See that house? That is where my little adventure began! Well, actually, it began when I left Vidalia on Wednesday around 4 p.m. I left work and headed towards Birmingham. My goal was to make it there before bedtime so I could spend the night with our friends, The Reddings. Rogers and Shirley were members of our church in Northern Kentucky. Shirley was our realtor and it is a wonder she survived that experience. We were GREEN in the area of real estate and buying a home. She was a lifesaver to us.
We have only seen them once since we left Kentucky in June of 2002. They came to visit when Jonah was still a baby. You can read about that here. I was so glad to see them and have an opportunity to visit with them. I really wish Dan and Jonah could have been there too.
I snapped this picture of their neighborhood for our Louisiana friends. They are used to flat, flat land. When I turned into their neighborhood, I was amazed at how low all the houses were compared the the main road I turned off of.
The next house I visited was a complete surprise. I knew my friend lived near Birmingham so I plugged her address into my GPS and I was only 5 miles from her. So, I took a chance by not calling because I wanted to surprise them.
One of my two best friends from college is Kathy O'dell Malott. We never get to see each other and sometimes go months without talking. But, the moment we speak, it is like we never missed a day. I think everyone has friends like that. We were suite mates at Mississippi College and have been the best of friends since then. I am SO SO SO SO blessed to have her in my life and it was so much fun showing up at her door completely out of the blue. (There were even tears!!!)
Before I left, I told her I was documenting this trip so I had to take a picture. That is when I noticed she had Bibles everywhere!! Not just collecting dust but in use. She was working on a Beth Moore study when I arrived and was apparently using every version of the Bible to help her. So, when I got ready to take her picture, she posed with her Bibles!
I absolutely LOVE this girl and admire her so much. She is incredibly talented and gifted but always gives the glory back to God. She is an incredible witness to God's grace and faithfulness and I'm so blessed to be one of her friends. The next couple of pictures show the silly side of our relationship. We used many rolls of 35 millimeter film taking silly pictures during our Freshman year.
The picture above will make no sense to anyone but Kathy and I. We have a long standing inside joke about "APPLEDOG!" Honestly, if I tried to explain it to you, it wouldn't be funny. But, it is to us. We laugh hysterically about it every time we are together.
The next picture is a snapshot I took of a pencil drawing Kathy is doing for someone. She is incorporating something like 35 heads into this drawing from snapshots she was given. It is a gift for grandparents or something? She does all sorts of creative paintings, drawings and water colors. You should check her out if you are interested in anything like that. Her blog address is www.busybelleart.blogspot.com Obviously, this project isn't finished but I thought it was incredible already.
As you will soon realize, I am so used to taking pictures of my sweet boy that I had to fulfill my need for camera time. So, I even took a picture of the bag of goodies Shirley sent with me on the road. (Does she know me or what????) And, just to show you how appreciative I was, I posted the same picture twice. (Actually, it was a mistake to upload it twice and I couldn't delete it for some reason!!! OOPS!)
I left the Birmingham area and headed north towards Nashville. I knew that our former Pastor's current church was somewhere in that direction. Come to find out, it was about 2.5 miles off the Interstate. Although I knew I would run late, I had to stop. Gary and Kristin were/are such good friends to us. He is currently serving at Northbrook Church in Cullman, AL. I made him indulge me in my documentation of this trip. He's laughing because I told him how many Bibles Kathy had at her house so he tried to grab one but there wasn't one on his desk.
I arrived in Nashville right at rush hour. My friend Shonda texted me to see where I was. When I told her I was in Franklin, she told me I was right near her job in Brentwood. So, I plugged it into the GPS and headed over to see her. It was nasty and rainy but I was glad to see her and hug her before we both had to head opposite directions! Shonda is actually from Vidalia but moved to Nashville several years ago after she got married. Her parents are members of our church and we love them dearly. Carl and Shonda have a precious little girl named Baylee. I didn't get to see her on this trip but follow her life on her blog.
I left Shonda and got to the church just in time to get checked in and begin the conference. (There will be another blog about the conference and all I learned!) At the close of the evening, I headed to my hotel, got checked in and then realized I had never been alone in a hotel room. It was an odd feeling. But, it was actually very good because it allowed me to decompress and actually internalize some of the things I had experienced that night.
Friday, I got up and went back to the conference and then met two old friends from my youth group days. Wendi Goodwin and Jeff Sneed both live in Nashville but grew up with me at McDowell Road Baptist Church. I had not seen either of them in YEARS!!! We have recently reconnected on Facebook so I was so glad to see them, hug them and reminisce about those days. We didn't have long together because I had to get back to the hotel at 5 to meet Hope. She was driving in from Atlanta to meet me for the Beth Moore portion of the conference. Even though our time together was short, it was so fun!!
When I arrived at the hotel, Hope met me with a gift from her husband. He is a student minister in Monroe, Georgia and one of my closest friends during college. He sent me a set of Praying hands because he said every Pastor's wife needs their own set of praying hands. They have actually been a long standing joke between us so it was absolutely hilarious when I opened the package to discover them. I just can't quite decide where to put them in my home?!?!?!
One of the greatest blessings of the weekend was meeting a sweet lady named Amber. We have Danielle Pepper as a mutual friend and she arranged for us to meet and sit together since Amber was traveling in from Arkansas and would be attending the conference alone. She is a new pastors wife and a little overwhelmed. I was so happy to be able to meet her, share with her, encourage her and pray for her over this time. There will be more about her in the other blog I do about the weekend. But, for now, when you read this, just say a little prayer for her.
A lot of you blog readers will recognize my dear friend Hope. In college, we were known as Lucy and Ethel. That is all I will say about that as to not incriminate myself. BUT, we have been BFF's since 1994. Because we are both married to ministers, we NEVER see each other. She lives near Atlanta and our weekends are not available for travel. But, two weeks ago when we heard of this conference, we both wanted to go. Our husbands gave us their blessings and their credit cards and the plan was set in motion.
We have been through so much together so it was only fitting that we experienced this together.
We ended our evening with a tour (courtesy of my 7th grade boyfriend) of Opryland Resort. He is a supervisor in the call center and took us every place imaginable in there. We saw things that I don't' even know if the owners know exists!!! This is a picture of the underground hallways that run through the resort. I took more pictures but I know most people only like to see pictures of people. So, I'll leave you with only this one. We left the hotel after 11 and went to dinner. (Obviously, I was NOT in Vidalia!!!!) We got in bed around 1 and were up at 6 and 6:30 a.m. WHOA!!
We concluded the event with one final picture of Amber, me and Hope. Please excuse our tear stained faces. Stay tuned for a more serious post with no pictures but just my reflections and experiences from the weekend. It might be a day or two because I have two boys at my house that I am absolutely DYING to see and love on. So, give me a little time to travel 8 hours home tomorrow then spend time with my two favorite people.