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My phone vibrated in my pocket. I pulled it out and hit ignore.
I was sitting at a table in the front of the room. It was the final evening of Allume, the last keynote session of the conference.
I figured that my husband would get the message that I was still busy with conference happenings and try me later. But about thirty seconds later, he tried again. I made my way quickly to the exit while hitting the “accept” button.
It was obvious that he wanted to chat. So I walked down the hall to the (in)courage lounge and settled myself on a couch.
They were driving home from Grandma’s house. The phone got passed to the back seat where my son’s sweet little voice sang me Super Why’s version of the ABCs and I Have The Joy Joy Joy. I heard tales of the broken banjo string and other details of life at home during the days I had been gone.
Sitting there in the lounge talking to my family I knew I had made the right choice in answering the phone.
After the fact, I heard amazing things about the rest of the session and the worship that followed. But I didn’t feel like I had missed out. I returned briefly to retrieve my belongings but then left, even though I could have stayed.
I spent some time in the prayer room, writing in the journals of people who had made a difference to me while I had been there. I made a brief appearance at the closing night party and then I retired early.
I knew that I had an early morning and a three-hour drive ahead of me, so I spent those last hours when I could have been socializing getting a long hot shower and packing my things to return home – home to broken banjo strings and ABCs.
In those quiet hours, I knew I was refreshing myself. Giving myself – and my family – a gift of someone whose spirit was being renewed rather than depleted.
I have blogged in the past about how important community is for marriage – how we can’t go at it alone and how sometimes, marriage takes more than two. A good support network is vital for individuals and for marriage.
But I struggle with the balance of this: It is too easy to escape reality by drowning myself in the loving generous blogging community; to give of my time and my words on social media and my blog; to get all of my spiritual and emotional needs met through blogs, Bible studies, moms groups – and blogging conferences.
When my husband was deployed, I needed this support network even more desperately. I learned to depend on others because he simply wasn’t there. When he returned, well…it’s hard to change. I have so thrown myself into these wonderful pursuits to the point that, somewhere along the way, I was no longer looking to my husband and some of his roles in my life had become obsolete.
Just a few weeks ago, he sat next to me on the couch, dejected, and he said to me: “You don’t need me – for anything.”
And I had to hang my head because I knew he was right.
THIS is the struggle that Allume shined a spotlight on in my heart. This selfishness. This not loving him, or not loving him well. This choosing everything else over my marriage. I know I should be mentally present with him – but instead my mind is on the next post, the next Twitter party, the next social gathering. Often, I’m multitasking on multiple social media sites while we are watching shows together in the evening.
Sometimes, he’s very stressed, anxious, or hurting and all he wants is to be heard and understood, or to just be held – but instead I try to
encourage lecture him. When he gets frustrated, I leave him behind, out in the cold, while I run into the arms of my loving support system: giving and receiving encouragement with my sisters and pretending like there is no suffering going on in my family.
The first night of Allume, Ann Voskamp shared in her keynote how stars don’t reach a breathtaking brilliancy until there are 450 of them. She went on to say how much we need each other to shine brightly and point others to Jesus. To join hands with our sisters and be a brilliant army of stars.
Ann says this:
Astronomer Bob Burman writes in his book End of the Night, [quote] ‘My feeling is that an observer needs to see 450 stars to be swept away. [He goes on to say] I didn’t make that number up arbitrarily. That’s the number of stars that are available once you get dimmer than the third magnitude. So in the city, you see a dozen stars – a handful, and it is attractive to no one. If there’s 100 stars in the sky, it still doesn’t do it. There’s a certain tipping point [he says] where people will look and there will be that planetarium view: 450 stars. And now you’re touching the core.’ [end of quote] 450 stars to sweep one away. 450 stars to touch the core of someone. 450 stars to woo someone back to God. 450 Esthers to fight the dark. We need each other.
She was talking about community. About needing each other and pointing the world to Christ. And this is a much-needed message.
The conference wore on and I heard the illustration spoken again and again in multiple forms, but by that final night as I packed my things to return home, my only thought was this:
How can I join hands with my sisters and shine in a brilliant army of stars when I’m not willing to join hands with the one standing beside me who should matter the most? This bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh?
When I read these words, I see the widow pouring out her last drops of oil.
I see peanut butter sandwiches made at 6:15am when I’d much much rather be sleeping.
I see saying no to the Twitter parties sometimes, blogging less, and putting the iPhone down during cuddle time.
I see sometimes saying no to being in the “army of stars” so that I can say yes to being more present and intentional in my marriage.
I see giving love and encouragement to my husband, even when I feel that there’s not much left to give – instead of running away and pretending like we are okay in the name of “encouraging other women through my blog.”
I see choosing the one beside me over all of you.
I wish I could tell you that Allume changed everything. That I returned and overhauled my life to put my husband and my marriage first in everything. That love has abounded and life has been amazing.
The truth is that my husband and I have still fought. I have still picked up my phone far too many times while we cuddle and watch TV. I’ve still slept in through him leaving for work more mornings than I’ve gotten up to spend time with him. And I’ve still made at least a brief appearance at every Five Minute Friday Twitter party since Allume.
(Just keeping it real here…)
But what has changed is my heart. I have confessed my sin and my struggle to my God, my husband, and my sisters. I’ve offered my little, my widows mite of sometimes depleted love, back to God – and daily I watch Him multiply it.
While I was gone, God was working in my husband’s heart too. Before I could get out a word about my time at Allume, he sat me down on the couch and shared with me some things that happened between him and God while I was gone. A surrender. And now I’m watching him change before my eyes.
Miracles are happening. Love is being multiplied. Dry bones are coming together and waking up.
I hope you understand my intentions here:
Community is necessary and I’m not negating yet. Community (online community especially) has been vitally essential in my personal and spiritual growth. I have grown through blogging and I am not expecting that to change. I’m not saying that I’m going to go hide in a hole where only my husband and I exist and we don’t need anyone else.
But what I am saying is that my priorities have sometimes be upside-down. And moving forward, I want to get them right-side-up.
Photo credit: Kim DeLoach Photography
To read more about my Allume experience, please check out my conference landing page: