Remember back in March when I wrote that post introducing you to my next book, A Million Little Ways? And remember how I warned you that it was kind of a long-ish post so maybe if you don’t have time right now to read it, you should save it and come back later with your hot drink and your quiet room?

This is another one of those times.

I’m a little sweaty and a lot excited, because this post is years in the making.

I want to invite you to something. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ve read a few hints about it this summer. Today is the day I’m telling it all. But first I have to tell you a story.

Every year in January or February for as many years as I can remember, my family (John and I, my parents, my sister and her husband) gets together to talk about the year ahead. We have a very fancy and original name for our time together – Goals Weekend.

family photo

The goal of Goals Weekend is simple: get together in one room without distraction, bring your reflections, excitements and regrets about the year before as well as your hopes, plans, dreams and desires for the year ahead. And share them.

Sharing our goals in my living room in January 2009.

Sharing our goals in my living room in January 2009. That was even before we knocked down our wall!

We all write out our personal goals in our own unique way – I tend to type mine, Dad makes charts, and John leans toward a list, thoughtful and concise. My brother-in-law, Chad, does it that way, too.

Myquillyn writes her list in a Moleskine with a colored pen. One year when her kids where still small, one of her goals for the coming year was to take a shower everyday.

I laughed at her at the time because I am thoughtful and respectful of everyone in my family. And also I didn’t have kids yet.

Then four years and twin babies later, I had “shower daily” at the top of my goals list, too.

During our time together, Mom almost always starts us out, reading her list she wrote by hand. My mom, married to a radio announcer who talks for a living, prefers to go first to “get it out of the way.” Talking in groups is not her favorite.

That's me, mom, and Myquillyn last year during a visit to the town where we were born - Columbus, Indiana.

Me and Myquillyn with Mom.

So we all have a little different way of doing things, but we all come to the table as we are and try to accept one another in those places.

There isn’t anything magical about Goals Weekend. One year they all came up to our house just for the day – we got a sitter for the kids for a few hours and chatted in my living room.

We usually make at least one meal together and there is always a chocolate cake.

We usually make at least one meal together and there is always a chocolate cake.

Another year when I was pregnant with our son, we took a road trip to Raleigh during goals weekend, talked in the car and then went shopping for curtains.

Last year we got take-out for lunch and met in the high school room of our old church.

My family all lives in North Carolina so it isn’t as if Goals Weekend is the only time we see each other during the year. But Goals Weekend is important to us because it is a time where we choose to listen intentionally to one another, to be curious, ask questions, and get feedback.

Over many years of doing this as a family, we began to see common threads, a growing desire, and more similarities than differences in our lists of goals. We don’t all have the exact same goal, but there are enough overlapping parts for me to be able to say this:

Our family has a dream.

My Dad said it best on his blog a few weeks ago:

We want to have a small property used for hope, encouragement, and perspective. A place where heaven, earth, and everyday living come together. It’s vague and incomplete, but each of us sees some specific piece.

This hazy dream has been a main topic of conversation during Goals Weekend for the past several years. We would sit in our circle with a chocolate cake in the middle, and after sharing some about our own individual goals, someone would say “So, do y’all wanna talk about the land?”

The land. That what we call it.

On my best days, it feels right. On my worst, it seems crazy.

We all live in different parts of the state. We have jobs in different cities from each other. And property costs money.

But this past year, something happened.

We realized we didn’t want to wait until we had the property to start offering service to people in the form of encouragement and perspective. We realized it may be years before we would find the right property or even be able to collectively afford it. But the things we wanted to do on the property, we wanted to do now.

Waiting can be a type of resistance when you have something you’re passionate about. You imagine something, get motivated to do it, make a few plans. But then you hit a wall because this one part isn’t clear yet or that other part doesn’t make sense yet. And so you wait and imagine and have a long list of if only’s.

And it’s possible that somewhere in the waiting, you begin to realize how nice it is to have a dream but not have to do anything about it.

Maybe you’re waiting because it’s easier than doing the work.

We finally realized we didn’t need to wait for a place to do certain parts of what we wanted to do.

We didn’t need to wait until everything was perfect or set or ready.

We just needed to start.

So we picked a date – November 23, 2013  – and we partnered with my favorite event planner, Melissa Lewkowicz. She worked her magic and found us a venue so we immediately started making plans to invite you to join us for a small gathering here in North Carolina.

That’s when things started to get interesting.

At the end of June, John worked his last day at his old job, freeing us up consider other ways we might want to serve people together. This is a portion of our piece of the dream.

A few months before that, just when we thought we didn’t need property to make this dream happen, Myquillyn and Chad felt like it was time for them to move out of their rental and buy a house – a major step toward their own family vision.

Mom and Dad have their own perspective about what they want to do together and Dad wrote about it on his blog – What failure taught me about dreaming.

My sister is telling the story on her own blog these days, but the bottom line is Myquillyn and Chad found a house. On nearly 13 acres. And they bought it.

the farm

It isn’t exactly how we imagined things would happen. The details and timing are way different so far than we thought they would be.

Still, when I went to their property for the first time, nothing about it surprised me. Yes, this is the place we’ve been praying for. In a way I can’t explain, this property was familiar. As if I had been there before. Except I hadn’t.

I believe God often gives us a vision for things before they ever come into being. This was one of those times for me – this house and property that isn’t even mine was mine somehow – because we’ve partnered together to dream it and pray for it and wait for it together.

The dream existed first in our hearts and then later we found out – oh – it exists in real life too, on the far east side of Charlotte.

calling all hopers, dreamers, questioners, and ordinary people

Maybe you have a dream in your heart, too. Right now, that dream might seem impossible, far off, or just plain crazy. It might be small or huge or some middle mix of both. But there is some piece within it that you can’t let go.

That little spark of hopeful potential you are aware of right now? That’s the part I want to talk to. I want to encourage you to begin to circle around that tiny spark and consider the fact that maybe it isn’t random or selfish or crazy after all. Maybe it’s a whisper from the Spirit of God, trying to get your attention. Maybe it is a hint to your design wanting to wake you up from the inside out, begging you to stop taunting it with names.

Maybe that little spark is there for a purpose, not necessarily because every dream you have will come true, but because recognizing your own desire could be a way of respecting the way God designed you and could even be a hint at how you were made to fully worship him, to bring him glory.

Maybe you desperately fear you have nothing unique to offer the world. But secretly, you hope you’re wrong.

This is what I want to talk about. And I’m terrified to tell you this because I’ve never done anything like this before. Invite people to come to us? Plan it ourselves? Are we nuts?!

But I know this is the next right thing to do and we don’t want to wait any longer. So let’s just see what happens.

Because we decided to do this before we had property, we booked a venue at a beautiful barn in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Want to see it?

This is The Granary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

This is The Granary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I mean. Seriously.

I am so thankful for this beautiful place to meet. But one day (maybe even next time) we want to gather with you at my sister and Chad’s place, on the property we prayed for. In fact, today my sister is sharing photos of her barn, The World’s Worst – but of all the different ways we hope to use it in the future. Because these kinds of small gatherings are at the center of how our family wants to offer hope and encouragement to others. Here’s some more information about the gathering in November:

Save the Date – An Afternoon At the Barn

Saturday November 23, 2013

at the barn on november 23Consider this your official Save the Date. You can buy your ticket after Labor Day.

In keeping with our vision to have true connection and meaningful conversation, it has to be small. Less than 100.

As a courtesy and thank you to my newsletter subscribers, they’ll have first shot at tickets. If you want to be among the first to know when registration is open, go ahead and sign up for my newsletter.

I promise I won’t be creepy and share your email with anyone and I also promise I won’t jam your inbox with junk. You will receive one email when registration opens for our Afternoon At the Barn as well as my regular end-of-month update where I share a personal letter I won’t publish anywhere else. You can unsubscribe at any time. Obviously.

I hope you’ll save the date and try to join us in November. We chose this date on purpose because my book, A Million Little Ways, will already be out. I’m thrilled for this opportunity to engage the concepts in the book by connecting with you in a new way – beyond the book or the blog post.

What do you think? Might you try to join us?