Have you ever walked into a room full of people you’ve never met before but felt instantly at home? It’s a rare occurrence but that’s what this past weekend was like for me at ChooseJoy. It was like coming home to 100 of my closest friends, yet we had never officially met before. We have “followed” one another’s pains, trials, struggles, heartaches. We’ve also rejoiced with one another through the miracles of life brought to each of us. While social media provides a way for us all to connect from all over the country, it doesn’t compare to being in one another’s presence. It doesn’t take the place of the hugs, the tears, and the laughs.
(And it doesn’t allow everyone to get the pleasure of hearing my southern accent I’ve warned them about). The struggle is real y’all.
Choose Joy is hosted annually by the amazing Emmy Blakely who has the absolute biggest heart for people and for the Lord. (And seriously if you don’t know her, well I will just say that you are missing out on one of the greatest treasures and shame on you.)
(That was your queue to jump over and follow her like right now.)
This event is a faith-based conference geared toward those experiencing infertility and/or desiring to build their family through adoption. It began in 2012 when Emmy (after experiencing the struggles of infertility herself) wanted to provide a way for others to be encouraged through this difficult journey and also as a way to assist families financially with treatments and/or adoption. Thus was born her slogan, “people helping people is my favorite.”
So to fill up my FIVE HOUR flight across the country from Atlanta to Orange County, California, I took a book (or five) to read. I cracked open “Home is Where My People Are” by Sophie Hudson first. I’m quite certain people may have thought I had taken a little too much travel medicine by the way I was laughing within just the first few pages. But alas, they are strangers and who cares. I had the honor of meeting Sophie and listening to her speak at the Allume Conference last fall and she speaks my language. Like really. The southern language. And she is hilarious on top of that. (In my mind we are best friends sipping sweet tea from our mason jars on our big front porch). Back to the point. I read the book, and I laughed hysterically. It was awesome. But it wasn’t until after the flight back from Choose Joy did her book really sink in and make a serious impression on me. It hit home big time and I began to tear up as I realized that though I was flying back “home,” that home truly is in a number of places for me.
It was no coincidence that I chose this particular book to read at this moment in time. God knew it was just what I needed. I have to quote my friend Jenni (who attended with me) because she said it so perfectly:
“So here’s the thing. You meet a bunch of strangers for a weekend in Laguna Hills and think, will we really truly come together and support each other in all things adoption, infertility, and God? The answer is YES and not a small yes but a big ALL CAPS YES. The grace these ladies have inspired me to be better. We have laughed until we hurt, cried until we needed to stop, and prayed for each other. These ladies have stirred my soul and made me want to be better. Each are fantastic in their own way which is why God brought us all here. I miss them terribly already, but I praise God for these ladies and their experiences. We all Choose Joy at different moments in our life and even when we don’t, I know that I have sisters that will help me through, which is the greatest miracle of all.”
You see, home to me is now scattered across the country. It is in Utah, Alabama, California, Georgia, Florida - and everywhere in between where some of the most amazing women that I've ever had the privilege of meeting in person live. We all come from such different walks of life. We look different, we speak different (well mostly I speak different with my "southernese"), but we all have the same heart for the Lord and for others. What I witnessed and experienced this weekend truly cannot be put into words adequately. All I know is that I left “home” thinking it will be so great to finally meet all of these people. And I returned “home” with them all as my people. My tribe. My family. I carry them in my hearts even when we are apart. Home truly is where all my people are. I'm so thankful for each and every one of them.
I am giving away a copy of BOTH of Sophie Hudson's books (below) on the blog. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this blog post and you will be entered to win. I will randomly draw a name on Friday, May 1. Easy peasy. And seriously you will laugh your face off reading both of them!