My local church gifted me recently with a weekend in Atlanta, where I was blessed to attend the Amazing Grace 360 women's conference. Grace Pres. covered my conference fees and lodging - a HUGE gift.
But there was this little problem of how to pay for meals. For someone trying to live on a dental-floss budget, even the dollar menu at McDonald's is depressing. I was going to need enough money to cover six meals, but after paying the last of Tom's fees at university, my checking account held only $12. Strangely, I wasn't too stressed, praying just a week before we hit the road, "Jesus, I need some cash for this trip. Where will it come from?"
Less than a week before the conference, I received in the mail a check from my kids' dentist's office. "Refund for overpayment." Now, I don't pay anything for my kids' dental care except a modest co-payment. Someone had obviously made an error. I called the dentist's office and explained the situation. "I have this check, but there's been a mistake...I think this refund needs to go to the insurance company."
The receptionist on the other end of the line answered, "No, no mistake. We were reconciling our books and discovered that you overpaid on your co-payments way back in January. We're sorry we didn't catch the error earlier. The money is yours."
My throat tightened. Thank you, Jesus! I thought I was going to cry. "Wow. I can't tell you how timely this is," I explained to the receptionist.
"Well, we were excited to be able to mail you the check...we kind of felt on this end, for some weird reason, that it was something you might need just now."
Then, there was the sweet fellowship with my Grace sisters on the trip, and a reunion with one sister who moved recently from Tennessee to Georgia. Trading "How we met" and childbirth stories, sharing current struggles, laughing and joking in the car on the long ride to and from. It was like stepping from the weight and weariness of daily labor into a small patch of sunshine, a pocket of heaven.
And then there was the conference itself. Ever feel like God organized a denominational conference and assembled 2000 women especially so that He could set the stage for a personal conversation with you? I've been working through some particular things mentally of late - last weekend, it seemed that every testimony, every speaker was speaking with laser-point accuracy to the questions of my heart.
And the music? Well, with 2000 women praising God together, it seemed we stood on the very threshold of Glory.
During a break before the Indelible Grace concert Saturday evening, I received a text from my son. "Mom, Mrs. Shannon is there in Atlanta where you are." My heart did a somersault. My sister was right here in the room with me! I began walking up and down the aisles. "Hi, where are ya'll from?" How on earth could I find one woman out of 2000? Impossible. But God led me right to her! Shannon and I opted to skip the concert, heading off instead to a quiet table where we could talk. A three hour friend feast!
At midnight, when my young friend Jessica and I finally headed up to our room on the seventh floor (Jessica had joined Shannon and me after the concert), I sighed, "I am SO FULL."
"Why, what have you eaten?"
"My soul is full. My soul has feasted, and my heart is full to overflowing."
God's love toward me is not indulgent. He disciplines and refines me, and sometimes, the circumstances and trials He sends feel as though they will truly destroy me. Lord, I am undone! I cannot endure! While I honestly do not always delight in the Lord's discipline, I am grateful that He loves me enough to give me the hard stuff, to burn away the dross, to refine me.
No, God's love is not indulgent, but it is extravagant. Extravagantly displayed in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Extravagantly poured out in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And extravagantly lavished in those sweet moments, like this weekend, when He seems to draw me all the way into the Sanctuary, where He binds my bruises, then lavishes gift upon gift, pouring sweetness and affection all over me. It's as if He says, "Put down your toiling for a while. Let us rest. Come and celebrate with me!"
3 weeks ago