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Women Coming Together

Did you know that on Saturday morning over one hundred women gathered here at the church for our annual Women Coming Together retreat? I think this was a new record! When I arrived in the fellowship hall—late, because Tate had a basketball game at the brutal hour of 8:00 a.m.—the happy sounds of laughter and conversation were echoing down that hallway. Luckily, I made it in time to enjoy some of the fun “get-to-know-you” activities, which gave me a chance to meet some new people and learn a few new things about “old” friends.

After the introductions and ice breakers, we moved into the sanctuary for a time of worship and praise led by our invited guests, Karen Taylor Good and Stowe Dailey Shockey. The brochure for the retreat had described them as “professional performers, songwriters and retreat leaders.” Though I had not heard of them before and wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew that the retreat planners had done their homework and that we were in for a treat.

What I expected was to hear some inspirational songs and to be led in some singing and prayer. What I received was so much more than that.

A few songs into their set, Karen Taylor Good began to talk about her mother, who had died after a long journey with dementia. Karen shared how she had struggled with anger over her mother’s suffering and had looked hard for some meaning in the midst of it all. Out of that struggle with God and with her own feelings, she wrote a song that helped her on the road to healing.

As she began to share the song with us, I felt my own emotions boiling up within me. Images of my own mother, who now spends her days being moved from bed to wheelchair and back again, staring into “the middle space” and rarely making eye contact, washed over me. I felt my own grief welling up. I’ve been walking the road of Alzheimer’s with my mom for ten years now, and most days I can think of her without shedding tears. But every once in a while the grief hits, the pain kicks me in the gut, the tears come. This was one of those moments.

But I fought it at first. I mean, I was sitting there with all these people. What would they think if their pastor couldn’t control herself? I couldn’t just start bawling, could I?  In church, of all places? I had to keep it together, right?

Wrong. The tears began to flow, and before I knew it the sister to my right had taken my hand. And then the sister to my left put her arm around my shoulder. A package of Kleenex appeared in my lap. And I cried. I let myself feel the grief and be held. It was powerful and beautiful and healing. I didn’t have to hold it together. Others could hold me and let me fall apart.

The truth is, my brothers and sisters, the church, of ALL places, is where we should be able to grieve and to cry and to praise and to feel whatever we need to feel. To fall apart and to allow others to hold us. I’m deeply grateful for the love and care I received on Saturday, and I hope you will be open to receiving that same love and care when you need it.