Monday, February 28, 2011

in praise of beautiful women

mel & me
i met my friend melanie almost seven years ago, when her husband was called to be rector of our church. i was on the search committee, and when melanie came to visit, she brought with her a tiny baby girl she kept in a bucket. well, not really a bucket, but that's what she called it. the day they moved into their house, i arrived, offering to sit with sweet baby coco as her parents told the movers where to put what. 

mel was young, uncertain of her role as rector's wife. how would she do it? it would take time for her to figure out. coco is now in first grade, and two sisters have joined her, one of whom is my godchild. and their mother has grown, too.

mel played lacrosse at brown, was now refs for the acc and runs 10 miles on an ordinary day.  i played with barbies, and on a particularly athletic day in college, i might have run to krispy kreme toward the hot doughnuts now sign. but we are both writers, and so connected over words.

mel wears spiked heel shoes to church on sundays. i almost always wear flats because of my bunions. (bunions?) I dress like my mother. she dresses like nobody's mom. and yet, we have found common ground.

the wife of a priest is traditionally expected to champion some sort of ministry within the parish. kind of like the wife of a president. choose a platform and make that your baby. well, mel had three babies in five years, so it took a little while to carve out space enough to find her church passion. in between she joined our parish writing group, pouring her soul into beautiful words that everybody i know — and everybody i don't — should read. she needs a blog!

keynote patti digh
a few years ago, mel and i attended a women's event in richmond, va., where she lived before she came to north carolina. it was such an experience for both of us, that we dreamed of creating something similar at home.

and this weekend, we did. with the help of a whole bunch of amazing and beautiful women. and another 200 amazing and beautiful women who attended.

when she was welcoming all those women, Melanie said this:

Please take a moment to look around. In front of you, to the left, right, and behind. Tell your seatmates your name. We are here to share stories. To hear our own again. When we share, it becomes bigger than us. The Gathering was born out of a desire to do “inreach” to feed the souls of women who do so much for others, often placing our own needs last on the list. When we nurture ourselves, we nurture others. When we let our light shine, we give others the freedom — the courage —  to do the same. We got to this day by a series of “God-instances.” With each idea, we were shown a path. With each hurdle, we were given a gift. 

one of the gifts i have been given in lo these 7 years is just knowing her, watching her beauty, her joy, as she found her ministry, has done what she was expected to do, but with surprise. sure, she does the bake sales, prepares church suppers, but her calling is much deeper.

i have written in the past that in preparation for the gathering, we taught a class, one centered on four words we can keep in mind as we move through our days. one of many represented in the books of patti digh, was this: open doors for people.
the gathering committee rocks!
i can think of 200 women over the past friday and saturday — some of whom probably thought the door was firmly shut — who found it open for them, just because of mel's vision and her ministry. those of us involved in the planning have been opened to new friendships, new doors we thought had been locked long ago.

find a door. open it. Wide as it can go. let people in. do. welcome. it will be good for you.