As we left Friday we were giddy to get out of town. Rachelle played navigator, vetoing the suggested turns of the GPS and we laughed about how we'd never get anywhere without her. When we arrived at the Sprint center and were being directed to our seats, Rachelle kept telling us we weren't going to have seats on the floor this year, but as the workers led, we found ourselves not only on the floor, but closer and closer to the stage. We were shocked to settle into our seats in the 2nd row, only ten feet from the stage, close enough to make eye contact with the speakers! Apparently she was sent the wrong tickets. I thought of it as Happy Birthday Rachelle from God and was thrilled she'd get to see Ann Voskamp up close and personal on Saturday.
But the next morning our beautiful weekend took a horrible turn. Rachelle woke up with a migraine. She couldn't keep anything down to even take ibuprofen. We tried toast and tea, Sprite. As we struggled with how to handle the situation, she convinced us the only thing that would help was time and urged us to go on without her.
We were sick as we left our leader, our dear friend who'd gotten us here and only wanted to see Ann Voskamp. We hoped, but didn't know if she'd feel better in time to hear her favorite author speak.
As each person was introduced I breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn't Ann, thinking there was still hope she could make it, but when beautiful Ann Voskamp came out in her red boots--"Because if you're shaking in your boots, you may as well make them pretty ones"--my heart sank, looking at the empty chair next to me. Ann's words were as wonderful as we knew they would be and as soon as she finished we darted out to get in line to have Rachelle's journal, her life line this summer where she started her list of one thousand things she's thankful for, signed by her favorite author.
As she signed my book with her standard "All's grace, Ann Voskamp," I leaned into her and wrapped my arm around her waist.
"That bottom book belongs to my friend," I said, "The only reason she wanted to come to this conference was to see you and she's back in our hotel room throwing up. We're just sick about it," I choked.
"Oh, sister, I'm so sorry," she said and joined me in my tears. Preparing to write in Rachelle's journal, she asked, "What is her name?" and began a personal message to her.
She threw in a special pen and said, "God has big plans for her. You tell her that."
"I know he does," I answered, "She's so brave. She adopted a baby from China and does what God asks even when it's hard."
Ann wrapped me in her arms and whispered in my ear, "You give her a big hug from me and tell her if I could do anything, I would adopt a baby from China!"
Knowing I'd spent more time than I probably should have I thanked her and walked off, all the while thinking, "I just had a very intimate, real, beautiful moment with Ann Voskamp! It should have been Rachelle. It should have been Rachelle!" I just couldn't take it and completely lost it, sobbing into my friend's shoulder. Relaying the story to my other friends brought deep sobs again.
Why me, God? I've spent so much time being jealous of Ann Voskamp and her beautiful writing and Rachelle just adores her. It should have been her. Not me. It should have been her!
If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know I tend to beat myself up a little bit. Nearly every person I'm close to has told me I am too hard on myself. One of the biggest things I chide myself over is my tendency to be self-centered. I want to do big things for God and sometimes I'm too full of myself. I get jealous of people like Ann Voskamp who write so well, who touch people with their words and write bestsellers. I want to be gifted by God in that way. I struggle with it, a lot. God tells me to be content in what I do, that His big things are not the same as the world's big things and I try to remember that. I press on in what He's given me and ask Him every day to humble me, to show me how to put others first, to forget about me. I feel defeated often, knowing God uses those who are pure in heart and mine has a ways to go.
So I could hardly believe what happened next. After I got myself back together, we returned to the conference where worship was already in progress. We were singing along when an old classic, one of my very favorites came up.
I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice
to worship You, O my soul, rejoice.
Take joy my King, in what You hear.
May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.
I'm singing away, really worshipping God, tears sliding out, and at the same time asking God, "Me and Ann Voskamp? What was that about? It should have been Rachelle. Why me, Lord? I'm so sad for her, I can hardly take it." More tears welled and escaped. I sang not knowing what else to do and suddenly God put this in my head.
"Tami, you are a writer. You were standing next to a New York times best-selling author and yet all you could think about was how sad you were for Rachelle. You were absolutely broken for your friend. THAT is who you are. Not an egomaniac, not self-centered. You love well. THAT is who you are."
To say I was blown away and humbled is an ENORMOUS understatement. Even as I type this, the tears flow. Rachelle had to miss out for God to tell me that? Rachelle sacrificed so I could know who I am in Christ? Surely God was using the whole day in ways I may never know, but to think that one of them was to speak so sweetly, so clearly, so healing to me . . . there are no words.
But God kept pouring on the goodness. At the lunch break, we decided to head back to the hotel and take Rachelle home. She laid in bed, a wet cloth over her eyes. I sat down next to her and told her of my amazing encounter with Ann.
"She's everything you think she is," I said, "so gracious and sweet and loving." I told her of our conversation, of the special words in her journal, of the pen, the things Ann told me to tell her. She broke down with me and sat up for a hug.
"It should have been you," I sobbed into her shoulder, "I'm so sorry. It should have been you."
And my amazing friend, who is so brave every day of her life raising a child she didn't bear in a stage of life where she could be done with childrearing, the woman who spent that day sick as a dog, missing out on her favorite author, cried into my shoulder and said, "There's a reason it was you." No spite. No bitterness. No jealousy.
Pure grace. Sincere love.
I tell you this story to give you a glimpse of the God of the universe and how intricately, how perfectly, how beautifully He works. He makes good of everything. EVERYTHING! Believe it, my friends. No pain, no heartache, nothing is wasted when He's at the helm. Nothing.
We decided we added more than bricks to the wall of our friendship this weekend. We laid cinder blocks, baby! And now we're thinking we need to take a trip to Canada. We're certain that on her blog Ann Voskamp has invited people to her farm. We may take her up on it.
God is so good, my friends. So good. He is always working, even when it doesn't make sense.
Just ask Rachelle.