Saturday, April 04, 2009

The weekend in review (unexpected joys)

I'll be honest and tell you that I was absolutely dreading spending the last two days at this conference for work. My health has been worse than usual the last couple weeks, tensions in the office have been higher than usual, and it's always a whole lot of not particularly enjoyable work for seemingly minimal results.

That said, the locations are always beautiful, the food is always good, and the hotel is usually lovely.

AND here's the surprise:

Though I am completely spent and totally exhausted, I mostly enjoyed myself this weekend.

On the drive out to the conference site, I finished an audio book I recently started listening to: "The Year of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs was insightful, and very funny. It was nice to listen to something a bit lighter, and just relax and enjoy listening while I was driving. I was also thankful for those of you who prayed for good road conditions. The weather in the city was pretty ugly yesterday, and I was fairly concerned about what the highway conditions would be like. They were immaculate. Apparently the city got the worst end of the weather deal yesterday.

The conference always begins with a banquet, and some sort of entertainment. This year I had the fun of sitting with one of my good friends from the office, her husband and two children, and three members of the band that was our evening's entertainment. We laughed a lot, managed to inadvertently light a cloth napkin on fire, and generally enjoyed each other's company. And, can I just say, that some of our table mates were, well, eye candy?!! We sat with the youngest brother from this band of three. (If you click on the link, that's him on the left. He has slightly longer hair now.)

Before any of you start match making, he's eight years younger than me. He is, however, the only member of the band who's still single. These Mennonite farm boys marry young! The oldest of the brothers is younger than me, and is married and already has his first child.

The concert High Valley put on was fantastic, and so well suited to our group. (It can be a bit hard to find appropriate entertainment for a group of 320 Mennonites spanning the range from ultra modern to old colony traditional.) And, you really haven't lived until you've seen three brothers serenade a young woman from the audience (not me, before you ask!) with their three part harmony version of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want it That Way" sung in Low German! I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. (I also really love their song "Been Through the Water".) But hey, I've long ago admitted here that my tastes run to country music, and this was some good quality country music, with a great stage presence thrown in!

I want to say thank you, too, if you prayed that I would be able to eat this weekend. That was actually a major concern for me, and I really and truly felt your prayers. For the first time in a week, I began to feel genuinely hungry at around 3:00 yesterday afternoon. I even had seconds at the banquet. And I didn't become ill. I felt the peace that comes with knowing that God was showing me grace in those moments, and I was and am incredibly grateful that he cares for even those seemingly little and practical things. I'm having a hard time finding words for it, but it actually had a huge impact on my heart to know that a few people were praying for that for me (I'd asked a few to pray that specifically) and to realize that there was no easily explained reason for my sudden hunger and ability to eat other than the peace that settled in and the knowing of prayers being offered, heard, and answered.

Today was full of work, but the afternoon was a pleasant surprise. My coworker and I were joined by several of the Old Colony women. Perhaps it's just that it's been a long time since I enjoyed genuine fellowship with other believers in a larger group, but we had so much fun. We laughed and laughed. We talked about everything from families and children, cooking and baking, school work, play, family dynamics based on who is the oldest and who is the youngest, and even told some jokes. I played with one of their babies (the cutest little guy, bound and determined to grin and flirt a bit with me!), and laughed with them. They were a wide range, some with only a few children, some with many. I was the only single girl in the bunch (we laughed at the fact that one of the ladies is only 4 years older than me, has been married for eleven years, and has six children ranging in age from 10-1 year old.), a fact that would sometimes make me uncomfortable, but these ladies are so genuinely lovely that it was an absolutely fantastic afternoon. I confess that I would not normally want to spend my afternoon with a whole bunch of married ladies with children, that I would generally feel a bit uncomfortable, especially in that setting where the women marry very young and have children by the bushel. But this afternoon was one of the best afternoons I've spent in a long time. They took genuine joy in each other, and in chatting with my coworker and I. They laughed heartily, shared about their families, and never once judged. (And when we're talking about women who still wear head coverings, and simple homemade dresses, and you pause to consider some of the topics we talked about, not to mention the fact that in blue jeans and a hoodie, with a pierced nose, and jewelry, I don't fit the Mennonite norm, that is truly one of the most beautiful blessings I've encountered in a while.)

There is something lovely about the simplicity of these women's lives. About the love for their husbands and children that they so avidly displayed (one - the one only a few years older than me, with six children already - was part of a card-making class we made available to the ladies this morning. She was so delighted to display the cards she'd made, and so excited because one of them was an "I love you" card for her husband. She took joy in telling us that she couldn't remember the last time she'd given her husband a card, and now she'd made one for him.) It was fun to chat with them about the bits and pieces of their lives. I chatted about embroidery with one (she'd making a baby blanket as a keepsake for her son - the little guy I was playing with this afternoon.) And more broadly as a group we talked about baking and cooking. Even listening to their thoughts on raising children, their concerns, their joys, how they make chores around the house work was encouraging.

They may never know it, but those women lightened my heart today, and brought joy today. They were Jesus in ways I'll never truly find words to express.

This was a weekend that I'd dreaded for all of the stresses associated with my job just currently, as well as many memories and associations with things that still hurt my heart deeply. I expected to walk away from it totally spent. I am physically totally exhausted (I got almost no sleep last night), and still struggling with the cold that seems to have settled into a nasty cough, but I am surprisingly refreshed as well. Jesus met me in a totally unanticipated way. A friend of mine wrote to tell me that she hoped that beautiful new memories would be formed to replace some of the painful ones, and somehow, they wore. My soul was fed in ways I don't understand, and I'm immensely grateful for that. I feel buoyed by the love and prayers of some of those around me, and the love of Jesus in meeting me in such an unexpected but very needed way.

When the conference ended, I whipped out of the hotel, and came back to the city, arriving at Palm Sunday (on Saturday!) Mass at the big cathedral I sometimes visit only a few minutes late - just in time to be handed a palm frond, and make my way to a spot in a pew. It was nice to round out my weekend that way. Reflecting on the passion of Christ. Sitting individually, with hundreds of other worshipers, preparing my heart to enter holy week.

And now, now I'm home, and resting.

The weekend was surprisingly beautiful, but I'm exhausted.

The plan is to spend tomorrow doing as little as possible, and pampering myself. I discovered that my roommates are going snowboarding, so I will have the rare privilege of an entire day of the house to myself. I plan to stay in bed late, and then spend the rest of the day relaxing. Bubble bath. Face mask. Maybe a hair treatment. Reading, and resting. I may not even make it out of my pajamas. I've done all the necessary errands, so if I don't want to leave the house until I have to go to work on Monday morning, I don't have to leave the house!


Anonymous said...

Hooray! I'm so thrilled that the weekend came out better than you anticipated and for all the answers to prayer!

Big hugs!