catholic mother's in mind but it is certainly not exclusive. I loved reading Leticia's candid recap and there we so many different women there. We would love to have you next year!

      Delete
  2. I wish we had met/hung out! What an awesome perspective. Now I can follow you and when we meet at edel15, we will be friends!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish we had met too, Nell! Here's to 2015!!

      Delete
  3. Oh no… I don't know if you have moderated comments or if it just ate mine. Let me try it again…

    You ladies who attended this year will be considered the trailblazers for those of us who make it to future gatherings. Thank you for conquering your fears, doubts and anxieties. You have already inspired me to try to attend in the future. Even though I couldn't attend, I am so thankful for all the recaps… I have found a bunch of new blogs to add to my reader!

    ReplyDelete