An Inconvenient Work of Refreshment

There is a conference that happens the first weekend of October in Nashville, and has been happening for about eight years. Tickets go on sale in Spring and in the past have sold out in a matter of seconds. I was one of the fortunate few lucky enough to grab a ticket three years ago. I almost didn’t go, and I wrote about that here.  This year I didn’t even try for the ticket, because I just didn’t have the funds or the time.

Until the last minute, a few days before the conference and an extra ticket was offered up on FaceBook. I went for it. I splurged. It was a spontaneous moment. I didn’t really think through all the consequences, I just knew that I needed refreshment.  I needed to be among this group of people, represented by a pipe smoking rabbit. Crazy, right?

Hutchmoot. This oddly named, hard to define gathering of creative people desiring to foster wonder, desiring to instill a theologically infused wonder into our bruised world…this conference always refreshes. Filled with writers and painters, singers and songwriters, musicians and chefs, and people who appreciate all of this. Somehow it even refreshes those of us who don’t get to go, just by listening to the testimony of those who have gone. 

This year, though,  I jumped and decided to attend. Honestly? It was a bit of a challenge. The conference meets about 50 miles from my house. The husband and the eldest were in St Louis at a hockey tournament, while I was home with the other three kiddos. Which meant while the conference was happening, I was running between the conference and tutorials and soccer games and home and friends homes. I was not completely at home or completely at the conference. 

It was all a bit inconvenient. No. Not a bit. It was inconvenient.

You know what?

It was worth it.

The bit of the concert we caught on Thursday night, the bit my husband and two of the kids attended…completely worth it. They got it. They caught a glimpse of what Hutchmoot was about.  The  session Friday morning on hospitality and the importance of the table I caught, after catching a bit of ‘Muffins with Mommy’ at the tutorial (which was thankfully two miles from the conference) with the younger kids…completely worth it. Completely.  Lunch with a friend and a new friend, then driving home with kiddos and settling them in before running back to the conference for a bit of the dinner and evening conference? Well, that was kind of a pain, but worth it. 

Saturday…dropping some kids at the soccer field and other kids at a friend’s house, then watching hockey games and soccer games  on periscope while waiting for sessions to begin, then engaging in sessions and conversation? Yep…you guessed it. Worth it. Deciding to leave the conference before the evening session…difficult. Laughter at home with the kids was good.

I drove 350 miles over two days. I switched gears between parent and conference participant I don’t know how many times. I tried to take notes and gave up. I worshipped, listened to concerts and drove miles. It was inconvenient. It cost a fair bit of money. It was, honestly stressful. 

It took work.  Work for me, work for my friends helping me out with letting my kids hang out with them and coaches giving kids rides home. 

What is the point?

Refreshment is important, it was important enough to work to get there.

Find it. Search it out.

We are in a bruised and broken world.  The week of the conference was the week of the shooting in Las Vegas. The week of brutality and fear and sorrow. The weeks leading up to the conference were hurricanes and floods. Now there are fires.  Our world is broken, bruised and so in need of hope and wonder. Gospel. Refreshement. 

That refreshment takes work.

The conference took great effort and work…we benefitted from the effort and discipline and work of all the session leaders and the workers who put together beauty in words and music and visuals. Months of planning, disciplines that have been developed. Thoughts and ideas and lectures prayed over and discussed and edited and revised. A vision for refreshment and encouragement and hope…and inspiration. And we benefitted. From all this work. 

In some ways, this year was even better for me. I did not get to connect as much with people, but each time I walked in to the building I took a deep breath and had to intentionally change my focus. I had to set aside all the busyness it took to get to the conference…and take in the moments I had there. I had to make the most of the time I had in that setting of refreshment.  The conference took work for me this year…lots of planning and effort to make it to just two sessions and a bit of two concerts. It cost me a bit more, and I paid attention more as a result. 

Now, I am able to reflect and read some of the books I picked up. I’m able to take the time I need to think and to pray and to listen. I am able to hopefully allow what was begun at the conference to come to fullness…and to have an impact on those around me. The work continues now.  The work the conference presenters did continues in me so that I am prepared to offer refreshment to those who are in need. When those come to the door, or to our table…we need to have done the work so we have something to offer.

So…when a conference comes your way that sparks your attention, go. When a book grabs your attention and inspires you and the Spirit awakens you, pay attention. When you find a space that brings you refreshment, be thankful, and go there. Don’t feel bad about carving out spaces for reading and having coffee and finding beauty. Go for walks, and pray. Splurge and go to the conference or the concert. Sing loudly in worship each Sunday. Refresh your spirit and pay attention as God speaks…and make the spaces around you to refresh others. It takes work. It takes paying attention. It takes being intentional.

 Sometimes it takes being spontaneous and splurging and going to crazy conferences with goofy names in the midst of crazy schedules…but they might just give you the lift and inspiration you need, and refresh your spirit. You might just inspire someone else as a result.

(I grabbed the picture of the leaf and the “Every Moment Holy” from the Rabbit Room Instagram feed )

The Necessity of Luxury

Rarely in my life do I have moments when events with significantly diverse elements happen simultaneously. The anticipation of one event filled me with anxiety while the anticipation of the other filled me with hope and excitement. The result? A realization of how I am so often caught in my fears, along with how vital beauty and wonder, and what might even be considered luxury, is to this walk of faith in a broken world.


The eldest boy’s hockey team had a tournament in St Louis this weekend, the same weekend a conference was happening which I eagerly had been awaiting since April. My very gracious husband planned to take all the children to the tournament, leaving me free to completely enjoy my conference. This was the plan and it was great.


Until the harsh reality of our brokenness shouted for attention in St. Louis. The weekend was dubbed The Weekend of Resistance in protest of police violence after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Another young man was shot on Wednesday leading up to the weekend. Tempers were flaring and the violence of our world was on display.


Police Shooting Missouri-1


The call for protests led to anxiety for this mama. I began to make alternative plans for my weekend, trying to find ways to keep the younger three children home. Trying to pull in close those I hold dear and protect them from what I anticipated would be a violent and unpredictable weekend. The riots surrounding Rodney King happened during my college graduation weekend; memories fueled my fear. The first game was 10 pm on a Friday night, only 10 miles from Ferguson. Ugh.


The first game was 10 pm on a Friday night, only 10 miles from Ferguson. Ugh. 

My much calmer husband was not worried. He was aware and planning alternate routes to keep out of the fray, but he was not worried as the ice rinks were not in St Louis proper. The final decision was to stick to the original plan. And ultimately I trust his wisdom and I prayed and sent them off.


My conference, called Hutchmoot, is a conglomeration of artists and musicians and creative souls alongside those of us who appreciate the art and music and beauty. An intentionally small gathering,  desiring to lean in toward God and His stirring. Leaning in toward those things that are beautiful we hope to be changed, being ignited and refreshed with the incommunicable grace of community.


In the midst of what has been a rather chaotic life lately, this weekend brought refreshment. There was music and storytelling, art in the decorations and all around, and amazing food which brought it all together with feasting.



Steve’s weekend was filled with avoiding violence born of our brokenness. People desiring to be heard and understood and spilling over into anger and frustration, clashing with those who are trying to reign in the violence and keep order to our lawlessness. Plus, Steve had to contend with a sick 3 year old and Zach had some food poisoning thrown in on Saturday evening. Still…they survived despite all my fears. They encountered none of the violence I anticipated. Zachary was able to do what he loves, and do it well. They were weary and ready to be home by Sunday afternoon, but happy and content.



I almost missed something significant, however, because I focused on what-ifs. I almost missed a weekend of new friendships, of challenges to open my eyes and see more (more than just what frightens me? ). I almost missed seeing Luci Shaw who had encouraged my soul 13 years ago at Regent; almost missed conversations with her that again encouraged my soul.




I almost missed the call of Welcome Home which stirred in me desires for our home. Stirred in me desires for my children. Stirred wonder and excitement. Stirred hope.




Honestly, this weekend was close to luxury. When I registered I was one of the lucky few able to get a ticket, and I wondered at the time why I needed this. The fact is, I have been more weary than I thought and I needed this more than I knew.


The fear drawn out by the hockey tournament’s location and timing showed me how much I am caught by fear. How often I miss good things because I am so focused on the brokenness and the unknown. The brokenness and the unknown are always there; the wonder and richness of home help us walk in the midst without fear.

The luxury of the weekend was not luxury…it was necessity. Necessary in this moment to refocus and refresh.  Necessary to remind me of how wonder and beauty and love push out the fear and the anxiety, leaving room for life to happen. Grace to happen. I almost walked away from a weekend that was a gift.


At the coffee shop on Sunday morning Over The Rhine’s song Called Home came up in my playlist. Fitting, isn’t it?


Just shy of Breakin’ Down
There’s a bend in the road that I have found
Called home

Take a left at loneliness
There’s a place to find forgiveness
Called home

With clouds adrift across the sky
Like heaven’s laundry hung to dry
You slowly feel it all will be revealed

Where evening shadows come to fall
On the awful and the beautiful
Every wound you feel that needs to heal

And silence yearns to hear herself
Some long lost memory rings a bell
Called home

Old pre-Civil War brick house
Standin’ tall and straight somehow
Called home

Mailbox full of weariness
And a word of hard won happiness
Called home

Leave behind your Sunday best
You know we couldn’t care a less
Out here we’ve learned to leave the edges wild

And stories they get passed around
And laughter – it gets handed down
Read it in the lines around a smile

Our bodies’ motion comes to rest
When we are at last
Called home