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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Wanna Get Away?

Right about the time that I reached into the very last box of Devil Dogs only to realize I was down to the final two…

And The Colds came back with a vengeance…

And someone named Rube Goldberg began interjecting himself into our peaceful homework routine…

And the mailbox got obliterated…

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That’s about the time I began to lose my mind.

Forget about the 2 loaves and 5 fishes multiplying. What about the 2 loads of clean laundry I just put away that have suddenly multiplied into 4 more loads I need to do? I do not like that kind of math. Oh no I don’t!

Whatever is a mama to do? Because a simple Calgon bath isn’t gonna take me away, y’all. (And if you don’t get that reference? That’s okay, we can still be friends.)

I’ll tell you what this mama started to do.  I started planning how I could get out of Dodge.

And I found a way to do it for free!  Yup, free.

Well, sort of.

The wonderful team of women over at (in)courage are inviting you (yes, you!) to their second annual (in)RL Virtual Beach House Retreat on April 26th and 27th. (That stands for In Real Life, in case you were wondering.)  With other women longing for a little spring get away, just like you! All you have to do is click here to find the community of (in)couragers meeting closest to you and register. Women in over 400 locations around the world are offering to host this virtual retreat from their homes or churches, or are choosing to meet up at restaurants or parks. From Jacksonville to Joplin to Japan, there’s sure to be an (in)RL meet-up near you.

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And me?  Well, I am hosting one of these meet-ups here, at my home.

“Um, she does realize this means she’s not going anywhere, right?”, you might be wondering.

Why, yes! Yes, I do.

You see, my Sweetman?  He’s da bomb diggety (And I don’t care that I’m the only one still using that phrase.  It’s fun. I like it.)  He offered to take the kids to the grandparent’s house that Friday night and stay until Sunday.

And even I realize what that means.  2 WHOLE DAYS TO MYSELF!  I apologize for the yelling.  I’m just so excited! I get to hang out with women longing to connect and drink hot chocolate without having to share the marshmallows and not worry about the laundry being sneaky and multiplying behind my back.  And doesn’t that just sound so… Awesome!!??

Ya with me now?

I promise, with this year’s theme of “The Challenge to Stay in Community”, we all have much to learn and share.  And celebrate! Isn’t this entire Spring season about celebrating the one Victory that makes community such a beautiful thing in the first place?

So, even if you don’t know a soul in the community group meeting nearest you, GO!  Run to register! Make some new friends with other women who are longing to get away and refresh their souls. You can find out more on the FAQ link or Register to host or Register to attend, here.

Have I piqued your interest?  I surely hope so.  And if you are the husband, brother, father, or loved one of a woman who could use some encouraging?  Send her over to (in)courage to find out more!  She’ll thank you. Promise.

And, if you live in New England, use one of the social media buttons to the right to contact me, and I’d be happy to share my meet-up info.  I’d love to meet some of you in real life. Oh, yes indeedy!