After an amazingly slow-paced an relaxing afternoon at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, we arrived at the Mount Hermon Christian Conference center by late afternoon.
Coming from wintery Nevada, I was immediately delighted by all the spring green and blooms.
We got our room key,
checked into our (first, yes another story there!) room,
headed for dinner,
then had our first sessions of the conference.
I was blessed to find myself placed in Kathy Ide's small critique intensive workshop for the next 40 or so hours. (Yes, we did get opportunities for two night's sleep in that time, but my brain wouldn't shut down. I think I got about 9 hours sleep over those two night combined).
What an amazing, God-knit group it was! In addition to the very left-brained Kathy (who I honestly was least drawn to out of all the potential critique hosts, but who had totally won me over by our second session together - absolutely love that lady now and couldn't have asked for a better mentor!)...
Mike (red sweatshirt, above) was an even more last-minute addition to the group that I was! He also is a stroke survivor, just 3 months before mine! While his physical deficits are less than my own, the emotional liability is still intense. He was only there for that first two day conference, but from the get-go, he was one of the reasons I knew God had specifically sent me to this retreat, this year, to this tiny group of five in a conference of nearly 400!
Ray seemed to be my self-appointed guardian all week. His writing sample we critiqued gave us some opportunities to talk about my dad's Viet Nam area military experiences too, so I think this endeared me to Ray. Though we had no further workshops together throughout the week, he made a point of checking in with me daily. Very sweet!
Mark. What can I say about Mark? He and his brother JD are some of the most treasured relationships I took away from the conference. We did have the privilege of attending many of the same tracts and workshops throughout the week, so had more opportunity to get to know one another than most group members. I even forced him into lunch with a children's publisher one day only to learn he has an amazing children's' series on his heart he had never pitched to anyone!
Bless his heart, Mark was the one person to actually by a copy of my (11-year-old) book from the conference bookstore and broung it for me to sign at the book signing party Monday night. Warm, funny, caring pastor's heart, who loves people and can capture deep Scriptural truth with wit and humor. Can't wait to buy his first book (one he conquers that dreaded PLATFORM thing)!
|This should be my picture together with Dawn. Since we never took one, please enjoy some stained glass from inside the Mount Hermon chapel.|
Why don't I have an individual picture of myself with Dawn??? Did I mention there were well over 300 folks there? In the high 300s, we passed at several meals and such, but apparently never took a photo opportunity all week. Dawn is always full of smiles (even through tears) and is very attuned to the working of God's Spirit in our everyday lives. K-Love and Air1 are blessed to have this girl, and I'm thankful to have spent two intense days in a small group with her!
Yes, I mentioned tears. They say writing is easy, just open a vein and bleed right onto paper. After 2 days of offering up our "babies" for intense "surgery" together, Kathy could brag she had made EVERY SINGLE member of our group cry, more than once, yes even all the guys.
Everyone. Except Me. I can't cry, remember? Weird strokie thing.
You would think at such an intensely emotional and spiritual, sleep-deprived time, maybe I could have spilled a tear or two. But NOPE. My precious Rick still holds the record for the only one capable of helping me release tears now. (A record he would gladly trade for sane conversations with his wife!) I told Kathy she had managed to "make my heart cry," my new descriptive for when I want to cry, should be shedding tears, but physically cannot.
By the wrap up of the Next-Level intensive at noon on Friday, it seemed I had spent a month growing with and learning to love this tiny cluster of people. Already emotionally overwhelmed by the amazing experience, I looked at a friend and commented, "Now the real conference starts!" Throughout Friday afternoon we rested then welcomed hundreds of friends, new and old, to join us in huge new dinning room.
To be continued...