I needed to process all this...so here's the second part. By the way, if you think this is long, just wait until I blog about this baby's birth story--especially if its anything like the last one...hmmm maybe I should blog about that...
Okay, here you go:
So, we were filling up, but what would we present to them? A meal, a song, 12 minutes of program and a plea for money? Oh boy, what were we thinking? A Gala without a speaker? Without even a testimony?
I thought about this as I ran home to pick up my kids and wake up Shane. Shane, by the way, who had been having abdominal pain which made me think of our good friend who ended up in the operating room with part of her intestine removed last year. There was nothing I could do about his pain, but the devil reminded me of it and my distraction from my husband throughout the day.
I need to insert some praise for my wonderful daughter, Ash. She was such a trooper. I left the house a little after lunch and they didn’t see me until almost 5:00 pm when I ran home to change. Although the house wasn’t very clean, she had fed them their lunch, taken care of Jaybird when she got up from her nap, then even had the foresight to get them all dressed and ready to go to Grandma’s house before I got home. When I arrived, they were already in their coats! I don’t know what I would have done without her help.
For all of you who care, I dressed in my thrift store black dress I bought a few years ago. We spent Sunday afternoon at North East Mall walking through the entire 45 mile long mall just to get to JC Penney’s where I found my snazzy black and white jacket with oversized buttons (on sale, of course!). It was worth it, not only did I feel good in my new threads, I was warm :) I refreshed my makeup, put on my new New Balance tennis shoes, grabbed my heels and the diaper bag and headed out the door after pointing Shane to his suit.
The Lord had still not told me anything to add to the program. Okay, Lord, 12 minute programs probably please people. They can get home sooner…get out of their dress clothes and do whatever people do with spare time in the evenings.
We gathered to pray as a staff and board, led by a local youth and family minister. People, of course, arrive early, even before the volunteers are ready to check them in. I really don’t mind, if people arrive early, they deserve to see us still pulling it together.
Our ushers don their boutonnieres while the board members get nametags stabbed into their jackets and dresses. We realized we neglected to plan the lighting changes, so we experiment with switches even while guests are being seated. My nerves are shot; I’m just wondering how this can ever, ever work.
Finally, after a few glitches with seating that were thankfully easily resolved, it was time to start. Pastor Mike from the First Baptist Church set the tone by graciously welcoming everyone. The room, in spite of its 1980 dusty mauve paint and stained gray carpet was stunning, thanks to our excellent decorators. They rivaled the “big city” decorators I’ve worked with while planning our other Centers' galas. The food-a fancy cut of steak that fell apart when you breathed on it, grilled chicken with a marvelous sauce or marinade or something tasty, julienne carrots with some delectable sauce, incredible grilled asparagus, wonderfully seasoned white and red carrots and a custom bread-was perfect. Who knew this kind of meal would be served in BBQ country?
The dessert-which I only had a few bites off-was just as great. We had two chocolate fountains with rich, dark chocolate. That alone would have suited me, but in tall vases were skewers filled with sweet strawberries, marshmallows, and other fruit. I had the coconut cream pudding dish with a cherry on top. Very beautiful!
I’ll have pictures to post soon and you’ll get a better feel for the atmosphere. It’s important, because I promise you, the food, décor and the musicians pulled the night off for us.
Well, except for the two pastors who saved the day. Let me get back to the program…
Pastor Mike warmly welcomed…then the dinner began. It was smooth, the food was good, lots of smiling faces and interaction between guests. It was going so well, we gave dinner more time than planned. Hey, it’s not like we were going to run out of time! Finally, it was time to start. I’m nervous again just typing it! (I had considered praying for laryngitis that morning, since I hate public speaking. I knew my part was minor compared to the other ladies’ parts, so I could have been skipped. Little did I know that I was the program!).
After an absolutely beautiful song, “Orphans of God” which brought several tears around the room, I was on. The mics were causing a little trouble and I HATE mics anyway. I step up and say the few lines I felt the Lord impress on my heart a half hour before:
“May I tell you that our day fell apart?”
I told them about the process of losing our speaker and our special testimony. I told them about the tug of war in decision-making regarding the fate of the evening.
Then I asked, “Is this anything compared to what a young girl feels when she finds out she’s pregnant and wasn’t planning to be?”
I paused for effect. Then I said, “So, lets enjoy our evening anyway, because I know my God. My God is big enough that you don’t need to hear Carol’s story to be moved to get involved with this work. Stacy would have shared about aborting during her senior year in our high school, God doesn’t need that to pull your heartstrings.”
Then I continued with my regularly planned spiel. I explained a little about what our center does, where we are and where we’re going. I plead for their help by making a final illustration:
“In 2006, 18 women from our county had an abortion. That number isn’t all that high; surely there are better causes to invest in. Well, think about it this way. If a piece of playground equipment at the park were to take the lives of 18 children, our fine mayor (who was there) would have it pulled out. Jack ____ is here, he’s a State Trooper and he’d tell us that it wouldn’t take 18 fatalities at one intersection in town to warrant a stoplight. Well, we’ve had 18 deaths from an unseen cause in our county. That’s about the size of an elementary school classroom. A classroom in missing every year. Year after year. What will you do about it? Who will care? This is our community and we have to protect all life here, both born and unborn.”
I went on to introduce the emotional DVD that would give a visual to the heart breaking stories of the girls we see and how we help them. This was supposed to be the launching mechanism into Stacy’s story and then Carol’s final punch.
The DVD wouldn’t play.
We sat there, smiling, pretending to be calm but as the clocked ticked on, it was very uncomfortable. Prayers were going up, I know, but something about those mauve walls must have thwarted our efforts. Finally, I had the girl who was supposed to sing the closing song to go ahead and sing now. She did, and did another moving performance, as I hear there were more tears shed, but it could have been tears of pity for us.
Her song ends and we try the DVD again. Now it will play but the sound won’t work. Never mind, that’s it, lets just end it all now.
Mike, the pastor, gets up and gives a great, encouraging plea for financial support. I don’t remember his exact words; I just knew in my heart he was doing a bang up job rallying the audience. He reminded everyone that the reason we were all here was for them-not the speakers. The snow didn’t matter, the technical difficulties didn’t matter, but they did. They had a job to and now was the time to step up. Another musician, who has a great, soft style, sang Amazing Grace as our new closing song—perfect choice!
I was holding back tears; the dam was just about to give. But I still had to greet all these people and hear them all say it was really a good evening, bla bla bla, but all I wanted was that DVD to have worked or a good, hot bath, I didn’t really care which anymore.
My new favorite guy, Gregg, was to say some closing remarks and pray. I walked back to his table during the financial plea to tell him his new cue (since we changed the songs around) and he said he had a 5-point sermon planned. I told him he dared not attempt it, it would surely go wrong! He started quoting scripture to me about being more than conquerors and reminding me that we know who wins in the end. The devil’s antics only prove that this is important work. I loved hearing that, it was balm to my soul. Not just the words, but that he would care so much to share that with me.
The dam started to break. Shane tried to hold me close as Gregg spoke similar words to the audience moments later. During the prayer, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I had to go to the restroom and cry a little. I could hear the crowd murmuring, so I knew I had to get out there, but my eyes were very red and watery…oh well, I took a deep breath and out I went. I never cry. Stupid pregnancy hormones. And exhaustion. And no speaker. Four inches of snow.
Of course, there was a lot of encouragement. No one said a negative word. They were moved and told me so. They were impressed with the evening, they had a good time, they want to volunteer, be on the board, and so on. Lots of hugs and smiles…
We bade our guests farewell and cleaned up. Shane picked up the girls and took them all home while we washed steak knives, stacked and wrapped the rental equipment, vacuumed and mopped. I got home bone tired at 11 pm. The two big girls were still up and enjoyed some left over potatoes. I collapsed in the living room floor and sweetly told Shane there would be no lunch packed for him tonight. His little girls pulled one together and I went to bed. Sleep wouldn’t come until around 1:45, my mind was so busy processing…
I think the positive reactions the night before and all the kudos were enough to end this story, but everyone seems to want to hear about the money raised. $10,000 came in last night and $5000 was pledged for the year in monthly donations. We also have a handful of new volunteers. Not bad for 90-100 people who gathered in the snow with no speaker, no testimony, no multimedia presentation, just the Lord’s presence in the chaos.
And one last note, the devil isn’t done. I got a call this morning that the Cowboy Church’s pastor lost his hearing aid last night, and they’ve looked all over the Community Room for it. It’s quite a costly loss, so if you feel led, please pray it will be found. Also, last night while we were cleaning, the precious couple that did the decorating and the dessert bar ended up in the ER. Mylea has the flu and pneumonia! Please pray for her healing!