Fill the Cathedrals: What I learned from dancing like a fool at the Edel Gathering

I had this dream that I was on a dance floor with dozens of new friends, and I suddenly saw Abby Johnson to my left, and a unicorn in a dress to my right.

Oh, wait. That wasn’t a dream. That was the 2014 Edel Gathering

There was singing.

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There was wine.

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There were talks so powerful that the Omni staff had to scramble to get enough Kleenex for all the sobbing women.

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There was my amazing family — my mom, aunt Lisa, aunt Claudia, and uncle Kevin – who paid their own way to come and work the entire weekend, just to bless the women in attendance.

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There were tweets broadcast on a jumbo screen.

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There were husbands at home who figured out that they could get their tweets displayed on the jumbo screen.

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There was Kelly Mantoan rapping to Flo Rida and doing the robot on the karaoke stage. (Which was quickly followed by the crowd pretty much exploding with screams and shouts of awe.)

There were babies.

jenny baby Fill the Cathedrals: What I learned from dancing like a fool at the Edel Gathering

There was dancing with babies.

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There were crazy shoes.

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There were babies in crazy shoes.

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There were stunning table decorations, handmade as a labor of love by Kathryn Whitaker.

table decorations Fill the Cathedrals: What I learned from dancing like a fool at the Edel Gathering

There were new friends made, and virtual friendships cemented.

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There was Abby Johnson crashing the party just as Heather burst onto the dance floor wearing a unicorn head.

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But you know what there was most of all? An overwhelming, tremendous, palpable sense of RELIEF.

As Sarah Babbs so beautifully said in her post about the event, many of us came to this gathering feeling utterly overwhelmed and discouraged. Our lives are wonderful, but they’re also hard.

Being a faithful Catholic mother in the world today is a counter-cultural move — and it feels counter-cultural. Sarah articulated it perfectly by saying that we’re exhausted from “swimming upstream in a culture that would not care if we drowned.”

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Hallie and I knew that God was the one behind this event. When we signed that first venue contract last year, we had no idea what kind of event this would be. We just knew — and knew with a level of clarity that each of us had only rarely experienced — that God wanted this event to happen.

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It was a fascinating experience to watch the hand of the Holy Spirit guide this event into the form he wanted it to take. It wasn’t until the very end that I even knew what the Edel Gathering’s purpose was. But once I saw it, it seemed so obvious:

The Edel Gathering was meant to help us feel less alone.

As the day of the event approached, I kept thinking of that famous story about the mom who felt completely invisible, and realized that her work was like that of the builders of the great cathedrals. The outside world might not see the important work that the builder does, but God sees.

And because he sees, he knows we’re still lonely, even though he is there. God knows that we crave the physical presence of our fellow human beings, because that’s how he made us. The God who became flesh understands the importance of meeting in the flesh.

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I believe that what God did with the Edel Gathering — and what he will continue to do with future Edel Gatherings — was to throw open the doors of the cathedral, to flood it with fellow builders. The outside world may still ignore the work that we’re doing, but that doesn’t mean we have to toil alone. I believe that every woman who left the Edel Gathering this weekend now carries with her the sounds of laughter and joyful chatter of the fellow workers who now labor alongside her in the cathedral.

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Saturday night, I found myself in the middle of a dance floor. It is the first time I have willingly stepped onto a dance floor in fifteen years. I know can’t dance; all I can ever do is flail to the beat and hope for the best. I always know that it would only take a few seconds of my moves to elicit a chorus of condescending snickers from onlookers who are much cooler (and much better dancers) than I. So I am always — ALWAYS — the one bobbing my head awkwardly off to the side.

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Yet the joy of the evening was too contagious, and I found myself dancing like a fool, more filled with joy and happiness than I’ve felt in a long time, basking in the pure flood of relief that came with knowing that everyone here was a friend. And when I looked around, I saw the same joy and happiness and relief on all the other women’s faces. And as I watched them jump up and down and bust crazy moves to the sounds of claps and shouts of encouragement, I thought:

This is the celebration of women who have finally found their people.

7 Quick Takes Friday – off at Edel edition!

I can’t believe that after all these months, the Edel Gathering is finally here! I’ll be updating on Instagram and Twitter, and you can follow the fun by checking out the #edel14 hashtag. 7 Quick Takes will be hosted by Carolyn Svellinger, so head on over there to read everyone’s posts! Carolyn is a super-talented artist and photographer in addition to being a funny and insightful writer. For those of you who aren’t already familiar with her, you’ll love checking out her blog. Have a great weekend, everyone!  Read More →

7 Quick Takes that involve book nerdery, visions of nightmarish travel, conference jitters, and the video that made me sob for an hour

— 1 — The Edel Gathering begins one week from today! For those of you who don’t know the backstory, this conference came into being suddenly and unexpectedly. In November of last year, I wrote a post telling the story of how Hallie Lord and I took a risk and committed ourselves to this idea somewhat spontaneously. On paper, pretty much nothing about the two of us hosting a conference in this particular season of our lives made sense. Yet we couldn’t escape the sense that we were called to do it, and our husbands even agreed,... Read More

The ecstatic joy of knowing you have a soul (and why I loved The Fault in Our Stars)

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A fun and surprisingly intense debate has broken out among my friends over the past few months, and it revolves around this question: The Fault in Our Stars: depressing or uplifting? One of my friends summarized her impression the book by saying, “It’s a sad story where everything is bad and then more bad stuff happens. Why did I need to read that?” She is on Team Depressing, and a lot of people I know are with her. A note my babysitter found in her copy of the book, left by her friend. I, however, am on the other team. I loved... Read More

7 Quick Takes in which I demand beverage service during turbulence, laugh way too much on the radio, and try to decide whether to root for Argentina or Germany

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— 1 — Last week Lino Rulli brought his SiriusXM radio show down here to Austin, and I co-hosted it with him all week. For your listening pleasure, here is a “best of” audio clip: Podcast (catholicguyshow): Play in new window | Download (129.2MB) As you can hear from the multiple moments when I was laughing so hard I couldn’t speak, we had a ridiculous amount of fun. (Here is everything you need to know about what you’ll hear if you listen to that audio clip: about two-thirds of the way through, we talk about... Read More

7 Quick Takes – Happy 4th of July!

I’ll be out doing 4th of July stuff — none of them involving fireworks — so I don’t have a post for this week, but I look forward to reading yours! Happy 4th of July! ———- //  Read More →

Tell me about your theme songs!

I’m co-hosting The Lino Rulli Show on SiriusXM while Lino’s in Austin this week, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to let you all do the talking! As a special treat for this week, I’ve saved a question I’ve wanted to ask you all forever: What are your theme songs? What I mean by “theme song” is a song that reminds you vividly of a specific time in your life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a favorite song, or even a song whose lyrics you find perfectly edifying — just a song that you will... Read More

7 Quick Takes about clearing churches out of food, admitting that I can’t figure out podcasts, and moving our couch RIGHT in front of the TV for the World Cup

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— 1 — I had so much fun at yesterday’s talk and book signing at the Cathedral here in Austin. Remember how I made the joke about stuffing food into my purse for the kids? I guess nobody would be surprised to hear that that kind of ended up happening. At the end of the event, the organizer kindly asked me if I’d like to take any of the leftovers. There was a time in my life when I would have politely declined out of pride while covetously eyeing the food. Those days are long gone. This time, I replied immediately, “I... Read More

Austin book signing, DC dates, and co-hosting with Lino Rulli (I can’t say anything else lest my blog explode from awesomeness)

Some breaking news I wanted to share… AUSTIN, TX: Fellow Austinites, come join me at St. Mary’s Cathedral this Thursday (6/26) after the 12:05 PM Mass. I’ll be giving a short talk, signing books, and hoping nobody notices if I tuck some of the free food into my purse to bring back for the kids. SiriusXM RADIO: The one and only Lino Rulli is bringing his NYC-based radio show aaaalllllllll the way down to Austin for the week of June 30, and I’ll be the co-host. We’ll be broadcasting live from St. William in Round Rock,... Read More

What I learned from painting a wall

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I’m back! My summer break was great. I did a lot of good stuff during my offline time, but the most interesting — and unexpected — endeavor was that I painted a room. It all started with reading The Nester‘s book, The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, which I picked up just before the break. I expected it to be a coffee table book with some decorating tips I might enjoy looking at over my morning cup of coffee. To my surprise, it turned out to be a more of a kick-in-the-pants manifesto about... Read More

Summer break!

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Looking for 7 QUICK TAKES FRIDAY? Head over to Kathryn’s! When I woke up on Monday morning, I realized that in the past seven days I had… Gone to Connecticut… And then to an extremely packed trip to New York… Then back to Austin… Then to a speaking engagement in San Antonio — with the kids… Mass at the San Jose mission, founded in the 1700s. And back to Austin again. On Monday, Myquillyn Smith, a.k.a. The Nester, wrote a post about being overwhelmed and distracted in which she talked about taking a... Read More

7 Quick Takes about wearing triceratops hats, signing Kindles, and standing in the middle of Times Square wearing an epic selfie t-shirt

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— 1 — I am sitting in the Chicago airport, headed home from the NYC book tour trip, and I promised myself that I will not use the entire post to complain about air travel. I will merely note that I just got off of a flight whose terribleness was at a level that is difficult to describe. I declared to the man on my right, the woman across the aisle (though, sadly, not to Twitter since the plane didn’t have wifi) that this would be the last time I willingly allow myself to be shoved into a metal container that is launched into the... Read More

The Antagonist

Our family in 2004 -- the time period during which I met the antagonist in SOTG.

I’m in NYC doing book tour stuff this week! You can follow along with my adventures on Twitter and Instagram. While I’m out running around, I wanted to re-run an updated version of a post I originally wrote back in March 2012, when I had finished the final big re-write of the book. It’s about Chapter 16 in Something Other than God — the chapter where I encounter my antagonist. . . . When I sat down to write this final draft of my book, I thought I knew a lot about story. My bookshelves jammed with tomes about the craft... Read More

7 Quick Takes about movies on the lawn, my life being a Mensa puzzle for the insane, and why I do NOT recommend peppermint oil for eyeball massages

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— 1 — For those of you who missed it, I posted the details of my NYC / CT schedule for this coming week. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you! — 2 — As I plan this, it occurs to me that, once again, my life has become a living Mensa puzzle. I spend hours each day staring at my computer with Google Maps open in one tab, the NYC subway schedule open in another, Gmail open in another, and I can almost hear a voice narrating a problem from a book with a title like Brain Teasers for People Who Hate Themselves: A... Read More

New York and Connecticut: Here’s what we’re doing!

The final schedule is just in, and here it is! I’ll be running around doing some meetings and media stuff, but here are the events where we can hang out. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you! MONDAY, JUNE 2 – STAMFORD, CT 3:00 PM: BOOK SIGNING AT BARNES AND NOBLE Barnes & Noble - Stamford Town Center 100 Greyrock Place Stamford, CT 06901 All are welcome, and feel free to bring the little ones: there will be a face-painter for kids in the kids’ section! 6:30 PM: TALK AT ST. JOHN’S BASILICA The Basilica... Read More