On Labor Day weekend I had an incredible experience in Austin. For the past six months, I’ve had the privilege of being on a launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For The Love. It’s a terrific book and I highly recommend it. The launch team itself has been an amazing experience. These people have been so kind, transparent, and caring.

Jen invited the whole launch team to a party at her house over Labor Day weekend. Over 200 women headed to Austin to meet each other in person and hang out at Jen’s house. Some might think it’s crazy to travel to meet two hundred-some strangers, but here’s the thing…we were far from strangers. We’d been talking and sharing with each other for six months. As we met each other in person, there were questions like “How is your son/job/marriage/health?" And several times people heard “I’ve been praying for you!"

The uniqueness of the event wasn’t without its comedy. As we met each other, everyone would ask what your full name was, since we only knew each other by Facebook names. It was the only context where I could say to the roommate I just met, “Are you the one I’m sleeping with tonight?"

I must admit, I had my reservations about going to the party. Despite being an extrovert, large crowds can be a bit overwhelming to me. But these women…you guys, these women.

Each one I met was real, kind, interesting, thoughtful and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to each woman I spoke with, and made fast friends with some. The one bummer was that there was simply not enough time to meet each one.

Although Jen Hatmaker did take the time to meet each one of us. To hug each one, and chat with each of us individually. She is exactly how she writes: kind, real, funny, engaging, personable. She (and her family) were such gracious hosts. The whole experience was more than I expected. It was real, authentic community.

The following day we attended Austin New Church (ANC). Jen was actually preaching that morning. She did a sermon on Matthew 18, on being small and caring for the least. She encouraged us at the end, those who are helping others" that have wounds not inflicted by us." That when “the healing feels elusive," to remember we are doing the Lord’s work. I needed to hear that. I didn’t realize it until that moment, but I needed that encouragement. After that we sang the doxology (which we sing with our boys). I wept. I wept through communion, through the All Sons and Daughters tunes (love them). Jesus was speaking to me, the Spirit was present. It was church in the truest form.

Something stirred in my spirit that weekend. I don’t know what the Lord is saying or doing in me, but I know I didn’t want to leave and I am so grateful for the experience.

Thank you Jen and Brandon for inviting us to church, at your home and at ANC. Thank you launch team for being Jesus to each other. And thank you Jesus for the gift of community, whether with those we’ve known for years, or those we’ve just met. Your kingdom is beautiful Lord.