Thursday, May 19, 2011

#31: Sweet Second Home Alabama

A couple of weekends ago when I met the one and only Mary Kathryn, I was able to cross off something else from my 32 Things list: Visit One Other Southern State.

When I was still an Illinoisan, I often went to Wisconsin or Indiana (well, really I'd drive through Indiana to get to the Warren Dunes in Michigan) for day or weekend trips.  Easy, quick drives and a good way to get a change of scenery.  I decided when I made my list that I needed to familiarize myself with the South.  My past experience includes two trips to Florida, my 30th birthday in Asheville, and an interesting road trip to New Orleans so my friends and I could see Incubus perform.  So really, I know nothing about the other Southern states.

I needed to find my Southern version of Wisconsin.

Kim and I first connected over books.  She asked if we might read something together, a sort of virtual Book Club.  We decided to read Blood Done Sign My Name, which MK happened to be finishing around the same time.  Through email discussion, Kim mentioned the Civil Rights Museum that resides in Birmingham. Then she mentioned that Mary Kathryn would be visiting one weekend in May to help with a youth retreat. 

That is when I shamelessly invited myself to be a part of the weekend so we could go to the Civil Rights Museum together.

As the weekend drew closer, I started to feel as though I should help out with the retreat, even though I didn't know anything about it.  I emailed Kim and said I could drive down Saturday and be her pack mule.  Then she emailed that she had hoped Mary Kathryn and I would facilitate some sort of painting activity Saturday morning.  I can't pass up an opportunity involving paint!  I decided to drive down Friday night instead.

I wasn't nervous about meeting my blog friends.  I knew that I would like them in real life, just as I liked their bloggy beings.  I was more nervous that they wouldn't like me.  (Just when I think I've mastered an area of insecurity...)

I needn't have worried.  The three of us connected right from the start.

I arrived just in time for worship and communion.  Tired and loopy, I sat in the dark illuminated by votives and observed these kids flat out worshiping their Savior.  I don't remember having that depth when I was their age. Feeling depleted as I was by the past few weeks, I wasn't sure whether I had that depth now or if I could be of use to anyone.

The teens were encouraged to talk to a leader during worship and as I was a pseudo-leader, one girl approached me for a word of encouragement.  When she first started talking, my mind was blank.  I'm trained to counsel but I felt so unqualified in that moment of spiritual import. What did I have to offer her?  Yet as we talked, God provided the words and she did seem to walk away encouraged.

These moments occurred throughout the weekend.

Whether I was facilitating the painting of two large canvases, eating a meal, or sitting on a couch, connections continued. Maybe I was there to lead and help, but I felt I learned more than I taught.

I learned that I still love to counsel and listen and that I probably love it best when I'm not being paid to do so.

I learned more about my identity, not in what I do but who God created me to be. 

I learned that I need to let my past church issues stay in the past.  They no longer define me and I might miss out on the good that God is doing by letting innocuous things trigger old memories.

I learned that Mary Kathryn and Kim are beautiful, wonderful women who God undoubtedly placed in my life. Words fail me to express my gratitude for their friendship and encouragement.  We have so much more of our stories to share.  We never did make it to the Civil Rights Museum so you know what that means!

I learned that "y'all come" is an open invitation, which I have now earned to Kim's home and family.  I valued getting to know her husband and children and only wish I'd had more time to chat with them.

I learned that Alabama is my new Wisconsin and I'm already plotting how I can get back for another trip.

How many Southern states have you visited?  Which one is your favorite?


  1. I've been to all the Southern States -- Mississippi is my "home" where my mother was born, where my grandmother was raised, where the tea is suuuuuper sweet and people are friendly.

    But you are more, more, more than welcome to come stay with me in this little corner of the world we call Texas, friend!

  2. Leigh, it's been far too long since I commented on one of your posts. Keeping up two blogs and commenting on the posts of people whose words I heart – well I just need to get better at it. I'm glad you found your southern Wisconsin. I'm glad you've mastered another area of insecurity :-) I've mastered that same one. I'm glad you got to facilitate the painting thing, and got to counsel for free :-) as far as your questions, Blissdom at Nashville was about as far south as I've gotten. So I guess Tennessee must be my favorite – considering a blizzard in Kentucky tried it's best to do me in :-)

  3. @Kristin, I've driven through Mississippi but I haven't spent any time there. I'll have to try the suuuuuuper sweet tea. And I would love to come see you in Texas! It would be so great if our paths could cross.

    @Craig, it does get hard to keep up with all the blogs out there. There's nothing wrong with Tennessee. A blizzard would make Kentucky state non grata in my book.

  4. `So glad you" invited" yourself on down. We enjoyed the heck out of you. You were a big help and such an encouragement to the students.

    You are always welcome to do things with EPOCH and always welcome at the Sullivan's.

    I have been everywhere in the south but Arkansas.

    Of course, I love Georgia the best. I would love to take a tour of GA with you. I'm an excellent tour guide. I'm an incredible guide of the best hometown in the world, Athens.

    Come on back to Bama anytime you get the hankering. We're looking out for you. Just come on!

  5. @Kim, thank you, thank you, thank you. A personal tour of Athens sounds perfect! We'll have to make that happen.


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