I love Refresh for several reasons.
1) I get to hang out with so many people who share my passion. And I love how passionate they are. Some of the most amazing presenters, speakers, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, therapists, agency folks, and pastors you will ever meet gather together to talk about the one thing that moves me like nothing else.... taking care of children from hard places.
2) Worship is phenomenal.. I love singing my heart out with a congregation of people who "get it" and led by a worship team that never draws attention to themselves but truly leads us into God's presence.
3) I love being able to speak into the lives of people who are earlier in their journey than I am. Teaching them what not to do has become very important to me. I want them to learn from my mistakes. I love answering their questions, publicly and privately, and pouring myself into them, knowing that it might help their children in the future.
4) God does amazing things here every year. God moments that can not even be explained away as coincidences. And I am a part of a group of people who are doing life together -- watching our kids grow up -- and knowing that God is the one who is in charge of it all.
5) Finally, I love it because it demonstrates what happens when a few people have a dream.
Over five years ago, two young people, one of them pictured above, early on in their journey of adoption, had an idea after leaving the Christian Alliance for Orphans conference. They recognized how few people were attempting to provide the support needed to adoptive and foster parents who were living life in hard scary places because of the children they had chosen to bring into their homes. It was there that Refresh was born.
The first year the budget was so low that they brought anyone they could find to be keynote speakers. Yup, you guessed it, they asked me. So I was able to stand in front of that big crowd of 150 people and share my story. It was great. I blogged about it here and here.
Year two I was able to bring Bart and I did a couple of break out sessions. I already was not important enough to be on the big stage, but they let me be in the back room and share with some folks. I blogged about that here. There were about 450 people there that year.
Year three they asked to do stand up for the first time and it was really awesome. I got to do some break out sessions as well. I told you about that here. It was very fun. The conference that year had about 800 people there and watching the conference grow was amazing. They let me be on the stage for 3 minutes to promote my comedy.
Year four I got 10 minutes on the stage to promote my comedy night!!! That was really quite fun. There were 1100 people in attendance and I had a blast doing stand up that night. My roommate from college came with me. It was a great time. I wasn't blogging much that year, so there is no link, but there were some great memories.
That takes us to today. I didn't get any time on the stage and frankly, I was ok with that. Just don't tell Andrew Schneider because then I would not be able to give him crap. My buddy Dennis was here and I got to hang out with him and sing with him (just int he congregation, but it was still awesome). . I did stand up and it wasn't great -- it was good, but not great. And there were over 1400 people here!!!!
So there is your brief history lesson of the conference and my involvement. Each year, I ask myself whether or not I'm getting to old, or out of shape, or boring to make the trip here. Now that I live in Virginia it is REALLY really far....
But each year there is a moment that occurs.... when someone says something that makes me realize that possibly God is using me. This year it was someone who said, "You don't just make me laugh ... you give me hope."
So once again I conclude that I am blessed to be a part of watching a dream come true. It started as a tiny little conference where Ms. Nobody (me) is a keynote and this weekend was a major event with a crowd of 1400 strong and Mary Beth Chapman and her daughter were in that spot.
The people who have become the core team over the past five years have become my friends, not just on Facebook, but in real life. I am blessed to know them.
God has moved among us again. Lives have been changed. Love has been expressed. Tears have been shed. Laughter has been shared. Commitments to our children have been renewed. Hope has been rekindled. We have been refreshed.
And once again God has proven Himself to be faithful. The glory goes to Him.