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Pebbles and Stones: Penny's Encouragement Café Experience

A 78-year-old widow. A homeschooling mom of three. A woman struggling with her mother's failing health in the nursing home. A teenage girl. We were a group that needed encouragement! When GFC offered the Encouragement Cafe event, I immediately made plans to attend, and I asked my in-laws to come with me. They attend another church, but I knew that this day surpassed denomination. It was about connection and love, and all of us felt a need to be a part of it.

As I drove to pick up my mother-in-law, I began praying about the day, asking God to bless my family, and to provide us with a message that would not only be uplifting, but also very clearly from Him. Instead, my mind wandered to the sad realization that I hadn't been talking with my Father in the past few weeks. I'd been busy and tired, and had taken on some small problems by myself, without bringing them to Him. The image of pebbles filling up my hands came to mind. I saw that while I gladly gave up boulder-sized problems to the Lord, I tried to lift the pebble problems alone. But after a time, more pebbles were added, until I was carrying the weight of a boulder, and never gave up the heavy load until my back was breaking. I was humbled by this image, and it stayed in my mind as we entered the auditorium.

Sharing worship with a room full of ladies was refreshing! I felt part of a community connected by the calming, sincere desire to grow stronger in our faith through the encouragement of God's Word. And the presenters shared many perspectives. Rachel Olsen taught us that centering our purpose to one word can help bring our lives into focus. Annah Matthews reminded us that we are women of influence, and we should constantly ask ourselves where are we building up, and where are we tearing down. Noelle Okolowicz amazed us with the beauty of her art, painted on actual Bible pages! Natasha Owens fed us words of love with her gifted voice.

Rhonda Lacey spoke last. She told the story of the adulterous woman in John 8, whom the Pharisees had brought before Jesus. We all know the response they were given: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” As she spoke, Rhonda began dropping rocks from pockets. Her imagery was strong as she scattered them across the stage, but they weren't just rocks for me.

They were pebbles.

And I knew that God was sending me the clear message I'd prayed for earlier that morning. We all have problems; we all have irritations, bad decisions, regrets. But we don't throw those pebbles at others, and we definitely don't try to carry them in our pockets. We drop the foot of the cross. I probably didn't receive the message Rhonda had planned, but God used her to speak to me, all the same. I went home refreshed, renewed, and yes, encouraged.

As for my family? I hope they felt the same peace when they left. When I took my mother-in-law home, we sat in the car and talked for a few minutes, and it was a reminder of how women need to share, need to connect with each other. And as she hugged me before she got out, she told me, “That was the best money you ever spent on me.”

Penny Milam

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