It was a retreat about big things,
Dreams, to be exact.
Dreams that God plants in each of us,
designed specifically for us,
invitations to step out, step up, practice obedience.
But what I most remember are the small things,
moments of grace and beauty,
reminders that the God of big dreams is ever and always,
the God of the details, too.
When I did get there, it went something like this.
A pinpoint landing on an Omaha runway, after five different attempts,
late in the evening of the opening session.
During those rugged 36 hours of trying to get there,
I had re-packed my bags to make the checked bag heavy,
the carry-on, light.
Instead of my usual flying outfit of sweat pants and shirt,
I dressed up a little, knowing the arrival time would
barely allow space to breathe, much less change clothes.
So I hurried off the plane, found my rental car, but lost my heavy bag, and took off
over 35 miles of Nebraska country roads,
arriving at the retreat center just after dark,
exactly in time to offer the first of my assigned contributions —
the closing prayer.
I jokingly asked everyone in that gathering space to tolerate
well the clothing I was wearing, as the rest of it was still enroute.
That outfit included the earrings at the top of this post.
If you know me at all, you know that I love earrings.
And collect them, too. But that purple-pink color is hard to find,
and I remember how pleased I was to find these beaded ones.
Exhausted, I headed back to the hotel where I was staying,
after a brief run through a 24-hour Walmart to purchase
a few toiletries, something to sleep in, and a change of
underwear and shirt.
As I got ready for bed, too tired to see straight,
I realized that one of my beaded, purple-pink earrings was missing.
I looked through all layers of my clothing, my large purse and then
I scoured the car the next morning.
Can I just admit to you that this loss made me a little bit teary?
I know, it’s just a small thing.
But sometimes, it’s those small things that trigger
the big emotions. My own fatigue played a large part in those tears,
I know that. But it was the missing earring that
somehow represented for me the deepness of that fatigue,
and the difficulty of getting to Omaha at all.
As I have made a lifetime habit of doing, I sucked it up.
I’ve gotten quite good at that over these years.
Generally, when I’m struggling, you’ll see only the topmost layer
the layer I can joke about, make light of —
because I’ve taught myself to . . .
put a good face on it?
see the glass as half full?
I don’t know all the reasons why, I just know what I do.
So I sucked it up, got up in time for breakfast, traveled back to the conference center,
and asked the Lord for eyes to see what I needed to see.
Here are a few examples.
Quiet moments of conversation, tucked away here and there,
faces intent and engaged, attention being paid.
Friends becoming sisters.
Brothers here and there, encouraging, serving, sharing.
Watching one of the most beautiful women I know turn like a flower toward the sun, time after time after time —
doing exactly what the Lord equipped and called her to do.
Thank you, Dee, for dreaming big and following hard.
Shared laughter, creative thinking through glitches.
Astounding leadership skills, gifted speakers and organizers.
In-real-life connections, arm-in-arm, heart-to-heart.
The glory of a family farm as spring begins to peek through the earth.
The joy of women’s voices, preaching, teaching, leading, blessing.
The power of small symbols to tell big truths,
the simple act of writing out the roadblocks,
depositing them at the altar,
entrusting them to the far reaches of an Iowa farm pond,
another small but concrete act of relinquishment.
These stones of heartbreak were tossed to the bottom of that pond
this weekend — they were read, remembered, prayed over and then
released by the hands of two generations of women of God.
Jennifer, Lydia and Anna Lee — we thank you.
Sunday morning arrived and still no luggage.
In that bag, I had packed Sunday-morning equipment that I could not access,
yet new friends helped to gather all that was needed,
all that was right.
This was my primary responsibility for the weekend,
to lead us all in a service of worship and communion,
to remember who we are,
to celebrate who we might become.
And again it is the little things that spoke most powerfully –
the bread, the cup.
And these stones of remembrance,
shiny and bright, reminders of how God
is in the business of changing the rocks of regret
into reflections of glory.
The bread was hand baked, tough but delicious.
We had to work a little to tear off our portion.
And somehow, that was a powerful small thing for me,
reminding each one who came, by name,
that the Body was broken for them,
and by them — a gift that must be taken
with energy and commitment.
But here is the tiny thing that was perhaps the one thing that spoke to me,
just me — Diana —
most powerfully over the course of this rich, rich weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, I was too tired to stay for informal conversations,
and too old and infirm to even think about the ‘brave’ activities like zip-lining.
So I headed back to the hotel for a shower and a nap.
As I opened my car door, something shiny caught my eye.
Nestled on the floor of the car,
the very car I had inspected carefully for just such evidence,
was my lost earring.
It winked up at me, in the middle of my exhaustion,
in the middle of my constant anxiety about being enough
and doing enough,
and it said to me these words:
“I see you, Diana. I know you.
What was lost is found, sweetheart.
What was lost is found.”
And so I was.
Yes, my bag eventually found me,
two days after returning home!
And as I unpacked all those things I knew I had to have to
do the job for which I had been called,
it isn’t the stuff that makes me who I am.
It isn’t the stuff that defines me.
I am a pastor.
But I am.
And it is God who provides what is truly needed,
often through the loving generosity and creative ideas
that emerge from the people in my life at any given moment in time.
Still unpacking all my stuff.
Oh, the suitcase contents are long since stowed away,
but I am unpacking nonetheless.
And prayerfully asking, “What can I learn? How can I change?
Who am I now, and what dream are you asking me to own?”