Alpacas, Gerbils, and Community – Oh My!

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Matthew 18:20

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Did you know that Alpacas spit?  Maybe you were already privy to that information, but I always thought they were far too cultured for that.  Apparently, while they won’t spit at you, they will indeed spit out into the great beyond to share their disdain for something that you might be trying to introduce them to. Like, say… a harness for the first time.

And, did you know that there are Gerbil Rescuers? Oh, yes. There. Are. You know how you can bring home “two male gerbils” and 2 weeks later you awake to miraculously find that there are approximately 23 more are in the cage now, too?  There are kind folks who will swoop right in and help you make that right.

I learned these things, and so much more, from these beautiful new friends that I made at the inRL Meetup that took place at my home this weekend.

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I wrote here, back in March, that I had taken the leap and signed up for the (in)courage inRL (that’s in real life) meetups that were going to be taking place this past weekend, around the world. And not only did I sign up to attend, but also to host at my home. (‘Cuz I’m just extroverted like that).  I wrangled a sweet friend with Mad Decorating Skills to come help me in that area because God so clearly neglected to give me that particular skill set.  True story. (And that would be the beautiful lady on the far right up there!)

My friends, if you didn’t get a chance to make one of these this year?  Put it on your calendar for next year. NOW!  It was amazingly refreshing and uplifting and encouraging. And I have pictures to prove it, of course.

But first, I must show you how I started the morning.  I put on my brand spankin’ new white inRL t-shirt, and proceeded to get lipstick right on the front of it.  Lipstick that is, apparently, immune to any sort of stain stick. Trust me – we tried a few different ones.  I took it as a reminder, from the God that provided this opportunity for community, to Keep It Real.  Amen?

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As each new woman walked in, I reminded myself to breathe and to just brightly say, “Welcome!”, instead of rushing to explain what was staining the front of my t-shirt.

And do you know what was amazing?  No one noticed.

Do you want to know what else was amazing?  These women!  Not a single one was at the same stage of life as me.  Not a single one had a child with Autism.  There were two without any children at all. (Although, we’re all counting the Alpacas as children after our conversation!) We were all at various places in our faith journeys, in our work lives, and relationships.

We may not have been a large group, but God brought five women together to learn about what community can feel like -with all the pain and joy it brings with it – in real life.

And it was so good.  So. Very. Good.

With the icebreaker over and the gabbing winding down, we gathered around the screen to watch the webcast on Staying in Community. There were so many heads nodding throughout, that I thought heads were going to fall right off of bodies! Such wisdom was conveyed during the telling of these genuine and heartfelt stories during the webcast.  A few of my favorites were the following:

  • “We all need to be told it isn’t too late to make it beautiful.” –Angie Smith
  • “…we walk around and pick up a few of each other’s shards to add to a few of our own. Because that is what good friends do.  Become safe places to break wide open and share the shards of our mess.” – Kristen Strong
  • “The thing that wounds us is often the thing that God will walk us through again to heal us.” – Mary DeMuth
  • “Sometimes when we stay, it’s because our testimony isn’t about us at all- it’s entirely about Him.” _-TeriLynne Underwood
  • “You need imperfect people in your life to perfect your practice of love.” –Ann Voskamp

These were just a few of the many many thoughts I tucked into my heart during this webcast!

The talk of mentors had my head spinning for the rest of the day. I didn’t write down who said, “Mentors are like anchors. They ground us when things get rough.”  I chewed on that for hours!  And Marina Bromley spoke of the importance of being real: “One of the best gifts you can give to a mentee is to not be perfect – but perfectly open.”  Oh. My. Soul! Don’t we all just crave someone to be real with us?  Someone who will let us be ourselves and not turn us away when we botch it up and good? Who will call us to the carpet when we’re turning away purposefully?  And love on us when we aren’t?

Are you feeling like you missed a great opportunity?  Don’t! If you missed it, I do believe it will be made available later on, in DVD format. I’m going to tell you straight up to run and get yourself a copy, when it does! You will be so thankful.  And encouraged.  Who doesn’t want that?  Who doesn’t need that?

This is one event that I plan to take part in forevermore.  It did my heart and soul good to know that I was part of a larger community of women who are trusting in God to see us through every stage of life. And that we’re better… together.

Yes, indeedy!

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Cruel Jokes, Surely

Some cruel jokes are taking place around here, lately.  Surely.

 

I give you, exhibit A:

 

The driver either looked excited to be getting off the highway or ecstatic to be getting away from our crazed looks.

 

Whereby, last week, just last week, I passed this truck getting off the exit ramp to go home. My children and I all gave the driver an oh-so-cheerful wave.  You know?  One of those “you drive the best truck ever because   our mama we would surely perish without the aid of your delicious products once a day in a blue moon” kinda looks?  Yeah. One of those.

 

But, never again.  If you haven’t yet heard the earth shattering news of my beloved Hostess Company‘s impending demise, please! Do not shoot the messenger.  While I did read, today, that The Twinkie will survive, that does nothing to assuage my deep sadness over the loss of my beloved Devil Dogs.

 

Then, there is exhibit B:

 

Wow. What incredibly tragic timing.

 

Really?  Really, Lands End?  I heart you.  I really do.  But, what in the name of all the Turkey in Heaven were you thinking sending out a bathing suit issue 3 stinkin’ days before Thanksgiving day?  I ask you.  Because, truly?  The last thing I’m interested in thinking about, before I head into Triptofan Oblivion, is what bathing suit I’d like to be wearing come June.  Word-a-Mercy!

 

And then, there is this:

 

Well-meaning? Yes. Useful? Nope.

 

Some dear sweet “Anonymous” friend left me a card in my mailbox with belated Birthday wishes and this gift card.  It is to PetSmart.  Unfortunately, we no longer have any pets.  I do not intend to buy a new one with this card.  And, I’m left to wonder, who in the world cares about me enough to drop a belated birthday card and yet not well enough to know that our pet has been gone from 4 months.  Puzzling, no?

 

However, hope springs eternal!  My Sweetman bravely went out to forage the grocery stores so that I would be kept in Devil Dogs at least through next week month.  He does love me so.  And he is wise, to boot!  (He also picked up a few of his own beloved Ring Dings.  Not my bag. Nor are the Coffee Cakes; but far be it from me to judge.)  And, lest you think I jest, I give you the final exhibit:

 

We are (were) an equal opportunity Drakes family.

 

That should hold us over for a few days weeks.  And for that, I am thankful.  Oh, yes indeedy!

 

Are you going to miss Hostess?  Which variety?   C’mon, you’re among friends here.  You can tell us…