This past weekend I was lucky/blessed/really lucky to be able to attend The Edel Gathering founded by two great women Jen Fulwiler and Hallie Lord, in Charleston, South Carolina. It was like a big party with what felt like 300 of your closest friends who all want to have the best time. The atmosphere was beyond friendly - it was joyful and celebratory in all the right ways. I think because each of us there were there with the same goal of enjoying ourselves and enjoying each other. That's a pretty revolutionary concept when you think about it - it wasn't for learning, or deep spiritual enlightenment, or networking, or training, but for simply enjoying ourselves and connecting with each other.
Besties together again! For only the second time in our lives! So, pretty freakin' great!
I know I don't have to tell you how each and every one of us deserve to enjoy ourselves one weekend out of a year, or two years, or ten years. We all deserve it because we're all on our paths to holiness and doesn't it get hard? No matter what, we all have issues, and crosses, and problems, and burdens that we accept in our lives. That's part of what makes our Catholic faith so deep -- that when we really live it we're accepting these crosses into our lives and it is in no way easy.
Why it's so hard to live this life of faith today though, is because everywhere we look society is telling us to reject our crosses, throw them away, ignore them, pop a pill for them, take that medical treatment for them, leave that person who has become a cross to us, and maybe little by little choose comfort, ease, and having a good time over the realties and sacrifices God is calling us to. And make no mistake we all know how hard it is to live a faithful life as a Catholic woman.
Haley, Mary and I - we are some print rocking ladies!
But that is why this beautiful gathering of women from across a continent coming together to share themselves with each other and to have a good time is a really a light of hope. It's a light against the lie that lives deep in our hearts that questions us for sacrificing for our family, for our faith. That lie that says by choosing to sacrifice we will never feel joy again, we will never have fun again, we will never laugh again, we will never share friendships with people who truly understand us. This lie is powerful because it makes us believe we're alone, or maybe that God wants us to be alone, or that God doesn't care about our sufferings and sacrifices because no one else does and no one else understands.
I know this firsthand because in my darkest moments I believed the lie and it fed the darkness and plagued me with doubts. I've had several unexpected pregnancies (I'll leave the exact number and details out) that left me in a crisis of faith multiple times. I felt depressed and hopeless precisely when I was supposed to feel overwhelmed with happiness. I envisioned only scenarios for my life that involved the painfully slow martyrdom of losing myself to my children, never leaving the house again, never having fun again. It may seem a bit overdramatic, but at the time there was no group of Catholic moms anywhere that I knew of that were in the same tough spot I was that were choosing to have a good time anyway, choosing joy anyway, and willing to step out and make time for themselves even though they had more than a handful of kids at home, or were breastfeeding, or pregnant, or dealing with infertility, or the loss of a child, or struggling through a painful time in their marriage, or dealing with serious health issues, or any amount of intimate, personal sufferings. There was no gathering and celebration of Catholic women simply because they were Catholic women. There was no Edel Gathering, and there was no beacon of light to me in that time of darkness when I was believing the lie that because I was choosing my faith and the crosses that go with it that there would be no joy, no laughter, no sharing fun with true friends again.
Polka dot friends forever!
That's why the Edel Gathering is important and why it brings hope. Even if you've never been, even if you might not be able to attend in the next foreseeable few years. Because what it represents is not just one place where women can get together and have a good time, it represents that it is possible to be a Catholic woman, to accept the challenges that come along with living this life of faith, and that there are other women out there who are doing it and still choosing to live with joy. And if there are women out there, then you are not alone, and you will be able to choose joy too. You can do it. You can get through those tough times, you will be able to feel that joy again, you will be able to have a drink and party with friends again. It may just be a couple friends, it may be a shorter time frame and not a whole weekend, it may not have an official name, but there will be joy and fun and friendship.
We're all in this together - a crowded elevator metaphor.
The past weekend was such a wonderful time! From meeting new inspiring women like Mary and Kathy, to finally meeting in real life like Micaela, to seeing women like Cate, Wendy, Heather, and Rachael that I'd met last year but felt like old friends, seeing in person dear friends who I talk to on a daily basis; it's the open hearts that these vibrant Catholic woman offer that makes this gathering a treasure. Having speakers like Rachael and Kelly who intimately know what our vocation calls us to and were able to speak so eloquently about, while being able to spend time with us and see us as we are also meant so much and was a gift to our weary souls.
I know I was energized and soothed by sharing drinks, laughing till it hurt, singing out loud, dancing, sweating, and enjoying myself with so many great women. I feel like not only was I renewed by time spent enjoying myself, but also as if my hope was refilled. My hope that there are other women out there who are living lives of faith, complete with crosses and sacrifices, that are willing to still choose joy and still experience joy. My hope that I'm not the only one who may be dealing with tough, hard things in life AND can still have fun, still make time for giving ourselves a true break and a bit of pampering. It's this hope and joy that mean so much in fully embracing and living our lives of faith and the vocation entrusted to us.
For all the other great Edel posts, and better pictures head over to Kelly's for the recap of all the recaps! I'll have the rest of my Southern adventures in a post to come!
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