None of us knew.
None of us could have fathomed how our lives were about to change.
None of us could have orchestrated, planned, or manipulated the circumstances that brought us together.
None of us expected that a rejection letter email would result in an even bigger “yes.”
None of us knew that a “no” on a book launch team application would mean we’d form fast and deep friendships with a diverse group of women from around the country and beyond.
None of us knew.
A year ago, on March 3, 2015, Jen Hatmaker posted an invitation to apply for the launch team for her upcoming book, For The Love.
I found her Facebook post the day before the March 6th deadline. I didn’t think much of it, but it kept floating around my brain. Two hours before the deadline, I submitted my application.
5, 000 people applied for 500 spots.
On March 6th, 4,500 of those applicants received this email:
Within hours, one of the women who received that email Tweeted this to Jen:
And another rejectee (yes, I made that up) shamelessly thieved it and ran with to Facebook with it, creating a group where we could gather, commiserate, and unofficially launch the book.
I found these two women commenting on a post on Jen’s FB page, inviting people to join this newly-formed group. I cautiously clicked the link to the group, and even more warily requested to join the group. And then I sat back and watched. For days. For months. I don’t think I ever formally introduced myself. (Sorry girls!)
Until September, when I finally allowed myself to engage.
Today, 365 days after the birth of #the4500, we celebrate our first anniversary.
We celebrate a year of praying for one another,
a year of laughing with one another,
a year of singing to one another,
a year of shifting our perspectives,
a year of meeting one another’s needs in tangible ways,
a year of becoming more authentic,
a year of loving one another,
a year of growing as a group, and
a year of growing as individuals.
In September, I dreamed of meeting the #the4500 chief cat herder, Anna. On January 23, 2016 that crazy dream was realized. Never did I imagine myself participating in the meet-ups that began almost immediately as people joined the FB group. And when the hash tag thief/group creator, Tracy, announced a weekend retreat to gather a larger group of us in Wisconsin in the fall, attending was never a consideration for me.
Six months ago, I dove in head first when I texted Anna and said, “If I were feeling brave, do you have time to talk tonight?” I’m forever grateful for our first conversation that night, Anna.
In seven weeks, I’m flying to Texas for the second Splendid Retreat to meet 70 of these beautiful women. Excitement doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about this opportunity. Tracy, thank you for stepping into the unknown in order to bring us closer—both to one another and to the Father. I can’t wait to meet you face-to-face and hug your neck!
Last week, I had my second #the4500 meet-up with a local member, Natalie (with whom I have a mutual friend—this world gets smaller every day!). I’m so glad you suggested meeting, Natalie!
This week, one of my dearest 4500 friends has texted me to offer encouragement in the midst of a not-so-great week. I’m forever grateful for her prayers and words of hope. Kelli, you are a treasure! We WILL meet one day, friend.
Xamayta, I would be remiss in not acknowledging our many sing-offs and song lyric conversations. I’m looking forward to the day I know you in person. Maybe I’ll sing to you.
I could list so many more shout-outs, but we’d be here all day. There are so many girls I’m excited to meet in April, and so many more that I’m hoping to meet in the months and years to come.
My life has changed in many ways since the formation of #the4500, and even more so since last September. These girls have challenged me, loved me, prayed for me, cheered me on, and provided a safe space. When I think of the friends I’ve added to my circle over the last year, I’m overwhelmed. The community we’ve formed is truly indescribable.
None of us knew then what we were stepping into when we clicked the “request to join” button, but God did.
He knew this marvelous gift of “yes” waiting just around the bend.
To Tracy and Anna:
Thank you for leading us with grace, wisdom, compassion, and courage.
Thank you for being obedient even in the small things—like Facebook groups that just seem to be for fun.
Thank you for trusting Him to lead us to what we’re called to as a group.
Thank you for loving us well and caring for our hearts.
Thank you for giving us freedom to become.
You have both followed an unorthodox path to ministry and it is growing into something beyond our imaginations.
We love you!