A year ago I stepped off the “L” in Chicago to meet Ellen. She had flown in from San Antonio and I had taken Amtrak over from Kalamazoo. We were meeting up to attend the first of several training weekends in Chicago for The Allender Institute. I’d been busy for months with writing and ministry, including a trip the week before to Turkey, and I was tired. She looked at my face and said, “It is so good to see you and something has changed, you are not ok.”
She was right. I had lost something and my friend could see it in my face. Our time at the Allender Center began a place of remembering for both of us.
One evening we sat across from each other at a “tall” table in the bar at Harey Carey’s. There were various sporting events on the TVs located throughout the bar area and we were eating burgers with fries and drinking large glasses of blue moon beer with oranges.
“I imagine the weekend being a place of rest, connection and communion.”
“A place where women can have the space to remember who they are, what they want, who Jesus is and what He wants to say to them.”
“We should have a scent to mark the weekend.”
“We should have journals.”
“We want to have plenty of free time for them to just be.”
“We want to have communion together before they leave.”
The ideas flowed easily and were reflective of time we’d spent together over the years.
We were sitting in the midst of what might be typically considered a “man’s world” putting words and dreams to our women’s weekend.
It was perfect.
I didn’t know how or when these weekends would be birthed, but I did know they would come to be. Years of friendship with Ellen have grown my faith in what she speaks and holds in her heart. Together we are a couple of powerful dreaming women.
Her call came about a month ago…”Tracy, I have a ranch, a place for our first Red Tent Weekend.”
Of course she did. My friend who prays and believes God brings the impossible had a special place for our first Red Tent Weekend.
We carefully invited the women who have walked this road with us in prayer, financial giving, and writing for Red Tent Living, offering us encouragement and their support.
We chose our theme for the weekend: presence. We found ourselves listening and wondering about how to be present during the coming holiday season and how to share that with the women who were coming to join us.
Perhaps my favorite thing from the weekend was how God surprised me with the verse He put on my heart. “Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.” Duet. 6:5. There were many wonderful things to be found in the verse but my favorite was the word “strength”. When I looked it up in the Hebrew I found that it includes “muchness”. God wants us to love Him with our muchness.
I thought about the quote from Alice in Wonderland when the Mad Hatter tells Alice, “You’re not the same as you were before. You used to be much more muchier….you’ve lost your muchness.”
I remembered that day a year ago when I stepped off the “L” and Ellen could see that I had lost my muchness. All the noise, the chaos, the demands, the expectations, the trials, the disappointments…the stuff that crowds into our lives as women, the stuff that had crowded into my life, causes us to lose our muchness.
God wants us to have it back and then love Him with all of it. I felt where Jesus was bringing it all full circle, surprising me with a verse that so clearly reflected what He’d done for me over the past year.
Well, this resonated for the group this weekend and became part of what we all talked about and left hoping to recover more fully.
Saturday night sixteen of us, including four of the women from the original Red Tent Dinner in my home in 2009, sat together around a giant table for a Red Tent Dinner where we drew questions from a box:
”Tell a story about a time the presence of a friend blessed you.”
Tell the story about the best gift you’ve ever received.”
“Tell the story about the best gift you’ve ever given.”
“Tell us about what you would like to unwrap this holiday season.”
Women who had never met one another shared their stories and blessed one another with their responses to what each had offered from her heart. The time was warm and sweet, like the individual spice cakes we ate with our after dinner coffee.
Sunday morning we finished our time with opportunities to reflect and listen to Jesus culminating as we took communion together.
By eleven o’clock in the morning it was over and we were loading into our cars to return to our lives.
Ellen and I hugged and smiled, soaking up the beauty of it all.
There will be more Red Tent Weekends.
You will have the chance to join us, and I will look forward to welcoming you when you arrive.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). Married for 26 years, she is mother to five kids. After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. Founder of Seized by Hope Ministries, she writes here.