"I'm running away from home to find home." That's my story.
As a young girl, my dream was to marry a preacher or a farmer and have a home full of love and acceptance. When I left my parents' home to get married, that dream didn't even survive the ceremony. My narcissistic groom was so fixated on his own appearance, he could not see the beauty of his bride. Twenty years of abuse later, I ran away from home again, this time to protect and provide a safe home for my son.
Although I was financially destitute, God provided for us through the generosity of his people. He gave me words to write in articles and books that defined the horrific reality of domestic violence, and I developed a heart attuned to hurting people.
Thirteen years later, after pouring myself and everything I owned into a ministry I loved, my ministry partners chose to stake a legal claim to the home donated by my family, the home where I lived and provided a shelter for broken women. They sold it for 30 pieces of silver, or so it felt to me. Once again, I was destitute and homeless, disabled, and forced to move back into a mouse-infested trailer on my parents' farm, where I still live today. But God has provided for my needs through the generosity of his people.
I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents and two younger brothers whom I love. After returning home to Kentucky from living in Illinois for 25 years, I envisioned sharing with my brothers the same happy times we had as children. But reality took a really big bite out of my heart when both of my brothers expressed contempt through their words and actions for my beliefs and my appearance. Around them I often feel alone, dismissed, invisible. However, God has provided by bringing loving people into my life, most of whom live elsewhere, who have become brothers and sisters to me.
I still have a deep longing for home and community. When my friend, Todd Agnew, told me about his experience at Hutchmoot 2011, it sounded like the voice of a familiar friend welcoming me home. I just had to go and find out if it was true, if people really cared for each other enough to engage in deep conversations about God and their own stories of redemption without being judgmental or elitist.
So here I go again, leaving home to find home. And this time I did!
From the moment I stepped inside the door, I encountered smiles, greetings, and a warm welcome to join the family. I heard stories from other broken people who have walked through the darkest dark, yet found hope and light from God and his people. When Jason Gray said, "Pain is our mother. She helps us recognize each other," I knew I had found home.
All of the sessions I attended were excellent and thought-provoking, and the music was spectacular and brilliant, but it was the kindness of strangers-now-friends that spoke volumes to me.
From the simple kindness of a young college student who had the heart of a servant to the amazing generosity of a young couple who provided for my lodging, each day brought new surprises of lovingkindness and compassion.
Andrew Peterson compared Hutchmoot to Christmas, or maybe even better than Christmas. That's exactly the way it was for me--unwrapping gifts of new friendships, receiving rides when I couldn't drive, sharing the gift of Sunday lunch with delightful artists of word and song and their beautiful families, and so much more.
My new family, brothers and sisters, I am so in love with you! It's not as much about what you did for me, but the awareness that we share a passion for God and home, and recognition of the same heartbeat that has persevered through many dark nights of the soul, but has been strengthened and enlarged by love and grace.
I'm in awe of the manly men who wept often when telling their stories or when listening to mine, and encouraged by delightful, gracious women who are learning to love their families well.
There were amazing food and decoration wizards who worked their magic to create the atmosphere of a family feast with sumptuous foods of heavenly proportions. Each meal fed our souls as well as our bodies.
The sense of unity was so strong among us that when we sang The Doxology together on the last day, there was no echo of "t-t-t-t's" when we got to the end of the line "Praise Him above ye heavenly host." From the back of the room, I heard just one "t" in total unity that came from the harmony of our hearts as well as our voices.
It was amazing to spend four days with "me too" people who were so accepting and accommodating, and I didn't want to leave this precious family. But we were reminded "Now to live the life God has given us in the places where he has placed us, and to spread the table of generous hospitality wherever we go." (Scott Richardson)
The very first person who greeted me warmly when I arrived was the same person who gave me a big bear hug when I left. Pete, you're amazing! Thank you for everything you and Jennifer did to make Hutchmoot a beautiful taste of heaven for all of us.
So now I'm back at home, still longing to run away to find what my heart craves, but realizing I will never be satisfied because even Hutchmoot is just a foretaste of what is to come.
In the meantime, we can open our hearts and tables to those around us, and encourage each other around the world through words and hugs and prayers . . . until we meet again, either here or Home.