Two friends, Kimberly and Jennifer, were able to make this trip with me. We got a room at a beautiful hotel on Daniel Island, 5 minutes from the conference. Friday night before the best meeting of my life, the three of us had dinner at Queen's Revenge, a nice restaurant near the hotel. I got delicious she-crab stew. In an hour I would be in the same room as Ann. I must explain that this was not like celebrity jitters. I do not think of Ann as a star, but as a dear sister in Christ, whom I can't wait to meet and thank. We lined up at the church before the doors were open and quickly, several hundred women were in line behind us. As they opened the doors to let us find a seat, I snapped a picture of the line:
We sat in the fourth row, to the left of center stage. Worship began, and it was wonderful. The hymns were beautiful and filled with theology and the thousand-woman chorus was high and sweet. During the second song, Ann was led into the front row, to find her seat, directly in front of me. As her mic was being hooked up, she never stopped worshipping God.
She talked that night about her story, that is found in her book, One Thousand Gifts. She has the most intense yet gentle voice I've ever heard. Filled with urgency, yet reverence. Sometimes she sounded almost Southern, and other times the Canadian came out. She was much taller than I had imagined, but she was undeniably, unmistakingly, the Ann of her writings.
After the meeting there would be a meet and greet! My friends got out to the lobby quickly and got a great spot in line to meet Ann. I met them there and waited only about 15 minutes to be able to talk face-to face with her. As I got closer, tears started filling my eyes and as I stepped forward to speak, I was crying. I told her how long I had read her blog and she said, "Oh! How did you even find me back then?" I got to tell her thank you. I told her how her words have been passed on through me to countless others. ("Yes, yes, be the gift.") I told her how the story of Jonathon on the banks of the Amazon had wrecked me. ("Yes! John!") I told her she was my sister. I thanked her for introducing me to the music of David Nevue. ("He says thank you, too!") She hugged me twice. Then she signed my book:
After she signed my book, she placed her had on it and whispered something to God (a blessing?) and closed it. I can't remember everything else, but I had at least 2-3 minutes with her, including capturing the moment forever:
Thank you to Kimberly for taking the photos. I'll treasure them forever.
The next morning we were able to sit in the same place, except one row forward. Ann spoke more truth, about fear and pride, about humilty and bowing low, and about bridges made of "thanks-planks." I took notes and will read over them for quiet times.
After the meeting, Kimberly, Jennifer and I went into Charleston to eat and had a wonderful time! I snapped photos of our walk, our resaurant, and our amazing food. I'll blog about that next!