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I went to San Diego this past weekend to help run the Re:Write Conference. I’m completely exhausted and my feet are swollen like I’m nine months pregnant. (Note to feet: I promise to never again work you for four days straight only to drag you onto a plane for six hours immediately afterward. Forgive me!) But even my sore feet can’t stifle my elation — it was truly an incredible weekend.

I’ll write more about the conference later this week once I have a chance to regroup. For now, I want to fill you in on the adventure that got me to San Diego, and the incredible young lady I met along the way.

I consider myself an organized person. I show up to meetings on time, I plan events for friends and family, and I enjoy opening my dresser drawers to find my underwear neatly folded. (Translation: I’m a complete weirdo.) My apparent Type-A personality is the reason why I loved helping organize the Re:Write Conference. That stuff is fun for me! But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Planning and running a conference of that magnitude is a lot of work. No matter how big the event or how many times you’ve run similar events, the same laundry list of details exists… and must get done.

Needless to say, in the weeks leading up to the event, I was overworked. I was running on fumes — little sleep, lots of coffee, little interaction with friends and family, lots of interaction with my computer screen. As you can imagine, I was completely beat when I finally rushed from my full-time job to make it to the airport for my trip to San Diego last Wednesday. And it showed.

Dark circles. Disheveled clothing. Messy hair. Tired eyes. I dragged two pieces of luggage around the concrete sidewalks of D.C., up and down the unforgiving Metro escalators, and then onto a bus that finally took me to Baltimore Airport. My arms were literally throbbing in pain. Whose idea was it for me to bring a bag full of books to a writer’s conference? A genius I do not claim to be.

But it was at that B30 bus stop that I met this smiling face. Her name is Angelina, and she had a lot to say. Angelina is five years old and attends kindergarten. She claims she speaks English, though she only spoke to me in Spanish. She told me all about her class, her cousin, her Aunt Maricruz, her little sister, and her favorite moments from Ice Age. Then she pulled out her notebook and showed me her drawings. I offered to draw her something. She asked me to draw a princess.

We connected.

Angelina didn’t expect much of me. She didn’t judge my lazy appearance. She didn’t question why my suitcase kept falling over with every turn of the bus. She didn’t comment on why I didn’t know the Spanish word for buttons. She didn’t ask where I was going, what I did for a living, if I was married. She just wanted to spend time with me.

After the pressure leading up to that trip, this little girl really gave me some perspective. At just five years old, her little arms were somehow able to lift the enormous weight of stress that had been settled on my shoulders for weeks. It’s funny how God uses children to teach us such important life lessons.

You see, Angelina’s going through some struggles of her own. She wanted her cousin to be in her class at school and he wasn’t. (Life is so unfair.) She clearly has an issue with drawing all her stick figures exactly the same and claiming they are drawings of different people. (Poor thing needs to take some art classes.) And she had some seriously frizzy hair. (Okay, that part was kinda cute.)

But even with all these obstacles to overcome, Angelina was somehow at peace. She wasn’t worked up or anxious. She just focused on the simple things, like drawing princesses. I took a deep breath on that 40-minute bus ride and watched as — one by one — the trees flew by. I prayed for God to help me find that same peaceful place inhabited by that little Mexican girl. And I felt God say, “It’s okay.”

It’s okay to not be perfect.

It’s okay to mess up.

It’s okay to miss a few details.

I need to embrace my imperfection more, instead of striving for perfection that is unattainable.

Angelina, I’ll most likely never see you again in this life. But I wanted to say thank you for reminding me that life is about more than just what we can do or accomplish. Sometimes it’s about time simple things, liking riding on a bus and coloring pictures with a stranger. And for that, I say, “Gracias.”

The conference was hectic, as was expected. But I was at peace. When I felt the stress rising up, I pictured Angelina’s little hand reaching out to offer me a yellow Crayola crayon… and I took a deep breath. And I was okay. Strike that. I was more than okay.

โ€œCast all your anxiety on him
because he cares for you.โ€
1 Peter 5:7

Tune in Thursday for my takeaways from the Re:Write Conference!


UPDATE ON CHELSEA: Thank you, everyone, for your prayers for my friend Chelsea! She is still in critical condition at Vanderbilt, but there have been many signs of improvement and hope. Just today she counted to five with her fingers and wrote some words on a piece of paper! These are huge strides forward and we are thrilled. Please keep praying! #teamchelsea