This was our fourth NQC, our first with no one in diapers. (By the end of the week, Miranda asked me, “Why do you keep telling people KK is in big girl pants? And why are they so happy about it?” I told her, of course, that it was my official NQC 2010 sound byte. She nodded and moved on).

Rod got to sing his token one song. We didn’t sell a blessed thing. We spent $20 on a few ice cream cones. We had a few of those, “Why the heck are we even here?” moments. And then…perspective shifted.

This week was not life changing like Colombia; I didn’t expect it to be. But I also didn’t expect it to be what it was, which was life-enhancing. I still have too much convention-hangover to be totally coherent, and my poor trashed babies will be waking up as soon as they sense my peace and productivity, so here I list my highlights and lessons:

*Relationships are all about managing expectations. I know this, have been hurt by the lack of understanding it, and was reminded gently and wisely by some parental-figures yesterday.  Someone who always cuts you off to talk about her own thing? She’s never going to be that interested in what I say, but it doesn’t mean she is a bad person or not even a good friend. Someone who is more self-promoting than you can stomach at times? It doesn’t take from the fact that he/she loves you and supports you. And TRUST… well, I guess I don’t have to feel bad about not really trusting anyone. I have to feel motivated to trust God more. People are faulted. It’s why we need a Saviour.

*Turning the other cheek doesn’t have to feel like surgery without anesthesia. This week, the Italian Girl From Chicago Heights in me was faced with a chance for a confrontation… to vent my anger and express my hurt.  The Christ in me was able to swallow the thirst for a fight, for vengeance, for metal folding chairs connecting with skulls (Italian, folks!) and allow an avoidance to take place. We avoided each other. I had to keep my kids from seeing some people I know they love and wanted to see. That’s hard. But it’s necessary. And the moment is over. It is truly time, once again, to move on from broken relationships and take the good things with us. There are always good things.

*The light of eternity is the brightest. Southern gospel singers are not stars. They just aren’t. A few of them walk around this particular venue like they are, as if they walked the same way down Chicago Road (in the Heights!) or Michigan Avenue or Rodeo Drive or Times Square, people would recognize them. I used to be frustrated by those people. Now I feel sad for them. There are a lot of little funny buzz phrases that float around NQC and the world of southern gospel. One of them is,”I’m/We’re just singin’ for Jesus.” Well, not to get all spiritual (another buzz phrase), but if you’re singing gospel music and the act is not about Jesus… seriously… do everyone a favor… Go sing something else.

I can’t say that it would not be exciting and impressive for Rod to sing on that Main Stage, with its shiny instruments and great lighting and surrounding people. Of course it would. But if that moment is what “it’s all about,” what would everyone have left when that moment is over? We have work to do!

*My purpose is close at hand. One of the encounters I had this week was regarding our Colombia trip. We got to share with the people who made the decision to send us there about what we took away from it. It wasn’t a slide-show conversation, covering the sweet memories and simplistic summaries of the trip. It was actually a gut-wrenching little time as we gave words to what is now running through our veins, as we were admonished and encouraged that there is a purpose ahead for us that effects eternity in ways we hadn’t thought of before. And I considered the question, “Why do you think God took you to Colombia?” I had a picture in my mind. It was Julia Roberts as Vivian in Pretty Woman (why yes, folks, at this moment I pictured a hooker. Also, I mixed it up with a quote from As Good As It Gets. What of it?), after she had been treated rudely while shopping in Beverly Hills, pulling all the crumbled, balled-up  money out of her bag and weepily handing it to a nice man and saying, “I don’t know what to do with this.”

That is me in this moment. I have stuff of value. I have gifts God has given. And I have tried all my adult life to find The Thing to do with it. I’ve been successful or found potential success in more careers than I can always recount. I’ve surprised myself with the things I’ve been able to do. But I still don’t know what The Thing is that I’m supposed to be doing, and even in light of the GREAT THINGS we’ve been involved in – the Branson event, the magazine for me, the Colombia trip, MIRACLE BABIES!, I know there is a Thing coming that will tie it all together.

So at the end of this crazy week – still nearly impossible to describe after 4 years, I sit on my bus, comfortable, at home. I miss my friends and family in Chicago a LOT, but not my house. I miss the order of a life in which ministry was singing in the worship team on Sundays, but not so much that I would return to it.  I miss the calmness and freedom of unplanned weekends and DVR’d TV shows, but I would never trade what I have gained – especially post-Colombia, and where I sense it will take us.