On Friday, a new friend named Bettejean picked me up at the Alexandria, Louisiana airport to take me to a retreat where I was speaking. I mentioned that I was starved and she assured me that lunch was on the schedule. Then she explained her thought process in choosing just the right place to have lunch. Bettejean told me that since I was coming from Indiana to Louisiana, it wouldn’t do to take me to some chain restaurant. I needed to experience the real thing—Louisiana cookin’ at it’s best. (We were inland, a very different cuisine than Baton Rouge, she qualified.)
So, we stopped at a country diner called Lea’s, once written up in Southern Living magazine for its down-home, blue-plate specials and pie. For the first time, I savored catfish, collard greens and gravy on rice! (Okay. I’ve had catfish before, just not prepared in this way. But never collard greens. And never gravy on rice! Haven’t these people heard of mashed potatoes?)
I spent the weekend meeting a potpourri of new friends—women with deep southern accents, warm southern hospitality, of varied ages, with an array of colorful personalities and intriguing life stories. The Chapel at Baton Rouge has two locations. One is on the LSU campus, so there were a number of young, bright college women in attendance. It became vividly clear that God is weaving a beautiful tapestry of lives together in this church. The honesty, vulnerability, and openness of these women prepared the way for a rich, tender, Spirit-soaked time together.
Here is the gift in it for me: typically, when I speak at a retreat, I come in and do my thing and leave. But this time, I stayed over Saturday night with a handful of the leaders. We had dinner together, sat in high-backed rocking chairs on a porch that overlooked a lake, shared our hearts and prayed together. Then something very surprising happened.
Through an unplanned invitation, I shared briefly about an incident in my life that had hurt my heart. Once these dear friends heard about it, they circled their chairs and began some prayer triage. As I watched the scene unfold, I felt the miraculous hand of God orchestrating it all. I had come to this retreat to pour myself out for them. What I didn’t anticipate is that God brought me to them for them to pour themselves out for me!
As I reflect on the mutual ministry we offered each other, my heart feels deep gladness. The reciprocity in the body of Christ is a beautiful thing. I pray that I will never, ever be closed to receiving the grace God has for me through others to whom I have come to serve. Thank you, dear women of The Chapel at Baton Rouge! You loved me well.